The recent news spanning the SEOsphere these days is from Google's recent move to reduce the number of search results on page one for SOME queries from ten results to only seven. It may not sound like much but that is a 30% drop in the number of pages that can rank on page one. And the preliminary research so far seems to indicate that it is affecting close to 20% of searches (See SEOMoz article by Dr. Pete and Wordstream analysis by Larry Kim for more details)
How does this affect Google SERPs?
In fact, Dr. Pete's analysis of the top ten SERPs for 1,000 Searches showed that almost 20% were showing only seven results. It is interesting that searching from here in Vancouver, Canada, I am NOT seeing the same degree of impact which suggests that it has not been universally rolled out yet. What I am able to replicate is that for any BRANDED search (searching for Outcome3 for example which is clearly a 'brand' search returns only seven search results).
According to the admittedly limited research over at WordStream, Larry Kim discovered that
- 100% of the organic searches I looked at that contained sitelinks also had the new Google SERP with 7 or fewer organic listings.
- 100% of the organic searches I looked at that did not contain sitelinks had the usual 10 organic listings.
Larry goes on to report that he was even seeing Searches with only 5 (yes five) results on page one! That is a 50% decline in the number of results on page one.
The combined affects of a reduction in results for branded terms ('Navigational' terms as Wordstream and others refer to them) along with the promotion of the importance of Brand to search results overall is means that the first page results for these type of searches are pretty homogenous - just look at the Outcome3 example in this post - all results barring one are controlled by me. This is GREAT from the brand owners perspective and arguably from the web searchers perspective as well. Logically, in most cases, when someone types in a brand name, it is because they want to go to the brand controlled site and never go past the first few results to do so.
Yes (as many argue) this is not always the case - perhaps I am doing comparative research, perhaps I am looking for independent reviews etc. but I think in most cases, the searcher will type in a more modified search than simply a brand/navigational search (ie "Outcome3 seo review" to find those comparitive or informational type search results for which Google is still returning 10 SERPS.
What does this mean to website owners and SEOs?
Well, it means that trying to compete for a page one listing for Brand like search phrases is now extremely difficult if not impossible (for all but the least competitive brand searches). If you were the type to be skeptical of a for profit corporation, one might be forgiven for thinking that Google had a profit motive for reducing the number of search results and making it near impossible to rank for branded,highly commercial terms...hmm, let me see, I can no longer rank organically for the term '