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Google Tests Feature to Help Users Click from Websites to Competitors

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Google announced it is experimenting with a new feature that allows users to see search results while on a web page, without having to click back to the search results. The goal is to help users compare search results and make it easy to quickly click away from a web page and visit a competing web page.

The new experimental Google feature is a side panel search that is one of two experiments that makes Google’s search results pages (SERPs) persistent.

When the presence of something lasts longer than normal or what is normally expected it is said to be persistent.

Both experiments show Google moving toward a more persistent style of search experience that makes the search results pages visible longer and accessible even when a user is on a web page.

The experimental side panel search results makes it easier for searchers to navigate away from a web page to a competitor web page.

Two New Google Search Experiments

There were two search experiments announced:

  1. Journeys
  2. Side Panel Search

Google Journeys

The first experiment is called Journeys. The feature collects past searches on a related topic and groups them together. The feature is like a history archive of past searches but they are grouped by topic, which makes it easier to find specific searches related to a topic.

The goal is to make it easy for Google users to use Google for researching topics.

Google describes the feature as a way to cluster web pages:

“If you’ve been researching a trip to Yosemite for the past few weeks, Journeys will cluster all the pages you’ve visited related to Yosemite so you can easily view them without having to sift through your browsing history.

You’ll also see related search suggestions so you can continue planning your trip right there.”

The Chrome Journeys data is not sent back to Google, it is information that is stored locally.

Google says they may consider expanding it in future versions so that the Journeys can be accessed across different devices.

Google Chrome Journeys Screenshot

Google Journeys

Google Side Panel Search

The second experimental feature is a three-step process that starts with a normal Google search and then a click to a website.

The third part is a side panel that opens up on the left hand side to reveal the search results that the user navigated away from moments ago.

From the Chrome browser side panel a user can scroll up and down through the search results while simultaneously still on the website.

If the user finds another search result more appealing they can click from the side bar and swiftly navigate away from the website they had previously navigated to from search.

Frictionless Way to Return to Google Search

The experimental side panel search result removes the need to click a back button to return to Google’s search results.

Side panel searching allows a user to more easily compare the page they are on to other pages in the search results and click back and forth between them.

Google Side Panel for Persistent Search Results

Google describes the new experimental feature as helping users compare search pages:

“To make it easier to compare search results and find what you’re looking for more quickly in Chrome, we’re experimenting with a new side panel in the Chrome OS Dev channel, so you can view a page and the search results at the same time.

This lets you view a page right in your main browser window without needing to navigate back and forth or losing your search results. The goal of this experiment is to explore how Chrome can better help users easily compare results…”

Screenshots of Side Panel Search

Screenshot of a Normal Search Result

Below is a screenshot of a normal search result from which a user selects a web page to visit.

Screenshot of a normal search result

How Persistent Side Panel Search Works

Below is a screenshot illustrating a user visit to a web page. In Google’s persistent search the Google “G ” logo serves to activate the side panel search results.

How Persistent Side Panel Search Works

Screenshot of Side Panel Search Result

Below is what the side panel search results looks like. As you can see, the website is on the right hand side and Google’s persistent search results are on the left.

Screenshot of Persistent Search Results

When and Where are the New Features?

Journeys is rolling out to the experimental version of Chrome, called Canary.

The side panel search is rolling out to the Chrome OS Dev channel.

The announcement stats that that if it rolls out to more OS platforms it will be search engine agnostic, meaning that it will work with the users default search engine.

Persistent Google Search Results

Persistent search changes how users traditionally interact with search. Rather than leave Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) after clicking away to a website, the Google search results remain accessible in a side panel or are grouped together by topic in a Journeys panel.

The side panel search may be good news for sites that are ranked below the number one position and could help spread search traffic around.

Whether that makes users less likely to stay on a website and explore remains to be seen because this is a new experiment and there is likely no data to understand how this may affect user behavior on websites.

Citation

Read Google’s Announcement of Experimental Search Features

Helping Users Explore the Web and Continue Prior Tasks

Searchenginejournal.com

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GOOGLE

Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

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Google to pay $391.5 million settlement over location tracking, state AGs say

Google has agreed to pay a $391.5 million settlement to 40 states to resolve accusations that it tracked people’s locations in violation of state laws, including snooping on consumers’ whereabouts even after they told the tech behemoth to bug off.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it is time for Big Tech to recognize state laws that limit data collection efforts.

