Welcome to May‘s SEO News Recap. Here are some of the topics you are about to read in this month’s edition: Google Posts now show videos and hot offers data, Google My Business rolls out marketing agency-friendly features, the Google Maps Platform and the Google Assistant’s directory appear on the horizon, Yelp and TripAdvisor partner up into fighting Google’s monopoly in local search.
GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS
PIMP UP YOUR POSTS ON GOOGLE
Google is rolling out two new options to help you promote the products and services your local business offers via your Knowledge Panel. You are now able to add videos and offers, e.g. sales and discounts, together with a call-to-action button to your Google Posts.
The maximum video file size for uploads is 100 MB and the accepted video formats include AVI, MP4, MOV, FLV, WMV, MPG, M4V, MKV, M2TS, and MTS.
You are required to include a title and start/end times of your offer. There is also an option to add a photo, a coupon code, and a link to redeem the offer into your post to make it more attractive to customers. Google automatically generates a “View Offer” CTA button.
GOOGLE REVIEW ALERTS IMPROVED
Google is now automatically sending email alerts to customers each time a business owner responds to their Google reviews. No doubt this update will encourage you to respond to more reviews and when done right, review responses can help you maintain a positive brand image for your local business.
The customer receives a notification email 5 minutes after the response has been published, which gives you a fine window to make any edits to your reply, if necessary.
GMB GETS MORE MARKETING AGENCY-FRINDLY
At the 2018 Local Search Association conference Google announced а pack of new Google My Business features aiming at easing the work of marketing agencies and Google partners when dealing with clients’ GMB listings. The new improvements include:
- Updates to the Google My Business API to account for the new Offer Posts on Google as well as the new business description;
- An access to a new GMB dashboard for agencies, if they sign up and register for a GMB account.
- Agencies will have a single organization account to manage unlimited business listings (currently there is a limit of 100 locations). They will be able to organize teams into User Groups and control access to the locations. An invitation management feature will also be available so that it’s easy for account managers to invite users to manage listings.
- A GMB Partners Program will be launched. It will provide partners with early access to new GMB improvements. Partners also will be provided with a dedicated account manager at hand and will be listed on the Google My Business website.
To get alerts about the launch of the new features, you can register here.
WELCOME TO GOOGLE MAPS PLATFORM
Google renewed its Google Maps Application Programming Interface platform for developers and renamed it to Google Maps Platform. They integrated all 18 Maps APIs into 3 main products: Maps, Routes, and Places and also created a single console, Google Cloud Platform Console, to provide you with the ability to keep an eye on your usage, manage your projects and get notification about new cloud services.
As of June 11 this year, if you have a valid API key and a Google Cloud Platform billing account, you will be able to use all new features offered by the platform.
A MYSTERIOUS LOSS OF GOOGLE REVIEWS
Recently, there has been a buzz in the SEO community about a loss of Google reviews…Don’t panic…Your Google reviews haven’t been deleted. Google just decided to stop counting reviews from anonymous users thus the total number of reviews shown in your Knowledge Panel may appear to have shrinked.
A CRACKDOWN ON SCAMMERS
Google takes the following proactive actions against marketing agencies attempting to mislead small business owners:
- Openly listing the names of scammers like Point Break Media and Supreme Marketing Group while announcing that along with the Federal Trade Commission they are on to combat fraud and bring fraudsters to justice;
- Updating their policies for third parties that support the management of Google My Business listings, like digital marketing agencies;
- Creating a contact form for business owners, that they can use to report spotted violations;
- Launching a program called Get Your Business Online that will promote educational materials to local businesses on how to avoid deceptions. You may also invite a Google speaker to attend a session and help you train people on how to avoid falling victim to online frauds, like being charged for services that are free on Google or receiving robocalls from agencies claiming to be working with or on behalf of Google and promising search ranking improvements.
EASIER SEARCH ON THE GOOGLE MAPS APP
Google added a handy search box to its Google Maps that helps you navigate through the reviews of a local business or a place. The search bar is located in the “Reviews” tab where you can type the keywords you are searching for:
The functionality filters out all reviews that feature the key phrase you are searching for:
Google was also spotted testing a new interface of Google Maps on Android. The categories for quick searches, including Restaurants, Cafes, Groceries, ATMs, Gas stations, and Pharmacies, previously placed at the bottom of the device screen within the “Explore” tab, now appear as scrollable icons at the top of the screen:
Moreover, at this year’s Google I/O conference Google presented several upcoming updates to Google Maps offering more personalized user experience:
- the redesigned Explore tab will provide you with up-to-date information on the trending dining places nearby based on information from local experts and recommendation platforms like The Infatuation;
- the new “For you” tab will help you keep up with news regarding recently opened places near you and the trending venues in your area;
- the “Your Match” score will show the probability you will like a given place based on specific factors like previous preferences you’ve selected in Google Maps, places you’ve visited before, whether you’ve reviewed a given place or added it to a list;
- you can now create and share a list of places with your friends. You and your friends can add any place any time to the list and vote on where to go together.
GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS
BE AWARE OF GOOGLEPEDIA
There was a buzz around the latest Google Brain project focusing on extracting content from different web pages and producing original articles similar to those on Wikipedia. Concerns arose around whether the auto-generated content will be used to answer users’ questions without displaying links to the actual web pages in Google Search.
