Google and ESPN Score Touchdown for Sports Fans…but what about True Organic Indexing?

With Mega giants of search and sports content having teamed up, that being Google and ESPN, the result of this handshake directly impacts two groups: on one hand, it’s great for sports enthusiasts, but on the other, it’s really an end-around for what is tantamount to paid placement for ESPN.

For anyone who has not heard about this new ‘arrangement,’ the new micro data deal between Google and ESPN allows for search results that includes scores, as well as team and player results to show up at the very top of Google ‘natural’ search results. These results offer summaries and information on upcoming games.

Currently, this has been applied for all football and baseball results, but will extend this to most other sports in the near future, most notably basketball, hockey and soccer.

But really, when looked at closer, this misdirect play has many negative implications for any search marketers, and brings into question what the true meaning of organic placement is purported to be.

And further, this brings up a couple of other issues. First off, when looking at these results, there will now be only two “true” organic search results above the fold, as the new ESPN results placement dominates the top of the page. And if you expand those results by clicking on the “Show more games” button, it then takes over the entire screen.

Another question that comes up is whether or not Google has some direct financial incentive for having these ESPN results show up in these top positions? Are there some backroom dealings going on between the two companies? I’m not saying…I’m just saying. And how do other groups such as CBS Sports, CNNSI or USA Today feel about this? These companies’ organic results now have been automatically pushed down — no matter what they do.

And how does this now extend to other business verticals? Is CNN next up to complete a deal with Google to show or highlight financial or news information at the same level? Does Oprah Winfrey’s “OWN” network do a deal with Google to highlight video results; therefore, these deals would then supersede any proper organic indexing other competing organizations would normally receive with their own organic results.

So while this seems like an innocuous enough deal, one that many, many sport enthusiasts should rightly smile about, it certainly does open up another can of worms, worms that just might be the bait for new, smelly “paid placement” deals coming down the Google pipeline.