Google's Cutts Argues Google's Search Results More Than 18%

Sep 5, 2012 • 8:26 am | comments (38) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine

Alex Yumashev from Jitbit wrote a blog post named Google Search is only 18% Search. He basically is saying that only 18% of the search page, the part you can see on a normal screen resolution, is search related. Google's head of search spam responded on Hacker News saying that is not the case.

He provided this screen shot which I overlaid with other images he provided:

search results 18%

Truth is, the best way to say it is that only 18% of the search, is to say only 18% of the screen real estate is made up of organic results when there are ads displayed.

Matt Cutts responded saying:

So the major issues I saw with this article were:

1) the left-hand column is counted as non-search, when the left-hand column is entirely about search. The left-hand column gives you ways to refine your search: you can limit the types of search results like news/images, slice/dice search results by date, limit search results to verbatim matches or to change the geographic weighting of search results, etc.

2) the actual search box is counted as non-search, as are the estimated results count and the time the search took.

3) the article treated whitespace as non-search, when shorter columns can actually make it easier and faster for users to scan the results.

That's still leaving aside facts like:

- We actually think our ads can be as helpful as the search results in some cases. And no, that's not a new attitude. I found a quote from 2004 that said "In entering the advertising market, Google tested our belief that highly relevant advertising can be as useful as search results or other forms of content," and I'm sure I could find similar quotes with a bit more looking.

- And of course there are tons of searches where we don't show ads. A lot of people like to take a query that shows ads and say "Aha!" but they're forgetting all the queries that don't show ads.

Not to mention that our ads aren't just a straight auction; we try to take into account things like the quality of the destination page in deciding whether and where to show ads, just like we do with web search results.

I am sure some readers here will have a field day with this but the truth is, the number of organic results shown today versus several years ago, even on smaller resolutions, is less. How much less is a statisticians playground.

Forum discussion at Hacker News.

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Roald Craenen

09/05/2012 12:34 pm

Can't argue with the response Matt Cutts just made


09/05/2012 12:47 pm

True, but as Barry states what Matt Cutts cannot argue against is that the percentage of space devoted to organic search has continually reduced over the years.

Praveen Sharma

09/05/2012 12:57 pm

Matt Cutts has a valid point over here. The article has covered everything in 81% except organic results, but that 81% is not something useless or only related to paid result.


09/05/2012 01:04 pm

I would argue with: "Not to mention that our ads aren't just a straight auction; we try to take into account things like the quality of the destination page in deciding whether and where to show ads, just like we do with web search results." Every Google Adwords rep we have ever spoken to has said basically forget about onpage factors (content etc), the only thing that changes your quality score is your budget.

Tad Chef

09/05/2012 01:22 pm

For money keywords in travel and ecommerce the screenshot would contain 0% organic search results above the fold.


09/05/2012 01:41 pm

Google serves billions of SERPs per day. One SERP says nothing, even if the organic search result would take 2% of it. It's just statistically wrong. Guy is searching for sensation to promote himself, nothing else. Let's make a note: Alex Yumashev = unreliable source of information.

John Britsios

09/05/2012 01:44 pm

Matt said: "We try to take into account things like the quality of the destination page in deciding whether and where to show ads, just like we do with web search results." Is Matt aware that Pandalized sites have high quality scores and performance with AdWords.


09/05/2012 01:44 pm

in local search returns it is often 0% . No organic above the fold in the view area. It has been this way for over a year on some words and GEO's but no one is listening or caring as most of you do national and world base websites - they clobbered the local search business 1.5 years ago and that is coming your way fast.


09/05/2012 02:12 pm

Not to mention that for a lot of searches the "organic results" are filled with Google's own businesses like Youtube and Images. There's absolutely no excuse, it's in the face, it's so obvious that SERPS are being dominated by ads or google's own products


09/05/2012 02:18 pm

Fact is that on a search with ads fully loaded, organic results are visible on only 18,5% of the screens total real estate while approx 60% are ads and the remaining % are more or less unrelevant filters that are only used in a minority of cases. So I wouldnt count this exactly pro organic ads, as Matt Cutts does. Also I wouldnt count ads into this because you can advertise with any page on almost anything with an unlimited budget. Since we also agree that organic real estate has declined historically, I would expect this trend only to continue.


