Case study: Are indented search results on Google actually hurting your business?

Most businesses might think having two search results on Page 1 is a good thing. This is not always the case. Here's why.

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Google reinstated indented search results at the end of 2021. Indented search results are when Google shows additional page(s) from the same domain that it thinks are relevant to your query. These usually occur on Page 1.  

Example of indented result

Many people might think having two search results on Page 1 is a good thing, but I will show you why I don’t agree.

Keyword optimization 

As SEO strategists, we are optimizing certain pages to appear for a keyword or query. In the case of indented search results, pages you did not intend to appear are also showing up for that query. 

What if a user clicks on one of the results and doesn’t see what they want? Isn’t this a sign that Google is not sure about which page to show?

CTR based on position 

If we look at three studies (Smart Insights, Backlinko, Ignite Visibility) the average click-through rate (CTR) based on Google SERP position looks like this: 

PositionCTR range 
56% or less

Let’s say a website has an indented search result at position 4. Using the table above, our CTR would be around 14% (adding the high of position 4 and position 5).

However, if we could move that search result up to position 2, our CTR would be between 16-18%.

Of course, moving it up to position 1 would be the best with a CTR of 28-40%. 

Can you get Google to remove indented search results?

Yes, you can get indented search results to go away. In the example below, we optimized the top page that was listed in position 5.

However, after we did that, Google started showing an additional page indented between position 5 and position 6. 

Indented search results

So, we went back to the site and ensured the site optimization made it clear which page should rank for that keyword through basic SEO tactics like internal linking.

After doing this, the end result was that the page we wanted to rank moved up to position 4 and the indented search result was gone.

Indented search result removed

What did this do to their traffic?

The month after they moved up from position 5 to position 4, we saw a 55% increase in their traffic on this page.

Indented 4

Rethinking the value of indented search results on SEO

Some people may think that indented search results are a good thing for your website, but I would have to disagree. 

I think it is important to have the page you optimized for a specific keyword be the only page from that domain that shows up for that query. 

Besides the benefits of a higher CTR, we also cannot be assured which page a user would click on if there are two choices. 

I have run into this same scenario with several of our clients in the last few months. In every case I’ve worked on thus far, I found that eliminating the indented result had a positive impact on ranking and traffic to the site. 

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About the author

Joy Hawkins
Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006 and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

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