Thursday, 20 August 2020

Scroll to Text Contradicts Google's Aims

Google on Chrome
As a 'new' feature in Chrome and Edge browsers, Scroll to Text contradicts Google's aims.

Tested using AMP for some time now, Scroll to Text is a new way of deep-linking to search results.

If you run a search on Google and click on a featured snippet result, Chrome or Edge will parse the URL of the snippet and send you to the specific piece of text on the page and highlight it, Skipping past the context of any  introductory text above it, not to mention site branding and navigation, this can save time in manually scrolling down a page to find the cited result.

On the one hand, this fits with Google's drive to get to the user's desired results as quickly as possible. It's a quick fix to ever-shorter attention spans and being seen to provide the fastest route to answers irrespective of context. On the other, it directly contradicts Google’s stated view that long-form content provides more quality and a better user experience.

It's also tantamount to further hijacking content-creators intellectual property, or at the very least, bypassing branding and advertising that is the lifeblood of many sites on the web.

Search, click in, grab a snippet, click-out again. Scroll to Text means that a huge number of visitors may not engage with any other content than the snippet they just found and may not even know where Google just took them, relying on the authority of the search engine's results.

It may also encourage further lazy usage where users teleport in and out without bothering to check any of the surrounding context for the snippet they selected.

What are website owners to do now? Implement sticky headers on every webpage just to keep branding and navigation in sight, wherever Google deposits incoming visitors?

It's one thing to structure content within a page, but now Scroll to Text potentially makes every paragraph, or every sentence, into a landing page. This is not how most of us have been creating content, even with the demands of SEO in mind. Perhaps we should, but that's a different argument.

Now, all of our carefully developed and crafted long-form content can be treated as so many breadcrumbs by the search giant. Cynics might say the objective of Scroll to Text is to keep visitors on external sites for as little time as possible so they come back to Google's SERP's ads instead. We couldn't possibly comment. RC

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