I’m sure you know how beneficial it can be to stay one step ahead of Google when it comes to SEO. Being able to predict Google means you can offer a proactive approach rather than be reactive. That’s why I have created this blog post.
I compiled a list of recent changes in Google SERPs. Many of the changes are part of Google’s recent A/B tests, while others have only been rolled out in selected geographic regions so far.
These SERP changes affect Google Images, organic, PPC, Google Shopping, Knowledge Graph, Google News and Google Apps. You’re about to learn how they might affect your digital marketing game plan.
Ok! Let’s get started.
PPC ads harder to spot
Google has been experimenting with the colour of the ad label for PPC ads.
One of my colleagues here at iThinkMedia spotted this a number of times in the UK SERPs over the last week or so and managed to grab a snapshot. The colour Google was testing in each case was green. It’s the same green that Google uses in The URL part of paid and organic results, thus giving it that sneaky camouflage factor, making it harder to identify as an ad.
We spotted the tests last week, but Google has been experimenting since mid April according to Search Engine Watch.
Right now its seems to be part of A/B testing, but it could be rolled out as a permanent feature if it proves to be a profitable change. Almost indistinguishable from organic SERPs at a first glance, it’s likely that the new colour will prove profitable for Google, after all more clicks mean more revenue for big G.
If Google goes ahead with this, then it may increase click through rate of ads, but may also attract traffic that doesn’t have commercial intent for broader, more ambiguous head terms.
Let us know in the comments below which one of the two ads you think stands out the least.
More Image results above the fold
Google.com is showing tabs instead of thumbnails at the top of image results to allow users to fine-tune their search results. In the UK (Google.co.uk) we just get thumbnails instead.
Although arguably less visually appealing, the new tabs are more space efficient. This means there is more filtering options visible horizontally across the top, and Google can fit more actual images above the fold because the tabs aren’t as space hungry.
Google UK doesn’t show the thumbnails on mobile. They show a strip of text links instead. The more versatile US tabs appear effortlessly on both mobile and desktop devices.
Is it a test?
Perhaps Google is trialing certain features in the US (on Google.com) prior to rolling them out across its international family of domains. It wouldn’t be the first time either. Previously Google tested algorithmic changes such as ‘Google Pigeon’ in certain countries, before introducing them to other countries.
I really like the new Google tabs, particularly on mobile, and would be very surprised if Google decided not to roll them out internationally.
Your product specification right in the SERPs
Another US debut is the Product Info Graph. It’s a kind of Knowledge Graph that pulls all its information from Google Shopping instead of Wikipedia.
Similar to the Knowledge Graph, the Product Info Graph appears on the right side of the page on desktop, availing of space that was not long ago littered with PPC ads. On mobile devices it appears at the top of the search page as per the image above.
It’s a rare sighting!
In the example above, the Product Info Box appeared in a search for the search term ‘iPhone’. But I struggled to find another search term that triggers the box to appear. Why not have a go yourself and let me know if you can find another search term that makes it appear?
If this is rolled out on a wider scale, Google users will be able to do more product research without visiting actual web pages and the like. Google will give them all the info and user reviews they need, directly from the SERPs, before funneling them into Google shopping to place an order.
This change places more focus on Google shopping as a search vertical. If you sell products but are not already on Google shopping, if implemented this change will make shopping an important extension of your paid advertising campaign.
Drive in-store visits from Google Shopping
Google has wedged an interesting new little feature into its shopping results. The new ‘Also available nearby’ widget (visible in the left image above) was spotted in the US SERPs on a mobile search and it doesn’t appear for all search queries. We couldn’t replicate it in the UK SERPs.
The feature links directly to the website of a local retailer. Imagine the traffic benefits of having your store there!
Local shopping results are better.
The right side image above shows a similar feature, albeit more apologetic, which appears in both UK and US SERPs, across desktop and mobile alike. This one isn’t a link, but it makes the listing more eye-catching. And by identifying your business local, it could mean more traffic for your site because local collection means no shipping costs. This could be enough to make your store a more appealing option than that of a competitor who is further afield.
This feature really emphasizes the importance of a Google My Business page for stores using Google Shopping Feed to sell their wares.
