Posted by Dan Malachowski, Senior Strategist, Strategy & Analytics
For some brand queries, Google has recently been testing a new-look search engine results page (SERP) that includes only seven organic listings, rather than the traditional ten. Notice the reduced number of organic listings in the screenshot below for the “Delta” brand term:
Google is always experimenting and collecting results. Reducing the number of organic listings simplifies an increasingly cluttered SERP, which needs room for news results, images, Google Shopping listings, maps, local business reviews, Google+ profiles, videos, etc. If the seven-listing SERP works, Google could roll it out to all brand-term SERPs.
SEO and Paid Search Implications for Brands
While search marketing professionals will notice the drop from ten to seven listings, the average Google searcher probably won’t. The fact is that about 80% of organic traffic comes from the top seven listings anyway. Searchers will likely always find what they want for brand keywords, right on top. Most brands rank number one for their brand terms (if they don’t, they have some serious SEO issues). Additionally, Google is providing brands with more opportunities to dominate the SERP for brand terms. In particular, Google has recently given great prominence to organic sitelinks and Google Plus profiles. The below example shows Delta Airlines occupying all the above-the-fold real estate with a paid search ad (with sitelinks), organic listing (with the new big sitelinks), and Google Plus page:
However, the change could be an issue for brand names that have multiple meanings; such brands may have to dedicate more resources to SEO. For instance, “Delta” could be the airline, the faucet company, the dental insurance provider, the college, the machinery corporation, or the cargo company (not to mention others). To illustrate—in the case of the “Delta” query—Delta Dental ranks number eight. In other words, Delta Dental used to rank on page one, and now it ranks on page two. Delta Airlines, Delta Faucet, Delta Machinery and Delta College remain on page one. Additionally, Delta Dental is pushed even further down page two because Delta Airlines is running a top-sponsored page-two ad. The below screenshot shows page two for the “Delta” query:
On the paid search side, it’s possible that this change could increase ad exposure. With less organic-search real estate, paid ads may catch more searchers’ eyes, thus increasing click-through rates (CTRs). This could be particularly true for Google Bottom Ads, the paid search ads that show on the bottom of the SERP (as opposed to the right side of the SERP) for some queries. Bottom Ads already blend into the organic results; on a SERP that has only seven organic results, Bottom Ads are more prominent and could garner more clicks from searchers that scroll.
Google is always tweaking the SERP to help searchers more quickly find the most relevant results. We’ll be paying close attention to this recent change to see if it’s something that’s here to stay.