For the last few days, there have been rumours that Bing has been running tests of paid PPC ads within the search results. Not placed off to the right or clearly highlighted at the top or bottom, but ‘camouflaged’ within the organic search results.
Now, this may prove to be an advertisers’ dream, but is likely to meet a backlash from consumers and some search agencies who have previously reacted badly to this type of ‘hidden advertising’ within the index. For search marketing agencies who work hard on organic results through SEO and search marketing, this testing of placement of paid ads in the middle of the SERPs will undoubtedly cause the SEO blogosphere to respond.
This is already a time of shifting sands for search marketing agencies, especially those who have been slow to realise the importance of social for both search engines and searchers, and with a growing focus on personalisation, dominating the SERPs is becoming ever harder. Losing one or two positions within the index to paid advertisers is more likely to cause bad feeling from those who believe the search engines need to operate a level playing field rather than favour those with large advertising budgets.
Those organic results are proving important to get return on investment and results for clients, and are where a good agency with experienced SEO staff can still outshine a mediocre one every time a search is returned.
Will Microsoft continue testing? And how will Google respond if its major competitor puts paid ads in the middle of the search results? Bing has been making advances on Google’s market share over the last year but still has less than half of that of Google. There is a fine line to tread in the search engine market between satisfying advertisers and investors, and
upsetting consumers, and only time will tell whether this is a canny move by Bing or a very bad idea.