Google yesterday unveiled some new updates to its search engine results page which allow users to further filter and refine their searches based on categories such as time, content medium and content type.
Most of these features were already available to Googlers by entering commands into the search box, although now they’re available to the wider public, what insights should website owners take from this update?
The concept of a measuring ranking is becoming less relevant
The idea that a website can have a fixed rank for a fixed search term has been diminishing for a while now, and this update re-enforces the concept that a search result will no longer be the same for everyone.
No longer is ranking two-dimensional, determined simply by the search term and the country of the search. Now extra dimensions such as “Time” and “Content Category” have been added into the mix, providing and multitude of ways that a query can be displayed.
Google’s interest in Digg, the iGoogle user rated results, and the introduction of the “what’s popular” iGoogle gadget last month hints at just how personalised search results might become for us all.
Remember that Google’s aim is to deliver the most relevant and useful result to its user, and that not all users are the same.
If you don’t post regular, useful content on your site, you’ll lose visibility
We always knew that Google and web users in general love regularly updated sites and now with the added dimension of “time” now featuring in search results, the need for your site’s to be continuously updated with new content has become critical if you want to maintain an online presence.
Do you have news and blogs on your website? When was the last time you updated your site with new content? If it was last month, then you’ll have zero chance of appearing in the slice and dice results page.
The more resources and information you post, the higher your visibility
The new "Forums" and "Reviews" filters are there to cater for people who are looking for unbiased useful information on their search topic. A lot of commercial sites struggle to give their audience a voice on their website, although for those that do the rewards in terms of both traffic and online reputation are huge.
With the introduction of rich snippets (see below), it’s probably fair to say that if you’re an e-commerce site selling a wide range of products, allowing users to rate & review your products has become very important.
Expect more filters to appear in the future, perhaps product, news and blog filters will appear on the results page?
Engage your audience with multimedia
Both the existing video filter menu item and new video filter highlights the increasing important of distributing your content through this medium.
Add semantic information into your websites
The introduction of rich snippets last month leading up to this update indicates how Google are hoping to understand website to enhance the user’s experience of search results. Although not directly related to the lastest search results update it's an important development that will likely feature in how Google understands content when it aggregates search results.
The idea is by reading hidden information in your page code using the existing microformats of RDFa markup format, Google will be able to quickly determine key information such as author, date or rating, and then display this in the search results.
For sites that post regularly updated content such as blogs, reviews and products this will be something they need to embrace as the format is gradually rolled out this year.
Syndicate & Distribute your content as much as possible
All your content should be distributed through all of the many feed formats available. Google sitemaps, Newsmaps, Google Base, and RSS are all essential ways of informing Google about your dynamic content and enabling it place your content accurately in the new slice and dice results page.
Create detailed content covering the full breadth of your topic
The inclusion of the “Wonder Wheel” and “Related Searches” will invite users to explore the range of topics within their initial search. Sites that contain rich content covering the full breadth of their topic will no doubt benefit from this new exploratory way of searching.
The addition of the “More Text” option also allows users to preview the main content of the site in their results page, so it’s important to ensure that all your pages contain good quality content within the body as this can now be view before people even click through to your site.
Nothing has changed in Google’s policy with this update. The aim remains the same: provide users with the most useful and relevant results to their query and reward websites that provide the best quality content.