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For The Holidays, Google Breaks Its No Updates Rules, Gives Out Fresh Penguin Updates

Since Google’s “Florida” Update of November 2003[1], the search engine has kept to an unofficial promise not to mess with its ranking algorithm during the holiday season. That’s changed this year with a flurry of Penguin Updates. Penguin is Google’s filter to fight spam that gets past its regular spam fighting defenses. It is used […]

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Google: We sent 9M web spam messages in 2016, more than double 2015 total

Google released its annual web spam report yesterday, documenting some of the company's spam-fighting activity in 2016.

One of the most eye-catching data points for me was that Google has sent out over 9 million messages related to web spam in 2016; that number was more than double the 4.3 million messages in the 2015 report. The other metric that stood out was that hacked sites continue to rise, this time by 32 percent from 2015 to 2016, but it was a 180 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 in the previous report.

Here are some data highlights from this year's report:

32 percent increase in hacked sites compared to 2015Over 9 million messages sent to webmasters to notify them of webs pam issues on their sitesStructured data manual actions taken on more than 10,000 sitesOver 180,000 user-submitted spam reports from around the world, down from 400,000 the year beforeOf those 180,000 spam reports, 52 percent of those reported sites considered to be spamMore than 170 Google online office hours and live events around the world to audiences totaling over 150,000 website owners, webmasters and digital marketersMore than 67,000 questions in the Google support forums

Google also noted in this report that they made the Penguin algorithm real-time in 2016.

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AMP - Accelerated Mobile Pages - rolling out to 1 billion more people in Asia

The big news coming out of Google's AMP Conf in New York is that the mobile framework is set to roll out to a billion more people in Asia. Chinese search engines Baidu and Sogou are adopting AMP; so is Yahoo Japan.

Google's VP of Search and AMP lead David Besbris gave the morning keynote address and made the announcement. The addition of these Asian search engines will mean a billion more people potentially using AMP.

AMP launched in October 2015 and since that time has seen significant publisher and developer adoption. There are hundreds of millions of AMP-enabled documents across multiple geographies around the world. More than 10,000 developers have contributed code to the project.

Baidu, Yahoo Japan and Sogou join a growing list of content publishers and e-commerce companies using AMP. They include Bing, eBay, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, WordPress, The Weather Company, Eventbrite, Shopify, Fandango, TripAdvisor, Disney, Food Network and numerous others.

Adobe reported last month that top US publishers are now seeing 7 percent of their traffic through AMP pages. Publishers report more time on-site and greater user engagement for AMP pages. They also say they're seeing higher CTRs, and even better monetization, with AMP.

Google's Besbris said that there are now 1.7 billion AMP pages, with 35 million new pages being added per week. There are also now 860,000 domains using AMP around the world.

According to Google research, 70 percent of conventional mobile pages take seven to 10 seconds for visual page content to load. By comparison, AMP pages load in less than one second, on average.

Google has said AMP is not a ranking factor, however, page speed is. Besbris has said in the past that AMP pages don't receive a ranking boost. However, when there are two identical pages, one AMP and one conventional mobile page, Google serves the AMP page.

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Ramona Main Street Dental Ramona Perfect 5 Star Review by Jackson M.

http://www.keshavdental.com/ (760) 789-8060 Ramona Main Street Dental Ramona reviewsExcellent RatingThis is hands down the best dentist that I have been too. It is a great place to get your teeth done. The people that work there are extremely nice people and treat you good. Dr. Keshav is one of the coolest people that I've had the pleasure of meeting. My previous experiences there were great, and that's why I plan to go there for a long time. I'd recommend this dentist 100%Ramona Main Street Dental1530 Main St # 17Ramona CA92065-5244
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Ramona Main Street Dental Ramona Outstanding Five Star Review by Madison P.

http://www.keshavdental.com/ (760) 789-8060 Ramona Main Street Dental Ramona reviews5 Star ReviewSuch a great dentist. I have anxiety about getting my teeth worked on ,especially because I needed an extraction ,but he had me laughing through out the whole procedure. His dental assistant kelly is hilarious and made me feel comfort through out the whole procedure as well. I will never go to another dentist after my experience today!!Ramona Main Street Dental1530 Main St # 17Ramona CA92065-5244
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Google to sunset Google Site Search product, recommends ad-supported Custom Search Engine

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Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that they are discontinuing support for Google Site Search product. Google Site Search is a paid product that lets you power your internal web site's search engine based on the Google search technology. Google charges based on monthly query volume for the product.

