What does infinite scroll search results mean for SEO?

Will infinite scroll affect the way we search?

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You may have noticed or seen recently a change to the way search rankings have been displayed on Google for mobile search users. Instead of the usual page 1 ,2, 3 etc that we have all become accustomed and use to,  there has simply been appearing a “more results” button which when clicked, provides an endless stream of results without breaking them down by page. This is known as infinite scrolling and has been reported as something as a test by Google on mobile devices in recent weeks.

In traditional cases of various trials Google has undertaken with its search results pages, the term ‘test’ has generally become accepted to mean two different things:

EITHER) Something which is very very localised and tried in the smallest number of cases overall.

OR) A wider trial which is likely to show up consistently for many people.

From reports and commentaries we have seen, this latest test has been by far a case of the latter as there has been much talk, analysis and speculation of what this might actually mean in practice. As with any previous test which has been conducted, it can only be concluded that this was a short term experience to gauge user feedback and see whether there is an appetite to bring this out permanently to everyone.

Thus far, the change has only appeared on mobile devices and it is interesting to try and read the minds of why this has been done. We know there has been a raft of difference changes and development targeted to mobile search lately, and we also know that mobile search has outstripped desktop search for some time.

In light of that, this could be seen as one of two things:

  • It is just a logical progression to develop this area further.
  • It is a sign that further sweeping changes are likely to be occurring just like those that have occurred in the recent past.

After considering the above, there is the mobile v desktop way of looking at this question too. Despite desktop searches being down against mobile it is foolish to think it is dead. If mobile search results were displayed differently then surely desktop searches would need to follow suit? There are arguments for and against that but we are all aware the search experience on a phone is different to at a computer – the screen is much bigger for a start. Would people take too kindly to streams of results in that example? We can imagine a mixed reception to this also.

There is then the wider and main question – perhaps what we are all thinking in the back of our minds following this test. We all think about organic rankings and the ultimate aim of appearing on page 1 of Google and the statistics that seem to be engraved in everyone’s mind that 90% of people don’t look past page 1 in search. If such a change like this happened would the whole search industry be revolutionised in an armageddon type way, or would it simply make little difference?

Potentially what is meant by ranking on page one could be completely different. Seemingly a never ending stream of results is much more likely to bring other returns (and yes competitors) into play. Some would say that even if this change were to happen the top results would remain the top and therefore a ‘page divider’ doesn’t really count for much anyway. But does it? Being page 1 is coveted but increasingly this appears to have been eroded away with appearance of more paid ads, snippets etc.

Would you miss page 1 or more importantly perhaps, appearing on it?

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