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Google highlights similar pages

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Saturday 01 May 2010 | By Heidi Scott, Gosh! Media Copywriter

Tags: Google, SEO, Search

On Tuesday of this week, Google revealed that it is making its 'Similar' feature - which shows alongside the URL in the search results - more prominent in its results pages. On the Official Google Blog, Software Engineer Doantam Phan explained:

"We've offered a 'Similar' feature on results for a while now as a way to discover new, useful sites, but it hasn't been too visible. Since we've been continuously improving this feature and we think it's really useful, we're now going to start showing these alternative sites more prominently. Starting this week, for queries where similar sites are likely to be helpful, we'll display a list of 'Pages similar' at the bottom of the results page."

The new feature is designed to make it easier for web users to find the various sites dedicated to any single subject. To do it, Google has tweaked the way its web crawlers view pages that are similar to what they were searching for.

Doantam Phan's blog post takes the example of someone wanting to help with humanitarian relief for Haiti and searching on 'direct relief international'. He demonstrates that the first result is for www.directrelief.org but that the 'Pages similar to' feature now flags up a choice of other charities involved in Haiti in a box at the foot of the results page:

This is all well and good, but it begs the question: what does Google mean by 'for queries where similar sites are likely to be helpful'? This is crucial. Google chose a benign example for its blog - most people do not view charitable giving as a competitive exercise (although charity chiefs obviously do!). However, most organisations using SEO to improve their on-line visibility see this as a highly competitive activity and will be somewhat less than delighted if Google begins to flag up their competitors (who are, presumably, making less effort or parting with less cash if they are not higher up the results pages).

It will be very interesting to see just what scope Google has in mind for the 'Pages similar to' feature.

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