Google said they are directing those consumers to either the ad-powered product named free custom search engine or the new cloud search product.

Google will stop fully supporting the Google Site Search product by the fourth-quarter of 2017.

A Google spokesperson sent us the following statement:

We are winding down the Google Site Search product over the next year, but will provide customer and technical support through the duration of license agreements. For GSS users whose contract expires between April 1st and June 30th, 2017, we are providing a free 3-month extension with additional query volume to allow more time for them to implement the necessary changes to their site. GSS customers may also take advantage of our Custom Search Engine solution, an ads-supported model that offers similar functionality. We continue to build out new functionality and invest in new technology that make enterprise search a great experience for our customers. Just recently, we introduced the general availability of Google Cloud Search for G Suite customers.

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Google iOS app gets new local search filters, more AMP support & Gboard access

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Google rolled out the latest version of its app for iOS yesterday, with new local search filters, more AMP support and Gboard access.

With the new version 23.0, Google has added more local search filters like “Top Rated” and “Open Now” to the app, and the the ability to turn on Gboard within the app - the Google keyboard designed first for iOS devices and then Android, that makes it possible to search and send information, GIFs and emojis.

Google is also adding more support for AMP (accelerated mobile pages) to the app.

From the update announcement on iTunes: “More webpages will now load instantly. Just look out for a lightning bolt and 'AMP' on search results and enjoy blazing fast webpage loading.”

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Google rolls out 2013 Image Search design to more countries, webmasters complain of traffic loss

Recently, we've noticed complaints from webmasters that their image search traffic from Google has dropped significantly, specifically from countries like Germany, France and other countries outside of the US. The traffic drop is due to Google releasing the 2013 version of the Google Images design to more countries over the past couple of weeks.

When Google made the change in the United States over three years ago, webmasters saw more than a 60 percent drop in traffic from Google Image search. The same thing is happening now in the new countries that Google pushed out this design to recently.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that they have “recently rolled out the updated UI for Image Search to some other countries.”

Google would not tell us which countries specifically, nor would they tell us why they rolled it out over three years after the US rollout.

What we do know is that in 2013, Google sent us this comment when responding to webmaster complaints of traffic loss:

As we've noted before, there are no more phantom visits and actual CTR to webmaster pages, i.e. real traffic, is up 25%, so real visits are up. As you know, we doubled the way users can reach the host website.

This is a debated topic: Did your site lose or gain traffic due to the image search change? It depends on how you count that traffic.

Again, if you noticed the drop in Google Image search traffic, it is likely because of this rollout.

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Google featured snippets now often followed by the 'people also ask' box

Google has made a change to the featured snippets where often, right after the featured snippets are displayed in the search results, the “people also ask” box follows.

This started happening yesterday, and it can be found for many of the queries that trigger a featured snippet. It does not show for all, but it does show for many.

Here are two screen shots of how it looks with the people also ask directly after the featured snippets:

Here is an example of a featured snippet that currently doesn't have the “people also ask” feature after it:

It is unclear if this change is a new search feature or a bug with the search results.

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Google: No comment on possibility of a Feb. 7 algorithm update

Tuesday, February 7, 2017, there seems to have been a Google algorithm change that adjusted how many sites rank - both for good and bad. I've been tracking the update since Feb. 8, and over time, more and more webmasters and SEOs have been taking notice of the ranking changes at Google.

This seems to be unrelated to the unconfirmed link algorithm change from earlier in February. This new update seems to be more related to Panda, based on such things as content and site quality, versus link factors.

Google has not confirmed the update and would not comment on what webmasters and SEOs have been noticing over the past week in the search results. So we cannot confirm if this was a content quality shift, link quality change or something else. But what we can say is that webmasters and SEOs are very busy noticing these ranking changes, through looking at ranking reports or their traffic from Google in their analytics, or using tracking tools that track visibility and other means.

The automated tracking tools from Mozcast, RankRanger, Accuranker and others also all showed evidence of an algorithm update on Feb. 7.

This update seems to have been somewhat significant, which is why we reached out to Google for a comment. If we hear more from Google, we will update you. But for now, this is all based on the conversation and chatter that I track closely within the industry.

