Hi guys! Тhe holiday parties have ended, all of Christmas cookies are gone, and the New Year’s resolutions have been made. You may find yourself needing a little bit of fresh SEO news and inspiration to come back to reality after the long holiday break. Here are some of the topics that we’ll cover in the December edition of our SEO News Recap: Google’s latest local search updates, more content showing in Featured Snippets and Knowledge Panels, the renewed Google My Business homepage and SEO Starter Guide, as well as the launch of new features in Google Analytics and Facebook promoted posts.
GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS
ONLINE REVIEW TESTS
Google was spotted to incorporate reviews from other review sites in the local Knowledge Panel. The third-party reviews are currently available only for hotel searches. Together with Google reviews searchers can read reviews pulled from listing sites like Expedia.com, Booking.com, Hotels.com, and TripAdvisor.
GOOGLE LOCAL Q&A ON MOBILE AND DESKTOP
Looks like the Questions & Answers feature is now available on desktop. Previously users and local business owners could write questions and answers related to a given business only from their mobile devices.
PERSONALIZED GMB HOMEPAGE
Google is testing a personalized Google My Business homepage to bring together the topics that interest you most. In comparison to the traditional home view that highlights the same data insights across different local businesses, the new one is assembling one page from all the features that may be the most relevant for the business depending on its type and activities, for example uploaded customer photos, reviews, and bookings.
FIND LOCAL SERVICES WITH GOOGLE ASSISTANT
A new Google Assistant feature provides more personalized experience when searching for a local service provider. When you ask for a service provider, for example “Ok Google find me a house cleaner”), Google Assistant will require more specific information, e.g. the type of service you are referring to (for example apartment cleaning, bathroom cleaning, window washing, packaging/unpacking), your address, etc. The search will generate a list of contractors providing relevant house cleaning services within your neighborhood. The suggested home cleaners will be recommended by Google or listed on the home service platforms like HomeAdvisor and Porch.
PLAN YOUR TRIP WITH GOOGLE TIPS
You can now more easily track prices for your next trip with these newly launched search features:
- A “Tips” tab appears under the search results for flights to help you better budget your travel and see when it’s prudently to make reservations;
- A price slider allows you to filter hotels in terms of room rates. The feature appears above the search results together with a notification alerting you of busy locations during specific local events or holidays.
- You can opt in for hotel price tracking service that sends price alerts and tips by email:
LOCAL SEO’S DYNAMIC YEAR
2017 has been the year of changes for Local SEO’s. A full year later there have been constantly product updates and feature additions. Joy Hawkins did a great job tracking the latest local SEO changes during the year and making a list of them. Here are some of the most prominent updates:
- A “Menu” button was added into restaurants’ Knowledge Panels to easily access to their menus;
- A ”temporary closed” sign appeared as a status on the Knowledge Panel;
- The retirement of the MapMaker;
- Google released the tool Small Thanks with Google that helps local business owners turn online positive reviews into high-quality graphic design posters for their physical stores;
- Google Posts were launched allowing business owners to post content directly to their Knowledge Panel;
- Customers can now text directly to local businesses from SERPs;
- The Q&A feature in the Local Knowledge Panel rolled out;
- A mini version of GMB dashboard was launched within the local search results;
- The Google Assistant is now helping users more easily find local service providers;
GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS
NEW USER-CENTRIC FEATURES INTO GOOOGLE ANALYTICS
Google released four new tweaks to its Analytics that enable you to see more detailed user data:
- The standard reports already show the total number of website visitors. To see this metric into your reporting go to the Admin panel then select “Property Settings” and activate “Enable Users In Reporting”. Remember that with user-based segments, you can apply a maximum date range of 90 days to your reports;
- Lifetime metrics and dimensions like number of transactions, total time spent on the website, acquisition date, channels, sources, and campaigns have been added for every user within the “User Explorer” tool;
- You can now create and publish Audiences directly into Analytics reporting, which brings you a cross-channel view of your target groups of customers:
- The new Conversion Probability feature helps you determine the number of users who are most likely to convert during the next 30 days. You need to activate Ecommerce Tracking and have at least 1000 ecommerce transactions per month to see this type of data in your Analytics reports.
RENEWED SEO BEGINNERS’ GUIDE
The new SEO Starter Guide builds up on its previous version and the Webmaster Academy. It covers the following best practices on improving website visibility, crawlability, site structure, mobility, optimizing site content, adding structured data markup, and using specific tools to promote and analyze your website.
