Google Testing Another Change to its SERPS: The Removal of URLs in Organic Search

By Sal Commisso / November 25, 2019 / Search Engine Optimization

It looks like Google is currently testing a new and fairly significant change to its Search Engines Results Pages (SERPs), although there was no official announcement yet: it is no longer showing URLs for organic search results on the SERP.

Instead, Google is replacing the URLs from each organic result with the website name or the brand name the website represents.

The change was first reported by Reddit user LopsidedNinja in the bigseo subreddit, (an awesome resource for SEO news, btw).

Instead of showing the shortened URL as it did previously, Google only shows the name of the website.

Google search results page for mortgages with URLs

Other users in the above-mentioned bigseo subreddit thread seem to have noticed the change as well, indicating the change is a test that has been rolled out to a small number of users and since gradually increased.

Google consistently makes small changes and tweaks the search results. And more often than not, the change ends after a short trial period. Since this change first came to light, it has not gone away but has also not become much more widespread. It appears Google is still trying to gather more information on how the update is affecting users’ usage of the search engine.

While removing URLs has the potential to make users less biased based on where the content is coming from, it also allows phishing sites to become more prevalent. You can usually tell whether a website is legit or not by its URL. It would take a lot of work on Google’s end to make sure phishing or spam sites do not end up as top results for high volume keywords.

On the other side, there are still some advantages.

For example, businesses with less appealing URLs could have a better chance on Google. Just because a business can’t afford to purchase the best URL possible for its specific niche, doesn’t mean their product is necessarily worse. The removal of URLs might make users keener to click on the website that has the best Title Tag and Meta Description, but not necessarily the most intriguing URL.

The owner of plants.com may not have the best quality plants or the fastest shipping, but users may believe they do because of the URL.

In my opinion, this not an ideal change coming from Google.

Users will not gain anything by removing URLs from SERPs, so therefore in my mind, it is a completely unnecessary change.

In terms of how we optimize websites, it shouldn’t change very much other than making it a bit easier for newer domains to rank.

For me, URLs are quite an important factor when deciding whether not to click on a search result. This is due to the fact that I want to know exactly where I’m going before I get there.

So, while I understand that Google wants to make the internet less biased and a bit cleaner, this is not the way to get it done.