Google image search results tests new related searches box

Google is testing a new “related searches” box in the mobile version of the Google Image search results page. Robin Rozhon spotted the change and posted a screen shot on Twitter of this new box. I cannot replicate the new user interface, but it does look like others are also seeing this test.

Here is what it looks like:

Google frequently tests new user interfaces, so we are not sure if this new one will stick or fade away over the next couple of weeks.

Google tests 'more results' mobile search interface and new search refinement buttons

Google has confirmed it is testing a new mobile search interface and a new search refinement button. The new search interface shows fewer search results on the mobile search results page, with the option to click on a button labeled “more results.” In addition, Google is testing showing buttons to refine your search directly in the search results snippets.

A Google spokesperson told us “We constantly experiment with new search formats and experiences to deliver the best experience for our users.”

Dan Brackett shared screen shots with us on Twitter, but many others are noticing these new tests.

‘More results’ feature on Google mobile search

Here is a screen shot showing the “more results” link, often Google is showing as few as two or three organic search results on this page. To see more organic results, you will have to click on the “more results” link, and Google will then dynamically load more search results below.

You can also see the refinements at the top of the screen shot above. Here is another screen shot of these refinements directly in what is called a featured snippet.

Google has been testing both of these at least for the past few weeks, and more and more searchers are beginning to notice it.

This is just a test, and we do not know if or when Google will release this to a wider set of test users or to everyone.

Google testing an answers carousel within the search results snippets

Google has started testing and potentially rolling out a new feature in search that shows a carousel with a list of answers directly within the search results snippets. It shows the main search result snippet, and below it, it shows a carousel of answers picked from the content on the page the snippet is linking to.

This comes in handy with forum-related threads where someone asks a question and multiple people give their answers. In addition, Google is labeling which answer is the “best” and shows that answer first in the search results.

Here is a picture from @glenngabe:

I suspect Google is picking the best answer from a label in the thread itself.

Of course, this can be a concern for those who run answer sites. Instead of a searcher clicking from Google’s search results to an answer site webpage, the searcher can quickly see a snippet or the full answer in these answer carousels.

Google officially increases length of snippets in search results

Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that it has made a change to the way it displays snippets in search results. A snippet is the description of a page shown below the URL in an organic search result that helps show how it relates to the search query.

A Google spokesperson told us:

We recently made a change to provide more descriptive and useful snippets, to help people better understand how pages are relevant to their searches. This resulted in snippets becoming slightly longer, on average.

Here is a screen shot highlighting the description snippet of a Google search result:

Over the past week or so, many have been noticing that the snippets were longer than what’s typically been shown.

RankRanger has been tracking these as well, and according to its tools, the snippet length has grown from 160 characters to almost 230 characters on average. Here is the growth chart:

Some webmasters and SEOs may consider updating their meta descriptions, but I don’t believe Google would recommend doing so. The snippets are more often dynamically generated based on the user query and content found in both the meta description and the content visible on the page. If Google is going to go with a longer snippet, it likely will pull that content from the page.

The changing SERP: Understanding and adapting to dynamic search results

Consumer search behaviors are changing rapidly. According to a recent report from BrightEdge (disclaimer: my employer), 57 percent of searches now begin with a mobile device, and last year Google revealed that voice search has increased to about 20 percent of all Google mobile search queries.

And of course, Google is constantly adjusting their SERP layout in order to better align with a searcher’s context and expectations. Consumers now expect to see rich content in SERPs that includes not just standard text listings, but video, images, local map results, featured snippets and more. The standard organic listings themselves also sometimes feature rich snippets, which enhance the listing by presenting information in a way that is easy to scan and often visually appealing.

Paid search ads have changed as well — in 2015, Google doubled the size of its highly visual product listing ads (PLAs), and last year they announced that up to four search ads could appear for “highly commercial queries,” whereas previously the maximum had been three. Even if you aren’t involved in paid search, it’s important to keep track of any changes that impact the overall SERP layout and design, as these changes may affect the way users engage with organic listings.

These seismic shifts in the industry have a profound impact on SEO. Although my company has observed that the overall share of organic traffic for websites remains the same as it was in 2014 (51 percent of all incoming traffic, on average), this stability didn’t come easily — and it will become harder to defend this level of organic traffic contribution. Marketers now need to consider how content is evaluated and displayed on a variety of devices so they can attract more clicks from the right search user at the right time.

