The Future of Branded Search

There are thousands of patents out there, many of which in the search space apply to how Google is continually working to improve their product against the competition. A recently granted Google patent gives insight into how Google may shake up their search algorithm, combining paid and organic results above all other paid ads.

Bill Slawski from SEO by the Sea, discussed this US Patent which Google was granted in April 2018. The patent is focused on combining paid and organic search results in Google’s results. The current way of working is that users will generally find three or four competitive paid results at the top of the search engine results page (SERPs), followed by a number of organic results. Users will mostly see less paid results when completing a branded search, i.e. David Jones men’s shirts. That said, there are approaches to paid search strategies that include bidding on competitor branded terms and competitor products. These strategy initiatives are increasingly common and you will often see aggregators and affiliates utilise these tactics to disrupt a user’s journey offering an alternative option.

What does this patent mean?

As Google is increasingly focusing on the users’ behaviour and SERP experience, this new patent from Google looks at combing results from both paid and organic results as one result. This will mean that if I was to search for a mobile phone plan on a specific network today, I may be served ads for competitor networks above the relevant organic search results for the branded search I initially undertook.

However, with Google’s ‘Combination Engine’ (the new patent filed by Google), the algorithm would move the organic result next to the paid result at the top of the page, taking more of the premium real estate away from paid search competitors. This combined result would be a richer and more informative result for the user, which could also include:

  • Brand logo and images
  • Main link and supporting ad copy
  • Sitelink extensions based on a user’s search
  • Map result of the closest store and its opening hours
  • Reviews and review stars
  • Other retailers selling that brand

A better user experience

The combined result of Google implementing this change would obviously take more search real estate, assist with brand visibility and facilitate sending the right traffic to the right result. This approach will however, require more collaboration between organic and paid search teams.  Digital marketers will be able to focus more holistically on brand building and enriching a user’s experience, rather than operating in silos. This could result in a much more consistent and cost efficient approach, increasing the ability to maintain positive blended search results.

This fundamental shift in Google’s search approach may also be in preparation for their continuing rollout of increasingly accurate and informative spoken results from Google Assistant (potentially a way for Google to monetise paid spoken results). The more informative results could go hand in hand with Google’s ‘Continued Conversation’, where users can have a continued, increasingly fluid and natural conversation with the Assistant and using the combined result to fuel the conversation.

We are yet to see this patent in action. But, by increasing the synergy and collaboration between organic and paid search teams, agencies and clients alike will be getting a head start if and when Google does implement these changes to their SERPs.

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