SEO News Recap – July 2016

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Hey, friends! This month we will discuss the local search upgrades, especially the ad revolution in local, now that local ads are the new black. Are you ready to dive in? OK, let’s start with:

GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS

LOCAL SEARCH REVOLUTION FOR THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY

The mobile traffic to travel sites is a huge fraction of all travel searches on Google (approximately 40%). In order to engage the active online users in the given niche, Google has decided to pamper them with the following goodies:

  • Filters for conducting hotel search by price and ratings;
  • More specific keyword taxonomy allowing for specific hotel features queries like “pet-friendly hotels in …,” “hotels under … in …,” etc.
  • Airline price tracking options facilitated by Gmail alerts and Google Now notifications for sudden price fluctuations.

STORES AND VENUES: ‘BUSY TIMES’ FEATURE ON STEROIDS

Your time is precious and you wish to avoid the nerve-wracking queues at the local store or to go around the waiting line at the newly opened nearby restaurant? Well, Google have it all covered. They have boosted their currently live ‘busy times’ feature and have finally eliminated the need to call the store or venue and check for current availability. You now only need to Google the store/venue of your choice and the search results will promptly show you how long you’d have to wait to be served.

BROWSING LOCAL STORE INVENTORY DIRECTLY ON GOOGLE

Who says that you need a website in order to engage and sell to online users? If managing a company website has been the mainstream online marketing strategy so far, Google surely tries to debunk it.

Their new way to monetize local store search focuses on the so-called local inventory ads. The latest local ad format could be seen in Google Knowledge panel and Google Maps under the “search items at this store” link. Going down the rabbit whole by clicking on the given link will not take you to the official website of the local store, as you may imagine. No, the idea is to stay as longer as possible on Google’s soil. You’re being redirected to a Google-powered landing page where you can browse around the products of the given local provider. You can even narrow down your search with relevant to the given store’s inventory filters,  just like you would do on their own website.

Selecting a specific product from the local store’s inventory will again show you detailed info about it without letting you navigate away from Google.  So far only the “Shop Online” button at the end of the conversion funnel will allow the online user to end up on the store’s website, but I wonder how long before Google figures out how to cover this step of the sales process as well.

Google monopolizing the local business info online and monetizing its most profitable niche: the local search are two of the major modern concerns of both SEOs and SMBs. As Mary Bowling shares in one of her latest discussions with Mike Blumenthal at the LocalU: “Y”ou know, I think that we truly are approaching a total paid Local Pack.”

GOOGLE ADS PIMPED UP WITH PRICING EXTENSIONS

Mobile users can already view pricing intel about products and services offered by the business ranking as a top advertiser in Google search. In order to have your business price extensions going you have to comply with the minimum number requirement for price extensions: you’d have to set at least 3 price extensions and a maximum of 8.

TESTING NEW VERIFICATION METHODS FOR GMB

There’s been a long while since Google has been accused of negligence as it comes to the booming Google Maps spam.  One of the reasons for this particular ‘bug’ in their product has been appointed to be the poor verification methods used to establish the legitimacy of a particular local business.  Finally, it seems that Google are making a step forward in that direction and are testing two new verification methods for Google My Business listings:

  • An email-based verification method: which will require you to use your official company email;
  • A video verification method: which entitles a video call with a Googler that you’d need to conduct either from the company office or from the vehicle you use to do your business with (if you are a service provider and you serve your customers at their location).

You’d either need to show the Googler around your office, allowing him to take a peek at the public space premises, or under the second verification method, you’d need to show him your vehicle’s license plate and your company logo that you’ve branded your car with.

KNOWLEDGE PANEL IMAGE CHAOS

It seems that your improvised business card in local search: your business Knowledge panel, often tends to borrow images for its feed from Google’s Image Search rather than from your business GMB listing. The worrying issue here is that having control over your GMB listing images is easy, but monitoring and managing the image database at the Image Search is rather impossible. As a business owner you have poor control over what Google decides to show as a visual representation of your business. Your current options are limited to hoping that Google get it right when it accumulates the data for your business and that they don’t show irrelevant images like, let’s say, those of your competitors’ in your Knowledge panel.

GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

EXPANDED TEXT ADS TO SUBSTITUTE STANDARD TEXT ADS

October 26 this year will mark the doom of the text ads as we know them. Their new version offers 50% more text space in the following format: 2 headlines, 30 characters each, and 1 long 80-character description. Pushing the organic results down the line, the new expanded text ads are mobile-friendly and allow for bid settings based on device.