How have these shifts impacted SEO?

The shift from the classic “10 blue links” SERP of the old days to the more dynamic and visually appealing SERPs of today has had a huge impact on how SEO practitioners do their jobs. In the old days, you would create text content for a webpage with the aim of having it rank well in the SERP for your chosen keyword. Now, you must take into account how different content types will rank in different sections of the SERP on different devices and for users in different locations. Ideally, you will also consider how to present or mark up this content so that you can make the most of your listings with visual enhancements like rich snippets.

For example, let’s say that you manage a website for a business that sells cameras, and on that site is a page about SLR cameras. Many years ago, when the SERP showed just 10 blue links, you would seek to maximize organic search performance by creating high-quality, authoritative text content about SLR cameras. If you were really advanced, you would optimize this one piece of content across three devices (desktop, mobile and tablet) — three permutations in total.

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Fast forward to today. You still have your camera website and your webpage about SLR cameras. However, terms related to SLR cameras now bring up a variety of different result types, depending on the keyword variation. You decide that in addition to your existing text content about SLR cameras, you want to create other types of content to capture different areas of the SERP: high-quality product images (for image results), a video about SLR cameras (for video results), information on your local storefront (for the local 3-pack), and a question-and-answer section (for a featured snippet).

Each of these four content elements, in addition to your standard text content, could win a spot on SERP for the same keywords you were targeting and ranking for years ago. Suddenly, you need to deal with five content types across three devices — 15 permutations in total. That’s a lot more content to produce, optimize and track in order to maximize organic search performance.

Add to this the fact that ads are getting larger and more numerous — thereby reducing above-the-fold visibility for organic listings — and you can see how SEO has become an increasingly challenging endeavor over the years.

How can SEOs better focus their efforts?

Unless you work at a large company with unlimited resources, you’re going to have to make some tough choices about where to focus your SEO and content marketing efforts.

One way to inform this decision is to examine what content type is most likely to win the top spot on the SERP for your most important target keywords. For instance, “sports apparel” will likely to have local 3-pack above organic web listings, while “hawaii vacation” has more PPC results occupying top SERP positions.

This type of visual parsing is going to be a key way for search marketers to sustain and improve their organic search performance because Google is never going to show a one-size-fits-all SERP anymore. Marketers will need to analyze the ranking position of every content element on SERPs for their target keywords. They will also need to understand intent signals to see if a keyword produces SERPs with local results — or with any organic listings above the fold at all.

Conclusion

Search engine optimization has grown more challenging and complex over the years, and marketers must now look beyond pure ranking position on the SERP if they want to succeed. By closely examining SERPs to discover the types of content present, where each content type is displayed/positioned, and how much real estate each content piece occupies on the SERP for the keywords they want to be known for, marketers can better manage their SEO and content development efforts by focusing on areas that will have the greatest impact on organic search visibility.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Updated: Google home page search box now shows you recent searches by default

Google has changed the default behavior of the search box on the Google.com home page. Now, when you go to Google’s home page, the search box will automatically expand to show you your most recent searches.

Seeing these recent searches automatically expand below the search box, before you even click into the search box to enter your search query, feels awkward. It almost feels like this is a bug.

Matt Cutts, former Google search executive, said on Google+ he finds the experience “super annoying” and wants a way to opt out of this but cannot find the opt-out. Here is a screen shot from Matt Cutts:

We have emailed Google for more details, but we have not heard back at this writing. We do hope this is a bug and Google will revert this behavior shortly. Stay tuned.

Postscript: Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that this is not the behavior they want and it was likely a bug. “We launched the ability to see past searches by clicking the searchbox earlier this year. However, past searches should not be appearing immediately on page load, so we are working to fix this issue,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land.

Google updates mobile product knowledge panels to show even more info in one spot

Google is updating the look of of its product-oriented knowledge panels on mobile to show even more details about specific products in the search results.

In an example spotted by Vlad Rappoport, shown below, the shopping knowledge panel has a blue header and a new carousel featuring third-party editorial reviews and separate tabs for stores in addition to reviews along with several other features, like videos, to provide a one-stop resource for product information. 

