Google surprises: Changes in the Google SERPS Oct. 2010

I’ve been watching Google  for years, but this month things are different. They’re simply weird. Some of these changes are probably not new – merely new to the Dutch serps – but since they change the game of online promotion and Search Engine Optimization, I think they should be highlighted here.

Two results per domain?

No more, you can have 3 or even 4 results per domain. Not merely when people are looking for a direct match to the domain, but also when they’re looking for a product.

Title tag importance?

Not as much any more. Google turns into a catalog more: it will list things somewhat related to your search, but not as specifically as before. Starting with searches for 4 words or more, don’t expect an exact title match to carry the day.

Old pages favored

In some serps new results seem to outrank quality on topic old pages.

Does this change the game? You bet! Does it mean you should change what you’re doing online? Not so much. Niche pages are still favored – in fact, it looks like it may be easier to compete with webshops than before. Don’t count on that long term: webshops will learn to optimize for Google too.

Want to see it in action? Here’s a serp from one of my niches. Girl Toy Advent Calendar – search for the singular ‘girl toy advent calendar’.

I numbered them 1,2,3 to make it clear: there are three results from one domain at the top: hubpages. That used to be impossible. Google used to put up two results per domain at most – indenting the second. Then two results from Amazon, and then results from domains that have only one result shown.

Looking more closely at those three hubs, you’ll see that they’re mine, and they are devoted to toy advent calendars to be sure. Two of them are good fits for girls: Barbie and My Little Pony. The third – though I played with it myself when I was young – is usually thought of as something for boys: Lego. I made a lens at the ever project devoted to toy advent calendars for girls recently, but it’s nowhere to be seen. Instead, you’ll find, at the bottom of the screen shot my equally new ever lens featuring advent calendars for boys. In between Amazon ranks well and a site by someone like us – top ten toys. Good domain name. As you can see, Google has highlighted the word ‘toy’ in their URL.

An aside: from the ever lens and the top ten toys site you can conclude that having keywords in your URL is still a great help.

The serp looks like a catalog of toy advent calendars. Only the top 2 results are really aimed at girls. The rest may use the word girl in their copy somewhere, but the pages aren’t aimed at them. NONE of the results have the words I searched for in the title. The results are made up of pages that have two, at most three words in common with my search phrase.

Last but not least: old versus new. Very prominently missing from this list is my oldest page on the topic of toy advent calendars. It got a huge hit in traffic recently. It may be only temporary – one never knows with Google, but I do wonder. Is Google finally making new pages rank more easily instead of having them wait for months or even years? It’s too early to tell – for now, my traffic results still show a favor for older pages. However, in this particular serp new definitely outranks old. Those hubs and that boy advent toys ever lens are all under a month old.

BTW – the google serp that is not localized is worrysome actually (thanks to scroogle). It starts with 4 – only mildly relevant – Amazon links. Only then do three of my hubs show up (different ones), followed by both those two ever lenses. How is one to compete with Amazon? Thoug h of course it’s not bad to have 5 links in the serps. Here is the screen shot:

Note that it’s a fourth hub devoted to advent calendars that shows up: Wooden advent calendars. Not exactly something I associate with girl TOYS. Though there is a Wooden Barbie Advent Calendar on that page.

All in all I’m not too happy with this, obviously. For now my conclusion is mainly that working in niches pays: it’s why I have 5 pages show up in the top ten for this phrase. However, with Google paying less attention to titles, SEO is going to be more hit and miss.

Interlinking is also going to be more important. Two reasons for that: the descriptions of those links may well be what gets your page some extra traffic, and when people click on something that’s close to what they want but not precisely, you want them to move to something you made that IS precisely what they were looking for.

3 thoughts on “Google surprises: Changes in the Google SERPS Oct. 2010”

  1. Interesting! I see both advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I don’t like it when search engines try to read my mind (as in grouping certain toys as “girl toys”), so I suspect I’m not going to like this as a searcher. But if I stick with niches from a marketing point of view, this definitely could pay off. And showing more than two results per domain is (in most cases) probably a good thing. I guess time will tell. And then they’ll change it all again, no doubt. Thanks for the insight!

  2. Pingback: Religion and Spirituality lenses (and more) » Recent Search Engine Optimization and Squidoo Help pages

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