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Google Introduces Breadcrumb SERPs

Google Introduces Breadcrumb SERPs

Google has updated the search results pages by adding breadcrumbs to the top of the page. The breadcrumbs are triggered by informational search queries and are accompanied by images. This search display update is a dramatic step away from how Google displays search results.  The change is apparently part of an evolving mobile first version of Google.

A screenshot of Google's breadcrumb SERPsThe new breadcrumb SERPs are distinguished by the breadcrumb navigational elements and the ability to swipe the carousel of images.

Redefinition of Google’s Mobile First Index

Google has been transitioning to a mobile first index and this has been commonly understood to mean that Google will favor sites that render well in mobile devices, per Google’s own announcements. Google has also been transitioning to new ways of displaying information that are appropriate for mobile devices. The breadcrumb SERPs appear to be a part of this transition of the SERPs.

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There has not been an official announcement about the breadcrumb search results. These results are displaying for searchers, so it’s probably not a test. This new format was first noticed on search marketing forums.

Mobile First User Interface

This change to how Google displays search results, as well as other recent updates may indicate that Google is undertaking a radical step away from what search results look like. This may be an indication of Google’s shift toward displaying information in a mobile first format, a mobile first UI.

What Google means by a mobile first index seems to also embrace how information can be displayed in a mobile device, a mobile first SERP UI.

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The search results are increasingly appropriate for mobile devices.  When users search for certain kinds of information, Google is now showing search results in a format that is easy for someone on a mobile phone to evaluate.

Google is taking advantage of user interactions that are specific to mobile devices, such as swiping. Google is also increasing the use of images in the search results. Nevertheless, they still work well on desktop computers.  Google seems to be transitioning to Mobile First Search Results, which is different from the previously announced mobile first search index.

A mobile first search index is about showing sites that are mobile friendly. A mobile first search result is a complete rethinking of how the search results are displayed.

Examples of Google’s Breadcrumb Display

This is an example of a search result for the query, Prime Ministers of India:

Breadcrumb Search Result for Prime Ministers of India


Notice the breadcrumb highlighted by the arrow I placed in the screenshot. The images can be swiped on a mobile phone. Clicking an image will take you to a second Google search result that offers more information about the entity. The screenshot below is of the second search result after clicking on one of the images:

Google Introduces Breadcrumb SERPs

Now the breadcrumb has expanded to include the name of the Indian prime minister I clicked. Clicking the breadcrumb will navigate me away from this search result. This is a dramatic change from how Google previously displayed information. The breadcrumbs is a quick mobile friendly way to navigate away from this search result and explore, without having to type.  Additionally, a user is able to swipe the image carousels to access more information.

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Here is a search result for “who were husbands of Elizabeth Taylor

Google Introduces Breadcrumb SERPs

Here is another search result for “top football teams uk” that demonstrates Google’s ability to differentiate between American football and European football.

In addition to featuring images that can be swiped and breadcrumb navigation, Google also successfully distinguishes between American football and what the rest of the world calls football. In addition to a mobile friendly swipe navigation and breadcrumb links, Google also successfully distinguishes between American football and what the rest of the world calls football.

Should You Optimize for Breadcrumb Results?

This new way of displaying information needs to be studied to find out how Google is selecting the images and sites to show in the new breadcrumb Results. It may be more helpful than ever to add images that are relevant to the topic of the web page. Logos, images of the entity (person, place or thing) that is the subject of the web page may be more important. Schema markup may be helpful but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary.

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Ranking for these phrases may not lead to increase sales. Most of these searches I’ve reviewed do not feature advertising. This may indicate that the search queries themselves are of little worth in terms of lead generation or direct sales.


There are three takeaways

  1. The search queries that generate these phrases do not at this time appear to conflict with queries that show advertisements
  2. These search queries may not be useful for lead generation or sales
  3. These new search results may indicate that Google is transitioning to a mobile first search display

There is still more research to be done as to what to do in order to rank for these kinds of search queries and appear in Google’s new breadcrumb search results.

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Images by Shutterstock, modified by Author
Screenshots by Author


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Roger Montti

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Roger Montti is a search marketer with over 20 years experience. I offer site audits, phone consultations and content and ... [Read full bio]

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