Google Search Upgrades Make It Harder for Websites to Gain Traffic

The Takeaways:

  • On average, users now have to scroll down twice as far to find the first organic free link, compared with 2013.
  • On smartphones, the change has been especially pronounced. From June 2016 to June 2019, the proportion of mobile searches that led to clicks on free web links dropped from 40% to 27%. Meanwhile, clicks on ads more than tripled, Jumpshot data show.
  • No-click searches, which suggests the user found the information they needed directly on Google, rose to 62% from 56%.

What Happened:

Google controls about 85% of the U.S. search market but throughout the years, the company has been trying to redefine their position within it.

Since 2016, Google added an extra marketing slot by showing four, rather than three ads at the top of search results. Another change to how the search leader has changed the way it presents results is through the pre-packaged information Google often displays in a box at the top of a page, rather than sending users to access information on other websites.

Phased in slowly, changes like these have gone largely unnoticed. The company says these changes support its mission of “organizing the world’s information”.

Google’s Ad Model Impacts Consumers

These changes have put pressure on businesses to pay more to appear towards the top of search results. This impacts consumers as well as businesses: “The prices that consumers are paying are now higher because of Google’s business model,” Kevin Hickey, chief executive officer of Online Stores Inc., told Bloomberg.

Many criticize the tech giant for going too far. Debate over Google’s influence is growing as U.S. regulators prepare an antitrust case against the company.

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