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Local SEO in 2017: 5 simple ways to dominate local search

If you've followed SEO strategies for any length of time, you know one thing: SEO changes all the time. When it comes to local SEO, it's more important than ever that you optimize your on-site and off-site SEO strategies for clients and customers who may be searching for your local business. Local competition is heating up, and if you're not on top of your rankings, you can bet your competitors will be.

Here are five solid local SEO tactics you can use this year to help your business rank higher for local search terms.

1. Title and meta description tags still matter

Title and meta description tags are HTML elements that you can customize to reflect the content of your web page. The text of your title and description tags is displayed in search results. Think of this text as a “mini-ad” that you need to carefully craft.

Last year, Google increased the width of the main search results area to 600px. In light of this, the generally acceptable length for title tags is approximately 50 to 60 characters, and description tags can be approximately 160 to 200 characters. Take advantage of this space and use it wisely - and make sure you double-check that your titles and descriptions aren't getting cut off in search results.

If you're not sure how your title and meta description tags will look or how many characters you can get away with, try using an emulator like the one from SEOmofo or Yoast's SEO Plugin for WordPress:

Writing titles and descriptions is considered an art in the SEO world. In a sea of competing search results, if this text isn't unique, compelling and descriptive, then your click-through rate will suffer. Additionally, one extra word or character could cut off your text with the dreaded ellipses (…). This may not be a true tragedy, but it does look unprofessional, especially when it shows up in the middle of a sentence, making your title or description less impactful.

The lesson? This space is precious, and every character counts. Here are some tips:

Never waste space on page names that don't provide helpful information. If you want to reach local customers, include the name of the city your business is in and/or the area your business serves (e.g., “Serving the Corridor of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids”). Focus on using one targeted keyword and carefully place that keyword as close to the beginning of the tag as you can.

Remember, if your business shows up in the search results, you have one shot to get that person to click on your link. Don't blow it by wasting characters that won't help convince a searcher you're worth looking at.

2. Online directories and citations

According to Google, roughly four out of five consumers use search engines to conduct local searches. Yet many small businesses have not claimed even a single a local business listing online, which is a huge missed opportunity.

It's important that you get your business listed correctly and consistently on top online business directories, like Yelp, Merchant Circle, Citysearch and others. You will also want to seek out respectable local directories to get your business listed on. Check with your local newspaper's website and your Chamber of Commerce to see if they have a local business directory you can get listed on. You can also do a search for keywords like “[your city] directory” to find other local citation sites or directories.

It's also important to get your business's name, address and phone number (NAP) on the major citation data aggregators like Infogroup, Neustar (aka Localeze), Acxiom and Factual. Always make sure that your company's NAP is consistent on as many of these directories and citation sites as possible. Discrepancies like misspellings, abbreviations, lack of suite number and wrong phone number can create havoc when Google can't determine which information about your business is correct. If Google's not sure, they may display incorrect information - or not show your business at all in search results.

3. Google My Business: Claim and optimize

Google My Business (GMB) is considered a directory, but it's a biggie, so it deserves its own section. It's very important for local businesses to claim their Google My Business (and Bing Places for Business) page. It's free and can get you incredible exposure if you're optimized enough to show up in Google's local three-pack:

To claim your Google My Business page, visit google.com/business. There's a verification process you'll need to go through where Google will send a postcard with a PIN to your business's physical location. (No P.O. boxes allowed.) Then you'll simply log in and enter the PIN to verify your business.

This verification process is necessary because Google wants to confirm that your business is legitimate, and that you are actually the business owner. Please note that according to Google's terms of service, only the business owner can claim a GMB page. If you're working with a digital marketing agency on your SEO efforts, you can then grant them permission to be a manager of your page - that way, you remain in control of your listing if you terminate your relationship with the agency.

The next step is to optimize your GMB listing with a solid description, categories, business hours, types of payments accepted and so on. You also want to make sure to upload your logo and photos of your business, products or services. (It's generally recommended that you upload at least three photos.)

Fully populate each and every relevant section so that your listing is complete. If you're a service business and don't have a location customers or clients can visit, don't worry; you can choose to hide your physical address as you're setting up your Google My Business listing.

As mentioned above, Bing also has a comparable page for local businesses called Bing Places for Business. The process is very similar to GMB, and you should definitely have your business present on Bing's local directory, too.

