Investigation of the search engine result pages changes

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„Ugliness does not sell.“
Raymond Loewy, Designer

Search engine result pages (SERPs) are very important for users to get relevant information. Therefore is the Design of a SERP a strong competitive factor in the search business. Despite the view of some authors, that the search engines are not differentiated at their user interfaces, one can see that alone the SERPs and the main pages of the three well-known search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo) are varied.

To analyze the innovations around the SERPs I start a long-run examination in which I take a monthly look at the SERPs of these search engines. The first year is long over and so that I can present the first results.

The structures of the SERPs of these search engines are identical. In the top center of the page is the search box, hereunder are the top sponsored results and thereunder the organic results. On the right side are further sponsored results. However there is a wide difference between Google with the usual and prominent consideration of the collections (maps, products, news, and images) between the organic results on the one hand and Yahoo, Bing, which mainly present the result list, on the other hand (Bing includes sometimes a map between the organic results). In addition Google presents at the end of the SERP more direct links to the other SERPs (Google 10, Yahoo 5-10, and Bing 5). Furthermore one can see that Google present more sponsored results on the right side of the SERP (primarily from May to September 2013). That was not a strategic design decision, but rather the result of Googles larger advertising network in Germany.

In the follow I look at the SERP changes of the single search engines

Google:

At Google it was interesting to see, how his provider experimented with the integration of the different collections. For example the news collection was placed in front of the organic result list or after the first two/three top results. Furthermore one time Google presented the product collection ahead of the map in the right top corner (April 2013) or the image collection below the organic result list (February 2014). Moreover Google deleted in the September 2013 the links to the other services at the top of the page and did hide the links behind the “3 times 3 points button” near the log-in button. In addition Google changes very often his logo by the legendary doodles.

At the bottom of the SERP Google reduced the two lines with the links to additional information and help to a single line (April 2013). This line contains only three items: help, feedback and data privacy statement. In some months (e.g. October/November 2013) one can see little changes around and between the references to the further result pages (“gooooooooogle”).

Bing:

By contrast with Google the SERP changes at Bing were low. The main changes were that Bing in the October and November introduced new logos. Apart from that were the observable changes determined by the variations of the (sponsored and organic) results, like the higher positions of the map or the varying positions of similar queries.

Yahoo!:

Comparable to Google Yahoo did a wide change in the SERP design. In the November 2013 they moved completely the SERP from the center to the left side. Furthermore they deleted the top line, which included links to other offers (mail, portal) or the log-in. Therefore they introduced a new small field with links to the log-in, mail and further settings on the right side. In addition they put the links to the further collections from under the search box to the left side. The related queries recommendation moved from this position to under the result list. At the same time Yahoo! reduced the links to the other SERPs from 10 toward 5. Earlier the year 2013 Yahoo! changed in the September his logo and in the May the color of the search button (yellow toward blue) at the bottom.

Methodology:
I did a snapshot from the SERPs of the three well-known search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo) at the last day of a month (sometimes at the first day of the following month). For simplification do this snapshots comprise only the first and last screen (I think, that the changes which I thus does not track are low). The Browser was a default Internet Explorer 11 on a Windows 7 Professional.

Note:
To see the month of the particular picture you have to click on „show info“.
I think I will update the article every year or every half year.

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