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Google 1st Page - Only 7 Listings When #1 has Sitelinks

 10:14 am on Aug 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Apologies if this has been discussed recently, or if I've missed something that everyone else knows about...

For some search queries, where sitelinks are displayed for the top result on Google's 1st page there are only 7 results in total on that 1st page.

When did that happen and why?

Example query that shows this (from my location in UK, at least) is [query removed by OP].

[edited by: buddhu at 10:50 am (utc) on Aug 16, 2012]



 10:40 am on Aug 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Normally we do not discuss specific query terms - however this one is generic enough that we will make an exception.

I see the same thing, and I've never seen it bfore. Assuming this is indeed intentional and not some kind of Google-gargle, my assumption would be that in this case the query is ambiguous enough that they want to show the "related searches" sooner on the page - so the user has a chance to refine or disambiguate their query.

Google wants to get people to their answer quickly, and if the query has a history of being too ambiguous, they certainly have the ability to measure that and throw a tag to change from the normal SERP. Just as there was QDF (for query deserves freshness) they might have something like "QDD" or query deserves disambiguation.

I'll keep an eye out for this kind of thing to see if we have a pattern or an oddity.


 11:06 am on Aug 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Doh, apologies for the specific query thing. I need caffeine.

I see the same for several other queries - mostly for brands whose names may also be generic terms. (As it is a specific brand I've edited out the query I quoted above).

Not sure how much the brand/generic ambiguity plays a part is at all, but certainly every example I've seen is an exact domain match that brings up sitelinks.

In other words, if your search term is a domain match and the domain's result displays sitelinks, then only 7 results are shown.

[edited by: buddhu at 11:10 am (utc) on Aug 16, 2012]


 11:10 am on Aug 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sometimes the 7 core results may be padded out with local/news etc results, but there are only 7 actual page results.

I see no benefit from losing 3 results simply because there are sitelinks under the top result. Instinct yells "bug".

Maybe linked to the way they only serve 7 local results? Maybe not...


 2:42 pm on Aug 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Trying to mind read Google here (not always the wisest thing) I do think that handling user's query ambiguity may be part of the picture. After all, the "ten results per page" layout is just a long standing convention, grounded mostly in the fact that our western number system is base ten. It's just fingers and toes, not solid testing.

For generating a main menu, I've tested the number of choices I throw at visitors pretty extensively - and six to seven choices seems to be the sweet-spot and also a break point. The minute the menu hits eight choices at the same "level" of logic, the number of bounces usually goes way up. I always say "too many choices might mean no choice at all."

When the US migrated to longer phone numbers, Bell Labs did extensive testing on how long the new numbers should be for the sake of user memory - and seven was their result. A menu or a SERP has a similar challenge. To make a choice, people need to remember and quickly compare what's being offered - so I could see seven being a sweet spot, especially for the challenged search user who makes an ambiguous search.

A few months back people were spotting a lot of experiments with fewer than ten results on Page 1 - as low as four. However, this looks like it's not a test. As you said it may be a bug, but it seems to be too wide-scale to be a test at the pure research level.

Even when the query is branded, Google may see a better total click through with the Sitemap-plus-six configuration. We should remember that their primary purpose is not to give as much exposure as possible to our sites, but rather as much satisfaction as possible to their user - as if anyone could forget that in the midst of this past year's changes.


 3:31 pm on Aug 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Points taken about the numbers of choices.

I think the brand thing per se is a red herring... The domain match seems to be the trigger. I have seen a couple of exact match domain examples where the domain was not a brand in any meaningful way, but a concept or a field of interest

Why 7 results for exact match domain queries (where they trigger sitelinks) but not for other queries?

I absolutely get that G are all about keeping their users happy and not maximising our exposure in organic SERPs. The fact remains (from our POV, not Google's) that where this particular pattern occurs it means 3 fewer 1st page places for us to compete over.

In our niche this is having significant impact on whether people appear on p1 or p2.


