Are Organic Rankings Really Organic?

Organic search?

The question of just how organic Google’s search results really are is one that has been debated for as long as Google has been running their search engine. The powers that be at Google have long claimed that the search results are kept completely and totally separate from the paid results and that the two never meet.

Whitelisting by Google? Technical Help for Major Advertisers?

The thing is, some people in the SEO community are now claiming that this isn’t quite the case. That Google in fact does help out those who spend lots of money on AdWords ads. In addition and much more troubling, Barry Shwartz at Search Engine Roundtable alleges that Google has taken to “whitelisting” certain web sites.

More Paid Search “Above the Fold”

Add in allegations from several members of the SEO community that Google’s search results are no longer displaying the organic searches prominently (they seem to instead be showing off material which is bought and paid for, at least “above the fold” – i.e. without the need to scroll down) and the allegations certainly do seem to be cause for concern.

Spammers May Be Gaining an Upper Hand as Well

As if all these things weren’t enough, as early as August of last year, SEOMoz was suggesting that Google’s results were being overrun by spammers.

This is a phenomenon I’ve personally experienced as well when searching for information about some older products. I’d be doing research to try to find out specs for a product which I was asked to write about which had been around 5 years ago (don’t ask me why – I just write up what I get paid to write) and would find spam instead of useful information.

The spammers would advertise that they offer a “manual” for a particular product, but when I would click on those search results, they would simply be advertising other products without any useful information on the product I wanted to know about.

A Cause of Real Concern

Clearly then, the whole concept of Google’s search results being totally organic are a little bit off the mark. Now don’t get me wrong – I do believe that Google makes an effort to keep their search results as fair and relevant as possible. After all, that’s how they can maintain their dominance in the search engine market.

That said, I have to say that search engine optimization has gotten easier for some (who have lots of money to burn) and harder for others (those who try to write real, quality, useful material for the web but don’t have a ton of money).

Bottom Line

I still believe that Google’s results are basically organic, or as organic as they can be. I believe as well that Google is really making a good faith effort to make their search results fair and representative of the best material available on the Internet.

However, I wonder if the fact that Google has grown to be so large and complex a company makes them a little less able to do what they need to do in order to be of the most benefit to the Internet community.