They say April showers bring May flowers. Hopefully, the SEO seeds you planted earlier in the year are now helping your business blossom and grow. Lots of interesting SEO news this month including improvements for online/in-person marketing integration, the launch of Bing Bots and even a big upgrade as to how we view our home planet.
Let’s take a look at all of the Internet Marketing news you need to know for May 2017:
New Hotel Reviews for Google
Looking for a hotel? Google is unveiling a whole new system for hotel reviews. First noticed by SEO expert Sergey Alakov, these new reviews include a variety of useful features including:
- Carousel of third-party reviews
- Improved interface includes bolder colors
- Ability to sort by attribute
- Ability to sort by type of travel
- Increased review detail
Overall results will be more relevant and accurate. This is great news for frequent travelers. If your online business relates to travel, you’ll want to check how these updates will affect your SEO campaign.
New Job Portal for Google, Too
Google also released a test for a new Job Portal. Active job listings now include an expanded results page. Job hunters can search by the following categories:
This new feature is currently only in testing. Moz-affiliate Dan Shure broke the news first on Twitter.
Google’s Similar Audience Feature Expanding
The Similar Audience features have long been an effective tool for marketers looking to identify groups of likely customers. Now these tools are available in both Search and Shopping.
Remarketing lists help reach both existing and new customers. Google’s official announcement describes the expansion into Search and Shopping as a way to bring the power of these lists to a wider audience both customers and businesses. Your site’s own data can now be used to send the right message to the right targeted audience at just the right moment.
Bing Bots Launch for Local Retailers
Bing Bots are about to make a big splash on search results. The search engine’s Bot Framework will allow for chatbots to be easily integrated into search results. Chatbots help make chat more interactive. The chatbot can act as a type of guide to help the searcher find very specific, personalized results.
Right now, the Bing Bots are only available for restaurants. Bots are automatically created from data pulled from Bing Places. In the future, Bing Bots will work with Facebook Messenger and Cortana.
Bots answer quite a few basic questions. Some examples for a restaurant include:
- Do you have outdoor seating?
- What are your hours?
- Do you gluten-free/vegetarian/other dietary need?
Chatbots can be a real boost for just about any type of business. They have three key benefits:
- Improved customer service
- Automated with data delivered directly from Bing Places
- Bot can run across multiple channels and platform
Currently, these bots are available for Bing, Skype and SMS. Facebook Messenger and Cortana are planned additions for the future. Users can manage their bot channels through the Bot Framework Channel.
Eventually, Bing wants to roll out bots to local businesses beyond restaurants. They also plan to include chat bots alongside search results.
Google (Briefly) Adds Personal Filter to Search
If you have a personal Google account, you might have noticed some interesting changes this month. For about 24 hours, everyone with a personal account potentially saw the new filter on the main Google search tools. Specifically, a feature was added which filters search results to show only personal results.
The results vary based on individual. Many users saw emails, photos, flights and other personal data somehow connected to their individual Google account. If you’re a heavy Gmail user, you likely saw a lot of emails.
The Personal Filter was only available for about a day. But many long-time Internet pros were reminded of Google’s Search Plus Your World. First launched in 2012, Search Plus Your World included a variety of personal info, such as emails, in your results. Search Plus Your World has been sporadic appearances over the years.
This one-time (for now) appearance of the Personal Filter might signal a return to more personalized search options in the future. Google publicly stated they have no specific plans for the future of personal search. But we think personal search features will likely return to Google sooner rather than later.
Big Updates to Google Earth
Talk about some major home improvements. Google recently launched their completely new, updated version of Google Earth. And the results are actually pretty impressive.
First, Google Earth is now built directly into Chrome. So you can quickly access every image, video and knowledge card. The notoriously cumbersome desktop app is no more.
Google Earth now offers a three-dimensional, fully multimedia experience of the planet with the ability to zoom down all the way to Google Street View. Plus, Google’s new knowledge cards provide access to info on cities, rivers, landmarks and more.
Interesting Test to Featured Snippets and Organic Results
Are Featured Snippets going to be useful in the future? Jennifer Slegg from The SEMPost recently noticed an interesting test. Google was experimenting with the removal of organic results if the URL was also featured in the answer box.
This removes the benefit of having two listings. Plus, the answer box generally has a lower click-thru rate than an organic listing.
Currently, this was a limited experiment by Google. If the change becomes permanent, SEO pros might decide they’d rather have an organic listing than be featured in the answer box. We’ll keep an eye on this issue and let you know what develops.
Google Launches In-Store Offline Attribution
For brick and mortar locations, full integration of online and offline marketing is a must. Retail stores with a physical location still need a fully optimized website. This month during Google Marketing Next in San Francisco, Google unveiled a series of tools and improvements for marketers to further strengthen the online/offline marketing connection.
