SEO News Recap – May 2016

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Hi digital marketing addicts, ready for our monthly News Recap? The May edition will walk you through the latest Google SERP updates, AdWords upgrades, penalties, tests, top industry roundups and opinions. There is a lot to cover, but let’s start with the news we all care about most, Local Search:

GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS

“PROMOTED MAP PINS” – THE LOCAL ADS REVOLUTION:

As Google is progressively strategizing on monetizing their most dynamic search results: the Local Search, they are about to further exploit their Map platform, and introduce new ad formats: the so-called “promoted pins”. The new branded pins will look like the given business logo and will reveal info about latest product inventory and discounts, encouraging store visits.

The “promoted pins” is a feature targeted at mobile and in-car local search users. They will appoint nearby locations to one’s driving route.  In order for your business to get a custom “promoted pin” on the map, you’d have to use AdWords’ location extensions.

EXPANDED TEXT ADS – GOOGLE ADS GAIN WEIGHT

As if the increased number of ads on top of Google SERPs was not enough to push down the organic results and to attract clicks to the promoted content, that Google has decided to increase the text ads’ title and description.

The bigger headline (up from 25 to 30 characters) could now be complemented by a second one, and the ad description length grows by 14% (from two short descriptions of 35 characters each to a single one of 80 characters in total).

This change is about to be introduced later this summer and is expected to increase the CTR by as much as 25%.

THE SEARCH RESULTS BLOCK GETS WIDER

A plain design tweak that would affect all SERP elements, including local pack, ads and featured snippets, is already rolling out. The change in design gives an opportunity for the organic and local results to move slightly up after being overshadowed recently by the increased ads count on top of Google SERPs.

The key search results are now enjoying also longer titles (up from 55-60 to 70 characters) and descriptions (up to 100 characters).  The featured snippets on the other hand mark a wider format size (by 46 pixels) than the standard organic results.

GMB API GETS A THIRD UPDATE

Among the essential new features of the new Google My Business API version are:

  • Ability to reply to customer reviews through the API;
  • An option to include more category-specific data about a given location;
  • Ability to transfer a location to another account;
  • Ability to indicate a preferred photo for the listing.

GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

 GOOGLE SEARCH EVOLVES INTO GOOGLE ASSISTANT

Google have finally introduced their own personal assistant that is to help online users with their daily tasks. The name raises a lot of controversy, because unlike Cortana or Alexa, Google assistant is a plain title that lacks personality, a feature that recent personal assistants hold a strong regard for.

There is an idea behind this particular name choice, though. Google assistant is not positioned as a product or service, but rather as a way to communicate with Google as a search engine.

So in this case, Google represents the search assistant and Google assistant is actually the channel you use to access its database and ask “to buy movie tickets while on the go, to find that perfect restaurant for your family to grab a quick bite before the movie starts, and then help you navigate to the theater.”

EC ABOUT TO IMPOSE SEARCH RESULTS MANIPULATION FINE ON GOOGLE

A 3 billion fine is the penalty that the European Commission is about to impose on Google for “favour(ing) itself and harm(ing) rivals.” To add to those result manipulation accusations, the current Competition Commissioner,  Ms. Vestager, attracts the court’s attention to the local search/Maps and travel search, suggesting for further investigation.

nteresting consequence of such penalties could result in Google being unable to promote “its cards, Knowledge Graph-data or “Google properties” above or ahead of rivals on the SERP”.

AIRLINE CITES PENALIZED FOR OVER-OPTIMIZING THEIR STRUCTURE DATA MARKUP

Going for price-related rich snippets on a page with multiple flights for different locations is hardly a white-hat SEO practice. Tagging a product/page with a single price tag rule was ignored on a massive scale. Thus the mixed signals sent to Google, naturally, resulted in a wave of Manual Actions that led to intentional removal of the rich snippets of the airline websites.

DIRECT ANSWERS ALREADY FEATURE AUTOMATIC TRANSLATION

Currently the special feature refers to the automatic translation of foreign words in English, though later on, we wouldn’t be surprised the change to roll out for other languages as well (depending on the Google domain you use: google.de, google.fr, etc).

