Okay Google! What's new in search?

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    Liji K J
  • August 20,2019

I recently got the opportunity to attend the Google Webmaster Conference held on 19th July 2019 at Mumbai. I'll be sharing a few insights into what's up in search.

Session on what's up in search
What's up in search session by Syed Malik Mairaj, Search Outreach Lead at Google

Google has its very own mission to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” and over the years we've seen the ever improving way of showing the results from "ten blue links", to the enhanced search results you see today.

ten blue links in Google search
Google search results in its early days also called ten blue links

In earlier SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), content was served in pure HTML with CSS for styling. Now with the increased use of JavaScript, the content is now more interactive and presentable.

Google search result example
Google search results in 2019 with videos, information panel in right, stories etc. 

Before moving to what’s new in search let’s take a look at how the Google search works:

1. Discovering Information

Google should know there’s some content  you've written that you wish to show in the SERP. A software called crawlers/spiders/bots/robots is used to get information about the content you've written. Software used by Google is known as Googlebot and Bing is Bingbot. As a content provider, you mention the URL of the web pages as a list in sitemap. These spiders visit the URL, copy the page and sends it to the database. The spiders check for the URLs in that page and repeat the same process.

2. Organizing information:

How would you go to chapter 8 of a book without an index page?

Reading book

As you can imagine, it'll be difficult without an index; same is the case for search engines. Categorizing the information gathered in step 1 (crawling) in a database is known as “Indexing”.

3. Ranking:

Search engines find millions of pages relevant to the user's search query. But, how does Google identify the most relevant content for your query? The second most relevant? 200+ signals are used to determine this.

4. Results:

The results are shown based on the user’s search intent. The top results are those that Google or any other search engines identifies as relevant to your search query.

Check out Google's guide on how search works.

So back to our topic, "what’s new in search?"

1. Googlebot

Googlebot is now evergreen, it is continuously updated and is now a modern chromium rendering engine which can also understand JavaScript.

Since the world is now mobile Googlebot is now prioritizing mobile first indexing. All the new website started mobile first indexing as default.

2. Images

In olden days, Google just showed the images. Now it started labeling images such as products, recipes as well as the website names from which the image is shown.

Google image search results for bicycle search
Google image search results for bicycles showing results with website name

Coming soon: High Resolution Image Opt-in Program.
If you are a photographer or own a stock photo website or someone who wishes to show your high quality images in Google search, this is for you. Through this opt-in, Google will index your high quality images and show it in search results.

3. Structured Data

Search engines like Google, Bing etc have started supporting structured data. Structured data is coded in a specific format, written in such a way that search engines understand it. Search engines read the code and use it to display search results in a  much specific and richer way.

Google started supporting:

To know more about structured data, follow the link to Google’s guide on SD: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/search-gallery

Tools updates

1. Search Console
Our own webmaster is now known as search console. Google decided not to give all the data dump as in webmaster and will give more insights from the data in search console.

2. Pagespeed Insights
This tool helps to identify the performance of web pages. This will give different values at different times. Checking your website speed in the morning and evening might show different numbers. There’s an average speed recommended for each industry. Go with the average value of your industry. This tool is available at https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/. Lighthouse engine will be used for PageSpeed insights; So showing different numbers in PageSpeed Insights and Light house won’t be a problem anymore.

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