Google makes regular core updates multiple times throughout every month, seemingly increasing each year. In 2018, Google stated that they had made over 3,000 improvements to search, compared to 2009, where there were only 350-400 changes reported. Some of these are hardly noticeable, while others have a significant impact on search engine results and SEO rankings, which is why it is vital that any algorithm update Google releases are closely monitored.
Recently (Sept 28th 2019), it has become apparent that Google was testing a new search results page design for desktop – something that caught our attention.
With this particular test, Google has added several additional options to the area at the right and left of the search results that was previously a blank white space. The left side now offers more search filters, while the right side has related search options that allow users to expand their search and look at related search result pages.
It appears that the new search results design update will only be available on certain types of searches. This may include searches for:
So far, it seems that the new design cannot be replicated and may not apply to searches for movies, books, artists, or bands, according to Barry Shwartz and Adarsh Verma, who reported the test. Although this could of course change at any time in the near future.
Impact on search results
As with all Google updates, this has left people questioning what effect the changes will have on search results.
Decrease In Click-Through-Rate?
Firstly, it has the potential for less click-through rates as users have more options when searching for answers and information online. This also includes YouTube searches, as the videos from the video platform are integrated in the results page here, although it is currently unclear whether or not the video will play in the SERPs, or if it’ll open in a new tab on YouTube itself.
On the other hand, music-sharing platforms such as Spotify will clearly benefit from this change, as they are linked directly underneath the video, above fold.
Of course, all of the above features will likely see search results themselves pushed further down the SERPs than they already are. Google tailors the design of their results pages to the user in order to optimise their search experience. This means presenting the answers within the SERPs themselves, as shown by this potential design, which will likely result in an increase in zero-click searches.
In June 2019, 49% of all Google searches ended with zero-clicks. Google has now become a competitor within a variety of sectors, including hotels, flights, song lyrics, etc., which has landed many website owners in a panic as they watch their organic traffic decrease. This potential search design will not likely help this situation.
A UX-Based Design
The changes could likely result in quicker searches as users will be able to locate the information they are looking for more efficiently using keywords. Google is constantly looking for ways to improve the user experience, and these changes to the results design page could help search results become more UX based as it offers more shortcuts to what they need, if they are wanting a media search itself.
A Tough Challenge For Organic Search Results
However, this new SERP design will push the organic results further down page, a continuing trend with any new search update. Over the years, Google has added a staggering amount of features onto their results pages over the years – 39 overall, according to Paige Hobart’s talk at BrightonSEO – from featured snippets, map packs and knowledge cards. And then, there’s the Ads.
If your site is currently ranking as the top position, this does not necessarily mean that your listing will be above fold. Therefore, site owners have adapted their strategy over the years to create more user-friendly content which will appear in featured snippets, as well as implementing schema to take up more space in the results. It is not clear from this recent test how featured snippets will show up – beneath the media results, or above.
Regardless of this, if Google does go ahead with the proposed search design, site owners will continue to watch this drop.
So far, the only real information we have is that Google has made changes to its search results page design. The full effect of these changes on search results is still unclear, but it is likely to create a more UX-based experience that could decrease organic traffic to your website – although it is too early to say for sure. Currently, it appears that these changes only apply to a limited number of search types including songs and games, and it is unknown whether the changes will apply to other search types at a later date.