SEO News Recap – September 2016

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Hi, guys! A lot has been happening in the SEO industry over the course of September, from the new Google search algorithm update launch up through the global rollout of Accelerated Mobile Pages into the main mobile organic search results. Make sure you didn’t miss anything with our monthly SEO news recap blog post. Now is the perfect time to sit back and catch up on the latest SEO news, updates, and events!

GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS

GOOGLE MY BUSINESS LISTINGS PLAYING POSSUM

We can call September as the month of search ranking updates. There were two large updates – the release of the Google Penguin 4.0 update (you can read more about it below in the Global SEO Insights), and a Google local pack ranking quality update that happened on September 1st. It was named “Possum” by the local search community  because “many business owners think their Google My Business listings are gone, when in fact they are not. They have just been filtered — they’re playing possum.” In this forum thread Joy Hawkins and other SEO experts shared valuable observations and recommendations on the recent update. Joy Hawkins summed up that “this particular update only impacted ranking in the 3-pack and Local Finder (AKA the local results or Google Maps results)” and expressed her opinion that “the main purpose of the update was to diversify the local results and also prevent spam from ranking”.

SHOWCASE YOUR SITE’S REVIEWS IN SEARCH

In August Google made an open call for new applications to its feature “Critic Reviews”. After considering the complaints from publishers such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, last month the company announced on its Webmaster Central Blog the release of “Reviews from the web”, which brings user-generated content from up to three third party review sites to the Knowledge Panel for local places across industry sectors, including shops, restaurants, parks and many more.  However, the review site needs to implement review snippet markup and meet Google’s criteria. With the new addition Google will be now displaying three review sources: its own, critics’ reviews and third party review sites.

GOOGLE MY BUSINESS API GETS A NEW VERSION

The brand new features of the new Google My Business API v3.1 are:

  • Ability to subscribe and manage push notifications for new reviews on Google.
  • Ability to provide additional rich business information with URL and Enum attributes.
  • Ability to get categories supported by Google My Business.
  • Ability to get the Google Maps URL for verified locations.
  • Ability to get additional location states to identify when the listing is published, disabled, pending verification.
  • Ability to identify permanently closed locations that can be reopened vs. those that cannot.
  • An option to determine which locations the user has access to, and which they don’t.

NEW GOOGLE MAPS APP UPDATE

Users of Google Maps app no longer need to tap the microphone icon or type in their destination search to active voice search within the app. It is now much easier – they need to say “Ok Google”, just after entering navigation mode or driving mode. Here you can find a full list of the navigation commands that you can say.

ADD MULTIPLE OWNERS TO GOOGLE MY BUSINESS LISTINGS

Google My Business now allows multiple owners of a Google business page. Owners of listings can invite additional users to own or manage a listing. Adding owners and managers lets users share management of a listing without having to share personal account information.

By implementing that new feature Google is making it easier working with many locations for example when a SEO agency or previous owner will not transfer ownership.

GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

THE HIGHLY ANTICIPATED GOOGLE PENGUIN 4.0 UPDATE IS NOW LIVE

During the whole month of September, the Google search algorithm update was definitely the most covered topic both in SEO news sources and online communities. The large fluctuations in organic traffic and rankings that many SEOs experienced in the beginning of the month, were the chatter trigger. The SEO advocates’ doubts on the new core search update echoed on social networks and online SEO discussion forums (SEO Clerk, Google Webmaster Central Help Forum, SEO Chat)till Sept 23rd when Google officially confirmed the launch of the Penguin 4.0 on their webmaster blog.

And why was the latest Penguin release one of the much awaited Google updates by publishers? The answer is in the way Penguin works. If the publishers were hit by it, even if they made changes such as removing spammy links, they had to wait until the next release to see if their changes have done what Google wanted.

Penguin 4.0 is not only the latest but also the last update of this type, as Google stated that “with this change Penguin’s data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we recrawl and reindex a page”.

Another major change is that Penguin is more granular and now devalues spam by affecting the ranking of individual pages based on spam signals rather than affecting the ranking of the entire site.

GOOGLE ONCE AGAIN TESTING A NEW DESKTOP SERP LAYOUT

Over the past couple of weeks, SEOs spotted Google testing new desktop SERP layout. As the new desktop layout looks almost identical to the mobile search, we can conclude that Google is trying to deliver a consistent customer experience between mobile and desktop version. Christopher Ratcliff, the editor of Search Engine Watch, made the following interesting findings in this Google experiment:

  • The number of results on the new layout remains the same as on the normal layout.
  • The snippet width is significantly longer on the card-based SERP.
  • On mobile there’s grey shading between the cards to add further delineation, this is missing on the desktop version.

