Google’s search results have become more diversified during recent years. Not only is Google getting better at distinguishing different meanings for the same searches (for example two famous people who share the same name) and displaying a mix of results that gives info on both. It has also been showing video results, images and news results, directly into the search results page (SERP) for some while, called “universal search”.
6,7,8,9 and 10 results pages
Though these non-text results (bar video results such as YouTube) used to be counted as “extra” results, leading pages to have 11-12 results on the first page, Google is now counting images and the Google News box as a separate result. This results in showing pages with sometimes only 8 “real/normal” results (coupled with a line of images and a news box), when this used to be 10 “real/normal results”, coupled with a line of images and a news box; thus effectively shrinking the first page for many queries. For searches for big brands, it has already been showing a “7 results page” for a while. But now it also counts the pictures as “real” results, often leading to pages with 6 text results and 1 line of pictures. Resulting in SERP’s of 6-10 results, and a great diversity in the type of results shown. The image on the right show the results for the query “cold stone creamery”(https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=cold+stone+creamery&pws=0) and shows a 7-results SERP, with a line of images and thus incorporating only 6 text results.
Hummingbird and better understanding of user intent
The move could have to do with the increasing use of mobile devices, on which typically it is less convenient to display more results, and a belief in the increasing importance of images and news results. Coupled with the increased possibilities of determining the real “user intent” (Hummingbird), Google is now confident enough to show only 8-9 text results, that will still give the user the information he or she is looking for, but with less clutter.
For SEO’s this means that it will now be a bit harder to get your client on the magical first page in Google, because generally there are now less spots to compete for. Howevever, for those involved in reputation management (as we are) it makes life a bit easier, by needing one neutral/positive results less to clean-up the first page in Google