11 Feb 2024
Google has marketed Circle to Search as “a new way to search anything on your phone with a simple gesture—without switching apps.” It allows users to highlight or scribble over an image or phrase to conduct a search related to that subject and even ask questions about it without the phone needing to switch apps. Examples in Google’s announcement post have shown the user circling a subject within an image or video and being shown related products, or scribbling through a phrase and being led to an AI-generated description of the meaning of that phrase.
Circle to Search was rolled out to select premium Android smartphones, including Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, and the new Samsung Galaxy S24 series, on January 31st. It is one of two new features, the other being Google’s AI-powered multi-search experience.
Though Circle to Search has clear eCommerce and advertising benefits, the feature also aims to provide informational value.
How does Cirle to Search work?
If users use Circle to Search to ask a question, Google uses Generative AI to answer the question*. Screen space is limited in-app, so AI will provide a summary answer or an informational paragraph to avoid overloading the user or potentially returning links to results that may detract from the user’s original question.
It is clear that Google is still trying to incorporate AI to better serve users’ needs and create new ways of searching without ever switching apps. This is likely to have an effect on other search channels and user journeys. There is no longer only one SERP, and webmasters need to be able to adapt.
*To enable AI-powered overviews, users must have opted in to Search Generative Experience (SGE) in Search Labs.
How will this impact my customers?
As the feature is currently only available to select Android phones, the impact to your customers will be limited by the usage of those devices. Google has been cautious about fully deploying new AI tech and therefore investing in optimising for this should be proportional to the opportunity of your audience size on supported devices.
However, it is clear that while Google continues to modify and change the user experience in search, this can have an impact on how users discover and interact with your website.
To get ready for this, we recommend having high quality and, where possible, unique images for your products, combined with marked up product content so that Google is able to match images or stills from video to your products.