Introducing the Google “SERP App” and why you should care

Google seems to always be experimenting with their search engine result pages (SERPs). This is true for both desktop and mobile SERPs. There’s so many variations it’s hard to keep up with them. The latest trend has been converting results into cards, which presents all kind of new possibilities for Google.

Google seems to always be experimenting with its search engine result pages (SERPs). This is true for both desktop and mobile SERPs. There are so many variations it’s hard to keep up with them. The latest trend has been converting results into cards, which presents all kinds of new possibilities for Google.

With all of Google’s experiments, one thing has remained the same, they continue to move towards a path of keeping you on their properties. I first wrote about this in early 2014 in an article entitled, How Google is becoming the new AOL.

For those reasons and others, it came as no surprise to me when I was using iOS’ Safari on my iPhone and found myself presented with my first Google SERP App. I call it an app because that’s exactly what the experience feels like. I become trapped inside a search within a search — a kind of Google inception — and each click brings me a new experience, on Google.

I had done a search for “when is the next episode of the circus” (a political show on Showtime). The first result was the familiar answer box. Then the fun began when I clicked the arrow to reveal more results.

Google mobile search result
Mobile search result in Google for the query, “when is the next episode of the circus”

My iOS Safari browser page changed into something I’ve never seen before. I was locked into what looked like a single-purpose app for displaying TV episodes.

List of episodes in Google Search
Google mobile search results turns into an app-like experience

As you can see, it’s like no other Google SERP you’ve ever seen. Scrolling to the bottom ended with Episode 1, and scrolling back to the top ended with the furthest known expected episode that has yet to air.

I didn’t know where I was and I didn’t know what to do next. Tapping on an episode didn’t do anything. So I tapped on the new and apparently secondary search input field that said “Episodes,” and that’s where my adventure began. I started typing Marc and the auto-suggestions came up. I tapped on “marc maron.”

A secondary search input field in Google Search
The Google mobile search result presents a secondary search input field

That brought me to what appeared to be a Knowledge Graph result. However, I was still in their SERP App — the search within a search!

Marc Maron knowledge panel in Google Search
A Marc Maron knowledge panel within the SERP app experience

I continued down the SERP App rabbit hole. I mean why not, there’s nowhere else for me to navigate to except back. I scrolled down and they presented me with a list of similar comedians. I saw Louis C.K. and clicked on him. It then showed me his Knowledge Graph results, but this time I had new navigation options.

Louis C.K. knowledge panel in Google Search
A Louis C.K. knowledge panel within the SERP app experience

It was like I was on his website or was using an app! I tapped on “Events” and was presented with his upcoming shows.

Louis C.K. tour dates
A list of Louis C.K. tour dates in the Google SERP app experience

I tapped a few more times on different things, but I probably could have stayed in their SERP App forever. I eventually escaped by clicking on a link to a site.

So why should you care? Great question and thanks for reading this far down the page. These are the reasons you should care:

  1. Answer boxes and knowledge graphs scrape info from your site and present the answer to the user without the need to visit your site.
  2. Turning the search experience into a browsable app of endless possibilities means Google is scraping and presenting content from dozens — perhaps occasionally hundreds — of sites during any given session. That means none of those sites are getting any traffic and the SERP App appears to be designed to trap you in it until you find your answer(s).

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Jon Henshaw

Jon is the founder of Coywolf and the EIC and the primary author reporting for Coywolf News. He is an industry veteran with over 25 years of digital marketing and internet technologies experience. Follow @[email protected]