“I have been ringing the alarm bell on big tech for years, and this is why,” Mr. Landry, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Citizens must be able to make informed decisions about what information they release to big tech.”

The attorneys general said the investigation resulted in the largest-ever multistate privacy settlement. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat, said Google’s penalty is a “historic win for consumers.”

“Location data is among the most sensitive and valuable personal information Google collects, and there are so many reasons why a consumer may opt out of tracking,” Mr. Tong said. “Our investigation found that Google continued to collect this personal information even after consumers told them not to. That is an unacceptable invasion of consumer privacy, and a violation of state law.”

Location tracking can help tech companies sell digital ads to marketers looking to connect with consumers within their vicinity. It’s another tool in a data-gathering toolkit that generates more than $200 billion in annual ad revenue for Google, accounting for most of the profits pouring into the coffers of its corporate parent, Alphabet, which has a market value of $1.2 trillion.

The settlement is part of a series of legal challenges to Big Tech in the U.S. and around the world, which include consumer protection and antitrust lawsuits.

Though Google, based in Mountain View, California, said it fixed the problems several years ago, the company’s critics remained skeptical. State attorneys general who also have tussled with Google have questioned whether the tech company will follow through on its commitments.

The states aren’t dialing back their scrutiny of Google’s empire.

Last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he was filing a lawsuit over reports that Google unlawfully collected millions of Texans’ biometric data such as “voiceprints and records of face geometry.”

The states began investigating Google’s location tracking after The Associated Press reported in 2018 that Android devices and iPhones were storing location data despite the activation of privacy settings intended to prevent the company from following along.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich went after the company in May 2020. The state’s lawsuit charged that the company had defrauded its users by misleading them into believing they could keep their whereabouts private by turning off location tracking in the settings of their software.

Arizona settled its case with Google for $85 million last month. By then, attorneys general in several other states and the District of Columbia had pounced with their own lawsuits seeking to hold Google accountable.

Along with the hefty penalty, the state attorneys general said, Google must not hide key information about location tracking, must give users detailed information about the types of location tracking information Google collects, and must show additional information to people when users turn location-related account settings to “off.”

States will receive differing sums from the settlement. Mr. Landry’s office said Louisiana would receive more than $12.7 million, and Mr. Tong’s office said Connecticut would collect more than $6.5 million.

The financial penalty will not cripple Google’s business. The company raked in $69 billion in revenue for the third quarter of 2022, according to reports, yielding about $13.9 billion in profit.

Google downplayed its location-tracking tools Monday and said it changed the products at issue long ago.

“Consistent with improvements we’ve made in recent years, we have settled this investigation which was based on outdated product policies that we changed years ago,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in a statement.

Google product managers Marlo McGriff and David Monsees defended their company’s Search and Maps products’ usage of location information.

“Location information lets us offer you a more helpful experience when you use our products,” the two men wrote on Google’s blog. “From Google Maps’ driving directions that show you how to avoid traffic to Google Search surfacing local restaurants and letting you know how busy they are, location information helps connect experiences across Google to what’s most relevant and useful.”

The blog post touted transparency tools and auto-delete controls that Google has developed in recent years and said the private browsing Incognito mode prevents Google Maps from saving an account’s search history.

Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees said Google would make changes to its products as part of the settlement. The changes include simplifying the process for deleting location data, updating the method to set up an account and revamping information hubs.

“We’ll provide a new control that allows users to easily turn off their Location History and Web & App Activity settings and delete their past data in one simple flow,” Mr. McGriff and Mr. Monsees wrote. “We’ll also continue deleting Location History data for users who have not recently contributed new Location History data to their account.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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5 Tips to Boost Your Holiday Search Strategy

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With the global economic downturn, inflation, ongoing supply chain challenges, and uncertainty due to the Ukraine war, this year’s holiday shopping season promises to be very challenging. Will people be in the mood to spend despite the gloom? Or will they rein in their enthusiasm and save for the year ahead?

With these issues in mind, here are five considerations to support your search engine optimization strategy this holiday shopping season:

1. Start early.

Rising prices are likely to mean shoppers will start researching their holiday spending earlier than ever to nab the best bargains. Therefore, retailers must roll out their holiday product and category pages — and launch any promotions — sooner to ensure their pages get crawled and indexed by search engines in good time.

