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Google Testing 4 Results on First Page

 8:44 pm on Sep 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Today I noticed Google displaying 4-5 results on first page. I heard and seen the 7 results but not 4. This is crazy if this is the direction their going.

Google Screen Shot 4 results [i96.photobucket.com]

Another Google Screen Shot 4 results [i96.photobucket.com]



 10:21 pm on Sep 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Interesting test - especially to see Adwords at the bottom instead of the top.


 10:44 pm on Sep 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

Wow ..far more interesting is the second example "Another Google screen Shot 4 results"..

Only one site ( 1 at the top,"six pack" and all 3 ads below" ) on page 1 !


 10:50 pm on Sep 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

If I search using the same keywords ..I get 10 results..wikipedia on top ..then a "3 pack" for "the site"..then 2 more for "the site", then 3 other sites..then again for for "the site" office in India..


 11:06 pm on Sep 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

I just got 7 results for the keyword in the first screenshot. Some kind of a/b/c test, maybe?


 11:11 pm on Sep 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't know but if their going to display 4 results on the first page that's not offering a lot of quality to the search user IMO.


 12:04 am on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

How about a [+] link to roll out the extra six links/toggle hide them?


 3:32 am on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

If I search for any popular film artiste or celebrity of my country, I get these results.

1) Wikipedia
2) Google images
3), 4) and sometimes 5) - Youtube videos and sometimes 5) has the embedded music results.
6) Facebook fan page or profile ,if any. Guess The slot is earmarked for google+ as well and all it takes is for the the celebrities to have a Google+ page, which they don't currently.
7), 8) aqnd 9) other sites and sometimes all these are from a single site.
10) Google news.

I do see the order shuffling for the top 6 slots but they continue to be from the same domains that i have mentioned. so the only chance for 3rd party sites to rank on page 1 is 7), 8) or 9) and if the celebrity has his or her own domain, the slots for others is merely 2!

Wikipedia is invariably no.1 for all these searches and I guess it is an "undisclosed deal" with wikipedia, as their information is used for the knowledge graph on the right. Looks like the arrangement with wikipedia also helps Google in countering people who might say they are pushing hard their own domains higher up on their SERPS.

If the no. of results dwindle on page 1 of SERPS it would be time to say goodbye for all others and to announce "We are no more a search engine on page 1 but just an information aggregation (predators) engine". But they would just stop short of announcing it and leave it for their users to arrive at it.


 4:03 am on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

I really doubt that this 4-results page will get into widespread use (I can't see them at all) but it is interesting that Google even decided to collect the data for it at all. Seems they are willing to test almost anything these days. Maybe they really are hoping to go to that fairy tale land of "we want to give you THE answer".


 4:17 am on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Wow ..far more interesting is the second example "Another Google screen Shot 4 results"..

Only one site ( 1 at the top,"six pack" and all 3 ads below" ) on page 1 !

I agree, and I don't see how exactly this is a good search result page in ANY way. Google is aiming to make themselves completely irrelevant in "search rankings".

Robert Charlton

 4:49 am on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

weezle11 - Are these results by any chance personalized? Had you been doing a bunch of searches prior to these that would have narrowed the field down, and do you know if you have search history on?

It's such a general word that I can't imagine why Google would otherwise feel these covered it, even with the related searches.


 1:36 pm on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Robert Charlton - the second screen shot mentions below the third result:
"You recently searched for [the keyword in the first screenshot]"
with the first keyword bolded in the snippet title.

that looks personalized.


 4:16 pm on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've been seeing 3 organics and some local results for heavy competitive phrases the past week or so -- it looks like a bucket test. Wish I grabbed a screenshot, but on a refresh it went to 10 books.google.com results. Strange things are afoot.

Robert Charlton

 6:20 pm on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Robert Charlton - the second screen shot mentions below the third result:
"You recently searched for [the keyword in the first screenshot]"
with the first keyword bolded in the snippet title.

that looks personalized.

phranque - Thanques. Now that you've got me looking closer, I see also on the first screenshot a line beneath the last result that says "You recently searched for manufacturing".

So, here, at least, they're returning increasingly refined sets or subsets of what prior searches suggest.

I've seen Google serps drag around evidence of fairly long search histories in the urls... this even with my search history disabled... so this might be a natural test of ways to treat that history via the display.


 6:47 pm on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Very tight "search bubble" in action..disquieting portents, for signed in and signed out..

Robert Charlton

 7:47 pm on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

LG - I agree regarding concerns about search bubbles and personalization. Here's a link to the classic TED talk video on the subject...

Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles"
trt 9:05

That said, I don't think that Google is testing here whether they should eventually return only four results. I'm guessing that they use limited tests like this to help calibrate very broad changes in direction only. I'm not enough of a statistician to make an arguement for this. It just feels to me that that's what they'd be doing.

It's consistent for me in how one should structure site navigation... that in a site with fixed nav, you get increased focus as you drill down, with of course also links to appropriate related content. Search, of course, is different.

How much Google search results might come to resemble this aspect of site nav structure is complete speculation, but it makes sense to me that Google would investigate changes of direction within a series of searches. That doesn't automatically reduce results to four choices, but for a test, four choices might produce some interesting data. Ultimately, I don't think that Google is about to throw away user engagement with its site (if, in fact, it's there) by shrinking its serps.

Regarding broader questions of personalization, questions of time-frame, short and long term choices, and avoiding search bubbles are dimensions that Google would need to investigate.

Robert Charlton

 10:21 pm on Sep 5, 2012 (gmt 0)

Mod's note: I'm not mentioning one piece of key vocabulary searched here, in order not to skew search results more than we have to. Chances are we may skew Google's behavioral test as it is.

Exploring further... I could reproduce the same four results shown in the first screen capture, for the k***** word search, by searching [manufacturing] first, checking in Wikipedia as if looking for the k word, backing out and then searching for the k-word. I got the same four results shown in the screen shot, but I also got various Universal results... news etc... thrown in. Still, just four organic results.

The additional 17,700,000 results do show on subsequent pages, so in that sense Google is preserving engagement with the bulk of its serp real estate, and I perhaps misspoke regarding that.

Also, to note, I could not reproduce these results in situations where I was signed in order to retain a cookie to turn off Search History. I could reproduce them only where I wasn't signed in to a Google account and (paradoxically) search history was not disabled. I could see in the url that Google was most definitely tracking some sort of history... and I assume the cookies were also being used as long as I didn't exit the browser.

The url appears to carry a long and convoluted history, and abbreviations for certain keywords suggest that the tracking was pre-planned... I don't think they make up those abbreviations on the fly.

This not-signed-in browser is set to flush Google cookies when it closes, though, and I haven't gone to the lengths of changing those settings to see how long-lived the history effect is. I leave that to others to try and report back. It would be an interesting test about whether it extends beyond the immediate session. Ditto for the subsequent search shown in screen capture two.

Regarding the Adwords at the bottom... all searches for the k-word are currently displaying Adwords at the bottom, so this may be a constant factor in this test. Chances are Google wants to compare apples with apples as much as it can, and keeping Adwords out of the picture as much as possible probably clarifies user response to organic... and also probably later gives Google some extra data points.

Kamal Thakur

 4:59 am on Sep 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Interesting things and when i checked first it shows me 7 results then later i searched then screen shot of 4 results comes.

[edited by: engine at 10:46 am (utc) on Sep 6, 2012]
[edit reason] see mod note about specifics [/edit]

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