One Step Closer to Infinite Scroll: Google Keeps Us All on Page 1


Do you love the scroll wheel on your mouse and the down arrow key on your keyboard and like to exercise them as much as possible? I know I do! What I hate doing is finding the tiny arrow or “2” link at the bottom of a web page with my cursor – if there’s a “View all” link in the vicinity, I almost always click that instead.

Apparently, I’m not the only one – in response to user experience studies, Google is trying to get us all on the same page: Page 1, that is! Here are a couple of the ways this is playing out.

Google Say, Pagination Bad!

Yesterday, Google’s Webmaster Central Blog featured a post proclaiming that “User testing has taught us that searchers much prefer the view-all, single-page version of content over a component page containing only a portion of the same information with arbitrary page breaks (which cause the user to click ‘next’ and load another URL).” That’s what I’m talking about! They illustrated the concept like so – a three-page piece of content has double the latency (time delay) of the same content on one page.

Pagination Latency

Because Google knows that users prefer the one-page experience, if the search engine detects a single-page version of paginated content, from now on they’ll be “making a larger effort to return the single-page version in search results.” In other words, the “View all” version of your multi-page article or guide, instead of page 1, will be considered canonical by Google, and that’s what will rank in the SERP.

Google says they “aim to detect the view-all version of your content,” but if you want to help them out, you can use the rel=“canonical” tag on each component page to make it super easy for Google to find the “view all” version. However, there is an exception to this rule – if the load time for your content when it’s all on one page is too high, users won’t prefer it and therefore Google won’t either. (Remember: page load time has a big effect on conversion rate, too.)

The Infinite SERP: Coming Soon to a Screen Near You?

So that’s one element of the Page 1 thing. But for those of us who really, really like our scroll wheels, it gets better: Google is investigating an “infinite scroll” version of its search results. The company has already implemented this for Image Search. If we had this for general search results, it would effectively mean – you guessed it – we’d all be on Page 1!

According to the G-Squared Interactive (GSQi) blog, Google has been testing infinite scroll results in the past month, along with a locked search bar in the header (so that users can still refine their results, without having to scroll back up). Glenn Gabe runs through a number of possible ways that infinite scroll could affect the Google search results:

  • “Multiple Number 1 Rankings” – Each time a user elects to load more results, the first new result will be a kind of #1.
  • Universal Search and Rich Snippets – Glenn argues that all of these could become more important.
  • More Paid Search Ads – Google might load more paid search results with each set of additional organic results. (“Since Google generates ~97% of its revenue from paid search, ad inventory is very important.”)
  • More Local Search Results – Again, potentially increased opportunity here: “if set up and managed correctly, the combination of paid search and place search could be extremely powerful for local businesses.”

Of course, this is only in testing stage right now. It’s possible that Google will find users do not prefer the infinite SERP. It’s also possible that even if users prefer it, it’s just as important to rank in the top 10 if you want significant traffic/clicks. Time will tell!

What about you – what do you think this will mean for SEO? And as a user, would you prefer to scroll versus click when Googling?

More Web Marketing Highlights

Straight from the man himself (the man being GOOG), here are 10 tips for improving your display creative.

In his Search Engine Land column, Brad Geddes outlines three ways that PPC can improve your organic results through testing – namely, you can use PPC to test title tags, home pages and page layouts.

More good testing stuff Brad: At the Certified Knowledge blog, he runs some test to see when you should buy a keyword that you already rank organically for.

Alistair Dent recommends five filters that everyone should use in their AdWords accounts.

In the “It’s About Time” department, Twitter announces it will finally release analytics for tweets.

Derek Edmond asked search marketing experts to name the concepts they find critical for aligning SEO to B2B marketing strategy – including our own Larry Kim, who gave a surprising answer: public relations.

And just for fun: Funny/heartwarming (?) story about a cat lost in Boulder, Colorado, and found five years later in New York, “thanks to a microchip that was implanted when she was a kitten”! TECHNOLOGY! The future is now.

OK, one more fun one: the WSJ writes about the celebrities who struggle to crack the New Yorker’s caption contest.

Have a great weekend, folks.

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Bill Slawski
Sep 16, 2011

Hi Elisa,
I think I would like infinite scrolling search results, but I'm not sure that Google would add infinite scrolling.
There are a couple of reasons that I can think of why they might not.
One would be that they might possibly lose search advertising revenue if they added infinite scrolling, since they usually display those at the top of search results. Infinite scrolling might mean less advertising clicks.
Another reason why we might not see infinite scrolling is that  it would be much more likely that people would scroll down more pages worth of results if they implemented infinite scrolling, then they would if they had to click upon a link to see the next page. While Google would likely cache a certain number of results for popular queries, there would still be an additional computational cost in showing more pages.
One area where we see Google being frugal in a manner like that was when they introduced the Google instant results, and if you have those turned on, you can only see 10 results per page. You can't change your preferences to more than 10 when Google Instant is enabled.
I do think the user experience for searchers would be improved if infinite scrolling was enabled, but would it be improved enough to justify the possibility of the loss of advertising revenue, and the increased computational cost of people digging deeper into search results. I'm not sure.
Showing ads in a locked search bar in a header, or changing those as we scroll might make up for the potential lost advertising, but I'm not sure including that locked bar would be a better user experience.
Also, Google likes to show some types of query refinements at the tops of search results, and other types at the bottoms of search results. How might that refinement recommendation behavior change?
Thanks for an interesting and thoughtful post.

Elisa Gabbert
Sep 16, 2011

Hi, Bill, thanks for the comment and great questions. I think there's a strong possibility that Google would lock paid search results if they implemented the infinite scroll. I've seen them locking local search results for local searches, so you can't scroll to get them off the screen. I'm personally not a big fan of locked elements on a page, but I can see the value for a locked search bar at least.I think we can rest assured that Google is testing whether an infinite SERP would reduce clicks on sponsored ads, and if so they are looking for a way around it!

Mike Fantis
Sep 19, 2011

Hi Guys,Very interesting!I think that the longer the page the more paid results on the right hand side there will be.If they combine this with locking the top 3 results then i'm sure this will only increase revenues?? Watch this space I suppose!Mike

Elisa Gabbert
Sep 19, 2011

Thanks for your comment Mike! I agree, I think other elements of the page will have to change if Google moves to Infinite Scroll. They'll figure out a way to eke more clicks out of us, no doubt...

Nick Stamoulis
Sep 23, 2011

Google knows that users want searches to be simple. While the most relevant information can usually be found on the first page, sometimes if you are looking for something very specific you need to look at a few pages.  It can be frustrating and time consuming waiting for each new page of results to load.  I think that this will make the search experience that much easier. 

Oct 02, 2011

Infinite scroll rules - did you know that Chrome has a plug-in that always you to do this on any page!I'm pretty sure it's called Auto Pager.Anyway, that's my 2 cents :) 

Dec 15, 2011

B With me the  after you have gone down about 5 pages  and search, Google then returns you to the top of page one. You become unable to continue with say page 8 or skip to a more distant page

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