SEO News Recap – January 2019

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With the new year now up and running, tech giants like Google, WordPress.com, Amazon and Twitter are launching a bunch of new updates on their products and services that SEOs and business owners can relate to! If you feel you may have missed some of them, we got you covered with our January SEO News Recap. Below you will read about the new Product Menu section within the Google My business dashboard, the rollout of a new publishing platform for local news, the integration of Google Assistant with Google Maps, the new search engine result pages and Search Console features being released in the past weeks by Google, as well the new ways to promote your products online thanks to Google Manufacturer Center’s upgrades and Amazon’s Sample program. Below you will read about all these and many more important updates in detail.

GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS

INCREASE THE VISIBILITY OF YOUR PRODUCTS  

With the launch of the new Products Menu feature within the Google My Business dashboard you are now able to get your product feed in front of as many eyes as possible. The process of listing your products is the same as adding a restaurant/service menu via the GMB dashboard.

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The new feature has its own section, which is named “Products Menu (Beta)” (in comparison the option of adding a restaurant/service menu is available within the “Info” section of the GMB dashboard).

In order to submit a product feed on your GMB profile you need firstly to create a “Product Collection”, for example “Shoes”, “Used Vehicles”, “Best Sellers” and then add the names and images of your products.
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There is also an option to include a detailed product description (up to 1000 characters) as well as a product price.
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The uploaded products appear in the “Products” tab together with your Product Posts. Currently the Products tab is showing on for mobile searches only.

LONG LIVE THE SMALL BUSINESS COMMUNITY FROM GOOGLE

Google officially closed their beta forum website for small business owners. As an experimental project the message board was opened only to small business owners across a limited number of US cities. The forum has been launched aiming to connect local business owners with like-minded goals. It was a place where they could seek and share business-related advices, knowledge, and organize meetups.  However, the project failed to get the desired attention and the number of engaged business owners was unsatisfying.

UPDATED SIGNUP PROCESS FOR SERVICE AREA BUSINESSES

Google made changes to the signup process for businesses that serve customers at their locations, like locksmiths, plumbers and house cleaners, so that they can be easily found on Google Maps and Search. When creating a Google My Business listing for your business, you will be asked whether you want to add a physical address where people can come and do a business with you:
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If you select the no answer, you will be prompted to select your service area:
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Note that you can no longer set or edit your service area as a distance around your business. Instead you can choose specific cities and postal codes.

For already existing locations Google allows you to change your business information from the Google My Business dashboard. You are also able to edit your service areas and a shopfront address separately. There is also an option to remove your service area only after entering your business address.

IN HELP OF LOCAL NEWS OUTLETS

Google is teaming up with WordPress.com in order to roll out a new open-source publishing platform with a focus on local news organizations. The goal of the new tool named Newspack is to help small and medium news publishers solve digital challenges like designing fast-loading websites with easy navigation, configuring content management systems. Thus, they will focus on creating engaging content that local communities will resonate with. Until the official launch of the product (which is expected to be around January 2020), Automattic, the parenting company of WordPress.com, will offer participants to use it free of charge. After the development period, it will cost between $1,000 and $2,000 per month.

Google is also providing a technical support on the integration of their products to the project participants. You can apply to take part in the project during its development by February 1 by answering a few questions in the following application section. It’s worth noting that initially digital news organization whose sites are primarily designed for audio or video content will not be eligible to apply.

GOOGLE MY BUSINESS’ SETTINGS UPDATES

Google removed the option of setting a profile image of your GMB profile.
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Currently you are only able to set a cover photo and a logo for your business listing in order to show your business identity.

GMB UPDATE FOR MULTIPLE LOCATIONS BUSINESSES

Google updated their spreadsheet feature, which is used by bulk users.  From the Locations View page within your Google My Business dashboard, you can download or import locations.

GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

GOOGLE MOVES CLOSER TO THE COMPLETE MIGRATION TO THE NEW SEARCH CONSOLE

Google has revealed some of the updates that we can expect to see by the end of March 2019 as a part of the full migration from the old Search Console to the new one. Here is a summarized list of all of them:

  • The Crawl Errors report for desktop, mobile, and site-wide errors as well as the crawl errors API will be retired;
  • The Sitemaps report will be upgraded with information related to images and videos, and you will be able to use your sitemap files within the Index Coverage report in order to track your URLs submitted in those files;
  • The Fetch as Google report will be turned off and you will need to use the URL inspection tool instead in order to monitor how your published pages look to Google;
  • The ability to manage users, owners and permissions over properties in the Search Console is now accessible from the Settings section;
  • The Structure data report will be replaced by the Rich results status reports. Google is planning to add more status reports in addition to the currently available reports, including Job Posting, Recipe, Event, and Q&A pages;
  • Features like HTML suggestions, Property Sets, Android Apps, and Blocked resources will be removed.

