SEO News Recap – February 2016

Weekly_News_Image_02_send

Hi guys, here’s the February edition of our SEO News Recap. And even if the month has been rather short, there are many interesting news from the digital marketing world that we can’t wait to share with you! So let’s cut to the case:

GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS

EXPLORING DISNEY PARKS WITH GOOGLE STREET VIEW

After opening more than 40 national parks for online exploration via Google’s Street Map View, Google’s already set their ‘eyes’ on amusement parks. A suspected partnership between Google and Disney would give all those thrill rides aficionados the opportunity to take a peek of the in-house attractions and venues.

Watch out on your next visit to the nearby Disney funfair for a Google employee with a camera on his back – you might just as well manage to photobomb a Street View shot and pin your face on the Disney’s Map!

google-cam-on-the-back

LIVE EDITS OF THE KNOWLEDGE GRAPH ARE ON

After dumping Freebase, Google has found a more user-friendly method to keep their Knowledge Graph info up-to-date. Online users are now allowed to make live edits to the KG on topics they are considered ‘authorities’ by the search engine.

Often if you are the owner of a business, listed in the KG, and you are signed in with the designated Google account, you’d meet the criteria for an ‘official representative’ and you’d see a button, saying: ‘SUGGEST A CHANGE’. Google will review your edit and notify you by email whether your input will be published or not.

NEW VERIFICATION METHOD AVAILABLE FOR GOOGLE LOCAL PAGES

Google’s Trusted Verifier Program is an invitation-only VIP club. The treat is that if you become a member you’ll be able to verify a business in Google My Business much easier as compared to the 3 currently available verification alternatives: by postcard, phone, or Google Search Console.

Invited members are asked to download The Trusted Verifier app and go through a seamless verification process with the given listing owner.

GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

GOOGLE’S TOP PAGE ADS GROW FROM 3 TO 4

Google search results are being massively monetized above the fold. With already 4 ads to welcome the online users, Google is making it even harder for organic results to emerge from the corner they’ve been put.

The 4th ad is said to substitute the sidebar Google ads that used to be seen on the right-hand side of the search results. To add to the treat the ad listings are upgraded with an arsenal of tempting-to-click features like: “call-out extensions, sitelink extensions, location extensions and so on,” making them look more native and luring the online users to click on them instead of looking for a more natural search result. As Larry Kim from WordStream comments: “Paid position #4 is the new organic position #1.”

JIGSAW BECOMES GOOGLE’S POLITICAL TRIBUNE

Google Ideas, just recently rebranded to the Jigsaw project, are about to “tackle the toughest geopolitical challenges, from countering violent extremism to thwarting online censorship”. The team will have the heavy task to also “counter money laundering, organized crime, police brutality, human trafficking, and terrorism… digital attacks … hate and harassment online and to expand access to information for the world’s most vulnerable populations”.

Interesting enough Google’s Jigsaw blog is housed on the Medium content platform not on a Google’s property’s site (where the official page of the project is currently hosted).

THE RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN APPLIED ON INTERNATIONAL LEVEL

Finally, Google is to remove content from google.com. That is regardless of which European country the removal request originally came from. Google is finally to apply a global clean-up of its search results for the search terms filed in the request.

GOOGLE WINS A CASE ON “ABUSE OF COMPETITION”

The antitrust lawsuit against Google was filed by the UK-based company called Streetmap. Streetmap were trying to condemn Google’s common practice to prioritize their own map results in the search results, openly accusing Google of stealing off traffic and revenue from its competitors in the online mapping business.

After the designated Justice ruled that Google’s conduct was “objectively justified” it makes us wonder if similar allegations against Google will be ruled out just as easily. European Union has already tied Google’s name and the term “misuse of a dominant position” to characterize their search results for sectors like shopping and travel. The interesting thing is whether this accusation will stand up in court.

MANUAL ACTIONS TRIGGERED BY IMPROPER STRUCTURED MARKUP USAGE

When you hear of Google Manual Actions, the first thing that comes to mind is Links, right? Well, it seems that lately webmasters have started to heavily abuse the on-site structured markup just as well.

As a result Google employees are now enforcing a number of manual actions under the “Spammy Structured Markup” clause. The penalty causes temporary disappearance of all rich snippets of a given site in Google results.

Of course, the abuse might be involuntary and caused by the automated work of some WordPress plugins like: WP-Ultimate Recipe, Ziplist, Yummly, EyRecipe Plus. Those are mainly food recipe-related plugins that insert schema.org ratings mark-up in the code of a given page. The problem is that this info is only visible to the site crawlers (for instance Google’s bot) and is invisible to the ordinary site visitors. This double standard has been continuously condemned by Google and it is no surprise that similar practice is being penalized via a ‘new’ Manual Action.

GOOGLE’S CREATING ITS OWN PINTEREST PLATFORM?

Google has a history of ‘borrowing’ popular business ideas and trying to incorporate them into its platform. Among those is the not so successful attempt to develop a social network (G+), the relatively new live-streaming game platform (YouTube Gaming) that copies the Twitch model, and the brand new addition: a favorite picture saving platform that bears a great resemblance to Pinterest. Liking, or starring images, organizing them in folders – it is all there. The feature is currently available only for US mobile users.

