It’s not your imagination. Google is showing a new “Latest Posts” section for some Google+ pages and profiles alongside its regular results, in the space where ads have traditionally resided. The format allows people and brands on Google+ to occupy more of the top-half of the search results page.
Google told us about the change:
We’re continuing to experiment with the ways we can help you find and interact with the people you’re looking for or who may be related to the topic you’re searching for.
Let’s see what’s up with the latest experiment.
Google Pages & Latest Posts
Here’s an example of how things looked until recently, with a search for TV Guide:
See the two links that the arrows point to? Those were appearing as part of the Google+ Direct Connect feature, where brands can link their web sites to their Google+ pages. Do that, and you were eligible to have some of your recent posts from Google+ appear below your “regular” listings gathered from your web site.
Here’s how things look now:
The arrow points to where the new section appears. Basically, all the Google+ material that Direct Connect had been putting underneath web listings is now moved over to the right-hand side of the page. This happens regardless of whether you’re signed in or out of Google.
Personal Profiles Get New Treatment, Too
In January, Google launched a feature where personal profiles would appear as suggestions within the search box, as part of Search Plus Your World. If selected, the person’s Google+ profile would appear at the top of the results. The change now moves the profile information to the side, whether you select the person’s Google+ profile from the search box or not.
For example, here I’ve searched for Search Engine Land news editor Barry Schwartz:
You can see that his Google+ profile is being suggested. If I select that, I get this:
However, even if I don’t pick his profile, the results still appear in the same place:
The “People and Pages on Google+” section that was rolled out as part of Search Plus Your World — and which Google has taken heat over as too self-promotional for Google+ — remains. It’s just sometimes replaced by this new section.
Some brands might be happy with the change, in that it gives them much more visibility in the “above the fold” search results. However, it also means those who liked how the old format could “push down” possibly negative results might prefer the old system.
For searchers, it’s probably a gain. It allows Google+ content to be surfaced without feeling like it’s being so much pushed within the “regular” results they might be after.
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