The Googlolution – Is Google changing too quickly?

I read with interest a number of posts recently, many of them to do with the recent introduction of Google Instant to the search results. During recent months however there have been a number of new tweaks and changes to the user experience, some of which have improved our experience within the search environment – however some have been met with a very mixed reaction.

Google have always been known for being quick to integrate new technologies and ideas into their search results over the last couple of months we have a number of new user changes:

  • Google Instant – September
  • Brand Stacking – August
  • Integration of Fourth Result- August
  • Changes in paid search results pallete – July
  • Integration of local search results into paid and organic results – July
  • 3 Organic results on query – September
  • 20 results per page – September
  • Ajax Results – Fully rolled out – September
  • Image Search – September

That’s 8 (!) quite major user centric changes during the last three months alone, something us search engine marketeers have had to evaluate and consider its impact. From a user perspective however, one may ask is Google overdoing the amount of testing, refinement and rollout of new enhancements at the moment.

Human beings are strange beasts, many of us are not particularly good at change – particularly big changes. It takes us out of our comfort zone – one only has to look at the myriad of responses on the announcement of Google Instant to see that. It is thus interesting (albeit not hugely suprising) to see Google playing around with their search results to such an extent, particularly when one considers the following. I have done a number of presentations with my colleague at Mediavest and husband of fellow State of Search blogger Lisa Myers where we show Google in 2001 and contrast it with 2008. During that time very little changed at Google – however those times appear to be well and truly over.

In the strive for increased revenue and relevance, Google’s results pages have changed significantly over the last year or so. At the moment Google can get away with it, they have very little competition within Western Europe and the North Americas and whilst that dominance exists they will probably get away tweaking this and testing that however one has to think whether they would be undertaking this level of ‘testing’ if the threat of Bing (or any other search engine) had been greater – I would suggest not.

When looking at the rationale behind these changes however one has to consider the level of change that has taken place. Technology in particular has been a huge driving force, not just in terms of Google’s IT architecture, but also in terms of new web programming technologies such as XML, HTML5 and Ajax have allowed Google to develop new frameworks and ways of presenting content they could not do before (Instant being a superb example of this – as this would be impossible to do without in particular AJAX). Further to this, the freedom and brand equity they enjoy has given them the opportunity to test without much perceived threat from competitors, something many organisations don’t get a chance to do.

Recent search engine usage figures would suggest that these changes haven’t changed peoples attitude towards Google – in fact many of the recent studies suggest Google had continued to make marginal increases in mature markets such as the US and the UK. That said Bing would appear to be turning a corner and making some fairly significant inroads particularly in the US if the most recent Neilsen figures are to be believed (Bing have seen around a 30% YOY increase in searches).

Top U.S. Search Sites – August 2010
Rank Brand Share of Searches MoM change % YoY change %
1 Google Search 65.1% 1% 1%
2 MSN/Windows Live/Bing Search 13.9% 2% 30%
3 Yahoo! Search 13.1% -8% -18%
4 Search 2.1% 0% 24%
5 AOL Search 2.0% 0% -37%
Source: The Nielsen Company

So for the meantime, it would appear that change is not necessarily a bad thing. That said there is a fine balance and one that Google have to be wary off. Usability and Relevance in tandem have long been one of Google’s key selling points, offsetting one may have a considerable impact.

About Peter Young

Peter has been around the industry for a while now, having previously headed up both search and SEO operations at Connectpoint (now Amaze), Mediavest, Brilliant Media and now Search & Social Director for Mediacom.

8 thoughts on “The Googlolution – Is Google changing too quickly?

  1. I’m pretty sure that the speed at Googleplex right now will become a problem for them. Google Instant seem to be more of a nuisance than actually a pleasure for the “average searcher”. It might change and people might adopt to the new way of using Google, but in my opinion it should have been a feature to select instead of a feature you must deselect.

  2. I agree with SEO-LEX I’m not sure if Google Instant is really beneficial or not. I think it will take some time to figure it out. I read an article by Liberty Interactive Marketing in Phoenix that I also agreed with. There are many “instant” products out there, and well they aren’t always that good- so what makes this any better? Google has made the quantity better per say, but not the quality. Also I like how you mention it should have been a feature to select not to deselect- good point! I’m just glad that there is a deselect option!

  3. Agree with you there. I was speaking to someone recently who knew a couple of engineers, who mentioned that much of their work was about shaving seconds (& microseconds) of the time it takes to retrieve a users query. At the end of the day the quicker the return a result, the more someone is inclined to click, the more revenue they stand to make.

  4. The Bing-like wallpaper feature on the home page wasn’t long ago either. I wish they would stop messing around and focus on search quality, as opposed to fancy new features that nobody cares for.

  5. Thanks for the comments Kieron/Marie

    To be honest I think the biggest surprise with Instant is that we didnt see more testing than we did. Most of the other tests would appear to go on for significantly longer than instant did. Perhaps this is one that should have been more guerilla in its introduction than going out in the blaze of glory that it did.

  6. For me instant seems slower. It sometimes freezes for just over a second. Other times I’m left waiting, only to realise I have to hit enter. When it works Its great though.

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