Hi guys, the time has come for our March SEO news recap! Аs usual we will cover the hottest topics in the SEO and local marketing field, including the latest Google My Business updates, local pack experiments, and recent Google product launches. We will also share the most interesting highlights from the SMX West and SMX Munich. So, take your time and read on.
GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS
TAKE BACK CONTROL OF YOUR LISTING
Google launched a new feature on Google My Business. It helps you to automatically retrieve control of a listing that is in another account. It is pretty easy to request access from the original listing owner:
- Go to Google My Business by using this link and sign in with the account you use to manage your business.
- Type the name of your business and then select it from the suggestions.
- A dialog box appears saying that this listing is already verified and you need to request access.
- Complete a short form to request access to the given listing. You will also be asked to enter your phone number.
- The current listing owner is immediately notified by email for your request. You will also get an email confirmation with a link to track your request. By clicking the link, you will be able to check the status of your appeal. You are requested to wait at least seven days for the current owner’s response before contacting Google support and asking them for assistance.
Note that the new feature doesn’t allow you to verify listings in bulk. Also, in case the current business owner rejects your request you will have an option to press the “Appeal” button and go through a verification process.
FEATURED IMAGES REPLACE CALL/DIRECTIONS BUTTONS
Google was spotted displaying featured images instead of phone and directions buttons for local businesses. Previously this test was limited to verticals like restaurants and hotels but currently it has rolled out for most types of results in retail and service industry except lawyers and medical practitioners according to Mike Blumenthal’s blog post. By launching this feature Google will successfully keep the online user on its search results thanks to the Local Finder.
NEW MODERATION ABILITIES FOR LOCAL GUIDES USERS
Google finally retired Map Maker. Some of its features have been integrated directly into Google Maps while the crowdsourced contributions now take place on Google’s Local Guides. Level 5 Local Guides users are now able to approve other user’s suggestions via Google Maps on desktop. Till now this feature has been available only for Android users. The main benefit of this new update is that the map edits will get live much quicker.
EMOJIS АPPEAR IN GOOGLE LOCAL BUSINESS REVIEWS
We are witnessing a rise in emojis used as a universal language. They have been included in organic search results and AdWords shopping campaigns, and for a while we have even been able to write Google reviews with them. The enhanced reviews have been firstly noticed in local knowledge panels.
GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS
REWORDING AND REORDING IN EXACT MATCH KEYWORDS
Google announced that they will extend close variantions of exact match keywords in AdWords campaigns within the next few months. Currently, those close variants of exact match keywords consist of misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings, abbreviations, and accents. Google will ignore function words like prepositions, conjuctions and articles only when their usage does not change the meaning of the given phrases.
For example, the function word “in” in the keyword phrase “bars in san diego“ will be ignored and your ad will be shown when a searcher types in Google “bars san diego”. Additionally, Google will also display your ads even on search queries that are reordered variations of your keywords as long as the meaning of the phrase remains the same.
INVISIBLE PROTECTION OF YOUR WEBSITE
Google announced that they will soon launch the Invisible ReCAPTCHA. Unlike the old reCAPTCHA system that uses a challenge or a “I’m not a robot” checkbox, the new one will be invisible in the webpage’s background and will decide if the user is a human or a bot based on tracking user’s IP address, moves and clicks. For now, if you want to integrate the new reCAPTCHA to your site or app you can white list your website here. Check out more on how to enable and customize the invisible reCAPTCHA on your webpages.
ALL GOOGLE OPEN SOURCE PROJECTS UNDER ONE ROOF
All Google’s open source projects have a new home with the launch of Google Open Source. Although the new website will be a central directory for all Google’s open source projects, the code of these projects will still be accessible on GitHub and on Google’s self-hosted Git service. Google also adds information for many of these projects about how they are being used inside the company. The internal open source documentation of Google is also available on the website.
DATA STUDIO NOW AVAILABLE IN OVER 180 COUNTRIES
As Google recently removed the 5-report limit in its free data analytics and reporting tool, the company is making a step further in democratizing analytics by expanding the service to over 180 countries. The platform provides individuals and SMBs with a quick access to a full stack of integrated data, marketing analytics and reporting. You can combine raw data from Google Sheets, AdWords, Google Analytics, BigQuery, Attribution 360 and YouTube and create your own customized reports.
USEFUL NEW SHORTCUTS IN SEARCH
Google has updated its search app for Android, iOS and the mobile version of google.com by adding new “tappable” shortcuts. They appear just below the search bar and expand to list of other shortcuts. With the new feature Google organizes its well-known functions, e.g. Directions to Home/Work, Eat & Drink. Gas Stations, Google Translate, Movies, My trips, in the following categories: Nearby, Fun, Lifestyle, Tools, Weather, Travel and My stuff. The feature is currently available only in the US.
