What Is Going On In The SERPs?

What is going on in the SERPS

The SERPs Are Serving Up Interesting Results

I was doing some research on fitness the other day and got some really shocking search engine result pages (SERPs). After doing a search on “hiit workouts,” I saw the following universal search result.

At first glance, there‘s nothing too interesting about it.  So I quickly scanned down to the bottom of the page and nearly clicked on what I thought was the last listing.

Wait a minute! I’ve seen Google put PPC ads at the bottom of the screen when there are other ads at the top and side, but this is the first time I’ve seen the ads only on the bottom of the page. I certainly have banner blindness when I look at the SERPs (that’s probably a product of being in SEO). Others must be experiencing this same banner blindness, or so it seems, as Google has decided to switch things up a bit and test.

After seeing this, I started re-examining other things in the SERPS. I know that some of these things are fairly standard, but I wanted to point them out anyway.

Let’s start at the top of the page.

As you can see, Google is now listing site links on one line under the meta description or snippet they pull from the page content. You’ll also notice that there is an option to block all results from the same site. Why does Google even show this option? If they didn’tt trust the site, why would they rank it in the first position with site links?

Over the next few hours I watched for what I will call “the block option” as I did searches. It seemed to appear randomly. Then I turned to my good friend Google and found a support page explaining the blocked sites option. Basically, if you go to a page and leave it immediately, Google will give you the option to block that site and all its pages in future searches. So now the question is whether or not this is a metric that Google looks at in the rankings. What does it say when someone doesn’t just bounce back out but blocks the site, too?

On to the next points of interest further down the SERPs. We have forum links–nothing new here. This feature has been around for a number of years. It started showing up sometime around 2009.

The way the videos are displaying in the universal searches is where things really start to become interesting.

Notice that two of the videos have additional links under them. Cassey Ho has her Google+ profile link – the one that says “by Cassey Ho,” and a link to an advanced Google search for the words “more by Cassey Ho”. Note that these links are missing from the other video. I wanted to see why the links would show up for the one but not the other. There are a few metrics that might have made the difference.

First, let’s look at the Google+ pages. I went looking for Google+ profiles for both users. I was only able to find the one for Cassey Ho. Illsun doesn’t seem to have one. I thought, when I first noticed this, that the link had to be showing up as a result of the rel=author attribute that rolled out recently.

Notice that, in the introduction of the ‘about’ section of Cassey’s Google+ profile, there are links to a number of her other profiles. None of those links, however, have rel=author or the rel=contributer (the reciprocating tag to rel=author on any Google+ page) tags associated with them. These links should have been placed in the other profiles section which currently has one broken link. So at the end of Round 1- Cassey 1 : Illsun 0.

Next, let’s look at the differences between their channels. I’ll start with Illsun’s channel.

Illsun has a respectable number of subscribers and video views. I was actually really impressed with his number of video views for only having 11 videos. I am showing the video tab because it seems to have more relevant content to the discussion at hand.

Cassey’s channel looks much different.

You’ll notice right off the bat that it has a custom header at the top. This indicates that she is part of the YouTube Partnership program. Next, I noticed 46 thousand subscribers and 4 million video views. To be fair, Cassey has 71 videos to help her out along the way. Check out the right side bar. She has links to her main channel, which happens to have 85 thousand subscribers along with 11 million views. She then links to her Twitter, Google+, blog, website, Facebook, Tumblr, Pintrest, and Instagram.  End of Round 2- Cassey 2 : Illsun 0.

Finally, I wanted to check rankings from a number of different devices to see how it differs according to devices and different settings. Oddly enough, Illsun’s video shows up more often and always higher than Cassey Ho’s videos for “hiit workout” along with other related workout terms. So Round 3- Cassey 2 : Illsun 1.

After considering these SERPs there were a few questions for me.

  1. How often, why and when does Google display ads only on the bottom of a search?
  2. Why did Cassey have the link to her Google+ profile page and the customized search, and how can I do the same?
  3. What triggers these links to show up (sometimes I saw her videos without the links)?
  4. With so many things going for Cassey, how is it that Illsun’s video still outranks hers so often?
  5. Does being a YouTube partner have anything to do with the links showing up in the results?

The SERPs are changing constantly, but understanding how to use the existing SERPs landscape to help in rankings is powerful. I’ll be monitoring the SERPS to see how these new displays can help us improve click through and see if I can figure out some of the questions this blog post has raised.

If anyone has thoughts on any of the questions listed above, let me know in the comments below.

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  1. Scott says

    Interesting stuff, Albert. That’s the first time I’ve seen ads at the bottom of a SERP like that. As per the “block all” link, this was introduced about a year ago and is activated if you click through to a site, realize it’s not what you want, and go back to the search result. I haven’t used it personally, but I can see the value.

    • Albert Mitchell says

      In talking about the “block all” feature I wonder if a site gets enough “block all’s” if it will hurt that sites ability to rank in all search results not just for the individuals that block the site.

