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SERP News: Brand Names Added, Titles Truncated

As June rolled in and May ebbed away the SERP continued to change, evolve, and serve as Google's guinea pig. In this SERP Snapshot we have the distinct honor of welcoming in the month of June and saying goodbye to dear 'ol May.

In what SERP shape did May leave us and where is June seemingly taking us? So enough with the pleasantries, let's plot a bit of data using Rank Ranger's Insight Graphs and get down to business.


Truncated Title Test to SERP Leaves Titles a Bit Cut... 



First a bit of monkey business as Google was at it yet again with their latest test to the layout of the SERP. Last week reports came out that Google was truncating result titles in searches related to brand names. Google is/was not just shortening the titles in this case, but actually tacking the site's name to the end of the title. In other words, if your query was related to, or specifically included a brand name, Google was/is truncating a section of the titles within the results and replacing that section with the site's name (at times).  


Truncated Result Title with Site Name Replacement 

 

Site Name Added on to Truncated Result Title

Fig 1. A query that included a brand name shows a result with a truncated title with the site name added to the title itself


I for one find this format annoying for a few reasons of varied importance. First off, wouldn't it be nice to know if the full title of a link read 10 Easy Ways to Click on Links That Give Your Computer a Nasty Virus? Well, with the new truncated title format you may see something like, 10 Easy Way to Click on Links That - Insert Super Safe Website Name Here. Additionally, when you create a title you want my readers to be able to see it in full. The last word could have been your call to action, and now it's not there - of course if you use our On-Page Keyword Optimization Tool then you would have known in advance what Google was going to display. 

Lastly, look back at Figure 1, you'll notice the second result has the brand name there already, no Google necessary. If I want my brand name there, I can set it up to display as part of the title on my own, and I for one prefer to keep the choice mine, not Google's. 


Google Ads - Hitting a New Low



As June rolled in it seems that Ads rolled off, off the SERP that is. Ads on Google in the USA began the week at "normal" levels and even increased between May 30 and May 31. This brief increase actually makes sense as it coincided with Memorial Day and all of its subsequent sales. But it was all downhill from there. By June 4 Ads in the USA had hit a low of showing within only 30.33% of all searches, a new low relative to more recent trends. 


Ads on Google USA Show a Downtrend



Ads in Google USA Show Relative Low

Fig 2. Ads in the USA in comparison to Ads in the UK, plotted against Ads in the USA during the week of May 22 (on a secondary axis)


Between the 29th of May and the 4th of June Ads in the USA showed an approximate 9% decrease. What is even more interesting is that Ads in the USA have not performed so sparsely for a a bit of time already, even beyond the 22nd of May as indicated in Figure 2. 
 
When plotted on our SERP Features tool, we can see that the drop-off that culminated on June 4 reflects a significant shift in the data trajectory of Ads in the USA. 


Ads Performance May 7, 2106 - June 4, 2016 



Ads Data Trajectory on the SERP Features Tool

Fig 3. Ads follow a new data trajectory as they show a significant shift between May 31 - June 4


What's peculiar is that the absence of Ads didn't run concurrent to any increase in SERP real estate monopolizers like SiteLinks, Local Pack, Answer Box, etc. There was not even a significant increase in Results Per Page. It would seems as if the space just went empty, which is what makes this data a bit of an enigma. 


Monthly (SERP) Monitoring in the Month of May 



Enough about last week already! With the conclusion of May we have a whole month of SERP data and trends to analyze. Looking back at the month of May, we see some interesting global data and shifts when monitoring Featured SnippetsRelated Search, and SiteLinks


Featured Snippet Double Shifts



One of the more interesting sets of data I noticed when looking back at May as a whole relates to Featured Snippets. Back on May 23rd I presented you with some data regarding Featured Snippets taking on a shift in the data throughout various countries. True to my word to keep an eye on this facet of data, we see that this shift appears to be a new trajectory for Featured Snippets (for a select group of countries). 


