Are Ads Taking Over SERPs?

by Robert Brady August 8th, 2012 

Over the past couple months I've talked with a lot of search marketers about the impact of the Penguin update, Google's most recent change to their ranking algorithm. Many sites have been dinged for over-optimization of anchor text. Major brands are making off like bandits. Everyone is being much more cautious with their linkbuilding tactics. At the same time I notice another trend:

SERPs are being taken over by ads.

I mean this in the most literal way possible. Look at the following SERP for "Seattle hotels":

Seattle Hotels Google SERP

You'll notice the standard Google ads at the top of the main section and down the right side. The only thing about those ads that stands out is how every one has the +1 count of the advertiser. You'll also notice the relatively new hotel finder provided by Google itself. Seems a bit self-serving (pun intended) doesn't it?

And what about ecommerce terms? Try out this SERP for Toto toilet seats:

Toto Toilet Seats SERP

Here we have 6 regular ads and 8 product ads (with image) to just 4 organic ads. And it's not just Google. Don't forget about our little friend Bing.


Bing even increase the generosity by allowing 4 paid search ads in the main section as well as the ads in the right rail. But just for scorekeeping purposes, that's 9 ads to 3 organic ads and 3 new results. Again, not even close.

Paid Search Will Continue to Get More Real Estate

More and more of the SERPs will continue to be occupied by paid results, especially above the fold, for one simple reason: Money! Google, Microsoft & Yahoo are publicly traded, profit-focused companies. Serving awesome search results ins great for users, but doesn't pay the bills. Ad clicks pay the bills and so search engines are not just incentivized, but under a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders to maximize revenue. Thus, you'd better get used to paid ads, because you're going to be seeing a lot more of them.

Robert Brady

Robert Brady is the head PPC wizard at Righteous Marketing, a Google AdWords Certified Partner and Microsoft adExcellence Member. He manages PPC accounts for both small and large businesses and offers a PPC training program for the DIYer.

Righteous Marketing

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5 Responses to “Are Ads Taking Over SERPs?”

  1. Derek Maak says:

    Hey Robert,

    I think I've grown blinders to all the ads. I seem to pass over them every single time without even thinking about it. I think the minute I hear or see the word "ads" it gives me a bad vibe. I think you're totally right though. Money rules the internet just like it rules everything else in life.

    • Robert Brady says:


      I agree that most people have a dislike of ads on the internet, however, I believe that the search engines are making the ads look so much like the natural listings (like when they added Description Line 1 to the Headline in Google to have a longer title) that many people click ads without knowing they're ads.

  2. Luke says:

    Absolutely agree. Not to mention all the real estate they are taking up, changes like (not provided), sitelinks, and making ads look like natural results with longer headlines are moving more people to PPC.

  3. Dora says:

    Paid search must be really an efficient way of marketing, although I have always preferred the DIY SEO techniques to generate some traffic. But unfortunately, I have the same experiences like your since Google has updated its search algorithm. The way you have described seems to be working, I feel totally assured by the success, but it isn't cheap at all…

  4. Hey Robert,

    This has been seen the case for over an year now. Google is trying to make more ad revenues than ever before. I hope they know what they're doing. Otherwise they will make a mess of their company.