So here I was, showing some small business owners how to get more business online in a webinar, and I suddenly noticed that the Google Search results page (or SERP for short) is behaving differently. Here is a quick summary of what’s new.
Results from Google Places (formerly Google Maps or Google Local Business) now appear a lot like organic web results, with the following differences:
- A red map marker
- Contact information
- A link to the Google Places record with the number of reviews that place has received, if there are any
- A map, showing red markers for all the Google Places in the search results, which (OMG) slides down over the advertising sidebar when you scroll down!
Keeping up with the Joneses Bing, every result (except subscribed links) features a magnifying glass icon to the right of the title. When clicked, the pages goes into Preview Mode and starts showing scaled-down images of the listed pages when you hover your mouse over them.
In Preview Mode, all the magnifier icons turn a darker shade of blue.
When another magnifier icon is clicked, the icons return to the lighter, duller shade of blue and hovering over search results shows nothing.
What does this change mean?
To me, this change shows that Google is investing a lot of thought into making their search engine user-friendly and providing relevant, useful results as quickly as possible. Since Instant Search, results appear in a heartbeat, but now we can also scan then much faster and avoid wasting time visiting the wrong pages.
Moreover, local businesses have gained an enormous boost to their search presence by getting full exposure within the results, as opposed to the crammed listings they had before.
The only ones who may not like this recent change are Google advertisers who now see the sliding map object hiding their ads from view when the page is scrolled down, but this may not be so bad, because the map starts above the ads at first, so if the person searching chooses to scroll down, the top ads are probably not interesting to them anymore and might as well be hidden.
Oddly enough, I believe that pushing down the sidebar ads may actually increase clickthrough rates for the top positions in the sidebar.
Have an eventful day searching,