How Google Search Engine Results Pages Have Changed Over Time

Google was launched in 1998 and it didn’t take long for it to become the most popular search engine in the world.  Over the nearly three decades we have been using Google, the search engine results pages (SERPs) have gone through many changes.  We use Google so much and the changes happen so gradually that it is easy to forget what the Google SERPs used to look like.

The goal behind Google’s search engine is to provide users with the most relevant, valuable information that best answers their search query.  Over the years, Google has made many changes not only to their algorithm, but also to what appears on the SERPs.  What was once a page of organic results soon also included paid ads, Maps and Google Business Profile (GBP) listings, featured snippets, and more.  The SERPs are set to change even more with the introduction of Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE) powered by AI.

How Google Search Engine Results Pages Have Changed Over Time

In this guide, we cover some of the major changes that Google has made to the SERPs in the last ten years. Here a short intro:


SERP Page One – Ten Years Ago

It is hard to believe that 2014 was ten years ago and it is even harder to believe what page one in the Google SERPs used to look like.  The search results back in 2014 showed several ads at the top within a slightly colored box, followed by the first organic listings that appeared above the fold, or where the page ends before you need to scroll down.

There were additional ads in the right sidebar and modifiers for the search results, such as Images, Maps, News, and timeframes in the left sidebar.  Many of the features we have become so used to are yet to appear in the SERPs.

Changes in the SERPs: 2014-2024

The best way to see just how much the Google SERPs have changed is by comparing what page one looked like in 2016 compared to how it looks now, especially when searching for a product.  In 2016, a search for a product would show image results at the top, followed by the start of the of the organic results 240 pixels down the page.  A handful of ads appeared in the right sidebar.

Google SERP in 2014

Google SERP in 2014

When searching for a product in 2024, the top of the SERPs show sponsored product listings with images so users can immediately make a purchase.  The top organic result appears just below these listings, 500 pixels down the page, making it lower on the page than in 2016.   As you scroll down the page, you will notice a repeating pattern of several organic results, then videos about the product, followed by several more organic results and a People Also Ask section, followed again by product listings with images.

The major difference between the SERPs when searching for a product in 2016 and 2024 is that the SERP page now looks more like a catalog with product listings and pictures of a wide range of different products appearing within the results.  In 2016, it was mostly organic search results leading to a website where you could purchase the product with only a few pictures being shown from the Images search results.

The following are some of the specific changes that Google made to the SERPs over time:

  • Featured Snippets: Featured Snippets began appearing at the top of SERPs in 2014. These were snippets of text that appeared above the organic search results that provided a quick answer to the search query.
  • No images: In 2018, the SERPs had no images or numbers and only featured 10 blue links in the organic search results.
  • People Also Ask: The People Also Ask boxes started appearing at the top of the SERPs in 2019. These are drop down boxes with questions related to the search query, and the answers can be seen by clicking the drop box for each question.
  • Images reappear: Images were added back to the first page of the SERPs in 2020 and appeared just above the fold.
  • More images: In 2021, Google raised the images on the first page and started including more of them in the search results.
  • Continuous scroll: Google rolled out continuous scrolling on mobile devices in 2021. It was then rolled out for desktop searches in 2022.
  • Featured Snippets and People Also Ask: In 2022, Featured Snippets appeared at the top of the SERPs, followed by People Also Ask. Links to videos began appearing just above the fold.
  • Featured Snippet images and Favicons: In 2023, Featured Snippets began showing images next to the snippets. Google also introduced Favicons which are small images or graphics that appear next to the URL for each search result.
  • Search Generative Experience: Search Generative Experience (SGE) is Google’s AI feature that generates information to answer a query using AI technology. The response from SGE includes an AI-generated mini blog post along with sources.

Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)

SGE is the biggest change coming to Google SERPs as this feature uses AI to generate a response to a search query instead of providing links to sources or retrieving information that answers the query.  As of this writing, SGE is a feature that users must turn on to experience.

Google SERP 2024

Google SERP 2024

The AI generated mini blog that appears at the top of the SERPs with SGE looks like a bigger Featured Snippet.  The content is AI-generated from many different sources as opposed to being taken directly from a single source like regular Featured Snippets.  Google Images appear under the mini blog, just above the fold, and sources appear at the bottom of the mini blog and on the right sidebar.  Under the Google Images is the regular Featured Snippet, just below the fold.

Biggest Takeaways

Google has changed the features of their SERPs many times over the past ten years, which has also changed how the SERPs look and function.  The following are the biggest takeaways from the changes made to the SERPs:

  • More visual: The SERPs have become much more visual with more images, video thumbnails, and product listings with pictures.
  • More videos: Videos started appearing on the SERPs in 2012 with a URL and a thumbnail, but they are now appearing more often. The video carousel was introduced in 2018 showing three videos and thumbnails which was changed to four videos with a redesign in 2020.  The Key Moments feature now shows up to 10 videos.
  • Changes in PPC ads: Google helped improve the click through rates (CTR) of PPC ads that appear in the SERPs by making a couple of changes in how they appear. In 2019, PPC ads had a green ad icon and URL and 4 lines of text.  Now, PPC ads have a “Sponsored” tag and up to seven lines of text, including the website name and Favicon.

Search Engine Marketing from Proceed Innovative

With so many changes made to the appearance and functionality of the SERPs, it is hard to keep up with all of them.  Looking back at what the SERPs used to look like is a reminder of how much the SERPs have evolved with Google’s mission to provide the best possible answers and results for search queries.

Search Engine Marketing from Proceed Innovative

While you may not be able to keep up with all the ways that the Google SERPs have changed, the good news is that you don’t have to.  Our professionals at Proceed Innovative keep up with the latest changes and trends with Google’s algorithm and SERPs so we can provide effective search engine marketing.

Proceed Innovative is a full-service digital marketing agency that provides internet marketing services including web design, search engine optimization (SEO), PPC management, local SEO, and lead generation.  We work closely with our clients to understand and align their marketing goals with our proven SEO strategies and bring them new sales opportunities to help them grow their business online.

You can call Proceed Innovative at (800) 933-2402 or submit a contact form for more about our digital marketing services.


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