We don’t use the word “major” lightly. Google is celebrating 20 years as a search engine with some pretty big changes. The search engine has algorithm updates all the time, sometimes multiple times a day.
Sometimes they’re just small tweaks, but not this time. Fall 2018 we’ll see large-scale updates using AI to make results even more relevant to users.
We’re going to tell you about search journeys, activity cards and topic layers but don’t worry. If you trust your business to Spade Design, we’re already making the adjustments you need to stay on top.
The Future Includes 3 Paradigm Shifts
The first version of Google was launched by Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin to run on the university’s server. Late this September the giant commemorated 20 years of existence with a press conference in San Francisco and unveiled these changes:
- Google will shift away from an answer-based search to focusing on the user journey.
- Instead of just text-based queries, users will also have the option of visual search.
- More intuitive, AI-driven processes will provide users with relevant information even in the absence of queries.
They’re sweeping, exciting changes, and we look forward to watching them unfold and develop. Let’s look at some of the concrete information we have already.
You may wonder why Google can’t just leave well enough alone.
You ask where to find your favorite taco chain and get a map, directions, a menu and reviews. Or, you search for three-bedroom homes for sale in your town with a pool under $250,000 and you find a list of choices. Google provides relevant information for the user because that has been its goal since the beginning.
The people behind Google recognize people sometimes want a simple answer. Other times they turn to search for topic exploration that takes days.
There are many possible destinations. In the beginning, even the user doesn’t know where they’re headed. Activity cards will help users retrace their steps and decide where to go next.
For example, let’s say you’re looking for a way to reduce property taxes on the land you just bought. You visit your county website. While you’re there you encounter information on agricultural exemptions.
As you start to research your options you get interested in beekeeping. You read up on the benefits and watch beginner beekeeping videos.
When you search for hives, you want to know how many the county requires to qualify for the exemption, but you don’t remember where you saw that information in the first place. You also know in the spring when your bees arrive you’re going to need to watch those videos again.
Activity cards are a portion of your search screen that will show where you’ve been. Typically underneath you’ll see more related choices. They won’t show up all the time, just when Google’s search algorithm thinks they will be helpful. All the results can be edited, meaning if you visited a site that didn’t contain the information you need, you can tell Google you don’t want to see it again.
Google says expect to start seeing activity cards later this year.
This makes me think of Pinterest because it’s a similar concept. When users want to remember pages and sites from their Activity Card or during a search, they have the option of storing it to a Collection.
In other words, you could organize your journey to have separate collections for “beekeeping supplies,” “agricultural exemptions” and “beekeeping videos.” Collections become available later this fall.
Subtopic Suggestions for Dynamic Organization
Have you ever stared at your screen and been frustrated because you weren’t sure where to go next? The search engine results page choices contained the words in your query, but you could tell they weren’t going to take you where you wanted.
In what they’re calling dynamic search, Google is adding tabs across the top of the page with suggestions. If you search for “bee” Google serves up the option to see videos, classifications, top stories and more at the top, with search results as you scroll.
Dynamic Organization is already available for some topics.
Discover — No Query Required
Google Feed has always been about keeping you up to date on your interests and connected to personal information. Discover places that information on cards organized under topic headers that tell why you’re seeing it.
By each name, Google places a Discover icon that looks like a Google-colored flower. When you tap the icon, you see more of that type of information in your feed, similar to following a person or business on social media.
Discover also lets you search in more than one language. In the beginning, only English and Spanish will be available, with more options to come.
The Knowlege Graph Gets a The Topic Layer
The existing Knowledge Graph is how Google connects information. See a pretty good explanation of it in this video. The knowledge graph organizes all the information on a subject, and the Topic Layer develops subtopics and displays what’s most useful to the searcher.
If you’re an EPA researcher trying to find a solution for Colony Collapse Disorder, you want a completely different set of search results from a beginner looking up health concerns for bees. Discover will use the Topic Layer to analyze your expertise and interests to suggest your best options.
See also: The Essential SEO Jargon Glossary
Visual Search and AMP Stories
Late 2017 Google launched the Lens app, an AI-driven visual search tool for mobile. If at your first beekeeper’s meeting, the group leader had a bee jacket you liked, you could use Google Lens and your cell phone to find a similar product. Snap a photo of the flowers in your yard to identify them and see what type of insects they attract. When you do, you’re searching using an image instead of text.
On September 27 of this year, Google released a desktop interface for Google image search. They also announced they’re pushing AMP stories, collections of video and images that tell a story.
Google reasons AMP stories are highly engaging and provide information as quickly and briefly as possible, sort of like an infographic on steroids. See examples at ampproject.org (we recommend “How College Football Playoff Rankings Actually Work” and “The Essential Guide to Black Panther”).
Google Updates and Your Business
It sounds like a lot, and it is. If you’re researching Google updates, it’s probably because you understand the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) for your business.
At Spade Design, our client websites show up multiple times on the first search page. We’ll help you establish and promote your company as the authority for what you do in the markets you do it. If you’re not already working with us, why not start the conversation today?
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