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New implications for search as Google gets more focused

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Much of the Google talk lately has been centered around Google+, the company’s new social network, and with good reason. It may have a significant impact on how Internet users use other established social sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even StumbleUpon. However, it is still Google search that drives the majority of web traffic for most site owners, and there is plenty going on in search as well.

What do you consider to be the most significant recent development in search? Share your thoughts in the comments.

What Would This New Google Design Mean for SEO?

First, I want to talk about a new user interface tweak Google is testing, which could have major implications for site owners and their visibility in Google search results.

The change, seen in the video below, has the search bar and navigation bar sticky at the top of the page and the left panel of search options sticky to the side. In other words, these things stay put as you scroll through search results, rather than disappearing as you scroll down as they do in the regular interface currently.

In the video, we see that results are still paginated. You still have to click through various pages of search results. How often do you really click past the first page?

However, the interface change closely resembles the current interface of Google Image Search. Here, the same things are stickied, but instead of paginated results pages, it has infinite scroll, meaning you can keep scrolling down the page to see more results. Eventually, you have to click “show more results,” but it’s not like clicking through multiple pages.

For all intents and purposes, all of the images appear on page one. It seems likely that if Google switches to this type of interface for regular web search results, it may implement the infinite scroll functionality as well. This would mean, of course, that users wouldn’t have to click to page 2 of the search results to see your site if that’s where you’re currently ranking.

Users are far more likely, in my opinion, to look at more results if they’re all presented on the page. I know this has been the case for me personally, using Google Image search. Similar functionality is also available in Twitter’s timeline, and I know I take in more results there as well.

Google has changed its algorithm and interface so much over the years, with added personalization, local results, universal search, etc. that it is has become harder and harder to get your content seen by searchers, but if this actually pans out, it may actually help with visibility. Hopefully content quality will also be reflected.

We dont’ know for sure that Google will implement any of this, but would it not make for a better user experience?

How would these changes impact SEO? Tell us what you think.

Google is getting more focused.

As you know, Google has tons of products and services, and constantly experiments with new potential ones. With Larry Page at the helm now, however, the company is getting much more focused. This was a major theme of what Page had to say in the company’s earnings call last week. Since then, Google even made the bold announcement that it is shutting down Google Labs, which holds most of Google’s experimental offerings.

“While we’ve learned a huge amount by launching very early prototypes in Labs, we believe that greater focus is crucial if we’re to make the most of the extraordinary opportunities ahead,” said Google SVP for Research and Systems Infrastructure Bill Coghran.

Search items like Google Code Search, Google Trends, Google Suggest, Google Social Search, and even Google Maps started out in Google Labs.

That doesn’t mean Google is looking to stop innovating. “We’ll continue to push speed and innovation—the driving forces behind Google Labs—across all our products, as the early launch of the Google+ field trial last month showed,” said Coghran.

“Greater focus has also been another big feature for me this quarter–more wood behind fewer arrows, Page said in the earnings call. “Last month, for example, we announced that we will be closing Google Health and Google PowerMeter. We’ve also done substantial internal work simplifying and streamlining our product lines. While much of that work has not yet become visible externally, I am very happy with our progress here. Focus and prioritization are crucial given our amazing opportunities. Indeed I see more opportunities for Google today than ever before. Because believe it or not we are still in the very early stages of what we want to do.”

“Even in search … which we’ve been working on for 12 years there have never been more important changes to make,” he said. For example this quarter we launched a pilot that shows an author’s name and picture in the search results, making it easier for users to find things from authors they trust.”

Who You Are Matters More

That last point by Page brings me to the next point. Who you are is becoming more important in search. We made note of this when Google announced the authorship markup, which enables the feature Page spoke of. To implement this, by the way, here is Google’s instructions:

To identify the author of an article or page, include a link to an author page on your domain and add rel=”author” to that link, like this:

Written by <a rel=”author” href=”../authors/mattcutts”>Matt Cutts</a>.

This tells search engines: “The linked person is an author of this linking page.” The rel=”author” link must point to an author page on the same site as the content page. For example, the page http://example.com/content/webmaster_tips could have a link to the author page at http://example.com/authors/mattcutts. Google uses a variety of algorithms to determine whether two URLs are part of the same site. For example, http://example.com/content, http://www.example.com/content, and http://news.example.com can all be considered as part of the same site, even though the hostnames are not identical.

