Google announced a change it has been testing for some time: replacing the URL in search results with the breadcrumbs of the page. Ironically, Google’s announcement is titled “Better presentation of URLs in search results”.
To help mobile searchers understand your website better when we show it in the mobile search results, today we’re 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.
In Google’s perfect vision of the world, URL structure goes hand-in-hand with breadcrumbs displayed to the user, and thus, if you show breadcrumbs, you are actually displaying URL structure. Only problem is that this is usually not the case.
Taking a example from Google itself, their page on breadcrumbs on the Google Developers site has the following breadcrumbs (next to it, the URL of each item)
Level 1: Products (https://developers.google.com/products/)
Level 2: Search (https://developers.google.com/search)
Level 3: Structured Data (https://developers.google.com/structured-data/)
There is no connection between URL structure and site structure, and that’s not necessarily a bad way of doing things. So, this isn’t really about “better presentation of URLs”, but rather “better presentation of site structure”.
Still, some concerns about phishing attempts are being raised, since in the traditional way of showing search results, it is easy to spot if you are clicking to the right domain or not. Google notes that site names will not show up in the result just because you have put in the right code in your pages, but rather after passing some criteria:
– Be reasonbly similar to your domain name
– Be a natural name used to refer to the site, such as “Google,” rather than “Google, Inc.”
– Be unique to your site—not used by some other site
– Not be a misleading description of your site
It remains to be seen how well that will work. The change is being rolled out first in mobile results from what it seems (see screenshot above from Search Engine Land). Desktop results have not been affected.
Google has a history of not caring so much about showing URLs to users, previously experimenting with removing the location bar, not showing the URL structure at all, and just having a big “Search Google” box Google eventually reversed course a few months later.