IMPROVEMENTS IN FEATURED SNIPPETS AND KNOWLEDGE PANELS
Here is what you need to know about the recently announced changes:
- To help searchers find out more data about the topic of their interest, Feature Snippets might now show more images and related searches:
- When you make several searches related to a given topic in a row, for example different soccer players, Google will show a carousel of related results at the top of the SERPs as a suggestion to continue to explore more about the topic.
GET THE BEST ANSWER FROM THE SERPS
Google is testing a new feature “Answer Cards”, which consist of a carousel of answers with one of them often being labeled as the “Best Answer” just below the top search results. The experiment was spotted for Q&A community sites for web developers, designers, and users with good computer skills like Superuser.com, Stackoverflow.com and Stackexchange.com. According to Glenn Gabe the feature might be related to the “acceptedAnswer” schema markup.
TEST YOUR RICH RESULTS
Google decided to use one term for the way they show structured data embedded in web pages in their result pages, and instead of rich snippets, rich cards, or enriched results they will call the data representation “rich results”.
Together with this announcement the company updated its structured data testing tool for rich results. You can also test with it your website pages for JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa. If a problem is detected, the tool will alert you for the invalid code in the page source. As this is a beta version of the tool, not all rich results and error types are supported. For now you can only test rich results for Recipes, Jobs, Movies and Courses.
ENCHANCED SEARCH ADS
AdWords is once again experimenting with inclusion of ads featuring images in its search result pages (previously testing an image ad banner above the search results and images in search ads’ Sitelink extensions). This time the search ads accompany pictures pulled from the landing page.
IS YOUR WEBSITE READY FOR THE MOBILE-FIRST INDEX?
Over a year ago Google announced that it starts the process of making its index mobile-first, meaning that the search engine will use the mobile version of web pages’ content to rank and respond to users’ search queries. Recently Google provided some additional tips that you can grab and turn into an actionable digital marketing strategy for your local business:
- Include unique, high-quality content (text, visuals and videos) on both desktop and mobile website versions;
- Add the same structured data markup on the mobile pages as the one used for the desktop version. Don’t include structured data that isn’t relevant to the web page’s content;
- Make sure to add and verify the mobile version of your site in the Search Console;
- Google will continue to index the desktop version of your site, so launch your mobile website when it is fully developed, appealing, and performs well on all mobile devices.
UPDATED REVIEW GUIDES
- Posting reviews about your own business or your current or former employer;
- Reviewing in a negative tone a competitor in order to decrease their rankings.
THE MACCABEES UPDATE
Around 12th of December there was a lot of chatter in the search community triggered by ranking changes. Website owners, webmasters and SEO specialists reported on noticeable declines in their organic search traffic. Barry Schwartz also reported on this and called the algo update “The Maccabees update” as it happened during Hanukkah. The majority of the sites that got hit either had landing pages targeting a large group of keyword permutations, or were using doorway pages.
CHRISTMAS PRESENTS FROM GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE
SEO specialists reported that Google is making available 12 months of data in the Performance report in the Google Search Analytics. The data is currently only accessible in the beta version of the Search Console. Together with that there is also a test of an option called “full duration”, that probably will provide users with data as far back as they have.
INDUSTRY SURVEYS AND STUDIES
THE REVIEW SNIPPET STUDY
Brian Barwig had a great post analyzing one of the latest Google Local experiments with showing review snippets in Google Local Finder for local business. He studied what triggers the review snippets. The value of the study lies on the findings that:
- The review snippets are pulled from reviews left on Google;
- The majority of the reviews in the snippets are six and more months old;
- All reviews were in favor of the local businesses.
Although there is no substantial data to confirm what triggers those snippets, for business owners is better to focus on implementing a solid review acquisition strategy.
INTERACT WITH FACEBOOK USERS THROUGH WHATSAPP
Facebook rolled out a new feature enabling advertisers to communicate with customers through the messaging app WhatsApp. This integration aims at encouraging more people to send messages to your business. A button called “Send Message” on the boosted post redirects users to the chat app where they can edit the text of the message and send it to the business.
BE CAREFUL WITH ENGAGEMENT BAIT
Facebook Business Page owners that share posts prompting users to tag, react, comment, vote or share posts with their friends, soon might experience a drop in their organic reach. Facebook announced that they will start demoting such posts due to many users’ complaints about spammy posts on the platform. Instead page admins should publish relevant and high-quality content that do not use engagement bait tactics.
We hope that this summary of local digital marketing and SEO news helped you dive into the new year and motivated you to finally get down to work. If you’ve gained valuable insights from our SEO News Recap share your thoughts with us, and share the post with your friends and colleagues.