Google has set out plans to overhaul the formatting of its search engine results pages, with a view to surfacing a broader selection of content types.
Presented at this year’s Google Search On event, the update will see images and video content blended directly into results, as opposed to featuring under separate tabs or in dedicated box-outs.
Speaking to TechRadar Pro and other press ahead of Search On 2022, Google’s VP Engineering, Rajan Patel, explained the goal is to “organize results to better reflect the way people explore topics.”
Beyond the ability to highlight relevant resources across a range of formats, Google says the update will also mean results that appear further down the rankings are likely to become more valuable.
“There are so many questions where a range of results can be helpful, and there are so many ways you might branch off. So we’re making it easy to scroll down the page and find all the different paths you could take,” said Patel.
“Traditionally, people’s mental model with search is that the further you go down the results, the less relevant they get. This is to some degree a feature of ranking systems, not a bug. But if you think about all the queries with no right answer, finding new avenues to explore can be incredibly useful.”
Inevitably, a change of this magnitude will have publishers and website owners wondering about the potential impact on their own ranking position. In response to a question from TechRadar Pro about the ramifications from an SEO perspective, Patel reiterated a now-familiar message:
“We find the most useful content is authentic to users, high-quality and topical. With these changes, we’re looking to surface more authentic content in different formats. You’ll start to see richer, visual content surface more in Search over time.”
The update will also affect the way advertisements are positioned and presented in search results, he added.
“Our goal is to create a coherent experience across search and ads. For users, we have one coherent experience across search, so if we limited all these changes to just organic results, the experience wouldn’t feel so coherent.”
Asked to clarify whether Google will introduce multimedia ads to results, in conjunction with the new format, Patel declined to confirm or deny. “We don’t have anything specific around that to announce at this time, but expect coherence,” he told us.
The new-look results pages will come to US-based users on mobile platforms in the coming months, but the change will be extended to other regions and Google Search for desktop in due course.
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Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.