Earlier this week, a number of Google users were reporting that they were no longer able to go to the next page of search results (or even see that option). Given Google’s recent changes, many thought that this might have been another feature they were trialling before rolling out.
Google have since replied to quash these rumours and confirm that there was a bug that affected certain users that has now been fixed. **collective sigh of relief**
It did get me thinking though “What would happen if Google only showed one page of results?”
First of all, there would be a massive outcry. Thousands of blogs (or link bait) would flood the Internet complaining about how this is the end of SEO as we know it, Google are demons etc etc. Many smaller companies would perceive the change to be against them as only businesses with large advertising budgets would be able to afford to be on the first page.
But think about it…. what is the difference to the organic search market now? Realistically, you are only going to make money from being on the first page of Google, not the second or third. I do not believe that anyone spending money and/or time in getting keywords higher up on the natural listings is satisfied with being on page 2. Therefore there would be no change in the competition levels. SEO’s would be able to charge far more money if there were only 10 natural listings but their work would barely be altered.
The real change would be to the customers – Google’s customers. It is quite rare that I venture beyond the top 10 results on a search and this is because Google are good at delivering the results that I need on the first page. However, there are times when they do not get it right – this is especially true when sites like Wikipedia and news stories dominate the first page.
The majority of times I go beyond the first page are when I am searching for the best deal on a specific product. I know there are gems out there so I will search for them. If Google were to restrict the number of results I could access, it would be of detriment to me, so I would go elsewhere (Bing at this moment in time).
Google are not going to start restricting the number of results it serves on a query. The reason they won’t be has nothing to do with the effect it would have on SEO’s and website owners because the impact would be negligible. The reason is because they understand the needs of their clients, the people using their search engine day in day out. Restricting the number of results that can be viewed would be the quickest way to alienate their customers and attract accusations of censorship.