Google is making changes to how it displays search results on mobile. The alterations (which you may notice immediately if you do a quick Google search on your smartphone now) make it easier to identify the website associated with each URL. Below we look at the changes and how the will impact the SEO of websites.

Google Results Layout Changes

Google has made two significant changes to website results in its search engine results pages (SERPs).

  • Site name position: Before the changes, Google displayed title tags along with the URL. Now, the site name and URL appear on top of the main page URL in the snippet.
  • Favicon position: The favicon, a small branded icon that immediately identifies sites, now appears to the left of the site name and to the left and above the URL.

By including the site name, Google believes that the changes will make SERPs pages more recognisable. Users can instantly see the brand behind the site plus a recognisable logo, increasing trust and reducing the risk of clicking on the wrong site accidentally.

Keen observers will notice that the size and shape of the favicon are different from before. Google engineers made it significantly bigger and more prominent, making it easier to see on mobile devices.

According to Google, site icons help to “anchor” each result. Users can more easily “scan the page of results and decide what to explore next,” according to the firm.

New Google Documentation

In line with these changes, Google has also updated its favicon documentation. The search giant requires that domains only have one favicon and that both it and the underlying file are crawlable. It also requires that favicons are at least 48x48px and representative of the organisation’s brand. Any URL must be stable, and Google says that it won’t display any favicons that are “inappropriate.”

Google has new documentation telling webmasters how to react and adapt to the changes. Site owners need to provide the search giant with structured data, including the name of the site.

Google, though, says that it won’t give webmasters carte blanche. It will also use other methods to determine the correct name for the site if it believes that the initial submission is incorrect or misleading.

Site names, Google confirms, are different from the per-page title links (the main blue-font results in search). English, French, German and Japanese site name options are now available. The search giant says that it will roll out more languages over the coming weeks and months.

Does The New System Work?

According to an investigation by Search Engine Journal, the new approach doesn’t always work as intended and appears to be sensitive to the chosen keyword. For instance, typing in “HubSpot” shows the old version of the result, while searching for “Hub Spot” with a space in the middle yields the new format.

For those who aren’t happy about the changes, Google is accepting feedback. Users can leave comments about the general experience of the new format or leave more individualised comments.