Is Google’s Redesign Chopping Down Your Click-Through Rate?
18th Mar 2014

Is Google’s Redesign Chopping Down Your Click-Through Rate?

Have you noticed that when you do a search on Google from a desktop pc or laptop, the search result pages look a little different?

  • A bigger font and wider spacing between words 
  • Titles no longer underlined 
  • Adverts aren’t segregated from organic results by a shaded background anymore; they're marked by a little yellow “Ad” box in the top left corner.

A Google experiment

Google has been experimenting with a new look for a while now, but in the last few days the latest changes seem to have been rolled out to pretty much everyone. The feeling is that Google has finished playing and we’re all going to see this new look from now on (until Google gets the creative bug again anyway).

You might think that Google is simply tinkering with the style, not the substance, of search results; however, if these changes are permanent and you own a website, they could have an impact on your traffic.

Organic search results (natural listings that aren’t paid adverts) are made up of three things:

  1. A title
  2. A url to a page on your website
  3. A description (two lines that describe the web page)

Just like this:

Google old style search result

Before Google’s recent changes, as a rule of thumb you could fit around 65 characters into a title (including spaces) and 155 characters into a description. Knowing this, most of us would write our meta titles and descriptions to fit nicely.

But look what happens following Google's redesign!

Google's new-look search title

Google's new-look search description

In the examples above, the title is just 57 characters and the description has room to display just 136, but across a bigger sample I’m seeing some variation.

For example, I’ve seen titles ranging from 53 characters to 59, but descriptions seem less affected, with many still going to 155 character spaces (news results may be shortened by Google’s addition of the timeline to the description, i.e. “1 day ago”).

Why these changes might hurt your click-through rate

Titles and descriptions cut off in their prime don’t look great – in fact previous studies have shown that incomplete search results like this are far less appealing to users and may affect their click-through rate. That could translate to fewer visitors to your website, even if you're ranking well for a keyword.

As well as having lower visual appeal, if you’ve put your keywords towards the end of the title or description and they get chopped off by Google, the user may not get a clear idea what that web page is about. Even less reason to click on it.

Our advice to website owners

I’ve got two main recommendations and the first is – hold fire for a week or so. Whilst Google employees have been making noises about the new look, it’s not absolutely certain that it’s here to stay (but my gut feeling? It probably is).

You don’t want to spend hours (or days, in the case of large sites) re-writing your meta tags if this is a temporary situation and Google goes back to square one.

My second recommendation? If and when you do tweak your meta titles, try to work your main keyword or phrase towards the front, making sure the title still reads well for users. Not only is this good SEO practice (it’s still commonly thought that keywords near the front of titles have more “weight” for search engines), if Google decides to lop off half your titles in a future shake-up, they'll be less affected.

I’d be really interested to know if everyone is seeing the new-look search results now or are some people still seeing the old style?

If you need help re-writing optimised meta titles and/or descriptions for your website, please get in touch. We can help you with keyword research, too, if that’s something you think ought to be revisited.

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