Are Google SERP Ranking Formats Changing?

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Useful of course means being of use or service. It does not necessarily mean that users find it works well for them. That would require user tests to measure what is often called user experience. That user-centric or customer-centric approach still does not get the priority it should.

This reflection came to mind in considering some changes that seem to be happening to Google’s Search Engine Report Pages (SERPs) for keyword queries. Changes seem to sneak in without any obvious mechanism to get user feedback. Recently for example we noted that Google Blog Post Snippets are now dated in the language of the searcher. A more fundamental change may now be occurring but again it may be slowly creeping in.

We noted that one visitor to this blog had searched for ‘Montreal bagels Fairmount bagel’ and got the following SERP.

Google search for Montreal bagels Fairmount bagel

Note that references to this blog appear at both #2 and #4. Normally a second result from the same domain will appear as an indented result under the first appearance. This separate listing is what I sometimes see at Yahoo! but never at Google. Note also that the snippet at #2 included the date of the blog post as the first part of the snippet. The snippet at #4, which is a post from the same blog, does not have the date as the first part of the snippet.

I pointed out this somewhat remarkable change in a discussion at Cre8asite Forums. Commenters there and Barry Schwartz at Search Engine RoundTable all tested the same keyword query and none could find the same results. Indeed neither could I when I tried to repeat the same search.

Apparently it is not an isolated occurrence. Another visitor to this blog yesterday was searching for ‘British pensions in Canada’. Here is the result:

Google search for \'British pensions in Canada\'

Two independent blog posts from this blog appear as separate items in the SERP. On this occasion both also show the date as the first part of the snippet.

Is this a forerunner of a new format that will be rolled out everywhere? Which do you prefer? Only two items from any domain grouped together or relevant items appearing wherever they should in the report. Why not join the discussion at Cre8asite Forums or add your comments here. Presumably Google will be interested in whatever you have to say on this.