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?
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.
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.
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?