Google Search offers up ‘Perspectives’, Expands features for verifying information

Google Search offers up ‘Perspectives’, Expands features for verifying information

Google has rolled out fresh tools, and tweaked some established ones, to give users a more rounded view of search results. The search giant aims to provide users with more context and transparency.

Google has this week revealed several updates that will be implemented in search results. With these updates, the search giant aims to provide users with more context and transparency around search results, ultimately helping them make more informed decisions before clicking that next link. The updates were announced on the company product blog, entitled Five new ways to verify info with Google

“People come to Google to find information quickly, understand complex topics and to parse facts from fiction … But sifting through all of the content available on the web can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to determine what information you can rely on.”

The About this Result feature was introduced back in February 2021 for English-language results on desktop and mobile devices. By clicking the ellipses (ie., three-dots) icon in the right hand corner, it enables users to see further details about the domain and when the site was published or last updated. In addition, the box shows a site description with a brief summary of the content of the page, plus related search queries that may be helpful to the user.

Google has now expanded the About this Result section to all languages available on its search platform. When available, users will also be able to access a site’s description, both “in their own words” and from Wikipedia. 

Google has made the About this Page feature more prominent for its search users: “Now we’re making this information even easier to access. Say you’re searching for a rainforest protection organization … you can type in the URL of the organization in Google Search and information from About This Page will populate at the top of Search. You’ll be able to quickly see how the website describes itself, what others on the web have said about a site and any recent coverage of it. From there, you can evaluate whether you want to visit the website and learn more.”

The About This Page and About This Result features are similar in that they both aim to provide users with more information and context about a webpage or search result. They differ slightly in terms of the specific information they provide and how they are accessed. 

An entirely new feature, dubbed About this Author, has been introduced to let users easily learn about the author behind the content they are reading. The feature provides users with information about the author of an article or webpage, such as their name, a brief biography, and other things they have written. It aims to give users more context and information about the author’s background, expertise, and credibility. The feature is only available in beta and in US English, at this moment.

Arguably the most interesting (or at least conspicuous) new addition is the Perspectives feature. Google actually hinted at it, in its early conceptual stage, way back in June 2021 at the Search On virtual event. Found at the top of the organic search results as a part of the Top Stories section, Perspectives offers up-to-date and relevant articles related to specific search topics. The stories are chosen based on their relevance to the search query, their timeliness, and their credibility.

Perspectives consists of a carousel (ie., a box of swipeable content) that sets out to showcase insights from a shuffled pack of journalists, experts and other relevant voices on the topic users are searching for. It works by highlighting relevant articles from different sources and viewpoints, including those that may not typically appear in the user’s search results. The feature is in a beta stage and, again, only available for US users at this moment.

“As part of our ongoing work to bring more voices into Search that give you more context on what matters most to you, we’re launching a feature called Perspectives. This carousel will appear below Top Stories and showcase insights from a range of journalists, experts, and other relevant voices on the topic you’re searching for. This feature will give you a variety of noteworthy voices on a news topic, complementing the trustworthy reporting you already find on Search to help broaden your understanding.”

Time will tell if all the supposed good intent behind the new features has a positive effect in the end. Top Stories and Perspectives may not be directly open to abuse, but they have the potential to change the Google experience for the worse if implemented poorly — or for profit. We’ll have to wait and see how marketing and advertising comes into all of this. SEOs will be keeping one eye on things.

Finally, Google has set out to address what it calls Information Gaps. Such gaps in results may occur when users search for a query that produces no clear, authoritative answer. This might be  when there is conflicting or incomplete information available, or when the topic is still being researched or debated. Google has been working to surface relevant and trustworthy information to users, even when there is no clear answer: “Google Search will automatically show content advisories in situations when a topic is rapidly evolving. We recently launched similar advisories, which trigger when our systems simply don’t have high confidence in the overall quality of the results available.” These advice messages, or ‘advisories’m will be rolled out in additional languages in coming months. 

Google seems to be taking the right steps to combat disinformation — whether that’s by removing misleading information from search results and platforms or developing algorithms and AI systems to identify false info. To its credit, the company also announced this week that it is investing further in information literacy and fact checking programs.

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