I find it interesting that this is the sole feature Page alluded to in the earnings call, with regards to search. This makes me wonder if Google places even more emphasis on this than I thought.

Watching the Subdomain Impact on Panda Recovery

We may find out how big a role content author can play in search rankings soon (separate form the actual authorship markup element) thanks to some experimenting by Panda update victim HubPages. We recently reported on HubPages’ strategy of subdomaining content by author to keep content separate, so that the poor quality postings by some authors doesn’t have an effect on the search rankings of those authors who are putting out higher quality. This also, in theory, is designed to keep the entire site from being pulled down by some less than stellar content.

This week, Hubpages announced that it was rolling out these subdomains. One author told WebProNews, “On one of my accounts at HubPages, I’m already seeing a bit of an increase of traffic and I’m quite sure it is from the subdomain/URL forwarding. HubPages, from what I can make of the update, is definitely heading in the right direction.”

Definitely something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks/months.

Do you think subdomains are going to make a significant impact? Tell us what you think.

PageRank Gets Updated Again

Several weeks ago, Google launched an update to its PageRank (which displays in the Google toolbar). Google has played down the significance of PageRank, as it is only one of many signals, but it is still a signal, and one worth considering.

Interestingly, that update caused Google’s own PageRank to drop from a 10 to a 9. This week, PageRank got another update, and sent Google back up to a 10.

Google doesn’t usually update PageRank that frequently, so the new update raised a few eyebrows. Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable thinks it’s related to Twitter. “It was because, I believe, Twitter’s PR was a PR 0 and Google didn’t want people to think that Google downgraded Twitter’s PageRank manually because of contract deals breaking between the two,” he writes. He got the following statement from Google:

Recently Twitter has been making various changes to its robots.txt file and HTTP status codes. These changes temporarily resulted in unusual url canonicalization for Twitter by our algorithms. The canonical urls have started to settle down, and we’ve pushed a refresh of the toolbar PageRank data that reflects that. Twitter continues to have high PageRank in Google’s index, and this variation was not a penalty.

Twitter’s PR is a 9. Twitter’s wasn’t the only one to change, however. Various webmeisters took to the forums to note that their own had been changing.

Google is Nixing the Google Toolbar for Firefox

While we’re on the topic of the Google Toolbar, it’s also worth noting that it’s being discontinued for Firefox.

“First of all, we’d like to thank all of our loyal users of Google Toolbar for Firefox,” Brittney said on the Google Toolbar Help blog. “We deeply appreciate all of the feedback over the years that helped to make the product so useful. As we all know, over the past few years, there has been a tremendous amount of innovation in the browser space. For Firefox users, many features that were once offered by Google Toolbar for Firefox are now already built right into the browser. Therefore, while Google Toolbar for Firefox works on versions up to and including Firefox 4 only, it will not be supported on Firefox 5 and future versions. Please see our Help Center for additional details.”

Google’s own Chrome browser has over 160 million users, according to Page.

Google +1 Button Impressions

Page also announced that the +1 button is begin served 2.3 billion times a day. That means people are consuming a whole lot of content out there that carries this button. The button itself, as you may know, contributes directly to search rankings. The more +1′s a piece of content gets, the more signals Google is receiving that people like this content, which increases its chances of ranking better.

It’s just one of many signals Google uses, but it’s a pretty direct signal.

While the button is yet to be integrated directly into Google+, the tremendous momentum of Google+ will likely only serve to fuel clicks of the +1 button. When I say it’s not integrated, I mean that when you click the +1 button on a piece of content, it’s not sharing it to your followers’ streams. It’s not like Facebook’s “like” button, where it promotes that content to your friends’ news feed. At least not yet. It goes to a separate tab on your Google profile that few probably see.

Still, despite any confusion that may arise from that, people are going to associate that “+1″ with Google+. They’re not only seeing it on content on the web, but on Google+ posts from within the social network. Presumably, they’ll click it on the web more too.

Is Google+ going to greatly impact search? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  • http://www.hub-uk.com David Jenkins

    I don’t really know how much a scrolling results page would impact SEO. Obviously it would still be better to be at the top of results but I agree with you that there is more chance of a site being seen if previously it would have been found on page 2 or 3.

    I also scroll through far more results with Google images and also when looking at Tweets through my Twitter page.

