Google’s rapidly-changing layout & how it affects the traffic?

The constant changes in SEO and Google algorithm are one of the favourite topics for digital marketers.

That’s the reason why ‘Google algorithm is updated 500 times per year’ is a part of our daily sales pitch.

However, most of the time, the discussions around these changes are based on factors associated with rankings like page speed, keywords and other factors.

The truth is, the most important change that happened with Google has nothing to do with rankings.

Changes in Google doesn’t always indicate changes in ranking. In this case, the changes affect your click-through rates.

Google’s ever-evolving layout

The Google search engine results page (SERP) looked much different a few years back.

It had the search results to the middle (organic listing) and ads (paid results) towards the right side of the page. Over the years, they tweaked the layout and Google placed the ads above the organic listings.

Let’s have a look at the Google SERP changes over the past few years. Luckily for us, Orbit Media published an archive of old screenshots of search engine results page layouts for comparison and study.

In 2013,

  1. The ads were prominent with a coloured background. Also, there were ads displayed on the right side.
  2. Google used to show thumbnail images of content creators within the search results.
  3. The first organic listing is placed about 330 pixels down.

If you do the same search today, in 2019

  1. The ads are fewer and the ad icon is much less prominent. The paid results blend naturally with the organic listing.
  2. One of the advertisers has ‘star review’ next to their ad.
  3. Giant featured snippets giving enough information to the visitor without actually clicking any links.
  4. Related questions (‘people also ask’) to provide the visitor with more information without leaving the SERP.
  5. The top ranking page in the organic listing is 1050 pixels below.

Between 2014 and 2019

The first organic listing is not first anymore. It is pushed further down by the latest SERP features. In this above example, the SERP features include featured snippets and related questions.

Here is another example between 2015 and 2019

How does it affect traffic?

With the latest SERP features ( ex, featured snippets, related searches), more and more searches are ‘no-click’ (or zero-click). When the visitor’s need is fulfilled by the SERP features, there is no need to click the website link.

For every 100 Google mobile searches in September 2018, there were 61.5 no-click searches and for desktops, the no-click searches for every 100 searches were 34.3.

The difference is huge and can’t be ignored.

Google doesn’t share its data. However, it is estimated that there are 5.8 billion Google searches per day, which translates into 70,000 (approx) search queries every second.

Which means 250 million fewer visits to websites each day because of no-click searches.

How to tackle the dropping click-through rates?

Google is still the most widely accepted search engine and an inexpensive and excellent source of attracting visitors. Changes are inevitable and all you have to do is to be aware and be ready for those changes.

Meanwhile, to hold on to your traffic, here are a few tips and techniques.

  • More rich snippets
    Everyone is super busy and Google is coming up with ways to make our lives easier and smooth. People want their answers quick. We will be able to see more versions of the snippets integrated into Google’s SERP layout in the near future.
  • More voice searches
    With programs like Google Assistant, Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Amazon Alexa, all utilising voice search capabilities, it is said that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be performed via voice.
  • Keyphrase-focused content
    Typical search terms or key phrases helps Googlebot to crawl through the page figuring out what it’s about and file them under those terms/phrases. There are almost 1.6 billion live websites and optimising the website ensures your site appears in front of the right people.
  • Grow your email list
    A good email list helps you to rely less on digital giants for marketing.

If you are yet to create your great website optimised for Google’s latest version, start soon. There are billions of others trying to keep you out of search results.

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