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If Google had a stimulus plan, maybe this is the beginning. Google recently changed the fee structure of Google Checkout to reflex PayPal’s pricing. Doing so upset many users, some even started a Facebook Group against the fee hikes, but the new fees will result in more money in the bank for the big G. But here comes new news, if you haven’t already heard, yesterday Google announced on their official blog that they will be implementing two new features, both aimed at “making sure you have the highest quality search experience possible.”  Sounds innocent, but how innocent are they really?

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The first feature implemented is the expanded list of useful related searches (as seen above on a search for dementia).
What exactly is this?  These are the search results that appear near the top or bottom of a search engine results page (SERP) for popular and high-traffic terms.

expanded-descriptions
Image courtesy Google

The second improvement is the addition of longer search result descriptions.  The search results description Google is referring to is the wording beneath the blue links.  How is this wording exactly chosen?  Google and the other major search engines generally pull from the meta description tag or if none exists, use snippets of text found on the page.  This new improvement only applies to search queries that use 3 or more words.

My Opinion: Google is spreading the wealth (of traffic)!

I’m a big fan of the expanded list of related searches.  In theory, if Google is recommending potentially useful sites for longer tail keyword searches, they are spreading the traffic out more.  Most people will no longer default to the 1st page results of broad keyword searches (i.e. vacations), but rather a small majority will start utilizing this feature.

Example: A mother is looking to plan a beach vacation for her family.  She browses to Google and instead of searching “beach vacations,” she searches “vacations,” which presents her with results from popular websites like expedia.com, Travelocity.com & orbitz.com.  True she can refine her search, but over 70% of users will click on the #1 or #2 result.

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Now with Google’s expanded recommendations, the mom may be presented with these additional recommendations and click on “beach vacations,” to be then presented with less known websites such as coastrentals.com, myrtlebeachcondorentals.com, or funbeachvacations.com.  In the bigger picture of things, if even a small minority of Google users start using these results, traffic should increase across the board for these more specific searches.  Why is it so great for small businesses? Websites that rank organically for long tail keywords, but not broad keywords should gain more traffic!  The only negative of this that I foresee is that this feature may contribute to PPC bid inflation as more advertisers start vying for these keywords and the increased traffic they bring.

Regarding the longer search results descriptions, the changes don’t seem to be live across all of Google’s data centers yet, so going by the screen shot, my opinion is mixed.  If done correctly, this seems useful, but at what point do descriptions get cut off?  Does this become detrimental to web sites that rely on advertising dollars to pay the bills?    An example would be a search query for a “chicken salad recipe.”  If all of the ingredients and directions are laid out in the SERPs, there’s no point for users to even visit the web site.

Your thoughts on these new features?  Are there more to benefit Google, the user, or both?

Comments

5 thoughts on “The Google Stimulus Plan: 2 Improvements That Hurt Or Help?
  1. Mike Block says:

    I see that “beach vacations” is a link that you, like the mother in the story, have recently visited, Christian. Take me with you!

    Seriously, though, I never like to say that I “like” or “dislike” anything until I see how it affects our clients and our own PPC efforts. I wouldn’t predict increased competition or bid inflation, but neither would it surprise me. Still, success in PPC is always going to come down to three things: 1) Do people want what you have? 2) Do you offer a good website and a good deal for it? 3) Is your PPC being managed properly.

    Answer “yes” to all three questions and you will probably be able to make it past this economic downturn, regardless of how Google changes the search experience.

  2. Hmm, interesting…does this mean meta tags are important again? I’ve always been confused about that. 😉 Great article, Christian! I noticed these changes and I really enjoyed them, but I am not one of those 70% of users who will click on the #1 or 2 result…I look at the first 1/3 of the page and then I scan the bottom. Sorry guys in the middle.

  3. kmoth says:

    I had noticed this new expanded list of related searches but I didn’t really take the time to think about how this effects search traffic. I find your “spreading the wealth of traffic” outlook on it quite interesting and I have to agree, it certainly does seem like a very effective way to spread out the search. I have even used this expanded search many times for my own benefit as a searcher.

  4. ade says:

    I noticed the expanded list of related searches and I’ve so far found it very useful. But I never knew it had far reaching effects!

    To me this ‘looks’ like a good thing for those both for users of Google and sites appearing in the expanded list of related searches.

    Regarding the description meta tag issue, I’ve always been a fan of ‘loading’ as much text as possible in it. Is that what this new enhancement means?

  5. Lynda says:

    I have noticed that popular keywords are getting very expensive. Why is this? Is competition really driving up the cost? This is getting very costly for business owners relying on ppc advertising. Some keywords have jumped up to almost $4.00 per word. What is the solution? I know organic searches bring traffic, but if you are busy running your business, it is difficult to make time for this type of exposure.

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