Google celebrated its fifteenth birthday on Friday and launched a little Easter egg to celebrate: search “Google in 1998” to see. The engine also launched a piñata-themed Google Doodle game to mark the occasion.
It’s not all been fun and games this week though: the search engine also made a couple of announcements which will dramatically change how digital marketers and SEOs can ensure good visibility in search for their sites…
Google Hummingbird update announced
On Thursday 26 September, Google announced that it rolled out a search results update, coined ‘Hummingbird’, more than a month ago. This announcement was made from the garage in which Google was first developed, as a celebration of the search engine’s fifteenth birthday on the following day.
This update, unlike their previous animal-named updates, is not designed to penalise activity and low quality link building wrongly influencing search results: it is instead a rework of Google’s primary ranking algorithm.
Hummingbird aims to make Google Search more ‘conversational’, work better with voice-activated search queries and see the results returned for all queries answer user intent more precisely (i.e. the entire query string will be considered, as opposed to individual keywords in such).
Google has been inching closer to this goal recently with the introduction of its Google Now and Knowledge Graph services. However, the introduction of Hummingbird sees user intent given a greater focus within standard Google search, in which around 90% of all search queries have apparently been affected.
This announcement puts pressure on webmasters to have a greater understanding of their sites’ audiences and their intents. It will be interesting to see what initiative those working in SEO and digital marketing will come up with to address this change to ensure visibility for the respective sites they manage.
Now 100% of organic traffic from Google is ‘not provided’
On Monday meanwhile, Google also announced that all organic search query referrer data from their search engine will now be reported as ‘not provided’. Google confirmed it has switched all search queries (regardless of whether users are logged in to Google or not) to the secure HTTPS protocol over the past month, and as such referring keywords will no longer be passed on to analytic accounts.
Many feel this move – which denies digital marketers and webmasters free access to keyword-related data which indicates how web users find their sites through search – is intended to help Google increase its revenue from its PPC AdWords offering.
Notprovidedcount.com has been keeping track of average ‘not provided’ Google traffic for a while now, and the recorded trend suggests Google’s rollout will be fully completed on Tuesday 19 November.
This is the second sign from Google this week that indicates meeting user intent is increasingly important for ensuring good visibility within search results: webmasters need to consider what information their audience really wants to find when entering a query in Google, not keywords.
Hashtags integrated into Google Search
Software engineer for Google, Zaheed Sabur, announced on Wednesday that a “richer hashtag experience” will now be provided by Google.com and Google.ca, with search results for hashtags pulling in relevant (and public) posts from Google+.
This is another step towards integration across all Google products and marks a further push for the search engine’s social platform. Google, however, is not being anti-competitive: it has included links to see the use of entered hashtags on both Facebook and Twitter also.
This move could possibly see an increase in Google+ use and it provides another avenue for visibility within SERPs in the US and Canada.
Google has released a new tool named Ready Creatives, designed to make the creation of display advertisements simpler. The tool features a number of templates which enable interactive and engaging ads (including those with hover-to-play, light box, dynamic and in-ad video functionalities) to be created quickly and with ease.
The introduction of this tool should see competition in the arena of display advertising become fiercer.