Google Is the New Bing?: Reactions to Google's UI Overhaul

February 2, 2017

Confirming rumors, Google this week rolled out a fresh new design. As of late in the day Wednesday, I’m seeing The New Google in my searches across all browsers. Let’s see what people think of it, shall we?

New Google Design

Many observers find the new design strikingly similar to the Bing search interface. According to USA Today, the makeover “signals the start of what promises to be a period of intensified competition with rival Microsoft Bing”: Google touched up its logo, adopted a new color scheme and has begun to insert images more liberally amid search results. The biggest change: a Bing-like navigable column appears down the left side of search results pages. It is designed to help readers fine tune their searches.  They aren’t the only ones who noticed. In a post titled “It Has to Be Said: New Google Interface Looks Just Like Bing’s,” Andy Beal of Marketing Pilgrim writes: Google rarely serves up its competitors an opportunity to make the claim that an old dog can learn new tricks. In this case, Google learning a thing or two from Microsoft. And, even if you stand by the claim that Google did not make any of these changes in response to Bing, then you have to tip your hat to Bing for launching this interface way before Google … It’s basically a more aesthetically pleasing version of the collapsible “Search Options” Google has been testing for months. But in his Search Engine Land coverage, Danny Sullivan points out that Ask.com was actually the first to adopt the three-column setup. After a very in-depth look at the new UI, he addresses the copycat question: Back in June 2007, Ask.com made a splash with its new three column look … Two years later, in June 2009, Microsoft relaunched its search engine as Bing. It also used a three column design, with the left column for search refinement options. Then in August 2009, Yahoo did the same, a three column design, with left column used for refinement. Now Google has made the jump, raising the inevitable question — isn’t it just copying the others? “We have been working on a left-hand nav since 2006 and in mocks far before that,” Wright said. Indeed, left-hand navigation was spotted in the wild back in December 2005, though it was very rudimentary. And arguably, Google had a solid three column look when the search option column was unveiled as a user choice last year, just before the Bing launch. I doubt that will prevent Bing from poking fun that Google’s just copying them.
This confirms my gut feeling, that Bing copied Google before Google copied Bing. On SEO Roundtable Barry Schwartz says that many on the forums “hate the design,” but of course that matters little: “There is no way Google would have launched this new design without testing it to death. And by testing, I mean they run statistical tests to see if it works better than the previous design.” (Watch out when you contradict the forum hounds, someone commented on the post and told Barry he sounds “like Hitler”!) He also notes, “Many are saying Google copied Bing. I'll say those people don't know what they are talking about.” So what do you think? I personally like the new UI. Lately I’ve been opening the “search options” sidebar a lot to sort results by date, so having that column already open and at the ready is a nice change. It somehow feels more intuitive to switch between search formats (images, video, etc.) from a left column, too—maybe because it recalls the placement of folders in my email accounts. (It creates the illusion of merely switching to another folder, rather than going to a different site.) I also think it’s a good reminder of all the different search options Google offers (see Danny Sullivan’s post above for an overview of these). I definitely think people (including me) don’t take advantage of these options enough. When was the last time you searched within a custom date range? Or refined using “search within results”? (Note to self! Use that more instead of starting over with a refined query.) 

More Highlights from the Week

 A couple more good reads on Search Engine Land: post on improvements to Twitter search and another with five tips for faster link building. More link building love (I haven’t forgotten that it’s your most dreaded search marketing task): Dr. Pete says “low-quality links are like one-night stands” and it’s worth it to take the time to build a natural link profile. PPC Hero debunks not 5, not 10, but 36 myths of PPC, including that the #1 spot is the most profitable and that conversion rates affect Quality Score.

Have a great weekend, all!

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is WordStream's Director of Content and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.

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