SEO News Recap – November 2016

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Are you ready for your monthly dose of digital marketing news and updates? Our November news recap will prepare you for the latest Google updates and experiments, AdWords upgrades, social media feature tests and launches, as well as industry partnerships and innovations.

GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS

NEW HOME SERVICE PACK WITH THE ROLLOUT OF ADVANCED VERIFICATION

At the beginning of October, Google started testing a new advanced verification process for fraudulent local service businesses, including locksmiths and plumbers in San Diego. Any of the businesses that didn’t pass the verification before November 10th had their listings pulled from Google. After the completion of the test, Google made changes to its Home Services Ads which are currently only available in the San Francisco Bay Area. Google added a green checkmark shield to individual Home Services Ads, along with “Google guaranteed” next to each listing (check the screenshot provided by Joy Hawkins on Twitter). As for now this is an experiment and shows only occasionally. The new “Google-guaranteed” design aims at cleaning up spam in SERPs and ensuring customers find trustworthy contractors via the search engine.

HOME SERVICE ADS ON MOBILE

Home Service ads for businesses like plumbers, locksmiths, handymen, house cleaners, painters, electricians, and HVAC pros have been tested during the month in the mobile SERPs. They appeared in a swipeable carousel of listings together with a map of the area of operation of the advertiser. To participate in the program, advertisers must undergo background, license and insurance checks and verification process. It seems that it is a matter of time till Google Home Service ads replace the PPC ads in these verticals.

SAY GOODBYE TO GOOGLE MAP MAKER

Google is retiring its local search tool for adding and editing businesses directly on Google Maps. However, users who enjoyed using Map Maker may still be able to tweak local business addresses because some its product features will be integrated into Google Maps in March 2017. The company also invited users to join Google Local Guides community where they can keep contributing to Google Maps, engage with other users and help people find interesting spots in their towns.

RICH CARDS FOR MORE BUSINESS VERTICALS

Google is now showing rich cards for local restaurants and online courses for US-based sites. For those who are new to rich cards, earlier in May this year the rich cards were launched as scrollable carousels ensuring rich user experience. If you have a website that contains local restaurant information or offers online courses, check out Google’s developer docs to start building Rich Cards for your Local restaurant and Online courses listings.

NEW GOOGLE MY BUSINESS FEATURES FOR LOCATIONS

Google improved Google My Business editor for users who manage more than 10 locations. Check the help document on how to do it.

Together with that Google also added real-time data to its Popular Times in Search and Maps to show customers how crowded given business is right now and help customers decide whether to visit location in that specific hour. The new feature adds a “live” tag to the results. Users just need to google the stores, businesses or restaurants of their choice and the search results will show them how busy the place is at the time. To improve this feature, Google allows searchers to submit their feedback about the accuracy of the status.

MANAGE YOUR GMB NOTIFICATIONS WITH REFRESHED SETTINGS

You can get updates on customer reviews, listings health, customer photos and much more with the new features Google has added to its GMB dashboard. Along with the types of alerts you want to receive, you can specify how you want notifications to be delivered (via email or mobile).

LOCAL FINDER WITH ENHANCED PHOTOS

Google Local Finder with image slider and no map – this is what SEOs spotted in November. If it goes live, local businesses that invest in high-quality photos will greatly benefit from the new interface as professional photos attract more attention.

A TWEAK TO LOCAL BUSINESS STRUCTURED DATA

The Google structured data testing tool already detects two more schema attributes for LocalBusiness: an image field, which can be a URL or a described image object and a price range of the business.

GET CLOSER TO CUSTOMERS VIA GMB CHAT

A new feature in Google My Business allows customers to chat with local businesses directly from the search results. The program is part of a test with a limited number of invited businesses. If the invitees want to opt into the messaging feature, they should either provide a phone number or use Google’s Allo which is a fine way to promote Google’s recently released smart messaging app for Android and iOS.

CHECK OUT THE WEB RESULTS IN GOOGLE MAPS

Google has been experimenting with a new button in the Local Finder in Google Maps, called “See the web results”. It redirects the online user to the search engine results pages. Check the screenshot of the test made by Sergey Alakov.

ENHANCE GOOGLE MY BUSINESS REVIEWS WITH VISUALS

If you want to leave a review on Google about the latest restaurant you’ve visited, along with a star rating and a description of your experience, you will be now prompted to add relevant photos/videos. According to the latest GMB Review and Photo policies, all visuals should be high-quality and also aligned with the business, otherwise Google will remove them.

GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

INFRASTRUCTURAL UPDATES IN GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE

Google performed infrastructure updates to the reporting feature in the Search Console. SEO experts have expressed an opinion that this upgrade could be a step forward to extending the “Top Search Queries” data from 90 days to one year.

SAYONARA CONTENT KEYWORDS

Google announced that it will be retiring the content keywords feature in the Search Console. The reason behind this step were, according to Google, are that now users can trust the information offered in the Fetch as Google and the Google Search Analytics tools to understand how Google crawls their web pages. The fact that “users were often confused about the keywords listed in content keywords” also is said to have influenced Google’s decision to remove the feature from the Search Console.

THE TRANSFORMATIONS OF KNOWLEDGE PANEL

This month the Knowledge Panel still restlessly reflects one Google experiment after another:

  • The end of Knowledge Graph snippet overlays in search results – The popup overlays which provided additional information about a given website since the beginning of 2014 were removed “due to low usage”.
  • Thumbs up for shows and movies that you like – New “like” and “dislike” buttons are taking a prominent space in Knowledge Panel to encourage users to share their preferences. The feature is still being in a testing phase for TV shows and movies.
  • Watch videos directly in the Knowledge Panel – A new section called “Videos from the web” has been noticed on Google’s Knowledge Panel. The tested feature reveals video clips related to the user’s search query and shows up for both local and general
  • What’s “on TV soon” – Google launched a new section to the Knowledge Panel that shows when and on what channel you can watch a particular show or movie. It works in the US only for now.

