January 13 2020 Google Favicon and Desktop Search Result Layout Change

On January 13, 2020, Google changed the way search results are displayed on desktop. Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) now display a favicon, it is more difficult to tell what’s an Ad, and, URLs and page titles have swapped places.

Note: After an uproar, Google is not sticking with the changes mentioned below. We’ll update this article when something is finalized on their end.

Google has been testing this a while. We first spotted the test on desktop on October 7, 2019, and the change came to mobile search results back on May 22, 2019.

Here’s what the old layout looks like vs the new layout on mobile:

old vs new SERP layout

I’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of reactions. Nearly everyone describes the change as hideous, hostile, ugly, annoying, deceptive, confusing or just plain sh*t. IT departments are even getting calls with users wondering if their browser is hijacked or infected.

Deceptive ad placement?

The real reason behind rolling out an update which makes the user experience less pleasant, however, is to get people to click on more ads, if you ask me (or TechCrunch or thousands of other SEOs). Google claims it is to help people better understand what they’re clicking on… However, I have yet to meet anyone who agrees with this.

I found this neat history online of what Google Ads have looked like over the years, and you don’t exactly have to be a genius to figure out that Google is going a certain direction with the ads:

And here’s the new 2020 Ad look:

That said, Google is still far better about labeling their advertisements than most search engines (yes, there are other search engines out there – boohoo or ding or something like that).

Click through rate:

This rolled out the exact same time the Google January 13 2020 Google Core Algorithm Update rolled out, so it’s going to be difficult to determine if CTR has changed along with the new layout. However, if your Google Ads performance ticks up a few notches, it is likely due to people clicking more ads.

If you like or dislike the new design or have any specific concerns please feel free to comment below!

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