TWIS 19 May 2017

 

Google Lens – Visual Search Tool Coming 

Summary:

  • At Google’s recent I/O conference they announced the upcoming Google Lens search app / service.
  • This will be a visual search tool, based on what’s visible through the phone’s camera lens.
  • Using AI (isn’t everything?), they will go further than simply identify what an object is, and provide contextual actions based on the subject in focus. EG, restaurant details / reviews, movie times or tickets etc.
  • Information returned is likely to be based on structured data.

TWIS 19 May 2017 Google Lens

Actions to take:

  1. Ensure your structured markup is fully up to date.
  2. Make sure event times, ticket prices, reviews, opening times etc are correct and working.
  3. Use the developer tools in Google Search Console to test your markup.
  4. Use fonts and layouts on signage that make it easy for visual search apps to look at and interpret.
  5. Contact me to discuss this, or for help with implementation.

Discussion:

At first I thought Google was having a Back to the Future moment and resurfacing the Google Goggles app, but it seems this goes a step or two further with the critical shift in information retrieval based on the contents of the image – not just a simple answer to a “what is” query.

One thing that this highlights is how far ahead AI / machine-learning is for images over text comprehension, where it is still rather basic. Google has been moving quickly with this, with step-change advances in Google Photos – mainly built on the heuristics advances within mail server anti-spam programs which ensured certain types of images got filtered. .

I can see this being useful, especially if Google’s voice search fails to comprehend your accent, or language style, or if typing a search on a mobile is just too cumbersome.  The likelihood is this will be a toy for a while, until you realise it’s easier to snap and retrieve the details than fight with voice search.

It’s not yet known if Microsoft is miffed due to the naming similarity with its Office Lens app.

More info:

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Google Assistant Coming to iPhone

Summary:

  • Google has launched its Assistant app in Apple’s US App Store.
  • Users will now have the option of comparing Siri vs Assistant
  • Users will now also be able to properly integrate with actions / notifications from other Google Apps.
  • Google Lens will also be integrated.
  • This will still be a standalone app and not baked into the OS like Siri.

TWIS 19 May 2017 Google Assistant iPhones

Actions to take:

  1. Cover your bases. Make sure your information is stored and optimised on both Apple’s and Google’s data sources.
  2. This means structured data (yes, I know it’s a theme).
  3. Ensure your structured data is standards compliant and meets requirements for both Google and Apple’s data sources.
  4. Contact me to discuss this, or for help with implementation.

Discussion:

The keys to the uptake of this app on the iPhone will be the user’s integration with the ecosystem of either Apple, or Google, the one you use more heavily will likely impact your adoption and usage.

The other key to adoption will be the usefulness of Google Lens. If it is really all it’s hyped up to be then it has the potential to be a killer app in terms of search and integration into action.

If iPhone users adopt this, more traffic will come from Google, than from Apple’s data providers (such as Bing, Yelp etc). This could also kick Apple into gear, especially with Visual Search and further integration into our everyday actions.

More info:

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Rumours of a Google Update

Summary:

  • Most of the major tracking tools reported volatile shifts in the Google SERPs mid last week, as can be seen in the MozCast Weather Report.
  • Google (obviously) ignored all thoughts of there being an update to the algorithm.
  • Some sites reported, or showed, significant traffic and visibility drops or wins.
  • There is very little substantiated fact about this rumoured update.

TWIS 19 May 2017 Rumoured Google Update

Actions to take:

  1. As with every update, check your rankings, check your visibility, check your traffic and conversions.
  2. If not affected, carry on as normal, but pay attention to what may have caused this.
  3. If affected, start to identify if if affects certain terms, or pages, or if it is wholesale.
  4. Once pages / terms isolated, start to identify the reasons for those shifts, especially if you have been over-concentrating on one particular SEO element.
  5. Generally, optimise everything equally and reasonably well, but don’t over-optimise anything, if at all possible.
  6. Contact me to discuss this, or for help with implementation.

Discussion:

It seems like *something* happened last week, but no-one is quite sure what. There was likely an update to a portion of the algorithm, or a correction / adjustment to a small part. This is why there was volatility in the rankings, but only a few sites appear to have been affected.

Naturally, webmasters operate on suspicion and rumours – even confirmed Google updates often still leave a lingering thought of “what happened there”.

Usually, Google will ignore update rumours until it announces there may have been an update but they “update the algorithm over 500 times a year”, so it is business as usual..

More info:

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Google Analytics Enhances Support for AMP

Summary:

  • Google Analytics has announced it is enhancing support for unifying same-user sessions across AMP and non-AMP pages.
  • This will only affect AMP and non-AMP sessions on the same domain.
  • If a user uses AMP’s, or other provider’s cache, they will still be double-counted.
  • This relates to tracking issues first mentioned in TWIS 3rd March 2017.

