Google SERP Gets a New Look and Feel

This Google SERP re-design is a big one. All search engine results will get a flavicon, which ranges from a company logo to a type (i.e. pdf icon, LinkedIn icon) or to a new ad black label. Although it’s been live for several months on mobile, it will still take searchers a bit of time to get used to the changes, so you may see some impact to click-through rates.

The big question on our mind here at Search Warrant is, well, why? Why would Google make such a drastic change to the look and feel of their search results page? Is it because they were worried that searchers were getting tired of looking at the same old thing? Will the design lead to a better user experience? Will it add to their bottom line?

Our experience with Google is that nothing ever happens without a reason, so the answer is likely…all of the above.

Below we’ve put an image that shows the old way and the new way of displaying search results. We have a bit of a debate going internally as to whether the new ad black label makes searches more aware that they are clicking on ads or less aware. What do you think?

Certainly, the old results had Ad in a green box before the URL info, but the organic results also had the URL info in the same green, so over time, we think it blended. Plus, the green wasn’t vibrant and it washed out. With the new design, we think the black Ad label stands out. There’s just no better contrast than black on white. Unlike the rest of the results snippet though, the black Ad label has also been bolded. It makes it impossible not to read it, our eyes are automatically drawn to it.

Only time will tell if the black label Ad blends with the organic Flavicons in people’s minds, but in the meantime, it will likely have an impact on how many people click-through from an ad. This impact may actually be positive though, in that the quality of the traffic will increase because only those who are open to advertising and what the company is selling will click-through. Google is also under quite a lot of pressure these days to be transparent, especially when it comes to advertising, so by improving user experience and helping people understand what’s advertising and what’s not, they are protecting their bottom line. Of course, Google survives based on advertisers, but it fundamentally has to please users first. Perhaps this move of bringing ads out in the open is an acknowledgement that users will accept advertising in exchange for a service, just like they do for TV and now, YouTube. Perhaps there’s just no reason to hide it from them anymore or make the ads appear to blend with the rest of the search results. In the old design, about 50% of adults didn’t recognize ads in search results.

If over time, the Ad black label becomes less different in people’s mind to an organic listing, then we can see a few things happening:

  • More people will click on ads, which will also benefit Google’s bottom line.
  • SEO will become less important as ads could potentially push organic listing lower, which means organic listings will get less action and therefore little reach.
  • SEO importance gets relegated to longer tail keyword searches for top of funnel intent as there is less competition and fewer paid listings.
  • SEO will only matter if you achieve a featured snippet or are in the people also ask boxes.

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