Evolution of Google's result pages

Changes since the origin of the SERPs and the interface of the search engine.

February 4, 2016 - Button fictitious download

These download buttons are well known on the software download pages which are actually disguised advertisements when the real download link is much less visible. Google now displays a warning message for these pages, especially if the false button activates a script.

September 22, 2014 - Structured snippets

Snippets can now contain information of database type such as weight, size, resolution, etc ... They are extracted from pages that provide this type of information for a list of products. To do this, tables are identified in pages, but are ignored if only used for the layout. Google claims to use machine learning to identify the useful infos.

March 2014. Links are no longer underlined

After 25 years of existence, Google decided to remove the underlining of links, for a cleaner presentation. Scriptol did it for over ten years.
This is the first major change in presentation, excluding ads and knowledge graph, since 2010 where it tried very briefly a look in the style of Bing.

August 2013. Answer box

It is a new feature of the result pages that give a direct answer to a question in a gray box. You may ask for the birthday of some celebrity (try Jesus), the nationality of someone, etc.... We again a little closer to Dr. Know.

August 2013. Detailed items highlighted

Provided it is properly formatted, a page with a detailed content can be highlighted in the results.

April 2013. Dropdown menu and no more real-time

Below the URL of the site, a pop-up green menu offers access to similar pages or cached page of the site. The Instant Preview, which was to show the results as and when you type text, a revolution when it appeared no longer exists!

January 2013. Direct access to images

Search on images allows now to download images directly on the Google site, which replaces the link on the page containing the image. Obviously webmasters protest against the appropriation of their contents: the sites are no longer visited when the size of the image seems large enough to the web surfer, and serve as a repository of images for Google! But in fact it is especially when webmasters put in their pages full-sized image reduced in the browser that the website may be short-circuited. It is possible to do the opposite thanks to the quality of image enlargement algos.
You can also restrict access to search on image with this agent in robots.txt: User-agent: Googlebot-Image.

November 2012. The sidebar disappears to make room for the knowledge graph

List of options in the left sidebar disappears and is now included in the menu bar at the top. The results are now divided into two parts, the list of links on the left and the KG on the right. It therefore becomes more important.

May 2012. The graph of knowledge emerged

The Knowledge Graph is the name given by Google to an insert in the SERPs, which is a card of the object of research, a person, a place, a work, or anything else. This object will have a photo if possible as well as pictures of objects related to it. A biography of the person, a description for a place possibly with its history, etc. ...

Results pages, therefore, cease to be an intermediary between users and websites and become a direct source of knowledge.

This integrates to the  organic engine a principle already experienced for a long time by Google on the site wdyl.com.

March 30, 2012. 3D display of a function

For a while, like Wolfram Alpha, the search engine can respond directly to questions and when asked about a mathematical function, display the corresponding graphical representation. If your browser supports WebGL, which is the case with Chrome and Firefox, it now displays a 3D graphic. It is interactive, you can zoom, change the angle of view. This works also for all foreign versions of the SE.

January 10, 2012. Search plus Your World.

By connecting to the Google+ account, it is possible to do social research, in addition to custom research that has long existed.
Social research operates on the data shared by the members of G+ or privately on the data of a circle.

December 17, 2011. Snow in the SERPs.

If you type the rigth query, in this case "Let it snow", Google responds to your wish and snow falls on the results page, and progressively it is covered in white.
This does not advance the ranking, but shows that one can always continue to innovate in search results!

November 8, 2011. Current experiment: Wikipedia-like search.

Google is currently testing a new results page divided into two panels. A classical list of links on the left and on the right a summary page like an article of Wikipedia.

If one looks for the name of a person, a card is displayed with the photo, biography, news about him/her, etc ...
After the failure of Knol, it seems that the engine has devised another way to get the hearing of the Wiki. But the content of the card are for a part data taken from Wikipedia.
This fully meets the requests made ​​for probably many to know who is a person or what is a thing, as we consult a dictionary.
This experimental module is called Sources.

August 16, 2011. Big Site links.

The "Sitelinks" adding internal links to the links on a site can now have the same size as the main link. They are also more and in two columns.
The interest seems both for the search engine and net surfers: that lets it know what interests the user on the site.
The deployment is international.

June 29, 2011. Your photo in results pages.

Currently being tested with a limited number of guests, results pages will a day display the photo of the author of an article.
For this purpose, the SERPs do use the author tag and the profile associated in Google Profiles.

June 17, 2011. Related search.

