January 5, 2016: In early December, Google dropped the “followers on Google+” social annotation for AdWords advertisers, as uncovered in an article from The SEM Post. This is announcement was just another indicator that B2B marketers can focus less on activity directly associated with Google+ in the new year.
This is also just one of hundreds of changes Google made in the past year when you take into account search updates, product announcements, and organizational changes. While its practically impossible to stay up to date with every major announcement from Google, there are certainly are a few that deserve more attention than others.
As we kick off the new year, I wanted to use this post highlight 8 key developments Google made in 2015, and what they could mean, today, and in the long run, for B2B marketing professionals.
The Demise of Google+
In mid-2014, Vic Gundotra, then Google SVP, and largely considered the champion of Google+, announced his resignation from the search engine. From that point on, signs pointed to the eventual demise of Google’s social networking platform, culminating in acting SVP Bradley Horowitz’s announcement that he’d taken over responsibilities for the service, and splitting it into a new service called Photos and Streams.
This past year, we saw Google continue to separate itself, and its users, from Google+ and promoting platform activity. This included no longer requiring YouTube commenters to use Google+ before they sign in, removing Google+ posts in the Knowledge Graph results, and eliminating the social extension in AdWords, as detailed previously.
For B2B marketers, this means your time investment requirement for Google+ lessens significantly in the new year.
While I would still recommend maintaining a professional presence, with up-to-date company information, in your Google+ Page and associated profiles. It’s clear your activity and influence by directly participating in this social networking platform will become less of a priority moving forward.
Google’s Complete Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines
In late November Google released the entire Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines, following an analysis of a leaked copy by The SEM Post. This was significant because Google had never released the full guidelines that the search quality raters receive in their entirety.
Google Search Rater Guidelines are designed to aid Google “quality raters” in their assessment of the perceived accuracy in Google search results when running testing experiments.
Jennifer Slegg of The SEM Post, wrote a highly recommended article for Moz, outlining key takeaways in analysis of the 160 page guideline.
Per SEM Post coverage:
The guide features hundreds of examples of search results and detailed explanations of why each specific example is either good, bad, or somewhere in between.
While the guide itself is not a recipe for prominent ranking in search engine results, this information provides insight into what factors of a web page and website Google views as quality and in question.
Smart Goals For AdWords Advertisers
For the “hundreds of thousands” of organizations that aren’t measuring conversions on their websites, either due to a lack of time or technical ability, Google rolled out Smart Goals this past December, to help AdWords advertising measurement specifically.
Per article from Search Engine Land:
Smart Goals harness aggregated conversion data from Google Analytics-enabled sites for advertisers that don’t have another way to track and optimize for conversions.
Google applies machine learning across thousands of websites that use Google Analytics, and have opted in to share anonymized conversion data. From this information, the search engine can distill dozens of key factors that correlate with likelihood to convert (i.e., session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser).
For B2B marketers struggling to connect the dots between AdWords activity and conversion actions, this could become an alternative mechanism for performance measurement, though true conversion tracking is always recommended.
The effectiveness of smart goal performance can actually be evaluated before complete activation as well.
Unfortunately, not all websites will qualify for this function since there are prerequisites for activation. Per Analytics support, one example of these requirements is that the AdWords account to be associated must have sent at least 1,000 clicks to the applicable Google Analytics view in the past month before you can set up Smart Goals.
Of all the algorithm updates that Google released this past year, Google’s mobile friendly search update (“Mobilegeddon”) was the one most requested for discussion from our clients.
What was “Mobilegeddon”? In late April, Google began expanding the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal associated with web pages. In addition, information from indexed apps became a factor in ranking for signed-in users who have the app installed.
For B2B marketers, the need to prioritize website optimization for mobile device usage, could no longer be ignored. In the same announcement Google indicated that this change will have “significant impact” on search engine results. We’ve been seeing shifts between mobile and desktop search since this update was released.
Fortunately, Google provided several resources for site owners and marketers to consider as they focus on mobile device compatibility for their online marketing endeavors. This included an expanded guide to mobile-friendly sites, their Mobile-Friendly Testing Tool, and a Mobile Usability Report accessible via Search Console.
Here are a few key resources from KoMarketing as well.
- Everything B2B Marketers Need to Know about Google’s Upcoming Mobile Algorithm Update
- Why Mobile Advertising Is Critical for B2B Marketers
- Trends in Mobile & Social Media Adoption Across The Globe
The AMP Page Integration Announcement
In early December, Google announced that AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) pages will be integrated into its search engine as early as February 2016. This technology was tested with a select few publishers, but by late February, everyone will be able to take advantage of AMP.
