Google has certainly been stirring the search soup as of late with the Penguin update and introduction of the knowledge graph. All in all, it’s a good thing that the search giant is not sitting on its hands and waiting for something to happen but rather driving change, especially in the place where it is truly the king. Dabble in social if you will, Google, but if the search stronghold begins to fray at the edges then all bets are off for sure.
So how have some of these changes impacted the folks who use Google? Well, to hear Google tell it to the Wall Street Journal, it seems like it’s going pretty well.
Google said it has seen a noticeable increase in activity on its vaunted Web-search in the two weeks since the company began one of the biggest search transformations in its history.
“Early indications are that people are interacting with it more, learning about more things…and doing more queries,” said Amit Singhal, a top Google search executive, in an interview Friday. “It’s stoking people’s curiosity.”
On Tuesday Google spokesman Jason Freidenfelds said the company’s internal data continues to show people are “doing more searches as a result” of the revamp, though he and Singhal declined to share specific figures.
Specific figures aside (although it would be interesting to have them) this change in the search landscape could be a shot in the arm for Google search that seemed to be content for some time with just holding its lead over Microsoft search properties Bing and Yahoo without doing much to innovate. Sure there were updates but there were no shakeups. That sure has changed.
Google is also being smart enough to use search to deflect some of the criticism leveled at it for it’s incessant promotion of Google+ by emphasizing what might actually happen with these new search results.
Perhaps more importantly, Singhal said that an increase in searches means there also will be an increase in visits to non-Google sites whose links appear in search results and in the new boxes of information that are appearing as part of the change.
In the end, Google is a search engine that is providing very real and useful services in addition to search. These services help businesses do business. I think it will be shown in hindsight that the whole Google+ concentration was necessary in that there needs to be a social component to Google but the company should never try to be THE social outlet for everyone. Maybe the current questions surrounding Facebook’s ability to live up to its valuation will be some level of proof for Google that this social thing is not all that it is hyped up to be (from a money making point of view, at least).
Of course, Google makes its money from ads and the impact of the knowledge graph approach to search is something everyone must consider. Google is careful to not look like it’s an advertising first company (sounding very Facebook-like in the process) but we know the truth. Search ads keeps the lights on and the pockets lined so it is paramount. Still Google tries to deflect those kinds of observations.
When asked how the new feature was affecting advertisements that also appear on the right side of search results, Singhal said that first and foremost, his team launches new features for the benefit of Google users, not advertisers. But he said the company is “experimenting as to what would be the right page design for cases in which there are numerous ads” that were sold for a particular query.
While this new phase in the evolution of search is just one step and needs a lot more work (Google readily acknowledges the many easily spotted shortcomings of the new search results) it indeed has been a big move. If this is just the beginning, the search business, especially SEO, should get more and more interesting as time goes by.
What is your take on the latest changes from Google? How has it impacted your business? Do you see this as steps forwards or backwards? Take a moment and be heard in the comments.