Platform or Product? 3 New Lessons in Content Discovery from Yes, Google.

Even as we were busy putting finishing touches to the 2017 Google algorithmic and SERP update timeline, Google announced some more updates. Building on an identified trend of more “How” in searches, Google rolled out 3 updates to upgrade the user content discovery experience on their search page even further.

Now as we have learnt repeatedly in the past : What is good for Google is rarely as good for us. So let’s take a closer look at what these updates mean for 2018.

1.Expanded Featured Snippet

Generated algorithmically from a combination of meta descriptions and general page text, these “quick answers” are now longer, contain more images and offer more options than ever to help you go where Google wants to take you. This raises the interesting question of whether you want to modify your meta length to help Google keep your user on the SERP itself (and ultimately reduce your own CTR) or do you want to stay put with your 165 character limit and fall out of favor altogether. Hmmm. Complicated. As always. 



2. Expanded Knowledge Panel

They have also made the the Knowledge Panel more information rich so that it shows a lot of related content and search options within the boxed result allowing users to explore related subjects further… in one easy click!

Now, since most of us never quite made it to the venerated panel, this does not have a real actionable to pursue but is definitely another clear step towards the dilution of the Top 10 link value as we knew it. 

3. And a Brand New Rabbit Hole(s)!

And yes, while this could have been the title of this post, it is the third update and meant specifically for those who still believed that they had some kind of control or comfort with the old SERP page.

Google now offers it’s own suggestions and topics for what it deems related topics just below the original search so you can make pasta instead of pizza in case Google things you feel like all things Italian basis your search query!



For some, these are just 3 small changes in what is an increasingly feature driven SERP page , but for others, they are signs of a bigger ( more sinister) trend at Google.

With a stated vision “to provide access to the world’s information in one click.” and a mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”  Google clearly has a near monopolistic control over the way we view and consume information today.  To quote Scott Cleland “Google’s power is largely unchecked, unaccountable, and grossly underestimated” In his article in Forbes, he argues that Google has no need or ambition to be a mere “platform”, when Google’s rapidly proliferating in-house army of engineers are well on their way to being the Internet’s “world,” the omni one-stop-shop that ultimately encompasses and subsumes all other platforms.

Unfortunately, this trend looks set to continue with their continued focus and investment in AI. Given their unprecedented access to data, resources and their very successful historical application of machine learning, Google would appear to be a front runner for world domination.

But while possible, this is not what this article is about. This article is about learning from the best. 3 lessons at a time.