Google Updates in May: Important Changes for Sites

Digital marketing is an ever-evolving environment, with Google dictating the pace through the various changes it implements on the ranking algorithm. To stay competitive in this field, it is essential that you are knowledgeable on how these changes affect your digital strategy – ask yourself questions such as, will this affect how consumers view my brand? How does it impact my ROI? And ultimately, what changes do I need to make to capitalise on the latest updates?

All webmasters should be taking note of the latest changes coming through on Google – it may affect business and operations more than you think! Over the past month in May, there has been an update to the mobile algorithm, more news on the upcoming Penguin algorithm, and an announcement on the host of changes coming to AdWords advertising including:

  • Layout changes for ad copies
  • New local search ads appearing on Google Maps
  • Adjusted bidding based on device

Get the specific details in our article below, and see how you can keep moving forward in the right direction in response to all these upcoming changes.

Google’s Mobile Friendly Update

News that Google intended to update their mobile-friendly algorithm was reported earlier in March. On the 12th of May, an official source from Google has confirmed the update has been rolled out and is live on mobile search results.

What’s the difference from the old mobile friendly algorithm?

It almost pales in comparison to the algorithm change dubbed as “Mobile Armageddon” which came out in April 2015. But the key takeaway from this year’s change is that a further boost has been given to increase the effect of mobile friendly pages (pushing them up in rankings). For sites that are already mobile-friendly, you will not be NEGATIVELY impacted by the update.

Keep in mind that this algorithm is only one part of the many factors that affect rankings. The argument of ‘overall quality’ remains consistent in Google – if a page consisting of high-quality content is NOT mobile friendly, but deemed more appropriate for a given search query it will still rank highly as it has the relevant content. So non mobile-friendly pages can still rank if the content deserves it.

However, let the mobile-friendly update remind you that not all pages or sites can rely on their content to maintain their position. Take into account the user experience for the search user – one of the primary reasons why Google proceeds with updates like this is to provide search users with the best possible experience. If your site is not responsive or mobile friendly, only good things will come out by addressing this requirement!

Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to make sure your design is compliant.

The Last Penguin (Algorithm)

There has been some news about the keenly anticipated Google Penguin update. Industry experts are pointing to the notion that Penguin 4.0 may probably be the last update of its series. With the intention of making the next version work in ‘real-time’, it makes sense that the algorithm won’t require further tinkering if penalties and recoveries happen in live time (instead of applying the algorithm on a set time basis).

Not sure what Penguin is? See a brief description of how the algorithm works here, and what you can do to prepare for the upcoming update.

Upcoming AdWords Changes

The changes coming to the AdWords platform can be seen as a further emphasis on the need to improve the experience for mobile-device users. With mobile devices dominating as the preferred platform for local-related searches, ads are being optimised to make better use of display space for mobile search users. The change applies to desktop devices as well, but you see the level of impact is not as visual. Remember when Google got rid of ads showing on the right-side of search results? The purpose of that was to create a unified experience across devices.

It is inevitable that with these upcoming changes, more work will be needed to keep your PPC campaigns intact. Extra time and effort will be required in order to avoid falling behind, and missing out on your share of the market.

The following changes will roll out gradually over the next few months. Quantum advises all marketers who are implementing PPC to study this carefully and see how you to adapt to the new format on search engine result pages (SERPs).

Great News for AdWords Advertisers… And Organic Search Results!

Google has increased the width of the ad sizes, with will encompasses more text characters within your ad copy. The current setup consists of 25 character limit on the heading, and 35 characters for a two line description.

The new setup will consist of two headlines of 30 characters and one description line of 80 characters.

An example from American SERPs:

Note: These changes are coming SOON – bigger ads will result in better conversions and more qualified leads! This gives advertisers an opportunity to send a stronger selling point across to search users.

Google is Also Testing Longer and Wider Organic Search Results

Industry experts found a significant change being tested in Mid-May. Whilst we may all be familiar with the length of Meta titles and descriptions, the actual limitation is not in the form of character count, but the number of the pixels which determines the length.

Google has increased the column for organic search results from 500 pixels to 600 pixels, allowing for more characters in both the title and description of your snippets. Read more about SEO.

Rough Estimate

Character Count Old Length New Length
Title 55-60 70
Description 155-160 175

Ads to Appear on Google Map Results

With Google Maps becoming a part of the search network, more ads are showing on the map platform for both desktop and mobile devices.

Here are the improvements going to be made for ads on Google Maps:

  1. Logo/Brand icon as a pin on the map locations
  2. Promotional text (Special Offer or Discount)
  3. Search for items in the local store (search bar)
  4. Store hours, address, directions, phone

Google Maps has more than a billion users, and location-related searches account for almost 1/3 of all mobile searches. This move is to initiate more online traffic from Maps to local businesses.

Bid per Device

The actual bidding process of ads will be affected with the latest round of changes. The current AdWords system allows advertisers to adjust bids for mobile devices. The promotion of enhancing mobile search users comes into play again, with Google announcing the ability to change bids based on mobile, tablet and desktop devices.

What does this really mean?

Well, as a category on AdWords, tablet and desktop are currently classified into the same group. The new change means that each device will be its own category, thus enabling advertisers to adjust bids accordingly for each platform. Tablet devices are being highlighted here because they roughly account for only 5% of search users – meaning ads designed for tablets can be adjusted for lower costs as they are no longer part of what desktop users would see.

Conclusion – But It’s Not Over Yet

The AdWords changes are at the “COMING SOON” stage – meaning Google is still busy testing all these new features. It’s widely expected the update will roll out within the next couple of months – and once it’s here, you want to make sure you’re prepared and ready to adapt.

Don’t forget the mobile-friendly and Penguin algorithm as well – address non-mobile sites NOW, and separately devise a strategy on how you intend to stay competitive once Penguin hits.

Quantum can help with your digital marketing needs – if you think you’re right for our services, drop us a line or call us on 1300 3888 11.

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