In December, Google announced changes to search engine results pages aimed at improving the user experience. The changes will also present challenges to digital marketing agencies specializing in search engine optimization.

“Search is not just about answering your questions – it’s also about discovery,” Product Manager Michael Galvez wrote in a blog. “We search to explore new topics of interest, to find new angles to ideas or things we think we already know, or even to uncover information that we didn’t even think to ask about.”

The changes include expanded Featured Snippets, updates to the Knowledge Panel, and improved suggested content based on users’ searches.

Featured Snippets will now include images and related search suggestions in addition to the algorithmically generated highlights it now consists of. The aim is to give users a more comprehensive overview of the topic they search.

The Knowledge Panel previously showed information about businesses, including reviews, hours of operation, and location info. The update will add related searches.

“For example,” Galvez writes, “while looking at the Knowledge Panel about skiing, you’ll see related searches for sports such as snowboarding directly inside the result.”

Finally, Google hopes to promote discovery and create a more robust search experience through improved topic suggestions. So, if a user searches for soccer stars Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. in succession, related topics – Cristiano Ronaldo; Luis Suarez – will appear at the top of the results page.

While these updates may very well create a more robust search experience for users, they also create challenges for SEOs. As Featured Snippets, Knowledge Panels, and paid search advertisements monopolize the top half of search engine results pages, businesses that aren’t included in those features will have a more difficult time generating traffic.

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