Google SERP History: Upcoming Changes and Their Impact in 2024

Last updated:
July 9, 2024
min read
Mollie Jackman

Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are constantly changing. Marketers know evolution is crucial to maintaining visibility and relevance in a world of SERP volatility. As we look ahead in 2024, Google is poised to bring even more changes to the SERP table, impacting both paid and organic performance.  

We’re doing a deep dive into these anticipated changes, offering a comprehensive review of what to expect from Google SERPs for the rest of the year. From enhanced AI features and expanded visual search to increased personalization and rich snippets, these updates promise to transform our approach to SEO marketing. Look at the history of Google SERP changes so you can prepare for the next iteration.

SERP History: A Timeline of Updates

Over the years, Google’s constant refinement of SERPs has introduced us to transformative features like featured snippets, visual search, and personalized content. These changes have driven new search behavior, which means both challenges and opportunities for marketers.  

2014: Introduction of Featured Snippets

Feature: Introduction of featured snippets at the top of SERPs

Description: Concise answers extracted from web pages, often in paragraphs, lists, or tables

• Increased competition for "position zero"
• Required optimization for clear, concise answers using structured data
• Shift in SEO focus to understanding user intent and delivering high-quality content

2018: The Era of 10 Blue Links

Feature: SERP format with only 10 blue links, no images or numbers

• Simplified SERP layout
• Renewed focus on traditional SEO practices for SERP visibility
• Compelling titles and meta descriptions become some of the best SERP tools

2019: People Also Ask Boxes

Feature: Introduction of People Also Ask (PAA) boxes

Description: Expandable boxes with related questions and answers

Impact on Organic Search:
• New ranking opportunities
• Shift to optimizing content for question-based queries.

Ad Labeling:
• Clear distinction between ads and organic results on mobile
• Influenced click-through rates (CTR) for paid ads

2020: Return of Images Above the Fold

Feature: Reintroduction of images on the first page of SERPs, just above the fold

• Enhanced visual appeal of search results
• Increased importance of image SEO in SERP plans
• Prompted investment in high-quality visual content to attract clicks and improve engagement

2021: More Images and Raised Placement

Feature: Increase in the number and prominence of images on the first page of SERPs

• Greater emphasis on visual content in organic search strategies
• SERP tracking shows changes in user behavior, with more engagement with visually rich content
• SEO focus on optimizing images to enhance user experience and improve click-through rates

Planned Changes for Google SERPs in 2024

With the rise of AI, Google SERPs are already evolving to provide a more personal experience for users. Let’s look at current and coming updates:  

Introduction of Enhanced AI Features

Overview: Google is set to integrate advanced AI-driven features into SERPs, enhancing search accuracy and user experience.

Example: AI algorithms will provide more contextually relevant results and create better perception of user intent through natural language processing (NLP)

Impact on Search Behavior:
• Behavior Change: Users will receive more precise answers, reducing the need for multiple searches
• Organic Search Strategies: Emphasize creating context-rich, detailed content to align with AI-driven understanding
• Example: Optimizing for NLP by incorporating conversational keywords and semantic SEO practices

Expansion of Visual Search Elements

Overview: Anticipated expansion of visual search elements, with more images and videos prominently placed

Example: Visual results will appear not just at the top but interspersed throughout the SERP.

Impact on Paid and Organic Search:
• Need for Optimization: Enhanced image and video SEO to maintain visibility
• Example: Your SERP plan should include high-quality images with detailed alt text, descriptive file names, and proper metadata
• Paid Search: Incorporate visually engaging ads to capture user attention amidst increased visual content

Increased Personalization and Localization

Overview: Personalization and localization will become more significant, tailoring results based on user data and location

Example: Search results will vary more based on individual search history, preferences, and geographic location

Impact on Organic Search:
• Local SEO Strategies: Optimize Google My Business listings, local keywords, and customer reviews
• Example: Ensure business information is accurate and consistent across local directories
• Personalized Content: Create content that caters to specific audience segments
• Example: Use personalized landing pages based on user demographics and behavior learned from SERP monitoring

Impact on Paid Search:

Targeting Adjustments: Refine targeting parameters to leverage personalized and location-based data

Example: Use geo-targeted ads and personalized ad copy to resonate with specific user groups

Interactive and Rich Snippets

Overview: Introduction of more interactive and rich snippets, offering dynamic and engaging content directly in SERPs

Example: Features like expandable content, embedded videos, and interactive widgets

Impact on Organic Search:
• Engaging Content Opportunities: Create content designed to appear in rich snippets (engaging content may lead to 0 click searches, but increased brand visibility is key here)
• Examples: Structured data markup to enhance the chances of content being featured in interactive snippets, highly relevant imagery or addition of video

Impact on Paid Search: Ad Format Changes: Potential for new interactive ad formats that blend with rich snippet features

Familiarize yourself with these impacts – they will inform new best practices for SERP visibility.  

How These Changes Affect Paid Search Strategies

The new SERP features will significantly impact the placement and visibility of paid ads. With more dynamic elements like AI-driven content and interactive snippets, maintaining high visibility requires strategic adjustments. Strategies include optimizing ad content to integrate new SERP formats and ensuring that ads are compelling and relevant to compete effectively in this enhanced environment.

Adjusting bidding strategies will be crucial to align with these changes. Emphasize data-driven decision-making and leverage AI tools to optimize bids. This involves continuously analyzing SERP tracking and monitoring SERP competitors to make adjusted bids for maximal ROI in evolving SERP dynamics.

The importance of incorporating visual and interactive elements into paid ads cannot be overstated. Create engaging, high-performing ad content using rich media formats like images, videos, and interactive elements to catch user attention and increase engagement rates.  

How These Changes Affect Organic Search Strategies

Maintain user-first search practices but implement more natural language processing (NLP) and semantic search to optimize content for new AI-driven SERP features. Create context-rich, detailed content that aligns with user intent to appear in AI-curated results.  

Optimize visual content to improve organic rankings. Pair content with the right visual mediums to convey points and utilize image SEO for an extra boost. Don’t forget alt text, file names, and image sitemaps.  

Enhance local SEO and create personalized content by focusing on what’s being searched in your market. Techniques include optimizing business listings, using local keywords, and encouraging customer reviews. Personalized content strategies involve tailoring content to specific audience segments.  

What’s Next: Smooth Sailing with PACIFIC

Google’s SERP changes from 2014 to the present have presented opportunities and challenges. Featured snippets, PAA boxes, and the return and prominence of visual elements have all influenced how we approach paid and organic strategies. As we look ahead, the introduction of enhanced AI features, expanded visual search elements, increased personalization and localization, and interactive rich snippets will further transform the SERP environment.

To successfully navigate these changes, businesses must adapt paid search strategies to maintain high visibility, optimize bidding strategies using AI tools, and create engaging visual and interactive ads. Simultaneously, organic search strategies should focus on AI-driven features, enhancing visual content, and prioritizing local and personalized content.

We encourage potential and existing clients to consult to adapt their marketing strategies to these upcoming changes. When you partner with PACIFIC – a forward-thinking agency dedicated to innovation and excellence in digital marketing – we’ll help you navigate the changing tides of search. And that goes far beyond SERPs. Contact us today to get started.