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What Is Going On In The SERPs?

Jul 10, 2012 / by Albert Mitchell

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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.

Topics: SEO Blog

Albert Mitchell

Written by Albert Mitchell

Albert Mitchell attended Utah State University studying Photo/Video Journalism, and then later transferred to Utah Valley University, where he graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Digital Media in 2008. At UVU Albert gained expertise in broadcast and photo productions. Albert took first place in the nation in Radio Production for Skills USA in 2008, and worked on a small team to produce a promotional video for the NAAS, a National Accreditation Association. He has also worked on various local and national broadcast crews. Albert worked for couple of years freelancing in photo, video and webdesign, before joining the team at SEO. His knowledge and expertise in digital media has assisted him in providing technical solutions for clients in his role as an Account Manager. Albert is currently one of the Directors of SEO at SEO.com.

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