Over the years you probably have noticed changes to Google’s Search Engine Results Pages. Also known as SERPs, these are the page that display your results each time you perform a search. We are now used to seeing images and videos embedded in our search results. News & blog posts usually show up fairly high on a SERP as well. All in all, there has been a lot more content included in results over time, instead of just the same basic listings. Well, Google is at it again. Some of their recent SERP changes can present issues for companies looking to rank high organically, while others present great opportunities. Here are a few to look out for.
Google has been “personalizing” search results for awhile. However, most personalized results occurred when a user was logged into their Google account. Google would show results to a logged in user based on their previous search & website visit history, information included in their profiles, etc…If you were not logged in you would be seeing the same results exactly the way everyone else did. Now, we all may see different results, even if we are searching for the same exact thing. Google has created a profile for each computer that tracks your history, IP, preferences, etc…and serves up search results that they feel will be more relevant to you. A little too “big brother” for you? You can turn personalization off and delete your web history frequently.
Small & local businesses rejoice! We are all used to seeing the “7 push-pin” map display on many of our search results, but Google is taking it a step further. It isno longer necessary to append your search with a location or geographic target (i.e. auto repair NY, NY). Google simply takes your IP address or info from you ISP, and shows you listings for local businesses which are relevant to your search. If you are looking for a service or product outside of your physical location, you will need to append your search term with a geographic target to see relevant results.
Social & Search Collide
The convergence of search & social media is not surprising. Social sites, like Twitter, are used frequently when people are looking for real-time updates. After all Twitter is all about what is going on now. Google has seen the need to go beyond posting latest news stories in their SERPs, by including real-time search results from social channels. Be on the lookout for scrolling updates from sites like Twitter as you perform searches. While not mainstream yet, we’re sure it will be. Google does factor in number of followers, post count & authority into what they include in the SERPs. For those of you running social media channels, pay attention to what you post. Social Media Optimization (SMO) plays right into this. The more content you post & the more keyword rich it is, the higher the chances you have for ranking organically in real-time updates. Note that if you are logged in at the time of your search you will be more likely to see social updates included based on the friends you have, pages you follow and what information is included in your profile.
Page Load Time
One of the most recent changes to take effect is how Google is factoring page load time into the SERP. This means that sites which take longer to load could see their organic rank drop fast. Our take? Sure, page load time needs to be fast – but not just for organic ranking purposes. Chances are that if your site is loading too slow, users will simply leave and go elsewhere. So, you have much bigger problems on your hands.
Google, like all other major search engines, are in the business of providing you the most relevant results for each search you perform. Most engines are even including related search links at the bottom of the SERPs so you can easily narrow down your search or see related terms others are searching for. This is certainly not the end to Google’s changing SERPs. They are all about personalizing search as much as possible to provide you relevant results. It is at the core of what they do, and albeit privacy issues may exist, we think they do it well.