In mid-October 2021, Google began gradually rolling out continuous scrolling for mobile search results for English-language searches in the U.S. Mirroring the user experience on sites like Instagram and Pinterest where users scroll through results infinitely, continuous scroll will automatically load results beyond the first page – the first ten organic results – in mobile SERPs (search engine results pages). According to Google, a searcher will be able to scroll through roughly four pages of results before they are presented with a “see more” button.
While it is early in the rollout, it stands to reason that continuous scrolling will impact SEO. For starters, it blurs the lines between page one and page two (and beyond) results. Few people click on page two results partly because they may find what they need on page one, but also because they have been conditioned to perceive results beyond the first page as being low quality. Google reasons that searchers do, in fact, want to explore results beyond the first page. Currently, page 2 results produce an average click-through rate (CTR) of less than 1%. With continuous scrolling, what may previously have been a low-performing page two or three search result will likely reach more people. To measure the impact of continuous scrolling on your website, it will be valuable to measure if and how CTRs and other engagement metrics change for your mobile audience.
What is less clear right now, is how the presentation of results in a continuous scroll will change the rank of results. If Google is right and engagement improves beyond what was traditionally the first page of results, the increase in engagement, which is a ranking factor, will feasibly shake up the algorithmic rankings pushing some results further up in the SERP and others further down. At a minimum, by removing the inherent bias in presenting results in a paginated format, users will likely focus more on the perceived quality of the result vs. its position on the SERP.
How to Optimize for Continuous Scrolling
From a user’s perspective, because continuous scrolling places greater emphasis on the quality of the search result you will need to take extra care to ensure your content is created and optimized to meet a specific need. In other words, your content should be tailored to address a specific search intent for a specific audience. This way, you are creating personalized, quality content with the purpose of engaging with the audience you are attempting to target (vs. creating thin content for the sake of creating content).
Additionally, your content will need to be optimized impeccably (i.e., meta titles and descriptions optimized correctly with target keywords) to attract the attention of your target audience and be seen as click-worthy, because again, searchers may no longer see page rankings as the major determining factor in what they click on – it will be content relevance.
Overall, continuous scrolling reaffirms Google’s efforts to encourage the creation of relevant, focused and engaging content as judged by visitors to the search engine. It will take some time to discern the impact of continuous scrolling, but as always, brands should monitor anomalous changes in search rankings – up or down – especially for high-value content. If all works as Google intends, we expect that continuous scrolling will be a net positive with clicks being distributed more evenly across the top 40 results in mobile search.