The Google SERP is constantly changing and evolving. In Google’s latest attempt to provide the most relevant results for a given search query as possible—which they say is their ultimate goal—the search engine has been serving SERPS with seven organic listings, rather than the usual 10, for some keywords.
Throughout this article, I’ll refer to the change as “Google 7.” It started around August 20th and since then, the number of keywords affected has increased by four times. Virtually all of the keywords that now have seven results also have breakout sitelinks, and these sitelinks show up on all keywords that are branded keywords.
For the past few years, Google has been gradually increasing its emphasis on multimedia and universal search by adding extra stuff to the SERP such as images (from Google Image Search), news stories or press releases (from Google News), videos (from Youtube) or local search results (from Google Local and Google Maps). The brands that are taking advantage of the universal search will have a higher chance of ranking on the first page simply because this extra stuff is part of Google.
For example, when I search the word “Cadillac,” I got a set of seven results, with the first result having breakout sitelinks. In addition, there is also now ‘News’ for Cadillac containing the latest headlines and a ‘Places’ section that links to local Cadillac dealerships in my area.
Google 7 has caused uproar from many search marketers, as it poses both new opportunities and challenges for them. So what does the change in the Google SERP mean for search marketers and brands?
The first thing to remember is to expect that all branded keywords- for both you and your competition- will now have seven link results. This is an opportunity for brands that invest in universal search techniques to dominate the Google SERP with multiple results from a single site and to push any negative content off of the first page. For brands with online reputation management issues, this change should come as great news.
Google 7 poses a new challenge for the websites that were previously ranked between eight and 10. Without any changes in ranking, they will go from being on the first page to being on the second page, where they won’t get nearly as much traffic and conversions. These websites will experience traffic that’s similar to what usually comes from positions 10-12.
Being ranked position 10 on the first page of Google’s search results was not necessarily such a bad thing for a website prior to August 20. While search marketers understand that the number one position enjoys over 50% of organic click throughs and that it is advantageous to be above the fold, the number 10 position is the last listing that users see before continuing on to the second page (if they get that far). By having a compelling title and meta description and unique quality content on your page (as Google often shows a snippet of your page as the description), users could still be enticed to click on your listing. For what it’s worth, position 10 was a decent piece of real estate and for this I would have personally rather ranked there than at 9 or even eight.
Decreased traffic to sites that rank below seven is likely to cause a boost in pay-per-click (PPC). Listings eight through 10 may have gotten a decent amount of traffic from ranking organically on the first page before, but now that they’ve been pushed to the second page they may not be able to afford the cost of a first page listing. They’ll be more willing to buy PPC listings on the keywords in which they lost top positions on, and Google will make a killing off of this.
The new SERP is all about accuracy, quality and relevance. Now that Google has slimmed down the first page, it would be smart to analyze why a site has dropped out of it. Even if your site currently remains ranked at one through seven, it’s wise to take a closer look at the keywords that were affected. If you realize that some of your keywords have dropped off of the first page, take a closer look at what may be behind it. Is it due to the new Google SERP or declining SEO performance?
If you find yourself affected by the Google 7 change, it is recommended that you:
• modify your keyword rank reporting
• reconsider your keyword goals
• pay more attention to blended search and measure blended rank
As the Google SERP continues to evolve and provide users with more relevant results, there will be challenges for search marketers. In the case of Google 7, it is important to look at the changes as not just a challenge, but also as an opportunity to rise above competitors.
Google’s top rankings are based on high quality and relevance. Optimize your search campaigns across multiple search types, and in multiple formats, and this will likely make Google happy. This puts your brand in a position to dominate the new Google SERP and do extremely well.