This week Google published an article on its blog informing users of the update and what it means. Below we’ve given our own round up of what this update looks like in the SERPs, along with the possible reasoning behind it. On a quick side note too, a good tip for any new marketer is keep an eye on the Google blog as it’s usually the first place they’ll confirm things such as product/search updates, although don’t hold your breath for confirmations of algorithm updates!
First things first though, in typical Google fashion this update has first been rolled out in the US, so we’re yet to see these updates ‘in the wild’ when it comes to UK search results.
So what will this latest update look like?
Google’s latest update focuses on providing more information about a domain before you actually visit that website, with the information easily accessible from the main search engine results page (SERP) you conducted the search on.
Simply put, it’s just a small three-dot icon at the top right of each search snippet. When a user clicks this three-dot icon it will bring up additional information about that domain. This will include information such as if the domain is secure (uses HTTPS), a full URL of that search result and whether it’s an organic listing or advertisement.
For larger websites with a Wikipedia page, it will show a snippet of info from that Wikipedia page. If you manage or own a smaller website that doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, then expect Google to show additional information about your domain such as when your website was indexed.
[Image Credit: Google]
In an effort to be more transparent, Google has also included links to Privacy Settings and How Search Works.
What’s the reason behind the update?
The internet is vast, it’s estimated in 2020 that 1.7 BILLION websites exist. Over the last few years the spread of incorrect information, or as some like to call it “fake news”, has become a hot topic. This was first highlighted on social media sites but has spilt over into other areas of the digital sphere. So, large companies such as Google need to be seen to act and help users gauge a trustworthy source over one that might not be as trustworthy.
Have you ever conducted a Google search and been suspicious of the intentions of a website? Perhaps you then conducted another couple of Google searches in an attempt to learn more about this website/brand and understand whether it’s a trusted source. Well, Google wants to make this easier for its users, which is why this extra level of information has been made easily available.
Now, not everyone is going to find this feature helpful or likely even realise it’s been added. However, for those curious searchers, this feature is likely to come handy. Industries such as healthcare or finance, where trust signals are extremely important, are also likely to find this update will be more beneficial to them.
Google said "when available, you’ll see a description of the website from Wikipedia, which provides free, reliable information about tens of millions of sites on the web. Based on Wikipedia’s open editing model, which relies on thousands of global volunteers to add content, these descriptions will provide the most up-to-date verified and sourced information available on Wikipedia about the site. If it’s a site you haven’t heard of before, that additional information can give you context or peace of mind, especially if you’re looking for something important, like health or financial information."
So we’ll stay tuned in the UK to watch this update roll out, it’s possible if Google finds this feature helpful then iterations to its workings are likely. Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Journal also reached out to Google Engineer Paul Haahr who confirmed "Affordances for finding a feature can change over time to improve the user experience, but it probably shouldn't be too ‘in your face’ either." So it will also be interesting to see how this feature is developed over the next few years.
What can you do to prepare?
There’s slight scepticism in the industry on the impact this update will have. However, as Benjamin Franklin said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. So even for updates such as this, where the impact is still widely unknown, it’s best practice to prepare. If your site is still insecure this is yet another reason (plus the 1,000’s more) it needs to be top of your priority list.
If you own or run a brand/website that’s lucky enough to have a Wikipedia page, now’s the time to review the information on that page. If anything is out of date then look to get this updated. It’s not as straightforward as some might think, it’s an open editing tool that relies on volunteers after all but it’s not impossible.
If your business doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, we wouldn’t recommend metaphorically running out and getting one made. As highlighted, the impact of this update and how many people will choose to use it is still unknown. However, if you were already thinking of creating one now’s the time. This update is arguably skewed to larger websites, and brands who already have Wikipedia pages, so it’s not something you should dismiss right away - level that playing field.
What’s next will be the possible impact this update COULD have on the CTR (click-through-rate) of users. You can monitor this by making a note of when the update rolls out in the UK (make a note in your Google Analytics account or somewhere you’ll see it regularly) and keep a record of your average CTR over the last three months - use Google Search Console to help you do this. For those industries where this update is possibly going to have a larger impact (healthcare and finance) you may see a change to your CTR. It will take quite a few months, possibly even a year before you could imply this update has had an impact, but it’s worth making a note and revisiting.