Continuous Scrolling in SERPs
Google recently announced the introduction of continuous scrolling on mobile devices for “most English searches”.
What You Need to Know
Google announced on The Keyword and on Twitter that they’ve rolled out “continuous scrolling” which shows more than the standard 10 results on the first page of mobile search results. They were careful to point out that this is not the same as “infinite scroll.” They specified that it may display “up to four pages of results” followed by a “see more” button to reveal even more results.
In their blog post, Google acknowledged that this change, in part, seeks to deal with broader questions like “‘what can I do with pumpkins?’” that are looking for a broad range of options, ultimately looking for inspiration. The logic posits that a mix of visual results, longer lists of text links, and other rich results, will provide a better user experience for people searching on their mobile devices.
For example, when testing the query from Google’s own blog post (“what can I do with pumpkins?”), the “first page” listed 37 link results, in addition to People Also Ask and other rich snippet results. Additionally, you can see the “see more” button underneath the last result.
On Twitter, at least, there’s been some pushback, as well as speculation that this may be related to the rollout of MUM, which is the AI model that replaced BERT, and purports to be 1,000 times more powerful than BERT.
This would make sense, as MUM was brought out with the intention of handling a more complex series of tasks to give more robust (and multilingual) responses to an ever-expanding flood of Google queries.
What to Expect
- It’s still early to speculate with too much certainty what sort of impact this will have, but there’s good reason to believe it will increase mobile impressions for pages currently ranking at positions 11 and up, as users will no longer need to click through to a second page of results. This means that click through rate could see a corresponding drop, since CTR is calculated by dividing clicks by impressions.
- When it comes to reporting on your mobile performance, however, this change will not impact position reporting in Search Console, or in theory, in other rank trackers that focus on position. Trackers focusing on page number will be impacted, but Google says they don’t report on that metric.
What You Can Do
- We’ll be tracking how this impacts metrics like impressions and CTR, as well as if there have been any changes to rich results frequency that might have accompanied this rollout, so stay tuned for more information.
- It would be good to mark down October 14, 2021 as an annotation in Google Analytics and keep that date in mind when reviewing data in Search Console, as it may impact some industries/verticals more than others.
New Title Tag Guidance
Google has released new guidance on writing page titles, including advice on how to avoid having Google rewrite your titles in SERPs.
What You Need to Know
As many noted, in the last couple of months Google began more aggressively rewriting page titles as displayed in SERPs.
While many SEOs and site owners have bemoaned the change (and some have even pointed out that it results in misleading titles), Google claims that it impacts less than 20% of page titles (which is still a lot of instances).
Perhaps in reaction to that backlash, Google has released new guidance on “controlling your title links in search results.” Basically, Google is saying “write good title tags or we’ll write them for you.” And while there’s much room for interpretation in their guidelines regarding what makes a “good” title, there are some interesting points in their “common issues” section.
- For titles that include a year: if it’s clear that the page has been updated, but the title tag hasn’t, Google will likely show the updated year in SERPs.
- The guidelines talk about dynamically-generated content which may not match the title tag of the page; Google will try to make determinations about how accurate your titles are.
- Repeated title tags: while it’s fairly standard practice to avoid duplicate titles, the guidelines give the example of a site about a TV show, where each season has its own page but each page has the same title; Google will inject the season # into the title.
What You Can Do
If you’re noticing pages on your site are being rewritten in SERPs, try to take detailed notes regarding how they’re being rewritten; some tools are already tracking that data:
The important thing is to identify any possible common themes or instances which may be causing Google to rewrite your title tags. Aside from that, practicing standard title tag best practices, as well as regularly performing optimization on your metadata, should minimize the impact of this change.
Additionally, if you’re noticing that Google is rewriting your titles, make note if those pages’ CTR is impacted; if the CTR improves, then Google has actually done some of your SEO homework for you! If that’s the case then you may be able to replicate some of those changes on other pages across your site.