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:
And on mobile:
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.