[SPECIAL EDITION] Google News Digest: The Biggest Headlines of 2018

David Bain

Dec 26, 20187 min read
The Biggest Headlines of 2018

Over the past year, we have curated news from Google to bring you the latest information about developments in search, ads, and related tools and projects. Now it's time to take stock - not only because it is the end of the year, but because  Google turned 20. The search giant went public in its fifth year with its IPO in 2004.

You may wonder how it is possible to discern the most important content from the daunting volume of news, updates, and tweaks from Google (and at first, so did we). But after intensive analyses, we managed to hone it down to three overarching categories and relevant topics to share with you in our bi-monthly digests.

So now, let's review the Google news that captured our headlines and most affected our collective digital world in 2018!


1. The Mobile-First Index Arrived

After extensive tests and experiments, Google began rolling out its mobile-first indexing for more sites in March. Now, a majority of sites are being indexed and ranked according to its mobile-first initiative.

Food for thought in 2019:  It should come as no surprise that mobile dominates search. For those who have either remained skeptical or procrastinated, it is time to get real and get friendly with mobile.

2. Page Speed Update

If you were not convinced that page speed matters, this year must have dispelled any lingering doubts. Google finally announced that page speed is a ranking factor for mobile search in January 2018. And to make your job easier, Google updated its PageSpeed Insights tool. Those who cannot invest in the time or resources to accelerate their site's page speed should not abandon hope – according to Google, you will always have a chance to rank in its SERPs as long as you provide top-notch, relevant content.

Food for thought in 2019: You should still work on that page speed of yours!

3. A New Life Year With a New SERP

Love it or hate it, but the new SERP design for desktop is up and rolling. It features a more rounded Google search bar and a sticky header, but of course that is not all in store for 2019. From thousands of tweaks to its SERP design, features, and formats, we chose to remind you of these more notable ones:

This year Google completely remodeled its Hotel (and Air Fare) Search results. It is not just about a new look. The interface can be reorganized and sorted by search filters like price range, required amenities, date range, reviews, and more. The tool also showcases how prices for trending holiday destinations change over time, making it easier to find flight and hotel deals in the Explore Map.

In February, Google introduced Multifaceted Featured Snippets. They surface in its SERPs whenever a search query may call for a variety of answers depending on the user’s intent. When a search query is interpreted as vague, the user will see several interpretations, and the SERP will show two or more featured snippets.

Breadcrumb is an unofficial name for new search results format for desktop. What does it imply? Essentially, it’ is a set of results at the top of SERPs that show up as a carousel of results. Try typing in “Who are the presidents of the United States?” and enjoy the view.

If you’re typing in a particular query that has to do with conversions, time/date, or math-related questions on your mobile device, expect to see absolutely no search result snippets. But if you’re always in search for something more, there’s a button you can click to get the full search results.

Google is still experimenting with a fresh feature that pinpoints specific content from a page like FAQs, Q&As and how-to’s to bring them directly to the search results for improved user experience.

Food for thought in 2019: Well, you can definitely expect more tests and experiments that’ll lead to more SERP features and new formats being added while some will be removed. Viva the user experience!

4. Welcome Google Ads - a Rebranded AdWords With a New Interface, and More

As you’ll see next, Google has worked hard this year on rebranding many of its core platforms - from AdWords to DoubleClick to Google Analytics.

The summer was marked with discussions surrounding the Google Ads platform’s new name and looks. But more important changes feature new types of campaigns and campaign goals, new bidding strategies and models, along with new ad formats and targeting capabilities. All the features come with incorporated machine learning technology that’s specifically built for small businesses. The new Google Ads comes with a package - the new look of Keyword Planner that also contains an expanded keyword search, stats, and campaign-efficiency forecasting. And since this year’s emphasis has primarily been on video ads, make sure to use Reach Planner,  a tool (still in beta) specifically aimed at advertisers who place their bet on video content, along with a few new video ad formats, like OutStream, audio ads in DoubleClick or video ad sequencing.

