The earthquake wasn’t the only thing shaking up our LA office this Monday – Google implemented a major redesign to the SERP page, sending tremors into the world of SEO. Among some of the major changes were larger title fonts without underlines, shorter character limits, and ad designations similar to those found on the SERPs of mobile devices:
We checked in with some of our SEO experts to get their reactions on what we affectionately termed Google’s “SERPquake.”
Kirby Burke: “I like the new SERP layout. It looks much cleaner. Plus, Google SERPs now look consistent across all devices. I think this is a huge step toward standardization and moving toward “one web” instead of a mobile web, a tablet web, and a desktop web.
Some people are not happy with the new layout but I have a feeling it will pass. Some people are just resistant to change. They’re just out of the comfort zone right now because it looks different. I don’t expect a mass exodus of Google users from this, just like there wasn’t a mass exodus of Facebook users after Timeline was integrated.
One drawback of the new layout is the length of the title tag. The new desktop SERPs only display about 50 characters of the title. This means developers will just have be more succinct when creating titles for their pages, or at least front-load the most significant information to fit within the first 50 characters. These shorter title tags have been a standard for mobile sites for quite some time now, so this isn’t too radical a change. Fortunately, the meta descriptions still appear to display 160 characters.
Another observation is that the paid ads of the new SERPs are much harder to distinguish from organic results. The previous, color-coded results were very conspicuous. However, the new ads look virtually identical to the organic results, with the exception of a tiny little “Ad” icon. I have a feeling this is really going to drive paid ad performance. Anyone who wants to drive organic performance really needs to step up their SERP listings with things like structured markup, authorship and video thumbnails to really separate them from not only the paid ads, but the other organic listings on the page too.”
David Waterman: “For general information results, I like it. Very clean, lots of data, and good for the user. For more commerce-oriented searches, I don’t like it. Too blended, easier to accidentally click on a paid result. The common Google searcher may not notice or care, but as a search marketer, I think it’s pretty sneaky.”
Grant Simmons: “It’s too early to tell but having titles that are cut off can still drive good organic click through rates IF the target queries & key points of click interest are displayed upfront in the first 35-55 characters.”
Matt McKinley: “I think the new look seems a little outdated with more blank space. But I would argue that it’s providing a more readable version of how crowded the SERP has become with the evolution of the knowledge graph, authorship and publisher markup, schema, etc. It’s up to the search marketer to fill that blank canvas with the right markup. And Google could just be using the blank space to make room for more changes.
But this isn’t going to fundamentally change the way Title Tags should be written. Truncated results affect CTR, not ranking. You aren’t going to be penalized for going over 60 characters, but frontloading keyword themes helps future-proof CTR against changes like this.”
The effects of the St. Patrick’s Day SERPquake will continue to reverberate through the SEO community, and it will be interesting to see where we end up when the aftershocks calm down!