Over the last week, we at Seperia– along with many in the digital marketing industry- have witnessed a sudden reduction in the number of video snippets appearing on the Google SERP. This spurred a lot of discussion in the industry, with several assumptions as to why this change has occurred. Clearly, such a major change will impact the CTR of various rankings.
As there is still no official word on the matter from Google, and we don’t expect a definitive explanation any time soon, we will take a look at some of the possibilities and implications.
Whilst we had noticed the SERP change across many different search queries, we decided to test this change using a relatively popular and well known search query, ‘ellentv’.
On July 15, the search query ‘ellentv’ resulted in 4 results with video snippets on the first SERP.
On July 17, just after the drop in video results was first reported, the same search still resulted in fewer video results (2 video snippet results).
But a search today (July 24), resulted in no video snippets appearing on the SERP.
What we can say for sure though is that of the snippets that do appear on the SERP, the vast majority of them are hosted by YouTube (Image courtesy of Casey Henry, wistia.com).
Interestingly, the reduction of video snippets comes hot off the heels of the announcement from Google in late June that authorship photos were being permanently removed from the Google SERP. The removal of these rich snippets, according to Google’s Webmaster Trend Analyst John Mueller, was designed to “clean up the visual design of our search results, in particular creating a better mobile experience and a more consistent design across devices.”
According to Fast Company, Jon Wiley, head of Google search, also maintains that too many small features can cause issues, and Google needs to draw the line before those issues outweigh the benefits of a feature. Whilst the SERP may be more visually appealing without the clutter, studies carried out during this time had actually shown that such visual content increased CTR, at least on desktops.
Due to the similarities between these rich snippets and their impact on CTR, many assumed video snippets would follow suit and be completely removed from search results. However, as Jennifer Pegg from TheSEMPost wrote, a Google spokesperson has reassured Google will, “… continue to show video snippets where it’s most relevant.” This ambiguous statement however, begs to question if Google has in fact tightened or altered its definition of relevancy?
As was accused of Google following the authorship photo removal, another possible explanation for video snippet reduction is that Google wants users’ clicks to return to paid ads. The attention and expected click of the user is more likely to fall on organic results when relevant photos, videos and other rich snippets are present. Although this speculation is yet to be substantiated, it is a highly popular one amongst bloggers and SEO professionals.
Michal Bitton Nassimian, Director of Optimization Services at Seperia, doesn’t buy into these theories. Instead she believes the recent changes are the result of the Google Organic Search Department’s internal experiments that could have shown a weakened link between SERP video snippets and increased CTR.
This could be connected to the overuse of video snippets in search results. With the majority of search results showing video snippets, there was likely little impact on CTR as differentiation between results was reduced. Michal also believes that with the overuse of video snippets, Google may have been concerned that the SERP was, “beginning to resemble a video search engine and not a universal one,” (as was the case when authorship photos were removed).
While we still don’t have the exact word from Google as to why these changes have occurred, we can now confirm that this change is here to stay. John Mueller has given us the final word for now (Jul 21): “They’re not going away, we’re still showing them, but you might see changes in how & when we show them (and seeing changes in search is normal).”
Michal warns that in the midst of this speculation, it is imperative to still include video content and video tags, and recommends using schema.org HTML markup in your on-page optimization strategy. Schema.org was an initiative of leading search engines including Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex. It offers a set of HTML markup tags, which enable search engines and users alike to understand the meaning of the information presented on web pages. This way the display of search results improves, making it easier for users to find relevant webpages.
Michal is advising clients to continue the implementation of video and other rich visuals within their websites as this content still enhances overall user experience. She also reminds us that even though video snippets have been reduced on the SERP, Google’s algorithm still relies on video tags and other rich content when indexing a webpage. Michal also explains that the implementation of video content to a webpage is not highly complex and is therefore worthwhile to continue investing in.
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