Continuous scrolling X People also ask: time to redefine the SERP?


Last week Google announced that they are going to say goodbye to pagination and move to continuous scrolling instead. Google will start with English searches on mobile devices in the US. As a reason Google states that this is to better serve users who want to know more about a topic. But speaking of improvements and changes, I do have one more idea for Google!

Use the data from the People also ask to redefine the SERP, because if you have more spots to fill, why not fill them with different types of pages (content)? That will set us SEOs free from that eternal focus on listers or boring sales pages and it will force websites to start creating really good content. In this plea, this cry from the heart, this cry for change to Google, I will explain my idea.

Please note: this item was written with the Dutch SERP in mind. It might therefore be not 100% accurate for English SERP’s. It’s also the first blog ever written in English by me. Do you see errors or mistake? Please let me know so I can improve my texts. Read Dutch blog >

Dear Google,

It’s not very common to do it this way, but what the heck. When I heard the new about continuous scrolling in the SERP I started thinking about it. Ideas started bubbling up and I couldn’t help work them out and share them with the world. Yes, they are weird ideas that you certainly wouldn’t expect from an SEO specialist, but maybe good to admit it right now: I’m not the typical SEO specialist. But besides that, don’t you guys think the time is long overdue to get rid of the SERP that has been showing several blue links to the same kinds of pages for years now? I mean: in the Dutch market all we see ranking are listers, listers and listers. 

Continuous scrolling? Google give us a more interesting SERP!

Would it be an idea to address the transition to continuous scrolling to immediately make the SERP look more like a news feed? A newsfeed that serves us different types of pages, next to the different kind of results we already see?

What’s wrong with the current SERP

Especially on non-branded keywords with high search volume, we always see the same pages/content ranking in SEO: lister pages optimized for that one non-branded keyword or those typical SEO sales pages that add little to no extra value, It’s only about the subject, but doesn’t answer any extra questions that you can think of. This phenomenon is not only happening in the e-tail industry but also in the service industry. Just search for HR software, eyelid surgery or sustainable investing. On this search terms you always see sales pages ranking that are optimized for that one search, that one keyword.

Example: robot vacuum cleaner

Take a look at the Dutch SERP on the keyword ‘ robot vacuum cleaner’ . You will see that almost 90% of the SEO results are webshops ranking with lister pages containing an assortment of robot vacuum cleaners, complemented by 1 SEO result from the Dutch consumer association with test information and 1 SEO result from a Dutch newspaper with a news article about it. But I mean, come on…. can’t you guys make it any better for us? Please? This has both a user perspective as an SEO specialist perspective. Let’s start first with the SEO perspective, that one is quick to cover so I can spend the rest of this letter talking about customers. 

From an SEO point of view

What’s happening now is that every webshop is optimizing that 1 lister page for that same keyword “robot vacuum cleaner” and they’re all link building on it just to get those listers to rank.  At the moment maybe 10 SEO’s in the Netherlands are “optimizing” for that search term. Why? Because you guys always show us those damned listers.

Clients and companies would much rather see us work on listers than come up with advice on soft content like blogs or other informative content about robot vacuum cleaners . Think about content like: how do they work, is it easy, how to handle corners or furniture, how to choose the correct one, what should I pay attention to). You know, the stuff the sales person in a specialized store tells you when you go shopping for vacuum cleaners in the fysical world. But most online companies don’t really give about this kind of content. You know how Trump said America first? Well this sounds like: Listers First, Blogs Second. 

This same principle goes for keywords like American fridge (listers), white wine (90% listers), underwear (listers), cake delivery at home (listers), toothbrush (listers), housewarming gift (90% listers) and so on. In the image below you can see some screen shots of these SERPS, all pink arrows refer to lister pages. 


Voorbeeld SERP met listers


The user perspective

I wonder if a user actually wants to see a SERP with an infinite number of the same type of pages under each other? On a search term like ‘underwear’ I can imagine you show transactional (lister) pages. But what about a search like ‘white wine’, why don’t we hardly see any content with tips on tasty white wines, how to choose a great wine or a special about the best white wines?
I think when you search for white wine, you don’t exactly know which white wine you’re looking for right? Otherwise you would have used another search term. Maybe you are still deciding whether to buy for a German one, a sweet one, a cheap one or just a very exclusive one. With that in mind, why don’t we see more content that helps people choose the right wine?

As said, I see 90% of SEO results ranking are on those terms are the same boring lister pages that shows assortment but don’t help the user make a decision. 

What are users intentions on such terms?

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely don’t think listers are completely out of style, of course sometimes people just want to check out the online assortment. But isn’t there also a need for other types of SEO results? What does the data gathered data through the People Also Ask feature say about click behavior on these types of generic non-branded search terms?

In the Netherlands we saw the PAA suddenly popping up in march, but mostly on non-branded keywords with a lot of search volume. The PAA contains interesting questions that are related to the topic but with different kind of intentions. Did you guys maybe launch this feature to understand more about actual intentions on high volume non-branded keywords in order to optimize the SERP on those keywords? (fingers crossed!)

Examples of people also ask PAA

And what do you see? Do people have broader intentions?

