Blog post summary: Google makes an announcement that plans to change how users search, impacting businesses. This blog explores the changes and considers how the update will impact search strategies and the industries most affected.
This week, Google has announced new ways for users to search, likely impacting how content is served. Here, we explore what these changes look like for us and how they might impact organic search strategies as we head towards Search Generative Experience (SGE).
The changes are expected to affect users in the U.S. before the end of 2023, with other market rollouts being announced later.
Notes – currently part of an opt-in experiment via Search Labs – is expected to let users share opinions and make notes on individual web pages. This can include image and text-based notes, allowing users to share their views on web page content. This is only eligible for mobile and tablet devices, including Android, iPhone and iPad.
Follow is a new way for users to signal to Google and personalise their Discover page within the Google app. Users can follow topics with ‘Follow’ buttons to receive updates and notifications. Users returning to their followed topics will see ‘new-to-you’ content.
Android devices (including smartphones like the Google Pixel) heavily feature the Google app. However, Google has previously used user data to personalise the results. The Follow feature will soon be eligible on mobile browsers Chrome and Safari in the U.S. and is expected to be released by the end of 2023.
Now, with users able to personalise and signal their own interests, we can see a clearer move towards Google utilising traditional search engines as a type of social media.
Perspectives is due for a desktop rollout after a successful mobile rollout in May 2023, pushing User-Generated Content (UGC) to the forefront of searchers’ minds. Perspectives put results from social media platforms in a more prominent position within search.
Updates here will see return visits to a specific site personalise search results further, ensuring users’ favourites appear at the top of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
“One of the very interesting changes happening is a "personal" ranking in your searches if you regularly returns back to a site who answer you searches they will feature higher in your search rankings. Changing the way we look at Brand loyalty online. Placing the importance on website to deliver highly engaging content that answers users queries. Our product Perfect Page, becomes more important to ensure traffic doesn't bounce and landing page capacitive the user, provide regulated info easily and draw them into onsite journeys.” Chris McCormick, Managing Partner CRO & UX
When Search Generative Experience was announced in May, we predicted a big shift in searcher behaviour and expectations, which we believe these latest changes will continue to push.
Younger searchers, driven by their experience on platforms like TikTok, expect to find answers to their questions more quickly than ever. Notes should help with this, as users will no longer need to search an entire article to determine if something is relevant to their needs. But the desire for a more TikTok-like social experience doesn’t stop there.
Google explains that their research indicates that ‘people are interested in what people like them are saying about a given web page’. Utilising User Generated Content within Search Engine Results Pages provides a more social experience within a search engine and could encourage more use of Google’s platform.
Misinformation has long been a hot-button topic for sites with high levels of User Generated Content, like Twitter and Facebook. This comes in the wake of misinformation scandals, which have led to a push for fact-checking. Google have their own misinformation guide via their Safety Centre.
Not all behaviours will change – some, like mobile-first, will persist. Google has long been an innovator in mobile-first technology, experimenting with mobile-first indexation since November 2016. These new changes put a further emphasis on a mobile strategy.
Many elements of search strategies will remain the same, such as providing users with helpful, well-researched content. In the update, Google says, “We’ll take the same approach to surfacing high-quality information, based on factors like expertise, experience, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.”
However, we believe there are considerations with this update that businesses need to consider.
With the update comes Notes, letting customers comment on content. This creates the potential for abuse and spam; there are questions about how Google will manage this to ensure SERP results continue to be helpful and useful.
Looking at local results, Google currently displays User Generated Content (UGC) via reviews in Google Business Profiler (GBP). Google is keen to ensure these results are spam-free, although it often slips through. If Notes can work similarly to GBP, it would be preferable for sites to manage their platforms to monitor and reduce potentially harmful content. It is also likely that natural and longer-term profiles within Google accounts will have notes weighted higher in search results.
There are clear content benefits to the Notes feature. Any notes on content could serve as a vote of trust and assist Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trust (E-E-A-T) impact. It will also let businesses create and nurture communities around relevant topics. Including E-E-A-T in strategies follows best practice and prioritises quality, relevant and useful content. Above all, ensuring sites produce content for users over search engines is part of Google’s best practice guidelines.
As we move closer to SGE and the changing SERP (Search Engine Results Page) landscape, we believe the ability to add notes providing additional information and context will support longer tail queries, providing better answers for customers. In addition, richer, more detailed answers present an opportunity for clients to enhance their visibility within featured snippets and potentially SGE results when they roll out.
There are risks for SEO strategies with this update. However, there are also significant opportunities for clients who create high-quality, credible content that speaks to their customers. Further research is needed to better understand how to incorporate this update into our SEO strategies to deliver performance. With our monitoring of over 1.2 million keywords, further thought leadership will follow as the update rolls out.
“While the key principles of winning in search remain constant, Google is providing new ways to compete to fend off old and new competitors alike. With social search and a reinvigorated Bing providing the biggest threat to their dominance in decades, we expect Google to continue experimenting with new features in 2024, meaning brands will need to be alert to the new opportunities available to them to grow their share of search.” Stephen Pritchard, Managing Partner SEO
A flurry of algorithm updates since August, and ongoing SGE tests suggest Google is aware of the need to offer searchers more helpful features, with competition from social search and a new Bing search experience.
We expect the pace of change to continue through 2024 as Google tinkers with features that work, ditches those that don’t and dreams up new ways to compete with up and coming search challengers. While some things – like expert content – will always be important for winning in search, it’s clear that strategies and tactics must evolve to take advantage of new opportunities. Contact us to find out how dentsu can help you capitalise on the changing search landscape.