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:
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.