4. Online reviews matter

Businesses are finally starting to realize the importance of online reviews from their customers. According to a recent survey, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and seven out of 10 customers will leave a review for a business if asked by the business.

There are several reputation marketing software and tool options you can use to track, manage and proactively try to get reviews. Here are some to check out:

Reputation Loop Get Five Stars Trust Pilot Vendasta

Additionally, many social media platforms, like Hootsuite and Tiny Torch, allow you to monitor and get alerts any time your brand is mentioned. Whenever a review is left about your business, positive or negative, be sure to respond to it. That shows other people reading the reviews that you, the business owner, care what your customers think.

Two places where you should focus on getting reviews are your business's Facebook page and Google My Business page. These are big ones. Many people turn to social media to see what their friends and family think about a business, so having good reviews on your business's Facebook page can help to draw in prospective customers. Getting positive reviews on your Google My Business page is crucial because these reviews show up on Google when someone searches for your business.

Google also notes that “[h]igh-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business's visibility,” which implies that reviews might factor into rankings on the local pack.

5. Use local structured data markup

Structured data markup - often referred to as “schema markup” or “schema.org markup” - can be added to your website's code to provide search engines with more information about your business, like the products you sell, reviews you've collected, services you offer and so on.

Only 31.3 percent of websites are using this markup - and most are only using the basics. You can make your local business stand out (and possibly rank higher than your competitors) if you add structured data markup to your site where appropriate.

Google wants you to use structured data markup because it helps their spiders better determine what your site content is about. Google even offers a Structured Data Testing Tool so you can check to see if your markup is properly implemented.

If the thought of coding freaks you out, you can also use Google's Data Highlighter to mark up content with your mouse. (Note that your website will need to be set up with Google Search Console in order for this to work.)

This is just of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to local SEO. Implementing the five local search tactics above will give you a head start on your competition. Get started today!

The post Local SEO in 2017: 5 simple ways to dominate local search appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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Google Maps updates Android app with real-time traffic info, nearby places & bus schedules

Google updated its Google Maps app for Android today, adding three new tabs that display real-time info on nearby places, traffic conditions and public transit schedules.

According to the announcement, swiping up from the bottom of the Google Maps home screen will display a Places tab, a Driving tab and a Transit tab.

The Places tab delivers a curated list of nearby restaurants, along with info on nearby ATMs, pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores.

From the Driving tab, users can see nearby traffic conditions and real-time ETAs (if they have home and work addresses saved). Tapping on the “start driving” option will prompt real-time traffic info during route.

The Transit tab displays bus and train recommendations depending on a user's saved home and traffic addresses, along with ETAs for arrival times. For buses and train schedules to alternative locations, users can swipe down to find nearby transit stations and schedules.

“Whether you need to get to work or you're just looking for a quick bite around you, Google Maps gives you personalized information about your world so you can make decisions and get around with confidence,” writes Google Maps product manager Marcus Lowe.

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Google local knowledge panel testing promotion box

Google seems to be testing a new box in the local knowledge box panel that allows Google My Business owners to post deals and promotions below their core listing. This was spotted by Mike Blumenthal and you can see it yourself for a search on [theme park collection orlando fl].

Here is a screen shot that shows “latest from the owner” followed by a message about saving 10 percent, then with a “learn more” button that takes the searcher to driving directions on Google Maps.

This looks similar to the Google Posts feature Google launched a while back, but I doubt this is the same platform.

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How machine learning impacts the need for quality content

Back in August, I posited the concept of a two-factor ranking model for SEO. The idea was to greatly simplify SEO for most publishers and to remind them that the finer points of SEO don't matter if you don't get the basics right. This concept leads to a basic ranking model that looks like this:

To look at it a little differently, here is a way of assessing the importance of content quality:

The reason that machine learning is important to this picture is that search engines are investing heavily in improving their understanding of language. Hummingbird was the first algorithm publicly announced by Google that focused largely on addressing an understanding of natural language, and RankBrain was the next such algorithm.

I believe that these investments are focused on goals such as these:

Better understanding user intent Better evaluating content quality

We also know that Google (and other engines) are interested in leveraging user satisfaction/user engagement data as well. Though it's less clear exactly what signals they will key in on, it seems likely that this is another place for machine learning to play a role.

Today, I'm going to explore the state of the state as it relates to content quality, and how I think machine learning is likely to drive the evolution of that.

