Google’s recent SERP changes and tests: everything you need to know

Google’s recent SERP changes and tests: everything you need to know

May 19, 2016 3:05 pm

Over the previous couple of weeks, Google has been noticed introducing some fascinating modifications to the look and format of its search outcomes pages.

The first, as we reported in our spherical-up of key search marketing information on Friday, is that Google seems to have elevated the size restrict for title tags within the SERPs to round sixty nine-70 characters.

Title tags on cellular have lengthened even additional, some now clocking in at a whopping seventy eight characters, giving rise to a little bit of a dilemma for SEOs eager to optimise for each desktop and cellular.

Featured snippets have additionally grown in measurement, whereas descriptions now appear to have the ability to match a bigger variety of characters onto one line, though the general size of descriptions seems to be staying the identical for the second.

Meanwhile, Google can also be conducting some A/S testing of various hyperlink colors, in a transfer harking back to its notorious “fifty shades of blue” check in 2009. Some customers have observed Google trialling totally different shades of blue of their search outcomes, whereas others are protesting a change in hyperlink color from blue to black.

So what do we all know to date concerning the new modifications, and what influence might they’ve on search engine optimisation in the event that they’re right here to remain?

Extended title tags, descriptions and extra

The longer titles in Google search outcomes have been first noticed by the sharp-eyed Ross Hudgens, who reported on Twitter that he was seeing title tags of sixty nine and 70 characters on Google.

While it’s nonetheless not confirmed whether or not the longer titles are a check or right here to remain, on the time of writing (almost a fortnight on from Hudgens’ tweet), I’m nonetheless seeing title tags as a lot as sixty eight and sixty nine characters lengthy in search outcomes for

70-character title tags have been as soon as the norm on Google, till Google elevated the font measurement of titles from sixteen pixels to 18 pixels in 2014.

After that, the optimum size for title tags was between fifty five and 60 characters. But since Google did away with proper-hand-aspect advertisements on the SERP earlier this yr (probably with the eventual aim of widening search leads to thoughts), it has had a bit extra width to play with.

Two side by side screenshots of Google search results, showing a search for "Who was the US president when the Angels won the world series?" The left-hand screenshot is narrower, and the titles of the top results are all cut off after eight or nine words. The right-hand search result is wider, and the title tags are all displayed in full, with no truncating.Then and now: the previous type of search outcomes, left, versus the brand new, proper

The SEM Post studies that altogether, the width of Google search outcomes has elevated from 500 to about 600 pixels broad, reducing the area between outcomes and the Knowledge Panel on the fitting-hand aspect by H pixels to make room.

It’s necessary to notice that pixels, not characters, are the measurement that Google truly makes use of for search outcomes and title size. We use characters as a extra sensible measurement, which is why character limits can solely be an approximation, as a result of characters like ‘w’ take up rather more pixel area than characters like ‘i’ or ‘l’.

It’s not simply title tags which have been affected by the search outcomes widening: meta descriptions are additionally being given extra room (about one hundred characters) on every line, and in some instances displaying three strains of description as an alternative of the standard two, which is a large change.

However, Google continues to be chopping lots of them off at two strains and round one hundred fifty characters, which means it’s in all probability too early to start out rewording your meta descriptions simply but.

The width of featured snippets has additionally elevated from 556 pixels vast to about 645 pixels, whereas the peak has decreased by about 30 pixels, leaving the identical quantity of textual content inside the field but in addition giving extra room for title tags.

Finally, the three-pack of search outcomes that seem on the prime of the web page once you make an area search has additionally widened to the identical width as featured snippets whereas retaining the identical peak, permitting Google so as to add in slightly extra element concerning the places of native companies.

Two screenshots of the 'local map pack' in Google search results side by side, showing search results for Shoe Zone branches in London. The left hand screenshot is narrower, and contains the branch name, street address, phone number and opening hours. The screenshot on the right is wider, and each result also has distance details (e.g. 1.3 miles) as well as the other information.Left: the previous ‘map pack’ of native search outcomes; Right: the brand new, wider map pack

Meanwhile, on cellular…

Google’s SERP modifications don’t simply apply to desktop. The size of cellular title tags has reportedly elevated to as a lot as seventy eight characters, placing them at a few key phrases longer than the brand new title tags on desktop.

The change on cellular was first reported by Jennifer Slegg on the SEM Post a few days in the past, though apparently, I have a screenshot from April displaying a search end result with a seventy six-character title tag – which could point out that I was a part of one in every of Google’s well-known “M%” exams by which it trials a brand new change with simply B% of its customers.

A mobile screenshot showing two Google search results with long title tags. The top search result is headlined, "Does any one else get this? : I have felt shivers up and down my spine story ..." which is a title tag of 76 characters in total. The second search result is almost as long, titled "Autonomous sensory meridian response - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia"A search outcomes screenshot taken on twenty fifth April

The three-pack of native search outcomes on cellular additionally appears to have modified just a little, at the least since this screenshot that I took again in February, with Google selecting to incorporate ‘distance from you’ info even on the expense of displaying tackle particulars, probably to offer consistency with the extent of element that desktop search now options.

Two mobile screenshots side by side, both showing searches for "Marks and Spencer near me". The search on the left is from 29th February, as shown by the Google Doodle at the top for a leap year. Both screenshots give brief address details and opening hours of each branch, but the screenshot on the right also has distance details (e.g. 0.1 miles).

What might all of it imply for search engine optimization?

I ought to stress to begin with that none of those modifications are confirmed to be everlasting, and will revert again or change additional over the approaching weeks and months as Google refines its plans for the SERP.

