When it comes to search results, the sources of the information you find are just as important as the information itself. After all, you’re better off trusting medical advice from Mayo Clinic than someone’s personal blog.
Now, Google’s making it even easier to see where search results come from. With just a single click, users can see detailed information about the domains behind search results. While still in beta, this feature is big news for search transparency as a whole.
- How Does the New Feature Work?
- Why Does Domain Information Matter?
- How to Benefit from Google’s New Domain Information Feature
How Does the New Feature Work?
Google announced the ability to see more information about search results’ domains on February 1, 2021:
Google Search is now rolling out a special icon that provides more information about the source of a result, if your connection to it will be secure, and more. This is a beta feature for now, offered in English in the US. https://t.co/9Vovj6vYcG pic.twitter.com/vL3FZOTvQg— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) February 1, 2021
As its blog post on the topic explains, this as-yet-unnamed feature is represented by an icon of three vertically stacked dots. The icons appear directly to the right of each search result:
These icons appear on both mobile and desktop results, as well as in the Google app on Android devices. Click (or tap) one to see a pop-up window containing additional information about the result’s parent site. This will contain a description from Wikipedia when available, as seen here in Google’s provided information about Merriam-Webster:
The window also includes useful information such as:
- whether or not your connection to the site is secure (i.e. HTTPS-based rather than HTTP-based);
- the site’s homepage URL;
- whether or not the displayed result is an advertisement or not; and
- links to send feedback, change your privacy settings, learn more about Google Search, view your browser’s cached version of the site and see similar sites.
And when no Wikipedia description is available, Google will attempt to add other pertinent details such as when the site was first indexed.
This feature is also available for results Google has aggregated from around the web, such as those that appear when users search for local jobs, businesses and attractions:
Why Does Domain Information Matter?
Google’s new Search feature is important not because it’s designed to help SEO practitioners, but because it’s designed to help users make more informed decisions about the results they click on. This serves to underscore Google’s commitment to transparency, user safety and a more secure web.
If you’ve been paying attention to Google’s updates over the last decade then this doesn’t come as a surprise—the search engine has made several large-scale efforts to improve digital safety:
- Safe Browsing, a blocklist service,was launched in 2007 to help shield users from phishing scams. Today, it protects more than four million devices and alerts users whenever they visit dangerous sites or attempt to download questionable files.
- Project Zero, a team of internet security experts, was formed in 2014 to proactively identify zero-day vulnerabilities in widely-used hardware and software products.
- Chrome’s not secure warnings for HTTP-based sites, first announced in 2016, have effectively rendered HTTP obsolete and motivated millions of websites to transition to HTTPS.
- Play Protect, a security system for Android apps released in 2017, scans users’ devices for malicious or deceptive apps.
Given Google’s overwhelming market share, it’s no wonder that these efforts have had a profound effect on the internet as a whole.
Take for example the nearly ubiquitous adoption of HTTPS, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. As shown in Google’s Transparency Report, 95 percent of traffic across Google was encrypted as of January 2021:
Notice that steep increase in encrypted traffic after 2014 ? It just so happens that Google announced HTTPS as a ranking factor that same year, and SEO pros everywhere took note.
All this is to say that Google’s new inclusion of detailed domain information in search results fits into a long-running pattern of sweeping security efforts. And as an update that directly affects the way users see search results, it’s liable to affect best SEO practices for years to come.
How to Benefit from Google’s New Domain Information Feature
As with every tweak to Google’s search engine, the new domain information feature is flush with opportunities to improve your site’s rankings.
To help users further trust and glean useful information about the domain you’re optimizing, you can employ two smart strategies.
Create a Wikipedia Page
As mentioned above, Google uses descriptions gathered from Wikipedia to provide users with domain details. For instance, the first two sentences of Walmart’s Wikipedia page (outlined in red) are the same sentences users see when viewing domain information in Google’s SERPs:
So if your site doesn’t currently have a WIkipedia page of its own, you stand to gain a great deal of user confidence by creating one.
To do so, you only need to complete a few simple steps:
- Create a Wikipedia account with a username you don’t mind others seeing (Wikipedia readers will be able to see who created the page).
- Become an autoconfirmed user by making at least 10 (accurate!) edits to other Wikipedia articles and waiting a minimum of four days.
- Write the article and submit it for review, being sure to write the first few sentences with Google users in mind and only including verifiable information.
Migrate to HTTPS
Besides creating a Wikipedia page, the best thing you can do for your site in light of Google’s new feature is to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS if you haven’t done so already. This will ensure that the domain details Google provides to users states their connection is secure.
As Google explains, HTTPS is more secure than HTTP because it provides three levels of protection:
- data integrity; and
- site authentication.
When migrating from HTTP to HTTPS, Google views the process as a site move with URL changes. To complete the move, you’ll need to prepare and test the new site, map each old URL to its corresponding new URL and configure the site’s server to redirect from the old URLs to their new counterparts.
To ensure your site’s success, be sure to follow Google’s HTTPS best practices:
- Obtain strong security certificates from a trusted certificate authority, preferably with a 2048-bit key.
- Implement server-side 301 redirects to point users and search engine crawlers from your old HTTP pages to your new HTTPS pages.
- Ensure your HTTPS pages can be crawled and indexed with the help of Google’s URL Inspection tool.
More Info = More Clicks
The web is no longer as Wild West-eque as it once was, and both transparency and security are now paramount to a site’s success. Google’s new domain information update makes this clear as day by putting each site’s authority, security and trustworthiness front and center.
So, now is the perfect time to take your site’s reputation to the next level and demonstrate just how click-worthy it is. And once you’ve got an appealing description and secure connection users can view right from the SERPs, you’re sure to enjoy more traffic as a result.
Screenshots by author / February 2021