Online Acquisition Coordinator
Google has been busy in 2010 and it shows with several significant changes in user interface and search functionalities happening in just the last few months. As Google continues to evolve, it is important to adapt and understand how it affects your business. Among the most important changes is the addition of the left-hand navigation menu, the rollout of Google Caffeine, and of course the recent release of Google Instant.
Improved Left-Hand Navigation
The new left-hand panel provides the most relevant search tools, allowing users to refine their queries to find exactly what they are searching for. Within the left-panel are three sections: content types, search tools, and something different. Each section is discussed below. The top section of the new left-hand panel allows users to refine searches by content type. By default, Google will display results for “Everything”, using their Universal Search system. However, if the user is looking for a specific type of content, such as an image, they can filter results by images. The content types displayed in the left-hand panel will vary based on the relevance perceived by Google. If the content type you are searching for is not displayed you can simply click “more” to drop down and see the full list of content types.
The middle portion of the left-hand panel is the search tools section that allows you to further narrow your results within content types. This section provides tools for filtering search results by time, location, and other relevant search preferences. In addition, there are options as to how you can display your results. Display options include related searches, wonder wheel, and timeline.
At the bottom of the left-hand panel is the “Something Different” section which suggests related queries, so you can easily explore other topics that may be relevant to your search. For example, if a user searches for “iPhone”, Google might suggest “Blackberry” or “Android” in the something different section.
Google had a makeover. So what, right? Here are a few things to think about.
The new Google user interface increases the visibility for Universal Search results, making it even more important to optimize for local listings, news, and other relevant content. The user’s ability to segment search results provides a new opportunity to increase traffic to your Web site. Your company can benefit by outranking competitors in search result genres in which you have a specific competency. For example, while you may not outrank competitors in general search results, you’re able to consistently outrank competitors for News results because your company excels at providing relevant, up-to-date news content to users.
In addition, the new Google user interface highlights and privileges new content. Users are able to refine searches based on time, therefore increasing the value for timely content.
For a more comprehensive description and analysis of the new Google search tools, refer to Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Land article.
After a lengthy testing process Google finally announced their complete transition to Caffeine, the new web indexing system, on June 8th, 2010. The new system indexes Web content at a much faster rate than before, allowing users to find published content sooner. According to Google, Caffeine provides 50% fresher results than the previous index and offers the largest collection of data to date.
To the end user, it may seem that nothing has changed. But taking a look behind the scenes, you see that Google has built a scalable solution to the exponential growth of content provided on the Web. To briefly explain, Google’s previous index consisted of several layers, each refreshing at a different rate. The main layer would be updated every few weeks, therefore creating a delay between the time that Google found the page and when it was made available to the public. In comparison, Caffeine is able to simultaneously process hundreds of thousands of pages each second. As a result, Google is able to provide fresh content at a faster rate. Here’s how Google illustrates the difference between the old index and Caffeine:
Why the change? The simple answer is that the Internet and user expectations have evolved, becoming significantly more complex. Users expect to find the most up-to-date, and relevant content faster. To ensure that Google would continually be able to meet this demand, a faster indexing system was needed.
In an ongoing effort to increase search efficiency and improve usability, Google has revolutionized the search interface again with the recent release of Google Instant.
What is Google Instant? Google Instant is an evolution of the Google Suggest feature, providing not only suggested queries instantly but also real time search results as you type in the search box. As you begin to type, both the predicted query and search results change.
According to Google, there are three significant benefits to Google Instant (read the full Google post here):
All of these benefits are consistent with Google’s goal of creating a better experience for users, but what do these changes mean for you? Is Google Instant the death of SEO? In short: no.
While Google Instant is sure to change the search landscape, it by no means removes the need for keyword optimization. As usual, a significant change to Google’s UI presents an opportunity for creative search marketers to capitalize as the competition is scrambling in panic and confusion. Search marketers that strive to understand the implications of these changes will adapt, measure, and optimize their strategy to ensure search engine success. So what are some good things to know about Google Instant to win organic search traffic? Here’s a quick list:
Google also provided some clarification as to how impressions are measured with Google Instant (read full post here):
The effect of Google Instant on search traffic will likely vary from site-to-site and is still highly speculative. For now, it is most important to understand how Google Instant works and to start monitoring closely to see how your industry and business is affected.
Yes, Google has changed drastically. However, the basic concepts remain the same. Provide great content, provide it often, promote it across multiple channels, and let Google know that you’re important for targeted key phrases. Google’s goal in the past, present, and foreseeable future is to provide the most relevant content to users, as efficiently as possible. Changes to algorithms, user interface, and search functionalities are made with this in mind. For search marketers, the key is to understand the major implications of these changes and to leverage that knowledge to increase organic traffic. How can you benefit from the new Google?