How’s Google Going to Deal With Saturation?

/ Published 28 November 2021

How many websites do we have? Well, if you don’t know the answer, you’ll be tempted to Google it. In fact, 7/10 people would do the same thing; Google accounts for well over 70% of all desktop search traffic in the world. Add mobile search traffic to that, and you get 85%-90% of all global search traffic.

Ever since Google Search hit the internet in 1997, it has dominated the search engine market- so much so that it held 92.7% of the market share as of June 2021. This is because it’s simply the best search engine. It achieved this status by providing better, more relevant search results than alternatives like Baidu, Bing, and Yahoo. 

How does Google do this?

  1. Using search intent to provide accurate, relevant, and high-quality results that match the query.
  2. Constantly updating their search algorithms, which are responsible for collecting relevant information. This allows them to meet their goal in (I) above even as the web changes.

And speaking of the changing web.

The changing web

The web is around 32 years old. It started way back in March 1989, when Tim-Berners-Lee, a CERN scientist and the “Father of the Internet,” introduced the first-ever browser, editor, and HTTP/HTML protocols. Two years later, in 1991, the first website went online. It contained instructions in the form of texts and hyperlinks explaining the world wide web and how to use it.

Since then, the web has greatly evolved and grown in scale.

How big is it?

Due to the sheer scale of the internet, it’s quite difficult to paint an accurate picture of how big the web is. But the sure thing is that the internet is bigger today than it was yesterday. And by the time you finish reading this article, it will be bigger than when you started reading.

We can still try to quantify the size of the web using data from various research organizations.  For instance, Cisco Visual Networking uses the amount of data in the world to try and estimate the size of the internet. That said, they estimate that by 2022, the annual global IP traffic will have reached 4,800 zettabytes. How big is that?

A zettabyte is quantified as 1021 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. That’s equal to a billion terabytes or a trillion gigabytes worth of storage space. So, by next year, the internet will be worth around four thousand eight hundred billion terabytes of information. If each terabyte were a kilometer, the size of the internet would then be equivalent to 1,300 to and fro trips to the moon. 

Within the internet, there were an estimated 1,179,448,021 websites as of October 2021. The number rises and falls from time to time, but overall, it represents more than 1000% growth from the 155,583,835 websites recorded in January 2008.

It’s also worth noting that websites first crossed the I billion mark in September 2014. It then dropped to sub-one billion for the next year and a half, before crossing the mark again in March 2016. The highest number of websites on the internet was recorded in January 2018 and stood at around 1.805 billion websites.

Also, out of the 1.17 billion websites on the internet, around 17% are active. This means that less than 200 million websites are being used in some function by their owners. The rest, almost five times the amount, are more or less parked domains.

Another important metric is the number of web pages on the internet. Note there’s a clear distinction between a website and a web page. While a web page is a single page of information on the internet, a website is a collection of web pages under a single domain. That said, there were about 6 billion web pages on the internet in 2020.

Unlike with websites, which have more or less stagnated over the past year, the number of web pages is increasing. This is because active domain owners are actively posting new content and updating information to remain relevant in the eyes of their readers.  

Why do these matter?

Think of your search engine as the filter. When looking for information on the internet, Google makes it easier for you by displaying the most relevant sources at the top of the SERPs. And these sources are usually web pages from various websites on the web.

To achieve this sort of ranking, Google uses crawlers, software that automatically visit web pages and store information about what they find. Google then indexes the information from various web pages using key signals like relevance, keywords, website freshness, etc. So, when you search for a particular keyword, Google can display the most relevant SERPs to your query.

Usually, Google displays 10 SERPs per page. And given the sheer number of information on the internet, you can have up to 50 pages worth of search results depending on your query. The ‘most useful’ web pages make it to the first page, while the rest occupy pages 2,3,4,5,6… in order of relevance.

But due to the increasing number of web pages, there’s more useful information for every query, which means more search results. This has created some sort of SERPs saturation in recent years.  And while you can always find what you need in the first few results, there’s still useful information in other lower-ranked pages. This is why according to Google, ‘most people who want additional information tend to browse up to four pages of search results.’

So, how’s Google planning to deal with this and make it more convenient to look at lower-ranked pages? Early this year, they started rolling out continuous scrolling on mobile. This infinite scroll feature allows mobile users to scroll through four pages of SERPs before having to click on the “See more button.”

Bottomline

Infinite scrolling is proving a good way to tackle increasing search results. This is because it allows web users to access lots of relevant information more quickly and conveniently. However, this may have some secondary consequences, including more mobile impressions and a lower CTR on paid Google ads.

 


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