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How Google SERP Changed in 2013: Local Carousel, GIF Search and More

| Posted in category Google Search Engine Optimization

Have you noticed how much Google's search results page changed this year?

I bet even the average user has noticed, while SEOs who habitually keep their fingers on Google's pulse are nearly feeling dizzy by now. I mean, holy carousel!

Needless to say, the way Google organizes and presents search results affects how much exposure a publisher gets from the search engine. So, we decided to do the ultimate recap of the major changes introduced to Google SERP layout in 2013.

Let's start with the changes that occurred in organic search.

January - February

Google Images overhaul

In January this year, Google's Image Search underwent a major redesign. The main difference is that there's no need for the searcher to go to the page with the image anymore  - one can preview it right on Google. Besides, it has become easier to search for closely related visuals and browse different categories of image results.

Webmasters were mostly unhappy about the change, because many experienced a steep decline in search traffic (up to 80%) coming from Google Images. Besides, the redesign triggered another antitrust complaint against Google, this time by CEPIC (Center of the Picture Industry). The plaintiff's main concern is that searchers can now download images and view them in high resolution without clicking through to the rights holder's site.

Page titles get larger

Another change introduced this year is slightly larger page titles and URLs in search results. Besides, links to Cached and Similar pages got stashed into a separate dropdown menu:

Items quantity displayed in search

It has been spotted that Google now shows information about the number of product category items available on an ecommerce store.

Company name in title

Occasionally, Google would insert a company's name in front of the predefined title. The brand name would then be separated from the rest of the title with a colon (:)

As you see, there is no brand name in the originally marked-up page title:

March - May

GIF search comes to Google Images

Have you always wanted to be able to search for funny cat and dog GIFs at ease? Now you can. In March this year, Google added animated image search filter to Google Images.

Just look under Search Tools - > Type - > Animated:

Enhanced Knowledge Graph for non-profits

In the same month, Google said they were starting to add information about non-profit organization to the Knowledge Graph. This would help people discover relevant non-profits they'd like to donate to, follow them on Google+ and explore similar non-profit organizations.

Google ditches Instant Previews

The Instant Previews feature was launched back in 2010. It used to let one get a preview of any page in Google's search result. The snippet of the page would then appear to the right of results listings. However, in 2013 Google said they had decided to take it down, since not many people were using it.

"More by…" removed from authorship snippet

In April, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Round Table spotted that Google quietly stopped providing a link to additional articles by the author in instances when the author's information was displayed in the search results:

Nutrition info in search results

In May, Google began providing "extensive nutrition information for over 1,000 fruits, vegetables, meats and meals" in the spacious area to the right of the search results.

Now, when one searches for Sugar, Pumpkin or Red Wine, for example, they get a detailed chart that tells them what vitamins are found in the nutrient, how many calories it has, etc.

"Translated Foreign Pages" is gone

This filter that had existed in Google since 2007, the one that used to let one get additional results by looking for relevant docs in foreign languages, was ditched in 2013.

The feature never became popular with the average user and was edited out from the "All results" dropdown menu this May:

June - August

Google "carousel" for local results

Although available to some iPad/Nexus users since December, 2012, Google "carousel" for Local Search came to desktop only in June this year. The new merry-go-round view lets one  see a bigger number of local results as well as refine their search according to various parameters.

Up to 10 sitelinks per domain

Sitelinks are additional links to a site that Google sometimes shows underneath the site's homepage URL in the search results. Sitelinks don't appear in 100% of cases, and are usually displayed for reputable sites. The number of sitelinks per site varies, and one can control which particular pages are used to create sitelinks by tweaking it in Google Webmaster Tools (under Search Appearance -> Sitelinks).

This June, the maximum number of sitelinks displayed per site has been spotted to go up to 10.

"In-depth articles" come to the SERPs

In August this year, Google introduced a new section of search results called In-Depth articles. The new 3-pack began appearing when one looks for in-depth information on a particular subject, such as"‘insomnia", "sports" or "mammals".

The section is located towards the bottom of the first results page, in place of the 10th search result. Articles that show up in In-depth articles mostly come from reputable editions such as Forbes, The New York Times and others. However, Google said they would feature more well-researched posts by lesser-known authors in the future.


New Google bar introduced

It seems that uncluttering their homepage page has been on Google's agenda this year. In September, the company replaced the page-wide black bar at the top with a minimalist "app launcher" - a dropdown menu that looks the same across devices and lets one access Gmail, Google+, YouTube, Blogger and other Google apps.

New search interface for mobile

On its 15th birthday (on September 26th, 2013), Google unveiled new design for Google Search on phones and tablets. Mobile free and paid search results are now "clustered on cards", and have thus become easier to browse and easier to click.

Knowledge Graph results for artists

From now on, if you search for an artist's songs on Google, you get a list of the celebrity's works, albums, posts and other creations as part of their Knowledge Graph entry. If you click on a song, you'll be taken to a respective music video on YouTube.

TV series episodes on Knowledge Graph

Besides, Google began showing information about the episodes of a TV series on the Knowledge Graph.

In addition, if you look up the names of the actors who co-starred in some movie one after another, Google will tell you that they appear in this movie together:

OK, now that we've looked at Google's organic SERP changes introduced in 2013, let's see what's new in paid ads.


Image extensions for paid ads

When they announced the feature, Google said that "more than one in six searches on Google provided results with visual content." The new extensions allow advertisers to add images to go with their text ads to tell a better story about their product. Google promised to be show the images whenever the user could benefit from visual content in the search results.


New look for product listings on mobile

On mobile, Google decided to squeeze more product listing ads into one results page, and let users browse through more product listings with the new Google Shopping interface.


Google Shopping comes to 8 new countries

Google Shopping search, which was previously available to publishers on a free basis (but turned into a paid service on May 31st, 2012), added 8 more countries to the list of serviced states: Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Turkey.

According to Google, "Product Listing Ads will appear in a single unit on Google search results when we identify that a search query has commercial intent".

Yellow labels for Google ads

Sometime in November, Google began experimenting with a new way to mark paid ads in search results. Searchers have been increasingly seeing ads marked with bright yellow "Ad" labels rather than the pale background.

The move is arguably an attempt to comply with EU/FTC requirements to how paid ads should be marked. However, Google is yet to comment on this experiment and to make an official announcement regarding the new label.

Voila - these were the tweaks Google made to its search results pages this year. Have you noticed anything else? Have any of these changes affected your online business in any way? Do let us know!


Image credit: keeweeboy via iStockPhoto


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