Webmasters Hope This Google Test Doesn’t Become A Reality

    May 7, 2013
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Google has been running a test that eliminates URLs from search results pages (for the most part).

Does this make results pages better? Would you be in favor of Google implementing this as a new design? Let us know in the comments.

Note: We’ve updated this article after people have had time to react to the test.

Google tests different things with its search interface all the time. Sometimes we cover the tests, and sometimes we don’t. Frankly there are just too many to keep track of. Matt Cutts has said that Google runs 20,000 search experiments a year.

This one is kind of interesting though, as it completely removes URLs from search results pages (apparently unless there is authorship involved). Tecno-Net tipped Search Engine Roundtable with a couple screen caps.

Here’s what it looks like on desktop:

Google SERP without URLs

And on mobile:

Mobile No URLs

SER’s Schwartz posted about it on Search Engine Land here. It’s clear that this would not be a popular change if implemented. Here are a few sample comments from that article:

John Mitchell: “Hmm.. not sure if I like this as a user, I tend to look at the URLs in the results as there are some sites that I don’ trust even if Google does and places their pages in the results. In the examples above I’d probably be looking for the relevant page on the Microsoft site and there is no clue as to which result(s) that is.”

Liam Fisher: “Sounds like a huge way of opening the door to dodgy sites impersonating legitimate ones.”

Nick Boylan: “I wouldn’t like this at all. I glance at the URLs all the time, to determine the legit-ness of the source. Particularly if I’m looking for legal information or otherwise, or government services, etc.”

We’ve also gotten a few comments opposing the change:

Michele: “Worst Idea Ever!!! When I search for something, I have my own opinion about various sources – if google removes that information, I have to click through to determine that I don’t want to go there. Another case where I HATE it when technology thinks it’s smarter than I am.”

Vincent J. Eagan III: “Horrible idea! You need to see the URL so you know what kind of page it might be – otherwise it will be easy for scammers to set up pages.”

As Schwatz points out, the test is all being discussed a lot in the forums.

In Google’s own forum, one user writes, “I really hope that this isn’t a forerunner of a real change to the search results page – we’ve had too many of these recently, from the removal of the instant preview to the messing around with green arrows to see more information. Google needs to realise that people get used to and trust a particular format and anything different (like the Google+ merged results for example) only confuses people and makes them trust the results less.”

These are all valid points, and it’s hard to imagine Google implementing any change knowing that it could help spammers. It also makes the page less informative, which seems like a step in the wrong direction. Clearly most people who have seen the change aren’t wild about it.

Still, Google has made plenty of changes in the past with varying degrees of popularity. Recent changes to Google Image search seem to be quite unpopular with webmasters, for example.

What do you think? Should Google get rid of URLs on results pages? Share your thoughts.

  • http://www.examiner.com/biblical-in-charlotte/vincent-eagan-iii Vincent J. Eagan, III

    Horrible idea! You need to see the URL so you know what kind of page it might be – otherwise it will be easy for scammers to set up pages.

    • http://quickweightlosschannel.com/ Chad Jones

      That is exactly what I’m doing when searching for something. When Google hides or removes the website URLs in the search completely, those spammy 10 words domain with dashes after every word would dominate. And, we searching for information would just click without any idea if the website provides legit information.

  • http://localmarketingmuscle.com/ Baltimore Google Places

    Are they trying to put SEOs out of business? Lol. Bad idea Google, bad idea.

    • Randy Fox

      Yes Google has a war with SEO, a childish moronic game. The problem small start up businesses in Obama’s terrible economy are the collateral damage. Google gives no help then has the audacity to ask you to buy adwords or other things they sale that don’t work, which as near as I can tell will generate about 50 dollars of business for every thousand spent. GOOGLE IS A BULLY!

  • http://www.readyaimsucceed.com Michele

    Worst Idea Ever!!! When I search for something, I have my own opinion about various sources – if google removes that information, I have to click through to determine that I don’t want to go there. Another case where I HATE it when technology thinks it’s smarter than I am.

  • http://www.easytourchina.com tours to china

    I guess it is not a good idea, as sometimes from the URL, I can tell if the website is well-framed, and has the relevant info that I need or not.

  • yosri

    Phishing Site love this. How much is Google cut?

  • Antonio

    Looks nice, very clean. You can still mouse over links and see the url at the bottom of your screen. No big deal.

    • http://www.femmefatalewhitleybay.co.uk Pete

      How can you mouse over the links on a tablet/phone – Awful idea

  • Roger M

    Larry and Sergy were right in their college paper, advertisement based search engine sucks.

    Behind every great fortune is a great “deception” Google needs free content of the websites to sell advertising more than websites need google traffic.