When you enter such as the name of a movie in the search field, you will now see appearing a frame containing the names of the actors. If you type the name of a painter, a list of his major works appeared. These are the related searches, presenting a list of requests to expand search in another direction.
This is based on Google Squared, inspired itself by Wolfram Alpha.

June 6, 2011. Schema.org.

A format to include metadata in your pages, and so give details on their meaning, was adopted by Bing, Google, Yahoo!.
It is incompatible with RDFa and you can not use the two formats on a same page without it is deindexed.
This format is based on the W3C's Microdata specification, to not be confused with microformat (hRecipe, hCard) which is a generic term to a proprietary format aimed at a special application.
An example of use (for any format) is the description of a recipe with data such as photo and cooking time, allowing for producing a special snippet in search results pages.
Rich snippet testing tool. Online testing tool to verify the compliance of your pages.

May 5, 2011. Multiple snippets.

This concerns news sites. The snippet, the descriptive part under the links, no longer contains a description of the link but the descriptions of several articles followed by their seniority: one hour, one day.
The articles will be found on the same page of the linked site.

March 2011. +1 social research

A new command appears in the SERPs, the sign +1 is a recommendation that the user can give to a page that he likes, as on digg.
This does not apply to the ranking of the page for all users, but only for a group that is considered close to the one making the recommendation.
You need a Google Account to use this feature. On the basis of your relationship on your account and on Twitter and Facebook, the system determines to whom applying this recommendation.
And conversely, the recommendations applied by your relationships change your search results.
For the English engine at first and the rest of the World since June 28, 2011..
To use 1+:

  1. Go to your Google Account or create one.
  2. Click on "Join this experiment".
  3. Do a search on the search engine. The sign must appear in results.
  4. On your account, a panel displays your selection.

March 10, 2011. Blocking a site, option in SERPs.

A new option appears in the results pages: "Block all xxxx.xx results".
It was previously an extension of the Chrome browser, it now integrates directly to the search engine.
It will then be possible to unblock sites with a manager. The number of sites blocked is shown at the top of the results page.

December 17, 2010. Spam alert.

Previously, Google had red signal in SERPs to sites compromized with malware. Now a notice is also added when a spam is detected that replaces the original content.

December 11, 2010. Google filters search results according your reading level.

Depending on the level of culture in a field, basic, intermediate or advanced, Internet users can now select the results.
We must choose the advanced search to see a level menu with these options:

This concerns obviously the literature search and is expected to save time a lot.

November 17, 2010. More results from a domain.

A same domain until new did not appear more than twice in SERPS. Now this limit is broken and that could let other websites to lose traffic.

November 9, 2010. Instant preview.

A magnifying glass icon on the right of snippets provides a quick thumbnail of the page corresponding to the result.
It already existed a firefox extension to display a thumbnail of each site beside the results.

October 18, 2010. Custom Location.

It is now possible to define a location. By default the search engine identifies the location of the user and selects the results based on it.
For various reasons, you may want to break free, when for instance you are been searching for the next day where you'll be in another city!
You must have results already displayed to show the panel of options on the left.

September 30, 2010. Keyboard navigation.

Instant is enhanced with the possibility for the user to use the keyboard to select a row among the rows in the suggestion box.
This can have an effect on the traffic of sites.

September 8, 2010. Google Instant.

The real-time search goes on the main search engine: a results page is displayed as soon as you start typing a query and its continuous changes based on the words you add.
A suggestion in light gray is proposed also to complete the application.
This works on Chrome, Firefox and IE8.
Instant Will it end optimization for search engines, as some think? This tends to personalize the results page and then it changes the rules, but does not certainly removes the need for optimization. This will at least disrupt statistics in GWT and Analytics.
Video: Google Instant by Marissa Mayer Google's staff.

August 27, 2010. Realtime search.

It now has a special page. Conversation may be followed in realtime on a chat. Gives results mainly on Twitter.

August 21, 2010. Interactive result page.

As you type a query, and the function Suggest proposes to complete the text, another thing may happen: if it is already displayed, the results page may change gradually depending on keywords that you add in the query.
It is a function under test and only a few netsurfers were able to observe it, but it has been confirmed by Google.

August 20, 2010. More than two results for the same domain.

So far the same domain could not appear more than twice in one page of results (except with the command site:).
Since August 20, 2010, that changed for some specific queries on which a site can be the one to many results, it may appear more than twice.

4 August 2010. History.

A history link appeared on the page of search engine (on U.S. version only at first). It will displays previous searches and make to reappear results already found in the past.
This only works when you are registered to your Google Account, but it is accessible from any computer or mobile. You can edit the list and delete the results.
You have to activate this feature in the configuration of the account at the option "Save searches".

