Posted on November 22, 2023 by Michael Cortez On November 15th Google rolled out a new Search Labs feature they are testing inside of the Search Generative Experience (SGE) named Notes in Search. This update gives users the ability to add notes directly in search and Discover results. You can check out the short video below for a quick overview of how to enable Notes in Search and how to create your own Notes.Notes in Search can be enabled inside of Search Labs via the Google App for both iOs and Android devices. The feature is currently available in the U.S. for Hindi and English results, and India for English search results.Once enabled in Search Labs you see a “Notes” button appear inside of Search Results. From our extensive testing across search results, the “Notes” button is appearing underneath organic results on mobile for a large number of the hundreds of queries tested. This includes local searches, product search, informational queries, recipes, and more. Notes can be customized with stickers, text, and photos.Google announced that users will soon have the ability to generate an AI image when they are creating notes. From our testing this feature is already available and the Webfor SEO team was able to create AI generated images for Notes we were creating. Watch the short video above that showcases the AI image creation tool.“Often, the best place to find answers to your most specific questions is with someone who’s been in your shoes before,” Senior Director of Search, Brad Kellen, said “Today, we’re building on our existing work to help people find a wide range of perspectives on Search with a new opt-in experiment in Search Labs called Notes. Notes will let people share their knowledge right on Search, helping others find the best answers for their weirdest or most wonderfully unique questions, and discover what’s most useful for them on the web.” Brad Kellen – Senior Director of Search at GoogleSenior Director of Search at Google Brad Kellen announced the new feature and how Google’s goal is to help you “better identify information that might be most useful for you.”In the announcement, Kellen mentions that Notes in Search will bring a “new layer of human insights to your search results.” If ongoing testing is deemed successful, Notes in Search will bring new social and educational experiences directly into search. After enabling the feature inside of Search Labs, the “Notes” button will appear directly underneath organic search results. The number of relevant notes for a search result appears directly next to the “Notes” button. You can also click to see any Notes that you previously left on this result.Recipe results are one example where Notes could become a frequently used feature. This allows users to provide personal feedback directly in search on their experience. It has a similar feeling as recipe reviews but brings a more social element to the table.The quality of results are always important. Google is using a combination of SPAM algorithms and human moderation to ensure both the quality and safety of Notes, providing a great user experience as well as protecting against harmful or abusive content.How to create a Note in the Google Search Generative Experience? Now that we have looked at what the experience is like, let’s take a look at what it looks like when adding a note to a search result. Once you have selected the “Notes” button you will be able to create a note and post it publicly on search.Searchers who have Notes in Search enabled can customize the notes style and add stickers, text, and images.You know I had to leave a Note on my favorite hollandaise recipe. If you are ever searching for a great hollandaise recipe, this one always impresses and is so flavorful. After submitting the Note, it will go through a verification process that could take some time. From our testing it took around 2 hours for our Note to start appearing underneath the search result.Watch the video linked above to see the many ways you can customize Notes and how to use the AI image creation tool.Which types of search results are Eligible for Notes?Testing across hundreds of search queries, Notes in Search was appearing across all searches except for news and medical related queries. While searching for trending news topics like “layoffs Citibank” and “Israel Hamas war,” Notes were removed from organic results in the SGE experience. Similarly, when searching for medical information like “early signs of dementia” Notes did not appear underneath organic results.In addition, users do not have the ability to leave Notes on rich results like Featured Snippets, PAA, and more. We encountered a few instances where websites did not display Notes during our testing. We will need to do more testing to determine a clear trend. One example identified showed a large amount of results for the TikTok domain missing the Notes feature. This varied from query to query as “TikTok videos” Notes were completely removed. Compared to the “TikTok” brand search where roughly 50% of results had the Notes in Search feature.For Notes there appears to be a threshold tied to YMYL topics. Google’s decision to remove the Notes feature from medical and news-related queries is likely a proactive measure to mitigate the risk of misinformation dissemination.As previously mentioned, when