SEO News Recap – February 2019

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Hi there SEO fans and small business owners! In February Google and Facebook rolled out a fresh stream of new features that you should take into consideration in terms of developing your SEO and social media campaigns and improving your business’ online visibility. The most notable upgrades that can potentially affect the way customers can find and engage with you online include the highlight of Google Posts within the Local Finder, the rollout of a new section in the free websites for local businesses by Google, as well the small Google My Business tweaks that can make big changes to your restaurant and hotel business. E-commerce website owners can also leverage the new features on Google Search Console and Google Merchant Center for maximum product visibility. There are several other Google and Facebook updates to note, and all are discussed below so keep on reading.

GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS

A GOOGLE MY BUSINESS TWEAK FOR HOTELIERS

Hotel managers are now able to add the check-in and check-out times to their Google My Business listings. Thus, you will help your future guests know when their desired room is ready to be occupied and when they need to leave it before booking a stay at your hotel. You can update your information by entering the check-in/check-out times within the Info tab of your GMB dashboard.

LOCAL FINDER UPDATES

Google is testing a revamped version of the Local Finder by showing snippets of Google Posts.

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A post preview with a “!” icon is displayed. The preview text also features bolded terms relevant to the search query.

CLARIFICATION ON THE USE OF VIRTUAL OFFICES

Google silently updated their Google My Business guidelines. The update addresses how Google interprets renting virtual offices at a different address from your primary business. The tactic is commonly used by business owners in order to rank better on Google Maps for a given location. However, Google now clearly states that this is against their guidelines unless the office is staffed during your normal business hours by your own team:

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GOOGLE MY BUSINESS WEBSITES REVAMPS

Google started displaying a new “Testimonials” section within the Google My Business websites.

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The customer testimonials are pulled by Google from Google reviews. The new section also features two Call-To-Action buttons encouraging website visitors to read additional feedback from current clients as well as to leave a review regarding their experience with the business.

IMPROVEMENTS ON RESTAURANT SEARCH RESULTS

A new Call-To-Action button “Join Waitlist” shows up within some restaurants’ Knowledge Panels. It prompts customers to get in line online for a table before arriving at the restaurant:

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As you click on the button, a window with approximate wait time and an option to select the number of seats opens. Then you are prompted to proceed to completing the booking. The button appears in replacement of the “Reserve with Google” button and is currently available only to restaurants which have a DineTime account.

Google also experimented with a new functionality entitled “Find a Table” which lets customers filter restaurant listings and view only restaurants with activated “Reserve with Google” feature.

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On mobile after clicking on the “Find a table” tab additional filters open including “Party Size”, “Date” and “Time Sector”.

IMPROVE YOUR RESPONSE RATE ON GOOGLE MAPS

For those of you preferring to control your online reputation on Google via the desktop view, we have good news for you. You are now able to respond directly to Google Maps customer reviews with your business profile without opening the mobile app.

ATTRACT THE ATTENTION OF iOS USERS

iOS users are now able to follow your local business on Google Maps. The functionality was initially available only on Android devices starting October 2018. The “Follow” feature encourages customers to stay up to date with your latest business promotions, news and events.

NEW WAY TO REPORT SPAM ON GOOGLE MAPS

Google launched a new method for reporting offenders that are spamming your business on Google Maps. As the Spam thread on Google’s advertiser community will be closed, this form will be your go-to way to report any type of Google My Business violation that relates to the name, address, phone number, or the website of a business. Joy Hawkins shared some additional information on the Local Search Forum, that you should take into consideration:

  • After submitting the form you will be notified, however since you don’t manage the reported business, you won’t receive updates on what happened;
  • If you want to report many businesses at once, there is an option to use a spreadsheet upload;
  • You can report a business without notifying the business in question by using ‘N/A’ in the necessary fields;
  • For now you are not able to use the form to report fake reviews. You should contact Google’s social support on Twitter or Facebook.

GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

SEARCH CONSOLE ENHANCEMENTS

Here are the fresh new updates to Google Search Console:

  • A new feature for websites with product markup is now available within the “Enhancements” section of GSC’ toolbar. The report helps you understand how your markup is performing and fix the issues by showing valid markup, URL warnings and errors.
  • On April 10, 2019, Google Search Console will start assigning search metrics to the (Google-selected) canonical URL, rather than the URL referred to Google Search in order to unify your data. This means that using UTM parameters in your digital marketing campaigns to split up your website traffic between different sources in Search Console won’t be available anymore.
  • Google Search Console team started sending email notifications that soon you will be able to communicate in Google Search that you have available job listings for remote workers via a specific markup. The markup can be found under the jobLocation section of Schema. You should use the “TELECOMMUTE” type for fully remote positions. It’s also recommended to use at least one country from which applicants are eligible to work within the “applicantLocationRequirements” field. Otherwise, Google will imply that the position is available to everyone in the same country as the “jobLocation” value.

