The Evolution of Search
The feature area acts as a showcase for quick and relevant information, as well as pretty pictures — all tied to the content of the query. Google is now inviting and conditioning users to check out the featured content, effectively drawing their attention away from other components of the SERP like organic listings and potentially even text ads. This lucrative strategy implemented by Google is simply SERP conditioning.
By inserting PLAs into the feature area, Google is able to capitalize on this behavior and further monetize queries of commercial intent. PLAs are up 146 percent year-over-year in the second quarter of 2013, so by drawing a larger percentage of clicks away from organic listings, cannibalization is most likely a significant factor. Even if you rank No. 1 for a particular product, users are drawn to the images of the PLAs and Google will receive its cut.
Google has further enhanced the visibility and impact of PLAs greatly — and hastened the demise of traditional free product search listings — by implementing a design that works across devices. PLAs are now available to you on your laptop or iPhone, and virtually any device in between.
The evidence couldn't be clearer that organic traffic is falling prey to PLAs, Google Maps and the Knowledge Graph. It's no longer a question of if, but to what degree. The results will be different on every site.
Many in the SEO industry are still being fooled by the overshadowing factor of mobile search getting mislabeled as direct. Understand that Google PLAs and Knowledge Graph are likely the root of the steep declines in organic search numbers.
In SERP conditioning, Google has engineered a game-changing innovation that allows it to use tools like the Knowledge Graph and Google Maps to capture additional revenue whenever and to what extent it wants. And now Bing is right behind it.