GOOGLE’S TESTING BIGGER MARGINS BETWEEN SEARCH RESULTS

The new margin size again gives more space for the top ads in the SERPs and pushes further down the organic results. Obviously the paying advertisers are again well-covered for and distinguished from the general competitors.

ADWORDS WILL NO LONGER ACCEPT PAYDAY LOAN AND HIGH INTEREST LOAN CAMPAIGNS

The massive spam for the “payday loan” and “high interest loan” keywords finally resulted in Google banning the two phrases from their AdWords list for eligible ad campaigns. Google is taking such a critical action in order to eliminate “fake or harmful products” from their SERPs. Before you start to worry about your business paid promotion plan, keep in mind that if you are offering Mortgages, Car Loans, Student Loans, Commercial loans, Revolving Lines of Credit your business won’t be affected.

BMI CALCULATOR TO ADORN THE SERPS

If you doubt that Google has all the answers, think again. It can now calculate your body mass index. Just enter your weight and height and Google will tell you if you are normal, under- or overweight, well if you don’t know it already.

GOOGLE CATCHES UP WITH BING ON EMOJI SEARCH

It is strange to hear that Bing offered search experience that was unavailable on the Google platform, but that was exactly the case with the emoji search in 2014. Two years later, Google has finally caught up on that special search feature. Let’s see if Bing is hiding another cool idea to shine with that would be hard to replicate by Google.

RICH CARDS – THE VISUAL RICH SNIPPET

Rich cards, just like any rich snippet, are pretty cool thing to have. They could boost your product or service in the SERPs. Rich cards are fine CTR boosters for recipe and movie sites. Those are the two verticals that the new rich cards are first rolled out for, but Google is testing their acceptance rate and will probably adapt them for other industries as well.

SEARCH ADS GET RICHER DESIGN

The new carousel of sitelink cards for ads is already in a testing phase for mobile. The cards feature allows for listing different price offers within a single ad. They are slightly reminding of the Facebook’s ad carousel, though they lack a visual representation of the product/service.

MOBILE ARMAGEDDON II

The second mobile algo update that promises to further boost mobile-friendly websites has already rolled out this May. Watch out for mobile rankings increase if you’ve optimized your website for mobile experience.

INNOVATIONS

TWITTER IMPROVES THE 140-CHARACTER-LIMIT RULE

Twitter have finally given more freedom to their subscribers. The 140-character limit is no longer affected by link or image insertion in the tweet, which is long-awaited news, especially for those of us, who are wordier and find it hard to fit in the tight character restraints.

INTERVIEWS

LOCAL SEO ROUNDUP – 34 TAKES ON WHAT’S A NEEDLE-MOVER IN LOCAL SEARCH

As in every expert roundup you can find much wisdom in-between the lines, that is, if you look close enough. In this particular roundup there are several fine insights to consider:

  • “Stop thinking about one or two reviews, think about getting hundreds”;
  • When looking for sponsorships use special search operators like:
    • site:meetup.com “this group does not have sponsors right now”
    • site:meetup.com “this group does not have sponsors right now” city
  • “Go Beyond Local Directories turn your attention to links to move the needle”;
  • “Leverage The Chamber of Commerce For High Authority Links”;
  • “Perform “spam” research on your competitors and remove offenders from Google Maps results”.

GARY ILLYES GETS ANGRY: “BEING AFRAID OF LINKING OUT IS STUPID”

Google’s rep Gary Illyes has an interesting take on news sites’ reservations towards linking out to their sources. He condemns this ‘caution’ as a stupid act.

That is kind of surprising opinion to hold, though, given that Google have enforced a wave of Manual Penalties for excessive outbound links. Furthermore, just recently, Google have started an outbound-link witch-hunt that hardly encourages webmasters to freely link out to their sources.

Maybe Gary Illyes is just as frustrated as news sites webmasters, however in a situation when we are to weigh in his words in favor of linking out and a risk of a manual penalty, I think that 99% of webmasters will prefer to  play it safe and omit crediting their sources.

That’s our take on the SEO news for the past month, what are your 2 cents on the latest industry trends? We’d love to hear your unique point of view, so go on and don’t hesitate to share it with us!