A report from SEOmoz contributor Peter Meyers found that Google’s usual 10-link SERP may not always be the norm, with 17 percent of queries producing results pages with just seven results. According to Meyers, the amount of pages with only seven results rose drastically earlier this month despite Google not making any major announcements related to this in its search changes.
Meyers found that before August 13, search results pages with fewer than 10 results were rare. Since that date, the frequency jumped to 17 percent, and he observed that site-links that take up more SERP real estate were common to the pages with reduced numbers of results. It also seems the seven-result SERPs stem from queries that are less likely to produce different meanings or contexts for Google’s algorithms to process.
“While not all keyword phrases [in observable cases] were branded, site-links and branded queries are naturally correlated,” Mayer wrote for SEOmoz.
Meyers found that before August 13, search results pages with fewer than 10 results were rare. Since that date, the frequency jumped to 17 percent, and he observed that site-links that take up more SERP real estate were common to the pages with reduced numbers of results.
Last week at SES San Francisco, Matt Cutts, Google’s distinguished engineer, mentioned that Google search “is about answers.” As the Knowledge Graph and other search technology has evolved to provide users with fast information, Google’s results are becoming more accurate or contextually relevant. Whittling results pages down to seven results could be a sign that its algorithms are simply doing a better job of providing users answers quickly. Ultimately, it’s still unknown what the cause of this is, as Meyers even noted that some queries have produced as few as six results. Notably, the example he provided had a block of image results where result No.1 would normally be featured, which supports his theory features “crowding SERPs” contribute to reduced numbers of results.
Ultimately, it’s difficult to ascertain the true SEO implications of this change without any announcement from Google. Meyers suggests that marketers can’t plan too heavily for this shift at the moment since it’s unclear what dictates the change, and it doesn’t seem to be SEO-related. Focusing on creating high-quality website content that appeals to prospects and provides relevant information is still the best practice to ensure successful web marketing.
If Google has made this move, it’s likely that it believes providing users with fewer links that are more likely to satisfy their search needs is better for the overall search experience. At SES, Cutts was clear that adjustments made to search this year, whether Knowledge Graph or the usual quality updates, are aimed at improving user experiences, and it’s likely these changes came for the same reason.