I reached out to Ned Poulter who is a Digital Marketing Consultant based in Copenhagen to see what he thought about the recent changes to Google Places and Google showing the yellow 'Ad' icon next to paid results. He gave such a thorough reply, that I thought it deserved it's own blog post.
Google have been busy
Generally speaking the Scandinavian SERPs are fairly immature compared to the UK results. Because of this I was interested to see whether or not a similar situation was going to occur in some of the Scandinavian SERPs. Searching in Google.dk using the terms "kaffebar"(Coffee shop) and it showed me the results below:
Representing the used of the 7-pack results, not the blended SERPs as have been noticed in the US (pictured above).
My best guess is that this is one of a large number of tests that Google has been running. As a business one of Google's foundations lies in continuous testing. However I can't help but think that their thirst for testing has lead to a number of industry peers noticing changes that are major departures from their old SERP layout. Examples of this include:
The new Banner Ad format:
And new clearer ads on desktop search (previously only seen on mobile):
These seem to have occurred following from the release of the Hummingbird update, and an increasing push of the Knowledge Graph, and testing of various new PPC formats.
The cynic in me is forced to say that as with most of these changes it is simply reducing the number of organic results being shown above the fold. What seems is happening is that Google is attempting more and more to push users through Google-owned properties, whether: Maps, Images, Google+ or other.
Coupled with only showing referring keyword data to those that pay for it (PPC) it's another blow to digital marketers who rely so much on Google. As Nathan Safran so brilliantly put it in a recent article:
"At the end of the day, it’s Google’s world. We just play in it."
Thanks Ned for your input, great to see all the recent changes in the one post and thanks for confirming that we are also seeing some of these changes outside the UK.
Another one worth mentioning is the below result, a few people have spotted similar things recently with Google changing the way they display links in the organic results.
What's going on?
Google are now putting the a site link ABOVE organic listings. I've never seen before but it seems that Google are doing a lot of testing recently. Perhaps there are some big updates in the pipeline...