Travel back in time with me…

Five short years ago, the typical SERP (search engine results page) looked much different. I have an archive of old screenshots of SERPs, so this is going to be fun. Just glancing at these make the big SEO trends obvious.

In 2014, if you searched for “lead generation websites” this is what you found.

Feeling nostalgic? There’s the old Google logo. But what else is different about this page?

  • The ads are more prominent
    The little icon next to each ad was bright yellow. There was even a line that separated the ads from the organic rankings. And there were all those ads on the right rail.
  • The top organic listing is about 450 pixels down
    Assuming the average fold for desktop users is at 700 pixels, three organic listings are visible without scrolling.
  • I’m ranking #4
    That puts me 800 pixels down the page. We’ll come back to this.

Now let’s look at that same search today, in 2019.

Huge changes. And they highlight the big SEO trends:

  • Fewer, but sneakier ads
    There are four ads visible here, not 12. That’s fewer, right? Not exactly, if you count the sitelinks under the ads, there are 11 links. So the number of links to advertisers is still high. And the ad icon is much less prominent. It blends in. The ads look more like organic listings, more native.
  • Star reviews
    One of the advertisers has stars.
  • A giant featured snippet
    It’s big and it’s at the top. It combines the text from one page and the image from another. It gives enough value that the searcher may be satisfied. No need to click.
  • Related questions
    “People also ask” gives the searcher more opportunity to interact and get info without leaving the SERP. And it pushes down the organic listings…
  • The top organic listing is 2600 pixels down
    Definitely not above the fold.
  • I’m ranking #6
    That’s two spots lower. Not a big change. But the actual position? It’s 3000+ pixels farther down the page.

The ranking changed a little (from #4 to #6) but the placement changed a lot. The listing is 800 pixels deep versus 3900 pixels deep.