Google has changed up the way it responds to certain Search Queries; hiding the organic search results for queries with single answers such as the current time or date. To be able to see all the results as a normal search page, you have to click “show all results”.
It seems like a sensible enough move on the face of it. These questions don’t need a plethora of search results to get the answer; the Google response is more than enough. However, what some users, including one of our analysts Will Hamilton, have begun to notice is that some advertisers have started squeezing ads in on these search terms.
Naturally, some publishers are not impressed with this change. Many feel that Google is now forcing them to pay for ad space, rather than appearing organically. While this is very much a limited experiment, there is a lot of concern that a future, broader rollout on other searches (such as “who is the current Prime Minister” or “local football scores”) will be even more damaging – with some even claiming the move will kill content publishers. The current rollout on these limited searches does make some sense, as users are looking for a quick answer to that specific query, but it is interesting to consider how this might impact publishers in the future.
We sat down with Will to ask him what he thought about the recent changes, and how advertisers are making the most of this opportunity.
Do you think taking advantage of this advertising space is a smart move?
“For things like dating sites, it’s probably a waste of time. Yes, the ads are prominent, but they are so unrelated to the purpose of the search. If someone is just checking the time or date, it seems a bit pointless to feature these ads.”
Is it only for time and date searches?
“Some members of the team have mentioned seeing ones for converting temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit, but I haven’t managed to see that yet from a couple of different search queries. Taking it a step further and showing the temperature for your area might be more interesting – clothing brands would be able to show an ad for jumpers or coats if it’s cold.”
If the weather gets a similar treatment, you might see ads for umbrellas and sun cream running alongside the forecast, which again would hit consumers at the exact perfect time to convert. However, whether Google will continue to roll out this change is another question. As of yet, we don’t know if this is just a testing phase or the start of a wider transformation of the Google search platform. What we can say is that if there is more to come, advertisers will be given a unique opportunity to target consumers when the need to buy is arguably at its’ highest.