testing across hundreds of queries, we discovered the Notes button appearing across all search queries for a number of industries and search intents outside of news and medical-related queries. This provides more power to users to leave feedback and provide useful information to future searchers.Will Notes in Search play a factor in the ranking of search results?With the limited testing currently only showing for users who have enabled Notes in Search for SGE, it is far too early to tell the implications on ranking of results based on the data we have to this point.For certain types of queries–e.g. Query Deserves Freshness (QDF)–Notes could be leveraged as a ranking system to better understand user interactions and how valuable specific results are for users. This would allow for an additional layer of user interaction and engagement signals. This goes beyond clicks and carousel scrolls to leverage human insights to rank the most relevant and popular results for a given query.This will take some time to better understand the scope and impact to the ranking of results.How do Notes appear publicly in results?Notes in Search has a dedicated ranking system. This ranking system is used to identify and populate the most relevant Notes for a search result. Google’s goal is to make sure the highest quality and most relevant Notes are surfaced for results.In Google’s documentation linked below they reference “If you find content in notes or profiles that doesn’t meet the Community Guidelines, or breaks the law, report it. We appreciate your help in keeping Google Search users safe.”You can follow this process to report Notes that do not follow community guidelines. If you need to report a note for legal reasons you can follow this process.Here is a list of the community guidelines that aren’t allowed:Account hijackingChild sexual abuse imagery or exploitation materialConsensus-based topicsDeceptive practicesFake engagementDangerous contentHarassing contentHateful contentHighly personal informationManipulated mediaOffensive contentPolicy circumventionRegulated goodsSexually explicit contentSpamViolent extremist contentViolent & gory contentVulgar language & profanityValid legal requestsYou can reference Google’s documentation here to verify if a Note does not follow community guidelines or breaks the law.What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of introducing Notes in Search?Analyzing the potential benefits and drawbacks of Notes in Search is an important step in creating a proactive SEO strategy so you are able to adjust your plan as needed and to stay ahead of your competition. Here is what the Webfor Digital Marketing Team has identified as the potential benefits and drawbacks of bringing Notes in Search.What are the benefits of Google introducing Notes in Search?Search becoming more socialInvestigation and researchSocial proofingEmpowering searchersTraining of ranking systems and search resultsBarnacle SEOThere are a number of potential benefits to users–and digital marketers–by introducing Notes in Search. Let’s examine the 5 benefits listed above more closely.Search is becoming more socialNotes in Search brings a social dimension to the traditional search experience by allowing users to annotate and share their insights, opinions, or information directly within search results. This feature goes beyond traditional search, transforming it into a collaborative and interactive process.Notes is what Google Plus should have been, although the various ranking systems and AI/machine learning algorithms were not advanced enough at that point. Google’s easiest path for Google Plus being successful was Search. Notes is one step closer to bringing social experiences to the Google Platforms.Here is a quick breakdown of 5 benefits that could come from introducing social elements into Google search.Sharing of knowledgeReal-time updates on trending topicsPersonalized Search ExperienceDiverse perspectives in searchCommunity interactionInvestigation and ResearchWhen leveraging Google for investigation and research, Notes in Search will help save time identifying the best resource, solution, product, etc. Rather than search through multiple results. Users can validate the optimal resource via Notes and find a resource or solution to their problem more quickly.Social ProofingNotes could be leveraged to validate user decisions on products, services, and more. Users look for reviews, testimonials, and recommendations to validate their decisions. In marketing this is known as Social Proofing. Notes in Search is a new avenue to leverage social proofing and social validation as a marketer to influence both user purchasing behaviors and user journeys.Empowering searchersInteractive elements in search are currently limited. Perspectives was one step towards making search more interactive, but Notes brings a new element of experience to search. Users are now empowered to leave their feedback directly in search results in a manner that has never been a possibility before.We are now empowered as searchers to leave opinions and provide feedback directly in search results. This is a milestone for search and could lead to an evolution of how we interact with search results.Training of Ranking Systems and ResultsUser interactions like clicks and carousel scrolls have