Google unveils major search update – here’s what it means for your site

Internet search giant Google has unveiled a rare major update to its main search page, and businesses are warned to keep updating their site if they want to take advantage of the company’s new features.

The new update provides users with the ability to filter down their search results into separate categories such as “blogs”, “news” and even “books”, with these options now appearing on the once-blank left hand side of the screen.

Local search options are also provided, along with the option to find the “latest” results in a type of real-time search. The related search, wonder wheel and timeline options also appear on the left-hand side of the screen.

Search options will also become “smart”, based on the terms a user is searching for. For example, if a user searches for a product such as “suits”, the “shopping results” icon will appear higher than other options.

While some of these options have been available for months, they were hidden by a flow-screen. Now, they will become a permanent feature of the Google universal search page, with the updates to be rolled out from today across all countries.

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The company says while the new options may add some detail to the once-bare bones site, it will establish a “modern” feel while keeping with the traditional simplistic design.

“The new design refreshes and streamlines the look, feel and functionality of Google, making it easier to pinpoint what you’re looking for. It’s powerful, yet simple. Today’s changes are the latest in our continuing efforts to evolve and improve Google,” vice president of search products and user experience Marissa Mayer said in a blog post.

“We’ve been testing these changes with users over the past few months, and what we’re launching today reflects the feedback we’ve received. We want to ensure that the Google you use today is better than the one you used yesterday, and these latest changes open up many possibilities for future features and enhancements.”

Jim Stewart, chief executive of Stewart Media, says the new results mean companies will need to continually update their sites with more detail and keywords in order to keep their pages relevant.

He explains that as users create more specified and unique search terms, businesses should update their sites so they appear in as many “filters” as possible, such as blogs, forums and so on.

Recent figures from Hitwise suggest users are now creating more specified search queries with up to eight words, and Stewart suggests pages need to be more detailed as a result.

“They’ve always prided themselves on keeping it simple, and it certainly isn’t complex, but it seems to be much more than what users are used to. With the options down the side, colour coding and icons, there are really a lot more options to detail results even further.”

“People will have to update their sites a lot more now if they want to be found. Especially because users are now searching with local results, real-time results and that sort of thing.”

Chris Thomas, chief executive of Reseo, says businesses must keep on top of their descriptions in order to appear in as many filters as possible.

“It does suggest that, if people are filtering – I often do, especially on age such as the last 24 hours – if you are a thought leader, then you can get quite a lot of traffic from that. If you are providing opinions about things, it’s important to get your ideas out there and you are going to rank better.”

“They’re also being very locality-focused, and they assume you are in a certain area and provide you results based on that. It’s a step up in personalisation.”

Some analysts have said the updates could be a response to Microsoft Bing’s search engine, which has been updated recently to include specified search terms such as shopping results and maps. But Stewart says this is unlikely to be the case.”I doubt it is a response to Bing,” he says.

Google has said the changes will be available to all users in “a few days”.

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