July 25, 2010. Definitions at top.

Many surfers use the search engine for the definition of a term. Google has so created a special section that appears at the top of the result page and provides definitions from online dictionaries Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, Answers.com, The Free Dictionary.
The snippets include pronunciation and grammatical information.
For now only on the English engine.
Example: Search for "persistent".

July 21, 2010. Google image modernized.

The results pages of the image section enlarge images in a box when you move the mouse over the images and display them in a window with the page that contains them in a grayed background, on the principle of the lightbox.

May 12, 2010. Short answers.

From the Squared engine as the previous technology, short answer is trying to directly answer a query that looks like a question.
For example if one asks the "date of birth x", the engine will give a direct answer, date of birth of the person, then follows a list of pages containing information related to the birth date of x.

May 12, 2010. Something different.

In certain queries may appear in the sidebar to search by category, a new section: "Something different" and a list of query below.
In the case of a search on an actress, it will be a list of other actresses.
This has been developed for the Google's alternative engine , Squared and integrated to the standard search engine.

April 28, 2010. Similar Sites.

For a while the search engine has a feature sites offering similar content. The "similar" link to a similar page near a result in addition to "cached" to the cached version.
This function becomes more important. We can now possibly find a block of sites similar to results at the bottom of results page.

April 26, 2010. Rich snippets go international.

Including rich snippets for recipes.

April 14, 2010. Real time improved.

MySpace, Facebook, Buzz, Twitter are integrated in search results. When, after viewing the results page you ask to show more options and you clicks on "Update", you can see activities on social networks about the query, for a given period.

April 13, 2010. Snippets for recipes.

The recipes are displayed differently in results, provided that their page has an internal format that is suitable.
Google supports 5 formats including RDF and microdata.

March 12, 2010. Microdata.

Microdata as specified in HTML 5 are now included in the description of the results if they are defined in the page.
They adds social data about the site.

March 9, 2010. Public data in search results.

The search engine now provides access to public statistics and displays graphs directly instead of links, like Wolfram Alpha.
To do this, you type in the search bar keywords like "unemployment rate " with the name of a country or region and the image of a graph is displayed under a link to click.
You can check with "unemployement rate usa" that things are not going very well in USA.
This service works only for USA in March 2010.

February 4, 2010. Assigning stars to results.

Google abandons the SearchWiki service which imitated the principles of Wikia and allowed users to annotate, vote for or delete pages in results. (Wikia dropped this service for a while).
But it retains a feature that is extended to the general search engine: the user can assign a star to a link in results. When he returned on the search engine, links that received a star appear at top of the page ion a special list.
This rating is personal, it does not change the results for other users.

February 26, 2010. Local Search option.

A new option "Nearby" appears in the panel of specialized search. It restricts searches to regions.
The advantage is that the search will no longer depend precisely on keywords but on a region, without the need to found all the different terms used to designate towns and various places...

February 16, 2010. Sponsored links in results.

As an experiment and for the cities of Houston and San Jose only, Google highlight sponsored links in search results listings. They are marked with a yellow rectangle.
The sponsored links on the side or top of the page still remains, this is a new different service named "Google Enhanced Listings", costing $25 per month.
This subscription does not guarantee a better position in results.

January 2010. Search engine and answers.

To add the feature of the Wolfram Alpha engine, Google now wants to offer real answers to questions from webmasters. For this it offers a richer snippet (description under the link in results) and includes the response in bold.
Clearly, if we ask how many people are living in China, the snippet should contain the answer. What we can easily check ...

The difference with Wolfram is that the user can click on the link for more details. In addition, the snippet has a limited size, while Wolfram can provide an answer on a full page ... that the Web site linked by Google can also do. Webmasters may have to change their writing habits to adapt to that.
For example, to use Ajax to give to his visitors an unique information. If the information is not unique, they will find it in snippets of other sites and it is not recommended.

Decembre 3, 2009. Indication of country of a site in SERPs.

To tell users what is the country of a site for case where the location is usefull, results pages now display the country next to the URL in green. This is for the domains with generic TLDs like .com.
To assign the region, go into GWT (Google Webmaster Tools) in Site configuration -> Settings -> Geographic target. Examples on the Google's blog.

December 2009. Real-time and personalized search.

Results page will update while you view it, and without any intervention from you. The real- time search is extended to the whole world.
Also, personalized search has become the default mode, the engine saves your habits and tailors its results.