Content quality improvement case studies

A large number of the sites that we see continue to under-invest in adding content to their pages. This is very common with e-commerce sites. Too many of them create their pages, add the products and product descriptions, and then think they are done. This is a mistake.

For example, adding unique user reviews specific to the products on the page is very effective. At Stone Temple, we worked on one site where adding user reviews led to a traffic increase of 45 percent on the pages included in the test.

We also did a test where we took existing text on category pages that had originally been crafted as “SEO text” and replaced it. The so-called SEO text was not written with users in mind and hence added little value to the page. We replaced the SEO text with a true mini-guide specific to the categories on which the content resided. We saw a gain of 68 percent to the traffic on those pages. We also had some control pages for which we made no changes, and traffic to those dropped 11 percent, so the net gain was just shy of 80 percent:

Note that our text was handcrafted and tuned with an explicit goal of adding value to the tested pages. So this wasn't cheap or easy to implement, but it was still quite cost-effective, given that we did this on major category pages for the site.

These two examples show us that investing in improving content quality can offer significant benefits. Now let's explore how machine learning may make this even more important.

Impact of machine learning

Let's start by looking at our major ranking factors and see how machine learning might change them.

Content quality

Showing high-quality content in search results will remain critical to the search engines. Machine learning algorithms like RankBrain have improved their ability to understand human language. One example of this is the query that Gary Illyes shared with me: “can you get 100% score on Super Mario without walkthrough.”

Prior to RankBrain, the word “without” was ignored by the Google algorithm, causing it to return examples of walkthroughs, when what the user wanted was to be able to get a result telling them how to do it without a walkthrough. RankBrain was largely focused on long-tail search queries and represented a good step forward in understanding user intent for such queries.

But Google has a long way to go. For example, consider the following query:

In this query, Google appears unclear on how the word “best” is being used. The query is not about the best down comforters, but instead is about why down comforters are better than other types of comforters.

Let's take a look at another example:

See how the article identifies that the coldest day in US history occurred in Alaska, but then doesn't actually provide the detailed answer in the Featured Snippet? The interesting thing here is that the article Google pulled the answer from actually does tell you both the date and the temperature of the coldest day in the US - Google just missed it.

These things are not that complicated, when you look at them one at a time, for Google to fix. The current limitations arise because of the complexity of language and the scale of machine learning required to fix it. The approach to fixing it requires building larger and larger sets of examples like the two I shared above, then using them to help train better machine learning-derived algorithms.

RankBrain was one major step forward for Google, but the work is ongoing. The company is making massive investments in taking their understanding of language forward in dramatic ways. The following excerpt, from USA Today, starts with a quote from Google's senior program manager, Linne Ha, who runs the Pygmalion team of linguists at the company:

“We're coming up with rules and exceptions to train the computer,” Ha says. “Why do we say 'the president of the United States?' And why do we not say 'the president of the France?' There are all sorts of inconsistencies within our language and within every language. For humans it seems obvious and natural, but for machines it's actually quite difficult.”

The Pygmalion team at Google is the one that is focused on improving Google's understanding of natural language. Some of the things that will improve at the same time are their understanding of:

what pages on the web best match the user's intent as implied by the query. how comprehensive a page is in addressing the user's needs.

As they do that, their capabilities for measuring the quality of content and how well it addresses the user intent will grow, and this will therefore become a larger and larger ranking factor over time.

User engagement/satisfaction

As already noted, we know that search engines use various methods for measuring user engagement. They've already publicly revealed that they use CTR as a quality control factor, and many believe that they use it as a direct ranking factor. Regardless, it's reasonable to expect that search engines will continue to seek out more useful ways to have user signals play a bigger role in search ranking.

There is a type of machine learning called “reinforcement learning” that may come into play here. What if you could try different sets of search results, see how they perform, and then use that as input to directly refine and improve the search results in an automated way? In other words, could you simply collect user engagement signals and use them to dynamically try different types of search results for queries, and then keep tweaking them until you find the best set of results?

But it turns out that this is a very hard problem to solve. Jeff Dean, who many consider one of the leaders of the machine learning efforts at Google, had this to say about measuring user engagement in a recent interview he did with Fortune:

An example of a messier reinforcement learning problem is perhaps trying to use it in what search results should I show. There's a much broader set of search results I can show in response to different queries, and the reward signal is a little noisy. Like if a user looks at a search result and likes it or doesn't like it, that's not that obvious.