SEARCH CONSOLE URL INSPECTION TOOL PIMP-UPS

Google added a new functionality within the Inspect URL tool allowing you to see the page’s HTTP response, page resources, JavaScript logs and a rendered screenshot for the crawled page.
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You can check the new feature by clicking on the “View Crawled Page” button.

REAL TIME EDITS OF YOUR RICH RESULTS

Google updated their Rich Results Testing tool, designed to help you test whether your pages support rich results like carousels, images, stars, ratings, and images. You are now able to edit the code of your pages within the tool and preview how your corrections will impact the search results in real time.
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Moreover, Google also updated their Rich Results Testing tool documentation with a table of syntax error messages.

RESUME YOUR SEARCHES

To help you with your ongoing searches Google added a new feature on Google Search displaying your previous searches related to the topic:
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The new card consists of a list of recently visited sites together with search terms you’ve typed for those searches. You are also able to save these sites to your Activity Cards.

NEW WAYS TO REPRESENT YOUR PRODUCTS ON GOOGLE

Google Manufacturer Center got upgraded with the following new add-ons:

    • A new section on “Shopping product detail” pages featuring content curated on your website:

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This allows you to highlight product features that differentiate your business from the competition. 

  • Improved Analytics within the platform that show you the top performing product groups, changes in performance, the top search terms for your products, the average price trends, as well as which competitors’ brands and products appear most often with yours;
  • The Manufacturer Center is now available to businesses operating in 24 countries.

GOOGLE ASSISTANT COMES TO GOOGLE MAPS

Google Assistant is now working with Google Maps  for Android and iOS in order to help you navigate in Google Maps. You are now able to share your arrival time to others, reply to text messages, play music and podcasts, search for places along your route by just saying “Hey Google”.

Additionally to the integration of Google Assistant with Google Maps, there were speculations that the recent acquirement of the answer engine Superpod by Google is aiming to improve Google Assistant.

DIRECT ANSWERS IN RELATED SEARCHES  

Featured Snippets that appear on top Google’s organic results were spotted showing in Related Searches on mobile:
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RIP GOOGLE PLUS

Google decided to turn off some of Google+ features prior the final shutdown date of the consumer version of the social network – April 2nd 2019. On February 4th, you will no longer be able to create new profiles, pages, communities and events. Community owners and moderators can download and save data for their Google Plus communities like the posts’ author, text, and photos. Also, in February the Google+ sign-in buttons will stop working on websites and apps and in some cases be replaced by a Google Sign-in button. By March 7th the functionality of using Google+ comments on websites will be deactivated.

INDUSTRY “OUT-OF-THE-BLUE”

NEW FEATURES ON AMAZON TO BOOST YOUR BUSINESS ORDERS

Amazon quietly launched a new program for businesses prompting them to use an alternative method to advertise their products. Businesses that want to take advantage of the paid service will send free samples of their new products to customers. The targeting will be based on customers’ purchase history and the personal information listed on Amazon. The customers, on the other hand, don’t need to purchase or write a review about the product. Also, they will be able to opt-out of receiving samples at any time.

IMPROVED LOCAL SEARCHES ON DUCKDUCKGO

Local and address-related searches on DuckDuckGo on both mobile and desktop devices will now be powered by Apple’s tool MapKit JS. With this update the private search engine is aiming to improve the search engine results for addresses, local businesses and geographical places by providing better satellite photos and more visual features.
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When you conduct a search for a nearby place, a map together with local places shows up within the search results. The map can be expanded and when selecting a given location on the sidebar, a panel with more details, for example contact information, menu list and customer reviews, shows up. The guys from DuckDuckGo reassure that they won’t collect or share your personal information to third-party companies and that the received information about your approximate location from your browser is immediately deleted right after you’re done the search.

SOCIAL MEDIA

TWITTER’S ANALYTICS IMPROVEMENTS

During CES 2019 Twitter announced the upcoming launch of a set of new analytic tools in order to help advertisers better understand how customers are engaging with their content on the social network. Advertisers will get insights regarding who’s reading and engaging with their content, when their content is being viewed, and which is the top performing content. Keith Coleman, Twitter’s Vice President of Product, also stated that are planning to release a dashboard for up-coming events and a set of new tweet features, for example the ability to tag the Twitter handle of an event, colored replies, algorithmically sorted replies, and removal of engagement buttons.:
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The event-related dashboard will be designed to help businesses create an effective event communication strategy in advance in terms of content marketing and advertising.