SEO News Recap – January 2017

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Hi guys, in our January SEO news recap we will discuss the latest Google My Business features tweaks, the recent changes to the local Knowledge Panels, and the highlights of some of the most prominent AdWords and social media updates. Let’s get started!

GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS

LOCATION INSIGHTS IN THE GOOGLE MY BUSINESS API

Google released a new update to the GMB API, allowing third-party application developers and multiple location businesses to access up to 18 months of multi-location data. The location insights include the following metrics:

  • total number of direct business name/address searches
  • total number of searches of a category, product, or service offered by a given business that triggered a business listing
  • total number of user views on Google Maps and Google Search
  • total number of click requests for driving directions to a business
  • the top 10 places from which customers request driving directions to a business location
  • phone calls
  • website visits

With this update, Google is providing multi-local businesses a way to better track and understand how and where customers find their different locations and to improve their marketing activities for each business location.

NEW LOOK FOR LOCAL SHOPPING ADS

Google was spotted testing a new layout of its local inventory ads, which showcases products for local-related search queries. Together with an image of the product, the local shopping ads display information such as price, ratings, and the “Store Pickup”-option. When the new layout rolls out officially, it will be even more difficult for local businesses to attract customer attention and website traffic in organic manner because of the over-saturation of the area above the fold with ads and the concealing of organic search results.

LOCATION-SPECIFIC PHONE NUMBERS IN LOCAL ADS

Google announced to start displaying location-specific phone numbers when location extensions appear in text ads. Even if local advertisers are using different ad-specific phone numbers to track calls as conversions Google might alter call extensions numbers with local retail numbers. Multiple location businesses that don’t want to lose conversion tracking data can use the Google My Business setting for AdWords location extensions phones. AdWords will use the given toll-free or call center number instead of the provided local phone number for Google Maps and thus you’d be able to track your ad conversions.

NEW FEATURES IN THE LOCAL KNOWLEDGE PANEL

In January Google has revamped its local knowledge panel, adding lots of features including:

  • Feedback buttons named “Help improve accuracy” were added to some local knowledge panels prompting searchers to update the data, e.g. NAP information, photos, marker location, and “People also search for” options. You should not worry because Google explained that these refinements wouldn’t directly impact the ranking results.

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    • Mobile users can now monitor room rates with the new price graph feature added to hotel Knowledge Panels. Those of you looking for good deals can now easily compare prices between dates and take advantage of the cheapest rates offered by the hotels.
    • Google is testing a new add-on to the mobile version of restaurant Knowledge Panels to improve search experience and to make users stay longer on SERPs. The new feature provides easy access to restaurants’ menus. When you click on the “Menu” button, you will be redirected to a Google hosted page with detailed information about the list of ingredients and prices of the menu entries.

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    • A new “Happy Hours” section is now available to some bar/restaurant Knowledge Panels. Google pulls the information out of the given venue’s website and for now it can’t be directly edited from the Google My Business dashboard. For now bar and restaurant owners can markup both regular and special hours on their official website via Schema to ensure that the information Google shows about their business is accurate and up-to-date

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FREE MOBILE-FRIENDLY WEBSITES FOR SMBS

Google is testing a new website creation tool within the Google My Business platform. For now it is only available for small businesses in India and Australia. The new Google product targets local business owners that don’t have the time, necessary skills and resources to invest and manage a full blown company website. Thanks to the new Google web builder the SMBs can build a single-page website with basic information and features including business description, contact information, images, and an embedded Google Map. Users that already have websites but want to build additional ones with the new tool have two options to choose from when considering their single-page website address:

  • To replace the old website with the one created on Google. In this case, business owners will need to make changes with their hosting provider to complete the switch.
  • To publish the new one without replacing the existing website, which will still appear on Search and Maps as the primary site for the local listings. The new website will have the following name: http://business.google.com/website/your-business-name/

GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

THE PENALIZATION OF MOBILE INTRUSIVE INTERSTITIALS

The mobile popup algo has officially rolled out. Since January 10, mobile pages, whose content is not easily accessible by online users, are going to be demoted in the search results. According to Google’s guidelines the following on-site ads are considered harmful to the positive user experience and website owners are advised to avoid using:

  • Popups that cover the main content, either immediately after users land on the website from the search results, or a bit later, while they are skimming through the content of the given page.
  • Pop-up boxes that website visitors need to close before accessing the main content.
  • Standalone banners copying the layout of the above-the-fold portion of the page.

