How to Deal With Google Search Results Page Changes

Google is always the elephant in the room when we’re talking about the success or failure of our websites.

Any changes the behemoth makes are studied, scrutinized and discussed, ad nauseam, so I was more than a little interested when my Google search results screen looked slightly different.

At first I wondered if it was just my imagination, or some update to my browser, but after a little research I found that Google is in the process of tweaking how it displays search results and ads.

The changes have implications for your SEO habits, so let’s take a quick look at the Google search results page changes and then a little broader look at how you can make your web pages perform their best when they are displayed on Google search engine result pages (SERPs).

Google Redoes its Living Room

So far the changes Google has made are like a family moving the living room furniture around on the weekend, clearing out some of the tchotchkes on the mantle and changing the paint color on the accent wall. Here are the changes you’ll probably notice:

  • Webpage titles are in a larger font size with more kerning (space between letters).
  • The blue is bluer.
  • Webpage titles are no longer underlined.
  • The green URL under the webpage title is in a smaller font than before.

If you run ads on Google, you’ll find that they are no longer on a pale pink or yellow background. They look more like regular search results with an “Ad” label right before the green URL.

Should We Care?

While these tweaks won’t unleash an SEO tsunami like changes to the Google search algorithm such as the Penguin and Panda have in the past, they should make you more careful about how you title your pages. For a long time the rule has been to limit titles to 70 characters. However, even that rule wasn’t ideal. It couldn’t guarantee that your full title will be displayed in Google SERPs.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve found that sticking to titles that use 65 or fewer characters is much safer. However, with the new font that gives more space between letters, it’s probably a good idea to back off a couple of letters from that.

And since we’re on the subject of webpage titles—which along with the meta description make up the “snippet” that appears in SERPs—let’s review some information and principles that can help you pump additional power into those potentially magic little strings of words.

First, when you title a webpage and write its description, consider what is motivating the person who you want to find your page. Is there an “action” that person is getting ready to make? This is often the case, so you want the snippet that shows up in SERPs to in some way be a “call to action.”

Words, Words, Words

In an article on QuickSprout, Neil Patel took a look at 63 Google Webmaster Tool accounts to discover the words that resulted in the highest clickthrough rates. He pulled together this “Top 10” list”:

  • How to
  • List-related numbers
  • Free
  • You
  • Tips
  • Blog post
  • Why
  • Best
  • Tricks
  • Great

You can see that many of these satisfy a basic human need and I want to highlight one for you before we close this out: the use of the word “you.” Whether it’s writing for the web or a direct mail piece, you’ll always get the best results when you speak directly to the person who is reading what you have written.

If you think you might have some webpage titles that are bumping up against Google’s upper limit for length, now would be a good time to review them and also look over your most important pages in light of this word list.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Photo credit: By Nyshita talluri (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
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