For as long as I can remember Google has returned 10 ‘organic’, i.e. non-paid, results for every search query. It makes sense. Ten is the perfect number. Everyone likes 10. It’s easy to work with. Not too much, not too little. The perfect number of results one might say.
Google, however, has decided that it no longer feels this way. Over the past three weeks more and more search queries have returned 7 results as opposed to the traditional 10. SERPs with less than 10 results are occasionally returned but this is rare and largely unnoticeable. In mid-August SEOMoz data indicated that almost 19% of the SERPs they track had only 7 results. This change is staggering when compared to the usual result of around 0.1%.
Why Would Google Make this Change to the Search Engine Ranking System?
Good question. And to be honest I don’t really know. The only reason I can think of is to encourage people to spend money on Google’s paid advertising system; AdWords. Less space in the organic results will certainly force some webmasters to turn to AdWords to drive online traffic. But surely Google has the sense not to fiddle with search engine rankings too much? If they load SERPs with paid ads, users will get frustrated and go elsewhere.
Maybe Google simply feels that some search queries don’t require 10 results. If you type in ‘Nike’ for example, it’s more than likely that you want to visit the official Nike site. Google is always saying that all it wants to do is give people what they are looking for. Expanded site-links, that take up space on SERPs, from the official site are more useful to users than un-official Nike sites.
What is the Impact?
As with most of Google’s updates and changes big brands won’t be affected as they tend to dominate the top results. Popular sites such as Wikipedia also have nothing to worry about. The people who do have cause for concern is smaller business who have managed to get onto the very bottom of page one. In this respect the goalposts have shifted (again). Traditionally it was accepted that a top ten result = a page one listing. However if these 7 results SERPS are here to stay then then top 10 doesn’t = page one, 7 does.
Its difficult to predict how far this change will go and if the number of SERPs affected will rise further from roughly 18%. All we can do as SEO’s is check all of our SERPs and hope that they haven’t been cut down from 10 to 7.
If you want to ensure that your site appears on page one, whether that’s 10 or 7 results, Miromedia can help. Get in touch to find out more.