Google Updates in August 2016

Google’s ever-evolving algorithm has made some updates which may affect the search visibility of your website. In August, Google has announced the removal of the ‘mobile –friendly’ label on search results. Note; this doesn’t mean that Google isn’t labelling sites as Not Mobile Friendly, because as far as ranking signals go, mobile-friendly factors are still very important (exemplified through the fact that mobile devices outweigh searches made on any other device). This article also examines the new rules surrounding the schema mark-up for local reviews, as well as going through Google’s algorithm when it comes to understanding the strength of local ranking factors.

Here are the latest changes you should be aware of.

Mobile Friendly Label Removed

Google has officially removed the mobile friendly label on August 31st – it no longer shows up in any search results. The change was brought about as a way to declutter mobile search results. Statistics show that 85% of all SERPs were already mobile-friendly, so it makes sense that the label was no longer deemed helpful for search users.

Due to the recent nature of this update, it is hard to determine what the long-term impact would be (although it’s likely to affect the CTR of search results).

60% of Search Results from Mobile Devices

A report conducted by Hitwise has shown that mobile searches account for almost 60% of all search queries in the USA. The findings of this report is new data, as testing was held between April and May earlier this year.

This report draws a slight contrast to Google’s official statement, which is that more than 50% of all search queries came from mobile devices. At the end of the day, whether it’s 50% as Google says or 60% as Hitwise suggests, it seems that mobile is the most popular form of device when it comes to making online searches.

Some factors to consider for the Hitwise report:

  • The Hitwise study was limited to US results. The global statistic may be vary significantly by country.
  • Searches related to “Food and Beverage” were the highest category of searches made on a mobile device. Following this, searches related to “Health” was the second highest category.
  • Mobile queries tend to be longer than PC search queries (average 15.5 characters against 13.8 characters).

Updated Guidelines for Local Reviews Schema

There has been changes made to when webmasters can use the schema mark-up on reviews (and when they can’t). One of the main talking points from this update was the prohibition against marking up reviews from third party sites, such as Google or Yelp. In addition, it is a new requirement that businesses must allow customers to post both negative and positive reviews. The argument for this point is that having a range of reviews leads to increased conversions due to its ability to build trust and social proof for customers. These reviews must take into account the new restrictions, sites can only add mark-ups for reviews published on their site.

Click here to see the full list of changes.

Understanding Google’s Local Algorithms

In light of this change, we’ve dug deep to find out what the main factors were when it comes to ranking for local search terms on Google. Are you implementing these practices below for your business website?

Links

Backlinks affect your local rankings and the evidence at hand, which shows a correlation with positive rankings and high quality links, is simply irrefutable. Reports indicate that sites that have older links are generally ranking higher – so don’t delay when it comes to building high quality backlinks!

Website Factors

On page factors such as the usage of target keywords, proper structure, and multimedia content all make a difference. As we’ve already discussed in our previous article on content marketing, location pages with a higher quantity of content tend to rank better than pages with smaller amounts.

Citations

Citations provide a foundational, but NOT competitive advantage, when it comes to local rankings. What this means is that addressing issues such as incorrect information significantly improves a website’s chances of getting into the Local Pack results. However, if your already existing citation listings provide the correct details, it tends to have little effect in moving up in rankings.

Google My Business Factors

Having a properly filled out Google My Business listing is important. This includes getting reviews, adding photos, and making sure the listing is owner verified. Read more about Google My Business setup and management here.