2016 Google Updates
The search engine started the year with a flurry of activity – an intense weekend of ranking fluctuations led many to predict that a new Penguin algorithm was imminent. This was denied by Google at the time but it preceded a series of major changes to the search index through the year, some of which will continue to be felt in 2017.
The first Google update came in early January with large changes being reported by webmasters. We do know that Google made changes to the core algorithm and that they incorporated Panda into the algorithm as well. Google have remained tight lipped however, about exactly what happened when.
Google’s search quality senior strategist Andrey Lipattsev made the statement below. Panda itself may or may not have evolved or that any major changes had been rolled out to that algorithm as it was added to the core algorithm.
“What are we talking about here [with regards to the core algorithm]… it’s less about the functionality of the thing which probably doesn’t change that much over time. It’s more about how we perceive it in the context of the algorithm itself. Do we still think this is an experimental thing which has been running for a while and we’re still not sure how long it is going to last or is it …like PageRank, it is part of it, it is always going to be there at least in the foreseeable future and therefore in certain context we might call it [a] core part of the algorithm.”
Google rolled out Penguin 4.0 in September of 2016 and included the incorporation of Penguin into the core algorithm. (Some Say the date is September 23rd, but that was the date that Google went public with the change). Penguin filtered the web to detect spammy sites. Penguin, instead of running periodically as it had in the past, was now running in real time, and the impact on some site placements was dramatic. Since Penguin was now part of the core algorithm, no future updates to Penguin would be announced.
Penguin became a signal rather than a penalty. Google said on its Webmaster blog,
“Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.”
Google Webmaster Tools changed in February of 2016. The content splitting information was changed to show how to help Google find content and how to help visitors and the search engine correctly review information on the pages. One interesting new recommendation was to include a human readable version of the sitemap. Google also said that a few thousand links per page would be more than enough.
The biggest AdWords news of 2016 was saying goodbye to the ads in the sidebar and the adoption of the 4 ad format at the top of the SERP. While the change had a major impact on how ads were bid competitively and how adwords budgets were spent, this change also brought ad results in line with the mobile experience.
We don’t expect there to be any additional major changes to the way ads are displayed in 2017, but this change is still affecting the way AdWords accounts are managed. Social Media, with improved dashboards and lower costs, may become more and more an option for online advertisers.
There were changes to the Keyword Planner as well, with Google grouping search numbers instead of giving individual search volumes. In other words, if you want to know exactly how a keywords performs in adwords, set up your account and go for it!
Google Adwords launched a new IOS app, offering more flexibility and making it easier to stay on top of campaigns when away from the desktop. Expect changes through 2017 as the app is further refined.
Mobile Search (First, Not Last)
It is now officially and AMP world. Google let the world know that page load speed would now be a ranking factor, that the new mobile index would be the primary ranking index (although the desktop index, for now, still is in existence).
Mobile targeting options were perfected in 2016, and text ads, and bid processes on Adwords catered to the mobile browser.
What Does This Mean?
Mobile Search is king, and website content and User Experience (UX) are queen. The only constant in the world of online marketing is change, and as long as Google is the primary search engine in the world, change will continue to happen to make sure that users (and Mobile Users) have a positive search experience. The key to a successful website is being part of that successful experience.
Eric Van Cleave is the CEO of Zenergy Works a Santa Rosa California SEO, Website Development and online marketing Firm. Zenergy now has a sister company, zentiv agency, providing design, branding, market research, and packaging, brochure and collateral design.