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Google changes "Web" to "All" in verticals on SERPs

     
8:02 am on Dec 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I haven't seen this mentioned elsewhere, but I've just noticed some major changes in the verticals listed on the Google serps page as I was testing out a search suggested by MrSavage in this thread...

<insert city name> event - Google now listing events in top position
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4782182.htm [webmasterworld.com]

Over the past year or so (confirmed by screen captures I've made), I've seen more or less typically....
Web -- Shopping -- Images -- Videos -- News -- More -- (+Search Tools)

The big change that I'm suddenly seeing, and forgive me if it's been mentioned elsewhere and I've missed it, is...
All -- Images -- Shopping -- Videos -- News -- More -- (+Search Tools)
Noticeably absent is the word "Web".

More observations to come. I want to finish another post I had in progress first.
8:56 am on Dec 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It's been quite a while now that the generic SERP includes images and/or maps and/or videos (depending on exactly what you search for), so isn't the word "All" just changing to agree with the facts? I guess what is missing is an option for "pages only, no fancy stuff".

I'm also a little intrigued by the way that non-page results can come anywhere-- for me it tends to be in the 10-20 range, regardless of how many result per page I've asked for. You'd think returning a string of images would be pointless if they're not going to be on the first page.

All - News - Shopping - Images - Maps - More
All - Maps - News - Videos - Shopping - More
All - Maps - News - Images - Videos - More
All - Videos - Maps - Images - News - More

wtf? Why does it keep changing? Four different lists from four different searches, each in the form {placename} {event-type}, changing both terms each time. (For one of the four I said randomly "basketball" which, yeah, I guess is something you could buy-- but none of the other three qualify. I mean, I'm not in the market for an opera house...)
10:05 am on Dec 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm certain Google is constantly testing this for the best performance, Lucy, however, the dropping of the word "Web" may be a little more significant on a desktop than on a mobile device, imho.
10:34 am on Dec 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Why does it keep changing?

lucy, it gets more complicated than I could describe in the title while keeping the core "Web" to "All" change prominent... but Google is doing a lot of shifting around of verticals, and yes, there seems to be some splitting off of commercial vs non-commercial searches. (See some of my observations in the post I've added to "Events" thread noted above.)

I actually hadn't noticed the change to "All" until I was substantially through writing that post... and yes, Google... for the Knowledge Graph, anyway... is creating a hierarchy descending from "All" rather than from "Web". These are top of my head observations at this point, but they seem to make sense.

As I mention in the Events thread...
Among other things, this is probably suggesting that Google is going beyond the web for its information in these searches, as it has for a while, but is now stating that clearly.

As you also note, I think Google is separating some listing into commercial and non-commercial, and between private and public... both for information and for properties. I haven't had a chance to sift through it very thoroughly, but this is a huge change. It's interesting to see where some of the splits occur. There are also more verticals than I've noted.

Flights
A big one, and for now I'm going to try to keep this all together in one thread, but maybe we'll have to split it off, is that if you do a search for "cheap flights", you will bring up another vertical channel listing in the top row... "Flights", which also surfaces "Apps" and drops "Maps" and "Images". Most flights-related searches I tried did not surface the "Flights" vertical.

I should add that the "Flights" vertical, once you enter it, is a world all its own, unlike any interface I've seen on Google. At this late hour, I can only say that it appears to be a new graphic interface for a pay-for-play Google Flights booking engine, with a very versatile graphics interface. Someone else needs to play enough to report in more detail.

I'm also seeing, for various types of searches, the order of other verticals in that top row shift around, grouped together (I'm thinking) for maximum convenience. I'm sure one could spend a while noting all the combinations and making lists of all the triggers. I'm suspecting that these are a work in progress.

IMO, and I'm guessing, this is back to the old days of testing SERPs layouts and preferences as well as ranking algos, and we are going to have difference interfaces at different times in different locations and markets.

Hard to say what the Zombie effect will be, but I expect reports to pick up. This is probably multi-variate testing on steroids.
5:20 pm on Dec 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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PS to the above... I won't get into specifics, but I'm seeing that some searches bringing up "Books" in this sequence...

All - News - Shopping - Books - Videos - More

In this case, the More category drops down with...

Images
Maps
Flights
Apps

I'm sure that a lot of user testing went into this particular arrangement, which is likely to undergo further change.
7:59 pm on Dec 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It certainly makes sense to replace "Web" with "All," since the latter is a more accurate description of what's shown in the main search results.
10:05 pm on Dec 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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In this case, the More category drops down with...

Ah, that was the bit I forgot to check last night. So there's a master list of about 10 possible categories, and the variable part is which ones show up in the visible menu bar-- and in what order-- as opposed to being relegated to "More"?

Seems to me that changing the order of the items, as in
All - News - Shopping - Images - Maps - More
All - Videos - Maps - Images - News - More
(using the results I quoted above) would do more harm than good in the long term, as it would tend to confuse the viewer, forcing them to stop and look at the whole list every time instead of proceeding directly to the desired option. (Ya listening, google? ;)) That is, you want your users to spend time looking at the actual SERP, not poring over menu options.
10:36 pm on Dec 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So does this mean that people who want results just from the web are locked out?
12:27 am on Dec 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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"Web" implies to the consumer that Google is impartially searching & unbiased ranking the entirety of the web (within reason). Thats not exactly what they do now.