    Reality : If tomorrow google stop existing all quality websites will still get traffic.

    • John

      More traffic Google needs to go

  • Jackie Brown

    What a bunch of foreshore!

  • http://calmarcdisplay.com Calmarc

    We don’t just want a list of sites, we want to know where we are going of course, you can often recognize from a url if the page will be what you need. Stop changing things please!

  • Ron

    Looks like another way that Google search will become further disconnected from reality. Product searches already tend to show nonsense websites (e.g., affiliates that only link to other sites) in top results. Google just can’t seem to get a handle on what consumers really want/need and what sites should rank. Ergo their “push” to Google Shopping and Adwords . . .?

    Perhaps another opportunity for Bing to gain some advantage?

  • http://faithinspires.wordpress.com Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield

    URLs in Google results provide valuable information about the source of the information linked to. Removing the URLs would make these links and Google less valuable for my research purposes. For this reason I have to oppose this change.

  • Robert

    An attempt by Google to interject themselves between them and the consumer. “No brand may exist except ours!” – Not a good idea. I read the URL before the title or snippet when deciding whether or not to click on a result.

  • Kevin morley

    I’ll have to start using yahoo and Bing more, even Yandex & Baidu for that matter. Why pay for google adverts when your site isn’t going to show up eh? May as well use radio & TV to advertise

  • http://www.museum-aktuell.de Chris

    I don’t expect Google to shovel its own grave.

  • http://www.pettransporteu.com Pet Transport EU

    I don’t like it and I think many people would switch to other search engines. I know I would. Just like the recent image search change on Google where you used to be able to see the image description, now you only see the web address of the site and no description, made me switch to Yahoo for image searches.

    Evolution is good, but trying to police every aspect of the search results can backfire. Some things better to be left simple.

  • http://appitventures.com Brandy Anderson

    Wow, I’m really surprised Google thought this would be a good idea. I only use Google for searching, but I would definitely change to a different search engine if they cut out the links.

    Maybe my Bing advertising will get a good boost if they implement this for everyone, though. 😉

  • putupjob

    This ranks with one of the really bad ideas out there.
    An eye scan of the source is very often the main consideration in examining the content.
    Thumbs down on this one.

  • http://www.myersgaragedoors.co.uk Garage Door Repair Man

    I really don’t understand google sometimes. Why mess so much with their results pages? I understand trying to make them more useful but to me they are just making it harder for genuine websites to place well. Every time they bring out new things the spammers figure out ways around it making it worse not better.

  • kv

    well, we can use BING OR MSN, YAHOO…

  • http://Green-Wave-Email.com PlanetThoughts

    I agree with what others have said: I always glance at the URL so I see precisely where I am going. A site could have text “High quality real estate in New York City” but a URL of “http://openresult1234.ru” (just an example). Which of those two pieces of information will be more informative? Keep the URL; I would be against even having an option to hide it in the results, as it would allow more viruses and online thefts to flourish, making life more difficult for everyone.

  • Gillian Cooper

    The only reason for this is that it will benefit Google, not us. I say a very firm NO to this.

  • Don Ravey

    I have taught Internet classes in college, at senior centers, and at libraries for nearly 20 years. I have always pointed out the value of the site-of-origin URL in search engine results listings. It is an important indicator of the likely reliability and/or bias of the information contained in the result. I would really hate to see Google eliminate this useful piece of data from their results.

  • Jeff

    I don’t like Bing but I would use it immediately for that search.

  • Ralph Biernat

    If Google implements this, I will no longer use Google. Google would be giving a gift to Microsoft’s Bing!

  • http://www.sbwebcenter.com Steve B

    Terrible idea… when I search I always look at the URL prior to clicking.

    I’m wondering if this has anything to do with the upcoming release of the new gTLDs. Trying to level the playing field for all TLDs??

  • Randy Fox

    Does anyone know the exact year Google became fascist? What used to be a decent search engine has turned into a blind mindless cyber monster caring only for money, not paying their taxes and seeking intrusion into lives and Liberal political power? What year did this happen? They really have their highly paid nerds over think things don’t they? LOL the skit on SNL about Google glass the other night shows how asinine Google has become. Watch it. Warning there is nothing Google does that someone can’t do better nothing. PS start paying your fair share tax cheats.

  • DM

    This is a great idea if they want to loose me as a customer. I always look at the site of origin before going to a website. In fact that is why I like it. It allows me to get a better idea if the site is legitimate.

  • Keek

    Oh, HELL NO, I wouldn’t like it. I use the URL to know what kind of site I’m going to. Is it the original vendor’s, manufacturer’s or brand name site? An exact match, keyword-rich spammy marketer’s site? I want to know where I’m going. It would be like going on a blind date without seeing what your date looked like. Screw that.

