We tested out the new interface design for our clients' campaigns and found that most of them were not affected by the change at all.
On May 16, 2012, Google released a change to the way search results pages are designed. They call this new design the Google Knowledge Graph. It integrates information from Wikipedia and other (music, movies, reference) databases for which they have licensed the rights. Currently, the change is only on English language searches and hasn’t been rolled out into all the international flavors of Google.
Why the redesign?
Google has described the Knowledge Graph as “semantic search,” meaning that the engine isn’t just looking at individual keywords and phrases, but learning more about the multiple meanings of these searches (disambiguation) and hopefully providing more real answers than in the past. They have spent a lot of time modifying the algorithm itself to recognize multiple meanings based on their own past search data, and this is another layer in that effort.
How are pharmaceutical-related searches affected?
Considering the media coverage of this change, we expected to see changes in all the search results pages. We found that very few were affected for our clients. We tested out the new interface design for our clients’ campaigns and found that most of them were not affected by the change at all. Google thinks that this change has only affected 10-20% of searches.
There were a few searches that added a clinical definition of a pharmaceutical product, but this was not consistent across everything we searched. See below for the example of “aspirin.”
Will Google continue to change the design of their search results pages?
Google reported that in the last two weeks this design change has been responsible for an increase in the number of searches performed on the site. Google stated that they think the “graph” has sparked curiosity, which in turn sparks more searches and therefore more traffic to those sites that are listed in the search engine.
This design change is just the most recent in a long line of changes, including “Search + Your World” (integrated Google+ data) and “Universal Search” (incorporated images, videos, products and news into the search results pages rather than asking you to click a separate tab to see the results in each individual format). It is likely that there will be more changes, since the pace of change seems to be picking up.
What does this mean for companies that use paid search advertising?
With the change in late 2011 that removed most paid search ads from the right side of the results to the top and bottom of the organic results, Google freed up this space on the right side for just about any purpose they may need: Google+ information, knowledge graphs and possibly even display media. (Just kidding about the last one.) Nobody knows what Google will do next, but it is certain that they have found ways to test changes quickly and have lots of new ideas.
What do you think of the Knowledge Graph?