Featured Snippet Mid-Month Spike: May 2016



Mid- May 2016 Global Featured Snippet Shift

Fig 4. Featured Snippets in Canada, Australia, the UK, and the US spike and consistently show at a higher data plateau


As with the data that I first reported to you on May 23, the percentage increase in the feature's SERP presence is nothing to write home about. Even in Canada, which displayed the largest spike, we are only talking about a 1% increase.  The significance of the data is its timing, i.e. that the feature essentially rose within all of these countries simultaneously.  

Perhaps more significant than the timing per se is the "trending." What we see here is a not a one day spike, a blip on the radar sort to speak. The data indicates that Featured Snippet in these countries is set to perform at the increased levels. Other than for relatively incidental shifts, the feature has sort of plateaued at its higher levels within these countries. 


A Focus on Featured Snippet

  

Adding fuel to the fire that Google is specifically focusing in on Featured Snippet is the data coming out of South Africa, India, and Ireland, data which constitutes our "double spike." 


Featured Snippet End of May 2016 Data Spike 



End of May 2016 Data Increase: Featured Snippet


Fig 5. Featured Snippet undergoes a late month spike in India and Ireland, while slowing rising in South Africa 


By May 25 Featured Snippet in both India and Ireland underwent a significant increase with the feature showing a more than threefold increase in both countries (though India lost some of its gains, Ireland essentially maintained its increase). This spike and trend shift is easy to notice when displayed against a moderate and gradual increase like the one noted in South Africa. Unlike the shifts noted in Figure 4, the increase in India and Ireland resulted in the feature displaying at a significantly higher rate of occurrence. 

With two May shifts, both resulting in new data trajectories, there is a case to be made that a meta-shift over at Google could have taken place in regards to the feature. 


Related Search Global Reactions 

 

For the better part of the month of May a period of warm/hot risk levels dominated the SERP chatter. It was a dramatic period in the SEO world. The hot levels went unexplained as Google rolled-out a slew of changes to the SERP all while denying any major algorithm update. 

By chance, when reviewing the month, I noticed that Related Search in a variety of countries took a bit of a stumble. When I plotted the data on the Insight Graph I saw something quite intriguing, a host of the downtrends coincided with this "undisclosed" Google activity. 


Related Search Downtrend May 2016



Related Search Downtrend Run Parallel to Undisclosed Google Activity

 Fig 6. Related Search shows a downtrend in the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Brazil that coincided with a set of undisclosed Google activity


Between May 10th and 11th, Related Search in the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Brazil showed a slight increase before downtrending, with the three countries leveling off by the 14th (if not earlier). 

While the drop-off in the case of Belgium only resulted in a roughly 2% decrease in the number of times Related Search appeared on the SERP when compared with its data on May 8, the dip for the Czech Republic and Brazil was a bit more significant. By May 16 the Czech Republic saw an approximate 5% decrease when compared with its previous data plateau, while Brazil saw a roughly 7% decrease.

Thailand showed a bit of a different data scheme, fluctuating up and down over the course of the month, ending May with an approximate 2% decease in the appearance of Related Search on the SERP. 

Here again, what is interesting is that the dip was not the usual one or two day event. After these countries dipped around mid-month (excluding Thailand), they maintained their new data trajectories. This is a pattern we saw earlier in regards to Featured Snippets. It was only at the end of the month that we started to see the data shifting a bit as Brazil rose back to early May levels with the Czech Republic and Belgium shifting slightly as well. 


SiteLinks Global Data Trajectory 



Rounding off this trend of global data shifts is SiteLinks. Again coinciding with this "Undisclosed Activity" over at Google, Sitelinks showed some global movement.


