Google says every search algorithm, interface update and new SERP feature gets implemented with the main focus of improving user experiences.
It’s fair to say these updates haven’t always been made with websites’ best interests in mind. Marketers are aware it’s harder than ever to appear at the top of search results – and even if your site does get to the top of SERPs, organic results are often still placed underneath Knowledge Graph results, info cards and ads. While some may pin this as a way for Google to cannibalize clicks – the search giant has always stuck to the conviction that every update is to improve search quality for the end user.
But now, despite alleged improvements, a new customer satisfaction report from ACSI shows that satisfaction with search engines has actually decreased in the past year. Google had seen an uptick in 2014, but this year fell from 80 to 76 percent satisfaction.
Looking back over the past 20 years, we know Google search results have seen massive changes. Here’s a look at Google’s SERP for “The Drake Hotel” in 2000. (Image courtesy of SEMRush)
This results page just has a series of blue links to organic results, with a couple of ads to the side. In this example, the first link points to the hotel’s website and the second looks like it leads to another booking site.
Here’s what it looks like in August, 2015:
This results page has multiple elements, starting with the info card to the right with pictures of the hotel and maps showing its location. There’s also a rating from Google reviews, contact information and an option to book directly on the page. However, the page also contains a link to the hotel’s branded page, with deep links to related landing pages on the site. This all comes before organic results for the search term.
If search results are more sophisticated than ever, why are users less satisfied?
According to the report, it’s mobile usage that’s causing a problem. 2015 has been the first year that mobile search queries surpassed those coming from desktops and as the study suggests, “there is no guarantee for users that the websites listed in search devices will be compatible with mobile.”
Google has worked to combat this with the introduction of a mobile search algorithm in April 2015, but latest reports indicated it had only “slightly affected” sites that weren’t considered mobile-friendly.
For all websites, convenience is key.
Once people have adapted to using a new platform, like mobile or tablets, they don’t want to have to wait for a product like Google, or your website, to catch up. If someone searches for an answer on their phone – they’re going to choose the site with a mobile responsive answer – even if they had loyalty to your brand first.
Not sure if your site can hook mobile readers? Here are some additional resources: