In what appears to be a move to help users find the text they searched for on a site more quickly, Google is testing a tool that highlights the text the user searched for on the site itself.
Users of the search engine will be familiar with its Snippets, which pull a section of text from a website through to the top of Google’s results page. The idea is that searchers can have their query answered without actually visiting the site – something that irks many webmasters who view this as Google presenting users with content from their sites, thus meaning they often miss out on click-throughs.
Now, a small number of Google users are finding that if they click through to the site from which the Snippet is taken, their Chrome browser takes them straight to the text in question, which is highlighted in yellow.
The new feature appears to have been spotted by New Jersey-based digital marketing consultant Glenn Gabe, who has shared several examples of it on Twitter.
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) August 23, 2019
Google software engineer David Bokan replied to Gabe, confirming that this is a feature being trialled among a small number (around 5%) of Google users.
Google Search is currently running an origin trial for ~5% of WebAnswers results so it's kind of random whether you get opted into it or not.
You can enable the feature on the client-side though using chrome://flags/#enable-text-fragment-anchor
— David (@david_bokan) August 23, 2019
It’s not the first time Google has experimented with this idea. Towards the end of last year, it introduced a similar feature to accelerated mobile pages (AMPs). Effectively, it removes the need to press Ctrl+F to find the required part of the text on a page quickly.
For webmasters, it’s debatable whether this move could be a blessing or a curse. With pages that are heavy in text, the fact that the user is directly taken to the relevant part might make the page less off-putting. Once they have read the highlight part, they may go on to read the full page so as to understand its context.
On the other hand, by anchoring the browser on the highlighted text, users may bypass advertising or other important parts of the site, so website owners should keep a close eye on this if Google rolls it out more widely.