What it is: Beginning in August 2012, for some keyword searches Google began serving seven organic listings on the first page of its search engine results pages (SERPs) instead of the standard 10 listings. For example, if you Google the blog name Search Engine Land, you'll likely see only seven results on the first page. The same thing happens when you look up CIO.com.
In a random sampling of 26,000 brand keywords across industries, 95% of keywords with only seven results had a top result that contained sitelinks, according to enterprise SEO platform BrightEdge. Sitelinks are links that point to internal pages on a website. For instance, the No. 1 result for the query Search Engine Land is that blog's home page, with six indented sitelinks underneath the top result, as seen below. Same goes for CIO.com.
Sitelinks point to a website's internal pages. A Google SERP page may only display seven results, but sitelinks will provide additional links.
As a result, "you can expect that all branded keywords-for you and your competition-will now have seven link results," according to Jim Yu, BrightEdge CEO and founder.
Google's goal: Ever the speed demon, Google is likely trying to answer queries even faster by serving up seven results instead of 10, says Meyers. Given that the top result in these instances also has six sitelinks, however, Google is still matching the user's query with a lot of links.
What you should do: Be aware of the big potential downside to Google's seven-results-only pages. If your site's most highly ranked page for an important keyword lands at No. 8 or 9, that page may now end up on the second SERP for that keyword, Meyers says. This could cause your site to lose traffic, as one well-known study found that 93% of search engine users don't bother venturing past Google's first SERP.
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"Pay attention and don't take anything for granted," Meyers advises. "Don't just look at your ranking software tools to see how you're doing. They might tell you you're no. 8, but they won't tell you if no. 8 is on the first or second page of Google results."