Google experiments with new desktop SERP layout

Yesterday, while indulging in my daily spot of ego-surfing very important research, I was surprised to find Google offering me a completely new layout.

It seems Google is once again experimenting with a card-based SERP for desktop, where each result is placed in its own separated box like you would normally see on a mobile search.

This is the search for an album review I recently published…

card search UI

These cards appear all the way down the page…

card search UI

Assuming this may just be a one-off, or specific to ‘reviews’, I then searched for my very favourite query…

card search UI

All the results are ‘carded’ once again, with News results given their own specific area.

I also tried a local search for ‘london steak restaurants’…steak restaurants london   Google Search

Not only are the results in card-form, but Google is showing a local three-pack here, rather than the two-pack its been experimenting with recently.

There are a few interesting things to note in this experiment…

  • The number of results (11 plus News results) on the new layout is exactly the same as the ’standard’ layout.
  • The snippet width is significantly longer on the card-based SERP. There are roughly 20 extra characters here than on the standard width.
  • On mobile there’s grey shading between the cards to add further delineation, this is missing on the desktop version.
  • After a flurry of searches, I am no longer being served the new look SERP :(

The timing is interesting…

Just a few days ago, Google’s core algorithm experienced significant turbulence, which led many experts to believe a change is coming.

Google has also recently been testing another desktop UI variation, by increasing the spacing between results. According to The SEM Post the test gives a much cleaner look with more white space, but it also means that results get pushed further down the page.

bottom-test

However it should be noted that Google has experimented with this card-based layout before. Way back in 2013 it underwent testing, but shortly disappeared soon after. It then appeared again earlier this year in May.

Although neither test led to a roll-out, there’s clearly a reason why it keeps coming back. It does make for a cleaner SERP, with results feeling neater and better organised. And perhaps Google persists with the test because it would make its desktop and mobile UI consistent.

Maybe in a year’s time we’ll know the winner in the battle of ’more space’ vs. ‘cards’. Or maybe we’ll be staring at something completely different…

Personally my fingers are crossed for results appearing one-at-a-time on screen via increasingly elaborate star-wipes.

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