Google has introduced new designs for their search result pages in the eCommerce space, alongside many new innovations that go a long way in building a true search journey that goes beyond providing search results.
Brands cannot afford to be excluded from what look more like product listing pages than search results pages, complete with product type, brand and size filters, created to personalise the search experience.
Enter Search Experience
Over the last few years Google has accelerated progress in its aim to create a seamless, more intuitive ‘search experience’. Users conducting research on a subject of interest – whether it is to learn, stay informed, or buy products – will open countless tabs and go down rabbit-holes of articles, user reviews, forums, image galleries, and video-tutorials. Google’s new experience seeks to simplify and optimise this user journey across the web.
Does your brand content strategy address all points in the search journey with the right format?
To cater to this multi-media expectation, search has evolved to integrate different media prompts such as text, voice, image, video, and location. Designing a search experience strategy means going beyond the search results on Google or other search engines to be present wherever users may engage with brands. This includes:
- Making sure engaging image and video content is created to meet the user expectations of being informed and entertained in an immersive experience
- Optimising the local presence to fully benefit from Google Maps Live View (which allows users to see businesses and points of interest around them in augmented reality through their phone camera)
- Finding users wherever they are on the web. In recent months the search industry has discovered TikTok and many have decreed it the new Google. While this is an exaggeration, the popularity of this video format is one that has not been lost on Google (more on this later).
Blending different search prompts in Multisearch (powered by MUM)
Google developed an accurate understanding of image content, in large part using vision AI, which allows them to analyse images, conceptualise what’s in them and how it fits into their vast understanding of reality (the knowledge graph). This means users can take a picture of anything through Google Lens and ask questions related to what is in the picture.
Are your product pictures easy to find and index for Google?
Google Search now provides this feature to all users in English: a picture can be taken using Google Lens and a prompt will appear for additional text questions about objects in the picture. Google can now put together visual prompts with textual or voice prompts to answer complex questions (e.g., ‘what is this?’ while pointing the camera at a specific part of one’s bike, or 'can I buy a dress in this pattern' while pointing the camera at a wallpaper design).
This of course can generate a longer, more complex search journey by adding further search prompts after the first one. For example, looking for ingredients for a dish we’re interested in for which we have a picture but not a name, then suggestions on where to buy the ingredients or even directions to the best restaurant in which to order the dish.
Google’s pivot to visual experience
This evolution of Google Search verging on visual elements has been a long time coming, since at least Google IO 2019, where quality imagery, image understanding, and lightning speed loads of visual content were among the main focuses. It is a journey Google are not likely to abandon any time soon and this is corroborated by other features launched over the years, such as 3D images on search results (now facilitated by AI which will require only a few angles of a product to build a 3D model for users to observe), and also the expansion of Google Discover which will go beyond news to start recommending products users might like and become a dedicated, personalised shop window.
Is your content optimised to appear on Google Discover?
Google Web Stories
Finally, short videos are now available for search (Web Stories) to capture the interest of users who are accustomed to consuming Instagram Reels and TikTok content. These are ultra-engaging clips that sit on a brand website and are fully indexable, to be explored as an immersive experience straight from the SERP. Web stories are built as pages on the brand’s site and come with detailed guidelines and an easy-to-use sandbox. The idea is to create the most engaging content to rival social media and do so while retaining 100% of the traffic and brand tone of voice, on pages that are totally indexable and discoverable on organic search.
All these trends have the common goal of keeping the user glued to the SERPs, where they can find all the information needed in the different moments of their buying journey, and sometimes be prompted to start a new journey through a Google Discover suggestion.
Practice your web story creation skills on the content creators site
Being present at all moments in the search journey
Probably the most ambitious trend in the direction of keeping users glued to the SERPs is how Google are adding new features to the search experience to turn it into an actual journey.
- Pill-shaped links will allow the user to refine or broaden their original search in order to read additional content related to what they are interested in learning about or buying
- The ‘helpful content’ algorithm will surface real user opinions from forums and review sites as suggestions for further reading
- ‘More info about this result’ will help users understand why they are shown a specific result, and give them the option to have results that are more or less personalised.
- Product filters will transform the SERP into a PLP, with filter suggestions expanding the user's understanding of the product and the ability to only see their favourite brands or styles
- Buying guides will offer a full journey from enquiring to purchase in a few clicks, with the user never needing to leave Google
- Easy toggle from the page a user is reading back to the search results or onto other content all from the Google app without closing tabs or bouncing back and forth.
- People also view results appearing at the bottom of the page when you are reading a web page from the Google app
What does it mean for CX experts?
We should embrace these evolutions in Google Search and consider which existing journeys on the client site could match those of new and returning customers engaging directly with the brand in the SERP.
Google will leverage content from brand sites to help shape the in-SERP experience, recreating and serving on-site customer journeys to billions of customers, all through a seamless series of taps on the screen.
If we provide answers at each touchpoint throughout the purchasing experience, we will be able to help the user on their journey and ultimately be rewarded with the conversion, whether the user is shopping on the client site or directly in the SERP.
Our on-site customer journeys need to be regularly mapped and recreated. They should match the customer intent at various stages through keyword targeting, and the type of content should also vary from how to guide, to product detail, to short video, to add to cart.
Technologies such as PWAs and web stories are ideal to recreate these journeys in a format that is easily digestible by both users and Search Engines. While brand strategy teams can work with editorial and Search to create the ultimate experience and be rewarded with more traffic and sales.