Google puts itself in position 1 of SERPS for “credit cards” and “bank accounts”

Search for ‘bank accounts’ or indeed ‘credit cards’ or even ‘best bank’, some of the most lucrative and therefore competitive search terms around, and you will see that Google has displaced the normal natural search results for an Ad-box of its own, paid-for results. Click on this ad-box and it take you to a Google comparison site where the content is streamed by getthatquote.com

Previously if you searched for ‘credit cards’ or ‘bank accounts’ in Google you would get two ads above the organic content and 8 or so ads to the right of your page. As seen in the example below for “Insurance”.

Previously (example “insurance”):

Google changes serps

Now with the Google comparison Ad-box

New google serps results credit cards

Google’s Primary Real-Estate, taken by Google

This primary piece of real-estate, above the fold and just below the normal sponsored links, is the most sought after spot in the SERPS. Companies such as moneysupermarket have worked for years to get to that spot and now Google, it seems, has taken its ball away, made an un-level playing surface, as well as moved the goal posts.

Presumably Google and its partner, getthatquote.com, which it bought for £37m last year, gets paid either by reference clicks or through an affiliate linking system in similar ways to other comparison sites. Being in this primary real-estate spot will bring in the optimal amount of traffic for the keywords: “Credit cards”, “bank accounts”, “saving accounts” which together achieve over 2m monthly UK searches.

How this could affect search

Reasons why this is serious for the search landscape, businesses, users and the SEO industry.

  • It has taken away a position of natural search and put in an extra piece of sponsored search. Now only one position on natural search is above the fold, reducing the area by 66%
  • This negates the current PPC positions, as this is now the primary spot on the page, based on position and visualisation.
  • Advertisers may feel forced to pay for the comparison ad-box area as opposed to PPC, thus increasing Google’s profits in this area
  • Google owns the site, with this it proves that it can do anything it wants for itself. We don’t truly expect it to be a benevolent body, but this is moving the goal posts. This takes away all the ‘rules’ that businesses have grown with over the past 10 years for PPC and SEO.
  • Google has gone in direct competition with the number one position holder in natural search, in this case moneysupermarket. Should the search engine be competing with a customer?
  • Will the EU have issue with this? Is this an anti-competitor move that harms the marketplace and consumer welfare?
  • We have seen recently that only 6% of all searches go through PPC, is this Google’s way of squeezing out more money?
  • This sets a precedent for other sectors. If Google chooses to go into new areas, will it also put its own offering at position 1? Will we see Google Toys, Google cars, and Google DVD players on page one?
  • Will all finance companies be forced to enter this comparison site even if they had a non-comparison site policy previously?
  • Searchers used to live by the mantra “in Google we trust”, surely this has gone now?

Is Google getting a little bit more evil every day? Or is it just doing what businesses do? You decide.