Google announced a major update to its mobile search results pages today. Whenever your query brings up a video, Google will now show you a silent six-second clip to help you decide if it’s actually a video you want to see.
This will work for the vast majority of videos on the web today — including, but not limited to, YouTube. Indeed, as Emily Moxley, Google’s director of product management for this project, told me, any video on the web is eligible for inclusion, though Google may not have a preview for some of the newest videos available yet because it takes the servers a bit of time to build the previews.
Even though video is getting more and more popular, it’s no secret that it’s not always the most convenient way to get information. A thumbnail isn’t going to give you a lot of information about what the actual video is going to look like, after all (and video producers have gotten pretty smart about which thumbnails will generate the most clicks…).
Ideally, Google’s new feature will remove at least some of this ambiguity so you know that you won’t be wasting time on some boring gongoozling video when you’re looking for the real thing. Google’s canonical example involves looking for salsa dancing videos. Some videos may simply show you professionals at work, while others will actually teach you the steps.
Unsurprisingly, Google decided to use some of its machine learning smarts to enable this feature. That’s because the first six seconds of any given video aren’t usually the most representative ones. So Google’s algorithm actually analyzes the whole video and then decides which six-second clip to pick. While the team didn’t want to delve into the details of how this algorithm decides what to show, Google product manager Prashant Baheti told me that the algorithm looks at what’s in the different scenes in a video, where those scenes start and end, and which scenes best represent the video.
What the algorithm doesn’t do, though, is look at your query. Unlike the previously launched Featured Snippet, which directly links you to the relevant answer to one of your questions in a video, the snippets are always the same. Moxley noted that this is something the company is looking at, though.
It’s worth noting that these previews do not feature any ads and by default, they will only play when you are using a WiFi connection. If you want, you can enable video previews on mobile networks, too, or even completely opt out of them in the settings for both the Google app and Google Chrome for Android.
For now, this feature is only available on mobile, both through the Google app and in Chrome. It’s not available on the desktop yet. A Google spokesperson argued that this is because the company now focuses on its mobile users, though I can’t think of any major limitation of the desktop platform that would prevent the company from rolling this out across all platforms.
Google said Monday it will redesign the user interface for AdWords so it can better serve marketers who are trying to deliver ads in a multiscreen world.
While AdWords has seen a handful of minor updates previously, the redesign will be the first major overhaul of AdWords’ interface since it was created more than 15 years ago, the company said.
Certain advertisers will receive invites to test out the revisions and provide feedback. Google expects the overall effort to take more than a year to complete.
“This is for a multiscreen world and that means a lot of advertisers will be able to reach their users whether they are on YouTube, browsing on a tablet or if they’re using Google Maps,” said Paul Feng, AdWords product management director. “The goal is for advertisers to reach their consumer with a message, not because they understand the intricacies of search.”
More than a million advertisers currently use AdWords to buy ads pegged to Google’s search results. But it was built in 2000, when Google was first figuring out search advertising and consumers accessed the internet through desktop computers. Today more people around the world search Google from their smartphones than their computers.
“The shift to the mobile consumer behavior is fundamentally different,” Mr. Feng said. “Display, mobile, video, shopping and search — if you think about all these new things and consumer behavior, it has really increased its demands on marketers. That is really the driver for this.”
Mr. Feng said the new AdWords will have a big focus on campaign types and ask marketers upfront what their goals and objectives are, whether that’s driving business to a physical store or increasing app installs. “We want to streamline that process,” Mr. Feng said.
One of the planned new features is a top-level view that will digest a variety of data points to represent important elements of a campaign with dynamic visuals. Data shown will include the percentage of traffic coming from mobile and which ads are driving the most profit.
“The old UI is it had just grown complex over the years as new channels emerged,” Mr. Feng said. “The product felt really dated and we needed to change the look and feel.”
The new AdWords UI will feature Google’s Material Design, which is the same design element found in apps like Maps, Search and Gmail. There will be no extra costs for using the new UI and current campaigns will not require upgrades or migration, Google said.
Smartphones and networks are constantly getting faster, but somehow the mobile web now feels slower than it ever did. That’s largely thanks to all the ads and trackers that most sites now use (and maybe the abundance of large GIFs, too).
A few months ago, Google set out to change this when it launched the Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) project that aims to bring a Facebook Instant Article’s like experience to the open web. Starting today, Google will start highlighting AMP-enabled pages in its mobile search results.
For the most part, this means that when you search for news items (AMP, in its current form, is mostly meant to accelerate news sites), Google will now often show you a carousel that highlights stories on AMP-enabled sites. This carousel is pretty much the same as the one you’ve likely already seen for searches that kick off Google’s Twitter results carousel. The difference here, though, is that when you click on one of these links, the result loads instantly (or with a very minor delay). If you are on a really slow connection, though, AMP pages will take a bit to load — this isn’t magic, after all — but even then, they will still load up significantly faster than regular mobile pages.