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If you spend time on the internet, you may have noticed the increase in “SERP crowding”, where one or two domains take up the first three pages of the search results.

A post on SEOmoz attributed this to a sneaky Google update, their recent report shows that it has been getting worse too, up until this week.

It appears now that they have swapped this SERP crowding for displaying fewer results.

In a baffling turn, you can now expect to see only seven results on most first pages, as opposed to the normal ten. Cursory investigations show that this is more frequent with short-tail keyword searches such as “PC tools” or “angus steak houses”. Yet, if you turn these into longer tail searches, you still get your usual ten.

It appears that these seven page results are limited to what Google considers “branded searches”. Instead of crowding out the first three pages, they have given them seven on the first page to increase domain diversity. Why they even need to mess around with domain diversity and the number of results shown is anyone’s guess, but this is their excuse:

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.

Expect further penguin updates

The roll out of Panda and Penguin was devastating to some sites and a blessing for others.

Since then, the only animal to see regularly updates has been Panda, which seems to be refreshed monthly. Because of this, its effect on site rankings has gradually declined; the most recent one on 19 August was only estimated to effect around 1% of searches.

Penguin has only seen one update since its release back in May. Face of Google, Matt Cutts, said that this is because the algorithm is newer and, as such, will need larger adjustments and more time spent ironing out the signals. Which makes sense, but it also means that when they eventually update the algorithm its effect will be much more noticeable.

We suggest battening down the hatches, stocking up on food supplies and keep posting great content. This way you should be fine. It may even be a great update for sites that were hit the first time round and have since worked hard to fix all the issues their site had, as this update may just recognise them and push you back up to where you were before getting hit.

More social updates for Bing

Example of Bing's social side bar

Bing seem intent to bring social media into their searches.

We told you last week that they had introduced a social bar that lets you connect your search with friends and even experts, now they have partnered with Quora to bring questions and answers directly to your search feed.

Their initial screenshots show what can be assumed to be real time Quora activity. They haven’t said if this activity will be directly related to your search and, as this has only been released in the US so far, we can’t test it, but I imagine that if you search for Harry Potter questions you’ll get the answers from your new social side bar.

This is the next step in what appears to be Bing’s attempt to outstrip Google on a social level.

Google only really has +1 in their arsenal, but Bing now has Quora, foursquare and social sharing on Facebook. It’s still hard to see why this would be the deal breaker between using Google and Bing, but if it catches on then it could be Google playing catch up for a change.

Teen cites Google as influence for cancer test invention

Every newsletter needs a whimsical story to finish on and this is ours. Jack Andraka, a 15-year old student from the US, has invented a test for pancreatic cancer which is 168 times faster than current methods and only costs three cents to run. And he came up with this idea in a biology class.(source: BBC News)

After researching his theory on Google through online science papers and tools, Andraka managed to put together a proposal, which was accepted by the John Hopkins University in Baltimore where he developed his revolutionary test that involved attaching electrodes to a human blood sample.

He also won a cool $75,000 for his invention from the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Makes me wish I’d spent more time listening to my biology teacher and less time doodling all over my friend’s exercise book.

Google Penguin attack imminent by