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Search Engine Marketing

For Google size is everything

You probably didn’t notice the subtle change that occured on the Google homepage yesterday. I’m guessing that at a glance you still wouldn’t know if I held up before and after shots of the page.

As reported by Mashable, Google have said they have increased the size of their search box to remind us that their focus is on search.

I don’t know about you, but I appreciate the timely reminder, because I’ve been finding myself staring at the slightly smaller box on the big white page recently and wondering “what’s this all about?”.

Image borrowed from Mashable – click for their article

Forgive me for being skeptical about the message Google have put out, but they rarely do something to their core product ‘just to remind us’ of something (in this case, the blatently obvious).

It’s more likely they’ve tested the varying boxes lengths and discovered the longer one performs better than the shorter one. Who said size doesn’t matter?

My hunch is that it may have something to do with the increase in popularity of long tail searching by the masses. According to Hitwise, the length of search queries is increasing. Longer queries, averaging searches of five to more than eight words in length, have increased 7 percent between April 2008 and April 2009 alone. Perhaps the longer box encourages the searcher to enter more keywords, resulting in a more relevant set of returned search results. End game, one happy searcher = increased loyalty, more visits, more ads to click.

I would be interested to know if they used their own Web Optimizer tool to test the two variants. If you’re not familiar with Web Optimizer, check the description from the product page:

“Website Optimizer, Google’s free website testing and optimization tool, allows you to increase the value of your existing websites and traffic without spending a cent. Using Website Optimizer to test and optimize site content and design, you can quickly and easily increase revenue and ROI whether you’re new to marketing or an expert.”

(The bolding is mine)

I’m in the process of using the tool myself in my work capacity – partly as an inquistive test drive and partly to tweak out a better return on some revenue generating processes. Small fry compared to changing the design of perhaps the most viewed web page in the world, but important nonetheless.

It will be interesting to see if Google make any further changes to the page over the coming weeks.