Two New Google Experiments Spotted in the Field

As reported on Search Engine Land, Google is rolling out even more experimental search features—and two of them have been spotted in the field. They’re being tried out on a small percentage of real search users, which means they could become standard soon. One of these offers new functionality, while the other is a redesign of the mobile search results page.

“People Also Ask”

The first live test involves a completely new feature known as the People Also Ask box. This does exactly what it sounds like: when you run a search, the box tells you a few popular questions related to that search.

For example, let’s say you searched “lasagna recipes.” People Also Asked might offer you search strings like, “What wine to serve with lasagna?” You can click any of the popular questions it offers you and an answer will appear in a pulldown. The answer includes a related link.

This is nifty not so much because it will help you find related information, but because it’s interesting to see what questions are popular enough to make the list. In fact, it may come across as more of a novelty, and not actually be that helpful. In one actual result, for example, a search about an Australian kids’ show (“Skippy the Bush Kangaroo”) offered questions like “Can you eat kangaroo meat?” Funny, but irrelevant.

New Mobile Search Design

The other change being tested is a redesign of the mobile search results (fitting, since Google just launched its new mobile algorithm update).

At a glance, the new and old versions look pretty much the same. However, two things stand out:

  • The experimental new design looks more like the desktop search results. That underscores that Google prefers responsive design where mobile and traditional versions of a page are the same.
  • The change isn’t just aesthetic. Within a given search result, it appears that mobile friendly offerings (“Games,” “Apps”) have been moved above more general stuff (“News”). This is not a difference in SEO, but a difference in which pages of a given website are given prominence.

Both the Also Ask box and the new design are interesting, but not nearly as innovative as the recent Bing unveils. Of course, these features are still experimental; they could change before being rolled out to the general public, or they may never be rolled out at all.

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