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Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

  • Google released a “rich result” filter in the Google Search Console Search Analytics Report. Under search appearance filters you can now view Google impressions and clicks from rich cards, rich snippets and other rich results.
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  • Google added a new comparison feature tool within (Google Search Console) Search Analytics. Comparisons can be made with queries, pages, countries and search types.
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This allows marketers to compare two pages, search types, countries or queires against each other to analyze performance. This is very helpful when you need to compare similar content pages competing for the same keywords.

  • In the future, Google plans to add featured snippet information to the Search Analytics Report of Google Search Console.
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This is probably still a long way off, but having the ability to see the keywords that prompted featured snippet results is a needed improvement.

  • Gary Illyes explained that Google may also be working on allowing webmasters to view more than 90 days of data in the Google Search Console. There is no timeline for implementation.
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I don’t see this happening in the near future, but when it does it will be appreciated.

  • Google is beta testing a newly designed Console Mobile Usability report interface in the Google Search Console. It does not appear to be a change in functionality, just surface design.
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  • Using the Google Search Console fetch tool will most likely not speed up the removal of a Panda algorithm penalty. This is because the index cycle runs separate from the Panda algorithm cycle. Even if a page is updated and indexed, Panda will still need to react to the newly indexed page.
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With that being said, I would still recommend using your limited number of fetches to have Google crawl your updated content. You don’t want to have an updated page missed in your next Google crawl, especially if you are trying to recover from Panda.

  • John Mueller in a Google hangout said that some ranking factors are based on an overall site quality score while others more based on individual pages quality score.
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To give an example… your site speed score is probably a site-wide metric while a panda quality score is probably an individual page metric. This seems pretty obvious, but it is good to keep in mind.

  • Maile Ohye from google explained that to have your page content used in featured snippets it is not necessary for the title to be in Q&A format. Often, search queries are not written in direct question format but have an implied question.
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To have your site rank you really only need to have accurate information on a page that would answer that query. Using question format is helpful, but not when it becomes excessive (unless you are a site like Quora).

  • John Mueller noted that changing the footers in your website to arteficially make your site appear fresh will probably result in Google indexing these ‘changed’ pages more frequently. However, frequent indexing does not mean higher rankings.
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For those looking to gain an advantage over competitors, there are much better things to focus on, rather than trying to manipulate a more frequent crawl rate.

  • Google will be releasing symptom-related direct answers on mobile. This function will roll out on mobile in English at first and gradually expand from there. Searches for specific symptoms will bring up a list of potential conditions. Searches for general symptoms will come up with a description of the symptom and some ways to self-medicate.
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This is potentially bad news for sites relying on traffic to their medical or health content.

  • Google Analytics will be expanding alerts by adding notifications about sites hacked (for spam in violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines).  Your site does not need to have Google Analytics and Google Search Console linked to receive these messaging.
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If you are using Google alerts, create a ‘hacked’ label in your linked gmail account. Have anything that includes mentions of hacking automatically placed in the label so you don’t miss it.

  • John Mueller noted that Google does not use structured markup when creating featured snippets.

Here is a starting point for getting into the Featured Snippets.

  • If you have examples of zombie traffic to your site, John Mueller from Google is asking you to send him these examples to be analyzed.
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If you have any insight or examples send it John’s way. The reason for the growth of zombie traffic is still unknown (or at least debated).

  • Google answered webmaster questions concerning duplicate content. Simply rewriting meta descriptions will not solve the problem, especially if the majority of your page content is duplicate.
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Duplicate content is about proportion. If the majority of your site is unique, then a duplicate meta description shouldn’t be as problematic, although not ideal. On page content like manufacturer’s descriptions (for ecommerce sites) are generally duplicate. This is not an issue as long as there is unique content on the page as well. Each industry also develops its own set of standards with what Google will rank in duplicate content. Google needs to rank something, so as long as you are better than your competitors, it will probably be you.

  • John Mueller explained that after your recover from a Google manual action penalty, and you receive notice, the manual action penalty in the google search console should update within a couple days. If it does not, then your site still has a penalty or there is a bug.
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Either way it would be best to follow up with Google (cross your fingers for a bug).

  • John Mueller stated that A/B tests are fine with Google and not considered a form of cloaking. But, make sure to not run any one test for an “extended period of time”. Otherwise Google may identify it as cloaking. An “extended period of time” is a loose description best defined as the point when your test content feels more like the default rather than a test.
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If you are using A/B or multivariate testing, be aware of the length of your test, especially if you are a small site that requires more time to collected the needed visits for statistical significance.

  • Google quietly announced that it will drop the search date range filter from mobile devices. It will still exist on desktop.
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Google dropping additional filters should not be a surprise, since they dropped the location filter back in December. I hope they leave the date filter on desktop alone (I use it frequently).

  • John Mueller mentioned that links found in the Google Search Console are within the Google Index.
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A more interesting conversation can be found in the comments below the linked article. For those who have poor quality sites linking to their site in the Google Search Console, even if the poor-quality site appears to be no-indexed in the SERPS, it is best to add them to your disavow file. These links appear to be in an indexation limbo state and may still carry weight, albeit a lowered weight.

