How Google’s Search Results Are Changing – And What it Means for You

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Google is constantly changing things to improve the end-user experience. A lot of those changes are subtle and likely go unnoticed by the average person, but for an SEO company, keeping an eye on these changes is part of the job. Here’s what you may have missed in Google’s recent experimenting.

Where Are the Ads?

The most noticeable change that Google’s rolled out recently is doing away with the ads on the right-hand side of the search. An additional paid search result has been added to the top of the page – meaning there are now four paid links, not three – but the overall number of ads on the page has gone down from a maximum of 11 to a maximum of 7. For many less-competitive searches, there may be fewer ads or none at all.

There are a few reasons for this change, but one of the biggest is mobile optimization: Information on the side of the page clutters up the display and makes it hard to navigate on mobile. And with mobile users making up nearly 60% of the time people spend with digital devices, being mobile-friendly is definitely important. (https://techcrunch.com/2014/08/21/majority-of-digital-media-consumption-now-takes-place-in-mobile-apps/)

Changes in Appearance

Some of the other changes to Google’s search engine results page have been more aesthetic in nature. They’ve experimented with several changes, deploying them for some users but not others as a method of testing the effectiveness of various new or potential features.

One interface change they’ve played with is font size, increasing the size of links in the search engine result page. This is another mobile-friendly choice – big, bold links are easier to click on a touch-screen. Google also experimented with using black text in its links rather than the traditional blue, although the user response to that one wasn’t too enthusiastic! (http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/10/technology/google-change-color-search-results-black/)

So What’s it Mean to You?

The reduction in overall ad numbers and changes in ad placement are big news for companies that rely on SEO. Fewer ads mean organic search results are more important than ever – both for visibility, and for cost as ad space becomes increasingly competitive.

As for the rest of it? The biggest takeaway is that Google will never stop experimenting and changing things as it tries to improve the user experience. Some changes will be temporary or small; others can be game-changing. But no matter what it thinks up next, we’ll be there to adapt and keep your site competitive in an ever-changing environment.