Google Testing Less than 10 Results on First Page

By Elisa Gabbert March 16, 2011 Posted In: Google Comments: 8

Last night I performed a Google search on my home computer, using Firefox. I only got four results back on the first page, though there were over 55,000 results total (see below).

Google Experiment

I was not signed in but Instant was on.

It looks like Google is testing this style of SERP when it thinks a handful of pages are clearly the most valuable, relevant results for the query. Presumably, some users would prefer fewer choices as long as those choices clearly addressed the query. Didn't either Sergey or Larry once say that in a perfect world, Google would return only one result?

This page did not address my needs as a searcher, because I was specifically trying to determine where my own blog ranks for this query -- i.e., whether I rank on the first page. If this experiment became the norm, "the first page" would become nearly unattainable for all but a few very high-authority domains (think brands, Wikipedia, etc.). But as someone in the search industry, I'm hardly the typical searcher. I'm guessing this SERP would satisfy the needs of the majority of searchers.

Has anyone else seen this experiment? Would you prefer a shorter SERP?

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Wednesday March 16, 2011

Bogdan (not verified) Said:

I for one tend to believe it's an error on behalf of Google and reload the page. Once it's reloaded, I get a full SERP

Wednesday March 16, 2011

Elisa Gabbert Said:

I was surprised when I saw these results, so I did reload. I think it was intentional, but it may be tied to Instant Search.

Wednesday March 16, 2011

Larry Kim Said:

 Just speculating here. Say that of the 10 listings in a particular serp, that +98% (i'm coming up with that number from thin air) of the clicks go to 4 listings (where as on average, suppose only 65% of the searches go to the top 4) Maybe google notices this and decides to dump the other listings since it's not likely that they're relevant to the intent of the search. They do this on Paid Search (not displaying ads that aren't likely to generate clicks). Perhaps this is part of google's efforts to fight web spam and spammy content farms which often clutter-up the lower results in a SERP.

Wednesday March 16, 2011

Elisa Gabbert Said:

That's exactly what I was thinking. The four links shown would satisfy most users performing this query I think. I doubt it would happen for a real long-tail query without a few clearly relevant results.

Wednesday March 16, 2011

Justin Freid (not verified) Said:

I also saw this yesterday and thought it was a page loading error. After I hit refresh I was sent to a full page of results. From a PPC perspective I am not of a fan of this but from an SEO perspective it may encourage searchers to click through more often. It would be interesting to see is 1st spot on the second page performed well.

Wednesday March 16, 2011

Larry Kim Said:

 I'm not surprised that hitting refresh results in being sent to a full page of results. If you hit reload, i think google interprets that as "oops, we didn't provide you with the results that you were looking for" and lets you scan the full list. They do that with adwords too. If you search on something, and if you click on page 2 of the results or hit refresh, the ads have a tendency to change or disapear completely.

Wednesday March 16, 2011

Richard Kraneis (not verified) Said:

Haven't Seen It

In my searches yesterday I didn't see this behavior from Google. But obviously, other readers did.

It makes me wonder how many such experiments in search Google tests each day, and how they select their test groups (time of day, terms, IP address, etc.).

I wonder what else they're testing?

Thursday March 17, 2011

Maneet Puri (not verified) Said:

It seems a trick. I haven't seen such a thing before. If it happened, then there is nothing better that can happen on a search engine for a business.

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