Update after update, it has always seemed that one thing in Google has largely remained consistent, that being there has (nearly) always been 10 results on every page. However, in the past month, strange things have been afoot, with a massive 18% of all searches only returning 7 results on the first page as of August 13th. In practical terms this means that the job of search engine optimisation just got that extra bit harder.
The sudden change will leave many practitioners asking why such changes were made. A closer analysis of what kind of searches are producing search results with only 7 links reveals a trend- it appears that the recent change is mainly affecting search results which are branded. While generic search terms such as ‘website design’ still seem to consistently return the ‘standard’ 10 results,when a branded query such as ‘Sony’ is entered into Google a mere 7 results show up. Furthermore, these 7-result searches for these brands seem to consist primarily of websites which are part of the brand’s network. A search query of ‘Sony’, aside from the obligatory wikipedia article, exclusively brings up links to a variety of Sony’s regional websites, brands and models- demoting third party sites to a ‘dreaded’ page two result.
Maybe Google performed this change because they found that people simply weren’t looking beyond the seventh result, or maybe that once space had been taken up news, images, stock quotes (or whatever else) the page was simply too long with ten search results in addition to all this. Regardless, this change will have a huge impact upon online stores which rely upon sales of branded products. The best advise at present to address this issue at present is to simply place a renewed focus on SEO, as although there does seem to be a trend that all the results are internal, in some cases, like on the term ‘xbox’, several third party sites manage to infiltrate the ‘top 7’.
This change has yet to be reflected in other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing, although in the ultra-competitive field of internet search, you can be sure that these two (along with many others) will be keeping a very close eye on this alteration; it isn’t beyond the question that they will follow suit. SEOers can take some solace in the fact that increasing numbers are using browser add-ons to create an ‘infinite’ results page where one page seamlessly merges into another, although that would be little compensation for many.
While this change may not alarm those who rank their sites for more generic queries, it’s worth keeping in mind that Google may extend this change to all search queries if there is evidence to support that it helps their bottom line. Those sites that still enjoy a page one rank, albeit in the lower portion of the page should be wary for such change.