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Bing Search Now Delivers Anywhere From 4 to 14 Results

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Are you seeing less than 10 results in your Bing search results? There's a reason for that.

Starting last week, Bing began changing up their search engine result pages (SERPs). No longer will you always see 10 results in your search results.

With the new change, you'll likely see as few as four results. But you may see as many as 12 or 14 if you don't find what you want after navigating to a website from Bing's results and hitting the back button.

Bing: 50% of Users Click on First Result

More than 50 percent of users click on Bing's first result, according to research the company released last week. Naturally, the click-through rate goes way down quite rapidly for results in the second position or lower:

bing-click-through-rate-on-first-serp

Less than 1 percent of people click on the eighth link on the page, according to Bing's research on click-through rates. So now you might only see eight search results on Bing for some queries, rather than the typical 10.

Google has experimented with seven results on many SERPs since last summer. Through testing, others have reported other odd amounts.

Most of the time there's a reason for less results, commonly local results or expanded sitelinks. But Bing is suggesting not showing 10 links all the time.

The Back Button - A Game Changer

Bing's findings suggest that the back button plays a significant role in increasing the click-through rate on lower results. When users click on the first result but don't find what they're looking for on that page, they naturally hit the back button and return to the SERP. When this happens, click-through rates for lower positions increase by five to eight times the rate they normally would.

Bing changed the result page after a back button click in May 2012. If you clicked a high-ranking link and then clicked back to the search results, they increased the number of results from 10 to 12.

More testing and data crunching later, Bing's controlled experiments showed interesting results. Users who clicked back to a longer, 12-result page executed fewer queries per search session and Bing reduced the click-through rate to SERP pages 2 and 3 by almost 2 percent.

Do We Really Even Need 8 Results? What About 4?

Fueled by this new data, Bing wasn't finished. Dr. Ronny Kohavi, Partner Architect, Bing R&D asked more questions about user experience. Specifically, he asked, "are there cases where the click-through rates decline so quickly, that it’s not even worth showing even eight results?"

They chose a common query, [ebay]:

bing-ebay-serp

The first result, naturally for ebay.com, has six "deep links" and a search box for directly searching eBay. The click-through rate for the top link was over 75 percent.

In such a case, the decline in click-through rate from the top link down is happens so swiftly that the third result has a lower than 1 percent click-through rate, which is actually lower than the eighth result on other result pages.

As a result, Bing's experiments got more aggressive. For such searches, they only showed four results when they thought it was relevant – including instant answers or block (onebox-like results).

For such results, if a user hit the back button, they extended the results to 14 on the back click. Again, Bing's key metrics improved: pagination was reduced by 5 percent more.

Bottom Line: Dynamically Sized SERPs

Kohavi suggested this is simply the "first steps" in dynamically sizing the search results pages. They describe the steps as "small" while Bing continues to research if and when they will extend the number of search results.

One thing is certain, as Bing continues to slowly gain search market share and they will continue to test and "challenge the status quo," according to their recent blog post.

So if you've been seeing varying numbers of results on Bing, now you know why.

Have you noticed Bing delivering different numbers of results lately? What do you think of this move?


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