It seems that more and more of the Google search results page is for sale these days.
Last year, Google turned its shopping results into an all paid model. Then came the testing of banner ads on branded searches. We've even seen Google showing advertiser query suggestions in the Knowledge Graph on generic queries (though these didn't appear to be actual paid spots).
Is Google moving too far away from organic search results? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Now, if the screenshot below is authentic (and we have no reason to believe that it's not), Google actually is testing paid spots in the Knowledge Graph (hat tip: Search Engine Roundtable).
The time is NOW: Google testing “Ad” in the Knowledge Graph box. pic.twitter.com/NseSKrHO4v
— Gianluca Fiorelli (@gfiorelli1) December 13, 2013
Really? In the Knowledge Graph?
As you can see, Google is showing an ad for "dealer nearby".
Again, this is just a test. Google isn't showing this to all searchers. Here's what the query shows for me:
It's interesting that Google is showing ads on a query like this, as it just added car information to the Knowledge Graph last week. Google failed to mention that they'd be showing ads here, as it was pitched more as an informational service.
“You may already use Google to help you make everyday decisions, like what restaurant to pick for dinner or which movie to go see. Starting today, you can also rely on Google’s Knowledge Graph to research a big decision: cars,” said Google in a Google+ post.
“Say you’re thinking of buying a new 2014 Mazda3—just tap the microphone on your Google Search app or search for [2014 Mazda3] to instantly see facts like what size engine it has, its MPG and pricing for different configuration,” Google said. “To explore other cars, select one listed under ‘People also search for’ and your results will update to show you specific information.”
To be fair, the kind of ad they're testing here might truly be useful to users. If you're looking for info on cars, there's a good chance you're thinking about buying one, and it might be helpful to know about a place nearby that is selling the model you're looking for.
That said, is the Knowledge Graph area really the place to be showing this? It just feels kind of dirty. This is supposed to be where Google is showing "knowledge," not selling out to advertisers. Google has plenty of other real estate on the search results page for that doesn't it? You know, like the AdWords ads that surround the organic results? Or the traditional local search results?
The ad is clearly marked as an ad, but why force advertising in one of the few ad-free, knowledge-driven parts of the page? I can't see this helping if Google wants to inspire trust in the Knowledge Graph, which they should really be concerned about doing, given that we keep seeing erroneous information appear there.
I won't rehash all of that again. We did that in a recent newsletter article. But even since then, at least one other Knowledge Graph flub gained some attention. Google indicated that a living author was dead.
Can you trust that Google to have the best info in this area of the search results page when part of it is for sale? It might be helpful to know area dealers when you're looking for a car, but is it the one that paid to be there necessarily the best "knowledge"?
Meanwhile, Bing continues to build up its rival to the Knowledge Graph with new and interesting information. This week its "Satori" offering added Ted Talks, famous speeches, online courses and better information for universities, snapshots of scientific concepts and historical events, and more.
It's going to be very interesting to see if Google expands Knowledge Graph ads beyond the test phase, and whether or not Bing follows suit.
Should the Knowledge Graph be for sale? Let us know what you think.