Internet users will no doubt have noticed that something changed in the last week. When logging on to Google, there was just something different about it – but, at first glance, it might have not been obvious what.
Those with an eye for design will have noticed that the Google logo now appears a tad smaller and that the buttons underneath the search bar have blended in with the background a bit more. But the main design change is the black colour of the top bar – where it used to be blue font on neutral white background, this new bar draws attention to the main search categories like images and news.
Once the user has entered his search term, the other main development catches the eye: the sidebar’s search options, now displayed in subtle red, nudge the user towards the search tools, such as limiting the search results to those from the last 24 hours (curiously, though, the ‘more search tools’ button is almost hidden away beneath the ‘all results’ heading).
In our last blog post, we talked about the Google ‘+1’ button, which has now been rolled out in the UK and adds a new social aspect to Google’s search function.
In terms of PPC, the two main new changes in our opinion are the new number of maximum site links displayed on the search results pages (SERPs) – six instead of four. An example for one of our clients’ ads below.
Before the update:
After the update:
Another PPC-related change is the shift of the display URL upwards – it now shows up above the site description instead of below.
Right now, we can’t say for certain what effect these two developments will have on CTR and conver, but bear with us – we’ll post a new blog once we’ve collected some data.
Why are Google doing this?
According to Google themselves, it’s all part of their drive to improve the user’s experience. But these changes also have a lot to do with Google’s desire to build an affinity for their brand. They want their users to notice and use their features more, thus increasing the “stickability” of their site.
The search process isn’t over once the user has pressed “enter”: they are now more likely to refine their search, and thus discover more relevant results. This development, together with the launch of Google’s own social network (Google+) is neatly timed to coincide with their competitor Bing’s recent gains in the market share (Microsoft, who own Bing, entered a deal with a Chinese search engine this week to boost their presence in that market) and Facebook’s onward march towards being the go-to platform for both search and social networking.
What does it mean for PPC and SEO clients?
As we mentioned in our last post, brands can now use the ‘+1’ feature as an additional metric to measure their popularity and authority as well as the users’ trust in them, and might even start thinking in more detail about ways with which to increase the number of Google ‘+1’s.
Brands now need to wisen up to the fact that people are potentially more likely to view SEO results according to the timeframe they choose. This means that the SERPs displayed for a search for the term “flowers” will change when the user chooses to only look for results from the last 24 hours/7 days etc (as opposed to, say, “Anytime”). This, in turn, has consequences for the way brands produce and manage their content. They should take care to keep creating new and relevant content on a regular basis. This practise has always been important, but never more so than now.