January 4, 2023

Okay maybe a bit of an old reference there, but I guess changes to search engine results pages (SERPs) aren’t a new event either. What is new is the extent to which SERPs have changed this time.

First, let’s break down SERPs:  

A search engine result page is what appears once you’ve typed your query into a search engine (i.e., Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo). The results are generated based on an algorithm and are meant to show you results that best answer your query and results that you are most likely to engage with.  

Let’s say you search for “coffee near me” and you never ever engage with Starbucks (including visiting it in person), that means Starbucks won’t be shown as prominently. Instead, the local coffee shop down the road that you go to twice a week will most likely appear high on the SERP as the algorithm is aware of your interest in, and previous interactions with, said business. 

Typically, SERPs combine paid placements (SEM ads), organic results, and depending on the query, maybe some local listings to pull up the map. As user expectations have evolved, the SERP space has had to adapt to meet those demands – this has included zero results placements, featured snippets, reviews, highlighted sections to jump down a page, etc. All changes that we can agree – from a consumer standpoint – are great. 

Well, the most recent change to the Google SERP is massive and multifaceted. One of the largest components is if you don’t rank after page 3, your opportunity to rank at all, plummets. According to Google Search Engine representatives, all pages after 3 will be reserved for “people also searched for…” results. Though after a recent update to the SERP, it also appears that there are tests for additional ways for results to appear: 
Instead of being given pages to click through, SERPs are now sometimes shown to users as a never-ending list of search results; including ‘people also searched for / asked’ results, paid digital ads, business recommendation results, and even ‘similar to what you’ve searched for’ results.  

So, what does this all mean? Whether the strategy of ‘post page 3 abyss’ or ‘the never-ending SERP’ comes into play officially, is your site prepared and optimized to not only rank but more importantly, meet the needs of your users? Simply put, if you're not meeting your users’ needs from a search perspective, search engines will not meet your needs from a ranking perspective. 

Ultimately, more information is yet to be gleaned from Google insiders, but what this means is that SEO must be a priority for all businesses in 2023 and beyond.