I'll take mine heavy on the paid and hold the organic please.

I was moderating a keynote discussion session at SES Berlin in November of last year. I talked to Lars Lehne, Country Director for Google, Germany and Stefan Weitz, Director of Search at Microsoft. The conversation centered around user intent and how both companies were trying to understand more about user queries. Obviously, understanding the difference between navigational, informational and transactional queries means that more relevant and specific results can be returned.

So, I asked the question: "Do you see a time when, understanding that the user has a shopping type query, you would show only commercial results" (as in paid-for advertising). And both pondered for a second or two and then agreed on, most likely.

Google is forever testing and every now and again we get to see something that makes you go - wow- never seen that before. Certainly that's what happened to me last night. I'm in the (slow and arduous) process of furnishing a new apartment. So, I did a search for "night stands" (that would be bedside table in the UK).

The page was littered with paid results, a small amount of organic results and some shopping results mixed in (even the paid ads to the right had images in them, you'll note).


Look again even more closely and you'll see that, the top three paid results all have a +plus box in them. Clicking on the first one sends the few visible organic results plummeting with a series of product images. But, of course, when you hit the second plus box, it's goodbye completely to any visibility of organic listings. For the first time in my experience, I was looking at a page full of paid ads and not a single organic listing to be seen.


And then, I had to hit the third +plus box, at which point the organic listings do a type of Jules Verne and start heading towards the center of the earth!

But here's the thing... I wasn't disappointed at all to see only paid listings. I was sitting with a credit card ready to buy (I have no time to actually visit stores so I do everything online) and the selection/choices were just what I was looking for.

Is it such a bad thing to serve up only paid results for a transactional type query or only organic listings for an informational query do you think?

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About the author

Mike Grehan is currently chief marketing officer and managing director at Acronym, where he is responsible for directing thought leadership programs and cross-platform marketing initiatives, as well as developing new, innovative content marketing campaigns.

Prior to joining Acronym, Grehan was group publishing director at Incisive Media, publisher of Search Engine Watch and ClickZ, and producer of the SES international conference series. Previously, he worked as a search marketing consultant with a number of international agencies handling global clients such as SAP and Motorola. Recognized as a leading search marketing expert, Grehan came online in 1995 and is the author of numerous books and white papers on the subject and is currently in the process of writing his new book From Search to Social: Marketing to the Connected Consumer to be published by Wiley later in 2014.

In March 2010 he was elected to SEMPO's board of directors and after a year as vice president he then served two years as president and is now the current chairman.