Google quietly rolled out a couple of new changes to organic search results this week, and rest assured nothing goes unnoticed by the SEO community. An industry study was published illustrating the potential benefits of using Accelerated Mobile Pages. Google wants to be your new source for finding hotel deals. Organic traffic to one of the world’s most authoritative publications has been slashed nearly in half, and we’ll explain what this means for similar websites. Lastly, but certainly not least, Google is getting into the spirit of Pride month with an update to Maps.
More details about each of these top stories are included in this week’s SEO & SEM news roundup.
Study: Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages Boost User Engagement
A study was recently published by Chartbeat that concludes AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) content drives more traffic and user engagement than Facebook’s competing Instant Articles format. Despite the fact AMP content takes over a full second longer to load than Instant Articles, AMP content is receiving three times more traffic.
In addition, users coming from Google Search are likely to spend over 10 seconds longer viewing a piece of AMP content than a standard mobile web page. You can take what you will from these conclusions, but the study presents a compelling case that users prefer to engage with fast-loading mobile-optimized content.
For more information about the AMP format and how you can use the technology on your site, please see our guide to Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Google Adds Hotel Deals to Knowledge Panels
Want to find the ideal hotel at the best price? No, we’re not talking about Trivago. Google is getting in on the hotel deals game with a subtle addition to hotel Knowledge Panels. Now when you search for the name of a specific hotel, Google may display an alert saying you can save money if you choose to stay on slightly different dates. This was spotted by Jennifer Slegg at The SEM Post, who has also provided several screenshots on her blog.
Google Revamps Local Panels
Google’s card-style panels for local businesses have been revamped with easier access to local reviews. The new design has been going through a testing period over the past month, and Google recently confirmed it has been fully rolled out in mobile search results. When you search for a local business, you will now be able to quickly toggle back and forth between the business overview and business reviews. You can see an example below.
Catch up on anything else you may have missed in local search as of late with our latest recap of updates to Google local search.
A New Version of WordPress is Now Available
WordPress 4.8, the latest iteration of the web’s leading content management system, is now available to download or update from your WordPress dashboard. A majority of the new features are designed to make it easier to get things done without the use of complicated code. Now you can easily add images, videos, audio, and rich text within widgets without the use of manual coding.
Any image, video, or audio file uploaded to your media library can be easily turned into a widget and inserted into your site wherever your template allows. In addition, any text added to a widget can be formatted just as you would format the content in the body of a post. No more HTML required!
Amongst these updates, WordPress has decided to drop support for aging media formats. WMV, WMA, and any other formats requiring use of the Silverlight plugin can no longer be embedded into WordPress content. However, they can still be displayed as downloadable links. Other new features include a section in the admin dashboard highlighting local WordPress events, and a feature called Link Boundaries which makes it easier to edit links.
Wall Street Journal’s Google Traffic Plummets
Wall Street Journal used to participate in a program called First Click Free. The program allowed visitors from Google to bypass WSJ’s paywall for at least one click. Visiting other pages on the site would require a subscription, but the first click from Google search would be free. Well, WSJ pulled out of that program in February, and since then its organic traffic has tanked by 44%.
Suzi Watford, WSJ’s chief marketing officer, claims the publication is being “discriminated against” for being a paid site. However, the truth is, when pages are behind a paywall Google simply cannot index them the same way they can index free content. To WSJ’s benefit, subscriptions to the publication have quadrupled since pulling out of the First Click Free program. Whether or not this offsets the amount of traffic and ad revenue lost from Google is unknown.
Let this be a cautionary tale to other publications participating in Google’s First Click Free program. Should you decide to pull out, a loss of Google traffic is sure to follow. You’ll have to weigh the benefits of free Google traffic against other goals you may be trying to achieve, such as conversions or subscriptions.
Google Maps Shows Its Pride
June is Pride month around the world, and Google is literally showing its colors with an update to Google Maps. In an effort to help people find local parades and events, parade routes and event info have been added to Google Maps on Android and iOS in 35 cities worldwide. If you’re in one of the 35 covered cities, you’ll see a rainbow parade route on the map itself. Tapping on it will open an event card with more information. Other Pride events will be marked on the map with a special Pride icon. To help people navigate around events, Google Maps will dynamically reroute drivers around the festivities.
Wrapping it Up
Further evidence has been revealed indicating the faster a page loads, the more time visitors are likely to spend engaging with it. Updates have been rolled out to Google searches for hotels and local businesses. A new version of WordPress is available that allows webmasters to easily embed media into a site without the use of code. Traffic to the Wall Street Journal has been plummeting since it pulled out of First Click Free. In the spirit of Pride month, Google is helping people get in on the festivities with an update to Maps.