by Chris Boudreaux and Adam Edwards
Update (August 16, 2010): Google PR phoned this afternoon to let us know that this screen shot was an experiment, and that the search results below the ads are organic; they’re just mixed with results from Google Maps. Our point was that the results seemed to exclude traditional organic search results, and that the page appeared dominated by organic results from Google Maps.
Yesterday, for the first time, we saw a standard Google web search results page, without any standard web search results. That is, a search for “car rental nyc” returned a Universal Results page showing a map alongside results from paid, local, and books categories (see screen shot below). Not one standard organic result appeared on the first page of results.
As it expands its Universal Results strategy, Google is testing lots of changes to their main search results page. Most of the significant changes occur in searches that contain a localized search term (such as a city).
First, Google added a “sticky map” in the upper right, which maintained a constant position on the screen, as the user scrolled down the page. The sticky map appeared to disadvantage paid search results appearing below the third slot, which disappeared behind the map as users scrolled down the page.
In the search results we saw yesterday, there were no organic results until the second page. When we performed the same search today, we found a single organic search result at the bottom of the first page.
This could be a watershed moment for Google, and it could force local or franchise businesses to use AdWords and Google Places (formerly Local Business Center).
Creating a great web site with strong SEO may no longer take you into the first page of local search results.