Here are my favorite SEO Events for the year. The list includes algorithm changes (see Moz for more about those), as well as more broad observations to search behavior and Google’s interface updates, and what you can do about it.

AdWords Shakeup – February 23rd, 2016

Google updated the look of their search results, somewhat drastically, by removing the Ad block on the right side, and placing up to four ads before the Organic listings.

This look accomplishes two things:

  • It trains Google users to expect Knowledge Graph information to the right (where the ads used to be). Users will know what to expect if they notice content to the right and jump over visually to read it. As Google eye-tracking studies have shown, users tend to scan down the results to find where to click, so this plays off that to only look to the right to get quick information.
  • Reflects a “mobile-first” design change. This is really how you’d expect Google to look if it were only a mobile search engine, and then translated that experience to desktop. This is the kind of thinking Google has been promoting for some time, and a good example of them taking their own advice.

What you can do:

  • Take a fresh look at Knowledge Graph keywords, especially the “branded” words about your company. Google will likely show it more often now that it doesn’t have to sacrifice ad space.
  • Have the “conversation” with your paid search counterparts to measure how this might be effecting your combined efforts. There may be some good insights to better target your audience given this change

Pokemon Go – July 2016

When the Pokemon Go phenomenon hit the world this summer, a few people I’m sure were thinking what I was thinking: Ingress is taking off!

Ingress was a game created by Niantic Labs, which at the time was owned by Google. As I blogged about a few years ago, if Google could inspire people to go out walking around in droves, essentially mapping the landscape, that could be of  interesting value to Google, or others who need to figure out things like mapping sidewalks for last mile delivery robots.

It seemed crazy that people would run around finding jewels though like Ingress offered. But after Niantic Labs was spun off from Google, they improved upon the game, and connected with Pokemon. Finding jewels or whatever is lame, but trying to “catch them all?!” People ran out the door; the app was downloaded more that 500 million times! With a path now to collect this kind of geo-spatial and foot-traffic pattern data, I don’t think we’ve heard the last of how this kind of information will be utilized by a company like Google, digital advertisers, or others. Find more thoughts from US News and CNET.

What you can do:

  • Beyond optimizing for the game as pointed out by SearchEngineLand, I think it’s just an interesting thing to keep an eye on.

Google Map Maker Shut Down – August 8, 2016

Before this August, anyone could make edits to Google Maps pretty easily. This of course opened up Google Maps to just hoards of spam. Most notably around the locksmiths industry. Google shut it down this year, and in its place rolled out a Local Guides program. This should curb spam some as users now have to build up credibility before making changes in Google maps. Find more from TechCrunch.

What you can do:

  • If your industry is heavy in local, especially if you depend on Google Maps traffic, take the time to become a Local Guide. You’ll be able to improve Google Maps from the perspective of your site and earn some traffic along the way.

In-Home Voice Assistants

The latest tech gadget that everyone has to have, In-Home Voice Assistants, are on their way to becoming a staple of the modern home. After you get over the privacy concerns, the SEO and digital marketers out there should focus on how this represents the newest touch point to reach a potential consumer through your information.

What you can do:

  • Get the analysis right. “Traffic” or interactions with you site stemming from these devices may be counted as direct traffic. Take some time to determine how your audience is interacting with you through these devices.
  • Re-asses how “accessible” your content is. If your content is not easily consumed by a screen-reader that might be a good place to start to be make sure its easy to read by these technologies. Find more ideas from SEL.

Possum Update – September 1, 2016

In a huge shake up in the Google Local (aka Maps) results, Google primarily cleaned up duplicate listings and spam, but it also made businesses with offices outside of a certain region, but that services it, rank more often. For example if you were a contractor that works in a different city as your office, it was difficult for you to rank highly in the city that you serviced. Google opened that up a bit more with this update. Find more from SEL, and how it things changed for many local search results.

What you can do:

  • If relevant, make sure you’ve claimed and are monitoring your Google Local Business profile. Many business owners are reporting being pleasantly surprised to find an uptick in their performance here, as the “losers” of this update were mainly spammed or duplicate listings.

Progressive Web App Roadshow

Google really wants you to build a Progressive Web App, or at least make Accelerated Mobile Pages. So much so they visited seven cities in 2016 to encourage developers and marketers to take on the technology and shift how to approach mobile for their companies. 2016 was the year that more than half of web traffic now comes from mobile devices, so it’s no surprise Google is pushing the industry in that direction to improve their own product.

What you can do:

  • As explained greatly in-depth by SEL, make 2017 the year that mobile is your strength over the competition
Categories: SEO


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