Nonetheless, I expect that this is a continuing area of investment by Google. And, if you think about it, user engagement and satisfaction has an important interaction with content quality. In fact, it helps us think about what content quality really represents: web pages that meet the needs of a significant portion of the people who land on them. This means several things:

The product/service/information they are looking for is present on the page. They can find it with relative ease on the page. Supporting products/services/information they want can also be easily found on the page. The page/website gives them confidence that you're a reputable source to interact with. The overall design offers an engaging experience.

As Google's machine learning capabilities advance, they will get better at measuring the page quality itself, or various types of user engagement signals that show what users think about the page quality. This means that you will need to invest in creating pages that fit the criteria laid out in the five points above. If you do, it will give you an edge in your digital marketing strategies - and if you don't, you'll end up suffering a a result.

Summary

There are huge changes in the wind, and they're going to dramatically impact your approach to digital marketing. Your basic priorities won't change, as you'll still need to:

create high-quality content. measure and continuously improve user satisfaction with your site. establish authority with links.

The big question is, are you really doing enough of these things today? In my experience, most companies under-invest in the continuous improvement of content quality and improving user satisfaction. It's time to start putting more focus on these things. As Google and other search engines get better at determining content quality, the winners and losers in the search results will begin to shift in dramatic ways.

Google's focus is on providing better and better results, as this leads to more market share for them and thus higher levels of revenue. Best to get on board the content quality train now - before it leaves the station and leaves you behind!

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Google: Our search leads won't let us talk about the Fred update

Gary Illyes, a webmaster trends analyst at Google, said at SMX West today that the Google search leads have decided not to talk about the Fred update that touched down on March 7, 2017. Google would not confirm this last algorithm update, but this statement about Google not talking about it may be a confirmation by itself.

Illyes went on to add that this update targets specific techniques that are well-documented within the Google webmaster guidelines. Unfortunately, he wouldn't go on to explain which guidelines specifically were targeted by this Fred update.

In our own analysis, we said Fred targeted low-value content that focused on revenue generation techniques.

This is the closest we got to an official confirmation from a Google representative on the March 7, 2017, Google update named Fred.

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Google makes it easier to search for programming languages answers

Google announced they now let you search using sequences of two or three special characters, something many coders do when looking for programming help in search. So now you can go to Google and search for technical queries such as [== vs ===] and [+=].

Google gave the example, if you're searching for the meaning of [c++17], you will get results for the well-known programming language instead of c17, which brings up a Boeing airplane.

Here is an example of a search result page for such technical queries:

Google also made it better for organization and product names that include punctuation. So for companies name She++ and Notepad++, Google will now return more accurate results.

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Ramona Dentist, Ramona Main Street Dental Review "Such a great dentist." Madison P.

http://www.keshavdental.com/ (760) 789-8060 Ramona Main Street Dental Ramona reviews5 Star ReviewSuch a great dentist. I have anxiety about getting my teeth worked on ,especially because I needed an extraction ,but he had me laughing through out the whole procedure. His dental assistant kelly is hilarious and made me feel comfort through out the whole procedure as well. I will never go to another dentist after my experience today!!Ramona Main Street Dental1530 Main St # 17Ramona CA92065-5244
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Google to sunset Google Site Search by end of 2017

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Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that they are discontinuing support for the Google Site Search product. Google Site Search is a paid product that lets you power your internal website's search engine based on the Google search technology. Google charges based on monthly query volume for the product.

Google said they are directing those consumers to either the ad-powered product named free custom search engine or the new cloud search product.

Google will stop fully supporting the Google Site Search product by the fourth quarter of 2017.

A Google spokesperson sent us the following statement:

We are winding down the Google Site Search product over the next year, but will provide customer and technical support through the duration of license agreements. For GSS users whose contract expires between April 1st and June 30th, 2017, we are providing a free 3-month extension with additional query volume to allow more time for them to implement the necessary changes to their site. GSS customers may also take advantage of our Custom Search Engine solution, an ads-supported model that offers similar functionality. We continue to build out new functionality and invest in new technology that make enterprise search a great experience for our customers. Just recently, we introduced the general availability of Google Cloud Search for G Suite customers.