SiteLinks Mid-May 2016 Data Shift 

 

SiteLinks Data Shift by Country

Fig 7.  SiteLinks in multiple countries underwent a shift in conjunction with undisclosed Google activity


Except for Singapore, who shifted later in the month, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, and Turkey all began a simultaneous data ascent in the percentage of times SiteLinks appeared on page one of the SERP. Between May 11 and 12 these locations began to show some significant movement.

New Zealand bumped up just under 6 percentage points having gone from 50.9% on the 9th to 56.6% on the 12th. Canada gained about 3% between the 9th and the 12th, while Mexico jumped from 37.7% on the 9th to 41.2% on the 12th. 

Turkey actually completed its data climb on May 13, moving up slightly from May 12. Thus, between May 11 and 13 the country had moved from 31.88% to 35.46%. Though the real winner was Hong Kong, which went from showing SiteLinks at 31.88% on May 9 to 38.67% by May 12. What separated Hong Kong from the pack is that it maintained its SiteLinks gains (for the most part) undergoing a data trajectory shift.

Singapore, which as mentioned did not shift along with the mysterious Google activity, also took on a new data trajectory, dipping between May 17 - 18. Again, the percentage points are not the news here per se, it was only about a 2% decrease. Rather, like Hong Kong, we see yet another location, with yet another feature, moving onto a new data trajectory in the month of May.

May, the month where new data trajectories were born. 


Hong Kong: Bright City, Bright SERP 



All this talk about SiteLinks brings us to our next SERP destination, Hong Kong,  which as I mentioned sported a new trajectory for the feature last month. Hong Kong is famous for its night skyline full of dazzling lights set against the water, all aimed to mesmerize. The same was true for the SERP here in what was this merry, merry month of May. As the SERP in Hong Kong lit up, let's take a look at its performance, prepare to be blinded by the light



Hong Kong SERP Activity: May 2016 



May 2016 SERP Trends in Hong Kong

Fig 8. Answer Box, Local Pack, SiteLinks, and Related Search undergo data shifts in Hong Kong throughout May 


OK, so the data is not blinding (but it is colorful)! All kidding aside, the SERP in Hong Kong went for a wild ride last month. Let's start with Answer Box which displayed in about 4% less queries by month's end when compared with a May 10th showing of 8.72%. As we noted last week, there is a strong correlation between Answer Box and Local Pack. Hong Kong exemplifies this pattern as Local Pack also dropped approximately 4% by the time May 31 rolled around (when again compared with May 10 levels). 

Having already discussed SiteLinks in detail, let's move right to Related Search. Like its counterparts in Figure 6, Hong Kong saw a drop in the percentage of SERPs that displayed the feature, a drop that correlated with the enigmatic Google activity so appropriately labeled "Undisclosed Activity" within Figure 8. 

Displaying within a whopping (but expected and reasonable) 91.95% of queries on May 10, Related Search tanked (too dramatic?) hitting a monthly low of 83.28% by May 21. Though the feature did have a slight second-coming between the 21st and 28th, it fell out of Google grace again between the 28th and 29th. Sloping upwards slightly between the 29th - 31st, the feature showed a just over 7% decrease for the month overall, ending off at showing within 84.79% of queries. This for a feature, that generally speaking, is more stable that some of its counterparts out there in SERP-land. 


Saying Goodbye to May Mischief 



Oh, how we might miss the merry and mild month of May, with its majestic and marvelous spring-like manner, but will you really miss its maniacal and maddening (and ever mysterious) SERP maneuvers?

As June progresses how do you think Ads will perform? Are the recent Ads trends present to pave the way for other features, or to perhaps limit supply and up demand (and increase revenue)? 

What other SERP trends, events, and surprises do you predict will occur this June as the summer weather begins to heat up? 

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Send them my way! 
About The Author
​Mordy is the CMO of Rank Ranger as well as the host of The In Search SEO Podcast. Despite his numerous and far-reaching marketing duties, Mordy still considers himself an SEO educator first and foremost. That's why you’ll find him ​regularly releasing all sorts of original SEO research and analysis!




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