For the past few weeks what appears to be a Google experiment with their search engine results has been causing a lot of talk on the Internet. Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s) for many brand specific queries have been listing only seven results instead of the usual ten, and in some cases as little as four. It’s well known that Google conducts experiments on a regular, even a daily basis, but initial speculation was that the results might have been caused by a bug in their search algorithm, as has happened occasionally in the past. However, a somewhat generic response from Google seems to confirm that the results were indeed because of an experiment.
Google has been reducing the amount of space for non paid results on their SERP’s for years with one analyst demonstrating it can be as little as 18% in some cases, making room for Google’s own products and for ads. Google can argue, and does, that producing less organic results for specific search queries where a user’s intent is clear produces a higher quality and more relevant search. Many webmasters and others counter that Google is simply trying to manipulate search results to increase revenue.
If this is the direction Google is going then branded SEO becomes increasingly important, especially the need to choose brand names carefully. As usual, until and unless another search engine can challenge Google’s dominance, affiliates will have to work smarter and adjust to the changes to be successful.