an announcement was in order. The company blog post says that today's improvements are intended to "get you to the web page you want as quickly as possible." Looking at the changes that were made, though, it seems to us like the result will be just the opposite.Google says it gets smarter every day, but today the company made a big enough leap in what it shows to users that
A greater number of related queries will now be listed for many searches and longer page excerpts ("snippets") will be shown in response to longer search queries. Those look to us like ways to keep people on Google longer.
It's pretty simple, really. If you're shown a link to another Google search query, you're more likely to perform another search instead of going offsite to visit the first results links you were shown. If you're shown 3 lines of excerpts instead of two, you're more likely to get the full answer to your question without having to visit the page that the answer is on, off-site.
Google has always had a delicate relationship with the sites that it indexes; caching and excerpts have been deemed acceptable because they serve the larger purpose of driving traffic to indexed sites. But ultimately it's more in Google's interest to offer "one-stop shopping" than it is to drive traffic.
Google's search engine is smart enough that users could be given much of what they need right on the Google pages, without ever having to visit the sites the information came from.
One academic study has found that 80-percent of searches people perform online are informational in nature, whereas 10-percent are navigational and another 10-percent are transactional. Today's new search improvements will likely help Google retain a larger portion of the most popular kind of search traffic.
We found those numbers by doing an informational search. The top search result was from Search Engine Land, and lucky for that site the Google "snippet" was incoherent enough that we had to click through and read the full article. It's not hard to imagine snippets getting smarter, though, and sites that provide the information suffering a substantial drop in the largest type of search traffic. Google results are pretty close to that point already and today's announcement seems like a move in that direction. It's a move that will benefit users, but could hurt the sites that Google relies on for the information it's serving up. Who has your sympathy in this case?