Mr Jonathan Jones

Mr Jonathan Jones

SEO & Digital Consultant

Google Increased the Width of Organic Search Results

This is an old post – ported from one of my older websites – for archive purposes. 

Update: Google no longer displays the search results for organic to these specifications.

Table of Contents

  1. Extended Headlines for PPC
  2. Organic Search Extended Headlines
  3. What does this now look like for Organic Search? (Do a Google search!)
    1. Answer Box / Featured Snippets
    2. Normal Search Results
  4. When did this happen for Organic Search?
  5. How prominent is this layout change?

Extended Headlines for PPC

In the SEO community, we always hear of updates on PPC that can potentially impact organic in a negative way, but I’m here to give some good news for SEOs that Google have applied to the search results – without even telling us! Shock, horror…

So you’ve probably heard the latest round of news that Google are running a closed beta that will expand the PPC meta data – therefore potentially making their ads more prominent. And for simplicity – whether this is the official name or not, I’m going to call it Extended Headlines… just because I can. You can find more on this subject on Search Engine Land where they cover the Extended Headlines closed beta that Google are running with probably only the bigger brands. This change is unheard of in SEM and is big news, and can potentially take away eyeballs from Organic Search. You can see the example screenshot below of what I’m talking about:

Google Ads SERP Layout Change

Moving on to the good news from the bad news…

Organic Search Extended Headlines

Yes, that’s right. Google have actually released this before they have done so for PPC. I know through watching interviews with Matt Cutts, ex Head of Webspam at Google, and through watching a very recent Q&A with Paul Haahr, a software engineer at Google, that the paid search team and the organic search team at Google work completely separately. However, I am wondering if this idea of the Extended Headlines originated from the organic search team, then moved over to the paid team at Google who took this idea as a way of increasing ad clicks, based on potential tests that the organic search team at Google have conducted. Speculation.

What does this now look like for Organic Search? (Do a Google search!)

First up is the Answer Box or Featured Snippets, these have increased significantly in width, but have seen a decrease in height. The before shows that the Featured Snippet box has gone from a width of 557 px to 644 px (+87 px), but the height has seen a decrease from 195 px to 176 px. This is a significant decrease, but this is potentially beneficial to results below the Featured Snippets as they will have become slightly more visible as a result of the decrease in height for results with the Featured Snippets in them.

Answer Box Increased Size

Normal Search Results

Second up is the normal search results without the Featured Snippets. How have the normal results been impacted – if at all? Well, I can tell you they have been. The brand I work on was having issues with the title tag element in the meta data – and the actual brand name at the end of the title tag was too long as a single word contained by itself had too many characters. Google were essentially truncating the title tag into an ellipses (see the ‘Before‘ example) – not good if you want people to see your brand in a more visible way in the search results.

Thankfully, Google have noticed this as an issue and in my opinion they have addressed it because it makes total sense to address. People don’t want to be scrolling through the search results to see an ellipses. Although in some cases it has prompted me to click because I was genuinely interested in seeing more. However, in this particular case, it makes total sense to show the brand as people will genuinely look for the brand in the search results if the brand is big enough. You can see in the Before version this wasn’t the case for MoneySuperMarket or Tesco Bank. The After image shows that the brand name for the aforementioned brands are now visible – without even having to change a thing:

Answer Box Increased Size Width

A big thanks to Google for fixing this.

When did this happen for Organic Search?

This update to the search engine results layout happened on the 4th of May.

Through using various tools that cache the Google Search Results pages for the keywords that I am tracking I am able to come to this conclusion. I, however, can’t confirm whether this change has happened worldwide, but it has definitely changed in the United Kingdom.

How prominent is this layout change?

As far as I can tell, no one in the SEO community has actually noticed this, but this has likely changed user behavior. I’ve done some initial, quick analysis, although this is only with 2 days of data (GSC currently only shows up to the 6th of May), and CTR has actually been impacted in a positive way. Though I’m keen to use more data to confirm this and I implore others to do their own research on their own websites as this may vary. Compare your CTR now to before the 4th of May and see if you’ve seen any benefits – especially if the result shows a Featured Snippet – as I believe these results will have seen the biggest impact.

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