Google Replaces URLs with Site Names on SERPs (In Test)

Would this really be an improvement in any way?

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Google is testing a feature in its search results pages that replaces the URL in a result’s snippet with the name of the site on which it appears. So, for example, a WebProNews article titled “Netflix Redesign Rubs Many Users the Wrong Way,” which has a URL that looks like this: www.webpronews.com/netflix-redesign-2011-06, would just display WebProNews instead of the URL.

This was first reported by Alex Chitu at Google Operating System, working off a tip from David from Making Money with Android. It appears that even within the test, you users aren’t seeing this happen for every result.

According to Chitu, “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.'”

Google No URLs in snippets

Image credit: Google Operating System

We’re still waiting to hear back from Google on plans for this feature and/or the extent of its testing.

As a user, I’m not sure this change would be an improvement. If you can see the domain name, you can tell what the site is, and sometimes the structure of the URL itself can give you an idea of what kind of page you’re actually going to be landing on, particularly if the result comes from a site that you’re familiar with.

I’ll be surprised if Google turns this into the norm for all search results, but it will be interesting to see if they roll it out on a broader basis .

It’s clear that as a general rule, people will complain when sites are redesigned. Some redesigns draw more criticism than others, and this would be just a minor adjustment to Google’s current design (which was broadly redesigned in the last year or two, and to plenty of criticism). Still, I can’t say I’ve ever seen anybody complain that Google shows URLs in search results, and I’d bet that some will complain if they’re removed.

What do you think? Should Google change the URLs to site names?

Update: A reader points to a similar test in Italy, where Google is testing both the URL and the site name together, which makes more sense in my opinion. Read the comments below.

Google Replaces URLs with Site Names on SERPs (In Test)
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  • http://bottomlineibc.com/ Dave Baldwin

    I really don’t see the value in that. Personally, I like to be able to highlight the green URL’s in the SERP’s when the direct link doesn’t take me where I want to go. How is this supposed to add value for the end user? Sometimes I really think Google loses sight of that.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Yeah, I agree on the lack of value for this particular feature, but then again, it is just a test. There’s no indications so far that this will become a real feature.

  • http://www.riccardoperini.com/ Riccardo Perini

    Hi Chris,
    today, in Italy, I noticed this new feature/test, but with a little difference. In my SERP Google is displaying both the site name and the destination url under the search result’s description. In this case, adding the site name to the destination url can be an useful improvement.
    You can see a screenshot here: http://www.riccardoperini.com/google-serp-nome-sito-url.php
    What do you think about it?

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Interesting. This is definitely an improvement over the one described in the article. I can see this being a minor improvement in general, as it provides the best of both worlds. The site names could cater to quickly glancing at the results to spot trusted sources, while leaving the URLs in tact could help users benefit from viewing the structure.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com Nick Stamoulis

    I think that having the full URL adds a trust value to the search results. When I search for something, I want to be pretty sure that the link I click on is the one I want and it is going to take me where I want to go. Just having the site name takes away from that.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Agreed. Having the name and URL is not so bad though.

  • Adsense Publisher

    I think Google plays the “let’s see what happens” game too much. I wouldn’t mind it much if Google gave people options instead of forcing things upon them.

  • Harry Flowers

    Very bad idea.

    Google wants to make it harder to navigate, by not being able to see/remember the exact URL, so that users have to use Google instead of site’s URLs.

    This also means more chance of spending on Google Adwords to get the name out there.

    Google is evil, IMO.

    • Adsense Publisher

      I couldn’t agree more. I think they’re doing this more for the advertising than anything else. Anything to make people either want to or at least feel they don’t have a choice, but to advertise. It’s not about “quality”, it’s about mixing things up more frequently and disturbing the relevancy so much so that nobody really ranks for very long for anything and that makes everybody feel like they must advertise or be left in the dust. It’s not about sharing the wealth and prospering together, it’s about making you think you have a chance to make some of the pie.

  • http://thewebsensesolution.com Jon

    I think this can be taken advantage of in a negative way, resulting in deceiving users to mistakenly visit sites they did not intend to go to.

  • http://www.truephotographyweddings.com Carlos

    This has been going on for a while. As you can see, social media sites are taken in full for URLs and not taking long URLs since it is already displaying in first result.

  • http://couponsophy.com/ Couponsophy

    I agree with the above commenters who believe Google is doing this to increase ad revenue. Google is an ad network, the search engine is simply the value content that give people a reason to go to google.com.

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