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SERP News: Local Pack & Answer Box Both Volatile

Over the past few weeks there has been an overabundance of volatility on the SERP. Whether it be major tests to the SERP's layout or hot risk levels on the Rank Risk Index, etc., the SERP has been anything but boring! Thankfully, last week saw the SERP return to "normal" as the Rank Risk Index wasn't spiking off the charts, nor was Google turning the SERP upside down with who knows how many alterations to the SERP's layout. I say thankfully, because with the tide of calm comes reflection, and with reflection comes insight. So let's get right to it then shall we? 

SERP Symbiosis: Answer Box and Local Pack


Let us begin our reflection with a SERP doppelganger, a pair of two wholly harmonious features that uniformly surf the turbulence of the SERP. Finding meaning in a quiet SERP is like meditating, it requires patience and precision. Finding two SERP features trending along the same trajectory within 10 different countries required tremendous analytic precision, that completely tried my patience. With that, I proudly present to you Answer Box and Local Pack, two peas in a SERP Feature pod. I first stumbled upon these two friendly features in the Netherlands, where I saw the two ebb and flow along an almost exactly parallel trajectory. 

Local Pack and Answer Box Trends May 22 - May 28, 2016: Netherlands 


Netherlands Answer Box and Local Pack Trends May 22 - 28. 2016

Fig 1. Local Pack and Answer Box trend along the same trajectory in the Netherlands

What makes the Netherlands stand out so much are not the huge gains or loses taken by the two features. What makes the Netherlands so intriguing, in a sense, are the number of peaks and valleys the two features underwent last week. Over the course of last week Answer Box and Local Pack rose and dipped a total of three times. This in and of itself is not exactly earth-shattering news of course. But what is seriously interesting is how symbiotic the peaks and valleys were. Simply by looking at the graph you can clearly see how just as one feature rose and fell so did the other. 

Coincidence? Possibly. So I looked into things a bit further and found that Spain, though noting less volatility, showed the very same relationship between Answer Box and Local Pack

Local Pack and Answer Box Trends May 22 - May 28, 2016: Spain 


Answer Box and Local Pack Share Similar Data Trajectories

Fig 2. Similar to the Netherlands, Answer Box and Local Pack in Spain follow a congruous data trajectory 

While not exactly identical, Answer Box and Local Pack moved along a very similar data path last week in Spain, just like they did in the Netherlands. Both features started the week higher than they finished it, taking a "sharp" (relatively speaking) dip between May 23 and 24, before sloping slowing and steadily towards their weekly lows by the 28th.  

Coincidence? Most likely not. 

Using our SERP Features tool, I found Answer Box  and Local Pack sharing data trajectories in eight other locations (France, Australia, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, Switzerland, the UK, and the US). 

Once I plotted this data by using the SERP Features tool, I was able to make an additional determination... this symbiotic relationship between the two features has been going on for quite a while. 

Parallel Data Trajectories over Time: Answer Box and Local Pack  


Answer Box and Local Pack Trajectory over Extended Time

Fig 3. France shows Answer Box and Local Pack moving along a similar data trajectory over an extended period of time

As the above figure clearly indicates, Answer Box and Local Pack have been data doppelgangers for quite some time. Just by way of example, you'll notice both features spiking between May 11 and 12 and then dipping between the 12th and 13th. The other countries indicated above were no exception to this rule. In general, the other nine countries researched showed a similar pattern. 

Answer Box Data Depth 


It's like they say about betting on the ponies, stick with a winner, which is exactly what I did when seeing how Answer Box performed around the world. Intrigued by what I saw in relation to Local Pack, I decided to dig a bit deeper and see how Answer Box performed in some of the other countries I had not yet looked at. In short, it was a week for Answer Box

Global Answer Box Data May 22 - 28, 2016

Global Answer Box Data

Fig 4. Answer Box levels fluctuate by varying degrees with countries such as India and Ireland showing significant spikes 

Showing modest gains, Brazil and Portugal both ended the week with Answer Box appearing in over 8.5% of all queries (8.85% and 8.75% respectively on May the 28th). Mexico also showed modest gains by finishing the week off with a spike (between the 26th and 27th) up to 27.42% (by May 28). 

Ireland and India both showed more substantial increases. Answer Box in Ireland underwent an over 8% spike between May 23 and 24. By week's end Answer Box appeared within 25.47% of all Irish queries, a roughly 9% increase. India showed a similar spike, rising from showing in 19.97% of queries on May 24 to showing in 30.73% of all queries by May 25, an increase of over 10%. Though, by week's end Answer Box in India showed a more modest increase of about 5%, displaying in 26.30% of queries. 

Spotlight on India

Digging deeper yet again, I decided to drill down in to the Indian SERP in hopes of finding the soothing sounds of "sytar-like" SERP tranquility. Instead I found more volatility and SERP shifting.

SERP Trends in India: May 22 - 28, 2016

Data Spike on SERP: India  

Fig 5. Numerous SERP Features in India take a one day spike between May 24 - 25

The SERP data out of India last week was downright peculiar as five features took significant spikes, with four of them coming within the same time period. This odd week on the Indian SERP started as SiteLinks rose from showing in 39.80% of page 1 results on May 23 to displaying in 44.46% of page 1 results by May 25 (though the feature tapered off slightly as the week progressed ending off within 40.81% of queries). 

Between May 24 and 25, 10 Results, Related Questions, Featured Snippet, and Answer Box all underwent a significant one day shift. Related Questions and Featured Snippet both underwent a 50% increase before dipping back down between May 25 and 26 and ending the week with more moderate increases. During the same period, 10 Results showed just over a 6% increase moving from being the organic count within 71.48% of results on the 24th to 77.84% on the 25th, before also shifting down to 72.12% by the 26th. However, 10 Results finished with a net gain of just under 2% by ending the week at 78.78%.

As indicated in Figure 4 as well, Answer Box spiked approximately 10% between May 24 and 25, before also dipping down slightly between May 25 and 26. 

But of course the peculiarity of this data is not only 50% spikes, but that so many features jumped simultaneously.  It would seem, that India was under Google's eye, if only just for a day. 

SERP Mind Melding 

It's time again to pick the collective SERP brain. The obvious question of the day is why does Answer Box seem to piggyback off Local Pack (or vice versa of course)? Is there a true correlation (as there seems to be), if so why does Google pair them up? I'll accept all theories on this one, as it seems like a strange occurrence in my mind! 

Will this week prove as relatively calm as the last? What tests might Google have up its sleeve this week? After all, can we really expect two weeks of calm? Keep a sharp eye and let me know what you see out there!

About The Author
Mordy is the official liaison to the SEO community for Wix. Despite his numerous and far-reaching 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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