The first month of the new year began without much noise on the Google SERP. Perhaps the festive spirit that comes with the new year ran counter to the volatility and malleability that so often characterizes the Google SERP. Have no fear true believers, the SERP did show considerable activity as the month progressed, eventually evolving into one of the more dynamic months on the Google SERP.
The Majority of Articles within Google’s Mobile News Box Are Now AMP
This is big, especially if you’re a publisher, or managing the SEO of a publisher. If you hopped into your Delorean time machine and went back to January 25th, you would see Google News Boxes that consisted of about a 70 to 30 ratio of AMP and versus non-AMP articles, with the lower percentage going to the AMP optimized format. So if you were a publisher who was not optimizing for AMP you would still be sleeping soundly at night knowing that chances are, your articles are appearing within Page One of the SERP via Google’s New Box (all things being equal of course). To your horror you would have woken up the next day with your content no where to be found within Google’s illustrious News Box.
Between the 25th and the 26th, we broke the news that AMP executed a takeover of Google’s mobile New Box, more than doubling its showing in the United States (which by January 29th, had come to occupy 70% of mobile Google news results).
AMP results within Google’s mobile News Box now occupy nearly 70% of all mobile news results in the US as shown on the Mobile SERP Features Tracker
The domination of news results by AMP was widespread, reaching every corner of the globe. Countries such as Australia, that previously were showing a paltry 5% of news results in the AMP format, jumped exponentially to just above 60%. India even showed a few straight days of News Boxes that consisted of only AMP results, 100%.
An Insight Graph showing AMP within mobile news results spiking globally
At the end of the day, out of the countries that do show AMP within its news results, only one (Japan) now displays News Boxes that do not contain a majority of AMP results. Not to state the obvious, but it seems that Google is heading to a place where AMP results may completely fill Google’s mobile News Box.
Where Google shows AMP within news results, only Japan shows more non-AMP optimized articles within Google’s mobile News Box than it does AMP content
Tests to Local Pack, Mobile Knowledge Panel Starts to Look Smart
Two of my favorite Google SERP features, Local Pack and Knowledge Panel, underwent some clever updates/experiments in January. It seems that these two SERP features are in a constant state of flux, morphing infinitely into new and improved versions of themselves.
Local Pack Product Listing and Carousels
Google ran two pretty interesting Local Pack tests towards the middle/end of January. The first replaced the traditional organic results you and I have come to expect, with sponsored results for a specific business/store (i.e. all three results being for the same entity). More than that, the SERP feature showed product images and product information next to each “result.”
A sponsored Local Pack that highlights only one entity and that displays with actual products within the results
About a week and a half after running its product filled Local Pack, Google was back at it with yet another test to Local Pack on mobile. When it comes to carousels within mobile Local Packs, Google has acted like it’s in some sort of celebrity romance, on again – off again. That is, carousels have been introduced to Local Pack on mobile before, what’s unique this time is the sheer volume of them. We’re now seeing Local Packs in the wild that contain three different carousels, thus revealing that Google has gone gaga for Local Pack carousels on mobile.
A mobile Local Pack showing with three sets of carousels
Google Mobile Knowledge Panel Offers Book Previews
This is a great one for those of us who are avid readers… Google’s mobile Knowledge Panel now includes a direct link to a book preview (don’t however expect a preview for obscure titles such as George Bush, Dark Prince of Love – yes, that is a real book that someone actually wrote and that someone else actually published). While Google’s Knowledge Panel on desktop has offered the feature previously, January was the first time it has appeared on mobile. Those familiar with the desktop version know that the preview is actually pretty hefty, and is more than just a one or two page glimpse into the book. So to all of you avid book readers out there who are on the go, you should definitely jump into this one and check it out.
Knowledge Panel on mobile now presents a direct link to book previews when the query is applicable and the content available
January SERP Feature Wrap Up – Rich Cards Spike & AdWords Label Sees Inverse Test
Ending our exploration of the January SERP are two interesting tidbits that present some intriguing implications. While not part of a larger SERP feature theme, the two changes are significantly compelling in their own right. So then, let’s have at it, shall we?
Rich Cards Increase
One of the only signs of life on the SERP as the new year entered were Rich Cards. The mobile specific SERP feature took on a new data plateau as it spiked 2.5 percent points between January 4th and 5th. This actually makes perfect sense keeping in mind the larger picture. At the end of November Google expanded the categories for which Rich Cards would display on the mobile SERP. Then, just about a month later, Google gave Rich Cards for recipes a set of new filters. Coincidentally (or not) Rich Cards spiked just a few days later. The increase in the SERP feature reaffirms the notion that Google is giving added significance to the feature and that it may play a larger role on the mobile SERP going forward.
Google Tests an AdWords Label That Takes Its Organic Look to a New Level
If you’ll remember, way back when (i.e. June 2016, which feels like way back when), Google forwent the traditional yellow of its PPC labels for a more organic green. You’ll ask, what could be more organic than a shade of green that exactly matches the color tone of the URL? Simple, an ad label where the majority of its coloring is a perfect match to the white of the SERP itself. On January 24th reports started coming in that Google was testing an inverse PPC ad label, an ad label with a “SERP white” background and organic green lettering.
Google tests an inverted ad label that shows as green on white above the results and within Knowledge Panel
Besides for my own personal nostalgia (the green on white overwhelms me with early memories of the NY Jets football team), the color inversion is extremely subtle. I would go so far as to call this version of Google’s AdWords label, the chameleon of PPC labels. I would absolutely love to see data on people who accidentally clicked an ad not realizing it was as such when this color scheme was shown on the SERP.
Truth be told, when this story first broke I had a hard time producing results that brought the inverted ad label up. However, over the course of the two or so weeks after, I’ve stumbled upon the hyper-organic label a few times already. Based solely on my own personal experience, I have thus very scientifically come to the conclusion that Google is most likely widening its test.
Slow and Steady Wins the SERP Race
Slow as it may have started, January steadily became a significant month for SERP sightings. Drastic changes to the number of AMP results within Google’s News Box is a very big deal for publishers, particularity those not optimizing for AMP, and can be taken as quite the strong message from Google (i.e. if you’re a publisher you should be “doing the AMP”). Should Google decide to go all in with its inverse AdWords label, that too could be a considerable SERP shakeup.
As for the tests to Local Pack, I can see mobile only going full throttle with its carousel bonanza. However, I don’t see this sponsored sort of Local Pack as part of the SERP feature’s future, it for all intents and purposes runs counter to user intent, at least technically. Thus we’re faced with two options, we could either ask a magic eight ball what Google will ultimately do, or could just wait and see… the choice is yours. I for one haven’t had a magic eight ball since 1994, so I’ll just have to wait!