GOOGLE HIDES SEARCH RESULTS COUNT

This month’s rumors of the local map search results getting fewer and more radius-sensitive are surprisingly complemented by a Google test to eliminate the total search results count per specific search query. The two distinct observations could have more in common than initially have been given credit for.  A possible explanation for the removed search results count could be that it is a sign of a fine attempt to conceal the sudden drop in total search results offered per search query. As we’ve discussed in our February SEO News Recap Google have already tested the removal of organic results for certain music and movie-related queries. Maybe they are about to spread the organic results contraction to more search verticals.

EARTHQUAKES?! – GOOGLE WILL SHOW YOU WHERE TO HIDE

After last month’s introduction of Google’s GP services, Google is now ready not only to diagnose your illness, but to advise you on how to react in case of emergency like an upcoming earthquake. The direct answer to your frenzy search: “earthquake near me” will contain info on where to hide, how to stock up with provisions and other safety information. It will again outrun the standard organic results and will remind of a real-life conversation between you and the search engine.

INNOVATIONS

SHOW ME A PICTURE OF YOURSELF AND I’LL TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE

Google Maps allows for various ingenious ways to use location data, one of which lays the foundation of the Visipedia project. The scientist behind the project, Professor Perona, has developed a special algorithm via which he could interpret digital images.  His final goal is to be able to assess the species of a given bird, tree, reptile and even a mushroom simply by loading an image of the given subject into his software.

Another fascinating application of Google Street View could be found in the “Where Am I” project of the University of Central Florida.  Its core purpose is to process an image taken with a mobile phone camera so as to detect the exact GPS coordinates of the exact location that it has been taken at.

FACEBOOK’S PROJECT AQUILA TO COPY GOOGLE LOON

Facebook’s solar-powered drone Aquila is designed to bring Internet to the remote areas that are currently not connected to the Web. Aquila is surprisingly similar to Google Loon’s project. And while Google’s Internet aircraft reminds of a light balloon, Facebook’s alternative is a more trendy solution:  around   1,000 pounds, solar-powered, boomerang-shaped drone with the wingspan of a Boeing 737. Only the time will show which of the two approaches will prove to be the most efficient and sturdy solution to world’s ‘Internet starvation’ problem.

BILLBOARD ADS GOING ALL DIGITAL

Why stop with Google ads when you could already live broadcast on parking and highway billboards? The latest marketing whim allows for close targeting of passing-by cars and rendering interest-based ads to their drivers. Image recognition, speed detection, connection to a public database to assess the owner of the car’s license plate – those are all factors taken into account in the innovative advertising process, which help fine-tuning the clients’ targeting. As much as these billboard ads are ingenious and original marketing tricks, I’d be surprised if they don’t raise some sensitive privacy issues in the long run.

GOOGLE IS NOT THE SOLE LOCAL SEARCH ENGINE

There is a new kid on the block called yellCast. As per its own introduction, the young Google rival plans to offer “a faster, more efficient and less costly way to connect.” Many were fascinated when Google’s competitor DuckDuckGo appeared on the horizon a few years back. YellCast, just as DuckDuckGo, accents on its no-tracking policy, no targeting and no actual use of personal data of its users (a major differentiation from Google’s service).

An interesting intel about the new local search engine is that is “designed by internet veterans who developed some of the original search platforms that preceded Google in the 1990s.” It promises focus on local businesses instead of national companies and deems SEO and CPC campaigns obsolete once the business gets listed on the platform.

INTERVIEWS

GARY ILLYES ON RANKBRAIN, HUMAN SEARCH, AND TRANSPERANCY

Recently there’s been a lot of interviews posted with Google’s public figure Gary Illyes, but this particular one covers some interesting insights concerning:

  • Rankbrain – Gary shares that their AI is particularly good at getting negative queries right;
  • Human vs bots search traffic – on Google he gives an estimate of 30% to 70% human to bots traffic and that applies both to mobile and desktop search. In order to minimize bots’ activity on Google Gary admits that they sometimes mess with their search results in order to fool with the overly-aggressive scraping bots;
  • Transparency – as much as it is a good idea, being transperant is often hard for Google if they are to protect their know-how and daily operations. As failed transperancy campaign, Illys lists the PageRank metric that once Google made public. In his opinion being 100% transparent about this part of the core ranking algorithm was the reason why the Google spamming started in the first place.

 

Have you had your fair share of Search News? We hope you’ve enriched your knowledge base and yet you’re still hungry for more. Keep checking our blog for more local news and useful ranking strategies, because we have a lot of interesting stories cooking for you!