09/05/2012 02:20 pm

correction: pro organic search results

Pam Wehrman Sissons

09/05/2012 03:26 pm

Well, we all know it's about the $$$. Let's not forget the lengths Google goes to in order to make the current paid ads appear organic anyway. I have to agree that Google is dominating its own product. Disturbing. But...the ebb and flow of supply and demand level the playing field in every case. Remember Blekko, the SE returning the most relevant results? Hm...


09/05/2012 03:36 pm

What he's doing is splitting hairs over terminology. Yes, the left column is about "search." It is NOT, however, about organic search RESULTS. That's what has lost so much ground for e-commerce KWs.


09/05/2012 03:37 pm

LOL )) This is Google's SERP )

Erik Pendleton

09/05/2012 03:44 pm

Ah, but the good thing is that with google you only need about 5% of the space to find what you are looking for. Why the hate?

John Coryat

09/05/2012 04:19 pm

This entire argument is silly. The bottom line is Google search works. It works well and people use it all day long. The ads are part of the search results and are also useful. Matt Cutts pretty much wasted his valuable time by answering such an article.

Ralph Slate

09/05/2012 05:17 pm

It's not silly considering how silent Google has been on how much advertising is "too much" for a content site before Panda is invoked. Google lets their unpaid interns spout advice all day long on their Webmaster Forum to "remove all advertising" or "remove all the above-the-fold advertising" as advice to improve from Panda penalties. Never an official word from Google on the topic. Convenient - it reduces the amount of ad space on sites at a time when Google is increasing theirs.


09/05/2012 05:58 pm

Ok, I concede.. the ads are useful, they really are... So, Google does that mean I can also display a bunch of Adsense units in the top of the fold and have the main content below that? Oh wait.. do as you say, not as you do, sorry.


09/05/2012 10:32 pm

Why is Google's head of webspam team responding to this issues? unless of course one of his responsibilities is defending how much Google spams it's users? Then I can understand. Danny Sullivan once attacked me for saying that I thought Matt might be motivated by MONEY. Danny actually said something like Matt is to Rich to care about more money! However in my experience the more you have the more you want. It just seems interesting that it is Matt who is always defending every attack on Google's money making ability. example : Google is no longer going for host crowding, Matt puts out a video defending it. ( obviously this drives site owners to ad words) , Google puts fewer results on the front page Matt puts out a statement saying why it is a good idea. Once again this drives site owners to adwords. Quite frankly Matt just how much money do you really need?

Jonah Stein

09/05/2012 10:34 pm

Can we finally get some statistics on what percent of queries generate clicks in organic results to Google properties, organic clicks to non- Google properites, paid results, etc. It would also be great to group those organic clicks into big brands (top 1000 destinations) and to see how the distribution of clicks has changed over time. This kind of real data is the only way to counter the prevailing belief that the Google monopoly is sucking the life out of the web ecosystem.

Jason Marker

09/06/2012 12:19 am

Stop trying to shut down discussion like some kind of shill. There is a serious problem with the Google monopoly.


09/06/2012 02:34 am

It's called Google spam search. If you want to view organic listings, you have to almost go to page two in many niches. Bing's results are better in many areas. Anyway, what's the difference between Google's criteria for paid ad placement and those selling links on their sites. Link sellers want relevant links that will appeal to their users. The only difference is that the money is not going into Google's bank account. Shame on Google for abusing their monopoly.


09/06/2012 05:05 am

Indirectly he's saying to use adwords!!!!!!!

Michael Martinez

09/06/2012 06:53 am

"...the truth is, the number of organic results shown today versus several years ago, even on smaller resolutions, is less. " Not likely, Barry, considering that Google serves more queries today than, say, 2 years ago or 5 years ago or 10 years ago. There is absolutely no basis for marketers' claiming that Google is serving X or Y more/fewer search results today than WHENEVER. No one but Google has that kind of data and maybe even they don't have precise data.

Lyndon NA

09/06/2012 07:42 am

"...the truth is, the number of organic results shown today versus several years ago, even on smaller resolutions, is less. " I don't think Barry was refering to the total volume etc., but instead, the general ratio (they do show more adverts etc. now). Further - throw in the reduced SERP listings (7s and 4s?), and that kind of stands.

