If you’ve searched for anything on Google in the past week, you may have come across an old friend:

That’s right; pagination has returned to Google’s search results. 

On June 25th, 2024, Google put an end to its ‘continuous scroll’ feature and brought back the O.G. page-style results. 

Is this a reason to celebrate, or is it yet another Google UX change that will bring SEOs pain?

Only time will tell, but so far, it seems to be a double-edged sword. 

The upside of continuous scroll was that it improved visibility for web pages ranked outside of page one. Instead of having to click through to a new page, users could simply scroll down the page to view additional results. 

In a sense, everyone was on page one with the continuous scroll feature. 

Sadly, that is no more. 

Now that the old-school pagination system is back, ranking on page #1 is more important than ever. Page 1 accounts for 91.5% of all traffic on Google, which is where this classic joke comes from: 

Speaking of which, that joke is fair game again, which is a plus. 

Jokes aside, there’s a lot of speculation surrounding Google’s sudden decision to ditch continuous scroll. They claim it’s to serve search results faster, but is there more than meets the eye?

Stay tuned to find out how this change will affect your organic traffic. 

Continuous Search Results: A Short-Lived Feature 

Remembering the original page system isn’t too difficult since continuous scrolling only lasted for a year and a half on desktop.

Google implemented continuous scroll for mobile search in October 2021, and the feature landed on desktops in December 2022. 

At the time, Google claimed the change was to enhance its user experience – which, ironically, is the same reason they cited for removing it. 

Here’s what a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land back when the feature first launched in 2022:

“Starting today, we’re bringing continuous scrolling to desktop so you can continue to see more helpful search results with fewer clicks. It’s now even easier to get inspired with more information at your fingertips.”

At the time, infinite scrolling was (and still is) all the rage on social media, especially on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. 

It’s important to note that the feature wasn’t a true ‘infinite scroll,’ either. Instead, Google would load approximately 4 pages worth of search results at a time. Whenever a user reached the bottom of the page, it would buffer and load more. 

Here’s what it looked like in action:

Google was likely hoping to copy TikTok’s infinite scroll to capitalize on its popularity and provide a better user experience. However, Google now says that the feature was a failure based on data analysis. 

A Google spokesperson claimed that automatically loading more results didn’t lead to higher satisfaction levels with Search, which likely inspired the decision to get rid of it. Moreover, continuous scroll was more resource-intensive than the traditional page system. 

By returning to pagination, Google saves tech resources by not having to load 4 pages worth of search results at once. 

Can We Take Google at Face Value?

Ever since Google removed continuous scroll, the SEO world has been abuzz with speculation about why they decided to nix the feature. 

Google is famous for stretching the truth when it comes to their real motivations, especially when it comes to SEO and SEM. 

While the official story is that they removed continuous scroll to provide faster search results, not everyone is buying it. As we pointed out back when internal Google search documents were leaked, Google will say one thing but do something completely different behind the scenes. 

Due to their history of being less than truthful, it’s turned many SEOs into makeshift detectives (and some into tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists, but to each their own). 

Here’s a look at what some SEOs think may be the true reason for Google’s return to pagination. 

Glenn Gabe thinks it might have something to do with the recently introduced AI Overviews. 

It could be that the combination of continuous scroll paired with AI Overviews is causing Google to burn through too many resources (and putting a heavy strain on their servers). 

This would be enough of a reason to get rid of continuous scroll in order to A) save on resources and B) speed up AI Overviews. 

Conversely, Ori Zilbershtein thinks that Google genuinely spaced on this one, forgetting the lessons they learned in the past. 

Brett Tabke, founder of the Pubcon search conference (and the person who coined the acronym SERPs), had the most cynical take of the bunch. 

He believes it’s Google inching closer to phasing out organic search altogether in favor of answering every query with sponsored ads and Google property links. 

To quote Tabke:

“It effectively boxes more clicks on page one. That will result in a higher percentage of clicks going to Ads and Google properties. I think it is more evidence that Google is on a path to a new version of portal and away from search. 

Organic search itself will move to page 2, and I believe eventually to a new domain.”

While this is certainly a terrifying prospect, it’s still possible that Google made the change simply to save resources and enhance its user experience. 

What Does This Mean for Your SEO?

Now that pagination has made its grand return, what does it mean for you?

It means you need to double-down on your SEO efforts to ensure keyword rankings on page one. 

Continuous scroll caused some sites to see more organic traffic due to user choice fatigue, but that luxury is over now. 

This means a return to the old days of fighting tooth-and-nail over the #1 spot for crucial industry and long-tail keywords. 

If your content was ranking further down page one with continuous scroll, you’ll now appear on page 2 and beyond, which will likely cause significant dips in traffic

If you want to rank on page one, you’ll need:

  • Thought leader-worthy content (and a lot of it!) 
  • Backlinks from trusted websites in your field 
  • Flawless on-page and technical SEO 
  • Smart keyword research to identify the most promising content opportunities 

That’s a lot to keep up with, especially for smaller websites that don’t have in-house SEO experts. Moving forward, site owners will need to up their SEO game to remain competitive. 

Do you need help improving your search rankings to appear on page one?

If so, you need HOTH X, our managed SEO service. We’ll take the entire process off your hands to get you to page one (and done)!