Google Discontinues Continuous Scroll in SERPs: What It Signifies

  • June 25, 2024
  • SEO
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Google has announced the discontinuation of continuous scrolling in its search engine results pages (SERPs), citing a desire to accelerate the delivery of search results. This revelation has sparked considerable debate and skepticism among members of the search marketing community. It prompts the question: what is the underlying motivation for this change?

Understanding Continuous Scroll in Search Results

Infinite scroll, a feature that gained popularity through social media, facilitates endless content discovery by allowing users to navigate without intent or direction. In 2021, Google integrated Continuous Scrolling into mobile search results, displaying the equivalent of up to four pages of web results before prompting users to click a link for more content. This change was widely welcomed by site owners and search marketers, who saw it as an opportunity for greater visibility.

Termination of Continuous Scroll

Recently, The Verge reported that Google plans to eliminate continuous scrolling to enhance the speed at which search results are served. This transition will first take place on desktop search results, followed by a subsequent update to mobile search results.

The Verge reported:

“In its place on desktop will be Google’s classic pagination bar, allowing users to jump to a specific page of search results or simply click ‘Next’ to see the next page. On mobile, a ‘More results’ button will be shown at the bottom of a search to load the next page.”

Assessing the Real Impact

While Google contends that the change is intended to facilitate faster search results, many in the search marketing community remain dubious. Recent disclosures from the U.S. Department of Justice revealed internal emails suggesting that Google’s executives have contemplated ways to increase the presence of advertisements in search results.

Brett Tabke, founder of the Pubcon search marketing conference and originator of the acronym SERPs, weighed in on the change:

“This effectively consolidates more clicks on the first page, which will likely increase the percentage of clicks directed towards Ads and Google properties. It suggests that Google is transitioning towards a new version of a portal, moving away from traditional search. Organic search results may gradually shift to the second page and, eventually, to a different domain.

Google’s first-page search results might soon comprise:

  • Google Ads
  • Google property links
  • Google Overviews
  • A link to the second page

In essence, they aim to answer most general inquiries with their own resources, resorting to ‘people also ask’ segments that cycle back to SERPs dominated by their properties.”

Brett’s viewpoint is echoed by others in the community.

Skeptical reactions abound on social media platform X (formerly Twitter), with many sharing their doubts about Google’s motives.

One user tweeted:

“I wouldn’t be shocked if it was negatively impacting bottom-of-the-page and top-of-page-2 ad clicks.”

Another user tweeted:

“Why not just show one page with Google AI, Reddit, and the usual suspects? Who clicks on page 2 anyway?”

An anonymous account known as “Google Honesty” delivered a more biting critique:

The account tweeted:

“Continuous scroll allows everyone to be on page one. We prefer to demoralize users. It’s far more humiliating to be on page six. Pagination in search serves this purpose.”

Balancing Perspectives

Amidst the skepticism, there are those who see merit in the discontinuation of continuous scrolling. Kevin Indig has expressed a perspective that continuous scrolling is not an ideal solution for all contexts.

Kevin tweeted:

“Paginated SERPs are back! In my experience, continuous scroll is a subpar solution for many websites.”

While continuous scrolling is effective for social media platforms, where aimless browsing is common, it may not suit contexts requiring purposeful navigation, such as e-commerce or informational sites. Infinite scrolling can detract from user experience and raise challenges for SEO initiatives.

Thus, it would have perhaps resonated better if Google had framed the explanation around user experience inadequacies rather than technical performance. Their chosen narrative, perceived as self-serving, has not been well received.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Ljupco Smokovski

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