It is hard to talk about anything outside the long-awaited announcement on the first steps of Google’s major initiative - the Mobile-First Index. But, since the process is expected to be very slow, SEOs can calm down. And truth be told, a lot has been happening alongside the big news.
The SMX East Conference has brought us some insights into the search giant’s biggest commitments: the mobile-first index and the big push towards the local search by enhancing the online-to-offline experience. The latter has introduced us to a few huge and long-awaited features (no spoilers, simply scroll down!). This time around, local search is definitely winning the race towards improvements from Google’s side - new functionality within the search results, a Local Guides Summit, and improvements for local inventory promotion.
Google continues to tackle web credibility issues by partnering up with one of the biggest fact-checking organizations, IFCN. Some other updates, they have a new AdWords feature - parallel tracking - for speeding up the landing page’s load time and enhancing user-experience for many more conversions to come. Plus, they released their own payment service - yes, you can now “Pay With Google”. Read on to see all the Google updates.
GOOGLE SEARCH NEWS
Slowly But Surely: Google’s Mobile-First Index is Out
At the SMX East conference, Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed that the rollout of the Mobile-First Index is already taking place, for a few websites at least. And apparently, the tests are going really well so far. Illyes also assured the web community that there is nothing to worry about since Google is not yet at a full launch stage and the implementation process will be really (again, really!) slow. For now, there is no precise timeline for when the mobile-first index will be fully out, and a lot will depend on Google’s tests.
Check out Barry Schwartz’s SEO Recap for more details on this news.
Google’s AMP Project Celebrates its Biennium
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project, which launched in 2015, has turned two. To celebrate the occasion, the search giant shared some fresh stats and the results of recent studies on AMP. Moreover, to promote even more widespread AMP implementation in the forthcoming year, Google established a website, AMP Start, which is full of ready-made templates and components for creating AMP pages. The website contains templates for e-Commerce that include product showcase sites and retail experiences. And, we can expect new templates for local businesses and online magazines coming soon.
In two years, this project, which initially only had a couple of partners, has attracted 25 million websites which have created over 4 billion AMP pages. But, if you still think that AMP is only a feature appealing to publishers, you must have missed our most recent Google Digests. Google is convincing when saying that AMP pages and e-Commerce are a perfect match. Consider the following stats, brought forward by Forrester:
Implementation of AMP increases website traffic by 10 percent.
AMP pages also double the users’ time on page.
Besides, e-Commerce websites that leverage AMP pages see a 20 percent increase in conversions in comparison to non-AMPs.
New Features for Enhanced Online-to-Offline Marketing
By pushing local search, Google is also influencing the offline vs. online paradigm. With more online retailers opening up brick-and-mortar stores, and vice versa, the search giant is working on making the integration of two channels easier. At the SMX East conference, Kishore Kanakamedala, Google’s director of product management, introduced a few novelties to the realm of online-to-offline marketing that will drive more interaction between the two retail segments.
The new features include:
Local Inventory Integrates With Voice Search. With the rise of Google Assistant, the search giant intends to provide answers to questions like “Where can I buy X nearby?” by providing a list of local inventory results on their mobile screens.
A New Local Inventory Display Ad Format. The new ad format will include promos and local products from the retailers’ inventory feeds.
Three New AdWords Reports for Measuring Store Visits. Google is now calculating impression-based footfall, with the aid of three reports: a Time Lag report (reflects the time between the click and a store visit), a Demographic report (store demographic reports can be added to the existing ones), a New vs. Returning Customer report (shows the number of repeat in-store customers).
New Features for Apparel Ads. In the mobile Google Shopping search results, related to apparel, users will soon be able to use filtering options such as size, price, and others.
Google Held Its Second Local Guides Summit
Local Guides play an instrumental role in Google’s agenda to trigger local listings. And in order to reward their commitment to the local communities, Google recently held the second Local Guides Summit in San Francisco.
The most active 150 participants from 62 countries were brought together to hear some appraisals from Google itself.
“Local Guides” is a community of active Google Maps users, who consistently contribute to the service’s improvement by adding more accurate local information to the map. Here is what we learned about Local Guides:
The number of Google’s Local Guides has grown up to 50 million and increased by 10X times within only a year.
Local Guides add about 700,000 new places to Google Maps each month.
95 percent of these places are situated outside of the US.
The largest community of Local Guides is living in the US, followed by India, Brazil, and Indonesia.
These local experts are not merely adding new places; they also play a tremendous role in Google’s push towards localization of its search engine. Along with business owners, these local guides answer user questions within Google’s newly added Q&A feature, provide product reviews and give suggestions for improvement to Google.