  • http://travel365.biz.tc Dr. Robert

    The faceless website(s) : No URL(s) : Now find me amongst thousands IF my title or my description are similiar. There has to be better option.

  • William

    Google is hiding URLS to make it harder for people to demonstrate what Google is actually doing.

    If a Judge or committee can not see the URLS it creates more work to illustrate what Google is actually doing.

    RECAP: Google hides Pay Per Click bids and says they use a “quality filter” to determine if someone can out rank on PPC even if they are highest bidder. Really this was so they could boost their top paying advertisers like AMAZON where say JewleryBoxes.com pays $1.00 for “jewelry boxes” and actually specializes and takes calls – where AMAZON pays .10 cents

    AMAZON was also the biggest winner in the Penguin update along with their subsidiaries and ChannelAdviser feed sites such as Overstock, Sears ect.

    This of course this pushed Kindle sales which has Google operating system. – see the cycle?

    Being that Google has 3 former board members from Amazon its amazing nobody digs deeper on that.

    So eCommerce is done!

    Panda was basically so Google could stop paying checks to the bloggers who implemented Adsense to make money blogging. If your check reaches a certian amount they find a way to penalize your sight.

    Then you have all the industries like say Real Estate were they favor with Realtor.com over actual local agents that specialize so they can get more political leverage in DC as they have been favoring all big business that already has proven leverage in DC. This is just one example but can go into insurance, finance ect.

    HIDING the urls makes everything go away as nobody will now actually see Amazon ranking #1 for all products or Realtor.com #1 for all searches. The ecomm is for the money – the other is for creating stronger lobbist groups to keep the FCC and lawyers at bay. It basically hides all the relationships that people are finding.

    Hiding the URLs is for Googles benefit not the user.

    All this comes down to is that more and more people are doing research and connecting the dots….. so Google simply takes away the dots.

  • http://www.bing.com John

    Everyday, I love Bing that much more thanks to Google 😉

  • http://www.nuclearchowder.com Nuclear Chowder Marketing

    This won’t go anywhere. People will freak out and overall it will harm the user experience (which Google does try not to do although many will disagree). Plus it still matters where you rank so doesn’t change things that way. Just makes it harder to find where you are.

    I think Google really just does stuff like this to freak out SEO’s and webmasters. I am pretty sure their company motto really is “Freaking out webmasters since 1998”.

  • http://www.greyolltwit.net/ Grey Olltwit

    This would be open season for the phishing and malware sites faking legit brands. They’re going to love Google if this is implemented.

  • http://remedysharing.com/v1 adib

    its kind of hard,because some people will only read the url(they dont read the tittle) and the other one is they cant differentiate which result are the same site(search can compile the same site two or three times in every page).

    hope they dont implement it into reality

  • http://www.aliencharacters.com Neil A Hogan

    Young mobile users don’t use urls. The search engine has already lost relevance to people under 25 as people aren’t even going to a PC and logging into a search portal. Most are going to urls through Qcodes on their mobiles without checking where they come from. Or finding the site they want through apps which don’t show the url anyway. Google is planning ahead for when people stop using search engine portals or typing in a url or even thinking about a url. Urls are becoming like postcodes so Google has to quickly change for the new generation. This test might not be implemented for a year or two but eventually all urls will disappear and we’ll move towards simply using numbers for urls on the backend and the next generation won’t use them at all, or even know what they are. They’ll find details of the business through picture searches through their cells, or by taking a photo of a location to find out more information. Most general users rely on the search result producer to produce relevant sites anyway so there are only a few (those of us doing SEO) that are concerned with what keywords are in what url, whether it is relevant, whether it’s a phishing site or whatever. They trust the engine to do that. Bear in mind too that English urls are just a small portion of addresses these days. Most urls are in other character sets that don’t even contain any words in another language, so words in a url aren’t that relevant elsewhere. Google needs to prepare for those portals too.

  • http://www.eufreeads.com Eufreeads

    I have read comment which coincide with my opinion. Surfing the internet I have come to be able to identify sites which I would like to visit and those which I would just ignore. This change if implemented would not be a good Idea and would be contrary to Google’s own “motto” of user experience.

    No idea about a site you visit only to hit the “back” button as soon as you see what site you are on is not my idea of a good user experience. Who knows, maybe they want to use this to weed out untrusted sites based on bounce rates.

    Who also says that there will not be misuse? I can simply impersonate a trusted site with the title tag. Not Good!

    Again this is my personal opinion.