September 30, 2009. Links on forum threads in SERPs.

Following internal links in SERPs, results now include links to topics of forums that can answer a question. The main link points to a page of the site, and below, indented, threads of forum on the site in connection with the query with the number of the messages and the date.

September 26, 2009. Links internal to pages in search results : Jump to feature.

Snippets belows titles in results pages of Google are now enriched with internal links in pages of websites. When the result of search is on a specific part of the page, a link to it may appear for a direct access.

To enjoy these additional links in results, your pages should be structured with a menu of subtitles linked to subtitles inside the page.
Format of the link in the menu if the subtitle is "car", for example:

<li><a href="#car">Car</a></li>

Format of the subtitle in the body of the page:

<div id="car">Car</div>  

September 9, 2009. New Interface.

The search engine will now be more accessible: the size of the input field has been expanded to have larger characters and thus easier to read.

July 31, 2008. More results from a same site.

The results pages are normally limited to two results for the same site, the second being indented under the first.
With the addition of an expansion command represented by the sign +, you can now have a greater number of links to the same site. Image search is improved too with more options.

July 18, 2009. Titles changed by Google.

Some sites have seen the title of their page in the SERPS replaced by the name of their company. 
Explanation from Google:

"We may choose to replace titles which are repeated on a number of pages or which otherwise appear to be suboptimal. To resolve that, it would be a good idea to make sure that the titles are unique, compelling and relevant to every page and that the important parts are visible in the first part of the title text."

And remember that the webmaster tools can identify missing or duplicated titles.

July 9, 2009. Search on images by license.

Google has added the option to search images by license agreement. We can thus retain royalty-free images reusable on our own site.
Image Search.

July 3, 2009. Search result pages simplified.

Search results now resemble Adsense ads. Plus "cache" and "similar" near the link. The size of pages, the word "page" beside similar disappeared.

June 23, 2009. URL shortened.

In results pages, the URLs are reduced by an ellipse in the form /.../ to remove sub-directories.
This highlights the name of the site and the name of the file that could contains keywords significant about the topic of the page.

June 18, 2009. Explore the Web.

A new link appears under the search field: Discovering the Web. A click displays a list of search contexts, such as that of Bing.com from Microsoft.

June 18, 2009. Google maps out its search results.

When a query includes the name of a location, the result page now displays a map of this location.

May 20, 2009. Google Suggest improved.

The suggestion list associated with the query box of the search engine is improved with the ability to include hyperlinks, which also allows to integrate advertising in the list.
Buttons are also added.

May 12, 2009. Show options and Rich Snippets.

Google.com present at top of results page a Show options link which provides a sidebar with a list of filters to refine the results by categories.

The results are also now improved with Rich Snippets. This is additional information to be provided by the webmaster (more work again!). The webmaster adds annotation in a microformat recognized by the parser (including RDF).

May 4, 2009. Information about forum threads.

At the moment, Google is testing locally the display of information on discussion forums that are displayed under the title and above snippet on one line.
The line contains the number of posts, the number of authors, the date of the last post.
The display of the date of an article, retrieved from the page is not new. To disable it, simply put two dates in the page ...

April 28, 2009. Structured Data.

Results in graphic and visual data are beginning to appear in search results.
This has been noted by TechCrunch.
This in fact is a reply to the announcement of Wolfram Alpha, the encyclopedic search engine.

April 20, 2009. Similar Images.

Research on improving images with the ability to refine a search using the "Similar Images" command . This is a link under each image displayed that allows you to repeat the search on the nearby images. Google Labs gives an example: if a search for Jaguar displays images of cats and cars, click on the command under cat image, and the search will be reduced to images of cats. Another new feature: results are organized by graphical timeline.

April 16, 2009. SiteLinks.

So far, only the first site in the list of results showed SiteLink. With the recent emergence of horizontal SiteLink, more discreet, Google now shows a line of links for each site, if elected to have SiteLink.
You have control over SiteLinks from Webmaster Tools.

April 12, 2009. Custom Search.

It spreads to all users of the search engine. Research results reflect the behavior of the user, if he clicks more often on the pages of a site or a type of site, these pages will appear in further searches at the top of the results, for himself only.

April 2, 2009. Website Links.

New horizontal SiteLinks below the snippets in results pages. Under the descriptions, there was sometimes a single site for a list of links on one or two columns. It can now be reduced to a horizontal bar.

March 24, 2009. Snippets.

Longer snippets in search result pages.

See also The Evolution of the Google's algorithm since the origin.