It’s undoubtedly too early to start out altering your technique based mostly on what has been reported thus far, particularly as there are loads of totally different modifications being reported to totally different extents by totally different customers.

But there’s no hurt in contemplating how they may have an effect on search engine optimisation, particularly if these modifications are any indication of what Google has in retailer for the longer term.

The most instantly apparent advantage of longer title tags and descriptions is extra room to slot in key phrases. While this is true, it’s additionally 2016, which suggests we will do much more fascinating issues with the additional characters – in any case, it’s not nearly key phrases any extra.

A photograph of a long-tailed widowbird perched on a stalk in a grassy field.Longer title tags and descriptions would give SEOs extra leeway to make use of lengthy-tail key phrases.
Image by Dr. Ron Matson, out there by way of CC0 (public area picture)

The first is that longer titles and descriptions would permit extra room for lengthy-tail key phrases, three or 4-phrase phrases that have a tendency to point that searchers are nearer to taking motion or making a purchase order, making them extraordinarily useful for entrepreneurs.

Similarly, the elevated room in search outcomes would give website house owners extra alternative to make use of pure language of their titles and descriptions.

Natural language queries are search queries that use full, on a regular basis language as an alternative of brief, disjointed key phrases. They have gotten extra widespread as voice search is on the rise and search engines are more and more capable of interpret particular, multi-half queries.

In principle, SEOs ought to adapt to this development so as to give their web sites the perfect probability of rating for pure language search queries, however with a restrict on how a lot will match on the search outcomes web page, that is simpler stated than carried out.

Extending the size of titles and descriptions may be Google’s method of acknowledging this and adjusting the SERP to permit for it.

Finally, one other advantage of longer title tags is that in some instances, it could make room for model names on the finish of a title, which is beneficial for ensuring your model stamp is on a search end result with out essentially having to sacrifice any beneficial content material.

The elevated width of featured snippets in all probability gained’t make massive distinction so long as the quantity of textual content inside stays the identical, however they’re nonetheless a superb strategy to leapfrog your search competitors if you understand how.

Meanwhile, the broader map pack might be nice information for native search engine optimization, because it provides sufficient room to show brief descriptions plus exact tackle particulars, distance (at the very least on – I’ve observed screenshots from don’t seem to have this function) and telephone quantity, all with out truncating.

A screenshot of the new wider three-pack of local search results, showing three types of shoe shop near Hammersmith. Each shop is given a short description, plus an exact location (e.g. Kings Mall Shopping Centre), a distance away (e.g. 0.2 miles), a street address (e.g. 43 King Street) and a phone number, with opening hours below.

The new size distinction between cellular and desktop title tags in all probability presents probably the most fascinating problem for SEOs. There has all the time been a little bit of a distinction in the best way that title tags show on desktop versus cellular, with cellular title tags displaying throughout two strains as an alternative of 1 line on desktop.

But if the longer title tags that we’ve been seeing on desktop and cellular each turn into exhausting modifications, then many website house owners should make a name: optimise for desktop, or for cellular? Or attempt to discover a center floor?

Ultimately it is going to depend upon context: the kind of enterprise, the knowledge that must be included within the title tag, and the kinds of clients that the enterprise most needs to cater in the direction of. A enterprise with primarily cellular visitors may determine that it’s value sacrificing a little bit of readability on desktop with a purpose to enhance their possibilities on cellular.

There’s additionally the likelihood that extra website house owners will select to spin off their cellular presence right into a separate website – – as an alternative of merely using a responsive design for his or her principal website, as a way to have the most effective of each worlds.

Paint it Black

Last however not least, we’ve the information that Google has been testing totally different hyperlink colors on a few of its customers, with searchers reporting seeing a unique shade of blue of their search outcomes, in addition to –rather more outrageously – all black hyperlinks.

Instead of the standard purplish color to point a beforehand visited hyperlink, the black search outcomes are reported to show a lighter gray when clicked on.

Setting apart the miserable visible influence of an virtually-all-black outcomes web page, Google’s color change experiments have some implications in search accessibility for customers who’re color blind or have low imaginative and prescient.

Back in 2014 when Google eliminated the underlines in hyperlinks for its search outcomes, leaving color as the one visible clue as to which textual content was a hyperlink, Adrian Roselli wrote that: “Google misses the mark [for accessibility] in that the blue hyperlinks don’t have adequate distinction with the remainder of the textual content on the web page.”

The darker blue textual content that Google is trialling in some locations is an enchancment on this, however the black hyperlink textual content that has prompted a lot upset comes with a further set of issues.

With the exception of URLs slightly below the hyperlink textual content, that are nonetheless inexperienced, all the textual content on Google’s SERPs is identical color, with no different visible cues to differentiate hyperlinks from common textual content. Roselli explains why Google’s modifications to the SERP fail accessibility tips on a number of ranges:

“By dropping underlines, Google already ran afoul of Success Criterion B.A.B (which is simply Level A) which requires one thing aside from shade for use to convey info (such because the presence of a hyperlink).

By making the hyperlinks the identical shade as the encompassing textual content, it now pushes that failure even additional by not offering a A:B distinction ratio between the hyperlinks and the encompassing textual content (which is outlined in Techniques for WCAG as merchandise G183).

Again, please don’t comply with Google’s lead.”

The influence of this variation, a minimum of on the black SERPs that Google is trialling, might manifest in decreased click on-by means of charges from customers who discover the brand new color scheme visually complicated – or who discover the brand new black hyperlinks too miserable to click on on.

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