It almost feels as if search engines will soon serve up coffee or tea along with Me in search results. By Me, I refer to personalization, the social features Google, Bing and Yahoo strive to tie in with search. Those who follow my MediaPost Search Marketing Daily column read about it frequently. The trio steadily continued work on the integration throughout the year, but in early October the pace quickened.
Google began testing a Twitter integration that serves up tweets from friends on the Google News page. The feature aims to let friends stay informed about chatter. It provides a list of shared news articles. A help document on Google's site explains that people who see the tweets from the "Friends" section are part of an experiment to bring in recommended content and make the search engine more social.
Reports also surfaced that Google began testing a preview feature that would display a pop-up of Web sites listed in search results, so people could see the context of the page without clicking. The hover effect could become problematic and "piss off a lot of advertisers," according to Dave Harry, a search engine marketing guru at Reliable SEO, because it pops up over the top of ads.
The feature could give organic search results an advantage because people will become more inclined to click only on the listings that best fit their needs. Harry says the snippets seem to come from text on the page. The feature also would provide more options to draw in searchers through visual appeal because as searchers hover over the content, a magnifying glass icon to the right of a result link previews the page, images and text. Clicking on the preview takes the searcher's browser to that page.
The tool seems similar to Bing, which serves up information on the page to the right of the listing, but in Bing that listing reads like an advertisement. In Bing the additional content opens up right over the paid search ads in the top half of the page. It doesn't look like the landing page.
AimClear founder Marty Weintraub says Bing pulls the text from the first live text on the page and the footer. Bing doesn't provide an image preview similar to Google's, but it's the same idea of providing more information on the content of the site. The potential effect on SEO is contingent on where Bing pulls the data from, he says.
Obviously, the hover feature is not ready for prime time. Weintraub explains that the algorithm Bing uses to cull text from organic results' destination page is pretty basic, or else the results would be more consistent, which they're not. Inconsistent results may make it less likely searchers will adopt the feature. So far, Weintraub likes it, as SEOs go.
Preview pages were designed to eliminate rapid click-backs. On a Bing page explaining the hover tool, Microsoft states that 24 percent of clicks result in a rapid click-back, meaning that people issue a query, get a results page, click on a link and realize it isn't what they wanted and rapidly click back.
The hover effect could prove both troublesome and beneficial. Search engines want to keep searchers on the engine, and previews could benefit paid search advertisers.