YouTube ads and campaigns are getting a big upgrade. Coming soon, info including address, hours, photos, call buttons and more will be available for YouTube ads. Plus, YouTube campaigns will be trackable by store visits. You can see who is visiting a physical location because of a video ad, which is a whole new way to measure the effectiveness of your campaign.
Google Attribution was also announced. This free, multi-touch attribution tool present a whole new way to look at the customer journey. Instead of simply looking at the last click before a conversion, Google Attribution shows the full customer journey.
Google Attribution has full AdWords and DoubleClick Search integration. Data can be easily incorporated into automated bidding strategies. Plus, marketers can use Google Attribution without adding any extra tags to the existing site.
Is Google Biased Against Trump?
President Donald Trump is certainly a controversial figure – and that’s putting it mildly. His relationship with the mass media is nothing if not confrontational. But does that extend to his treatment by search engines?
Trump’s photograph in Google’s Presidential photograph carousel is noticeably different than the others. Obama, Bush and other presidents in the carousel all use the person’s official portrait. Except for Trump. His photograph is from a 2016 Business Insider article.
The photo used has Trump looking particularly smug. Plus, the pic is a noticeably different style than the other presidential portraits.
The issue was originally raised by Eric Wileaver in the Google forums. He posted “I want the picture of President Trump changed to a more appropriate picture. The picture, when I searched presidents, is disrespectful to all of presidents before him. Please and thank you.”
Trump, and many of his supporters, certainly have their complaints about the news media. So is this issue with the carousel legitimate, or do people see a problem where none exists? We have no idea but we’re certain Trump’s online presence will continue to make news.
Widget Link Building Likely Faces a Limited Future
Last year, Google announced that links built with widgets could be penalized. Widget links were again in the news this month. During a recent Google Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller said Google might automatically nofollow widget links on your behalf.
What does this mean? Google might not directly punish you for widget links. But these types of links are affected by the new Penguin algorithm updates. If you use widget links on your site, make sure you understand how your ranking could be impacted.
Links to 404 Pages are Confirmed Okay
A 404 page is one which doesn’t exist or otherwise can’t load. There are all sorts of reasons a page might not load, and many of those reasons are completely out of the hands of the webmaster. This has led to a lot of discussion among SEO pros about how search engines view links to 404 pages.
Turns out Google doesn’t penalize you for linking to 404 pages. Recently, Google’s Gary Illyes confirmed this 404 info in a series of tweets to SEMPost writer Jennifer Slegg.
Mobile First Release Update
Mobile First is a big change to Google’s ranking algorithm. Instead of using the desktop version of a page as the primary ranking factor, the mobile version will be the main version search engines consider. For many months, internet marketers have been trying to pinpoint the actual release day of Mobile First – and Google hasn’t given much in the way of hints.
We got a few more clues earlier this month courtesy of John Mueller during a Google Webmaster Hangout. According to Mueller, Mobile First might be released periodically instead of all at once.
“[It’s] possible that we’ll say, well, this batch of sites works perfectly fine on mobile first indexing, so we’ll just switch that over.”
While that’s not a ton of info, it’s actually more new Mobile First news that we’ve seen in a while. The idea of a site-by-site index is interesting although not entirely unexpected. A periodic release schedule allows Google to fine-tune the update without affecting, well, the entire internet. As always, we’ll keep an eye out for all the latest info on Mobile First.
Unexplained Activity in Search Results
May 17th and 18th saw some fluctuating in the search results. Although Google didn’t confirm it, the issue was widely reported throughout the SEO and internet marketing community. Plus, forecasting tools also picked up some unexplained changes.
So far, the effects seem to have been felt primarily by the retail industry. According to Rank Rangers, Amazon saw a 7% ranking decrease. Not much else is known about this apparent update, including if the changes will last. We’ll keep an eye on the retail rankings in the upcoming months and report any additional mystery changes.
Bing Expands Options for Home Page Photo
Unlike the bare, clean look of Google, Bing has long favored an elaborate background of different daily photos. This month they announced a few upgrades to how those photos are displayed. Aside from the summary, new options added include the ability to download and share the image on Facebook, Twitter or Skype.
Users can also click on the image to view a map showing where the photo was taken. Past images are now available in a gallery which can be searched by category tags, colors and holidays.
The new Bing image features are currently only available in the United States. The search giant announced plans to bring the features to the UK, Canada, Australia, India, Germany, France, Brazil and Japan by June.
Google Doodle Honest Architect Zaha Hadid
Google’s Doodle this month honored Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi architect. Hadid was the first woman to win the renowned Pritzker Architecture Prize. The Doodle features both a drawing of Hadid alongside the Heydar Aliyev Center, which is a cultural center in Azerbaijan she designed.
As detailed in the Google Doodle blog, Hadid bases many of her architectural designs on historical Islamic images found in calligraphy and geometric patterns.
Any news stories we missed? Let us know in the comments below. What news stories have you been following so far this year?
Check back soon for updates on all the important news on search engine optimization and web marketing!