  2. Larry T. says

    Your post is fantastic, great work on noticing these riffs in the SERP field. I too, did not know about these ads popping up toward the end of the page listing. Thanks for the great information, i will definitely be more aware of this now.

  3. Mike B says

    Great work here. So many questions about why Google serves certain video’s. I think you have a whole new SEO sub field to lead… Until recently I wasn’t all that convinced Video played a big role in SER. Ha! Now they are every where!

    • Albert Mitchell says

      It really is interesting to see what video’s Google ranks and then trying to figure out why they rank the ones they do. As I mentioned in the post I did this same search multiple times across multiple ip addresses and different devices and saw some new videos on the front page and Cassey’s videos on the second.

      • Mike B says

        Wow. I haven’t seen that yet, the different results under different IP addresses. You could do a major league study on that one!

        When you figure out the Google Algorithm on the videos, please send it to me. I won’t tell anyone else I promise! 😉

  4. Jasjot Singh Bains says

    Nice post Albert. Ever since Panda and Penguin were released, I too have been witnessing a different trend in the way results are displayed in SERP’s. What might not be visible from my ip will be visible from another ip, and basically Google is shuffling the results delivered so that there is no monopoly of any site in the SE rankings.
    But the “block all results” option has me wondering, is it a new tool by Google to catch spam which missed Panda and Penguin penalties?

    • Albert Mitchell says

      So the “block all results” has been around for a few years but I would not be surprised if they are using the data from those results differently now then when they first rolled out the option. I would like to test it but really don’t want to mess up someone’s rankings.

  5. Mike Hemmins says

    Albert, I really appreciate all the effort and information in this article. For ‘laymen’ such as myself, it just goes to show that no matter how much you think you know, you’re never going to know enough!

    • Albert Mitchell says

      It is true. With Google changing as much as they do it takes a lot of work to keep up on what is going on in the SERPs and what is causing those changes.

    • Albert Mitchell says

      You know- I do wonder what the CTR is. I hardly ever click on adds but I nearly clicked on the one of the paid adds at the bottom of the screen because it had compelling enough wording. Two points that this incident drove home- First is Banner Blindness when looking at the SERPs- I have it and I imagine many other people who spend a lot of time online have it, Second- the power of having a good title and slug- whether you are working on PPC adds or on titles and descriptions for the organic rankings a good title and slug can improve your CTR wherever you rank.

  6. Kevin Kaiser says

    I notice the ads at the bottom of the SERPs when I’m doing a lot of searching on the same topic without clicking any ads or even clicking on an organic listing.

    It’s almost as if they know that you are really looking through the organic listings and aren’t going to click the ads at the top or side so they stick those on the bottom to see if they can still get a click from you.

  7. Rick Noel says

    Nice post and analysis Albert. I am a big believer in video value to drive traffic through higher CTR that video links enjoy in the blended search results. YouTube videos in particular have been a way for Internet marketers and SEOs to gain access to impressions/clicks on the more competitive searches where page one positioning in the SERPs might not otherwise be possible. Another factor to consider might be link analysis of the videos page on YouTube. My gut tells me that video pages for Illsun may have more inbound links or video embeds on authoritative pages on trusted domains. The “Link Juice” theory is just a guess. I too have banner blindness. CTR might be better when ads are on the bottom for this reason, even though for most situations, they will be well below the fold and maybe its just our SEO blinders. I sure hope that block http://www.somedomain.com results is not a major Google ranking factor, but would be shocked if it does not have some algorithmic impact, like I expect bouncing back to the SERPs immediately will have on a clicked link. Hopefully not too much give the negative SEO concerns brought on from Penguin and unnatural links. Thanks for sharing.

    • Albert Mitchell says

      I couldn’t agree with you more when you mentioned you hope that the “block this site” does not effect the algo to much. Any time a particular negative signal is given too much weight you Google runs the risk of having people take advantage of that negative signal to black ball other sites- or as they would say in the early days “google bowling”.
      Thanks for the suggestion to look at the backlinks and embeds for the channels. I will certainly look into these factors more closely.

  8. Vinod Mohite says

    Nice article, with good research. Never knew google+ helps so much… also I haven’t seen ppc ads only at the bottom end of SERP. Generally what I believe is Block a site gives google real time user negative feedback for a particular keyword which would help them improve the SERP results.

  9. Rahul Gupta says

    Overall google is trying to integrate all of its products as google always use its products data to better searches everyday.

  10. Rank Watch says

    “Basically, if you go to a page and leave it immediately, Google will give you the option to block that site and all its pages in future searches. So now the question is whether or not this is a metric that Google looks at in the rankings.”  Yes, certainly this is a metric that Google looks for in its ranking. Its been for quite some time to allow the users to block the content from a site if they want to (may be a part of Google’s new strategy to remove some untrusted source from the top results.) But i don’t think that this feature is used more often by the users.

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