Google’s been integrating its product feed into the main SERPs under the guise of universal search for a while now, with the aim of improving the user experience. Now don’t get me wrong I have nothing against the universal shopping results, but in the current format do they really improve the user experience?
Well that question is a little insignificant now, as Google have just released (or are testing) a new layout for the universal shopping results in the US. But before we move onto to the new layout let’s briefly run through what I consider to a major downfall of the old layout.
The user experience downfall
To highlight the current user experience issue, let’s run through a typical search. I carry out a search for ‘trainers’ see the universal shopping results, like the product image I’m shown and click it. At this point it goes horribly wrong – I get taken to the full shopping results for my query, not the website that sells the product I was interested in. Taking the example below from the Google.co.uk I’m also left with the question of whether the image on the left relates to one of the three products on the listed on the right, and if so which one?
The new user friendly universal shopping layout
On Friday afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to see Google testing out a new layout for their universal shopping results, which you can see in the image below. Initially the new universal shopping feed was only showing for a small number of queries, but throughout Friday and Saturday its use was becoming much more widespread.
So in this new layout it seems Google have being playing particular attention to usability. The new layout has upped the usability stakes by:
- Providing a product image for each of the products listed
- Each image links directly through to the target site (not Google’s own shopping results page)
- Adding the target website to each listing to give users a better idea where they will end up. This also gives the user a choice as they can click thru to a store they trust or have used before over one they have never heard of
- Increasing the number of products listed from three to five, thus giving the user slightly wider choice
Currently I’ve only seen the new layout in Google.com when the geo location is the US, but given how much of an improvement the new layout is, I’m hoping it won’t be too long until the update is rolled out to a wider audience.
Will this change impact SEO?
Well, if you’re doing SEO for a retail site the impact could be sizable. There are now five shopping results available on the first page of Google instead of the previous three so instantly that provides an additional two sites the chance of gaining a first page listing. Secondly with the addition of showing a product image for each product, the new layout could catch the searchers eye and increase the CTR of the universal shopping results.
On the flip side, if the new eye catching layout increases CTR of the universal shopping results then the CTR of other results, both paid and organic could suffer.
It goes without saying if you haven’t submitted a product feed for your retail store then this update to the universal shopping results is another reason why you should.