Interesting Finds Feature Is Changing Mobile SERPs

With a lot of recent SERP feature changes (including The Great Featured Snippet Shake-Em-Up), and as the market, user needs, and more are changing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, organic traffic is changing all the time. One change that’s gotten lost in the shuffle is the recent developments of Interesting Finds listings in mobile search results pages (SERPs). So far, discussion of Interesting Finds in the SEO community has been pretty limited, save for one article on March 11th from Glenn Gabe, discussing how beneficial Interesting Finds have been for publishers. The same cannot be said for most e-commerce companies, though.

One of UpBuild’s e-commerce clients was seeing their mobile rankings and visibility drop in their STAT account and reached out in early March 2020 for some answers. Desktop rankings and visibility were pretty consistent, so because of all the recent changes to SERP features, our first instinct was that a SERP feature change or changes was the cause. We pulled their full list of tracked mobile queries from STAT comparing Jan 1, 2020 (to be past the seasonal changes for holiday shopping) to March 9, 2020. Before even looking into individual SERPs, the Share of Voice graph already told a compelling story.

On February 19th, the total share of voice (SOV) for their tracked queries had 20.2 million (41.9%) organic links and 0 Interesting Finds. On February 20th, the share of voice for organic links dropped to 15.3 million (30.8%) and Interesting Finds jumped to 4.7 million (9.4%) SOV.

After this initial change, these numbers have mostly leveled off to about 30% SOV for organic links, and 10% for Interesting Finds (as well as 10% for Featured Snippets/Answers). As of March 22, 2020, the SOV for Answers was 5.2 million (10.3%) and Interesting Finds was 5.1 million (10.1%).

When reviewing the individual positions for our client from Jan 1 vs Mar 9, we found 1,425 queries where the Base Rank on March 9th greatly differed from the Rank (STAT tracks Google Rank, which includes SERP features, and the Google Base Rank; the Base Rank doesn’t include any SERP features). Comparing the two could indicate how many competing SERP features there may be for a keyword. Just manually spot-checking those 1,425 queries showed  a prevalence of Interesting Finds results on mobile. The results appeared to be mostly articles (as opposed to e.g. product pages) and usually AMP. While Interesting Finds appeared to be the likely culprit for the mobile visibility drop, we wanted to know more.

Did Interesting Finds just pop up overnight?

Interesting Finds are not a new feature! Google first started showing them in mobile SERPs around April 2018. In July 2019, SEOs were spotting them as part of Knowledge Panels.

Back in December 2019, SEOs started seeing personalized Interesting Finds and/or the option to follow the topic in Discover if you weren’t already.

Now our timeline has reached early 2020, where the big Featured Snippets changes were occuring. Within the discussions around deduplicating Featured Snippet links, Google officially stated that would not necessarily be the case for other features, including Interesting Finds.

While much of the commentary and analysis on Interesting Finds has come from the SEO industry, this Twitter thread from February 18, mentioning Interesting Finds among other SERP features, shows that those outside the industry are definitely taking notice of these changes, too — and not very happily.

It also doesn’t appear that Interesting Finds is a new feature for STAT to track. According to their list of SERP Features, they’ve been tracking it since it was still a 2×2 graph. Since their description still mentions the 2×2 grid, they may not have changed anything since before the Interesting Finds started listing 3 links.

What makes up the Interesting Finds results? Analysis from scraping 1,425 mobile SERPs

I wanted to do more analysis of the types of results that make up these Interesting Finds. From a few manual checks, it appeared Google was giving preference to articles using AMP. To find out more, I built a mobile SERP scraper using Selenium and Python. 

Find my mobile SERP Interesting Finds scraper script here. NOTE: Selenium is using the ChromeDriver mobile emulation option, because it allows you to emulate a specific mobile device. When testing different options, I tried running this by just swapping the user-agent to run a mobile browser with a device size similar to a mobile device; Interesting Finds did NOT show up then. You must emulate a device. I used my device, a Google Pixel 2, but I’d love to go back and try it with an Apple device to see how different the results may be.

Remember our 1,425 queries were ones we already assumed were impacted by changes to Interesting Finds, either by Google adding/updating them or changes to how STAT was calculating them. Also, all of these queries are tied to our e-commerce client’s specific niche. Thus, our sampling isn’t diverse, so I encourage you to use my script and run your own queries!

Of those 1,425 queries, 1,005 (70.5%) had Interesting Finds in the mobile SERP shown on Pixel 2. From those 1,005 queries with Interesting Finds, all showed 3 visible URLs for a total of 3,015 Interesting Finds links.  Only 1,117 links (37%) were AMP. While it is likely you’ll see one AMP link per group of Interesting Finds, this number doesn’t really show a preference towards AMP. USA TODAY made up just over 10% of the links, appearing on 287 queries. Of those 287 queries, 21 had TWO USA TODAY links in Interesting Finds.

How does this impact SEO, especially for e-commerce?

I don’t think this means the end of SEO, but I think it is time to put the “10 blue links” to bed. Organic links go well beyond those traditional organic links now, as Danny Sullivan points out in the tweet below in response to Dr. Pete’s Moz article about how low #1 is in desktop SERPs.

If you haven’t embraced pursuing organic SERP features, with both technical markup and diversified content, you have a lot of catching up to do.

E-commerce sites need to produce content beyond category pages. I know this can seem overwhelming to develop a content calendar and commit to it, but don’t think of this as a strategy like you would for a blog. 

  • Build out a repository of buying guides and how-tos (hint: the latter is probably something that can be repurposed from directions you already have on the site or send with your product).  Bonus if you can do this in an environment that allows for AMP.
  • Don’t worry about adding these guides in any particular cadence, like you would blog content. 
  • Do keep them updated, especially if you are using dateModified markup, as products linked within go out of stock or are discontinued. Some content management systems can check against your product data feed to help alert you to broken product links.
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