Google has continued it’s progression to kill off organic results in place of Google properties with it’s recent expanded weather widget. The previous widget shown below only pushed the organic results down 1 position but did steal a lot of traffic from weather and new websites when it was first improved to the version you see below. There was less of a reason to click through to the organic results or detailed forecast links unless you wanted more days or much more specific weather information. Within Australia we have something of a weather obsession and according to Google Keyword Tool around 823,000 search a month just for “Melbourne Weather”.
Frederic Lardinois from Techcrunch highlighted in July 2012 that Google rolled out a new interactive weather widget on Android and iOS devices, but it wasn’t until today that I saw this new weather widget expand to desktop devices. The new interactive widget is now available for all desktop search queries around weather.
What does this mean for organic?
The new expanded and improved widget now occupies around 4-5 organic results as you can see from the comparison below. The impact for news/weather websites that used to show in positions 5-8 are now no longer showing above the fold, the results just look like a giant weather widget even on a 24 inch monitor. The widget potential impact on a smaller screen device such as a laptop would be cataclysmic with likely no organic results would be shown any more.
The impact on their organic traffic will likely be extremely high as the widget appears to have been rolled out on both Google.com.au and Google.com instead of the standard phased rollout that has been done previously.
Since the visitors don’t have to visit these weather websites any more there advertising powered business models are at risk, they can no longer trust that Google will fairly show a healthy mix of organic results around weather queries.
How does the widget change search behaviour?
Using Feng-Gui.com I was able to run a quick heatmap test to show the dramatic impact on user attention with the new widget with the organic results showing below just completely ignored. The change in behaviour will mean that even if the organic results are showing in top 3 positions they will likely barely get any attention from most users.
Who are the losers in organic?
For my sample query shown above “Melbourne weather” I see the big losers that are all still technically on the first page of results sorted from low to high impact being:
Insights: TimeandDate.com have continually had to battle against Google widgets first with “local city time”, then with “sunrise/sunset times” and now with “detailed weather”. Time & Date have to ensure they have commercial partnerships and a mobile app strategy in play as Google is gunning for their traffic in a big way!
Google no longer has to worry about FTC probe into their search behaviours of favouring Google products and expect to see more of their widgets expand to occupy more organic results. Google is slowly killing off organic results in favour of their products so you can expect that this type of half-page widget will expand to Movies, Travel and any other high traffic term such as TV guides.