SEO News Recap – December 2016

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Are you ready for your monthly dose of digital marketing and SEO news? There were no holiday breaks for Google updates, social media developments, e-commerce innovations, and industry studies. OK, let’s get started!

GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS

FILTERING OPTIONS IN THE LOCAL PACK

Google provided its users with “Rating” and “Hours” filters to whittle down the local search results. The rollout of the filters was firstly brought up by Sergey Alakov on Twitter. They are available for both mobile and desktop search. Additional tests made by Barry Schwartz showed the presence of further sorting options (by distance and relevance).

WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBILIY INFORMATION IN GOOGLE MAPS

The mobile users of Google Maps are now prompted to mark whether a location is suitable to be reached by a wheelchair. Owners and managers of Google My Business listings that have been updated via such user reports are allowed to review and edit the new business information.

WHAT’S NEW ON GOOGLE MY BUSINESS

The three new GMB updates during the month were:

  • Service providers (like barbers, spas, or car repair shops) and restaurant owners are now able to add service and food & drinks menus to their local listing via the GMB API.
  • Google encourages business owners and managers to edit attributes for their locations like offering free Wi-Fi or outdoor seating to help customer be more informed and likely to visit their business.
  • GMB photo analytics is offering deep insights into how customers are interacting with your listing images compared to similar business in your area.

PROMOTE YOUR PLACE WITH PIN ADS ON GOOGLE MAPS

A limited number of retailers were given the chance to test the new mobile Promoted Places in Google Maps during the holidays. The promoted pins are marked by company logos and at a click reveal the current promotional offers at the venue.

GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

RECENT SEARCH INTERFACE TESTS

In December there were lots of Google search layout updates and tests. Among the most prominent ones are:

  • The “In the News” feature that offers news related results was replaced by “Top Stories”. It comes in a card format and is complemented by images;
  • Google rolls out a new style desktop SERPs layout which resembles mobile UI. Some of the changes include the relocation of the “Settings” drop down menu and the “Tools” option to the right side of the search bar. Additionally, features like Тwitter carousel, Top Stories and People also ask for have a more compact visual look:

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(Twitter carousel)

<google-top-stories-carousel

(Top Stories)

Google_people-also-ask

(People also ask for)

  • Google added a feature that refines its mobile search results by providing an image carousel. For example, users can now refine the search results by product type/style or by brand;

TEST YOUR WEBSITE’S MOBILE-FRIENDLINESS

Google added a pop-up window to its home page encouraging you to audit your site’s performance across different devices. The “Test Now” button leads to Google’s mobile website speed testing tool where you can get valuable insights on improving your website. After submitting your email details, Google will also send you a full detailed report.

KNOW THE SCORE

For those who love sports but hate checking and reloading tones of websites for live scores Google introduced a new search feature showing sports scores in real time. Users just need to google a sports team of their choice together with the word “score” and the search results will show them what the sports results are at the time. To improve users’ experience, Google automatically updates the scores and searchers don’t need to reload the results page in order to get up-to-date information.

MORE REPORTS FOR PROPERTY SETS ON THE SEARCH CONSOLE

Since the launch of Property sets in Search Console, Google has received a number of requests related to the reporting options. It didn’t take much time for Google to consider users’ feedback and introduced a set of new features like the mobile usability report, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) report, rich card structured data report, and internationalization markup report with which you can keep your international presence healthy.

RICH PRODUCT RESULTS IN IMAGE SEARCH

Google now supports the display of product information directly in the organic image search results. To show detailed information about your product, like price, availability, and review ratings in the rich image viewer, you have to enter name, image, price, and priceCurrency properties in the structured markup for the given page. Google also emphasized that the enhancement is available to all users and it is not required to become an advertiser to take advantage of it.

BE AWARE OF YOUR REVIEWS

Business owners should be even more careful with the reviews they mark up with schema because Google updated its review guidelines. The addition clearly states that customer feedback containing vulgar or profane language must be removed. You should implement quality and strict review monitoring mechanisms in order to prevent any removal of your customers’ reviews rich snippets.

LARGER IMAGES FOR RECIPES AND TV SHOWS/MOVIES

When you mark up your recipe or TV/movie content with structured data to provide rich cards and enable host-specific lists you will be now required to upload larger images which will be included in the rich results. The new recipe images must be at least 185×185 pixels (1:1 aspect ratio), while the TV shows/movies photos must be at least 140×210 pixels (2:3 aspect ratio).

