Just like the world around us, Google is an ever changing entity, constantly evolving itself to suit the needs of its users and combat the issues and threats in its surrounding environment. For those of us within the digital marketing world, Google certainly keeps us on our toes and it’s the changes that Google makes which sometimes determine our strategies going forward. Here are just a few of the major changes Google has made recently that we are keeping an eye on.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

If you’ve had your ear to the ground (like we have) you may have heard Google introduce the idea of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in October 2015. Well, true to their word, Google has now rolled out their new AMP Project and many publications are already taking advantage of the update.

So what are Accelerated Mobile Pages and what benefits do they hold? In a nutshell, AMP is a framework for creating faster loading mobile web pages. Web pages which have the AMP mark-up will appear at the top of relevant Google search queries on mobile devices. Users are able to click on one of these articles and then scroll across to view the next related article on a different website.

Accelerated Mobile Pages have a loading time that is four times faster than non-AMP pages and require around 10 times less data usage to load, making them an attractive offering to users who want their content in a hurry (which, of course, is the vast majority of them!). As we already know, page loading speed is one of the factors which determines organic rankings within the search engines, so we will be experimenting with AMP in the near future to discover how beneficial it really is.

Promoted Content In The SERPs

Google is also testing a new feature in the search engine results pages (SERPS) which allows websites to promote specific pieces of content at the top of the page. Visually it is quite similar to the accelerated mobile pages, however this feature will appear on desktop too. The content featured is custom made and features animated GIFs in the SERPs, something that has never been seen before. Although only a handful of businesses have been selected to test this promoted content feature, if it does roll out to the rest of us then it offers a great opportunity to get relevant, timely content right in front of the audiences’ eyes!

Google “Send To Your Phone”

For those of you with local businesses hoping to use the web to drive customers into your shop, salon, restaurant or any other business with a physical location, Google has released a fantastic addition to the SERPs in the form of a “Send To Your Phone” feature.

This feature already existed within Google Maps, but it is now even more prominent in the local knowledge graph box which is located on the right hand side of the SERPS. Now, when you search for a local business or location, Google will provide you with a ‘Send To Your Phone’ button which will send directions to the location straight to your mobile!

When you click on the ‘Send To Your Phone’ button, you will be given an option of which mobile device you want the directions sent to. Make sure you are logged into your Google account on your desktop and mobile and that you have the latest version of Google Maps on your smart phone. You will then receive a notification (presuming you have notifications switched on) detailing the directions to the location you found on your desktop!

Goodbye Google Compare

Google has announced that they ‘ramped down’ their Google Compare lead generation product as of February 23rd 2016 and completely shut the product down on March 23rd 2016. Google Compare allowed web users looking for the best deals to compare offers for credit cards, mortgages and car/travel insurance.

The product was available in the UK and US and has had quite a short life span after launching in March 2015. Its purpose was to simplify financial services for users and had the potential to be quite lucrative, with Google taking a commission on any referrals made and in some cases directly selling products to users. However, Google Compare didn’t generate the financial return Google were looking for, therefore they are now concentrating their efforts on improving their AdWords offering to those within the financial services sector.

Google Stop Showing Ads On The Right Hand Side Of The Search Results

Perhaps the most shocking of Google’s recent updates is the announcement revealed by Search Engine Land that Google Ads will no longer be appearing on the right hand side of the search results. Instead, ads will only appear at the top and bottom of the search results, with a maximum of 4 ads showing at the top of the page for highly commercial search queries and 3 ads showing at the bottom of the search results.

There are two exceptions to the rule however, as Product Listing ads and ads in the knowledge panel can still appear to the right hand side of the search results when relevant, however you will not see any regular text ads there anymore. This leaves room for only a maximum of 7 text ads on the page where there was previously space for 11.

At this current moment, we can only hypothesise on what this will mean for PPC marketing, but one thing is for sure, the competition to appear on page 1 of the SERPs just increased! While we have seen no dramatic changes in any of our PPC accounts so far, this change will highlight the importance of having high quality ads with relevant site links and landing pages in the battle for the top spot.

There may also be implications for Organic SEO too, as an extra ad at the top of the page for commercial search queries (which will be determined by Google) means that Organic listings will be knocked down another position. Being as close to page 1 position 1 in Organic search results is now more important than ever.

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