There have been quite a few reports about Google removing the domain name from search results in some Google searches. I performed one important search from my iPhone, and here’s what I currently see:
I did some research about this major change, and I found more information in a detailed blog post on Google’s Webmaster Central blog. According to the blog post, Google is “updating the algorithms that display URLs in the search results to better reflect the names of websites, using the real-world name of the site instead of the domain name, and the URL structure of the sites in a breadcrumbs-like format.”
Based on what I’ve seen, it appears that I am not seeing the fully rolled out results, unless Google still prefers to refer to my website as www.domaininvesting.com. The second result for the “domain investing” search I performed is an article found on Forbes.com. As you can see from the above screenshot, Google is showing that result as “Forbes” rather than Forbes.com.
I understand why this might be helpful for well-known brands such as Forbes. Most people recognize the Forbes branding without needing to know it is Forbes.com. The same probably goes for Wikipedia, Google, Target, and countless other well known brands.
I have two issues that deal with trust that are caused by this change:
From a webmaster standpoint, I think it may be more difficult to compete with larger brands in search rankings. In the result I highlighted above, searches may be more inclined to trust an article in Forbes if they see the Forbes brand as opposed to the longer url that might add an element of confusion. Yes, they would likely know it is Forbes even without the change, but taking out the url likely makes large brands even more recognizable, and that could harm lesser known websites. Put simply, lesser known websites that have urls instead of brands may be harmed and won’t likely be helped.
From a user standpoint, I am concerned about safety when I visit a website. When reading emails, I am self-trained to see the underlying url before clicking any links to ensure they are not phishing or misleading me to a website I didn’t intend to visit. Taking out the url could potentially make it easier for people to maliciously mislabel a website. I trust that Google is going to do its best to protect users, but I would imagine there will be people looking to exploit this change ASAP.
I know I can make the decision about how my website looks in Google mobile by following some instructions given by Google. I tested it out this morning, but I am unsure what I will choose for the long term. I suppose it’s just another element I need to consider when it comes to optimizing websites for search.