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How Google’s SERPs Have Changed in 2015

serps-thumbBy Autumn Rivers – Contributing Writer, The Marketing Scope.

It seems Google can’t go a whole year without making some sweeping changes, and 2015 has been no exception. The search engine results pages, in particular, have been modified quite a bit. Some of the changes should be interesting to you not just as a frequent Google user, but also as a digital marketer. So before you make any plans to advertise on Google, check out what’s changed this year.

Local 3-Pack Shines on the SERPs

Google has been trying to improve the localization of search results for years now, so it makes sense that a few months ago, the local 3-pack took the place of the 7-pack. Basically, with the new 3-pack, only three of the traditional seven local listings show up, as you can see here:


The change from seven to three listings may upset some business owners who are no longer on the list, but Google likely had a few reasons for this. For instance, the last four listings on the page were probably not being clicked on enough to justify keeping them on the list. Plus, mobile users could only see three of the seven listings anyway. Now desktop users will see an equally short list.

Non-Local Searches Get Local Search Results

Google is so intent on localizing search results that it’s now even showing them in response to non-local searches. Now you no longer have to type in “Phoenix jugglers” to find entertainment for your party (or just fun people you might want to get to know…). Even without typing in your location, you’ll often see the local 3-pack now.

And those listings take up a lot of space on the page, pushing down organic search results. When you combine the 3-pack with the ads on top, you leave a lot less room for the non-local, organic results, which means people may have to scroll a bit to find a site that should really be first on the list. This is all good news for those lucky top three local businesses, but it might actually make non-local searches less accurate.

Mobile Sites Are a Must

If you weren’t living under a rock in the spring of 2015, you heard a little something about Mobilegeddon. But it’s understandable if you already forgot about it, because it didn’t shake things up nearly as much as everyone cautioned.

That’s likely because most businesses actually listened to the warnings and made their site mobile friendly. They did have a few months’ notice, after all. And those few sites that didn’t get mobile friendly right away did lose some traffic, but some made up for it by buying mobile-search ads to keep Google users’ attention. As for the business owners who ignored it altogether, you’ll probably never know who they are, because you won’t see their sites among the top SERPs until they get mobile friendly.

More Ads Appear on Some Mobile Searches

Mobile searches used to produce two text ads above the search results, but as of this summer, some searches now result in three. The number of ads you see on the SERPs depends on how many are relevant to what you’re looking for.

The good news is that the extra ad does not seem to take up more space on the results page, since Google just makes each ad a little smaller when it shows three. And the even better news is that advertisers have seen an increase in impressions since this change took place, which is definitely encouraging for digital marketers.

Have you noticed any other changes when it comes to Google’s SERPs this year?

By Autumn Rivers – Contributing Writer, The Marketing Scope
Email:, Twitter: @AutumnEditing