In the example above, there is one Shopping ad in the “Shop on Google” section. In other cases, the knowledge panel will feature a carousel of Shopping ads.  The example below also features several product images in a carousel, as well as an additional “Details” tab.

Google pulls in user reviews from various sources, including merchants, manufacturers and brands that participate in the Product Ratings program and from platforms like Influenster.com. The editorial reviews about specific products are surfaced algorithmically.

Google first began showing ads in knowledge panels at the end of 2013. The update comes right before the holiday shopping season, a time when Google competes heavily with Amazon and others for product search volume. It also reflects Google’s move to provide more information about products in the search results themselves with features like side-by-side product comparisons, for example.

Google tweeted a GIF showing the new shopping panel experience:

Get shopping information in a snap. Now with a single search, you can quickly find product photos, videos, reviews, descriptions and more. pic.twitter.com/4w0OXyvAJ2

— Google (@Google) November 14, 2017

Confirmed: Google rolling out new curved mobile search results interface

Kashin / Shutterstock.com

It appears that Google is now rolling out the new curved mobile design that they have been testing for several months. Many searchers have reported seeing the new design, and several of us at Search Engine Land have replicated it.

The new design started rolling out earlier this morning, and now more are seeing it live.

This would be the first major redesign to the Google search results since 2013 saw the unified card design released.

We reached out to Google for confirmation of the rollout but had not heard back from them as of this writing. This story will be updated with a statement from Google as soon as we have one. Google is known for conducting many user interface tests, but this design appears to be a full rollout.

Update: November 3
A Google spokesperson has confirmed this update:

“We’re constantly working to improve your Search experience. That means not only introducing new features for exploration and discovery, but also enhancing the look, feel and design of search results. Now we’re rolling out an update to mobile that includes a wider bar to enter your search queries and a simple, white background which helps elevate and declutter the content from the web as you browse.”

Here is a screen shot of the new curved look for the Google mobile search results from my iPhone:

Google testing blue 'instant' AMP label in the search results

Google is testing a new way to label AMP content in the mobile search results. Instead of using a gray AMP lightning bolt icon with the AMP letters next to it, Google is testing showing a blue lightning bolt icon with the word “instant” next to it.

This was first spotted by @Jonny_J_, however, I am personally not able to replicate it.

Here is a screen shot from Jonny:

Here is what I see, which is what you probably see as well:

Google is often testing different user interfaces — so this comes as no surprise.

Anatomy of a Google search listing

Are you looking to dominate in Google search results?

Your strategy needs to involve more than keyword research and a savvy AdWords campaign. In order to make the most of your Google presence, you need to craft a search result that entices users to click through to your web page. This is a crucial yet often-ignored aspect of SEO.

Believe it or not, small changes to your Google listing can make a big difference when it comes to click-through rate. Here is a detailed guide to better understanding a basic Google search listing.

Title

It’s no secret that page titles can heavily influence user behavior. But did you know that Google doesn’t always show a web page’s title tag? The title that appears in search results might be influenced by several factors. Google looks to find titles that are short, descriptive and relevant to search queries. Though they most commonly use a page’s title tag, they can also pull from page content or links pointing to the page. Try to keep your title tag short, and provide context to users in order for it to be displayed.

Is your title is being cut off in the Google search results? You might need to shorten it. Maximum length for a title tag is 600 pixels, which is about 70 characters (78 for mobile); otherwise, Google will truncate it. Truncated titles are indicated by an ellipsis.

URL

You may have noticed that Google often omits parts of a URL. Google truncates URLs by removing their middle sections, even when the URL is only one line. Use short but meaningful URLs whenever possible to maximize their impact in the Google SERPs (search engine results pages).

The URL is often displayed as clickable breadcrumb links. In these instances, Google displays the site’s internal hierarchical linking structure from the on-page breadcrumb navigation when those breadcrumbs are marked up using breadcrumb semantic markup.

Google search listings may also include time stamps under their URL. This is a common practice for news publishers, blogs and other sites that wish to bring attention to the freshness of their content and provide the date of publication or date of last update.

To integrate this, you need to add a time stamp into your page copy. You can provide Google with specific times by adding comment tags through the W3 Total Cache plugin for WordPress, which will appear something like this: Served from user @ 2017-03-03 17:15:25.