  • Google announced a new tool – Springboard. Springboard is a search engine built to search through your Google Suite Apps (Gmail, Drive, Docs, Calendar…). Google also announced an upgrade to Sites, a tool for creating web pages. The upgrade will similarly allow users to pull information from other Google apps.
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Springboard and the upgrade are currently being tested but you can get in on early adoption.

  • John Mueller reminded SEOs via Twitter that even if a page isn’t cached by Google it can still rank as well as other pages. It is not a sign that something is broken.

Proof of this would be using the meta tag: <meta name=“googlebot” content=”your url here” /> which tells Google not to cache but still index your pages.

PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

  • Bing Ads added the ability to check ad disapprovals and edit text ads and landing page URLs in its iOS and Android Apps.
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If you need to get some ad work done on the go, there you go.

  • Google will be rolling out green ad labels in the SERP to replace the previous yellow ones.
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The change is most likely related to revenue growth for Google. Green may be more enticing to click than yellow. Eventually green will be viewed as an ad color by users, so this does not matter in the long run.

  • Google is testing a new Adwords ad extension. The extension allows searchers to text information to the advertiser via the Adwords ad. Similar to the click to call ad extension.
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Depending on user interaction this may become something worth looking into. However, I think texts will be used primarily for asking business questions rather than for purchase or scheduling appointments. It may become more of an educational user interaction.

LOCAL SEARCH

  • At SMX Advanced, Google announced ads will be coming to the local 3 pack. The first of the three local results will be an ad.  This ad will display based on location extensions in your Adwords. (Ads already display in the maps section.)
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Google continues to push down organic search results in order to eke out more ad revenue. This is good news for big retailers who can now buy the space that they could not otherwise rank for. Bad news for small businesses with small purses.

  • Google added a deal tag to Local 3-pack and Local Finder Map Hotel Results.
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This is currently specific just to the hotel industry, but a tag to watch out for in case it spreads to other industries.

  • Google runs two different Local 3 packs. A branded and non-branded variation. The two different variations appear differently in search results and list different companies. What is more is that the branded variation sometimes appears for what would be considered a non-branded query.
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Since the rankings vary depending on which 3-pack is display, be careful when analyzing your keyword tool’s local rankings.

  • Google field operations workers may come to your business and scan the premises for Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth BLE and cell tower signals.  You can opt out of this is you wish by following these instructions.
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  • Google has been crowd sourcing information for Google Maps. When a Google Maps user checks into a location they are asked to verify suggested edits others have made to that location in maps. The user can select the most correct piece of info about the location.
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This should help cut down on malicious map edits going live. It will also help maps become more accurate while taking some of the workload off of Google.  

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

  • Facebook found and widely publicized that 1.15 billion people around the world logged into Facebook using at least two different devices over a 90-day period. Facebook made a big deal about this finding in an effort to point out the futile use of cookie-tracking. Facebook hopes that the cookie will be replaced with the Facebook login as the dominant digital tracking mechanism.
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While cookies are becoming a huge problem, I don’t think the Facebook login will be the answer. It may for certain demographics, but it will certainly miss large portions of the population who prefer not to use Facebook or are not always logged in.

  • Snapchat has seen tremendous growth. Over the past four years it has increased its user base to 140 million daily active uses. To increase revenues, Snapchat has announced new details about how brands can advertise on the platform. These details include a new ad format ‘Snap Ads’ between stories, expandable snap ads, an open ad API, advertising through ad partners and an ad quality score.
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Although Snapchat has become popular and is constantly mentioned in digital marketing blogs, it is still a relatively unused ad platform. With the introduction of new advertising vehicles it may be time to dip your toe into Snapchat ads.

  • Facebook’s Nicola Mendehsohn (VP for Europe) noted that Facebook is seeing fewer text posts and predicts that in five years news feeds will be all video.
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“All” video may be a bit hyperbolic, but the growth of video in Facebook is opening up a new avenue for advertisers to reach potential customers (if done correctly).

  • The 2016 Digital News Report commissioned by Reuters noted an interesting aspect of online news. It turns out that online news consumers much prefer text based news over news videos. This preference is driven by a number of reasons but two primary ones. The first is that pre-roll ads are a turn off and cause users to quickly abandon a video. The second is that text news is much easier to read and consume.
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If you are in the news business, stick to text ads or get rid of your pre-roll advertising. You can still advertise in your video but do it in another format.

  • Facebook will be launching store visit conversions in its Ads Reporting Tool. Data will be anonymous and aggregated for privacy so you can’t tie individual’s people ins-tore visits. If Facebook users are opted into location history then advertisers can see when someone saw an ad and visited their business location within one, seven, or twenty-eight days. Facebook also has a new Store Locator map feature. The Store Locator is a pop-up that displays local awareness ads in a map and provides basic store information (hours, phone, address, directions).
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It looks like Facebook is continuing to directly challenge Google in the ad space. Google has been running a similar feature for its advertisers and boasted of the ability in its Adwords keynote last month.

  • Pinterest ad targeting has been limited to location, language, device and gender. But, Pinterest will be adding customer list targeting (reach your current customers by uploading email addresses or mobile ad IDs), visitor retargeting (retarget current customers by adding a Pinterest conversion tag on your site) and Lookalike Targeting (advertise to group of people that share behaviors and traits of current customers).
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This is a huge step forward in making Pinterest more of a plausible platform for advertising to its 100 million monthly users.customers.

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