Google's New Search Features Offer More Opportunities for SEO

SEO

Google’s New Search Features Offer More Opportunities for SEO

While Bing debuted several new features with their updated and rebranded search engine, Google continues to one-up them with new features of their own. Google’s new features are changing the search engine optimization landscape once again, and are also providing new opportunities for Internet marketers that practice SEO.

The new features that will have the most impact on search engine optimizers include:

  1. Microformat integration with Rich Snippets
  2. New Search Options allowing you to sort by past hour, sort by specific date range, or include more/fewer shopping titles
  3. Search snippets
  4. Using named anchors to identify sections on your pages

I’m going to show you what these new features do and how you can integrate them into your own campaigns.

Microformat Integration with Rich Snippets

In May, Google announced the introduction of Rich Snippets. Rich Snippets allow a site owner to offer up information based on a user’s search query. As of this writing, only snippets for reviews and people have been implemented.
boscos-snippet

How to Integrate Rich Snippets Into Google

For your site to display Rich Snippets in the SERPs, you have to include markup structure and attributes that are machine readable. The best way to do that is to use microformats. Here’s an example of the above snippet in HTML before adding microformats:

before-microformat

Here’s the same code with microformats added:

microformat

There’s an opportunity here for those performing local SEO services and small business to get a greater share of visibility and traffic. You can visit the official microformat site to review hCard examples and hreview examples.

New Search Options

As Google evolves into a more personalized search engine–displaying less ambiguous results–they are introducing what looks to be like a user prioritization model. Google now accounts for 6% of all Internet traffic and the effort to fit the query with the user’s intent is gaining momentum.
search-options

How to Use Google’s New Search Options

When Show Options is clicked on, the + image will open up a side navigation which includes many options to customize your search query. The new items we’re going to focus on are:

  • Sort by past hour
  • Sort by specific date range
  • Include more / fewer shopping sites

Sort by Past Hour

One of the criticisms leveled at Google is its lack of real time results. If there’s a specific event, many people will clamor for information — yet Google struggles to provide it. Of course, it’s not just specific events for which the ‘past hour’ results provide meaningful data.

past-hour

One of the great traffic generation tips for blog owners is to blog about a recent event or breaking news. If users are searching for that kind of information and redefine their search results to within the past hour, it’s likely that your recent blog post will be one of those listed – of course, there’s way more to ranking highly than providing breaking news, but a well-put-together blog post with optimized titles and content will certainly aid your chances.

Sort by Specific Date Range

Sorting by a specific date range can be useful when presenting sporting news, local news, or reviews.

specific-date-range

Normally, when a user wants specific information within a certain time frame, he would have to go to the blog or website and browse until they found news items or updates that have a particular date. Now, a user can enter their search query and date range and see all the sites that have content suitable for the user’s requirement.

fewer-shopping-sites

Include More / Fewer Shopping Sites

Depending on the user’s intent, it’s possible to eliminate or include more shopping sites.

For instance, a user could enter an ambiguous search query – Levi jeans. Google doesn’t know whether the user is searching for a pair of jeans, or simply wants historical information about the brand.

Here is what the first page is like without any filters applied:

normal-levis

Selecting fewer shopping sites brings up the following listings:

fewer-levis

Selecting more shopping sites brings up the following listings:

pricing-levis

Gone is the listing for JC Penney’s, Denim Express, us.levi.com, and the shopping results listings. That’s almost one third of the first page listings gone because of a user’s tweak.

If you select ‘more shopping sites’, Google will assume that the user’s intent is to make a purchase. The listings now contain prices, and the shopping results listings now appear at the top.

Search Within Search:

The search within search box is something Google rolled out in early 2008. However, it’s still worthy of a mention.

search-within-search

Upon first glance, you would think that there would be certain factors that would influence Google when deciding which websites would be given this search box. For instance – site links, domain authority, and if the website used Google’s paid search box as their main search function.

We couldn’t find a correlation between any of those factors and remained curious. Certainly, it appears that the larger and more popular the site, the higher the possibility of your site’s being chosen. We can only assume that Google automatically figures out which sites users want this for by analyzing user queries; the site search box is only displayed when Google believes there’s a high likelihood the user’s intentions warrant it.

Students doing homework assignments are probably going to use Wikipedia as their first and main port of call – and why shouldn’t they? For the most part, Wikipedia is an invaluable source of information. A user query of wikipedia keyword 1 keyword 2 is a good indication to Google that the user wants to search Wikipedia on the keywords the user has included. If there are repetitive user queries like this, it would make sense for Google to add the search box for Wikipedia.

We can assume that the search box only appears for major sites because those are the sites drawing enough traffic to warrant the addition of the search box.

Links Within Search Snippets

Links within search snippets are useful for websites which contain informational content.

guy-fawkes

Currently, the snippet links are Early life, Gunpowder Plot, Reaction and In Popular Culture. If we visit the Wikipedia page, we can see that those four terms are headers for different sections. Once more, these search snippet links are algorithmically assigned, so it’s up to Google to decide which links, if any, that it decides to show.

Direct from the horses mouth:

We generate these deep links completely algorithmically, based on page structure, so they could be displayed for any site (and of course money isn’t involved in any way, so you can’t pay to get these links). There are a few things you can do to increase the chances that they might appear on your pages. First, ensure that long, multi-topic pages on your site are well-structured and broken into distinct logical sections. Second, ensure that each section has an associated anchor with a descriptive name (i.e., not just “Section 2.1″), and that your page includes a “table of contents” which links to the individual anchors.

The words bolded above are facets of good usability and smart UI (user interface).

Here’s a code example with anchor text highlighted:

anchor-snippets

I covered several of Google’s search features that involve both customization and personalization. As Search continues to grow and evolve, it will be interesting to watch how Google adapts and innovates. One feature I’ll be keeping a close eye on will be real-time search, which will surely change the rules of organic SERPs once again.

File under: SEO

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