Google adds ‘Discover’ feed to homepage in AI push

The world’s most-trafficked webpage will no longer be just a blank canvas for U.S. mobile users. The move indicates the ways online search is changing thanks to artificial intelligence.

Google has launched a major redesign of its signature search engine homepage for mobile users.

What used to be a blank white screen below the dialog box for entering search terms has been replaced with information cards related to users’ specific interests.

The Verge reported:

Google’s new Discover feed, which it announced as part of its 20th anniversary last month, has made its way to Google’s US homepage on mobile, as first noticed by 9to5Google. The feature adds a series of information cards underneath the search box on the google.com homepage when accessed from a mobile browser. The bulk of these cards revolve around relevant news pieces, but the feed can also show sports results and weather forecasts and will change based on your interests and search history.

The change suggests Google is trying to change how users find information through its platform.

The Verge continued:

It’s a big sign of Google’s shifting attitude towards surfacing information, where the search giant is increasingly trying to predict the information you want before you actually search for it directly. Google’s mobile Chrome browser already shows a similar spread of articles and information whenever you open a new tab.

The cards might be an effort to increase compelling visual content for viewers searching for answers via Google.

9to5 Google wrote:

Cards feature a cover image, title, and brief summary, as well as the site name and published date. An overflow menu in the upper-right corner allows you to dismiss (or hide), say you’re not interested in the topic, or block the site from appearing in Discover again.

Meanwhile, the bottom-right corner features the ability to determine whether you see more or less of a subject. Other content types that appear here include live sports scores and YouTube videos. Some stories will feature a carousel of more cards underneath that include a summary or the actors in a show. Performance on a Pixel 3 is quite snappy, with smooth scrolling, while the feed is not endless.

Google is also expanding its Google Lens program coupled with Google Search to bring more visual content to searches.

9to5 Google reported:

Every picture in the mobile web version of Google Images now features a Google Lens icon underneath. If Lens has already identified objects of interest, the button will feature a badge that notes how many items were found in the photo.

Pressing the Lens icon will highlight the interesting subjects with dots, with tapping an item sliding up a panel of related images or products. If what you’re looking at isn’t already marked, you can simply circle it and Lens will perform a visual search.

Shopping is a big possible use case for this functionality, while Google notes that websites owners will benefit from another way to get content discovered.

The developments demonstrate the growing importance of content marketing for PR pros looking to stay relevant in Google searches. The Discover feed promises to surface useful content that appeals to readers’ interests.

Digital Trends wrote:

While the new feature sets out on bringing you fresh content, Discover will also provide you with evergreen content that is relevant to you even if the article isn’t new. If you’re planning a road trip across the country or taking some time off in Europe, Discover might show you an article with the best restaurants in that area or suggested places to visit.

Google also introduced Topic Layer, which analyzes content on the web for a specific topic and develops subtopics around it. Using this new tool, Discover will be able to pinpoint the level of expertise someone has on a specific topic and then provide content around it. For example, if you’re learning to play the piano, Discover might show you content for beginners. If you have been playing the piano for years, you’ll see more advanced content appear.

Visuals promise to be an important part of content creation efforts, so webmasters and blog publishers should take care to tag and optimize their images for Google’s latest scanners.

For brand managers looking to get more insight into the future of Google Search, the company offers three guiding changes.

It wrote in a blog post:

As Google marks our 20th anniversary, I wanted to share a first look at the next chapter of Search, and how we’re working to make information more accessible and useful for people everywhere. This next chapter is driven by three fundamental shifts in how we think about Search:

The biggest driving factor in these changes is the expanding use of artificial intelligence.

Google continued:

Underpinning each of these are our advancements in AI, improving our ability to understand language in ways that weren’t possible when Google first started. This is incredibly exciting, because over 20 years ago when I studied neural nets at school, they didn’t actually work very well…at all!

But we’ve now reached the point where neural networks can help us take a major leap forward from understanding words to understanding concepts. Neural embeddings, an approach developed in the field of neural networks, allow us to transform words to fuzzier representations of the underlying concepts, and then match the concepts in the query with the concepts in the document. We call this technique neural matching. This can enable us to address queries like: “why does my TV look strange?” to surface the most relevant results for that question, even if the exact words aren’t contained in the page. (By the way, it turns out the reason is called the soap opera effect).

How are you going to adapt to the coming changes on the world’s most-used search engine?

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