BUY E-BOOK LINKS IN THE KNOWLEDGE PANEL

A new section called “Buy e-book” has been noticed on Google’s Knowledge Panel for book related searches. The feature shows links to different online bookstores where customers can purchase the searched book. At the moment this feature is only available for popular retailers, but if you are an e-book provider and you like to generate such e-book offers you are encouraged to participate in the pilot program.

THE LATEST GOOGLE ADS TESTS

Some of the most recent Google AdWords experiments spotted by SEM experts during December include:

  • Text ads are once again complemented by ratings via the location extensions feature even though they’ve been once removed in late 2015.
  • Google is testing a new carousel format of the Shopping Ads. The experimental layout features cards displaying three product images per each advertiser. However, those ads are not containing any additional product information like text, pricing and ratings in comparison to the regular shopping ads featuring single product items. It seems that Google uses this version of the shopping ads to narrow down the search and then to display more relevant shopping ads in order to help consumers find more easily the product they are searching for.
  • Google ads are invading the SERPs with the expansion of the number of Product Listings Ads on the right sidebar of the search results. Till now the ads in the right sidebar were up to 8 positioned in 2 rows and it seems that Google is now testing PLAs in three rows.
  • Since Google updated the format version of its product listing ads from static, non-scrolling ad units to carousel format, the company started testing a 3-pack Product Listings Ads carousel at the top of search results.

INDUSTRY STUDIES AND REPORTS

SEARCHMETRICS’ ANNUAL STUDY ON GOOGLE’S TOP RANKING FACTORS

In December Searchmetrics released a new study revealing Google’s top ranking factors and ranking correlations for 2016. Among some of the key insights from the study are:

  • Technical factors such as loading time, file size, HTTPS encryption, internal links, page architecture and mobile-friendliness are essential for higher rankings;
  • Google search rankings are tightly related to content relevance;
  • On average, the first 3 organic results on Google account for 36% of the all the clicks;
  • Backlinks links have lesser impact on rankings with the increase of search queries from mobile devices;
  • There is high correlation between social signals and ranking position – according to Searchmetrics “the top-ranked website in Google’s rankings displays vastly more social signals than all other pages, even more so than in 2015”;

INNOVATIONS

CHECKOUT-FREE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE WITH AMAZON GO

After four years of research and development, Amazon presented the world first check-out free grocery store, called Amazon Go. The clients will only need to check in when entering the store with the new Amazon’s app, and then they could take the products they want and leave the shop without having to wait in a checkout queue. The picked items will be automatically scanned by the app and charged to user’s virtual card through a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning algorithms.

GOOGLE KEYBOARD APP AVAILABLE FOR ANDROID

Initially launched in May 2016, Google’s iOS based keyboard “GBoard” can now be downloaded from Google’s Play Store. Users can use the keyboard to google something directly in any app through a built-in search feature. Other useful features which are integrated in the keyboard include voice typing, emoji search, GIF sharing, and multilingual typing without manually switching between languages.

FACEBOOK POSTS ON BING’S KNOWLEDGE PANEL

The new feature of Bing’s Knowledge Panel is showing recent Facebook posts that businesses and brands have posted on their pages on the social network. The new section has a card style and contains up to two Facebook posts with images and a CTA button: “See more on Facebook”.

VIRTUAL REALITY AND 360° CONTENT ARE COMING TO WORDPRESS

Great news for virtual reality fans – WordPress announced that all the websites on its platform are starting to support 360° photos and videos. Also, users can view images and panoramas in virtual reality. The 360° content will be available on both desktop and mobile, as well as through virtual reality gear.

SOCIAL MEDIA

TWITTER SEARCH RESULTS CHANGES

Twitter modified its search algorithm placing emphasis on relevance rather than recency. The enhanced ranking resulted in bringing relevance-ordered tweets to the top of search results. According to Twitter the new update leads to improved user engagement with the search results and to increased time spent on the social media.

SHOWCASE YOUR BUSINESS WITH PINTEREST’S NEW FEATURE

Pinterest added a new free showcase display option at the top of business pages. It enables businesses to better highlight their products by rotating up to five of their key boards at the top of their profile. Pinterest also included two new tabs to business profiles to indicate the total number of business’ boards and saved pins.

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