Is Google Stacking OneBox Results?

onebox result for 2011 toyota prius search

A OneBox Result for a "2011 Toyota Prius" Search

OneBox results are where Google shows a type of compilation of different sources in a typical one listing area of organic search results, and they usually appear at the top of the results.  They occasionally appear at the bottom of the results.  OneBox results have been around for quite a while.  You can read more about them here – http://googlesystem.blogspot.com/2006/07/google-onebox-results.html

In an interview with SearchengineWatch in 2006, when she was asked why Google uses OneBox results, Google Product Marketing Director, Debbie Jaffe was quoted as saying “Google has always been committed to providing the best answers to users’ questions. This includes creating a simple, but powerful, user experience that connects users to highly relevant answers. This feature is an example of this as users can [find] the answers immediately for certain queries so they don’t have to search through each of the search results.”  When asked about the clickthrough rates, Ms. Jaffe commented “Generally, these results get more clicks than the paid listings but that’s not always the case.”  The entire interview can be read here – http://searchenginewatch.com/3623898

So, we know Onebox results have been around for over 4 years, they are reportedly done by Google to enhance the searcher’s experience, and they receive higher clickthrough rates normally than paid search ads.  So, what in the heck is the fuss about?

Google has now apparently been caught stacking the deck in the Onebox results.  It seems that Google is giving preference to some of its digital properties for the OneBox information over much more popular ones.  I won’t go into details on this here because I feel this blog http://www.benedelman.org/hardcoding/ has a great post about it.  From reading the post you will learn that Google has seemingly given some of its lessor known content areas a significant boost in the OneBox results.  Some may wonder about what the big deal is since Google is only doing this for OneBox results, but is it?

First, this is significant simply because it appears that Google has promoted its properties for no other apparent reason than they are Google’s.  Second, if they are willing to do it here, where else will they be willing to do it?  Google seems to be favoring its own properties over others in the organic search results.  It shouldn’t take anyone very long to get concerned over this possibility and the potential for it to be applied in other areas.  Google has the ability to knock a lot of people and services out of play in the digital world by promoting its own content and pushing others down.

Everyone involved in the digital marketing world should be concerned.  If Google becomes willing to continue to do this, it will be throwing around even more power than it possesses today.