However, there are still acceptable interstitials including those that appear due to a legal obligation, for example for cookie usage or age verification, easily dismissed banners that do not take precedence over the main page content, and login dialogs on sites that require personal data and other unindexable content.

EVALUATE THE MOBILE-FRIENDLINESS OF WEB PAGES VIA API

Google released a trial version of an API for automated testing of web pages to help webmasters check whether their web pages work well on mobile devices. The report assesses the performance of a website on mobile devices and lists the major problems found, including small font sizes, implementation of Flash-based programs that perform poorly on mobile devices, and instances of blocking Googlebot from accessing on-site resources, which could affect both the mobile usability and Google’s ability to index the web pages. The report also provides concrete recommendations on how to improve the overall website performance.

THE LINK SEARCH OPERATOR REMOVED

Google’s webmaster trends analyst, John Mueller, recommends not using the link operator “link:www.domain.com” anymore because the results won’t be entirely accurate. Instead, webmasters should rely on the link report which is available in the Google Search Console.

RECENT GOOGLE ADWORDS CHANGES

Some of the latest Google AdWords updates worth paying attention to are:

  • Starting from January 31, you will no longer be able to create and edit standard text ads. You will be allowed only to add or update text ads using the expanded text ads format. Although you’ll be still able to pause and resume standard text ads after January 31, Google recommends making the necessary ads adjustments as soon as possible.
  • After February 6 mobile search ads will be complemented by call extensions automatically created by Google AdWords. Google will retrieve the phone numbers from the ads’ landing pages. If advertisers don’t want to receive phone calls from their mobile ads, they will be able to opt out of this feature by unchecking the option for the automatic call extension creation within the Automatic extensions report.
  • Advertisers can now create and share lists with negative keywords across different accounts that are linked to the manager account (formerly My Client Center). The lists can be added to the “Shared Library” tab.

INNOVATIONS

NEW TRIPADVISOR’S SUBSCRIPTION PRODUCTS FOR RESTAURANTS AND HOTELS

TripAdvisor added special features for its hotel (“TripAdvisor Business Advantage”) and restaurant “TripAdvisor Premium for Restaurants” subscription programs. The subscribers will have access to specific tools that will help them attract and engage potential clients. Among the features you’d notice are:

  • Favorite Reviews pinned at the top of the hotel’ or restaurant’s TripAdvisor page
  • Photo tools including Favorite Photos, Cover images of every album, and a Slideshow of all hotel’s photos
  • Promotional Features for hotels such as Customized special offers and Mobile Click-to-Call function for one-click calling from mobile devices
  • Analytics Suite that provides actionable data insights about business performance, competitors, and customers
  • Priority live phone support will complement the email support provided to restaurant subscribers
  • A tool enabling premium restaurants subscribers to mix photos and reviews into a storyboard

SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK’S CREATIVE HUB AVAILABLE TO ALL ADVERTISERS

Since the launch of Facebook’s Creative Hub in June 2016, it has been tested by creative agencies only. Finally, the platform is now officially accessible to all advertisers. Creative Hub enables advertisers to create different ad formats for mobile, to preview their work and share it with team members and stakeholders. Facebook also provides an inspiration gallery featuring case studies with brands using the various ad formats available, e.g. Carousels, Canvas, and 360 videos.

MID-ROLL ADS IN FACEBOOK VIDEOS

Recode was first to report that Facebook will start testing mid-roll ad breaks on videos published on its platform. Like YouTube’s topics targeting method, advertisers will be able to place their ads on videos of specific content categories. The ads in Facebook videos will appear at least 20 seconds after the beginning of the video. In order to encourage video creators to upload longer and more engaging videos, Facebook will give them 55% of the ad revenue. However, there is still no official confirmation from about the launch date.

POP-UP ADS AND INSIGHTS IN INSTAGRAM’S STORIES

Instagram announced that it would start showing ads in its live videos. Advertisers will be able to use different audience targeting methods including location, demographics, and interests. Along with that businesses will have access to consumer engagement insights including reach, impressions, replies and exits for each story. The add-ons are currently experimental and are limited to 30 companies including Maybelline New York, Nike, Netflix, and Qantas.

We hope you enjoyed this month’s SEO news recap. Did you read anything new on digital marketing that you think we should add to the news recap? Share your thoughts and comments in the box below.