Content Strategy

Q1 2018 SERP Feature Sightings: Latest Trends and Oddities

The Seer team keeps a running doc of Google search features and oddities, which we collectively update anytime we spot something new. This allows us to identify trends in what features Google is testing and to provide our partners with up-to-date information about their SERP landscapes.

Here’s what we spotted in February, March and April, and what it could mean for your brand.

Q1 Google SERP Updates

Infinite Scrolling on Mobile

Google has been testing a “More Results” button at the bottom of mobile SERPs for the last year or so, but recently confirmed the testing and that it may be more widespread. A user still needs to click on “More Results” to view the additional results, but it loads on the same page in an infinite scroll style.

What does this mean? It’s too early to tell if this has an effect on CTR for results on Page 2 or 3. Does this feature make users more inclined to scroll more, rather than having to wait to load a new page? Keep an eye on mobile CTRs and organic traffic from mobile and monitor for any fluctuations from this testing.

‘People Also Search For’ Underneath URLS in SERPs

We actually first spotted the new ‘People Also Search For’ feature on July 6, 2017, but we’ve seen this feature fully roll out on desktop starting February 12, 2018. This new section appeared after one of our team members selected a URL in the SERPs, viewed the page and then headed back to the SERPS to see that the URL dropped down its own PAA section.

What does this mean? It seems Google is getting better at predicting what your content is and why people are bouncing from it. It will be interesting to see if Google uses this data to help understand which content satisfied users needs. As SEO practitioners, it’s another touchpoint for content ideation, optimization and for competitor analyses. We can see what content is popping up, the specific terminology used and any gaps in competitor content vs. your own.

Comparison Chart in SERPs

All the way back in 2013, Google announced the ability to do comparisons and add filters to the knowledge graph during the Hummingbird update. Over the past five years, Google has added more and more features to SERPs, but vs. comparisons have been rare. Toward the end of February and early March, Seer noticed large graphs comparing two similar products. In this case it was two similar beauty products, and the graph displays a side-by-side comparison of categories such as price, reviews, colors, size and sun protection.

Underneath the product picture is a link that takes you to an in-depth SERP for the product selected. The knowledge graph then continues to expand upon the information in the initial chart and sith more conversation focused information like places to buy and full reviews.

What does this mean? While this is a great interactive feature, it has been extremely difficult to replicate this result. The feature is intended to help a shopper compare, select, then purchase a product quickly.  Where the difficulty lies is ensuring both products are similar enough to compare. Right now, this is only impacting similar products and major retailers, but this feature could potentially help narrow the funnel for all E-commerce sites in the future. This SERP oddity enhances the user experience during the search process and something E-commerce sites should keep their eyes on. Product schema as well as reviews will be important to be considered for this type of result moving forward.

Refine by Brand

This SERP feature was first discovered back in July 2017 by Marc Swann when he noticed Google testing the option to allow searchers to refine their results by predetermined categories. The feature can be found above the related searches section at the bottom of the search results page. These refining options can include brand, design, style, material, department and more.

Fast forward to early March and a Seer team member spotted this feature again and we think it might be here to stay. To show it in action, we searched for “mens shoes” and found a refine by brand filter for various brands including Nike, Adidas, Vans, ALDO, and Clarks. Clicking on one of the brands (Nike), we can see that it takes the searcher to another search page with a search query specific to that brand. In this case, clicking on Nike changes the search query to “Nike shoes for men.”

Once you click into a refine by brand filter, you can then refine by style. There are no other refining options after refining by style. Example below:

What does this mean? We know that Google first tested this feature back in July 2017, and the fact that we’re seeing it implemented in 2018 leads us to believe Google’s test proved useful for users. We believe this is another move towards mobile as it allows a user to filter down search results without having to change the search queries themselves. This is super useful for mobile searchers as it can be cumbersome to scroll back to the top and change your search queries.

Another takeaway from this is the fact that it’s taking away views from page 2 of Google. Searchers are less likely to click through to the second page if they are presented with filters. However, there are learnings we can take from this. We can see how Google presents various filters and makes sure our websites are structured and optimized similarly.

Zero Results in SERP

Is Google still Google without its search results? In mid-March 2018, both Seer team members and others in the industry, including RustyBrick CEO Barry Schwartz, noticed that Google started providing answers to very basic questions like “time in Philadelphia” with just one featured snippet and NO other search results. After providing the answer, Google included a “Show all results” button that would then load the rest of the organic and paid search results.

Danny Sullivan of Google confirmed this test, and further clarified that this type of result can also occur for searches that return the “calculator, unit converted, and local time.”

What does this mean?

  • With the shift to mobile-first focus, Google is experimenting with this condensed view in order to further speed up load time.
  • People who search for these tools rarely use full search results, but those results are still available for those who want them via the “Show all results” button.
  • While we weren’t able to replicate this feature at the time of writing, if this feature expands it could potentially impact businesses who invested in creating calculators.

Best Carousel

Google’s carousel results are nothing new, but in early 2018 Google began testing a new variation of the carousel that features the “best” products. This carousel is housed in the middle of the search results.

The team found an example of this when searching for “fairway woods.”

The SEM post also shared an example from Dr. Pete showing the “best outdoor grills.”

The products featured in the carousel appear to be selected from articles that mention the products as top choices. At first glance it also looks like reviews play a factor, but in the outdoor grill example, one of the products only has five reviews, compared to the other two with 1,000+ reviews.

What does this mean?

  • “Best product” lists now may hold even more weight with customers. Product review articles have always held top ranking positions for broad product queries, but if Google is pulling these results directly into the SERPs, they could further influence users’ purchasing decisions. It will be important to continue to conduct outreach with relevant influencers to promote your brand’s products.
  • This also indicates that Google is testing user intent behind broader product queries and the most useful way to provide them with direction to find the “best” options.

Breadcrumbs in SERPs

As Google moves towards a mobile-first design, we are seeing more features that improve the experience for small screens and quick informational searches. The Knowledge Graph is put to good use on searches where the entity is associated with other entities and Google is serving up a format similar to a breadcrumb on a website.

In the example below a search for “Elizabeth Taylor’s husbands,” not only serves up the carousel we’re used to seeing but also includes the breadcrumb navigation that has Elizabeth Taylor and then associated entities “spouse”.

Clicking on one of the spouses from this screen changes the SERP and runs a whole new search. For example, if I click “Larry Fortensky” it will run a search for him, but since I navigated from a carousel showing Elizabeth Taylor’s spouses, the banner with the breadcrumbs remains and shows me where I am in relation to Elizabeth Taylor. A search for just “Larry Fortensky” does not trigger the same Knowledge Graph banner.

What does this mean?

  • Most companies relying on organic search won’t see much of an impact from this experience. I was hard-pressed to find an example of this format that didn’t involve the entertainment industry, though it isn’t hard to imagine a search like this being leveraged for common products, like “office chairs” and then being able to drill down into sub-categories or brands from there, similar to the refine by brand box earlier in this post. So we’ll keep an eye on this experience to look out for when it would have a direct impact on product searches.
  • Websites that drive traffic to people information or entertainment news should be aware that this experience could increase the impressions they see for their content if people are more likely to browse SERPs they wouldn’t normally have searched because Google is making it easy for them to passively search.

Google was busy making SERP updates in Q1, but our team did a great job of staying on top of these changes. Did you notice anything we didn’t include? Let us know in the comments below!

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