Changes in Google’s SERP 2019
- By Oskar Gräsman
- February 19, 2020
Everyone that works within SEO is well aware that Google constantly keeps changing and tuning their algorithms all the time. When you are working with SEO It is important that you keep up to date with the latest changes, especially when they roll out their core updates. What some SEO professionals might not pay very much attention to is the SERP changes. Although we are a rank tracking tool, we are not talking about the changes in rankings on different keywords. No, we are talking about the actual layout, design and functionality of the Google SERP. So, let’s take a look in the rearview mirror and see what changed in the Google SERP during 2019.
Like most kinds of Google updates, they don’t roll out for everyone at the same time. Rather they do try them out on different users or in different situations. Before they eventually roll it out for the big masses.
Google Search Field
This update might have started to roll out at the very end of 2018. Since most people probably started to notice this change in the early 2019, we will consider it as an update of 2019.
The Google search field and search bar got a new look. From the rectangular box we have known for decades all of the sudden got very soft with huge round edges. On the result page the search bar containing the Google logo, the search field and some other bits - got sticky. So even if you are scrolling down you can still see the search field glued to the top of your browser window.
The new design is part of Google's Material Design, which was introduced in 2014. The new rounded Google search field is featured on both mobile and desktop searches.
As you probably already know Google Ads are marked up in the SERP so users will be able to tell ads apart from the organic search result. Looking back a decade the layout and design of Google ads has changed quite a lot. Back in the days up to three ads could be found on top of the search result as well as up to seven ads in the right sidebar. These ads had a light-yellow background which made them stand out quite a bit from the organic search.
Since then Google has done a pretty good job making the ads blend in more and more. The latest change which came in May 2019 was the bold, black ad label. Replacing the small green box with an ad displayed in the middle. The URLs also got their color changed, from the same green to black.
The new black Ad label is featured on both mobile and desktop searches.
At the same time as Google decided to change the Ad label they also added the favicon of the websites to the SERP. It’s shown in the same spot as the Ad label, which makes the ads and the organic search to blend in even more.
The favicon update was first rolled out on mobile only. But during 2019 we saw Google doing a lot of testing with favicon on the desktop result as well. Now we have reached 2020 and it seems like Google came to a conclusion. There are favicons in the SERP for desktop as well, and the result is the same as on mobile – it’s really hard to tell ads apart from the organic search.
The only detail that tells ads apart from the organic search, except for the ad label, is an interpunct, also known as middle dot or centered dot.
The favicon was only featured on mobile searches, except for some testing, during 2019. The favicon is still coming and going on desktop searches, although it seems to be appearing more and more frequently.
Google has implemented a lot of rich snippets on various types of searches during the last few years. And it seems like they are not going to stop in the near future. In May 2019 Google announced they are going to give webmasters the possibility to show questions and answer directly in the SERP with help of schema markup.
As usual Google is the one that decides whether this will be shown or not. But according to our observations it seems like the FAQ markup will show if you are on the first page of the SERP. It also seems Google shows up to three results with the FAQ snippet, and for each FAQ snippet one result is pushed to the second page. So for a search displaying three FAQ snippets for three different websites, the total number of organic search results will be seven.
The FAQ snippet is featured on both mobile and desktop searches.
Another rich snippet that came around the same time, in May 2019, is the how-to snippet. It’s basically a slide show where you can show the users a step-by-step guide directly in the SERP. The how to, or step-by-step guide, must contain text but can also include images. And it also has to be a numbered sequence of the steps.
The how-to snippets are only featured on mobile search.
It was during 2018 Google introduced breadcrumbs in the SERP, instead of URLs. To get breadcrumbs you had to use schema markup to be sure Google picked it up and displayed it accordingly. But late 2019 it seems Google made a decision to display breadcrumbs whether you like it or not. Even if you are not using the appropriate schema markup for breadcrumbs, Google will make sure to find a way to show them anyway.
This might be Google's first step to abandoning URLs as we know them, something Chrome’s engineering manager Adrienne Porter Felt already mentioned back in 2018.
Breadcrumbs instead of URLs are now featured on both mobile and desktop search.
The title shown in Google’s SERP is since a few years back based on the width of 600 pixels. That used to be equal to approximately 70 characters. During 2019 this was shortened, most likely due to an increase of the font size used to display the title.
The current recommended title length is 50 – 60 characters, but Google still does what they think is best for the search intent. Keeping your title between 50 and 60 characters is still no guarantee for what Google will show the users.
Shorter titles were rolled out on both mobile and desktop searches.
Personalized Google Shopping experience
This feature was first rolled out in France in the beginning of 2019, in March to be more precise. In October this feature reached the US.
Basically, this feature allows people to browse, and shop, products based on their previous shopping history. Google will give you shopping recommendations and you can
Why every SEO should keep an eye on SERP changes
Some SERP changes might be very good for you and your website, whilst others might make you lose that organic traffic that you’ve been working so hard on to get.
Several of our sources have confirmed that the roll out of the Ad label had a negative impact on the organic traffic they received. Without them losing or changing their rankings in Google. This is probably due to the increased difficulty differentiate the ads from the organic search.
Some other webmasters we spoke to have seen better CTR thanks to new rich snippets, such as the FAQ one. Not only tend websites with the FAQ snippet showing attract more clicks, it also pushes one other site back to page two on desktop, and behind the show more results on mobile.
The shortening of the title can also affect your website, if you don’t make sure that your titles have the right length Google will simply shorten them for you, by removing the words that don't fit. Obviously, this is something you want to avoid. Although your most important keywords and information should always be mentioned as early as possible.
How to see how SERP changes may affect your organic traffic
An algorithm update will be very easy to identify through Wincher. Usually you will see a drop or a sudden peak among the keywords you are tracking. Sometimes a big one and sometimes a small one. Sometimes you are barely affected.
But when your traffic suddenly starts to decline, with no or little change in ranking, it might be time to look at the SERP with your own eyes.
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