This past week Google doubled down on some of its new services while announcing it will be retiring one of its legacy services. The company is taking new measures to combat piracy and hurtful comments on the web. Gboard has been updated with a sorely needed feature. Google’s virtual assistant is coming to more devices, and Google made an update to its Google My Business guidelines which will affect businesses with a virtual office.
More details about each of these top stories are included in this week’s SEO news roundup.
Google and Bing Team Up to Fight Piracy
Google and Bing have teamed up come to a voluntary agreement with the UK government to demote websites providing links to download copyright infringing content. While the agreement does not affect US search results at this time, it could have a ripple effect across search results in other countries. Pressure could be put on Google and Bing to apply the same type of filters in search results in other parts of the world, including the US. It’s also notable in a historical sense — search engines have never before taken such measures to thwart traffic to piracy sites.
Google Uses Machine Learning to Moderate Hurtful Online Comments
Google has released a new API which publishers can install on their sites to help filter out hurtful comments. The new tool, called Perspective, is compatible with any publishing platform that has a comments section. Perspective cross-references new comments against a human-generated database of offensive comments. Hurtful comments will be flagged for the site owner to moderate at their own discretion. It will not automatically remove the comments, but it will make it easier for the site owner to remove potentially hurtful comments without having to sift through every single one manually. With its machine learning capabilities, Perspective will be able to continuously add to its database of hurtful comments as it learns more about them over time.
Google Upgrades Gboard for iPhone, Finally Has Voice Dictation
Gboard, Google’s alternative mobile keyboard with a built-in search engine, has been updated on iPhone. The update includes a feature which it has been sorely missing since launch — voice typing. The ability to dictate a message is practically an expected feature for mobile keyboards, so now Gboard is finally catching up. The update also includes support for all new emoji included in iOS 10, as well as support for 15 new languages.
Virtual Offices Not Allowed for Service-Area Businesses, According to new Google My Business (GMB) Guidelines
Google has updated its GMB guidelines to state once and for all that virtual offices cannot be listed as service-area businesses. In order to qualify as a service-area business in GMB, the business needs to have a physical location which is staffed during all of the listed business hours. Here is a snippet from the new guidelines:
”Service-area businesses can’t list a “virtual” office unless that office is staffed during business hours… If you serve customers at your address and want to set a service area, your business location should be staffed by your team and able to receive customers during its stated hours.”
Google to Stop Selling its Site Search Product on April 1st
For quite some time, Google has offered a product called Site Search, which allowed site owners to harness the power of Google Search within their own websites. Google announced it will stop selling the Site Search product on April 1st, although current customers will still be able to use it on their sites throughout the remainder of their license. If you are using this on your site and are in need of an alternative, Google officially recommends using Google Custom Search, which is an ad-supported and Google-branded alternative to Site Search.
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Generate 7% of Traffic to US Publishers
According to a report by Adobe Analytics, by the end of December 2016 AMPs accounted for 7% of traffic to top US publishers. While that may not sound like a significant amount of traffic, it’s important to keep in mind that AMPs have only been indexed in Google search since September 2016. Considering AMPs have only had 3 months to get indexed, ranked, and drive traffic — that 7% stat sounds a lot more impressive. It will be interesting to see how much this number increases after the 6-month and 1-year marks.
Google Responds to Unexpected User Sign-Out Problems
Were you unexpectedly signed out of your Google account recently? Don’t worry, you’re far from the only one. It was such a widespread problem last week that Google ended up issuing a public statement to assure concerned users that their accounts are still safe.
”During routine maintenance, a number of users were signed-out from their Google accounts. This may have resulted in you being signed out of your account or seeing a notification about “A change in your Google account” or “Account Action Required”… We can assure you that the security of your account was never in danger as a result of this issue.”
This issue also affected users of Google Wifi and OnHub, resetting their devices back to factory settings. There’s nothing to be worried about there either, though it does mean having to set up the devices from scratch.
Google Allo and Assistant Coming to Desktop
Google’s messaging app Allo, along with its much talked about virtual assistant, is making its way to desktop. Eventually. A Google employee stated it’s still in early development, though he was eager to show off a screenshot:
— Nick Fox (@RealNickFox) February 24, 2017
From the screenshot, it looks like the desktop version of Allo will be a Chrome app and not a native app for either Windows or Desktop. Second, it definitely supports Google Assistant both in chats with friends and in direct chats with the bot itself. Now if we could only get a release date.
All Android Phones Running 6.0 and Above to Receive Google Assistant
In further news about Google Assistant — the AI-powered personal assistant that could one day be an integral part of our lives — the company revealed it will be coming to more Android devices this week. Assistant will automatically be rolled out to all Android devices running version 6.0 and above. That means instead of using it in a standalone app like Allo, it will be built right into the operating system. Users with eligible handsets can call upon the assistant using the command “OK Google” or by long-pressing on the home button. Previously, Google Assistant was only available via its Pixel phone, Home device, Allo messaging app, and Android Wear.
Wrapping it Up
To say this was a week full of news and new developments would be an understatement. Here’s a few of the key takeaways from this past week:
- Google Assistant will now be readily available to hundreds of millions of Android users, which could lead to major increases in voice search.
- AMPs are showing the promise of being a decent traffic driver, though we’ll need a few more months of data to know for sure.
- Google Site Search is shuttering, so start getting comfortable with the idea of using an alternative.
- Google My Business no longer allows virtual offices to be used as “service-area businesses”.
As always, we’ll continue to keep you in the loop with all the major happenings in search and search marketing.