Some e-commerce stores manage to get their pages ranking early by updating and reusing the same section of the website for holiday content and promotions, rotating between content for Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine gifts, Fourth of July sales, etc. This approach can help you retain the momentum, links and authority you build up with Google and get your holiday pages visible and ranking quickly.

2. Make research an even bigger priority.

With all the uncertainty this year, it’s vital to use SEO research to identify the trending seasonal keywords and search phrases in your retail vertical — and then optimize content accordingly.

With tools such as Google Trends you can extract helpful insights based on the types of searches people are making. For example, with many fashion retailers now charging for product returns, will prioritizing keywords such as “free returns” get more search traction? And with money being tighter, will consumers stick with brands they trust rather than anything new — meaning brand searches might be higher?

3. Make greater use of Google Shopping.

To get the most out of their holiday spending, consumers are more likely to turn to online marketplaces such as Google Shopping as they make it easier to compare products, features and prices, as well as to identify the best deals both online and in nearby stores.

Therefore, take a combined approach which includes listing in Google Shopping and at the same time optimizing product detail pages on your e-commerce site to ensure they’re unique and provide more value than competitors’ pages. Be precise with product names on Google Shopping (e.g., do the names contain the words people are searching for?); ensure you provide all the must-have information Google requires; and set a price that’s not too far from the competition. 

4. Give other search sources the attention they deserve.

Earlier this year Google itself acknowledged that consumers — especially younger consumers — are starting to use TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites for search. In fact, research suggests 11 percent of product searches now start on TikTok and 15 percent on Instagram. Younger consumers in particular are more engaged by visual content, which may explain why they’re embracing visually focused social sites for search. So, as part of your search strategy, create and share content on popular social media sites that your target customers visit.

Similarly, with people starting their shopping searches on marketplaces such as Amazon.com, optimizing any listings you have on the site should be part of your strategy. And thankfully, the better optimized your product detail pages are for Amazon (with unique, useful content), the better they will rank on Google as well!

5. Hold paid budget for late opportunities.

The greater uncertainty and volatility this holiday season mean you must keep a close eye on shopper behavior and be ready to embrace opportunities that emerge later on. Getting high organic rankings for late promotions is always more challenging, so hold some paid search budget back to help drive traffic to those pages — via Google Ads, for example. Important keywords to include in late season search ad campaigns include “delivery before Christmas” and “same-day-delivery.” For locally targeted search ads, consider “pick up any time before Christmas.”

The prospect of a tough, unpredictable holiday shopping season means search teams must roll out seasonal SEO plans early, closely track shoppers’ behavior, and be ready to adapt as things change.

Marcus Pentzek is chief SEO consultant at Searchmetrics, the global provider of search data, software and consulting solutions.

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Google Home App Gets an Overhaul, Rolling Out Soon

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Google Home app

Google refreshes its Home app with a slew of new features after launching a new Nest gear. This makes it faster and easier to pair smart devices with Matter, adds customization and personalization options, an enhanced Nest camera experience, and better intercommunication between devices.

This revamped Home app utilizes Google’s Matter smart home standard – launching later this year – especially the Fast Pair functionality. On an Android phone, it will instantly recognize a Matter device and allow you to easily set it up, bypassing the current procedure that is often slow and difficult. Google is also updating its Nest speakers, displays, and routers – to control Matter devices better.

Google Home App New Features

  • Spaces: This feature allows you to control multiple devices in different rooms. Google has listed a few things by room: kitchen, bedroom, living room, etc., although it’s pretty limited right now. Spaces let you organize devices how you see fit. For instance, you can set up a baby monitor in one room and set a different room’s camera to focus on an area the baby often plays. With Spaces, you can categorize these two devices into one Space category called ‘Baby.’

Google Home app Spaces

  • Favorites: This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to make certain gears as a favorite that you frequently use. Doing so will bring those devices into the limelight within the Google Home app for easier access. 

Google Home app

  • Media: Google adds a new media widget at the bottom of your Home feed. This will automatically determine what media is playing in your home and provide you with the appropriate controls as and when needed. There will be song controls if you listen to music on your speakers. There will be television remote controls if you’re watching TV. 

Google probably won’t roll out this Home app makeover anytime soon. But you can try it for yourself in the coming week by enrolling in the public preview, available in select areas.

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