A screenshot posted on Twitter this afternoon shows Google experimenting with displaying a single result in its search engine results pages and concealing competing results under a “show all results” button.
According to Danny Sullivan, Google’s new Search Liaison and a former Chief Content Officer of Search Engine Land, the change only affects “calculator, unit converter and local time [queries].”
He went on to state “People who search for these tools rarely use full search results, but the results will remain available for those who want them via the ‘Show all results’ button.”
Danny Sullivan stated “page load time” as the justification for the experiment; however responses from technologists and marketers on Twitter were mixed.
Rand Fishkin, former CEO of Moz, questioned whether it was really about speed or whether it was about “hiding organic results,” while Martin MacDonald, founder of Digital Marketing Consultancy MOGmedia, deemed it a “dangerous precedent.”
Some users were less concerned, stating that the experiment is targeting queries which rely on information which lives in the public domain.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory that Google has landed itself in hot water for altering the order of its search results.
Last year it was fined $2.7 billion by the European Union following a protracted investigation into its Google Shopping results; it was also fined by $21.1 million by the Competition Commission of India for affording extra prominence to its own internal flight ad units.
According to a report from the Financial Times, the anti-trust fine has done little to affect the presentation of search results, with Google’s competitors still appearing in less than 1 percent of shopping results displayed at the top of its search engine results pages.