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Everything is Always Changing

Not sure it has anything to do with the 25th birthday of the World Wide Web, but it seems all the big names have been releasing updates or tweaks to their look and feel this past week.  Google Search, Facebook Newsfeeds, and Google+ all made changes of varying degrees.  Some are still rolling out to users, but most people are starting to see them now.

First off, there seems to be a trend toward larger fonts and spacing.  This has been a trend across the web for a few years now, but nowhere does it touch as many people as it does on Google and Facebook.

There are some ramifications for this though as we shall see.

When you make your text larger and give it more spacing between the lines, the text arrives at both the right-hand edge and the bottom of the page sooner.

In the case of the right-hand edge of the page, this means you either push things to a second line or, in the case of Page Link Titles in Google's search results, you cut them off sooner.  If you were to push the text to a second line, this would only cause more text to fall below the fold.

As you can see with the new Google Search results page layout, the larger fonts already push content further down the page, resulting in more content falling below the fold a lot sooner.

Side-by-side comparison of the new and old Google Search results page

Do these font changes have any impact on your website?  They absolutely could.  If fewer results appear above the fold, it makes those top results even more important.  But perhaps even more significant is the shortened Titles for each result.  Website owners will want to make sure that their page titles have the most important information squeezed into a smaller character count.  This is just another reminder why key content should always appear first.

Another obvious change, but perhaps not as significant for SEO purposes, is the replacement of underlined links with non-underlined links.  In my opinion, this makes individual results not stand out quite as much.  Perhaps to help offset this, Google has added a thin gray line that separates different types of results as well as any group of results that may have a common domain name from the rest of the results.

Of course, all of this comes on the heels of the recent changes in the text ads.  No longer are ads surrounded by a box with a colored background.  Instead, the only significant difference between organic results and paid results is the new marigold-colored "Ad" icon. 

Old ad format
New Ad format

Only time will tell what impact these changes will have on AdWords advertiser CTR rates.

Meanwhile, on the Facebook side of things, the new newsfeed layout does seem much cleaner, which I think is a good thing, but this is not exactly what Facebook promised about a year ago.  According to Facebook, the original design has been tweaked after feedback said the new style navigation was not well received.  However, the changes in the feed itself do include many of the ideas shown last year.

Many of the key differences are based on having larger images and helping set apart linked stories more so than before.  Larger images have been rolled out in some forms for several months now, but the new look of the titles and text of a shared article is significantly different.  There is also a place near the bottom of the post where the author of the article (set by code on the webpage of the link being shared) can be displayed next to the website’s domain.

An example of Facebook authorship

Not to be left out of the fun and following in the footsteps of both Facebook and Twitter, Google+ has finally jumped back on the "larger-is-better" bandwagon (Google actually led the way with image posts a while back) by allowing for larger images of  Link Posts in their newsfeed.  Link Posts that show a larger image have a "torn-away" look at the bottom of the image to perhaps help differentiate these posts from regular image posts.

Google+ larger link post image

Now that Google, Facebook, and Twitter all have very similar shaped larger images displayed in their posts, this should mean less work by webmasters optimizing their blog posts and news articles with multiple images.  Each social platform could potentially use the same image now.

One thing is for sure, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are not just going to sit around and keep things the same.  For instance, Facebook just announced that Pages will be getting a makeover soon (better check your current cover images to make sure they are compatible).  A coat of fresh paint can really help but it can also hurt if not done properly, which is why much of the time these changes are rolled out slowly to testing groups first.  Users such as you and I will eventually be the ultimate judges on these changes and many more to come.

Keep your eyes peeled; maybe you will be the next lucky person to be part of a Google, Twitter, or Facebook test.  If so, don't be shy; give it a run through and tell everyone what you think.

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