You may have noticed that over the past few weeks, the search engine result page Google presents its users has changed slightly. What used to be a handy small feature that directed visitors towards more pages on your site, has now been ‘improved’ to take a sizeable chunk of the visual real estate ‘above the fold’ of the results window.
Before the change, users were presented with quite an easy looking list of 8 sitelinks. Site owners were able to tweak which pages were presented by simply enabling or disabling them within their Google Webmaster Tools account.
However the new updated layout presents these sitelinks in an expanded wider view, whilst also increasing the amount accessible to 12. There was also an important change within the way site owners could select which sitelinks appeared or not. Google now allows you to ‘demote’ a site for a 90 day period, instead of permanently disabling them from appearing within the highlighted sitelinks. Other improvements also include the addition of a snippet of your page’s site description and URL.
It’s an interesting move from the search engine giant, as the market research firm Experian Hitwise recently released surprising information that showed Google to be trailing against its rivals Bing and Yahoo! in its ‘success rate’ of searches. Bing and Yahoo!’s users success rate over the month of July was revealed to be more than 80%, quite a sizable chunk when compared to Google’s 68%.
Personally, I see the change causing quite a headache for those working within SEO. As these expanded site links continue to push other organic results further down the SERP, something that constantly happens with results presented within the universal search results page.
Though from a user’s perspective, I believe it doesn’t add any improvements to my search. Despite there being more relevant information presented in front of me, I could potentially skip over the expanded sitelinks section because they may contain links that were not important to my search.
Critics have noted as well that despite the average screen resolution increasing from 800×600 at the beginning of the decade to those rivalling or exceeding HD resolutions, there has been an increasing trend to users displaying their results through a widescreen monitor, resulting in a much narrower view being presented.
It’ll be interesting to see how Google further tweaks this nifty piece of interface usability. As the search engine giant is known for constantly updating its services. The company recently overhauled the look and feel of all of its services, whilst the much feared Panda Algorithm update has already encountered 3 public tweaks to its algorithm. Love it or hate it, it looks like the new expanded sitelinks are here to stay.