Google Changed Its Local Search Operation
As latest Google news prove, local relevance for search results is a growing concern for Google. With almost a fifth of all search queries being location-related, the search giant is making a move to improve its users’ “local” experience. From now on, the choice of a country service for your search results will be determined by your location regardless of what country code top-level domain names (ccTLD) you enter. Previously, we could access the UK’s SERPs while being physically located in Brazil by simply entering the relevant ccTLD in the browser. And now, the search results will always depend on your actual location. However, the option to access other countries’ SERPs is still available - you can manually choose the country service you would like to receive in the search settings.
If you were wondering if it would affect the SEMrush data, don't worry! The accuracy of our data is great, and it will stay that way, regardless of these changes.
Google Partners Up With the International Fact-Checking Network for a More Credible Web
With all the buzz around fake news, about a year ago Google introduced a fact-checking feature - a Fact Check Tag. Currently, thousands of articles that appear in Google News undergo this check for the accuracy and reliability of information. To improve the process, on 26 October at the Poynter Institute, Google announced that it would partner with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). IFCN is known as the promoter of excellence and the builder of a fact-checking community around the globe. IFCN has established a widely recognized Code of Principles for fact-checking institutions.
Here is why Google is establishing a partnership with IFCN:
To increase the number of people who handle fact-checking.
To expand fact-checking to a truly global level by targeting more regions and languages.
To offer free access to fact-checking tools.
Google Tests New Sitelinks Format in SERPs
For a while, Google was testing various sitelinks formats for the mobile advertising. This time around the spotlight has shifted towards desktop. Google is now testing new formats for desktop search.
Instead of separating sitelinks into two groups side by side, they are now presented as a list. The tests have a limited scope, and Indian users were the first ones to shout out about the new sitelinks format.
Source: Twitter post by Vipin Yadav
Once More, Google Experiments With Image Thumbnails for Snippets
If visualization of the web is the way to go, then the fact that, once again, Google is testing image thumbnails in search results snippets for mobile devices is not surprising. The search engine did earlier include image thumbnails for certain queries, but the feature did not catch on. This time the interface looks slightly different, so let’s see how it works out:
Source: Twitter post by Jason Mun
GOOGLE ADS NEWS
Google AdWords Launches Parallel Tracking
As an advertiser, do you ever feel like you are constantly facing a dilemma - providing your users with an instantaneous speed to get from the ad straight to the landing page without any delays, or enhance your tracking and campaign measurement? From now on, you no longer have to think about that. Google AdWords launched a new feature - “parallel tracking” for speeding up landing pages load time and enhancing user experience.
With parallel tracking, the user who clicks your ad gets immediately directed to the final URL while tracking takes place in the background. As a result, this feature will reduce the number of situations where the user never gets to the landing page due to an unwillingness to wait for the page to load.
Parallel tracking will soon become the default tracking method for all AdWords accounts. At this point, it is an optional method for Search Network and Shopping campaigns. In all other cases, AdWords uses standard tracking for keeping track of your clicks.
For a more detailed information about parallel tracking, you can visit the AdWords Help Center page.
AdWords Adds a New “Days to Conversion” Report
Some purchases take a longer decision-making time. After all, it is way faster to decide on buying a $10 headphone set than a $1000 pair of boots. Thus, advertisers often lack information on evaluating the time it takes for Internet users to convert into paying customers, to measure their ad campaign’s performance. After an impression, followed by a click, you might have to wait for another 10 or 90 days. Thus, Google AdWords is introducing a new “Days to Conversion” report that will come to your rescue. The new reporting segment will define how long you have to normally wait for the conversion to take place after the click. This waiting time can redefine the entirety of your campaign results, which often get miscalculated due to such basic timing considerations.
For instance, before you rearrange your supposedly unsuccessful campaign, take into account that, on average, conversions happen within 14 days after the first click. Thus, it makes sense not to change your bidding policy during that period.
If you have not yet switched to the new AdWords interface, do not worry - the “Days to Conversion” report is available in both the old and new AdWords versions.
Google Expands Its Google Attribution Beta
Inspired by some impressive results - the company HelloFresh has seen a 10 percent boost in conversion since using Google Attribution - Google is making its Attribution beta available to tens and hundreds of advertisers. The purpose of the tool is to make it easier for advertisers to resolve their attribution challenges and performance measurement by adding a multi-device and multi-channel tracking and combining data already available from Google Analytics, AdWords and DoubleClick Search. The tool allows advertisers to follow the entire customer journey, rather than simply look at data points from the last click.
Source: Smarter Attribution for Everyone
Google Tests Popups for Product Listing Ads in the Search
Although carousel format has been Google’s favorite for a while now, the search giant continues experimenting with various Shopping ad formats. A user from India spotted a new popup overlay on the top of search results that displayed more product listings results. These tests are seemingly available so far on a limited scale.
