March 1st Google Update: The Mysterious Case of the 19-Result SERPs


Late final week (Feb 28 – Mar 1), we noticed a large two-day spike in Google rankings flux, as measured by MozCast. Temperatures on Friday reached 108°F. The unique temperature on Thursday was 105°F, however that was corrected all the way down to 99°F (extra on that later).

Digging in on Friday (March 1st), we noticed a quantity of metrics shift, however most notably was a spike in page-one Google SERPs with greater than 10 natural outcomes. Across the 10,000 key phrases in MozCast, this is what we noticed at the excessive finish:

Counting “organic” ends in 2019 is difficult — some parts, like expanded site-links (in the #1 place), Top Stories, and picture outcomes can occupy an natural place. In-depth Articles are significantly difficult (extra on that in a second), and the ensuing math normally leaves us with page-one SERPs with counts from four to 12. Friday’s numbers have been utterly past something we have seen traditionally, although, with natural counts as much as 19 outcomes.

Dissecting the 19-result SERP

Across 10Okay key phrases, we noticed 9 SERPs with 19 outcomes. Below is one of the most simple (in phrases of counting). There was a Featured Snippet in the #zero place, adopted by 19 outcomes that seem natural. This is a direct screenshot from a outcome for “pumpkin pie recipe” on Google.com/US:

Pardon the lengthy scroll, however I wished you to get the full impact. There’s no clear marker right here to counsel that half of this SERP is a non-organic function or indirectly completely different. You’ll discover, although, that we transition from extra conventional recipe outcomes (with thumbnails) to what seem like a combination of journal and newspaper articles. We’ve seen one thing like this earlier than …

Diving into the depths of in-depth

You could not assume a lot about In-depth Articles nowadays. That’s largely as a result of they’re virtually utterly hidden inside common, natural outcomes. We know they nonetheless exist, although, as a result of of deep source-code markers and a mismatch in page-one counts. Here, for instance, are the final 6 outcomes from in the present day (March 4th) on a seek for “sneakers”:

Nestled in the extra conventional, e-commerce outcomes at the finish of web page one (like Macy’s), you’ll be able to see articles from FiveThirtyEight, Wired, and The Verge. It’s exhausting to inform from the format, however it is a Three-pack of In-depth Articles, which takes the place of a single natural place. So, this SERP seems to have 12 page-one outcomes. Digging into the outcomes on March 1st, we noticed the same sample, however these Three-packs had expanded to as many as 10 articles.

We retooled the parser to extra flexibly detect In-depth Articles (permitting for packs with greater than Three outcomes), and this is what we noticed for prevalence of In-depth Articles over the previous two weeks:

Just underneath 23% of MozCast SERPs on the morning of March 1st had one thing much like In-depth Articles, an virtually 4X improve from the day earlier than. This quantity returned to regular (even barely decrease) the subsequent day. It’s attainable that our new definition is just too broad, and these aren’t actually conventional “In-depth” packs, however then we’d count on the quantity to remain elevated. We additionally noticed a big spike in SERP “real-estate” shares for main publications, like the New York Times, which usually dominate In-depth Articles. Something positively occurred round March 1st.

By the new methodology (eradicating these outcomes from natural consideration), the temperature for two/28 dropped from 105°F to 99°F, as some of the uncommon outcomes have been handled as In-depth Articles and faraway from the climate report.

Note that the MozCast temperatures are back-dated, since they symbolize the change over a 24-hour interval. So, the prevalence of In-depth articles on the morning of March 1st is known as “3/1” in the graph, however the day-over-day temperature recorded that morning is labeled “2/28” in the graph at the starting of this publish.

Sorting out the place to go from right here

Is this an indication of issues to come back? It’s actually powerful to say. On March 1st, I reached out to Twitter to see if folks may replicate the 19-result SERPs and many individuals have been capable of, each on desktop and cell:

This didn’t seem like a traditional check (which we see roll out to one thing like 1% or much less of searchers, usually). It’s attainable this was a glitch on Google’s finish, however Google would not usually publicize non permanent glitches, so it is exhausting to inform.

It seems that the 108°F was, partly, a reversal of these unusual outcomes. On the different hand, it is odd that the reversal was bigger than the unique rankings flux. At the similar time, we noticed another alerts in play, comparable to a drop in picture outcomes on web page one (about 10.5% day-over-day, which didn’t get well the subsequent day). It’s attainable that an algorithm replace rolled out, however there was a glitch in that replace.

If you are a standard writer or somebody who usually advantages from In-depth Articles, I would suggest preserving your eyes open. This might be an indication of future intent by Google, or it may merely be a mistake. For the relaxation of us, we’ll have to attend and see. Fortunately, these outcomes appeared largely at the finish of web page one, so high rankings have been much less impacted, however a 19-result web page one would definitely shake-up our assumptions about natural positioning and CTR.



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