Google has been around for decades, and the look of the platform has changed significantly over that time. It’s often little changes here and there, so it’s easy for people to miss how the look of search result pages has been modified. Furthermore, many consumers assume that the changes are cosmetic and have no real effect on SEO. However, it’s essential to pay attention to updates as they can affect the way a site looks to a person searching for information. Last week, a test was noted where Google would show search results without URLs.

Currently, when users get a search results page from Google, every link in the listing has a partial URL visible. The URL is often truncated because many website URLs are too large to fit in the space provided. Google is experimenting with removing the URL entirely.

The tests were first reported on by a user on Reddit. Typically, on the search results page, there is a truncated URL under the headline for the page. In the test seen on Reddit, the URL has been replaced with navigation breadcrumbs. In some respects, both methods look similar. The breadcrumbs resemble the URL, just without formatting such as HTTPS and the TLD.

Breadcrumb navigation systems can be easier to understand than regular URLs since they follow the taxonomies used for categories and subcategories. It’s recommended that websites use simply URL structures that include this information, but some older content management systems simply assign a page number for every link on the site. With breadcrumbs, searchers get more information and less funky formatting. 

One minor change that’s worth noticing involves the look of the breadcrumb system Google is testing. Instead of starting with a URL with HTTPS, the listing would begin with an image of the website’s Favicon. A favicon is a tiny icon that’s used in places like the tabs on a browser. It’s a good idea to have a nice looking favicon already, but it will become even more vital if they become part of the standard look for search engine result pages on Google. 

This test has caused some concern for people who worry that removing the URL could confuse people and that the system could be abused. According to media reports about the response to Google’s test, one Reddit user stated, “In this era of search results that don’t even show the domain name, how’s Google going to keep phishing sites from using the names of the businesses they’re trying to impersonate? Worse get, might Google have to roll this back after discovering phishing sites were able to exploit this lack of domains in the search results to get people to divulge passwords, credit card numbers, and all other sorts of sensitive information?”

These are legitimate concerns that Google will need to work out before they try to launch this updated view for search engine results page officially. Many consumers check the URL of potential links they want to click to make sure they look legitimate. It’s likely that any system that removes the URL will be abused by spammers and scanners who will try to make illicit links seem more legit. 

Since there have been no official announcements about these tests, the idea of removing URLs entirely is still in the early stages. Webmasters will have to wait and see if this becomes official policy and how the change will affect how they set up categories on their site. 

For more news about recent tests at Google, read this article on a test for Google-approved badges for service companies