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Google Tries to Improve Transparency with “About This Result” Feature

Matt Crowley - February 17, 2021

Google recently announced that they have begun rolling out a new feature in organic search results designed to provide more transparency about each result. Find out more about this feature below, along with our thoughts about what the motivations behind the feature are.

What Is this Feature?

This is a new clickable element on each organic result.  Examples of this feature can be seen below. In its current form, three dots are visible in the top right-hand corner of each organic result. Once clicked on, a pop-up appears providing information that may include:

  • A description of the website pulled from Wikipedia
  • If a Wikipedia result for the website is not available, information on when the website was first indexed by Google
  • A notice about the site being served over a secure (HTTPS) or unsecure (HTTP) connection
  • The full URL for the page
  • When applicable, information on the type of Google “Enhanced Search Result”

When Did it Launch?

Google launched this change on February 1st, but you may not see it yourself yet, as it appears to still be rolling out to more and more users.

Our Analysis and Opinion of the Feature

Google’s stated goal of this new feature is so that “you can make a more informed decision about the sites you may want to visit and what results will be most useful for you.” While this may be true for people that take the time to click into this feature, I doubt that this will materially impact how people search (at least with the feature’s current form).

I find it unlikely that the average user will know what the three dots are (likely ignoring them), and if they do, I find it even less likely that they will slow down to research a website before clicking into it from Google. Instead, I believe that most people expect Google to return results that are safe and reputable. Organic results are in fact supposed to be the best solution to a user’s search query from the entire web. Therefore, I find it much more likely that Google is introducing this feature (with possible updates and modifications in the future) to help mitigate the risk of regulatory scrutiny that they are already facing (and that social platforms like Facebook are facing even more directly) from false and/or misleading information online.

In my opinion, this feature does provide more transparency for the user, although only a small amount, which is good. However, it also seems like an opportunity for Google to place a burden back on the user, helping to mitigate potential future issues with regulatory scrutiny about any bias in their results. If Google provides transparency information about a search result that contains untrue or malicious information before you click into it, how much responsibility do they have if you do not use the feature and click on the result anyway?

What Can you Do as an Organization?

Currently, Google is pulling information from Wikipedia for many results. If and where possible, make sure your Wikipedia page is up-to-date and accurate. Aside from that, it is not likely that there is any other action that you need to take. You are likely already serving your content over a secure (HTTPS) connection, you are not able to change the date your website was first indexed by Google, and you probably should not change your URLs just for this feature.

What Does This Feature Look Like?

The feature starts with three vertically aligned dots in the top right-hand corner of each organic search result. Once clicked, a pop-up appears with additional information. There are currently three different formats, based on whether the website has a Wikipedia result, does not have a Wikipedia result, or is a Rich Result (specially formatted result, often from structured data markup). Examples of each of these three types of formats can be seen below.

An Example Result from a Website that Does Have a Wikipedia Entry

An Example Result from a Website that Does Have a Wikipedia Entry

An Example Result from a Website that Does Not Have a Wikipedia Entry

An Example Result from a Website that Does Not Have a Wikipedia Entry

An Example Result for a Google “Enhanced Search Result”

An Example Result for a Google “Enhanced Search Result”

If you have questions about Google’s user interface changes may impact your organization over time, and we can help, please reach out to us at [email protected]

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