The world of search marketing appears to be in a near-constant state of flux. For marketing agencies and businesses alike, staying abreast of the latest developments within the industry (from a technological and practice perspective) is not always easy.
With 2015 drawing to a close, now is a perfect time to look back at the past year to explore the changes within search. Which new platforms have risen to prominence? How are marketers discovering new ways to offer their clients greater services and online visibility?
Let’s look at the 5 biggest search events in 2015.
Google’s Mobile Update
In April, Google rolled out a new update of its algorithm to improve the mobile search experience. Dubbed ‘mobilegeddon’, this was intended to benefit sites offering better functionality for users on mobile devices, and was said (before the update launched) to be even more effective than Penguin and Panda.
According to a study, as many as 40 percent of websites were expected to see a disruption to their rankings.
This update was conceived as more and more users embrace smartphone- and tablet-based search. Browsing favorite sites while on the move, in bed, on the couch, or just to avoid having to hit any more keys via mobile devices is a more convenient option. Users are likely to try new browsers if their default engine sends them to poorly-optimized sites again and again.
The Phantom Update
Google has a real talent for assigning cool, imaginative names to their updates, and the Phantom Update is one of the most impressive yet.
Unlike other updates, which arrive after an announcement, the Phantom Update slipped in under the radar for most of us. Many people only became aware of an update when they spotted changes in their traffic and rankings.
While Google kept quiet about the specifics of this update, it had quite an impact on sites such as HubPages, carrying lots of content focused around ‘how to’ guides. Countless sites are available offering this type of content, and the Phantom Update was designed to favor the most high-quality, informative how-to content over those weaker pieces written more to veil an overload of keyword variations.
HubPages is believed to have been hit by the update because it is made up of contributions from more 60,000 people. This extensive size makes it hard to monitor the quality of articles published, and any quality-focused update is likely to impact a number of pieces on their site.
Google Alters its Local Search Results
For some time, Google’s local search function gave users seven results, allowing multiple businesses to factor together. However, in August, Google stripped this back to just three results.
This means that four of the businesses appearing in local results would no longer rank, effectively punishing them for performing less well than the top three: the less traffic directed their way, the fewer conversions they can make, pushing them to source fresh custom elsewhere.
For the top three of the seven, who remain as the sole names appearing on Google’s map-centric results, this gave something of a boost. This reduction also accompanied a mobile-focused redesign, allowing these local results to fit better onto smaller screens. Instead of giving users URLs for businesses alongside their phone numbers and addresses, Google now provides just the company name, reviews, and address.
Buttons – ‘website’, ‘directions’ – enable users to tap straight through to the information they need.
Facebook Changes its Ads Manager
With millions of members around the world, Facebook is a formidable marketing tool for businesses in all sectors. Engaging with existing and potential customers through compelling, informative, fun posts helps to steadily build a powerful online profile.
However, paid advertising plays a huge role in Facebook’s marketing potential. Any regular user will encounter suggested posts in their feeds, and can choose to either click them, ignore them, or request no more appear from the advertiser. Users searching for information on a business or website are likely to explore their Facebook profile, to get a feel for their customer service and character.
Facebook unveiled a new version of their Ad Manager in June, which feature new functions designed to simplify the process. This included:
- Integrated Reporting: Reporting data could now be viewed in the main page, rather than standing as a separate section
- Simplified Ad Editing: The revised manager allowed users to edit each ad as needed from the main page, without needing to access the ads as separate entities
Google Introduces RankBrain
Google is continually searching for ways to improve users’ browsing experience, across all devices. RankBrain has recently been revealed: this is a new method the search engine uses to interpret a large portion of its daily queries, and is essentially built to better understand more ambiguous requests.
RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to basically guess what the user’s query relates to, just like a human would in its position. This has been described as the third most crucial signal Google uses in search, out of hundreds, and had actually been used at a global level before it was announced.
As the online world continues to evolve and search engines become more intuitive, businesses will have more outstanding tools to take advantage of. While companies across the globe can know little of what 2016 is set to bring to search, there’s sure to be lots to look forward to.
Kyle McManus is a freelance writer based in the UK. This article was prepared on behalf of Nett Solutions.