The Aesthetics of SEO: Changes to Google’s SERP

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If you blinked you may have missed the changes to the Google search engine results page (SERP). The changes were so subtle that, unless you were keyed into the SEO world, you may have never noticed a difference.

According to this Mashable article posted by Karissa Bell, “the new [Google SERP] design removes underlines, increases the font size and, most important, changes the way ads are labeled in search results.” Before this change ads were at the top of the page shaded a different color, now that is gone and ads are labeled to the left with a tiny tag that says: Ad. This new look has been available to mobile users since September of 2013. In fact, some desktop users have noticed the changes appearing sporadically since November 2013, but only recently has the announcement of the new look and feel of Google SERPs been made public.

An update earlier last month revealed Google’s commitment to radically changing the “10 blue links” SERP paradigm forever when some searches revealed embedded video links. A search for “band + song” may yield a video of that song, large and at the top of the SERP. This move drew some criticism, however, because the majority of the videos were from YouTube (a Google property). But, the sway YouTube has in the internet video market cannot be denied, and its dominance in the results are, at this point, fait accompli.

The aesthetics of Google’s SERPs may not be the first thing on your mind, but for Google it is part of a larger design to change the look and feel of search, systematically. The rollout of this plan began (officially) in September with the announcement of the Hummingbird Algorithm. Hummingbird introduced the public to semantic search, which caused many self-proclaimed “SEO Ninjas” and “Google Gamers” to howl with rage in blog after blog shouting, SEO is dead!

SEO is not dead.

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What Google has done with the introduction of semantic search is returned the search engine to what it was intended to be, a tool that assists in finding the right information in the sea of the web, organically.

The one constant in the wide, wide world of the web is that the rules will change at a moment’s notice. This time, Google has changed the rules for the better. White Hat SEO teams now have the upper hand, advocating for rich content and holistic design. Many companies are struggling with the continuing Google changes, and need to rewrite their SEO playbooks. The good news is that the fundamentals are the same.

Here are a few tips to help your company adapt to the SEO changes in 2014:

  1. Everything is built on a foundation. Make sure your site is indexed, easily crawled, and has rich, relevant content.
  2. A highly ranked site is less about the right keyword, and more about excellent, engaging, sharable content.
  3. Your social presence is not disconnected from your website. If you aren’t sharing your thoughts, you’re falling behind.
  4. Think of everything as content. You cannot afford to have pictures, video, or web copy that does not add to your company narrative.
  5. Digital ad spend does not excuse you from presenting engaging content. The click is only half the battle, you haven’t won until you get the conversion.

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