First up, Google is trying to make it easier for us to go off on whimsical jaunts of discovery whenever we search by adding more features to its search results pages in a bid to aid our discovery of new and interesting facts.
They have improved the functionality of three aspects of their SERPs including;
A featured snippet is essentially content curated by Google that is directly relevant to your query and provides information that you might otherwise have to click through to a webpage to find out. The changes made by Google to these snippets seem to largely be around providing more images and details to selected featured snippets to make it even easier for you to find out the information you need without ever visiting another website.
The “people also searched for” feature has been around for a while, you will have noticed it if you scrolled to the bottom of a Google search results page. Essentially, Google provides a list of commonly searched for phrases related to your particular search query. This has now been moved into a more prominent position within the knowledge graph (the panel of information that sits at the top of the search results on mobile and to the right on desktop). So, for instance, if I search for “apples” Google tells me in the knowledge panel that people also searched for “fruit”, “pears” and “bananas”. Why is this important? Well, if you are aware of what sort of terms your audience are using when searching for your product or service you can use this “people also searched for” feature to see if there are other words you should be looking to optimise your website for. Your audience might use these suggested other searches to narrow down their query and if your website is relevant for those terms, but not ranking for them, then you might lose out on that visit to your website.
Lastly, Google has improved its ability to provide you with useful information that is relevant to a chain of your recent search queries, not just the current search you are performing. So, in their own example, Google says if you search for “Messi” who is apparently a footballer and then perform another search for “Neymar” who I assume is also a footballer, then your search results will include information relevant to both Messi and Neymar. This is all designed to aid your discovery of information around a topic of information, in this case, football players, not just the individual searches you perform.
In slightly related news, Google has been teaming up with some famous people like Will Ferrell, Gina Rodriguez and James Franco to record selfie videos of them answering commonly asked questions about themselves. These videos are then being played in the SERPs as answers when someone searches that question. So for instance, when I searched for “how tall is Will Ferrell” he told me personally that he is 6ft 3 (through a video… that anyone can access, but it felt like he was speaking just to me!). This isn’t really useful in any way as you have to scroll past Google’s direct answer of this in text form before you get to the video but it is a fun and interesting way to waste 10 minutes. For instance, ask if Will Ferrell can play the drums…
Finally, Google has just released its “Year in Search” for 2017. Google is kind enough to release this every year for us to give insight into the most commonly searched subjects for the year. If you go to www.google.co.uk/2017 you’ll be redirected to the lists of the UK’s trending topics. For instance, the top trending search subject in 2017 was Megan Markle. The most frequently asked “how to” question was “how to make slime?” and the most popular recipe search in the UK was for “chilli con carne”.
Very interesting insight into the minds of the general UK population. Worrisome, in some cases.