What GBoard Means for Search

Posted on May 24, 2016 • Written by Jeff Williams

Gboard, a keyboard with integrated search features, is a new iOS app launched by Google in mid-May. Once downloaded from the Apple App Store, Gboard can be set as an alternative keyboard to be utilized while using other apps with typing capability: text messaging, Facebook, Gmail, YouTube, etc.

What to Know About Gboard

Gboard is only available in English for iOS in the U.S., so Android users and those outside the country will not yet be able to access the app. The keyboard brings up a Google search box within the current app you’re in, which allows you to search and share information about places, such as the address of a restaurant, flight status, GIFs, emojis and more without ever leaving the app. In short: anything you’d search in your mobile browser or Google app (and then copy and paste elsewhere), you can now do with Gboard. And yes — it does have glide typing.

Here is an example of what it looks like:


Left: A text message with Gboard set as the current keyboard.
Middle: The search box is opened within the app.
Right: The results for a search within the app.

There really isn’t a direct competitor for this app, with the exception of the Slash keyboard app for Android users. Google engineer Rajan Patel mentioned that they are looking to bring similar functionality to Android users, but did not elaborate on whether that would be Gboard or other keyboard integrations.

What’s it Mean for Mobile SEO?

While influenced by mobile search result algorithms, Gboard has a mind of its own. This could end up being a big deal for SEO as Gboard looks like it is an engine in itself. It opens up new doors for search opportunities. There are enough differences between the results returned on mobile versus the results returned in Gboard to warrant a look at current SEO methods, with the exception being local search results. Results returned in a mobile browser seem to be identical to results returned in Gboard when searching for a local business. However, Gboard is still very new and still being tested, so expect some things to change.

These are the key differences we’ve noticed in Gboard:

Gboard favors Knowledge Graphs and news.

The algorithm trusts the directness of Knowledge Graph results and the timeliness of news listings. Knowledge Graphs often contain information that is likely to be shared in a text. News listings, especially breaking news reports, are often shared via social media, and this makes it easier to search for the right story to share.

Ads and paid content do not appear…yet (including shopping results)


Left: Mobile results for search terms “italian restaurants in Boulder”
Right: Gboard results for the same search. Note the absent ad.

A huge and very noticeable difference between mobile results and Gboard results is the absence of ads. Although a Google spokesperson said that there were currently no plans to allow ads in Gboard, I see this as a great opportunity for Google to add ads at a later date.

AMP pages do not appear.

In many tested searches comparing mobile results versus Gboard results, the AMP results that appeared on mobile were replaced with the regular HTML versions and pushed down the page when using Gboard.

Search is private.

Unlike mobile search results, especially for users logged into Google, Gboard acts as an incognito browser. Google claims that the searches made in Gboard are not stored for personalization purposes. The only time that a personalization filter might apply is if multiple related searches were made one after another, such as “restaurants” and then “Boulder.”

Search results normally adapt themselves when search history is stored. As Gboard doesn’t store any such history, each search is like a fresh start for the results.

How to Track Gboard Traffic

The results of testing on different devices showed that Gboard traffic counted as direct; in other words, if someone performs a Gboard search and sends the link and that person clicks the link it’s considered direct traffic.

Depending on how fast Gboard grows, Google may add Gboard as a referral traffic source. We’ll see — the app itself has just over 4,000 downloads to date. Considering the buzz around it, however, it may become an essential app.

Jeff Williams

Written by Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an SEO Project Manager at Fruition. He uses his deep understanding of SEO and internet marketing to guide clients, optimize websites and ultimately improve search rankings. Jeff continues to focus on understanding the technical aspects of SEO factors that affect website rankings in the major search engines. He has recently found a passion in local marketing and helping business carry out effective digital marketing strategies, taking a lead role in developing Fruition’s local SEO services.

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