Dossier 4.2 – SERP Conditioning

Is Google training users to view the SERPs a certain way? And if so, for what purpose? Ben Goodsell explores this idea in his article from Dossier 4.2. Watch as he recaps his research in the video below.

Just follow this link to download the full Dossier 4.2.


Ben Goodsell: Welcome. Thanks for joining us for another video on RKG Blog. My name is Ben Goodsell, and I'm Senior Search Analyst here at RKG. I'm going to be talking about an article that I wrote for the Dossier that's available for download, and the topic is called "SERP Conditioning."

SERP conditioning is a made-up word. It's used to describe a web design change that Google made back in November of last year. It's largely gone unnoticed. It's interesting to think about the change that was made and how it affects searchers.

So this web design was, we believe, actually created to change the behavior of users. What happened in the web design is they scooted the search results over to the left and took the search options and put it into a horizontal bar across the top of the search results. This gave room to another area of the new SERP design that we're calling the feature area. And in this feature area, they're pulling in some superior Google technologies, Knowledge Graph, Google maps, and product listing ads.

The idea behind this SERP conditioning has to do with user intent. So if a searcher were to search something with local intent, they're going to pull in their Google maps technology and information from that. If a searcher were to search an informational query, they're going to pull in the Knowledge Graph. And finally, and ironically or coincidentally maybe, if someone were to search with commercial intent, they're going to pull in their product listing ads.

So because informational queries and queries with local intent make up a large percentage of queries, users are looking to the feature area for information that's relevant to them, and it's a behavioral thing, a habitual thing over time. Once the particular searcher decides to search something commercial or looking for something to buy, because that shows up, product listing ads are showing up in that feature area, the user's already conditioned to look there and to find relevant information, and Google makes money off that real estate that they have there in their feature area.

So here at RKG we're keeping an eye on this trend to see if that gains traction for Google and looking for other things that Google's doing. But one thing is for sure, Google is looking to find multiple ways to get their fair share of organic clicks.

So thanks for listening. Keep an eye out for additional videos. And you can check out our Dossier for download to get the full scoop of SERP conditioning.