What’s new in search marketing? Catalyst’s new Managing Director, Tarik Mughisuddin, breaks down the latest updates in SEO and paid search.


Saying it has been a tumultuous month for the Google Search Engine results page (SERP) may be an understatement. Lots of changes happening. Some subtle, some big. Even as you read this post, there is a lot of debate about what’s happening, and what’s not. Yes, in general, at any given time, Google is always making changes to the SERP, and could be testing over 10 different variations of a SERP at one time. They are constantly making tweaks to how results are displayed. However, the recent changes are the most noticeable in recent years.

First, in mid-January, Google widely unveiled changes to the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for desktop — modifying the way paid ads and organic listings are displayed. These changes did not come as a surprise, as they were initially rolled-out on mobile in May 2019. This latest update ‘blurs’ the line between paid and organic ads – making paid ads a bit harder to initially identify. The labeling and color scheme of ‘Ad’ has been modified, and organic listings will now be accompanied by ‘favicons’ — tiny icons / logos, that will show next to the URL.

paid and organic ads

This design change is intentional. According to Google, it is intended to present “domain names and brand icons prominently” and to put branding “front and center, helping users better understand where information is coming from”.

Next, Google also changed how Feature Snippets display – making it so that listings that earned a featured snippet spot would not repeat on the first page of the Google SERP. Head to Search Engine Land to read more on the change and possible implications.

Finally, Google also confirmed that they made an algorithm update. Usually Google will announce any major algorithm updates, but this time they didn’t. Unexpectedly, this update has indeed affected organic search results, and subsequently has led to noticeable drops in site traffic coming from organic results for many companies.


Google has already received wide-spread criticism about the recent SERP redesign and algorithm updates. While Google has confirmed that they are still testing things around page design, they seemed to have rolled back on some of these changes, though result pages with (and without) the Favicon are still currently serving. Regarding changes to the algorithm, Google has responded by saying: “we have updates that happen all the time in Google Search. If we don’t share about them, there is no particular actionable guidance to follow nor changes to make other than to keep focused on great content as we’ve advised generally such as here”.

Stay tuned for details on how things will evolve over the next few weeks. For more reading on this topic also check out:

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