Some very big Google updates (Panda and “Payday Loan”) rolled out in May which significantly affected some very big players, though there are no signs that any of our clients websites were impacted. Many in the community expect a Penguin (link profile) update from Google to be coming soon, so stay tuned. As always, we continue to monitor Google’s best practices closely and do our best to keep our websites compliant.
Google’s real-time “Now” feature for mobile and desktop has started using your shopping/browsing history to notify you when local merchants have items in stock you've searched for online in the past.
Google Shopping is testing a ranking system for products which sorts items based on the number and quality of end-user reviews. So far this test appears to be affecting only the electronics and appliances category – and only sorting based on reviews of comparable items, not the merchants themselves.
Google is now showing Knowledge Graph “Quick Facts” cards in Google Maps results, which list facts and figures for cities, countries and points of interest. The Knowledge Graph includes commercial entities, and may be used in future Maps updates to show detailed business information.
This month, Google tested Knowledge Graph popups in AdWords text ads. These popups show knowledge cards with information about the advertiser drawn from Google+ and Wikipedia (among others). This is similar to the Maps feature release above. A subtle link shows below or alongside your ad.
Google released an update to its “Payday Loan” algorithm between 5/16 and 5/20, targeting a narrow range of “very spammy” queries and affecting 0.2% of US searches. In particular, searches like “mortgage rate trends” and “cheap apartments” are targeted by this algorithm.
Google released the Panda 4.0 algorithm update on 5/20, affecting 7.5% of US searches. This is a very big deal. Some fairly prominent web properties were affected very significantly including: ask.com, ebay.com, biography.com,retailmenot.com, history.com, yellowpages.com and others. More data on winners and losers below.
Google is testing changes to Authorship Rich Snippets in search results. Authorship Rich Snippets displays a face, name and count of Google+ followers next to your links in search results. Twice this month, Google’s search results were seen to no longer display this feature – in both cases, for only a few hours.
Many SEOs report a change in Google traffic to Penguin-affected websites (an improvement) on 5/28, though Google has not confirmed a Penguin update rolled out. A Penguin update is expected by many in the near future.
Other Industry News
According to a study by eMarketer, auto dealers and manufacturers will spend $6.15b on US digital advertising in 2014, up 18.8% from 2013.
Many popular press release websites appear to have significantly dropped in rank after Panda 4.0 including PRNewsWire (-63%), PRWeb (-71%), BusinessWire (-60%) and others.
RetailMeNot may have lost up to 50% of its Google rankings with the Panda 4.0 Google update
Between 5/17 and 5/20, eBay lost more than 50% of its Google rankings. Primarily, Category landing pages were affected - not individual listings. Any eBay page like “ebay.com/bhp” appears to have been entirely dropped from Google results. It is unclear whether this massive flux is due to Panda or a manual action. eBay very prominently and publically switched its focus from Ads to SEO last year (saying AdWords didn’t work). These category landing (“doorway”) pages show eBay search results as well as ads, long-tail links and some navigation – and were likely deployed with SEO intent.
CNN has an incredible video walkthrough of Amazon’s shelf-moving warehouse robots in action, delivering shelves of product to stationary workers “just in time” to pack and ship boxes.
Chinese search giant Baidu has hired away a key Googler responsible for Machine Learning (“Google Brain” project), and plans to invest $300m in Machine Learning R&D over the next few years.
Amazon introduced a new feature that lets Twitter users add items to their Amazon carts by tweeting a specific hashtag in response to a tweet containing an Amazon product link. This both adds the item to the user’s Amazon cart, and also announces to the world (via your tweet) that you intend to purchase said item.
FedEx announced it will begin using “dimensional weight pricing” - charging based on package size, in addition to weight - for ground shipments starting in 2015. This is expected to increase rates for lightweight, bulky items.
eBay was breached by hackers between late February and early March. eBay is asking 112m users to change their passwords. Technical details are still forthcoming. It is not believed that PayPal data was compromised.