Google’s Recent SERP Feature Tests

In the past few weeks, Google has been testing new search features to decide on the best way to progress in the services that they are offering their users – as well as being effective for them.

Ensuring that Google users are getting the best results and businesses are having the most impact with their SEO efforts is essential, and this is why it is important to have a good understanding of where Google is heading with search results.

Google have been testing several changes and new features to discover what difference they can make to those who use them, including:

  • Categorised sections
  • Changes in advertisement headline sizes
  • Local Q&A box interface
  • A ‘For Context’ section
  • An ‘Also in the News’ Box
  • The visual look of the SERPs

Testing Categorised Sections

One of the major aspects that Google has been testing is in the way that they display the results on their SERPs. The testing involved grouping the search results into categories, meaning that instead of giving searchers a list of websites that correlate to their search, the results are split into categories, such as ‘reviews,’ related ‘videos’, ‘Nearby stores’, related ‘Images’ and ‘Online stores’.

This is an interesting way to display the search results and could have knock-on effects for SEO. With a SERP that is split into categories, SEO strategies need to consider each separate category to have the maximum effect.

Google Ads Headline Size

Another change to the visual impact of Google’s SERPs that was being tested is that in the top four ad results, a hyper-linked sub-heading is shown. The Heading 1 and Heading 2 are also having a significant difference in size. It is worth noting that in the test, this wasn’t the case in the results below the top four.

With a larger font size, this will probably result in a higher click-through rate for the top advertisers – and be beneficial for Google too. This contributes to the age-old debate that Google will eventually make paid search a more predominant method of search, making it harder for organic listings to earn traffic, especially for startups or smaller businesses who may not have the budget to stretch to Google Ads.

Local Q&A Box Interface

Google already gives searchers the opportunity to ask local businesses questions through its Local Q&A box. They appear to be, however, testing putting this box outside of the panel for each business. It is still unclear why they are considering making this change, but it could be to allow more general replies as well as locally focussed ones.

It is important, therefore that businesses ensure that their Google My Business account is kept as up-to-date as possible.

‘For Context’ Section

One of the biggest issues with using search engines is that sometimes searchers get content out of context. The ‘For Context’ section that has been tested mainly in conjunction with news, displays links to other articles that can provide extra context.

In terms of your business’s SEO, this means that you would be able to have more opportunities to get your content visible, but also makes getting your content accurate and relevant even more important.

‘Also in the News’ Section

In a similar way to the ‘For context’ section, Google was also testing an ‘Also in the News’ section. This also appeared underneath the news section and appears to link other news articles that are related to the original story. The main difference between the two sections is that the ‘Also in the News’ stories can be older and not as recent.

The question that arises from this is whether or not your content needs to be indexed in Google News, in order for your site to appear underneath within this section.

SERPs Visually

Google has also been testing out some other aspects of their SERPs. Some tests have included the use of thumbnail pictures in the results page as well as in the search suggestions box, and thicker grey lines between the search results. Of course, these potential changes may be to help searchers to understand the results quicker, but there may be other reasons for them.

Google is continuously looking to update the services that they are offering both searchers and the businesses that use Google to attract people to their websites. This means that it is more important than ever to ensure that your website is visible in searches relevant to your business. In order for this to happen, it’s vital that the SERPs are observed on a regular basis, so that you know when it’s time to adapt your SEO strategy and optimise what you can to make the most of the latest features.

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