    Scrolling search results could be hugely beneficial bot to users and site owners. I rather like the sound of it (especially for my current page 2 results).

    • http://www.webdesignghana.org Michael

      I think the scroll thing is going to have a lot of impact on seo. The first page guys will be worried because advanced google users may by pass the first stage and go on to scroll down to see what the others have to offer.
      On the other hand, another user will go no further after getting what he wants in the first page; there won’t be any reason to scroll down.
      The whole thing is, its going to make getting to other search result pages more easier. Page 1 guys may not like it but the page 2 upwards sites will love it
      I’m just speaking from experience.

  • http://www.lemen.com Bob Lemen

    Since I almost never find useful results in the fist several pages of Google search (On average, it takes at least 10 pages before I hit paydirt) I say the infinite page length as a very helpful and long overdue change. The return to the simple Google search page has also reduced their page load time to a fraction of what it had been in recent months.

  • http://kercommunications.com Nick

    Big changes are happening at Google, for sure. The infinite scrolling search will be great news for websites stuck at the top of page two or maybe even into three.
    Google+ is the bigger news, in my opinion, as it is part of Google’s ongoing effort to improve the search results shown to users. Rather than depending on social metrics from Facebook or Twitter, Google has rolled their own into the whole Google experience. I see this as a way for Google to provide more relevant results based on a more authentic referral system, rather than based on the number of inbound links a website has. As we all know, that is frequently manipulated to the point that search results are very skewed. Links will still be a major part of the relevance and authority calculations, of course. But we are on the verge of a major shift in the way we find things on the web, to a more socially verified determination of relevance and trust. Like getting personal referrals without asking for them, or reviews and ratings without the user having to make much of an effort to go to a review site or Google Places.
    Authorship also ties into this movement toward personalization of the web. Google sees a “big picture” of the future of the web that looks as though it will bring in a more human element to just about everything. Putting the “social” back in social networking.
    What I am really looking forward to is the launch of Google+ for business. Can’t wait to see what features are included, but I suspect collaboration through Google+ is going to be a major game changer for how business is done.

  • http://www.platinumlynx.net Chas

    Hey Chris,
    Could you please do an article about the changes Lycos has planned for their site? I am tired of hearing about Google+, Facebook and Yahoo!/Bing. Please include stats from your research and a couple of cool videos. Thank you.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Sounds like you have it halfway written :)

  • http://www.c2marketingdigital.com.br Ana Carla Cunha

    Very good post, I really think that google are right in get more focus and close the Labs.
    They learned this with Apple I guess…..
    Thanks Chris

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I guess we’ll see how it goes.

  • http://mywritingportfolio-koralee.com Koralee Phillips

    Awesome article, as always. I really enjoy your articles and the information they contain. I am really glad I joined SEO news!

  • http://how-to-internet-marketing-articles-vi.blogspot.com/ Ramiro Rodriguez

    Hey Chris! As usual I’m going to jump right in and say that the most significant impact on search lately has been the real-time search disappearance.

    SEOMoz did a study that revealed Bing indexed a new webpage faster than Google did after a significant amount of tweets with the page URL.

    Bing had the page indexed in 15 minutes while it took Google a few hours to index the page.

    I’m starting to look forward to your emails. How do you find the time to write so much! :-)

    Thanks man…and keep up the good work.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Yes, realtime search has been helpful in the past.

  • http://www.temerity.com.au Elliot

    Some long overdue changes, but a little scary for anyone who does SEO. Because Google will be putting more emphasis on human referral to influence its ranking results, we may get to the stage where SEO companies research prospective clients to find out how good their products/services are, and only take on clients who offer the very best customer experiences. That way, a lot of the SEO will be done for them by the clients customers.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I’d say there will always be those who don’t care, and are just looking to get paid.

  • http://www.clientswebsitecompany.com Lori Stammer

    Personally, I do not like Google + It is difficult to get into and therefore limits the population of who can be part of it. At least Facebook, twitter and linkedin allow for anyone to join. Why is Google making it by invitation only?

    • http://www.morganrees.com.au Morgan Rees

      Hi Lori,

      I believe Google+ is still in a stage of testing and is not yet open to the public. Soon anyone will be able to join

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      I’d say a combination of testing and buzz-building. It seemed to work pretty well for Gmail.

  • http://get-business-online.com/ Get Business Online

    Well summarized, I think. It’s just amazing how Google is repositioning things across the web by leveraging its enormous presence and influence. Google has crawled into almost every part of our life by now and continues to shape things for us (good and bad).

