This is a conspiracy post, but don’t shutoff yet! I would not share it unless I thought it was truly worth 2-3 minutes of your time and input in the comments regarding the chance that it is more than just conspiracy.

Notice anything abnormal about this SERP screenshot for “retractable banner” on Google?PPC for Build a Sign

Within a matter of seconds you should see a few things that are out of the ordinary.

I did a search on Saturday for a retractable banner. Look at how those Product Listing Ads (PLAs) stand out.  Before clicking I wanted to compare price. I looked closer.  It wasn’t long before I realized that every single one of the ads were from BuildASign.com!  That got me more curious, so rather than just click through like I imagine most “normal” people would do, I looked to see what else was going on with the page.

Did You Notice?

  • While the ads are all from BuildASign.com, they aren’t the exact same ad.
  • They have 375 5-star seller reviews.
  • Their ad shows up 6x on the page.

Most importantly, did you notice the number 1 organic result?

Is all of this just a coincidence? Is it just an error that slipped through the cracks? I mean, Google does have billions of search results it has to display each day. Some of these mistakes are sure to be made.

Or, is Google showing bias?

BuildASign.com owns the upperfold and none of the other advertisers on the first page are ranking organically.  You could make a fair argument that since none of the other advertisers are ranking organically, Google doesn’t show bias to advertisers and improve their rankings just because they advertise. On Friday Bryant Garvin and I started talking about how we believe that Google does rank sites better organically than sites that aren’t advertising.  Yes. I know Matt Cutts said that it doesn’t.  Here is the latest of at least two videos where he says that:

I’ll save a post for next Monday explaining multiple reasons why your Adwords ads do effect your organic rankings.

Back to the BuildASign.com case study

Their ads are great. Their landing pages are great. I will soon find out if their product and service are great.

Build A Sign

Their organic listing title and description is extremely well written.

BuildASign Organic Listing

If more ecommerce SEO’s understood the power of value propositions and call to action in meta titles and descriptions it would sure make our job more difficult as PPC experts.

The not always trustworthy PPC competitive research sites Spyfu and KeywordSpy say that they are spending somewhere between $2500 and $4500/day minimum.  Other competing advertisers do spend more than them, I would guess, like VistaPrint.com for example.

Finally, how the heck did they get all 5 of the PLA listings? The landing page of each one is the exact same. The images don’t vary much.  The price never varies. The title only slightly varies in a couple ads.

When I searched for “retractable banner(s)” an hour later the SERP varies, and ad positions vary, except  for BuildASign.com. Oh, and they STILL own all 5 PLAs!

Retractable Banners SERP

Was BuildASign.com started by Sergey Brin or something?