Google has rolled out to the general public a new design/layout for their results page, and it's just as much like Bing as it was back when they were testing it back in January (there were rumors at the time that this was rolling out live for everyone, but it appears that a few more months of tweaking was required—Google's official announcement on their blog says that this new look reflects feedback they've received from testers over the past several months). It's so much like Bing that it's alarming.
Of course, it's nearly impossible to believe that Google is copying Bing… for a host of reasons. First and foremost, they don't need to copy Bing. What little market share Bing has grabbed has largely come from Yahoo and not Google, and the upstart engine from Microsoft has yet to prove itself a real threat to the search giant. Copying your competitors who have only 20% of your market share is not generally considered a good strategy. You're already beating them.
Second, changes like this don't happen overnight. They don't even happen over a few months' time. They take years, typically. Foundations for this redesign were surely in place long before Bing had much of anything to show for itself.
But that doesn't mean Google hasn't possibly observed what some other engines like Bing are doing right and adapted on the fly.
Here's a screenshot of the new layout:
So let's break down the new look by talking about some of the changes I noticed almost immediately.
Left Side Menu
There is a left-side menu now with lots of options for filtering your search, beginning with the now-standard list of the different kinds of searches you can perform: News, Maps, Books, Images, Blogs, and a More button. Google says that three of their technologies are powering these left-side filter options: Universal Search, Google Squared, and Search Options Panel. I would guess Universal Search is what's driving most of these "genre" filters.
No Default "Videos" Filter
Right out of the gate, please notice that "Videos" is not a default option. You have to click the "More" button to get the rest of the choices such as Videos, Shopping, Updates, and Discussions. Does that seem weird to anyone but me? Video is a default option on the standard "type of search" filter selections that have been at the top left of Google result pages for years. But in the new interface—in the new left-side menu bar—it's almost like there is a de-emphasis on video.
Why would Google, who owns video giant YouTube and constantly trumpets how important video is to the future of search go and hide the Videos search filter option? I'm not sure, but it's hard to believe it's anything but intentional. Which maybe means they think they're getting so good at fitting video results inside standard content results that they won't need a filter option for "video" much longer? Just a thought.
UPDATE: Okay, after further experimentation, it appears that "Videos" actually is a default filter listing for some queries, but not for others. In fact, the entire list changes based on what you're searching. That's actually even more interesting, though it raises some questions about how they determine which searches warrant which default filtering options.
Filter By Date
Continuing down the left side, you'll also see filter options related to time and date. You can search by "Latest" results, or—after expanding the More Search Tools option—by results from within the last 24 hours, week, month, year, or even a custom range. All very handy features that are not entirely new—but their existence on the main search page is new.
Filter By View
You can change "views" on your search results, choosing the default Standard View or from options like Related Searches, Wonder Wheel, and Timeline. Each of these options will take the results you got originally and augment them by either layout or function. Clicking "Related Searches," for instance, will pop a quick-access "related searches" section at the top of the same results.
Clicking on Wonder Wheel will push results off to the right and show you Google's wheel of filter options related to your original query (just a fancier kind of "Related Searches" option). Clicking Timeline is a fascinating experience, as you are then served results based on a historical timeline. In my screenshot, I chose to search for "hockey," and the Timeline option then gives me information by order of the date they reference (history of the game, rules changes, notable news stories)… it's really neat.
Finally, below that section you will see Something Different, which is a quick-jump way to change to results for a similar query (in my test case, that means other sports are listed such as volleyball and basketball).
Changes Are Cosmetic, Not Algorithmic
There isn't any indication that this new layout reflects any change at all in the actual results—meaning the algorithm hasn't undergone a facelift as well… it's just the look and feel of the results page.
So what changed between the last look we took at this new layout in January and today? Well, the testing feedback must have been overwhelmingly negative regarding the color blue. The "search" button and the outline of the search box itself, which were both blue in the January version, have now reverted to the more common gray. Outside of that change, most everything else is pretty much the same.
It's going to take a lot of getting used to for what I would call "average Google users”—those who aren't accustomed to filtering their results. If people freaked out over the recent YouTube redesign, there's a good chance a lot of those same individuals will cry "foul" over the new Google results. Change always has critics.
For people who are more of a Google power user—filtering results frequently by genre and date—the functionality is all the same… you just have filtering options in new places. Still a bit of an adjustment, but overall just a blip on the radar.
And what does it mean for content producers? Are your videos going to be found more easily? Only time will tell. It certainly seems like a setback for video creators to have Google hiding the "Videos" filter on the left-side. But again, the goal with video SEO isn't really to be found when people filter searches by "video”—though that's definitely desireable—but, rather, to simply be found on the main results page. In that regard… nothing has changed. Your video's organic placement hasn't changed on the new layout… at least… not until users start filtering their original search.
I'm a big fan. All this new layout does is help users get to the information they want more quickly. Of course, I'm a big fan of Bing too… and technically, you could say they did this first (though Google was surely working on some of these ideas independent of what Bing was doing). Oh, and it's worth pointing out that if things were reversed, and Bing was rolling out a search results page that had been altered to look more like Google… Microsoft haters the world over would come out of hiding to bash them for being copycats instead of innovators.
I'm told this is a live rollout for everyone, and that even the mobile version will be getting a new look. So… have you had a chance to play around with the new Google results layout? Are you a fan? A hater? Did you take one look at it and vow to never use Google again? I'd be very curious to hear everyone's thoughts on the new design, particularly if you dislike it.