 3:46 pm on Aug 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

sorry i dont agree at all tedster. The evidence is that ever scrolling pages serve the user better requiring less clicks to get further into the content of the page. if the user got to that part of the page which with google is below the fold then the intention to look further than 7 results is already there. Its pretty clear whats going on, it goes hand in hand with host crowding.
I know we wont see ever scrolling on the serps pages with google any time soon, 1 because of the clear current direction and 2 because of the added google goodies that change on page click.


 11:36 pm on Aug 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

The evidence is that ever scrolling pages serve the user better requiring less clicks to get further into the content of the page.

Is there a specific study you are pointing to here? I've tried using infinite scroll on several sites. Even if the usability "should be" better in theory, I don't see a very good user response in most actual practice.


 8:16 am on Aug 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

and yet thats exactly what they do for images.


 8:23 am on Aug 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

FWIW, I prefer the old format for image search results. I find the ever-scroll implementation disorientating and frustrating.

I think it is a mistake for the "fewer clicks" mantra to be chanted in all contexts. It is a firmly established principle in normal site navigation, but SERPs are different kind of page, and some of the principles don't hold in quite the same way because user goals and behaviours are different.


 8:26 am on Aug 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

That said, fewer than 10 results per page seems stupid. I accept that the feeling may have roots in the convention to which we have all become accustomed.

10, 12, 15, 20... Any of those would be fine. 7 seems a peculiar number to be serving deliberately.

And again, my main question... Why on *these* queries?


 2:44 pm on Aug 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

So, users want less information and choice. Except when it is scraped Wikipedia content of course, then users want that right at the top of the page.

Another ridiculous change where all I can see is benefit to Google; nothing for users and most certainly nothing for publishers.


 3:11 pm on Aug 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

There's an SEOMOZ post on this by Dr. Pete that's worth a read; I notice today that I see a TON more of these 7-pack brands than I did even on Friday. Whatever they're doing, it sure looks like they're doing more of it.


 4:06 pm on Aug 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the article mention, netmeg. We don't normally link out to blogs, but this article contains actual data rather than being opinion - and it's well worth the read. The data shared here indicates a relatively dramatic change, and not some small anomaly.

See SERP Crowding & Shrinkage: It's Not Your Imagination [seomoz.org]


 7:33 pm on Aug 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

It gets worse and worse. google has become a disaster. I would say they officially broken. One site has the 7 sitelinks and then the next 19 results.....


 8:11 pm on Aug 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here's another one I link to because it includes a comment by Google about this 7-pack thing (not that it says anything useful)

We're continuing to work out the best ways to show multiple results from a single site when it's clear users are interested in that site. Separately, we're also experimenting with varying the number of results per page, as we do periodically. Overall our goal is to provide the most relevant results for a given query as quickly as possible, whether it's a wide variety of sources or navigation deep into a particular source. There's always room for improvement, so we're going to keep working on getting the mix right.


Nostalgic Dave

 5:34 am on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

I just witnessed page 6 of a search query give me TWO results, then page 7 and beyond give me ONE result! I'm logged into my G account when seeing this. I'm searching for stuff I'm trying to rank for... maybe its just a bug, or maybe another way G is trying to foil SEO work? THe pages I'm searching for were modified recently and dropped DEEP after doing so. Are my pages and me on the Google SEO s#!t list? I'm thinking it is probably just a bug... but, thought I'd report it here in case the info is worth anything.


 8:09 am on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

"We're continuing to work out the best ways to show multiple results from a single site when it's clear users are interested in that site"

first off this are showing for non-tight searches where it cannot be clear a user wants one website. A product search brings up multiple listings across multiple pages for 'the' shopping site we all know and love. Many of those urls are nothing more than one review. And thats without discussing whether the user wants multiple reviews when they didnt ask for reviews. But they certainly didnt ask for that website, only the product. So that statement doesnt hold.


 8:50 am on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Well we have a degree of consensus that it has been happening on brand and exact domain match queries that generate sitelinks. We also have indications that it is probably a deliberate move by Google rather than a bug.

That's kind of disappointing.

Speaking as a user, not as an SEO, Google baffles me. For the queries I search as a leisure user (mostly music-related topics) I have to say (subjectively) that the SERPs I see post Panda are far less immediately satisfactory that they used to be. I seem to spend more time clicking deeper into the results and refining my search terms.