“SCIENCE DATASETS” – THE NEW SCHEMA

Google makes it easier for publishers to describe CSV and other tabular datasets for scientific and government data with its brand new schema “Science Datasets”.  However, currently the dataset markup is an experiment and this specific schema is not something that Google will show in the search results today. Google explained that you should be able to see the “previews in the Structured Data Testing Tools,” but “you won’t, however, see your datasets appear in Search.”

GOOGLE MOBILE SEARCH RESULTS PIMPED UP WITH IMAGES

Mobile users can already view image thumbnails for product-based queries in Google search. It seems that with the new feature Google makes the decision process easier for customers at their early stage of the decision journey.

GOOGLE BRINGS AMP TO ITS MAIN ORGANIC MOBILE SEARCH RESULTS

It is almost an year now since Google introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), an open source initiative aiming to improve the performance of the mobile web. During that time Google integrated results from AMP into its mobile search results in the form of a “Top Stories” carousel. Google is now taking AMP beyond the “Top Stories” and into the main organic mobile search results. By the end of 2016 mobile users will start to see search results with the AMP logo, indicating the content is available in the mobile format. It is worth mentioning that when there are two versions (AMP page and an app or equivalent web page) Google will direct users to the AMP version. John Mueller from Google confirmed that “This might result in a decrease of traffic to your app pages when an equivalent AMP page exists”.

SHOW THE LOOK ON GOOGLE

Currently, Google is testing a new apparel and home decor experience for retail advertisers in the US within the mobile search result pages. Google named it “Shop the look” and the product listing ads feature images that come from brands, bloggers, retailers and publishers, which are sourced from trusted partners such as LIKEtoKNOW.it., Polyvore and Curalate. Moreover, advertisers need to create a Shopping campaign and ensure they use mobile bid adjustments in order to be eligible to use this ads.

SEO CONFERENCES/EVENTS

SMX EAST 2016

This month the SMX (Search Marketing Expo) East offered really beneficial industry insights and discussions from search engine representatives and digital marketers. SEOs focused on AMP, progressive loading web apps (PWAs), URL Parameters, featured snippets, KPIs, and more. The Local SEO sessions included solutions and discussions about listings management, links and citations, getting reviews, managing multiple locations and running a local PPC campaign. Also, Andrew Shotland and Dan Leibson of Local SEO Guide represented the results of one of the largest-ever statistical studies of the local search. Here are some of the key findings that they revealed:

  • Links are key competitive differentiator even when it comes to Google My Business (GMB) Rankings.
  • Citations are still key factor to getting you into a local pack but they are poor differentiator for competitive searches and in competitive markets.
  • Keyword on-page usage is still very important organic ranking signal.
  • Having plenty of positive customer Reviews, Photos and an Owner Verified profile of your Google local business listing plays a huge role in the local ranking game.

INNOVATIONS

YEXT INTEGRATES UBER API

Yext integrated Uber API enabling customers to book a ride to a store directly from the retailer’s website. With the new service Yext is trying to help both customers and business by making customer shopping experience more convenient and driving more customer directly from businesses’ websites to their front doors. Business can also engage with customers at multiple stages of their purchase journey as Yext is providing branded in-app experiences while they are en route.

YELP DISPLAYING REVIEW SUMMARIES ON BUSINESS PAGES

Nevertheless, it is not a groundbreaking new feature, Yelp started showing user-generated review summaries at the top of business pages. The local search expert Phil Rozek revealed on his blog that “If a specific keyword appears often enough in the (unfiltered) reviews, it will probably end up in a sentiment snippet.” This feature is definitely useful for online users as it makes it easier to digest large amounts of reviews and also it helps businesses take a step closer to customer advocacy at every touch point.

BING’S LATEST SEARCH FUNCTIONALITIES

Microsoft announced the launch of new autocomplete feature for movie and academic searches on Bing. Traditionally the autocomplete function depends on previous users’ queries, but Bing says the newly feature works “even if no user has ever typed the query before, allowing additional, never-seen-before suggestions to be generated”

Another freshly released sets of search experiences are the education-themed search results, covering a wide range of topics – from constellations through molecule models, to family tree, citations, and virtual Rubik’s Cube. The new experiences are aimed to help students and teachers.

SOCIAL MEDIA

FACEBOOK’S DYNAMIC ADS FOR RETAIL

As social media becomes integral part of the business process, marketers and business owners are in the search of new ways to promote their business, product or service as well to improve customer experience. With the launch of “Dynamic Ads for Retail” Facebook enables retailers to customize ad creatives and showcase products available in the store location that’s closest to the person seeing the ad. Using this tool allows businesses to prevent bad customer experience and wasted impressions

Thanks for reading! We are curious to know whether you have noticed any significant changes in your site ranking in September and how you feel about the new Google search algorithm update? Definitely feel free to share observations from your own personal experience or advice in the comments below!