Google announced yesterday that it's changing the way it displays search results so that it no longer shows multiple results from the same website except in rare cases. In fact, it's already in effect, according to Google's Danny Sullivan, who is the company's public search liaison.

Google is also clear that this is a change to the search results display, not an update to the search algorithm, meaning it doesn't affect site ranking. It also doesn't affect map listings or featured snippets (which are the highlighted organic search results that Google features at the top of search result pages). 

What it means.

When I was a kid, my dad used to say to us, "I've got good news, and I've got bad news. What do you want to hear first?"

We always chose the good news first, of course, but usually, there wasn't actually bad news.

Well, I've got good news and bad news depending on who you are. Unfortunately, if you're a content creator or business built on content marketing, there actually could be bad news.

First, the good news.

For users.

If you use Google like most people, to find basically everything, this is probably a good change. As a result, you're more likely to find a range of results, which means you're probably more likely to find what you're looking for. 

Google wants to show you the most "relevant" results for whatever it is you're looking for, but this change demonstrates that it also wants to balance that by showing you a diversity of results. In fact, the company even refers to it as the "Search Diversity Change." 

The reason behind this change is likely the fact that some 90 percent of clicks go to the top two or three search results. Most people never scroll down, so results "below the fold," or lower than what's visible when the page loads, are almost never clicked on.

This change will introduce more unique sites into those top results, which, according to Google, means it will provide better overall results the next time you're searching for the best way to get french fry crumbs out of your laptop keyboard.  

For content creators. 

On the other hand, if your business depends on organic search results for website traffic, this could have a real impact on your overall strategy. While Google says the change doesn't affect site rankings, I'm not sure how much it matters how highly a page or article from your site ranks if it is excluded from the search engine results page. 

A lot of you spend a lot of resources creating content for the very purpose of showing up at the top of organic search results. This change means that you'll have to consider how to adjust your content and search engine optimization strategy knowing that less of your pages will show up for relevant searches.

Google says there is an exception. When the company's search algorithm thinks that more than one result from the same site is especially relevant to a search, it will continue to display them in the top results. 

It doesn't give specific examples as to what this means or when it will make this exception, but Google does say they will continue to make adjustments as it rolls out across search results.

A Google spokesperson has responded to Inc. to say that deciding what is "relevant" is based on a range of factors for individual search queries, but that this diversity change won't supersede providing users multiple results from one domain when it makes the most sense.

Note: This column has been updated with a response from Google.

Published on: Jun 7, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.