Also as a user, rather than an SEM professional, my perception of Google as a brand is not as favourable as it was, say, 12 or 18 months ago. They seem to specialise in half-assed product launches (phone, Plus, tablet), and they also seem to be tying themselves up in knots with all the changes to their core search product.

With both Panda and these recent SERP changes I kind of hoped it would turn out to be a mistake that would be rolled back to the Google I used to be able to use quickly and easily.

Obviously my objectivity is compromised by awareness I get from my work. I wonder what genuinely objective users think of it all.

I still fail to see how 7 results can be better than 10. Without over-thinking and analysing, it just seems fundamentally stupid from a common sense perspective.


 9:10 am on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Noticed this today on a two word singular phrase (the plural has normal results). It's one of three phrases people associate with our niche, so quite general but the site at the top (with two site links, snippets for each and a "more results from..." link) has the phrase in it's domain name.

The top site is quite a minor player in the niche so not the main place to go.

I don't see any reason for it, it just looks like testing to me. I wonder if different people in different locations see different things for the same phrase......if so, then it's a split test and the phrase in question could just be randomly selected (e.g. show every user a page of 7 results for one search and see how they react).


 9:24 am on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Did some searching using actual site names as the search term (or slight variations on those) and it does indeed appear to happen every time, even for my own site (although I have 6 site links with snippets).

I'm quite happy about that for my own site as it pushes the sites that happen to mention my site (some affiliates who earn a bit off me by just being underneath me for my site name) well out of the way.


 1:24 pm on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

buddhu asked "I wonder what genuinely objective users think of it all."

As a company that uses the Google SERPS on a daily bases for a large variety of products and services. Google is simply not doing a good job. Tired of seeing wikipedia, facebook, u-tube come up for product information. Everyday our team is using other search engines. Worst I've ever seen from google.


 2:43 pm on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Honestly the civilians I deal with (most of whom are highly computer illiterate) don't even notice.


 3:02 pm on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think that's true - but the influencers - the highly computer literate people on forums like this that advise and guide the general public certainly have noticed.

"Oh - are you still using Google? Have you tried Bing..."


 9:20 pm on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Is anyone seeing a 7-results page for a query that doesn't seem to be navigational or a brand term?


 10:14 pm on Aug 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

Dr. Pete pointed out that you could get 7 results for 'krill' if you didn't count the universal stuff.


 8:05 am on Aug 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

To my amusement, a colleague just looked at a 7 result 1st page and, without noticing the "Gooooogle >" navigation to subsequent SERPs, assumed that Google had no more results for the term.

I wonder if that has happened much.


 3:29 pm on Aug 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Tedster - no, I can only make it happen with site names/brands that show sitelinks.

Average users have complained to me about Google a lot since Penguin. A number tell me they've already switched to Bing, or that they now have to use multiple engines to find anything. I know this is the opposite of what others of you are seeing, and I don't know why. Some of the Google complainers are very smart, but others are just average. Some are solidly middle class or richer, but others are barely making ends meet. Maybe it's regional - maybe Bing is just better exposed in my area for some reason.

No one's complained about the 7 results to me yet, but it's not happening on many queries. My guess is Google thinks with the site links, you're actually getting MORE than 10 results.

On one site, I'm seeing this phenomenon, but the 7 results are NOT all from the same domain.


 5:32 pm on Aug 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

I also find I need to use both Google and Bing more these days. Bing's index seems to be a smaller - so when I need a complex query to surface deep content, I almost always need Google. And for many generic, high volume searches Google works pretty well, too. It's in that "between" area that I often turn to Bing,

That said, when I do a navigational query, this 7 listings with Sitelinks on top has been pretty useful for me. In fact, this week I find myself actually using the Sitelinks more often. Of course if were trying to compete on a brand or product name, then as a webmaster and SEO it would bother me. I haven't run into that yet.


 5:34 pm on Aug 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Maybe Google delivering 7 results for some terms because they know that folks almost all ways find what they need in the first few results. so, they save "energy" not delivering 10...

This 31 message thread spans 2 pages: 31 ( [1] 2 > >
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