It seems to me that Google by now you should have gathered a lot of data and thus have a good idea of what people really search for on these types of keywords with high search volume? I am very curious? Does the data support this argument? Do people have a broader informational need?

If so, hopefully the move to a SERP with continuous scrolling is probably a great opportunity to turn the SERP around: get rid of those damned listers, show us other types of pages!

You are already on the right path!

It seems like you guys at Google are already on track in English searches. Check out this example below: I see different kinds of content ranking on this high volume non-branded keyword, The first one is a Wikipedia result, we don’t often see that in NL. But do you see that second result? Finally not a lister page but informational content about white wines! If you can do this in English, when will this become standard practice in other countries as well? 

Different type of content ranking in SEO

What if Google showed other kinds of content on these top terms?

What would happen if Google decided to show more soft content, guided selling, blogs etc on these types of non-branded high volume search terms? 

If this kind of content would be more visible on these high volume top keywords, you know what will happen? Do you know how companies will respond? They will finally feel the need to start making really good content, a really good website.

We cannot keep optimizing listing pages if Google is the focus on pages has shifted from listers to soft content. So at that moment, the whole industry has to let go of old traditions and rusted activities focused on keywords and listers. Because you can find doing keyword research that there is a lot of search volume on it, but when going is showing different kinds of content you will force the industry to develop a new way of working. 

You guys at Google have been saying for years: ‘ just create a good website, everything else will follow’. But for local markets as the Dutch one that is of course nonsense, until now you mainly needed to have good listers with a lot of link value to be visible on those favoured search terms. 

Why soft content is scarce in NL 

I’ve been in SEO for 11 years and only saw very few companies willing to invest in good content. I’ve usually convinced my own clients because I have an ominous story about a saturated market on top keywords.
But I see many more companies that don’t want to get into it. As said: Listers First, Blogs Second!

Companies for years now have focused on transactional pages, transactional content, ROI and keywords in stead of the actual informational need of the customer. Only if  the marketing department has some budget left, it might end up on our to do list. But only if by then you can make a good business case based on ROI for the expected results huh. And guess what? ROI is low because you don’t see that kind of content ranking on this kind of keywords. So there goes the idea….

This is also why

See the screenshot below: according to your Keyword Planner there is no search volume for ‘how to choose the best white wine’. A lot of companies now say: don’t invest in a wine wizard, or content how to choose the best one. Focus on the keyword ‘white wine’ instead (lister) and if you have time left make a list with 10 wines maximum and go for it. But you know, the whole world is already making a list with the 10 best wines. So why on earth should I write another one?

Example of zero volume search


What I want to do is create a fabulous wizard and be found on the search term: white wine. Because that is what a cool, fancy, in one a million wizard deserves. Right? But at this point most SEO’s will go back to the white wine lister page and see if they can get more links in order to rank higher on ‘white wine’. Do you get me point? 

Come on Google, force companies to do things differently!

When you decide to show other types of content, that is the moment when everything will need to evolve. Yes the Dutch SEO industry and SEO’s in other countries as well  will shake on their fundaments because at that moment we must start creating good content because you see that kind of content ranking on keywords with a lot of search volume. At that moment we finally HAVE to put our customer first: what would our customer actually want to know about makeup, good white wine, eyelid surgery, robot vacuum cleaners, etc.? Customers First, Listers Second!

An example of my ideal SERP: eyelid sugery

I recently spoke to a clinic that does eyelid surgery and I almost started to cry (you know, I cry a lot when doing SEO, but that’s not for this article). They are doing everything they can to get to #1 on the word “eyelid surgery”.

With everything they mean: optimize their sales/landing page and start (paid) link building for this page. Why? As said, because on the keyword ‘eyelid surgery’ we see SEO results of which 80% are some kind of sales page, see the pink arrows. They are all the same kind of landing pages but from clinic A, B or C.

huidige serp ooglidcorrectie

But if we look at it from the user’s point of view? Someone who searches Google for eyelid surgery is looking for what kind of information? As a potential customer, I don’t want to see only clinics, I would want to know what it costs approximately, how long it takes, how people have experienced it, what the results are and what it looked like before. I would want to know if there is any news surrounding this type of surgery. Well, eyelid surgery isn’t too bad, but there’s a lot of buzz around breast enlargements and implants at the moment. So Google, I want to know that too if it plays into what I’m looking for. And I want to see videos about how such an operation is done. So Google: less advice pages and listers please, give me good content! At the moment I am ready in my journey to make appointments I will search for ‘eyelid surgery + location’ or ‘best eyelid surgery.

If it were up to me, the SERP would look like this

So I couldn’t resist making an outline, just for you, of what I think the SERP on ‘eyelid surgery’ could look like as well. I’m not concerned with the order or the parties, I’m concerned with showing you the different types of content and the different types of pages and intent ranking on this top keyword. You guys can determine the order much better than I can….

What do you guys think Google? Would it be an idea to shake the SEO world to its foundations and throw overboard all the rules, traditions and customs about keywords, intentions and types of pages? Would it be an idea to have companies create really good content and showcase it for these types of search terms?  I hope you are in!

Kind regards,
An a-typical SEO specialist who prefers to create relevant/interesting content instead of optimizing listers


Mock up SERP informatieve content op topterm

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