What are AMP Pages and the Accelerated Mobile Page Project? As detailed in coverage on Search Engine Journal:
“AMP is an open-source content delivery platform that can load web pages instantly after being clicked on from a Google search.”
B2B Marketers should take note and plan accordingly, since AMP pages may get a ranking boost and a unique label designation (similar to “Mobile Friendly” designations today) in search engine results, at some point in the future, per article on Search Engine Land.
We already know that “mobile page speed” has some impact on rank and can imagine a similar scenario (from Google) designed to encourage AMP page adoption.
WordPress is also onboard and announced that it’s developing a plugin for the AMP standard as well.
Google Support for Structured Data
This past September, Google’s John Mueller hinted that the search engine may decide to use structured data (i.e., rich snippets or schema vocabulary) in its ranking algorithm some day.
As detailed via coverage on Search Engine Land, Mueller went on to explain his rationale:
If we can recognize someone is looking for a car, we can say oh well, we have these pages that are marked up with structured data for a car, so probably they are pretty useful in that regard. We don’t have to guess if this page is about a car.
While Google doesn’t use structured data for ranking purposes today, B2B marketers should already realize the impact this markup may have in organic search visibility and click thru rates.
Per Searchmetrics report in late 2014, it was revealed that while less than 1% of all domains researched had schema.org integrations present, almost 41% of keyword search queries contained a result snippet derived from schema.org markup.
Google maintains a set of guidelines for structured data recommendations that they will recognize and potentially display in search engine results. It’s worth reviewing this guideline regularly, in order to stay up to date on schema vocabularies being utilized and / or leveraged in search engine results.
Here are a few resources from KoMarketing and third party publications as well.
- What B2B Marketers Need to Know About Schema.org & Micro Data
- 20 Ways B2B SEOs Can Leverage Schema.org Markup
- Rich Snippets: Everything You Need To Know via BuiltVisible
Google Launches Manufacturer Center
This past summer, Google announced the launch of Manufacturer Center. This new platform was designed to help standardize product data across systems and provide original manufacturers with a more Amazon-like data experience.
Ultimately, product data from this platform can help feed listings found in Google Shopping and other advertising-related services from the search engine.
As detailed in coverage from Marketing Land, a new analytics dashboard in Manufacturer Center provides reporting on product visibility that hasn’t been available before.
For example, they’ll learn how many times their products appear on Google within a given time frame and how many times shoppers click on their products versus competing products in their category.
The interest in leveraging e-commerce solutions, as a mechanism for improving profitability and managing brand, has become of growing interest for B2B marketers. In fact, a report, released last year, predicted that the global B2B e-commerce industry will reach $6.7 trillion in 2020.
Manufacturer Center provides insight into the type of product information and specifications Google in particular finds of impact in product listings for B2B manufacturers.
Unfortunately, this platform is only open to a select group of manufacturers right now, but additional details, including feed specifications and program requirements, can be reviewed for those yet to be invited but interested in the potential opportunity.
Google Algorithm Updates
Aside from “Mobilegeddon”, there were four additional updates of impact made to the Google Search Algorithms, this past year. Moz has an easy-to-read timeline which details each update and provides references for site owners and publishers.
Search Engine Journal goes even further, publishing a quick summary of each update (including Mobilegeddon), the potential impact, and associated recommendations.
While its worth reviewing both references and each update, RankBrain is the other algorithm update B2B marketers will probably hear most about (unless you were adversely impacted by one of the others of course).
As detailed by The SEM Post:
RankBrain is an artificial intelligence Google is using in order to serve better search results, particularly for the 15% of daily search queries that Google has never seen before.
Per Search Engine Journal column above:
The biggest impact of the algorithm change is an upside for users. Users who input ambiguous or more natural human language queries can expect to get more relevant results.
The good news is that even though RankBrain may have impacted as much as 15% of existing queries (and much more ongoing), and is the third most important ranking signal (per Bloomberg article), its impact is more specific to search moving forward and improving the results for evolving types of search engine queries.
Google Webmaster Tools Name Change
No, this isn’t really a seriously significant update but I’m sure B2B marketers will see references to both naming conventions for quite some time :-).
Why the change?
Google indicated that it wanted all of the hobbyists, small business owners, SEO experts, marketers, programmers, designers, app developers, and, of course, webmasters to feel like they were all being adequately recognized for their efforts.
Did We Miss Anything?
What do you think? Did we miss something significant that was also worth mentioning? I would love to hear your feedback and answer questions via comments below.
Don’t forget to check out our post from late 2014, which highlighted many other changes Google made previously that may an impact in your B2B online marketing endeavors as well.
Best wishes in your online marketing endeavors this year and beyond!