Laptop with Google search bar with 'What's New?" typed.

September 2018 signals the 20th anniversary for Google, and to celebrate, we’re getting a handful of new features! These updates center around how users search. Users will find that their interactions are much more convenient, engaging, and relevant. For marketers, these changes mean tailoring content to the way users search. The changes include three major “search shifts“:

  • Direct answers to seamless journeys
  • Query to queryless context
  • Text to engaging visual content

Some of these changes are already in place, while others will be implemented in the very near future. Here’s what’s new with Google Search:


Neural Matching

Neural matching has been a working part of Google for a few months now. Simply put, this new search update connects words with concepts and accounts for about 30% of queries. For example, you may enter a query that’s broad and nondescript. Thanks to neural matching, Google can figure out what you might be looking for. In a more scientific description, Ben Gomes explained, “Neural embeddings, an approach developed in the field of neural networks, allow us to transform words to fuzzier representations of the underlying concepts, and then match the concepts in the query with the concepts in the document.”


Activity Cards

Later this year, Google will roll out activity cards. This will allow users to pick up where they left off in a previous search journey. When a user returns to search for a topic, Google displays a card with suggestions and relevant pages that the user has already visited. Users will have control over which results are shown. Get rid of suggestions that aren’t helpful to make room for more relevant results.

Curate Collections

In connection with activity cards, users can also manually keep track of websites and articles. Similar to Pinterest, you’ll be able to save pages or articles in a collection to refer to later. Collections can be organized and categorized in anyway that helps the user keep track of their pages. This can be especially helpful if the user wants to compare products or companies before taking action.



What is now considered “Google Feed” will get a facelift with a new design and a new name, “Discover.” Google Feed appears on the mobile version of the homepage under the search bar. The Feed presents personalized news and topics based on your search history. Currently, Google Feed has 800 million monthly active users and has proven to increase traffic for third-party publishers. With the new Discover, personalized content will be categorized with a topic heading. Users will also have the ability to follow specific topics and control what kind of content they want to see more or less of.


Visual Search

AMP stories appeared on Google at the beginning of this year, providing users with visually rich content in the form of a story, similar to Snapchat or Instagram stories. Going forward, Google is expanding stories into search results, specifically in search cases of celebrities and athletes. In addition, Google will also identify videos that are relevant to users’ interests and preview it on SERPs as a “featured video.” Finally, Google will update images to give more context so that users will be more likely to engage with the content.

iPhone SERP and story for Britney Spears.


Topic Layer

The intelligence that comes with Google’s fine-tuned suggestions are a result of the new “topic layer.” The topic layer, in combination with the knowledge graph, analyzes all the content on the web for specific topics. From there, the layer determines subtopics and finds relevant content within a particular subtopic. The more you search on Google, the more personalized subtopics and suggestions get.

For example, if I search for “elephants,” Google shows me subtopics such as videos and species.

iPhone with SERP for elephants.


What does this mean for marketers?

Google wants every user to have a unique experience when they visit the search engine. All SERPs will be tailored to appeal to the user’s interests. Your content should take into account the move to make search more image-based. That means your content won’t be centered on just keywords but also needs structured data. Since Google is using more structured content on SERPs, like images, videos, and stories, it’s important to help the search engine understand the context of your web pages. With structured data, your page is more likely to show up in an activity card or in a Discovery stream.

Structured data is becoming increasingly important for businesses who want to optimize their rank on major search engines (don’t we all?) However, we understand that this is more of a backend concept that some marketers may not be ready to tackle just yet. We develop websites from the ground up with the latest SEO and marketing trends in mind. Talk to us about how we can help implement structured data on your website.



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