Drive Traffic to your site from your competitor’s SERPs
The ‘People also search for’ box appeared at the bottom of a mobile SERPs page when I searched for ‘eBay’ on Google.com. For some reason the images did not load correctly.
I guess Google is still ironing out a few bugs.
On desktop, the box appears as part of the Knowledge Graph on the right side of the page. On mobile it seems that Google has disconnected it from the Knowledge Graph, placing it near the bottom of the page instead, and without a Knowledge Graph anywhere to be seen.
It seems to have a more prominent presence on the page when located in the main column. I suspect it might attract more clicks from this location.
When I clicked on the Amazon link within the feature, it took me to a search results page with a brand carousel at the top and Knowledge Graph directly below it.
The ‘People also searched for’ box also appears at the bottom when you search for ‘Game of Thrones’, but for this query it suggests other TV shows.
Try it yourself!
This demonstrates Google’s ability to categorise websites into subjects like films, TV shows, brands etc. It highlights the importance of you ensuring that Google can categorise your site correctly. To find out more about this check out this post about entity search by Paul Bremmer and this fantastic post post by Barbara Starr.
Create an app to help dominate your brand SERPs
I’m sure many of you will already know that Google has an Apps widget that shows up in organic search results. The above image demonstrates two different ways in which apps can appear in a search.
It seems that for a brand search query such as ‘eBay’, Google wants to provide one official app option (right side image). But where multiple apps are available, or possibly if Google hasn’t determined the official app, Google offers the left side widget instead. Note: The multi-app widget has changed colour since I took the screen grab a few days ago. Maybe this was an AB test.
Desktop SERPs do not show the app features because downloading a smartphone app to a desktop would be pretty pointless in most cases.
This is really cool:
You can make your website stand out by getting your logo appearing right next to it in SERPs! All you need is an app.
Currently it seems to only work for Android users who have installed your app on their phone or tablet.
For example; I have Dolphin browser in my HTC One M8 The image on the right shows the SERPs I see when I Google the word ‘Dolphin’ on my HTC one.
You could take advantage of this by creating a clever new app that lots of people will want to download. Give it away for free to attract as many users as possible. Then sit back and watch the traffic pouring in as your website stands out, head and shoulders above the competition.
More visibility for Google News publications
Some search results are now triggering a special new Google News Box. The new feature pulls multiple stories from just a single publisher, who has covered a topic through multiple articles.
This is different than the standard news box that pulls news from a mix of news sources. You can see the standard news box below:
I captured a rare instance of a double Publisher News Box – it’s kind of like an SEO version of a double rainbow. This was probably when Google was testing it out.
I’ve only seen the new News Box featured on mobile results so far.
We even saw some instances of the standard Google News Box and the Publisher News Box appearing in a single search results page.
The standard Google news box has recently become AMP biased and annotates articles as AMP where applicable. It might be the case that this new Publisher News box is not AMP biased yet, since it doesn’t have the AMP annotation visible. If you don’t know what AMP is then check out this post.
It is unclear if this new Publisher News Box is somehow related to the Local Source update announced on the 9th May. I think it’s very possible though.
Time to become a news source!
These recent actions from Google seem to place more weight on News. It might well be a good idea to register your blog with Google News if you have enough writers to qualify. Have a look at Google’s Guidelines on how to become a news source to get started.
Most of the changes we have looked at today are mobile specific. The mobile SEO SERPscape has divorced itself from its desktop counterpart and taken its own unique form.
Mobile is the new King!
Breaming with lots of rich features; apps, news widgets, shopping, images, and Knowledge Boxes, Mobile search results now offer users a richer user experience than desktop. And why shouldn’t it? Over 60% of digital media consumption happens on a mobile phone, according to recent data from ComScore.
Not only are the mobile SERPs visually different, but the actual sites that appear on mobile now are vetted by their speed and efficiency.
It has never been more important for businesses to make mobile visibility the primary SEO focus.
Have you spotted any oddities in the SERPs? Why not leave a comment to let me know. Better yet, if you’ve managed to grab a screenshot then fire a quick tweet over and I’ll be sure to include it in a follow-up post.