In a Google Office-hours hangout John Mueller was asked a great question about how Google Search Console (GSC) reports impressions now that the first page of the search results are shown with a continuous scroll format.
Continuous (Infinite) Scroll and Google Search Results
Continuous scroll, also known as Infinite Scroll is a way to show content without forcing the site visitor to click on a link to another page.
It’s a frictionless way to present the user what they want to see, without making them go through the largely superfluous action of a clicking a link to see a new page.
It’s particularly a good user experience in situations where a site visitor is browsing for content.
The application of infinite scrolling is wildly successful in the context of social media.
A case can be made that it’s appropriate for search results as well.
How is an Impression Measured in a Continuous Scroll?
The person asking the question noted that employees at her agency disagreed in opinions of what constituted an impression in search results that displayed in a continuous scroll format.
This is the question:
“My question is …wildly debated at my agency. It’s about impressions.
So can you tell us what classifies an impressions in Google Search Console (GSC) and how that might be changing with the infinite scroll.”
Google’s John Mueller answered:
“Okay… there’s a lot about that.
We have a Help Center page about what is impressions, clicks and positions (I think it’s roughly called) that has a ton of details on those impressions.
That’s something that I would look at first. It’s something I usually look at when I get this question. So that would be my recommendation first of all.
With regards to infinite scroll or kind of this continuous scroll setup that we’re trying out …I think it’s a little bit tricky because it’s hard to determine what exactly is happening from an SEO point of view.”
Search Results Load in Groups of Ten
John Mueller said that although from the user point of view it’s a continuous scroll, from Google’s point of view it’s still just groups of ten search results.
“But essentially from our side we’re still loading the search results in Groups of ten…
And as a user scrolls down on the page we kind of dynamically load the next set of ten results there.
And when that set of ten results is loaded, that counts as an impression.
So that basically means that kind of the scrolling down and you start seeing page two of the search results, that we would see is like, well this is page two now and it now has impressions similar to if someone were to just click on page two directly in the links.
So from that point of view, not much really changes there.”
Impressions May Go Up But Clicks May Remain Static
Mueller next offered what appears to be his opinion that little will change and that the number of clicks will mostly stay the same.
It’s not unreasonable to think that if Google makes it easier to reach page two of the search engine results pages (SERPs) that there might be a small increase in people finding what they want.
But Mueller, whose opinion is well informed, shared the opinion that that is not the case.
Here’s Mueller’s opinion:
“What I think will change a little bit is that users will probably scroll a little bit easier to page two, page three or four.
And based on that the number of impressions that a website can get in the search results will probably go up a little bit.
I don’t think it’ll be like an extreme change but probably it’ll be the case, more the case, that if you were ranking on page
two then suddenly your website gets a lot more impressions just because it’s easier to reach page two in the search results.
And the number of clicks I suspect will remain similar because like people will kind of like scroll up and down and look at the results on a page and they’ll click on one of them.
So probably what will happen is impressions go up a little bit.
Clicks stay the same, that means the click through rate tends to go down a little bit.
And …if you’re focusing purely on click through rate, for SEO then I suspect that will be a little bit of a kind of …weird situation because it’s hard to determine did the click through rate drop because this page was shown in this continuous scroll environment?
Or did it drop because users saw it but they didn’t like to click on it as much anymore.”
Click Through Rate (CTR) Percentage Metric
In the end John Mueller raised the interesting issue of CTR falling and possible opaqueness in trying to diagnose the reasons for that.
How Does Infinite Scroll Impact Search Console Impressions?
Watch Mueller answer the question at the 45:50 Minute Mark