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Stephen Logan

The Changing Anatomy of a Google Search Page

6th May 2010 News, Industry News 3 minutes to read

As Google introduce left-hand navigation we look at what you can find on a Google SERP and how you can use the new options to improve your searching experience.

The functionality and face of Google’s search engine results page has been regularly shifting since its online inception [see: How Google and Facebook Diversified to Conquer the Internet]. Always stylistically simplistic, Google has never strayed from their clean front-end. But beneath the surface, major shifts in search function have seen major developments.

Changes are afoot once again. The latest swath of changes includes a dedicated search options section on the left-hand side of the page. This will allow users to not only view the standard ‘recommended’ SERP, which includes organic results along with variables such as news, map and social functions.

Options of course are no new thing. Last year we looked at a few of their latest updates [see: Google Reveal Fresh Innovations at Searchology], including the introduction of search options. In the intervening 12 months, search has moved forward.

One of the most discussed updates was the integration of social elements within search results [see: Google and Microsoft Complete Twitter Deal to Herald Real-time Search Era]. Whilst some might argue that it has been largely ineffective, real-time elements are slowly becoming an engrained feature within all search engines.

Social therefore takes its place (under the ‘Updates’ setting) alongside news, videos, images and maps to name but a few. This mirrors the ‘options’ tab and looks set to become a fixed part of the results page, rather than an additional choice.

Whilst it might not impact on most people’s search experience, those who are looking for specific content will find it much more straightforward. For example, if you want information on the general election, you might simply type in “general election” (as in the image below).

The main search engine result page for this phrase first returns three news stories first. This is followed by two organic search results, a real-time feed, two videos and the remaining organic results. If you are looking for the latest news stories, as opposed to the more general organic results, then you can bi-pass the rest and go straight to what you’re looking for.

As the image below indicates, the news results for the same ‘general election’ phrase are very different to the standard Google results. It includes a far broader range of stories, all of which are related to the same term. The same of course is true of each of the other options.

Access to functions like the Wonder Wheel and the Timeline is also simpler. This ought to help everyday users get more from their search experience and give them access to the content they want quicker.

Whilst this new functionality hasn’t yet been rolled out universally, it has been tested on these shores over the last few weeks. So if you have experienced a slight change on your Google SERPs recently, you might have had a sneak preview of the new look Google results page.

Visually it will make a difference, but measuring the effectiveness in terms of usability will be interesting. Will people be more inclined to navigate away from organic results and try more tailored options – specifically functions like ‘shopping’ and ‘news’?

Arguably this is more in line with the functionality offered by Bing, particularly with the addition of a left-hand panel. However, the diversity of search options made available by Google still differentiates it from most others. Aesthetically though it is a major update for the search engine; no doubt just the first of many as search continues to evolve.

Full details and an instructional video on the latest update can be found on the Official Google Blog.

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