In case you were too busy over the festive period to keep up with the latest developments in search marketing, we’ve got you covered. The world of search didn’t take time off for the holidays and Google was particularly active during the final month of 2017.

So here’s a roundup of everything you may have missed while you were enjoying a well-deserved break from the daily grind.

 

The age of ‘visual search’ begins

 

        

 

Early in December, Google Lens began rolling out on Pixel phones in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, India and Singapore. The machine learning product marks the start of “visual search” where users are able to connect with the world around them via their smartphones.

Google Lens is part of the Google Assistant experience and users simply need to click on the lens icon at the bottom right of the interface.

With Google Lens, people can interact with printed text – for example, save information from a business card, follow URLs on posters, call phone numbers in a magazine and navigate to an address on a brochure.

Impressive stuff.

However, we’re more interested in how Google Lens turns people’s smartphones into a visual search engine, capturing physical items and then connecting users to relevant search results.

 

            

            Source: Search Engine Land

 

For example, users can scan product barcodes to get instant access to the best prices, product reviews, full specifications and everything else they want to know before making a buying choice. In fact, they don’t even need to scan a barcode in many cases. Simply scanning the product itself (or an image of it in a catalogue) is enough for Google Assistant to identify the item and bring up the relevant search results.

Travellers can use Google Lens to find out about landmarks as they explore a new city. They can also learn more about the history of items in museums and art galleries. While scanning film posters or book covers connects them to reviews, trailers, synopses and book stores or ticket retailers.

Google Lens is a new technology and – as with all machine learning systems – it has its fair share of quirks. But the

 

Google testing answers cards in search results

Google also started testing answer cards on mobile and desktop in December. The format provides appears to be optimised for questions people ask on forums like Stack Exchange, which provides users with a “Best Answer” based on the number of votes a post receives.

On December 5, Search Engine Land’s Glenn Gabe Tweeted some shots of the format.

 

On mobile there’s a carousel of answer boxes users can swipe through with each one displaying how many votes they received from forum users. It will be interesting to see if this rolls out for forum platforms like Quora where many brands attempt to reach out to protects by answering their questions.

Increasingly, these platforms have become saturated with promotional posts that don’t really attempt to answer user questions with any impartiality. Perhaps this is a move from Google to discourage this practice by helping users cut through the promotional posts and get straight to the answers that address their questions.

 

Google integrates third-party reviews for hotels

 

            

            Source: Serptests.com

 

Around December 26, Google started integrating third-party reviews in Knowledge Graph Google Business listings. This brings in reviews for hotels from TripAdvisor, Expedia, Booking.com and other third party sites – as well as those left on Google Reviews. By default, users will see reviews from all sources but they can click to see reviews from Google only or other sources Google collects feedback from.

 

            

            Source: Serptests.com

 

Google also appears to be testing a new review format that provides hotel rating specifically for couples.

 

            

            Source: Serptests.com

 

Google is only testing third-party reviews for hotels at this stage but the format could work for other local business types, depending on which k

 

Google testing ‘more results’ feature on mobile

 

            

            Source: Twitter

 

Something else we’ve seen Google test since the latter end of December is a new kind of mobile UI feature that helps users refine their searches. You can see a shot above, provided by Dan Bracket on Twitter and here’s the other image he shared:

 

            

            Source: Twitter

 

As you can see, Google has added buttons to a featured snippet that allows users to refine their search to more specific or related query terms. Additionally, there’s also a more results button for users to click and get an expansion beyond the initial result provided by Google.

Once again, Google is simply testing this out and it seems like the search giant is trying a few variations to get further insights. There’s no official word from Google on this and nothing to confirm this will actually roll out as a feature – at least not at this stage.

 

Bing announces AI-powered ‘intelligent search’

 

           

            Source: Bing

 

With all the Google news coming at us throughout December, it would be easy to think it’s the only search engine out there. This isn’t the case, of course, and Bing had one particularly interesting announcement to make halfway through the month.

At Microsoft’s AI event in San Francisco last month, the company revealed its vision of AI computing, complete with a Bing search engine powered by “intelligent search”.

While Google often dominates the headlines when it comes to search and AI innovations, Microsoft is by no means a slouch in this regard. Google’s rival owns some of the most popular AI and machine learning development tools used by data scientists and engineers around the world and we can expect similar innovations coming to Bing Search in the near future.

Intelligent answers, conversational search, Reddit integration and intelligent image search are among the new technologies coming to Bing Search and you can find more about what’s in store here.

 

So that’s all the search marketing news that mattered over the festive period. And we’ll be back with more headlines and tips to keep you up to speed through the early months of 2018 and beyond. Don’t forget to follow us on social media for all the latest updates and get in touch if you need a helping hand with your search or advertising efforts.