Michael Martinez

09/06/2012 03:42 pm

Lyndon, given the growth in queries served, there is a corresponding growth in queries which do not show ads and queries that display only ten blue links.

Lisa Agostoni

09/06/2012 04:07 pm

Less is less no matter how you frame it.


09/07/2012 01:16 am

Matt Cutts is a professional liar, no one trusts him now. He lied too many times. Danny Sullivan is a Google shill so he lies and covers up for Google. In fact, almost all SEO /SE writers are Google shills, they write positive things about Google and Matt Cutts "checks out" their sites if they are hit.


09/07/2012 04:39 am


Main Uddin

09/07/2012 07:52 am

Before commenting on this post , i want to say about Matt Cutts " Matt Cutts joined Google as a Software Engineer in January 2000. Before Google, he was working on his Ph.D. in computer graphics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has an M.S. from UNC-Chapel Hill, and B.S. degrees in both mathematics and computer science from the University of Kentucky." Now come to point on this post "Google would seek to detect that there is no real differentiation between these results and show only one of them so we could offer users different types of sites in the other search results with view of advertisements.Google does try to mirror the real world. We try to reflect the real-world importance of things as we see that reflected in the web. Brands sometimes are an indicator that people see value, but it isn’t the only way that people see value. There are many other possible indicators that something is important and worth surfacing in the search results."

Lyndon NA

09/07/2012 01:45 pm

:sigh: It's a moot point - as the people who have the data and the answer is G, and I doubt they will tell us (not straight anyway). Still, I'll happily debate the toss with you. Go back 5 and 10 years. How many individual adverts (or other monetisation items) did you see on a typical SERP? Now look at the volume of individual monetisation points on a typical SERP. There is more on each page. G are cramming the pages with monetisation with more monetisation. Now, is that making sense, or shall I try explaning it a different way for you? :wanders off to find the crayons: :P


09/07/2012 10:26 pm

I dont remember asking if it's google's serp so your answer makes no sense


09/07/2012 10:32 pm

Well so what about ignoring the search bar at the top and left navigation and see what % is organic from the remaining viewport. And from this % organic results, let's see how much % is google's own products like Youtube and Images and how much is the % of truly organic results

Webstats Art

09/08/2012 06:41 pm

The truth is today versus several years ago is also that everyone loved google back then because Google was a way for people to display their products and services for free without have to pay for inclusion in the hundreds of directories. Google was the good guy who saved us from the evil high priced paid inclusions. What happens in the end is that we are back to square one but google pockets the money the directories used to make and now forces us to cough up because nothing is for free except this comment I am making here!

Kunle Campbell -Fuzz One Media

09/10/2012 08:54 am

Why complicate the computation by comparing areas/whitespace on the SERPs? Why not simply count the total number of Paid Links (including site links extensions) and compare them against the total number of organic links for a commercial search term? I just searched for "iphone contract deals" on Google UK. There were a total of 20 Paid Links Vs 14 organic listings. i.e. a ratio of 7:10 What was interesting is that, above the fold on a 1600x900 px screen it was a different story: 17 Paid Links Vs 3 organic links i.e. a ratio of 3:17! It would be interesting benchmarking these ratios over time to see how they change

Steven Lockey

09/26/2012 03:36 pm

So basically, your arguement is "Everyone who knows about the subject disagrees with me, so they must all be wrong" When a more logical conclusion would be "So everyone who knows about this thinks I'm wrong, perhaps it might be a good time to look at why this is the case rather than making unfounded accusations about them and making myself look like a complete moron"

Affordable SEO Company

10/03/2012 04:05 am

I would agree on 25% organic and 75% paid results in almost any competitive searches Google displays. You just need to know how to count from 1 to 12 to realize that this may help Google to make around 40B + on advertising this year. If you Google search for almost anything using 19 inch monitor you will only see about 3 organic results and 9 paid search results without scrolling down. And by the way Bing and Yahoo do the same thing displaying about 25-30% organic results in the search results for competitive keywords.

Affordable SEO Company

10/03/2012 02:03 pm

and the annual Google revenue grew

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