Recently, after months of testing, Google pushed a full roll-out of indented results. These are groups of organic results from the same domain, such as this result on a search for “Halloween stores”:
Just to make life confusing, indented results are different from expanded sitelinks (in the #1 ranking position), such as these on a search for “Spirit Halloween”:
So, why should we care about indented results? To begin with, they seem to be appearing at a surprisingly high rate on page one. Here’s the prevalence since we started tracking them on MozCast (across 10,000 competitive keywords):
For the 13 days for which we currently have data, the prevalence of indented results on page one Google SERPs in MozCast has been stable at around 40%. Since we often see new features roll out at single-digit percentages, this is a significant development.
Note that the MozCast 10,000-keyword data set skews toward high-competition “head” terms and may not represent the entire universe of Google searches.
Did indented results replace sitelinks?
While Google was testing indented results, we initially wondered if they would replace expanded sitelinks. This does not seem to be the case. While expanded sitelinks only appear in the #1 position and seem to be limited to navigational or “brand” searches, indented results appear on a much broader mix. For example, here’s an indented result for the search “Halloween costumes”:
There’s clearly no brand or navigational intent around Good Housekeeping in play here — Google simply decided to surface two topical articles from their site. In addition, we’re seeing SERPs with both expanded sitelinks and indented results. Here’s the breakdown of the two features:
On October 12th, 23% of SERPs in our data set had expanded sitelinks, 39% had indented results, and roughly 8% had both features. Clearly, these are two distinct features with unique intent.
How many indented results can there be?
One domain can display up to three indented results, and more than one domain can have indented results on any given SERP (although it’s fairly rare on page one). In our data set, here’s the breakdown by result count:
About 28% of SERPs in our data set had one indented result on page one, 8% had two indented results, and the rest (3-5 indented results) accounted for just over 2% of SERPs. Here’s a screen capture of the organic results for a search for “The MLS online” in Hartford, Connecticut:
While this is a brand-like search, multiple sites surface the MLS database and none of them appear to be official, leaving Google in a bit of a quandary. Interestingly, the third domain has three indented results. Notice that the total organic results (regular + indented) on this page still add up to ten.
What should you do about all of this?
While a surprisingly high number of SERPs have indented results, these aren’t something you can easily control — there’s no schema or mark-up that activates indented results. We also don’t have the data yet to understand how these results impact click-through rates (CTRs) and other metrics.
It does appear, anecdotally, that Google may be elevating indented results from lower in the rankings, which suggests that those results could be getting an artificial ranking boost. Targeting this boost will require ranking multiple pages for the same search queries, though, which is probably not a good return on investment for most queries.
For now, it’s probably best to start monitoring these results on your most critical keywords and begin to track if and when they’re impacting your rankings and CTRs. We hope to have more news soon about tracking these results in our toolset.