WORDPRESS.COM INTEGRATION WITH GOOGLE DOCS
The new WordPress plugin provides an easy way to write content in Google Docs and publish it as a draft directly to your WorPress.com site or Jetpack powered WorPress.org site without losing your images and formatting. To get started you need to install the add-on, link your WorPress.com website to Google Docs and then give the plugin access to post on your behalf. The new add-on works in all major browsers that support Google Docs.
REDUCE JPEG FILE SIZE WITH GUETZLI
Website load time is an important ranking factor for Google, because when your site is slow the website visitors would get irritated and thus your bounce rate will increase significantly. To help webmasters create webpages that load faster and reduce the size of JPEG images Google released a new open-source JPEG encoder called Guetzli. It creates 35% smaller JPEG files in comparison to the currently available methods and as Google claims this is not at the expense of the quality.
The invited keynote speakers at this year’s SMX Munich conference were Rank Fishkin, Wil Reynolds, and Oliver Borm.
Rand Fishkin shared his thoughts on the search landscape in 2017, what has changed in SEO and the search behavior over the past five years and made predictions on what does the future hold for search. During his presentation he discussed the 16 features every SEO should consider:
- “People Also Ask” – you should focus on branding in order to get it;
- Featured Snippets – use the right phrasing and give short answers within your on-site content;
- Maps Box – claim your Google My Business, get links, earn citations, be nearby;
- Knowledge Panel – earn brand association and use structured markup;
- Image – use relevant images, alt attributes, and direct embeds;
- Sitelinks – use structured markup;
- Section Sitelinks – grow popular subsections with popular subpages.
He also shared his thoughts on the elements Google uses in predictive intent:
- Location & prior behavior of users in that location
- Device attributes: types, operating system, speed, installed apps, etc.
- Search, app & browser history
- Gmail behavior (and possibly all keyboard behavior)
Rand didn’t miss to discuss the voice search and its impact on SERPs and SEO: “voice answer could dismantle SEO, because you only get one answer”. Actually this was one of the most discussed topics during the event. Eric Enge, Digital Marketing Consultant from Stone Temple pointed out that “in a world that is voice controlled, you have to be the authority in answers”.
Wil Reynolds discussed the humanization of search results and shared his observations on why people take action and how to improve SEO. According to Will this is how you shouldn’t do SEO nowadays:
(Image by @rekorddiana)
He also advised instead of focusing on new links, shares and promotion, just to re-order content on the landing pages in order to drive more engagement.
The SEO specialists Dan Provic warned that “you’re less likely to increase CTR of your page in SERPs if it’s surrounded by high gravity elements (boxes, local pack, etc)”
Purna Virji from Microsoft shared that small companies can benefit from AI by building a helpful customer service model using chatbots.
Here are some of the key takeaways from SMX West sessions:
The guys from Local SEO Guide, Andrew Shotland and Dan Leibson, presented the results from their latest study on the 2016 local SEO ranking factors along with their most recent research on proximity, “near me” factors, locators, and location pages. According to their research backlinks, on-site optimization, Google My Business authority, and citation consistency are the strongest factors for local pack rankings.
They also shared that location pages don’t cannibalize store locators and the study results showed that multiple locations businesses with both locator pages and location pages ranked for more terms in comparison to businesses with locator pages only.
According to them and contrary to the findings of this Local Search Ranking study presented by Darren Shaw at MozCon Local, proximity (the distance between a user and a business) is an important factor, but it’s not the #1 local search ranking factor – relevance and prominence can override proximity.
Mark Irvine from Wordstream talked about the future of search marketing and evolved text ads. In order to stay competitive advertisers should improve their ad copies because today’s searchers tend to enter specific questions, rather than generic keywords – “Search terms keep getting longer, and longer, and longer…“
(Image by @MilwaukeePPC)
Thomas Ballantyne, a local SEO specialist, shared that “more reviews come from places with more referrals and better customer satisfaction”.
At the event Jason Douglas from Google revealed that voice search is the new focus of Google for 2017.
Chris Pinkerton from Mediative discussed how SEO and social strategies work together in order to drive consumer engagement. He advised that social media local engagement, e.g. Facebook and Foursquare check-ins, Foursquare tips and photos, and Instagram photos, along with a solid SEO foundation (citation and NAP consistency, optimized location pages, unique local content, customer reviews, and optimized GMB listing) can drive significant online boost for local businesses.
ENHANCED LOCAL SEARCH ON FACEBOOK
Facebook is testing a new way for people to find local businesses near them. If you conduct a “near me” search on the social network, for example you type in “bars near me” or “pizza places nearby”, you’ll see a map with a list of relevant businesses. The listings will show the given businessеs’ Facebook ratings and information about your friends’ check-ins at those places. Facebook encourages these local searches via the autocomplete feature in the search box. You can also see a short summary of customer reviews that helps you learn what the local businesses are known for:
(Image source: techcrunch.com)
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