  • http://www.fengshui-consultants.co.uk Thomas Coxon

    I use the URL’s to check that I’m going to the site I expect, before I click on the link.
    So the day that a search engine ceases to display the urls of the sites which it finds is the same day that I’ll stop using it (even if that search engine is Google!!).
    I’ve been around on the web long enough to remember how quickly Altavista plummeted from the dominant search engine to nowhere. Google are now the dominant search engine and could plummet just as quickly.

  • http://www.jayseducation.com Tom Jay

    I do not like it. The address is extra useful information as to use both if the answer to the search is relevant and incidental further research.

  • Joshua

    Google should not remove the URLs. Sometimes fake sites, or malware sites will put some title so the site will be clicked on. Sometimes, I may not remember a URL completely, but I remember part of it, so I look for that URL in the results. Sometimes I remember that I don’t want to click on a specific URL. Removing the URLs from the search results will turn me off from Google. For many years, Google has been my preferable search engine. If Google takes a step backwards like this, I will have to take a step towards something else like Bing.

  • http://www.javascriptsandmore.com Shawn Lippert

    I use google search because of relevant search queries and the ability to narrow down the search visually by snippets, URL’s and Authorship. I think it would make a search query less relevant to remove the URL’s as it will take more time to sift through the serp’s.

  • http://tcsi-oklahoma.com Mark Rushing

    If Google presses forward with this “very bad”idea it will simply give Bing a larger share of the market. I always look at the URLs for several different reason, not the least of which is security. This is a dumb idea and I sincerely hope the folks at Google realize that sooner rather than later.

  • Jeff

    If they stop the URL’s then I may stop using Google.

  • http://www.cmykreative.com Christopher Noble (CMYKreative)

    I think it’s a terrible idea (typical of Google) . . . I want to know the URL to see where the site is located as it’s sometimes a good judge of how “safe” a site is. Alternatively, if I’m shopping, I might only want to use a .co.uk site for example.

  • http://ebook-site.com Bryan

    Another good reason for using an alternative search engine like Bing!

  • http://www.linkagoal.com david young

    i noticed this a few days ago and i think this is a terrible idea… people need to see URL. atleast i do.. without URL’s i would just haveto open each page and check if its the desired page….

  • http://www.paymentway.com.ua Sava

    I am not sure that this хрошо.Maybe it will help someone to remain on the top of search. However can decrease the amount of the real visitors.

  • http://www.onlinedigital.org Susomoy Sinha

    Hello all!

    Google is the biggest hypocrite business bulling others online in the internet space. They want every one to write original content yet Google.com is the biggest aggregation system.

    They bully business around and the publisher to make the extra money. Is there any logic why the click on AdWord should not match with Google Analytic?

  • Jon

    The problem with this proposal apart from the spam potential already mentioned is that the URL may be the only unique thing about a page.

    Without the URL we cannot distinguish between pages from two sites that have (partially) identical content.

    Without the URL we cannot decide whether we have visited a page before. The fact that links already visited display in different colours depends on us not having the privacy option or having not recently cleared our history/cache.

    I hope its just an experiment.

  • http://www.radolibrary.blogspot.com Disu Ridwan Ayodeji

    we need to see the URl of the site google is refering us to

  • http://www.website-marketing.org John Colascione

    I think it’s a terrible idea. Provides less information for the user and saves little space. I see no good reason to roll this out and doubt they will. Who would prefer to choose a magazine off of the shelf without quickly noticing its brand on the cover?

  • http://mcimarketingsolutions.com Michelle Coates

    I don’t understand the purpose it serves the user to remove the URL. More room for search results? or Ad’s? Or perhaps this is a way to force everyone into google authorship? I don’t get it!

  • http://www.osteopathsportsinjury.co.uk Steve


    It’s essential to be able to see both the full URL and domain you’re about to visit for many reasons, as I know most others will agree. Thank god this is only a test, I for one would certainly stop using Google if they displayed results like this.

  • http://www.digitalsearchonline.co.uk/ Digital Search

    Out of all tests we’ve observed recently, I feel this is least likely to be given the green light -it would be a big shame if they pressed the go button!

  • http://www.bloggershost.com Leonard

    Over the years most of us have become aware of the links and which ones to trust for the information that we are looking for. This would be a very, very bad move for Google and a very sad search experience for searchers around the world.

    There was a good point made earlier about having to click through just to find that the information is not what we are looking for. What a waste of time and resources. Why try to fix something that is not broken?

  • http://www.graciousstore.com Gracious Store

    Why does Google run test that eliminate URLs from search results? What is the purpose for such tests?

  • http://www.thecollectorshub.com/music-boxes.html The Collectors Hub

    This is a horrible idea. As a user, I always look at the URL first before I click. It helps me determine if this website I’m going to is legitimate or not.

  • Adi

    if google do this, it’s just like buy book with no author.