Google testing material design SERP layout – and what it could mean for SEOs.

On opening an incognito window last Friday to do a quick result check I was confronted by a very different design than I was accustom to. Being that it was a Friday and I was severely under-caffeinated I closed the window before realizing I had just seen Google testing their new Material Design layout on the search results.

Of course, as soon as I closed the window, my session ended and despite 20 more attempts to launch a new incognito window, I wasn’t able to see the new design. Damn.

Fortunately, as luck would have it, I have had enough coffee today. Again an incognito window revealed Google testing a new design – one which may have some important implications for SEOs if it gets rolled out to all visitors.


Design Changes

The design follows Google’s “material” design pattern that has been seen increasingly across Google’s products. The new SERP looks almost identical to the current mobile view for, with the same grey background and white cards around each result.

It would seem that Google is trying to get more consistency between mobile and desktop experience.


Existing Layout:

classic iphone


New Layout:

new iphone


Existing Layout:

classic plumber


New Layout:

new layout plumber



Single Column Layout

The right rail, which after Google’s last layout change was limited just to showing certain knowledge graph and shopping results is now completely gone – all results now appear inline with the main results.

Existing Layout:

classic iphone 6 price

New Layout:

new iphone 6 price


No Featured Snippets

I attempted at least a dozen popular and less popular terms that currently trigger featured snippets in the current layout – not a single featured snippet appeared in the new design.

Now this could be just part of the testing, or it could perhaps indicate the snippets have been less popular than expected.

Existing Layout:

classic home loan interest rates

New Layout:

new home loan interest rates


Result Type Order Possibly Intent-Based

Knowledge graph boxes that have merged into the core column from the right rail, but the position in the column is not consistent.

Knowledge graph card at the top of the results seen to be more common for informational queries.


new layout - %22american flag%22


new layout- %22white house%22



Most brand queries place the knowledge graph box after an ad placement and at least one organic result:


new layout %22best western%22


new layout at&t



There were a few exceptions, where the knowledge graph box placed after a single ad position:

new layout moz

In some cases the knowledge graph panel has been removed entirely:


Existing Layout:

classic iphone 6


New Layout:

new iphone 6


What’s Next

Obviously the biggest change is the incorporation of right rail elements into the main column, in many cases pushing traditional elements even further down the page. Add to this the increase in top-of-page ad positions (up to 4), and it’s likely we will see a decrease in the value of a number one ranking for many keywords in terms of actual traffic.

The removal of the featured snippet may just be an anomaly in testing, but it’s certainly interesting to see results without it considering how Google has been increasingly showing snippet results.

I’m interested if others have seen the new layout and if there are any other important changes we’ve missed. Let us know in the comments or connect with us as @serpsapp.