Google Tests Sources Feature in Search Results

A new "Sources" feature has been spotted in the wild on Google's search results pages. This latest addition, if it eventually is rolled out to all users, may actually decrease click-through rates.

Cyrus Shepard noted on Google+ that Google was showing Source boxes when he searched for Twitter and Rihanna:

google-sources-twitter

google-sources-rihanna

No one else in various countries were able to replicate this. Yesterday, Google told Search Engine Land that they were testing this new feature.

The two examples Shepard covered interestingly have no advertising showing for them right now. One would think someone would be advertising for one of them - selling Twitter apps or marketing or Rihanna's latest album or concert tickets.

The information in these sources boxes may have an adverse impact of click-throughs - the Wikipedia information for the singer and list of some of her songs may be all a searcher is looking for and the answer to their search could be simply found on the search page. Similarly, with Twitter a searcher may only need the business information given in the sources box.

The links in the boxes weren't going to what was expected - like the Twitter icon taking you to a page from another site about a Twitter app for Android - Google's mobile platform.

As Shepard points out, "knowing info about the company headquarters and the name of the CEO could be helpful for some people, as well as the Wikipedia entry. I thought the Ruby information was interesting. Overall, this needs some work before it's ready for prime time."

With the addition of showing results at the bottom of the search results, speculation is Google now sees they have more real estate on the right. If this experiment goes live it will be interesting if it takes the spot Maps now occupy on some searches. There are many searches about people and companies that may not be tied to locations, so this would become the additional information Google sees as helpful, just as the Map works for location-based searches.

The Next Web notes "the inclusion of Wikipedia results suggests that the search giant is intent on building upon its existing data features that provide flight searches, weather reports, definitions, movie times and sports scores – helping its users get the information they need as quickly as possible."

If these boxes continue to populate the search results, we soon may not need to click off the page to get most of what we wanted when doing a search. And how people would scream about Google doing that would need another Senate hearing.

Interestingly, Eric Schmidt suggested this use of "one boxes" that answer the search without going off the search page in his responses to lawmakers' questions answered for the hearing after the event.

"Whether users are searching for a weather forecast, a mathematical calculation (e.g. 'pounds to grams'), or a stock price, Google user studies confirm that users seeking this type of information generally do not want to click through to multiple options, whether in the form of ads or more natural links. Rather, users want a quick, direct answer that they can trust is correct. Oneboxes provide fast, accurate answers in response to this user demand," Schmidt commented.

About the author

Frank Watson has been involved with the Web since it started. For the past five years, he headed SEM for FXCM -- at one time one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He has worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion.

He has now started his own marketing agency, Kangamurra Media. This new venture will keep him busy when he is not editing the Search Engine Watch forums, blogging at a number of authoritative sites, and developing some interesting online community sites.

He was one of the first 100 AdWords Professionals, a Yahoo and Overture Ambassador, and a member or mod of many of the industry forums. He is also on the Click Quality Council and has worked hard to diminish click fraud.