TO INDICATE OR NOT TO INDICATE
In September 2018, Google will remove the positive security labeling for HTTPS web pages on Chrome version 69 assuming by default that the given page is secure. Google’s web browser will continue to show only the red “not secure” indicator on Chrome 70 when a website visitor is about to enter sensitive data like user name, password, or email address, on HTTP pages.
The user interface of Chrome 70 for HTTP pages will look like this.
THE END OF “DON’T BE EVIL” SLOGAN
Google published an updated version of its code of conduct, which no longer features their official motto “Don’t Be Evil”. The slogan was dropped from the document’s preface, or better yet it actually got somewhat rephrased to shift the focus from the search engine to the end-user: “And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!”.
CHANGES TO IMAGE POSTING GUIDELINES
Online users are increasingly relying on the image search to find what they’re looking for. Seize the opportunity and popularize your business on Google by using the right images for your business. Here is a sneak peek of some of the key takeaways of the updated Google Image Publishing Guidelines:
- Use original images that are tailored to your business and add value to your web pages;
- Place images in the proper context as it comes to the on-site content, while keeping in mind to pin the most important ones at the top of the page;
- Avoid inserting important text like headings and menu items in your images, because search engines won’t be able to make sense of the embedded information;
- Establish a good URL structure for your website images;
- Add a descriptive text in the title, and meta tags for each page because Google use this information when generating a snippet for their image results;
- If your website features recipes, product or video content, mark up your images so Google images can show them as rich results along with badges;
- Optimize your images’ size to boost the speed of your pages. If you are a publisher or you’re owning an ecommerce site consider converting the web pages featuring your images into AMP to increase the pages’ loading speed;
GEOTARGET YOUR AMP PAGES
Google’s AMP team released a new feature called “amp-geo” that helps you to personalize the information on your AMP pages based on site visitors’ location. By adding the amp-geo tag, you can serve country-specific content like images of country flags to your site visitors, depending on their IP address, i.e. location. There is also an option to display a single content to multiple countries by using the “ISOCountryGroups” key and thus reduce the amount of code that needs to be written.
SHORTER SEARCH SNIPPETS
Over the past weeks the snippets in search results had fewer characters than what’s typically been displayed after the change Google made last December. Google commented that the length of the search result snippets is a dynamic variable influenced by what Google finds relevant to user’s query within the content of the given web page. Rather than rewriting your meta descriptions and making them shorter, better focus on your on-page content quality.
CLAIM YOUR BUSINESS ON GOOGLE ASSISTANT DIRECTORY
Google started a campaign promoting its Google Assistant’s Actions directory and now prompts publishers, who create podcasts, recipes and news, to claim and edit the auto-generated page for their business on the directory. After claiming your directory page, you can edit the following information about your business: name, logo, short description, full description, banner image, small logo, email, and business category.
RICH RESULTS TESTING TOOL FOR MOVIE ADDICTS
You are now able to validate and preview your structured data for “TV and Movies” and “Events” via Google’s tool for testing rich results. It’s worth noting that the tool is still in beta and the currently available content types apart from the two brand new additions are job postings, recipes, and courses.
GET THE BEST LOCAL SEARCH RESULTS
The review websites Yelp and TripAdvisor decided to stand up against Google’s monopoly in local search. The new partnership called “Focus On The User” aims at bringing more diversified local search results to users. They gather together a group of engineers from different companies in the local search industry in order to build a browser plugin called “Focus On The User-Local”. The tool runs a search in the background by paring the main search query, for example “dentists Texas” with the search operator “site:example1.com OR site:example2.com” where the sites are actually the the in order to enrich the results and offer more helpful reviews regarding local businesses.
SAMSUNG ENTERS THE LOCAL SEARCH MARKET
Samsung released a new update for their Galaxy smartphones enabling users to contact local businesses and venues more easily. The “Smart Call” app features a “Places” tab where you can find places of various categories nearby your location:
The app also provides you with detailed information regarding the local business of your choice and an option to make a direct phone call or save the business phone number to your contacts:
MORE WAYS TO CONNECT WITH CUSTOMERS ON INSTAGRAM
Until recently if a customer contacted your business on Instagram you wouldn’t be alerted unless you followed him. Instead the message would go to your Inbox’ “Pending” folder. Instagram fixed their messaging system and now all customer messages are delivered into the main Direct Inbox. The company will also start testing:
- “Quick Replies” that allows you to easily respond to frequently asked questions;
- “Action Buttons” like “Reserve”, “Get Tickets”, “Start Order”, and “Book”, enabling your prospects to become your customers instantly.
FIND HOME SERVICE PROVIDERS VIA FACEBOOK
Facebook now allows homeowners in the U.S. to find a handyman, а plumber or other service provider through their Marketplace directory. By partnering with websites like Handy, HomeAdvisor and Porch, customers can:
- browse through hundreds of thousands verified local service professionals;
- check out rating, reviews and recommendations to determine which local contractor best meets their needs;
- send home project requirements to multiple professionals at once via Messenger;
- discuss the details of their order by chatting with the service provider via Messenger.
MAKE BETTER AD CREATIVES ON FACEBOOK
Facebook introduced a set of new ad reporting features aiming to help you improve your ad performance analysis:
- The “Creative Reporting” groups ads with the same creative elements such as ads’ copies, call-to-action buttons, and visuals. This helps you assess which ads deliver the best results across all ad sets;
- A drag-and-drop feature lets you move metrics to customize your reports and analyze elements like age, gender, and placement;
- A side panel that enables you to edit your ad campaigns, ad sets and ads all in one place without having to go back and forth between tables in the Ads Manager.
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