On April 16th, Google announced on their Webmaster blog that they will be changing how URLs display in mobile search results.
The old style featured the complete user friendly URL in green, while the new style features a breadcrumb display of the result in green.
Google says they want users to better understand your website in search results, and better reflect the real-world name of the website, not just the domain name.
Make of this what you will, but to me, this reinforces that direction that Google has been leaning for some time regarding brand signals.
Brand strategy in the context of SEO is a whole discussion in itself, but can be summarized concisely. Websites that are built around a particular subject will eventually build up authority on that subject. This is the essence of branding — to establish your website as an authority on a particular subject. This is a better quality signal for search, and much tougher to fake, as was done in the past with various SEO manipulations. Branding, in the truest sense of the term, requires long-term strategy, not short-term tactics.
The Role of Metadata In The New URLs
One caveat to notice is that Google is displaying the real title of the site. This would normally be the name of your company, organization or brand. But how does the search engine determine this with certainty?
The site name should be reasonably close to your domain name. It should not be a SEO keyword phrase. (I wonder if this means exact-match keyword domains will be downgraded in the future? Hmm…) The site name should not be misleading in any way.
The site name should be the natural way people refer to your site or brand. It should be unique to this site. This Schema markup should be included on the home page of your website.
You can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to test and see how your site name appears. If Google cannot determine your site name, it will fall back to using the domain name.
A Solution For Optimizing Mobile Breadcrumbs
In addition to updating functionality with Twitter and Facebook, this latest version of WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin lets you control your site name.
You’ll find this setting under SEO > General > Your/Company Info. The Yoast plugin lets you choose whether your site is for a Company or a Person. It asks you for your site name, and an alternate name. Ideally, your website name and company name should match.
Here’s what the Info screen looks like when you set up your website as a Company.
Here’s what the Site Info screen looks like when you’re just a person.
As Yoast CEO Joost de Valk points out, if Google identifies search results by site names, and not URLs, this could lead to site spoofing — at least initially. It is unclear how Google will combat this potential problem at this time. This could be the reason for including an alternate site name via Schema metadata or the WordPress SEO plugin is a good idea.