Google is constantly testing new search features and results formats to improve the searcher experience, much in the same way that marketers are constantly testing and adjusting content to rank higher in Google’s search results. One of Google’s search results page (SERP) tweaks, specifically nested search results, caught the attention of the SEO community.
One user asked in Sterling Sky’s Local Search Forum:
“Has anybody else been noticing the change in how some of the Google organic results are occasionally displaying with one of the SERPs having directly below it, an indented result with a second result from the same website?
And on Twitter, SEO professional Lily Ray tweeted:
For those seeing the indented/nested search results, are you noticing that the 2nd result is a net new ranking URL?
My initial research points to yes, but haven’t dug in much yet. pic.twitter.com/7KYBQee7mj
— Lily Ray 😏 (@lilyraynyc) September 17, 2021
With all the buzz around this new noticeable change in Google’s SERPs, we decided to dive deeper to explore why Google is indenting URLs, if this impacts click-through rates, and how to optimize for nested search results. Here’s what we discovered:
Why Does Google Indent URLs?
While the feature is too new to have any serious or long-term testing data behind it, we believe that indented results may improve organic CTRs given they can better meet the searcher’s needs.
Much in the same way as sitelinks give users multiple page options from the same domain, this second indented URL below the main listing can increase the likelihood of producing a relevant answer when the query is broad and/or intent is unclear.
Here is a sitelinks result for the query “target”, for example:
While you cannot tell Google which pages to feature in a sitelink (or even to produce one at all), you can use Schema Markup to help Google understand the content of each page. Then, when the searcher types in a broad query such as the brand name itself, Google can offer them an array of results to help get them to the right place faster.
Indented URLs can work in the same way. This time, instead of a branded term we’ll search for one with more commercial intent: “women’s shoes San Diego”.
This time, Google produces a set of results from Yelp in the top organic position. The first (and main) result for 10 Top Best Women’s Shoe Stores in San Diego, CA, links to Yelp’s search results for “women’s shoe stores” in San Diego.
But what if that result didn’t quite meet your needs?
Google is hedging its bets, in a sense, by recommending a second, indented result that links to Yelp’s search results for large women’s shoes.
Here’s another example. Let’s say you’re in Miami and search Google for “childcare”:
In this example, Google displays Winnie.com’s informational list of the best childcare providers. Then, a nested result gets more specific with the best results for 24-hour care, to appeal to parents who work nights or other shifts outside of regular business hours.
This gives searchers more options to drill down to better meet their needs. It also gives brands more than one shot at the front page for those valuable, high-volume broad queries that tend to be more competitive.
While we don’t know exactly what information Google is using to determine what result to show in this indented feature, it makes sense that it is likely a combination of:
- Searcher intent gleaned from the query
- Personalization based on Google’s data about that individual searcher
- What Google knows about a page from its content and Schema Markup
Optimizing for Indented Second URLs in the SERPs
“Google’s indented results is an opportunity for brands to further optimize their presence in the SERPs,” advises Chad Klingensmith, Senior SEO Strategist at Rio SEO. “Having well-written content and carefully optimized title and meta description tags can improve your chances of getting indented results. Also, these pages should be linking to each other.”
These second, nested URLs appear as a tracked ranking in SEO tools, giving them their own set of click-through data. And, this makes sense, as the original and nested result may appeal to entirely different types of users, with the second result providing the answer when the first cannot.
The takeaway is this: Brands cannot decide they want this feature and flip a switch to activate it. Like so many enhanced search listings and features, nested results from the same domain are triggered by a combination of factors known only to Google.
What you can do is use on-page SEO best practices, Schema Markup, and an inherent understanding of how each of your web pages answers specific user needs to optimize your content for this feature (and others).