In a recent study by Searchmetrics some interesting results for organic search results have surfaced. Most notably the reduction of the average number of blue organic search result links per page from 10 to an average 8.5.
This US study was based on the analysis of the results from approximately 500,000 general, frequently Googled search terms. In each case, the first search results page was analysed in relation to the integration of 11 selected boxes.
Marketers have, for a long time, worked on the assumption that if their website appeared in position 10 or better then it was appearing on page one of Google. This is not necessarily going to be the case for every search as Google brings more types of search results into play.
The study says that now Google shows only 8.5 blue links on average but supplements those links with featured snippets, app packs, knowledge panels, images, videos and more.
Google is integrating an increasing number of boxes in the search results. The classics of Universal Search such as images and videos are the most frequent – but the new Extended Search integration types such as Knowledge Graphs or App Packs in the mobile results are increasingly common. The table below provides a breakdown of the percentage of keywords in Google.com in which at least one integration was detected.
The Carousel, launched by Google in 2013 is a classic example of another feature taking up space and pushing the traditional organic results down.
There are also significant differences between the results for Smartphones and desktop PCs with features such as the Maps results being much more prevalent.
In the case of videos, the boundary between organic search results and additional boxes is a fluid one. For example, videos are now listed as organic search results and therefore become a kind of “hybrid” between organic results and additional integrations.
Another feature taking up space above the traditional organic search results is the “Direct Answer Fact Box”. Direct Answers were additionally introduced in 2015. With this feature, Google answers many queries and search terms with a reply widget displayed in a prominent position above the organic search results.
Why should you care?
Online marketers should note which devices their target groups use for searches and strategically design their content before they start work on optimisation.
SEO is no longer just a technical skill to be applied. There is a far greater need for overarching strategy and research to determine the best approach. Consideration must be given to each of the different types of results and the required tactics to optimise for them. Simply targeting the traditional rankings alone is no longer good enough.
From a measurement perspective, you are also crazy if you are still fixated on rankings alone — your site may appear on page one but not always in the traditional organic results. Focus on measurable outcomes.
A good SEO company will be outcome-focused. Look for year-on-year growth rather than just improvements in page position.
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Glenn is a Partner and Senior Consultant who has had a very successful career building growth companies in the private equity arena. He has a wealth of experience in both the digital space and strategy development. Prior to becoming a partner in SureFire Glenn built one of the largest digital teams in New Zealand for a NASDAQ listed global online marketing company & Google's largest premium partner.