You can also manually add a time tag to a page or blog post using structured data markup. Otherwise, Google will use the publication date, which is easy for Google to determine with WordPress blogs.

Here is an example of the structured data HTML markup:

Cached link

The cached link is a fail-safe in case your website is unavailable; it is a snapshot that Google takes of each page and adds to its cache. It also serves as a backup in case a page is deleted, temporarily down or failing to load.

Google has made changes to the Cached link location in recent years. Cached links are now stored next to the URL in a green down arrow.

The cached link will be missing for sites that have not been indexed, as well as for sites whose owners have requested that Google not cache their content. Owners can block their page from being cached by using a meta-robots “noarchive” tag.

What’s the benefit to doing this? For one thing, it can prevent users from copying your content for redistribution; people can still copy and paste content from a cached page even if you’ve blocked these functions on your site. Sites with paid content often block cached pages to prevent their content from being seen for free. Fortunately for them, pages being cached or not by Google have no bearing on overall ranking.

Snippet

A snippet is the description for the page that appears underneath the title. Google can obtain the snippet from either the page’s meta description tag or contextual information on the page. Like titles, the search snippet is based on the query and can be altered by different keyword searches.

For example, in a search for “meta description,” the snippet below is returned for the yoast.com search result.

Searching for “160 character snippet” in Google returns a very different snippet for a search result for the same page as above.

Keyword bolding (known by us information retrieval geeks as “Keywords in Context” or KWIC) is also query-based and will often appear in the snippet, depending on the search term.

Google currently limits a snippet to around 156 characters per search result (or 141 with a date stamp). The actual limit, in terms of total pixel width, is 928 pixels (based on 13px Arial). Snippets will be truncated and end with ellipses when they run over this limit.

Often, Google will choose not to use a meta description in favor of a more relevant snippet. The snippet can come from anywhere on your page (including disparate parts of the page), so it’s important to pay close attention to your content — especially around common keywords.

It’s still worth it to carefully craft a meta description. In many cases, Google will still show a quality meta description for popular searches. What makes it a quality meta description? It’s well-written, includes popular search terms and avoids redundant information, such as repetition of the title tag. Since the snippet is query-based, you need to incorporate popular, relevant search terms into both your meta description and your on-page content.

There are also times when a snippet does not appear. Why does this happen? It’s because that URL is blocked using a disallow in the site’s robots.txt file. In such cases, Google will display a message in the snippet’s place stating, “A description for this result is not available because of this site’s robots.txt.”

You can prevent this with noindex instead of disallow. That way, Google can still crawl the page, but it will not add it to its search engine index or display it in the SERPs.

Conversely, you can opt out of snippets by using the <meta name=”googlebot” content=”nosnippet”> tag on your page.

Sitelinks

Google sitelinks are additional sub-listings that appear underneath the first search result. For instance, if a user were to search for “Search engine land,” this is what they would see:

Sitelinks are intended to help users navigate around websites. In this instance, the user might want to jump to the latest industry news rather than navigating through Search Engine Land’s home page.

You might have noticed a “more results” feature in the above screen shot. This restricts the results to only coming from indexed pages on that specific site. In this example, the More results from searchengineland.com >> link leads to a refined search of just pages on searchengineland.com for the query “Search engine land.” This is accomplished using the Google site: search operator.

Google allows up to six automated sitelinks, but they are far from guaranteed for poorly optimized sites. Websites with a clear hierarchy and structure and a unique brand name are more likely to have sitelinks. As a result, you’re more likely to see sitelinks appear in search results after typing in a specific brand.

You’ll notice that in this instance, a search for The New York Times renders both sitelinks and a search box. If you wish to include a search engine, you can do so by embedding structured data on your website.

Though the system is automated, the best way to get sitelinks is to reach the top overall position for your website name. A downside to using different domains (or subdomains) in your web strategy is that they won’t be included in the sitelinks. Still, the impact of sitelinks is undeniable. AdWords advertisers with sitelinks see a 20-50 percent boost in click-through rate when the search is a branded term.

Final thoughts

Small changes to a search result can have a big impact on a site’s traffic. Google search is an ever-evolving science, so rules that exist today might not exist tomorrow. For the time being, you can follow this guide to help improve your presence in the Google SERPs.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.