    I vote in favor of the endless scrolling search page for sure. I think it’s on the way in mainly because of mobile devices, where scrolling down is so easy, but refreshing pages takes time.

    It’s a sad end for Firefox, I think, that missed its opportunity of becoming Google’s browser at some stage and recently lost my favor too. Alas, that lovely Google Toolbar still had the ability to search the page for the last searched keywords, which Chrome still doesn’t have. If anyone at Google is reading this…

    Keep the good stuff coming, Chris. Awesome post.

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Good point about scrolling on mobile, though I like it on the desktop as well.

  • http://www.blissseo.com.au SEO

    I’d love to see Google adopt an Image Search style of presentation for Web Search, I have a feeling that is going to be a natural progression from adding the thumbnails preview, anyone remember cuil? The only thing I liked about it was the thumbnail style results, too bad the results sucked…

  • http://all.at/brofarops dr. Robert BrownFarley

    We all like to be found but if this new system is by picture and authoritorian then most will be lost. We as SEO users and consultants try our best to help the little guy or gal to be found not just eBay or Amazon or, or, and so on. Why do we promote affiliate programs and push products if only the Sorenson’s are going to be found under clickbank ? Google+, I see as more of the death of a salesman or saleslady.
    The other problems I foresee is only Google mobile apps and the death of many cheaper cellphones as far as capabilities.
    I see many many problems … And I am usually an optimist but this could be a doomsday for many of our websites and services and a head back to brick and mortor with business cards in hand versus dropping an eCard.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL5ZViyx2VY&feature=channel_video_title Alec

    Well, if I have a site already on page then Google’s proposed changes will work against me because their will be more competition for the 66% of searchers who never get past page 1 presumably however long it is.

    But if I have a site stuck on page 2, well whoopee, more chance of being seen by the 66%.

  • http://cricket-cup.blogspot.com/ Cricket News

    I think Google +1 Button Impressions will not make an impact inspite of Facebook Like button

    • http://www.webpronews.com/ Chris Crum

      Probably depends on much Google+ keeps growing, and whether they introduce better integration.

  • http://www.wholeblossoms.com/ Wholesale Roses Co

    All these Google algorithm changes are making my head spin. For the past 3 weeks, my site PR jumped from 3 to 4, but just recently came back down to 3, all within the course of a few weeks.

  • http://www.iniluarbiasa.com/ gustie

    Google+ really2 impressive. i prefer this social network then facebook or twiiter…

  • http://www.blog.netmorenow.com Mike Kristiansen

    If there’s one thing to always count on, it’s change. The authoring markup looks like it is very impactful,making me rethink sub-domains in a whole different way. It certainly makes a lot of sense with a site
    structured with many authors, that each author be looked at individually in search indexing, instead of the whole site’s ranking depending on the aggregate overall. Couldn’t that affect Page Rank on inside pages, raising some, lowering others?

  • http://www.metanym.com/milton-keynes MarkFL

    One thing about SEO, it never stands still does it! Liked the sub-domains piece and will be keeping a close eye on that for sure.

  • http://www.personaltrainermumbai.in/ Personal Trainer Mumbai

    Good information. Thanks ….

  • http://maidformoney.com Start Cleaning Business

    I really cant stand the +1 button it looks like really bad indication to anything and easily abused. I see people selling +1 clicks by the thousands for little money .

  • http://www.seonorthamerica.com Tom Aikins

    It’s almost a full-time job just keeping up with what Google’s doing. It would be nice if they put everything they’re doing and how it all relates together into one continually updated document.

  • http://internetbiznes.org geoio

    My problem: it seems that onlinebusiness.internetbiznes.org (WP blog) is not considered by SE as part of the same site like internetbiznes.org and internetbiznes.org/blog/ (WP blog). Any help?

  • http://www.DrewryNewsNetwork.com DrewryNewsNetwork.com

    Let’s just kick off our shoes, sit back, and see what becomes of this, as time goes by.

    http://www.DrewryMedia.com

  • http://www.w3consultancies.com/ w3consultancies

    Google is doing innovation in web from months and years. Google+ is its latest and all about social networking.

  • http://www.seofreelancervasu.com vasu SEO freelancer

    nice thank you for sharing and read some important SEO points from this article

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