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Google Tests 4 Results Instead of 10

Is Google getting ready to display just four search results instead of seven? If reports like this one on SEORoundtable are  accurate, SEOs are going to be fighting for an even smaller piece of Google’s most valuable piece of real estate.

SEORoundtable writer Barry Schwartz started following this story a couple weeks back when users began noticing Google was returning just seven results, instead of ten. He pointed out that Google had fiddled with the number returned results in the past. Still had never seen anything this consistent.

A Possible Answer

Over at, Danny Sullivan noticed the same thing and confirmed it with some help from SEOMoz expert Dr. Peter Meyers. Myers isolated a spike in seven result returns starting around August 12.

Sullivan pointed out how it makes it easier for a single site to dominate the rankings. That’s something the legion of Google conspiracy theorists will readily agree with. While Sullivan isn’t calling it a conspiracy, single site domination has been on his hit list for a long time.

(Sullivan goes into considerable detail on this subject and we highly reading his whole article.)

Google Answers

After Sullivan’s article ran, Google responded with a statement that that, in their usual fashion, doesn’t really say much:

We’re continuing to work out the best ways to show multiple results from a single site when it’s clear users are interested in that site. Separately, we’re also experimenting with varying the number of results per page, as we do periodically. Overall our goal is to provide the most relevant results for a given query as quickly as possible, whether it’s a wide variety of sources or navigation deep into a particular source. There’s always room for improvement, so we’re going to keep working on getting the mix right.

So far, they’ve been mum on the subject of four result returns.

What it Means

Is Google experimenting with presenting fewer results as part of the next Penguin update? Or is something else at play?

How will your business be altered if Google lowers the number of search results to seven or four?