This morning started out like any other typical day, considering that the Chicago Cubs had just won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. That was all until I followed my daily routine of checking our Google SERP features tool. Making my way down the list of those features that are embedded within Google’s organic results, I was shocked to see that Notable Online had made an abrupt and complete exit from the SERP.
Notable Online No Longer Showing on the Google SERP
Let me say this in the clearest terms possible, Google has removed Notable Online from its array of SERP features. Try as you may to find the feature (which I did), it’s not there. I’m sorry I can’t help myself… Notable Online is now offline!
Rank Ranger’s SERP Features Tool showing Notable Online as completely removed from the Google SERP
The truth is, I was bit anxious to check Notable Online this morning. Yesterday I had noticed that the feature dropped from showing on 88% of Page One SERPs to just 75% (meaning that only 75% of Page One SERPs had at least one Notable Online result). That in and of itself was extremely peculiar because Notable Online is one of those SERP features that are not exactly volatile.
Just to qualify that a bit, since January 2016, the lowest we have tracked Notable Online was at 90% of Page One results. Otherwise, the feature fluctuated somewhere between 91% – 93%. So as I said, seeing a drop to 88% and then 75% was telling, but I never expected to see the feature completely removed from the SERP when I went to monitor it this morning (though I guess stranger things have happened, like the Cubs winning the World Series).
Prior to the recent drop-off and subsequent removal, Notable Online had not dipped below appearing on 90% of Page One results
Manual Search for Notable Online Confirms It’s Gone
Just to make sure I had not completely lost my mind (hey, I did just watch the Cubs win the World Series), I ran a series of manual searches for the Notable Online feature. All I did was to simply run search queries that had previously brought the feature up – nothing fancy.
Searches for major universities used to be a go-to way to bring up a top-ranked result that included the Notable Online feature. For example, back in August of this year I ran a search for “Harvard,” with the university’s site showing as the top result and with the Notable Online feature attached to it:
A query for “Harvard” displays with the Notable Online feature in August 2016
I ran the same search today. Harvard’s site was of course still the top result, but it was absent of the feature:
A query for “Harvard” after the removal of the Notable Online feature
Just to rule out the far-fetched possibility that Harvard has lost its “notable” status, I ran a search on Johns Hopkins, which also no longer shows the Notable Online feature:
A query for “Johns Hopkins” appearing without the Notable Online feature
Going for the trifecta, neither does Yale University:
A query for “Yale University” appearing without the Notable Online feature
Additional Examples of Results that Previously Showed as Notable Online
Just to accentuate the point a bit, back in June I ran a search on “Hubble telescope” which produced a plethora of results that included the Notable Online feature:
A query for “Hubble telescope” shows four sites with the Notable Online feature – June 2016
Running the same query today there was no sign of the feature, not even attached to NASA:
The same websites that showed Notable Online in June 2016 no longer have the feature attached to them in the results
Just two weeks ago I took a screenshot of the search results for “Kipp Washington Heights Elementary School” and the school’s result included the Notable Online feature:
A query for a charter school in New York City displays with the Notable Online feature attached to the school’s search result
If you run the query today, no such feature is found:
The same query for the same charter school that previously had a Notable Online attached it, no longer displays the feature
Last but not least, Wikipedia was considered by Google to be “notable,” as seen here in this search for “house of cards” – so was IMDb and Netflix:
A query for “house of cards” shows a Wikipedia result that has the Notable Online feature attached to it (among other sites as well)
However, today, the Notable Online feature is gone:
A Wikipedia result no longer showing as Notable Online (with two other results that also were previously Notable Online not showing the feature as well)
What Google Removing Notable Online Means
At the risk of stating the obvious, Notable Online was a feature that made it easy for a user to know which sites packed an authoritative punch for a particular search term. Does its removal thereby signal that Google has determined that users were not benefited by the feature? Were people not using it? Did Google conclude that we all know who is who when it came to authority? If not, did Google determine that indicating authority just didn’t matter to users? Or perhaps is Google paving the way for some other change on the SERP?
Only time will tell.