Food for thought in 2019: As we continuously learn from Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) annual fiscal year reports, advertising plays a huge role in Google’s profits, so making advertising more appealing to users while facilitating the job for advertisers will always remain a key priority for Google. So, expect more ad formats and enhanced management tools. And amidst the ever-growing pressure from ad blocking, it’d be interesting to see what huge companies like Google will do to keep advertising afloat.

5. One More Google Rebranding - the Google Marketing Platform

By and large, Google Marketing Platform is a unified advertising and analytics platform that contains some good old services like Google Analytics 360 Suite, DoubleClick, Data Studio, Surveys, Optimize and more. Why do they now come under one brand? Google believes this step will help marketers and advertisers better understand their customers and improve marketing performance. And as we mentioned above, machine learning has a lot to do with that.

Food for thought in 2019: Although machine learning is big, and will only get more and more traction throughout the upcoming year, I don’t believe 2019 will be the year when ML takes over :)


6. The New Google Search Console and Advanced Analytics in GA

Google has made some tweaks to its core tools, like the Search Console. What are the hottest changes so far? The new Search Console features more reports, enhanced filters, and an extended data storage period - 7 days, 28 days, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, or 16 months.

And when it comes to Advances Analytics features within the Google Analytics 360, your top tries should be the Funnel Analysis feature (it helps you better understand the user’s journey that leads to completing actions on your site), and the Segment Overlap technique that allows you to track how segments intersect with one another.

Food for thought in 2019: In this case, I can only rely on what Google says - they promised a more detailed and data-driven overview of the customer journey and their interaction with your site thanks to the arrival of new tools and features.

7. An Impressive Introduction of Duplex

A new Google Assistant feature powered by Google Duplex is intended to facilitate the users’ job when they are searching for something on the web and need to get things done. All the world’s introverts can now breath easy, Duplex will make calls and bookings on your behalf, and apparently, no one will be able to spot a difference.

Food for thought in 2019: While your dating life might get way easier, corporate secretaries might be on the brink of losing their jobs.

8. HTTP – Secure No More

2018 can be fairly called the year when security concerns dominated the tech industry. And the good old Google Chrome released version 68. Now it considers, and marks, all HTTP sites “not secure.”

Food for thought in 2019: Just move to HTTPS, as you don't want your users to see that “not secure” sign assigned to your website.

9. Pay Your Respects to Google +, Inbox, Google Hangouts “Classic” and Allo

This year hasn’t only been about new tools, services and features across various platforms, some Google tools didn’t stand the test of time. So you can now (or, in the nearest future) say farewell to Google+, Inbox, Google Hangouts “Classic” and Allo. While some of the tools simply didn’t make it due to high competition or regulatory issues, others like Inbox got incorporated into Gmail. But, as Google claims, these weren’t just experiments that were made in vain, insights from services like Allo or Google Hangouts “Classic” were used to improve experiences and add many features across various Google platforms.

Food for thought in 2019: Nothing’s constant, neither should be any of Google tools or services. And with more emphasis on automation, machine learning, AI and so on, we can expect even more services to be discarded. But that’s okay, as Google has always been about tests and experiments - some of them made it and some of the didn’t, that’s just the way it goes.


10. The China Project - Will the Dragon Fly?

Just a few weeks before, I’d tell you that Dragonfly, a Google project specially tailored for China, where the search engine is being adapted to operate according to local legislative and political realities, is well under way. But after a wide public outburst and many internal discussions, its future is yet to be defined. I guess 2019 will give us some clarifications on the issue.

Food for thought in 2019: I’m not sure whether Sundar Pichai himself would make a forecast on this matter, so I’ll stay away from giving you any misleading information.

In a nutshell, these are all the biggest Google news you have to remember from 2018. But that’s not all. SEMrush has also fetched up a great post that sums up SEMrush’s most notable achievements this year - so, read on about the Top SEMrush Updates in 2018 if you want to keep track of all the updates, news and features that will make you feel proud you’re a part of SEMrush community.

Author Photo
David Bain is Founder of B2B podcast agency Casting Cred and Host of Digital Marketing Radio, the show that delves into the tools, tactics and titbits of how to turn a failing digital marketing campaign into a fantabulous success!