The SEO News Round Up: Google Tents, Cars, Pandas and Jelly Beans

Search is a constantly changing domain, one which our hard-working SEO department busies itself with every day. In fact, we’re often so busy that we often miss the opportunity to blog about our exploits and the many curveballs the search engines pitch us. So here we are launching a new weekly SEO Round Up to keep our readers informed and to offer a brief perspective on changes both upcoming and sudden.

This week: Google’s attempts to monetise car comparison and improvements to its Google Shopping service, a refreshingly insignificant Panda refresh and the latest Android updates’ improvements to mobile search experience.

Google Shopping: criteria and paid inclusion

Now is the summer of discount tents for Google, or so the SERP for ‘tent’ on their American listings would have you believe. The term is an early recipient of the dramatic overhaul that is approaching for Google Shopping. In the ‘tent’ example, Google now provides a buying guide, allowing you to shop for tents suitable for camping, backpacking, mountaineering and even ice-fishing. This is all indicative of the level of detail the new Google Shopping will be going into with its product listings; users can already filter by capacity and seasonality in addition to standard filters like price and brand.

Google Shopping Tent SERP

It’s easy to see how sector-specific criteria are going to directly benefit the consumers searching via the previously rather haphazard service. For ecommerce sites (and their SEO agencies), the need to identify and complete the correct fields in product data feeds will become imperative. However, unlike some recent Google impositions, there’s a real feeling that this could be a service worthy of early adoption rather than the usual begrudging obligation. There’s a sting in the tail, though: Google will only list ecommerce sites that pay for inclusion.

Google Shopping Criteria

Whilst it is easy for SEOs to criticise Google for another paid approach, it is also true to say that there are possible positives to this new implementation of shopping, even more so with the ’tent’ example being showcased. Fresh Egg SEO Ryan Ogilvie had this to say:

“Online retailers are going to need to provide far more detail about their products than ever before, assisting not only with the content that is provided in Google Shopping (leading to more conversions) but perhaps even on their own websites. This could work to gain a significant increase in long-tail traffic as well as an increase in sales through shopping.”

The 3.8 Panda refresh

Considering that real-world pandas are sedentary oafs with an aversion to reproduction, tweeted about this update on Monday the 25th of June, providing a link to the usual blurb about building high quality websites and assuring followers that the refresh would affect “only roughly 1% of queries worldwide”. Though referred to widely as ‘Panda 3.8’, this was a rerun of the existing algorithm, rather than an algorithmic tweak: for once, Google’s 1% forecast appears to have been truthful.

‘Google Cars’ comparison service

Not to be confused with Google’s exploits into driverless car technology, eagle eyed SEOs have discovered that the American arm of Google are testing a vehicle price comparison service in the San Francisco Bay Area. To see the service in the context of a front page search, hit up with personalisation turned off and change your location to the 94301 ZIP Code, then search for “Palo Alto Toyota”.

Google Car Price Comparison SERP

As you can clearly see, this service pushes the organic element of the SERP further down page one in this sector. If Google decide to take this one further, there could be quite a shakeup for the dedicated car comparison sites and for those who don’t fancy paying for inclusion in the service. There’s also the question of just how extensive Google’s comparison plans are, with the shopping updates providing a massive database of comparable products (in the UK, they’ve already started comparing credit cards).

Google Car Price Comparison Page

Google Now and the mobile search experience

Google’s bandwagon-jumping attempts to move into the Siri-like ‘mobile assistant’ space is the closest thing SEO has to a soft news item to end our round up with (it’s cute, just not ‘kitten saved from tree’ cute). Talking up its upcoming update to the Android mobile operating system ‘Jelly Bean’ (4.1 to fans of meaningful software versioning), Google demonstrated a synthesised female voice that would read back certain search results. The updated search app (and associated widget) also features improvements to voice recognition.

Key for search as we know it, submitting a question to the app will visually give you a response on a card at the top of the screen, pushing the traditional SERP further down the page. This is also true of the intriguing ‘Google Now’ service, integrated into the app, which will call up relevant information cards – the weather, train times, traffic information and local restaurant listings – based on the time, your location, your search history and your daily habits.

With the Nexus 7 tablet launching this week, we’re reminded that Google are committed to dominating search, wherever you are, whatever device you’re using and whatever you’re searching for. Part of the challenge they face is striking the balance between creating a consistent experience that also integrates appropriately into each sector, playing to the strengths of audiences and form factors. It’s all terrifically exciting for users, but SEOs are going to have to adapt to the plurality of search to stay ahead.