GREATER VISIBILITY FOR YOUR PRODUCTS ON GOOGLE  

In addition to the above mentioned new “Products” report in GSC, Google announced that retailers are now able to add up-to-date product information in real-time on Google Search and Google Images via the Google Merchant Center. The new functionality will be initially available to merchants in the US and they won’t be required to pay for it. The product information will show up in search results based only on relevance to customers’ searches.

GOING MORE PRIVATE FOR IMAGE SEARCHES

Google was spotted showing a new feature in the mobile version of Image Search. The feature is private and is triggered when you are browsing similar images:

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NEW INTERFACE FOR REPRESENTING VIDEOS IN SEARCH

Google started testing a new grid format for showing videos in mobile search. The new interface usually displays 4-pack video results in place of the replacement of the previously used carousel format.

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Users also reported seeing up to 10-pack video results if the words “videos” or “clips” are included in the search query.

IMPROVE YOUR SITE SPEED ON MOBILE

Google rolled out a new tool in order to help you quickly understand how your website is performing in terms of speed with a focus on mobile devices. The tool generated a report with custom recommended fixes. You can also compare your site speed with your competitors, and see if that’s a ranking factor that you’re dragging behind on. Additionally, you can use a calculator for site speed revenue impact. You just need to input the following information – average monthly visitors, average order value, conversion rate and your mobile page speed.

NAVIGATE TO SPECIFIC CONTENT ON WEB

Google is testing a new feature named “Scroll to Text” within Chrome 74 which launch is scheduled around the end of April. It allows you to create and share a link to a specific word or phrase on a web page and enables you to flag that specific word in a URL’s fragment. “Scroll to Text” seems similar to the option to link to a specific time of a YouTube video. By using this feature, you instruct Chrome to find and display the first example of the text content in the web page.

INDUSTRY SURVEYS AND STUDIES

THE LATEST LOCAL SEARCH INDUSTRY SURVEY

The guys from BrightLocal released their latest Local Search Industry Survey. They polled 650 local marketers divided into two groups – freelancers and in-house marketers representing local, regional, and national marketing companies, and SEO agencies. The survey covered the following topics: business size and turnover, number of clients, salaries, cost of services, and future outlooks.

According to the survey:

  • 18% of participants claimed their agencies experienced over $ 1 million in revenue turnover;
  • Freelance and agency SEOs bill their clients an average of $119 per hour;
  • Website design was the most requested service by clients (47%), followed by on-site optimization (42%), and SEO audits and analysis (35%);
  • Reporting, on-site optimization, competitor research, and GMB optimization were the most done tasks. Influencer marketing was the less performed task;
  • SEO’s claimed they prefer data-driven tasks including on-site optimization, SEO audits, and GMB optimization.
  • Word of mouth marketing was stated as the most effective way for getting new clients, followed by SEO.

SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK’S BIG CHANGES FOR BUSINESS OWNERS

There are three changes coming to Facebook for businesses aiming to improve businesses’ following, customer service on social media, as well the organic and paid reach of business pages:

    • Business pages, by default, will be able to join Facebook groups and page admins can pose as their pages within groups. While being rolled out as default, Facebook group admins can turn this off by editing the group settings and restricting Pages from sending requests to join as group members:

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Note that the setting is still rolling out and is available to a limited number of group admins.

    • You will be able to manage customer messages sent through Instagram directly from your Facebook Page Inbox through the Pages Manager app. Initially, business page owners only in Brazil and the US will be able to utilize the new feature.
    • Starting September 2019, you will no longer be able to control your Facebook ad budgets at the ad set level:

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Facebook will distribute automatically your overall budget between ad sets in way that they believe will be most optimal in order to get the best results.

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You will still be able to control your ad set spending by setting spending limits for each ad set though it’s not recommended by Facebook.  

Thanks for reading our February news digest that covers the latest Google and social media developments. Staying up-to-date with those new features is important as they are going to impact you as a SEO pro, website developer, business owner, or marketer. Stay tuned as we’ll keep updating you with such informative and interesting news in future.