TWIS 19 May 2017 Google Analytics AMP Enhancements

Actions to take:

  1. There are no actions for implementation. It will be rolled out with no need for intervention.
  2. On the reporting side, snapshot users / sessions etc now, before it rolls out, and compare to data once it has rolled out.
  3. Expect user numbers & sessions to drop if you have AMP & non-AMP pages on the same domain.
  4. New user numbers may increase as new user IDs get issued. Pages per session and Bounce Rates may improve as the data aggregates two sessions into one.
  5. If AMP pages are hosted on a separate cache, stay tuned, Google is working to fix.
  6. Contact me to discuss this, or for help with implementation.

Discussion:

Double counting AMP users is a pain in the what-not. It inflates users and sessions unnaturally, while depressing other key metrics like pages per session and bounce rate.

Google has worked reasonably quickly to fix this single aspect of the issue, but much more work is needed to be done to fix the issue when AMP traffic crosses domain boundaries. The fix for that is more tricky, since, in theory, it means breaking the internet. I haven’t tested but I’m also wondering if AMP traffic is identified as a different Adsense user as it crosses the domain boundary. If it isn’t then this is a stronger incentive for Google to fix. If it is, then it’ll be “in the pile”.

More info:

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Google Testing Dropping Web Listing for Featured Snippets

Summary:

  • Google has been running a test or two, focusing on Featured Snippets.
  • If a website is granted a Featured Snippet, its URL or web listing is being dropped from the main results.
  • Google has confirmed it is testing, but hasn’t revealed if this will go into full production.

TWIS 19 May 2017 Featured Snippets Dropping

Actions to take:

  1. If you have a Featured Snippet, check SERPs to see if you are part of this test.
  2. If your web listing is being dropped, monitor traffic from that keyword as far as you’re able. There may be no net effect on traffic.
  3. If traffic is significantly reduced consider using the “nosnippet” meta tag, although note this will prevent this URL appearing for any snippet.
  4. Contact me to discuss this, or for help with implementation.

Discussion:

In some instances Featured Snippets are really useful. In a number of cases, however, they can be a blatant traffic grab by Google, looking to present the answer to the user, instead of sending the user to a web page to get the answer. When Google hasn’t created, checked, or published the information, this is more than a bit cheeky, and takes away the incentive for a webmaster to publish information. This has a chilling effect on the wonderful information resource that is the web.

Removing the standard link in the pack of Blue Links does kind of make sense for Featured Snippets, although webmasters may have got used to the double-dip effect of snippet + link. The equitable solution would be to provide an expanded meta description with part of the answer rather than the entire answer which is the current attempted state of affairs.

It should also be noted that for some snippets, it is only possible to give a partial answer, so in those cases, it is likely that the snippet drives a significant uplift in traffic over a standard blue link.

More info:

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Bits & Pieces

  • As discussed in TWIS 5th May 2017, Google Jobs has been announced for the US. They will be partnering with existing job firms (squeezing others out, in all likelihood) and effectively providing a meta search service over the top. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the mid- to longer-run.
  • Google Adsense has announced the ability for publishers to remove ads from being served on particular URLs which are in violation of Adsense Policies. I have to confess, this has always been possible at a URL level, mainly because we had the ad serving system set up so that not every page would carry Adsense ads. Having blanket ad serving seems like a very poor CMS implementation.
  • In trying to maintain the last vestiges of control before the AI bots run away with their search engine, John Mu has claimed that Google *does* in fact understand all of its algorithms, or at least their composition. Hmmm. They understand the code, but I don’t think they always understand the results – hence why there is usually a tweaking and adjustment period after every big update.
  • Google is now saying they may automatically nofollow widget links, after re-affirming last year that highly optimised widget links are a BAD way of acquiring links. Think of this as more of a reminder than something new. There must be millions of old widgets installed on pages that haven’t been updated in years. Expecting all of them to be removed is a little unrealistic. Nofollowing these links algorithmically should not be that much of a challenge for Google. A couple of hours with python, and I reckon I could have a working version, so I expect Google to already be doing this.
  • Google Search Console will ad JavaScript rendered code into the Fetch and Render Tool “soon”. Useful for debugging, providing Google can read and action the JavaScript.
  • I’m surprised John Mu wasn’t immediately deluged with exact match spam after he reiterated that images should have ALTs and links should have anchor text as helps Google to understand context. Despite all the bells and whistles, googlebot really is a very simple text processor – never forget that.
  • Contact me to discuss these points, or for help with implementation.

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