 TESTS ON USER INTERFACE

Let’s check some of the recent Google user interface tests spotted by SEO experts during November:

  • In place of the gear icon to access settings Google added a hoverable drop down menu named “Settings” and “Tools” option right next to it. (check the Twitter chat and screenshots of the test)
  • A “back to top” button in the mobile search results pages. (check the screenshots)
  • Different variations of green for the URLs in the snippets listed in organic and AdWords search results (Here are how they look – the lighter green color and the darker version)
  • Most sitelinks that appear at the bottom of individual search results have been removed (see the screenshot of the SERPs). However, for branded searched the sitelinks are still available.

EXPERIMENTS WITH AD EXTENSIONS

It seems that Google is working harder and harder to make AdWords ads more attractive to customers and help advertisers drive more clicks and conversions. The latest innovations to the advertising platform include:

  • Google is once again testing image extensions in text ads, this time in the form of a swipeable carousel of sitelinks featuring images. While photos have been shown to boost user attention and engagement, this type of ad extensions might be able to improve the overall performance of your PPC ad campaigns.
  • Google will roll out a new swipeable format of the recently released price extensions. Each card swipeable card will contain information about the type of product or service, its description, price, and a link to a landing page. The company also said that new format is going to be available in 10 additional languages and 24 currencies.
  • Advertisers can feature special offers in their text ads with the new Promotional extensions.
  • After extending Shopping Campaigns to videos on YouTube back in November 2015, Google is now testing a carousel format for Shopping Ads on the video-sharing website. Cards featuring related products pulled from advertisers’ Google Merchant Center product feeds are placed below the videos.

INNOVATIONS

BING’S  LATEST SEARCH FEATURES

Bing will be helping customers to schedule their plans during special events and holiday season with the freshly released Holiday Hours feature. It will be available on both desktop and mobile and will display accurate business holiday hours in real times. Bing also provided images to show how this feature will be displayed for local listings.

My Saves” is another a freshly released search capability. You can save photos, images, places, and shopping items for later across multiple devices. Similarly to Facebook, all saved items are stored in one location/folder called “My saves” where you can filter and see all your saves for later search results.

YEXT REVIEWS FOR BETTER SEARCH RANKINGS

Yext Reviews is a brand new product released by the company aiming to help local businesses manage their reviews across the web. The key product features are review monitoring (including those on third-party sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp), generation (collect reviews from customers by syncing your CRM, point of sale, mobile app, or any other contact database with Yext), publication (publish your business reviews to your website or app with pre-optimized Schema.org widgets), response (respond to reviews directly from the Yext Location Cloud or click out from Yext to the page where a review lives), and analysis (analyze review trends and changes).

PEOPLE ARE THE NEW PLACES

Uber introduced a new rider app that enables users to set their destination to a person instead of a location. People need to sync their contacts with the app, type the name of a specific contact into the search bar and once the person they are searching for has shared his location, they will be offered a shortcut route to their friend’s destination. The new feature represents a radical shift in the way we think about places.

SOCIAL MEDIA

CALL-TO-CONVERSATION IN FACEBOOK MESSENGER

Advertisers can now run ads on Facebook News Feed that are connected to advertisers’ Messenger account in order to facilitate the interaction with their customers. The ads feature a call-to-conversation button, letting people to open Messenger and start a conversation with the company. Check Facebook’s guide on how to implement and use the new ads.

THE BEST PAGE TEMPLATE FOR YOUR BUSINESS ON FACEBOOK

Facebook is testing new templates for business pages to make them more organized. The templates that you can choose from include: standard, professional services, venues, gaming, politicians, and restaurants & cafes. Facebook warns that “when you apply this template we will replace existing buttons and tabs” so choose wisely and review your page after the updates take place.

FACEBOOK EXPERIMENTING WITH A NEW TARGETING OPTION – PAGE INTERACTIONS

A new targeting method being tested in Ads Manager has been noticed by the marketing expert Jon Loomer. The new option enables advertisers to create a list of people who have engaged with business page content on Facebook, including watching a video, opening or completing a form on Facebook ads and interacting with business canvas. Based on this new type of targeting advertisers will reach more interested users and create more relevant ads.

SHOP PRODUCTS DIRECTLY ON INSTAGRAM

Instagram has started testing a function of purchasing directly from seller’s Instagram news feed without leaving the app. The experiment is currently available only for iOS users in the US. It is also limited to 20 retailers including JackThreads, Kate Spade, Macy’s and Warby Parker.

SNAPCHAT PARTNERS FOURSQUARE TO POWER MORE PRECISE GEOFILTERS

Snapchat’s geofilters let mobile users add specific illustrations to photos they share via the app, visualizing in real time the physical location they are at. The smartphone’s location signals pick up where the user is at a given time, and a specific geofilter is applied based on this location. The geofilters were limited to cities, neighborhoods, and sporting arenas till now. The new partnership between Snapchat and Foursquare not only offers advertisers an opportunity to better reach out to their customers but also helps Snapchat users access 87 million places in Foursquare’s database.

We hope you enjoyed the blog post and it has enriched your digital marketing knowledge base. Please don’t hesitate to share it with your friends or simply tweet the sections that contained the most valuable news to you. 

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