"All" Implies only that Google will search, rank & display that which they deem suitable... for you... maybe you specifically. It implies actually nothing specific at all about "what" they are searching like "web" does.

I find it much more likely that this change is motivated by legal/antitrust concerns as opposed to technological concerns. For example: I don't think this means that Google will now be searching data from the IOT or peer to peer networks.
10:10 am on Dec 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I find it much more likely that this change is motivated by legal/antitrust concerns as opposed to technological concerns.

I suspect it's both, and it's probably been that way for a while. If anything, Google is effectively stating in the new vertical categorizations in the SERPs that it's using sources beyond websites, as it has in fact been doing for some time....

As I just posted in the 2016 emerging search trends thread, I'm taking this change from "Web" to "All" as an indication from Google that factors of semantic search will become more important in 2016... and that is not just because of antitrust concerns. It's because semantic search can dig out relationships that simple keyword search cannot. For a some additional details, see what I've posted here...

2016: emerging trends on search; what are you predicting?
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4781746.htm [webmasterworld.com]
3:58 pm on Dec 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I find it much more likely that this change is motivated by legal/antitrust concerns as opposed to technological concerns.

It isn't about legal/antitrust concerns or technology, it's about improving the user interface.

"Web" doesn't just mean HTML files. Images, maps, news, etc. are also part of the Web, so the use of "Web" for the all-in-one interface is redundant. "All" is more accurate, because it tells the user "Here are the results for your query that haven't been filtered by search category."
5:20 pm on Dec 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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This is a very bad move by Google. Actually it's a continuation of a bad move that began years ago when Google started cramming youtube down everybody's throat in the search results. So this is just another step in google's long-term strategy to take away searchers' options and restrict their freedom to limit the results to particular types of web entities. The main effect is that the user interface and user experience are both worse because it's harder for users to find what they're looking for.

Google is intentionally carrying out this plan because it increases their ad revenue. In other words, this is just another case of google putting their profits ahead of their users' needs.
5:55 pm on Dec 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Yes, "all" as in "all categories" just makes logical sense.

Like any search engine Google is not searching the web in real-time. It's searching its own index. The index is anywhere between hours and years behind the actual state of the web pages listed. The index in some cases stubbornly clings to descriptions and snippets that have been gone from the actual site for months or years in some cases. The index does not include the entirety of available results. In the post-panda era the index is particularly shifty.

Changing "web" to "all" strengthens the message to the user that google's own properties such as Google shopping, Google image search, YouTube etc. are given equal value to the rest of the web and makes it quite clear that they intend to pepper every generalized search with results from their own properties... Properties which scrape content from the actual "web" and hoard them onto Google pages.

It also conveniently frees them from the implication that they are searching the "web" at all.

More and more Google search pages are filled almost entirely with results that can provide the (supposedly) desired content without ever venturing outside Google properties. Changing "web" to "all" clearly makes that seem a bit less dishonest.
6:40 pm on Dec 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It also conveniently frees them from the implication that they are searching the "web" at all.

I don't think most searchers are concerned with "implications" (or, more accurately, inferences). They just want descriptive menus.
7:12 pm on Dec 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I don't think most searchers are concerned with "implications" (or, more accurately, inferences). They just want descriptive menus.


No. I'm pretty sure the public would want to know if Google is searching the actual web or not.
8:36 pm on Dec 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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But what if you want to constrain results to web pages? Even on Advanced Search (my default), I can't find any way to do it. You can specify videos or maps or images, OR you can pick from the extensions list
Adobe Acrobat PDF (.pdf)
Adobe Postscript (.ps)
Autodesk DWF (.dwf)
Google Earth KML (.kml)
Google Earth KMZ (.kmz)
Microsoft Excel (.xls)
Microsoft Powerpoint (.ppt)
Microsoft Word (.doc)
Rich Text Format (.rtf)
Shockwave Flash (.swf)
(copy-and-paste from the dropdown). That's all.
8:55 pm on Dec 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Lucy wrote:
But what if you want to constrain results to web pages?

Google doesn't want you to have that option because, as has been pointed out, they wouldn't be able to show youtube, google shopping, etc in the results, which would reduce their revenue. Profits are more important to them than their users' needs.
9:16 pm on Dec 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Google doesn't want you to have that option because, as has been pointed out, they wouldn't be able to show youtube, google shopping, etc in the results,

Right. That must be why they have a link on the SERPs for Google News, which doesn't even have ads.

Or maybe, just maybe, Google tweaks its UI from time to time (as most of us do) and relies on testing to see what works best.

Side note: I agree with lucy24 that it would be nice to have an option for "Web pages only," and I've felt that way for years.I'd also like to see an option for "informational results only" or "commercial results only," but Google.com isn't my Web site, and I don't get to dictate how Google serves up its search results.
10:14 pm on Dec 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I tend to think G made this change to model a perception by users.

Web, in the past, meant the WWW.

All means the WWW and Other Things, Too.... but we don't know what those other things actually are except for the fact most appear to be G properties, served over the web, but from their servers which are NOT accessible by the WWW (and serve RESULTS, not access).
 

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