Google confirmed that an algorithm update occurred this past week. We’ll fill you in on the details and let you know what, if anything, you can do as a result. An update to Google Image Search now places even more importance on well-optimized title tags. A new Google Maps filter will help users find more accessible routes. A powerful search-by-image tool developed by Google is now available on iOS devices.
In paid search news— businesses that run Google AdWords ads will be able to retarget potential customers on YouTube. Performance insights are now available for a relatively new AdWords ad unit. Lastly, Google AdWords has banned ads for a type of product that everyone seems to be investing in right now.
More details about all of these top stories are included in this week’s SEO & SEM news roundup.
A Confirmed Google Algorithm Update Occurred Last Week
By Google’s own admission, algorithm updates occur every day. They’re rarely confirmed or acknowledged, which is what makes this one different. Google announced this update on Twitter, letting everyone know it’s a “broad core” algorithm update that occurs several times a year.
Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results. Some are focused around specific improvements. Some are broad changes. Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year….
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) March 12, 2018
What that means is this is a large scale update affecting all search results. Google did not reveal any specific details, so exact changes are still unknown. The one sure way to check if your site has been affected by this update is to monitor your traffic numbers for any significant spikes or drop-offs dating back to last week.
However, Google says drops or gains in search rankings as a result of this update are “normal.” What this update is said to do is re-rank content according to how it deserved to be ranked prior to this update. In other words, if you notice a significant drop in rankings for specific pages then that could be a sign you need to improve the quality of those pages. For further guidance, you are welcome to contact us for a free SEO audit.
Google Adds Captions to Image Search Results
Google image search results pages on mobile devices will now feature captions below each thumbnail. Captions will be automatically created using the title tag of the page the image is featured on. Google says this should assist searchers by adding more context to what an image is about. Of course, that all depends on the page titles.
A frequent problem we run into when auditing sites is that they may either not have well thought out title tags, or they use the same generic title tag for all pages. This update to image search makes it even more important to have properly optimized title tags, especially if your site features a lot of original images.
Wheelchair Accessible Routes in Google Maps
When looking up directions in Google Maps, users will now have the option to filter results by wheelchair accessible routes. To access wheelchair accessible routes in Google Maps follow these steps:
- Search for a destination
- Select “Directions”
- Tap the public transportation icon
- Select “Options”
- Select “Wheelchair accessible” at the bottom of the page
In the US this feature is currently only available in New York and Boston. It’s also available in Mexico City, Tokyo, and Sydney. Google intends to roll out this feature to more cities within the coming months.
Google Lens is Now Available on iOS
Google Lens, a powerful object recognition tool, is now available to users with iPhones and iPads. Previously, this feature was only available to users with Android devices. Lens is a feature that exists within the Google Photos app, so ensure you have the latest version before attempting to use Lens.
Google Lens can be used to learn more about specific objects in photos. Using Google Photos, Lens is capable of recognizing objects within images such as:
- Business cards
In addition to acquiring information, Google Lens can also be used to quickly perform actions on your smartphone. For example, Lens can automatically store contact information in your phone from photos of business cards. It can also create calendar events from photos of things like flyers and billboards.
Retarget Google Searchers With Ads on YouTube
Google AdWords users now have the opportunity to target the same people across Google Search and YouTube. That means when a person sees one of your ads in search results, they can continue to be shown ads from your company when they use YouTube. Google is calling this ‘custom intent audiences.’ To be eligible to display ads to custom intent audiences, all an advertiser has to do is create a keyword list for their video campaign.
Insights for Google AdWords Click-to-Message Ads
Google is finally offering a way to measure the performance of an ad unit it introduced 2 years ago. Click-to-message ads are the text equivalent of click-to-call ads. Unlike automated chat bots, click-to-message ads put users in touch with a real person on the other end. Google AdWords will soon roll out ‘message reporting’ which contains the following insights:
- Chat rate: How often searchers start a conversation with your business
- Chat start time: Timestamps indicating when searchers initiated conversations
- Messages: The total number of messages exchanged in a single chat session
Google Bans Cryptocurrency Related Ads
Cryptocurrency is a hot topic right now— you’ve likely heard about the skyrocketing value of Bitcoin in the news at one point or another. Unfortunately, the race to invest in cryptocurrency has led to people falling victim to scams. Google is doing its part to mitigate the risk of getting scammed by banning ads for anything related to cryptocurrency. This includes advertisements for purchasing cryptocurrency, as well as advertisements offering nothing more than information about cryptocurrency. Google AdWords is not the first major ad network to ban cryptocurrency-related advertising. Facebook implemented similar policies earlier this year.
Wrapping it Up
In summary, here are the key takeaways from this week’s SEO & SEM news:
- A broad scale Google algorithm update occurred. Now is a good time to take a close look at traffic and rankings if you haven’t lately.
- Google is adding captions to thumbnails in image search, so make sure your title tags are optimized.
- Directions in Google Maps can now be filtered by wheelchair-accessible routes in certain locations.
- Google Lens, and object recognition tool within the Google Photos app, is now available on iOS.
- Google AdWords is allowing advertisers to retarget searchers with YouTube ads.
- Performance insights are now available for Google AdWords click-to-message ads.
- Google has banned ads for anything related to cryptocurrency.
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