Source: Twitter post by Maulik Panchal
GOOGLE TOOLS NEWS
A Helicopter View on UX: Google Introduces New Tools for Google Chrome
At Chrome Dev Summit 2017, Google announced the launch of two new tools for Chrome: Chrome User Experience Report and Trusted Web Activity.
Chrome User Experience Report is intended to help developers enhance their website’s usability. Apart from looking at suggestions for improvements and areas of already present success, developers will also be able to track changes in user experience over time.
Chrome User Experience Report is a dataset of key UX metrics, collected from users who allowed the search giant to access their search history and enabled usage statistic reporting.
Browse With Google, Pay with Google
Google rolled out a new payment service “Pay with Google”, which is meant to facilitate the online purchasing process for Android users. For now on, the service’s adaptors will be able to not only browse through products and services available online but also make a purchase without any delays. Every time the user of a partner company wants to make a purchase, “Pay with Google” automatically fills in all the required fields to complete the transaction in a few clicks. The data points are taken from the user’s Google account. The service accepts any credit or debit cards that are already tied to users’ Google Play, YouTube, Chrome, and Android Pay accounts.
The service is expected to cover payments for various online platforms ranging from retailers and parking tickets to food delivery. “Pay with Google” is already available on a limited amount of websites, such as Dice in the UK, Kayak in the US and iFood in Brazil. In the foreseeable future, “Pay with Google” will also be available on apps such as Deliveroo, Just Eat, Airbnb, HotelTonight and many others.
Gmail Add-Ons for Everyone’s Inbox
With so many applications for workflow management and tools that we all use to complete our tasks, it is time-consuming to have to switch tabs and open new apps each time we want to tick a box off our To Do list. And now Gmail is introducing Add-Ons. These add-ons are a Gmail’s integration with business apps that allows users to work with the latter right from the G Suite. The email service now supports 10 business apps that can be installed from the G Suite Marketplace: Asana, Dialpad, Hire, Intuit QuickBooks Invoicing, PropsperWorks, RingCentral, Smartsheet, Streak, Trello, and Wrike.
Google’s Chrome Cleanup is Updated for Higher Web Security
Apart from offering ever-increasing functionality, big companies have to convince their users that their security is ensured. Thus, Google is enhancing its security features by adding a basic antivirus-like functionality to its Chrome browser for Windows.
The biggest novelty comes from a function that allows users to spot any changes in their settings, brought by extensions. Whether we intended to set up a new extension or were tricked to install it, Chrome will now let us know by offering to restore the settings to their original version. Google developers have also redesigned the Chrome Cleanup - it now has a new interface which is simpler and facilitates spotting unwanted software and remove it in one click.
Thanks to a collaboration with ESET, an IT security company, the Google Cleanup technology is upgraded to a new level. But do note that Google Cleanup will not replace your antivirus system. Instead, it removes extensions that do not comply with Google’s software policy.
Chrome Successfully Embraces HTTPS
It has been a year since Chrome announced its move to a more secure web and implemented an HTTPS Protocol. Just this year, Chrome was proclaimed as the most secure web browser in two independent studies. But let’s talk numbers and how HTTPS progressed just within a year:
64 percent of traffic is now secure on Android’s Chrome browser (+22 percent from the previous year).
Chrome OS and Mac’s Chrome traffic is protected for 75 percent.
About three quarters (71 percent) of the top 100 sites comply with HTTPS Protocol by default - a double increase from the previous year.
HTTPS usage is spreading across the globe: USA, Brazil, and Japan are among the fastest adopters of HTTPS.
Google initially encouraged migration to HTTPS by stating that it is a ranking factor. HTTPS is an enhanced version of the standard web transfer protocol (HTTP) that adds an additional layer of security on the data. The endpoint of HTTPS implementation is to provide remote users with encrypted communication and secure connection, especially when they share sensitive information.
To further facilitate the migration and promote HTTPS usage, Google Chrome supports the Let’s Encrypt project that provides website owners with cheaper and easier ways to embrace HTTPS.
This is it for today, and I am glad you have made it all the way to the end! With so many updates and new features every day, it is not always easy to see how fast the digital space is moving forward and what exactly is happening. Slowly but surely, ground rules are changing, and no digital marketer or SEO specialist can afford to be left behind. Thus, make sure to stay updated with all the latest developments in the Google space and read our Google News Digest that goes live every two weeks.
P.S. If you have any suggestions on the format of our digest or simply want to share/discuss some of the news in the comments, don’t hesitate and give me a shout right below!