The new era of Google Search: dashboard personalisation, video autoplay and a social style setting

Last week in San Francisco when Google marked their 20th anniversary, it wasn’t all champagne and back slaps. They also launched some pretty big announcements about the future of their Search experience. The days of the uniform column of 10 blue links are over; say hello to a more visually engaging and social look and feel with new features similar to the ones we’ve grown accustomed to from social platforms.

Google's 20th anniversary

 

There will be 3 fundamental shifts in the Search experience:

From answers to journeys. Google will now display information related to your previous searches including images and videos, even when you’re not searching for it. This comes from intel that most online searches are rarely done in isolation and concluded in one search. Rather, each search is usually part of a broader search journey. This move from ‘pull’ to ‘push’ marketing marks the start of a new strategic approach by information industry goliath, Google.

From queries to queryless. As part of this new journey, you won’t even need to type in your query to get answers. Google will present you with an array of relevant findings based on your previous search behaviour.

A more visual experience. In line with the rest of the online world, Google is shifting how it communicates from the somewhat mundane, text heavy appearance to a layout showing less text and more visual information.

So, what exactly will change?

Firstly, mobile users will be presented with a feed similar that that of the Google app, containing relevant content; images, cards, videos and normal text search results. This will be based on your previous or saved results, and topics and interests you follow. And of course, this is without even needing to enter a search query. Here’s some examples of the new features:

Featured Videos

Google will start to autoplay videos in a continuous stream, similar to Facebook. However, in the spirit of relevance, Google will only play short clips of relevant sections, rather than the full length video. A little bit less annoying than the Facebook version, hopefully.

New Google featured videos

 

Activity Cards

Activity Cards will now appear at the top of the search results page containing your previous searches and other information deemed useful at that moment in time. You will also be able to save content from an Activity Card to a new feature called Collections. So a bit like bookmarking.

Google Activity Cards

Enhanced Topics

To help users with ongoing information needs, Enhanced Topics are engineered to ‘deeply understand a topic space and how interests can develop over time as familiarity and expertise grow’. This extra info will be tabulated, and you’ll also have the option to customise  what you see, helping Google do better for you. Cute.

Discover

Originally born in 2016 into the Google app under the guise of Google Feed, it started out with providing information around personal interests around topics you’ve engaged with previously, and personal information..think diary appointments, flight reminders etc. Now reborn as Discover, the redesigned feed will integrate with search results, rather than being only present on the app homepage. Again, following in the footsteps of the social giants, users will be able to ‘Follow’ certain topics.

Google Enhanced Topics

Pathways

Why stop at a complete overhaul of the Search experience? Google’s also decided to take on LinkedIn with job search tool Pathways, part of the Grow with Google initiative to ‘ensure economic opportunity for everyone’. Nawww….aren’t they lovely.

With the shift towards journeys and pre-emptive offerings of useful information and content,  Google have recognised an opportunity to assist job seekers with relevant information about skills and locally available training alongside results for job listings.

So, what does this all mean for my SEO strategy?

User-data driven strategy is the lynchpin to success

User behaviour metrics and behavioural based landing page improvements are more important than ever.

Google hasn't announced a ‘Like' button just yet, so for the moment we need to rely on the same user behaviour/quality metrics (bounce rate, av. time on site, click through rate, conversion rate, site speed etc) to infer whether the audience like what they see.

A/B and multivariate (MVT) testing will also play a primary role here, allowing users to unknowingly vote on what they see. An important part of that decision will be not just the quality of the content (text, image, video), but also how the content is displayed/layout on the page.

Visually immersive shopping experiences

For eCommerce brands, SEO image optimisation won’t just stop at alt tags. Now, the whole landing page strategy including the approach to product images is critical in optimising user behaviour metrics that have a direct effect on SEO algorithms.

Luckily, with new product visualisation features such as augmented reality (AR) readily available on the market (see Shopify’s recent announcement), combined with the ability to use product video, the tech is already there for brands to take the online shopping experience to the next level.

Killer content  

Content continues to defend the throne. But it’s kingdom is evolving. Basing content strategy on search volumes x intent is a good start. However, smart brands are now also predicting what will work best by using metrics on content that performed well in social media for other brands and publishers. Now, content experience and how it’s presented (layout, text, images, video) is more important than ever.

Video is the front runner here, for both transactional and informational searches. By adding tangibility and a better UX, video provides brands with a clear competitive and search advantage which will be reflected in effect in rankings, UX and conversion rate.

First impressions now REALLY count

Since Google’s now basing Discover results on previous behaviour, it’s critical to make sure that first interaction with the user is a good one. Think about landing page strategy; objectives of the page, understanding the user intention, and meeting user expectations.

Technical SEO

These things may come under the umbrella of Technical SEO which can often render bewildered looks on the faces of anyone outside the SEO world, but the logic isn’t rocket science. Anything that disrupts the user experience is a no-no.

Fix issues with broken links, internal link redirections, poor site speed, empty or thin content pages, low quality and duplicate content pages, ...you get the drift. As you wouldn’t allow customers in your high street store to hopelessly wander down towards your fire exit, don’t leave them hanging online. Plan 1-1 redirects to a similar or close variation of deleted pages, optimise image quality for different devices, and make it easy for your customers to find useful and relevant content, à la Google.

To improve the visibility of your content, implementing schema markup will signpost search engines to better understand every single on page element to improve the relevance of search results.

The bottom line is that it’s going to be vital to provide an exceptional website user experience in order win with Google, and of course your customers. This can’t be subjective (sorry, Art Directors). It must be based on hard data, of which we all fortunately have reams. If this all sounds a little overwhelming, remember, this is good! It means that, with the right direction, we have the answers at our fingertips on how to make customers happy while growing business at the same time. So thanks for the nudge, Google!

 

Posted on 28 September 2018

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