long influenced search results. Notes could be used as an additional user interaction signal to influence search results. Google has stated that user interactions are leveraged in most of their machine learning ranking systems, including RankBrain.Adding an additional layer of user interaction via Notes to train Google’s ranking systems beyond clicks and swipes would present a new opportunity as digital marketers.Barnacle SEOBarnacle SEO is a tactic to attach your business or website to a larger website that ranks well for your core topics/industry. A common example of this is creating a listing/page on Yelp. Important note Google has removed the ability to add links inside Notes because some links can be harmful. Marketers could still leverage Notes as a form of Barnacle SEO to point users towards a different brand, website, or resource and attach themselves to the top of search results for relevant topics. Although the various algorithms and manual review mentioned above will more than likely eliminate the large majority of SPAM results. There is a chance that authoritative profiles could be leveraged as a form of barnacle SEO and point users in a different direction.Now that we have reviewed six benefits of Notes in Search. Let’s examine the potential drawbacks that could result from introducing Notes to Search.What are the potential drawbacks of Notes in Search?SPAMNegative ReviewsAttribution and ReportingLosing clicks and trafficBarnacle SEOSPAM on NotesAlthough various algorithms and manual reviews will be leveraged in order to eliminate a large amount of SPAM from Notes, bad actors will attempt to find a way to game the various SPAM algorithms in order to take advantage of this new SERP feature.In an extreme case, hateful or offensive content could be attached to search results and presented to users. There are a number of potential negative impacts that could come from this including impacts to website traffic or even more malicious and nefarious impacts to users.Negative ReviewsThis could be used as a platform to flood websites with negative Notes/Annotations. In situations where a company receives negative PR and goes viral we have seen the impact that negative reviews can have on a business.Notes could be leveraged as a platform to leave negative comments very similar to how reviews have been leveraged in the past.Attribution and ReportingSEO tools are currently not set up to provide track Search Generative Experience (SGE) and other new SERP features like Notes in Search, SGE while browsing, and more. Google Search Console and other SEO tools will need to evolve to provide data and report on how websites are performing in this new version of Search.Missing out on organic clicks and trafficIf a user clicks on a Note underneath your search result and finds the answer they need, this could redirect users who traditionally would have clicked on your result and found your business. This could mean a loss in potential traffic, leads, and sales/revenue.In many situations I could see users relying on Notes as more of a social proofing feature rather than finding a solution to a specific question. But Notes will play a role here and websites could miss out on traffic because of this new SERP feature.Barnacle SEOThis is listed as both a benefit and drawback due to the potential impact that Notes could have on a website’s organic traffic and influencing user’s decision to click on a different result.Marketers could leverage this as a tool to draw people away from the top results and instead point them towards a separate resource. As mentioned above, Google has removed the ability to add links inside Notes because some links can be harmful. But this will not stop marketers from looking at how they can use Notes to capture traffic away from top results.The above negative points are all hypothetical. While it is possible that these could occur in the future, there is no evidence to suggest that they will. It is important to note that these points are based on speculation and conjecture, and they should not be taken as definitive.ConclusionGoogle’s new Notes in Search feature available in Search Labs has the potential to significantly impact the way users interact with search results. While there are some potential drawbacks, such as the possibility of spam and abuse, the benefits of Notes in Search are substantial. Overall, Notes in Search has the potential to make search results more informative, engaging, and create an interactive experience.Here are some of the key takeaways from this blog post:Notes in Search allows users to leave their thoughts, opinions, and insights directly on search resultsNotes can be customized with stickers, text, and imagesGoogle uses a combination of SPAM algorithms and human moderation to ensure the quality and safety of NotesNotes are currently available for Hindi and English results in the U.S., and English results in IndiaNotes are eligible for all search results except for news-related queries (so far!)Notes have a dedicated ranking system that is used to identify and populate the most relevant Notes for a search resultNotes in Search has the potential to make search results more social, informative, and engagingWe will continue to monitor the development of Notes in Search and provide updates as they become available.