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June 11, 2011

Google Experiments with Removing URLs from Search Results Listings

Google tests a new feature that replaces the URL with the site's name in search results snippets. David, who noticed this change, says that he searched for [madvertise] and "most of the results looked normal, with the website title, snippet and URL. However, two search results displayed the website name instead of the URL. In the attached screenshot, the 6th and 7th results show 'LinkedIn' and 'Facebook' respectively, in the place where the URL should be."


Google has always tried to make search results listings more useful, but replacing the address with the site's name doesn't add value and draws unnecessary attention to the results from a list of hand-picked popular sites.

{ Thanks, David. }

32 comments:

  1. "replacing the address with the site's name doesn't add value"

    Doesn't add value? Google's a little particular about optimization - and this (slightly) reduces the response size, and allows more results to be visibly on a page for users (since each result is now 3 lines instead of 4).

    As for drawing attention, I didn't even notice it in my search results until I read this post.

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  2. efficiently for result search...
    interest feature....
    go go go google \m/

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  3. I often use the URL to determine which search result is right for my query.

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  4. I believe they should do this for every result if possible, maybe support og:site_name or sth. Displaying the url isn't necessary, you can always hover over the result if you need to check it. And it could encourage site owners to avoid putting their site's name and description and keywords on every single page title.

    In fact, I believe Google should display the site's name this way _only_ for sites that don't already plaster their name all over my search results. It's obvious, even in that single displayed example, that anything else is redundant, Facebook here, Facebook there, yes it's a result from Facebook, we get it Google.

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  5. Bad idea. The URL is another way to validate that I'm going where I think I am. Just because the site is large and trusted doesn't mean it's the correct page on that site. If you're going to do that, put it up, unlinked in front of the title on line 1 and put cached after description and eliminate a line.

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  6. @James You can still verify on a PC - the status bar usually identifies the URL on mouseover.

    If you're on a phone or something else, you're probably using things like t.co, bit.ly or goo.gl and already aren't paying attention on where you're going :-/

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  7. Makes sense, I think. If the cursor hovers over the link title, the status bar will display the URL.

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  8. I guess the decision remove URLs was done in defense MS Bing stealing the results through IE. Mobile optimization is not valid, since it's been applied to desktop result listings as well.

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  9. Back to the Future? Sounds like Google would like *Uniform* Resource Locators (URLs) to be replaced with Google (AOL?) Keywords. Made me laugh.

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  10. @Tom O: "this (slightly) reduces the response size"
    Yeah, 20 bytes per result or so. And not all results are such well known websites (like Facebook or LinkedIn) so not all search results will have this. Even if you had only results from facebook, you would save 200 bytes. Now that's a sure improvement, nowadays even the slowest type of mobile connection (GPRS) is multiple thousand bytes per second.

    Generally, I don't like this. I want to see the URL, not have to hover over every single search result to display it in the bottom of my screen. I just don't see the use of it.

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  11. The value it adds is it helps people not be scammed by facebook.com.somedodgysite.cn because they learn to trust Google's named result and pay extra care to URLs.

    The downside is it's another step towards a two tier web where there are Google-approved sites and non-approved sites.

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  12. I often scan the search result list to see where the urls are pointing to evaluate the sources. This would be a huge inconvenience.

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  13. I think it's a great idea. Put site names for valid sites. Helps weed out imitators.

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  14. "a list of hand-picked popular sites"

    how do you know they're hand picked? I'd bet they're selected algorithmically.

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  15. Give users the option of showing the URLs or not showing them in search results. I prefer to see them, so I don't want to lose this functionality.

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  16. Very bad idea.

    The idea is to make it harder for folks to navigate to sites sub-URLs and other documents, therefore they have to spend more money on Adwords to get exposure.

    Google is Evil, IMO.

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  17. Among other reasons, this would serve google's desires to track where people go from a search result page. It would make it terribly inconvenient to get hold of a clean URL, without the tracking wrapper goo.

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  18. I think this is a pretty bad idea. I look at the url a lot to ensure that this is the place that i want to be navigating to. The URL tells me a lot of information without me going inside the link to peek. Besides, it also allows me to quickly copy the link location and also it is much easier to see it there than to see it at the the status bar.

    The status bar is too short to list out longer URLs. Would be happy if Google just let the URL be for the time being.

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  19. Hi everybody,
    I see a new feature / test where Google displays both the site name and the destination url, separated by a dash.

    E.g.
    Title
    Description
    Site name - urlofthepage

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  20. There are always some experimentation of search results across the different data centers.

    I have seen rusluts lately where the URL is right between the blue headline and the black text is belowe. I think they are trying to test what works best towards reaching their CTR goals.

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  21. Has anyone pointed out that the two sites mentioned as appearing URL-free -- Facebook and Linkedin -- have one thing in common: they're enormous social networks?

    If there's no evidence that Google is experimenting with removing other URLs, this could suggest Google is using social data to identify a company's canonical page on those networks. The lack of a URL in this case indicates that Google thinks it's found a definitive answer to what [facebook] has to say about [madvertise].

    I like this idea: if Google is confident about its results here, it looks as though it's working towards a proper disambiguation of names. Here's my hope: first companies, then people.

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  22. @Mark: yesterday, in Italy, I saw a variation of this test. Google was displaying both the site name and the destination url (separated by a comma). I've made some queries and found that this feature was shown for these websites: Google, Yahoo, Bing, Apple, Wikipedia, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Myspace, Linkedin, Tumblr. So, not only for social networks, but also for "trusted sites". The feature didn't appear for FriendFeed and Quora.
    You can see a screenshot here: http://www.riccardoperini.com/google-serp-nome-sito-url.php

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  23. How is this going to effect SEO relevancy, with this change does the relevancy of having keyword in the URL extension would take a backseat?

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  24. Hope these will remain in EXPERIMENT stage.

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  25. It's looking better in fact. More clean regarding the facts that some web pages have really long URL's.

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  26. People don't care about the URL. They really only care that what they are looking at is the topic they want to read about.

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  27. I would hate to lose the URL in my search results to be honest. We saw something similar to this about a month ago, although not as drastic where Google took the URL and moved it to the top of the search results. I didn't mind that, but this would be bad. http://www.newepicmedia.com/news/google-search-results-experiment

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  28. Keep the URL. Some sites have almost identical descriptions, but not the same URL.

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  29. I also look at the URL in the results to validate where I'm going. It's more quicker and more convenient than having to hover and scan the status bar. Another bad Google change (have they fixed the broken Image Search yet?).

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  30. If the addresses are removed permanently we will go to firefox. AVG can not notify you if the site is infected and we use the URL to keep away from sites like ASK.com which actually yeild not resutlts and waste our time.

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  31. Someone above said "people don't care about the URL." I beg to differ. As search engines gain longevity, searchers are becoming more experienced and search savvy. More people than ever would be considered "power searchers."

    Even as a standard searcher not an SEO, I use the URL below the results as an indicator of whether the page is relevant to my query. I don't like downloading PDFs to get tiny pieces of information, and that URL helped me see that quickly when they come up in the SERPs.

    Someone above also said that it may be for ginormous social networks or other hugely branded sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. If that's the case, I could probably live with the URL not being displayed. But for every site ever, I think there's a huge margin for error and it's less user-friendly.

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  32. I honestly prefer seeing the URL in the results, it saves time.

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