GOOGLE RELEASES SEARCHES STRIPPED FROM ORGANIC RESULTS

Google’s searches for musicians, actors, TV shows and movies are getting a total makeover on mobile. The example posted on Google’s official blog is pretty unambiguous:

When you search for a singer the search result page loads the following info: a Wikipedia excerpt giving you some trivia on the person, then you get icon links to YouTube, Spotify and other free online players, followed by hot sections like: Events, showing the upcoming concerts of the singer; Songs; Albums and a related search: “People also searched for” (other singers Google finds relevant to show you).

Good luck to all other melomaniacs who have devoted a blog to their favorite celebrity and are hoping to rank in Google and get some readership. That ship has long sailed.

google-serps-without-organic-results

INDUSTRY STUDIES AND SURVEYS

KEYWORDS TRIGGERING ‘NEAR ME’ AUTOCOMPLETE IN GOOGLE

The study by SimPartners shows some really interesting insights. ‘Near Me’ has been a phrase often used by mobile users when conducting local searches. For user’s ease Google is now auto-completing search queries that it considers to have local intent.

And here comes the value of the study: you get to compare for the same set of keywords which ones trigger the ‘near me’ autocomplete on desktop only, mobile only, or on both.

EXACT MATCH ANCHOR TEXT STILL BOOSTS RANKINGS

This important study conducted by the link monitoring tool Ahrefs shows that even if Google is strongly advising against allowing exact match anchor text for your inbound links, its impact on rankings still remains indisputably strong. The study uses 16,000 keywords and analyses the top 20 sites ranking for each of those kws in Google. The main takeaways from the study are:

  • The greater the number of domains linking to a site – the higher the site’s rankings are;
  • The greater the exact match anchor text % of a site’s inbound link profile, again, the higher the rankings of the given site.

FOLLOWING GOOGLE GUIDELINES IS BAD FOR RANKINGS

The guys from LocalSEOGuide have run a curious experiment to test whether Google’s guidelines are designed with the local businesses’ well-being in mind or are simply a way to help out Google’s bots making sense of the info on the web.

The focus of this test is an excerpt of the well-known Google My Business guidelines. It explicitly advises to: “Choose the fewest number of categories it takes to describe your overall core business.” Based on that premise the LocalSEOGuide decides to strip a given business from the numerous business categories it is currently associated with, leaving a single most relevant category to describe the business. Need I tell you that the results from this experiment are quite frustrating?

THE SEO AGENCIES IN 2016

For a second year in a row HubShout releases an industry survey that tends to analyze small to mid-size digital marketing agencies. There are some interesting insights on expected industry spend in 2016, top services to be ordered, future challenges, outsourcing opportunities & demand and so on. Some of the more intriguing stats include:

  • 67% of agencies outsourced SEO to a white label SEO provider.
  • 74% of agencies expect their clients’ marketing budgets to increase in 2016; 17% expect a significant increase.
  • 51% expect Content Marketing to be one of the top three in-demand services in 2016.

stats-seo-industry-2016
SMBS IN 2016: CURRENT DEMAND AND OPINION OF DIGITAL MARKETING SERVICES

The latest Marketing Report conducted by InfusionSoft and LeadPages sheds some light on the general predispositions of SMBs towards investing in Digital Marketing. Some of the highlights reveal that:

  • This year SMBs’ top goal is ‘driving sales’;
  • SMBs are willing to allocate bigger budgets for their websites and digital advertising strategies involving social medias as marketing channels;
  • The majority of participants in the survey are unable to conclude whether their marketing efforts have been effective.

INNOVATIONS

AMAZON ALREADY OFFERING RESTAURANT DELIVERY

Amazon’s Prime Now service gets a fine tuning with a 1-hour restaurant delivery for its San Diego sign-ups. This local experiment has already attracted more than 90 restaurants with more venues waiting to be added to the list. Currently the $20 order minimum is the only prerequisite for taking advantage of the new service. Customers are even exempt from delivery surcharge fees, which are usually accrued with the Prime Now one-hour delivery process.

YEXT ADDS GOOGLE TO ITS POWERLISTINGS NETWORK

Yext customers already have a direct access to their business listings across Google Search, Maps and ads. The update has rolled worldwide. More details read at Yext’s official blog

INTERVIEWS

LOCAL DATA: TIPS FROM 10 EXPERTS

David Mihm, Mike Blumenthal, Neurostar Localeze, Infogroup, and Factual reps are giving their five cents on the online Local Data trends and preservation techniques. 

WHEN WORK MEETS PLEASURE

GETTING COLD CALLS FROM ‘GOOGLE’

Many SEO agencies are pushing it when cold calling to their list of prospects and often represent themselves as Google employees for better credibility. This ‘misuse of trust’ is actually one of the major reasons why many business owners are reluctant to receive calls from unknown SEO service providers. The following phone prank actually illustrates how a ‘business owner’ handles an SEO sales rep, who’s offering him to list his business “on the front page of Google, Yahoo and Bing.”

CONFERENCES/EVENTS

February was marked by the distinct Local SEO conference organized by MOZ and the Local U. You can read our full event recap of MOZCon Local 2016 and let us brief you on the great slide decks of local pros like Mary Bowling, Mike Ramsey, Darren Shaw, Lindsay Wassell, Cori Shirk, Rand Fishkin and many more.

That will be all folks, stay tuned for our March edition, you know you won’t miss an industry trend or news thanks to our comprehensive monthly news recap :)