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Google says no algorithm changes in new deal to demote pirated content in UK search results

The UK Intellectual Property Office has announced what they call a “landmark agreement” between Google and Microsoft Bing for “reducing the visibility of infringing content” in the UK search results by June 1, 2017. But Google tells Search Engine Land that they are “changing nothing today as a result of the announcement/code of conduct.”

Google already has a Pirate algorithm that is in place to deal with DMCA complaints and other forms of pirated content in the search results. So when we heard this announcement, we asked Google if they are changing this algorithm or putting a new one in place. Google explained that the “Voluntary Code of Practice” that was agreed to here will test to make sure the measures both Google and Bing are taking are successful in keeping bad content out of search results.

Google seems to already believe that their algorithms are indeed doing a good job keeping such content out of their search results.

There likely won't be any significant changes to Google's search algorithms for this specific agreement.

Overall, this agreement seems like more of an understanding between the UK watchdog group and Google to ensure that their algorithms continue to keep pirated content out of the search results versus making any significant changes now to fix an existing problem.

Jo Johnson, minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation, said, “Search engines play a vital role in helping consumers discover content online. Their relationship with our world leading creative industries needs to be collaborative. Consumers are increasingly heading online for music, films, e-books, and a wide variety of other content. It is essential that they are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites.”

For more on this specific news item, see Techmeme.

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Google brings back emojis in the search results snippets for relevant queries

Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that they have brought the ability for emojis to be displayed in the search results listing page.

In June 2015, Google removed emojis from showing up in the results after promising to disable them over webmaster abuse.

Well, I guess Google had a change of heart and wants them to show up for queries related to emojis.

A Google spokesperson told us they added it back when emojis are relevant. “We have added a feature to our snippets to feature emojis where relevant, useful and fun,” Google told us. “You'll see them crop up across various snippets moving forward,” Google said.

So if you search in Google for emojis, Google will show emojis. For example, my query for [google display emojis] has search results that display emojis in the listings:

But if I search for [google panda], our [panda page] is listed, but even though the title tag has a panda emoji, it doesn't show in the search results listings.

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Google's latest search feature serves up fun facts about animals, plants, fruits & vegetables

Google launched a new search feature today, serving up fun facts atop search results for animals, plants, fruits and vegetable queries that include the words “fun facts.”

From the Google Search Blog:

Starting today on Google Search, you can find fun facts about living creatures from around the world, making you the most interesting person at the dinner party or the reigning champ at trivia… Ask for a fun fact about something (think plants, animals, fruits and veggies), and ta-da! A trivia tidbit is delivered right at the top of your search results.

Google provided the following mobile search for “hippo fun facts” to show how the fun facts are listed:

For some queries, Google says multiple facts will be displayed as the search result page is refreshed.

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Google Maps new feature lets users create lists of saved places that can be shared & accessed offline

Google Maps has added a new list-making feature that lets users save locations to a specified list so that it can be accessed later - even offline - and shared with other users.

To save a location in Google Maps, tap on its name and then the “Save” icon to add it to a list. Lists of saved places can be organized under preset lists Google has already named, like “Want to go” or “Favorites,” or users can create a new list.

Google says lists can be shared by text and email, on social networks and via popular messaging apps.

From the Google Maps Blog:

Whenever friends and family come to town, tap the share button to get a link and start flexing your local knowledge muscles. Once you send a link to your out-of-towners, they can tap “Follow” to pull up the list from Your Places whenever they need it.

Google posted the following video to show how the new feature works:

Google says the new list-making feature in Google Maps works on both desktop and Android and iOS mobile devices.

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Florida court: Google permitted to delist sites regarded as spam under First Amendment

Under US law it's well established that the First Amendment of the US Constitution gives search engines near-total discretion over the content on their pages and ranking algorithms. However, a court in Florida previously allowed a case against Google to survive a motion to dismiss (plaintiff's links were removed as “pure spam” in violation of Google's quality guidelines).

The case, e-ventures Worldwide, LLC vs. Google, survived Google's procedural motion. Among other factual claims, the complaint against Google alleged a kind of conspiracy that the search engine sought to use delisting as a tool to force plaintiff to buy AdWords.

Google was sued under various federal and Florida state statutes, basically for unfair competition. The failure to grant Google's motion to dismiss was legally in error. However, the Florida court has now granted Google's motion for summary judgment, effectively ending the litigation in Google's favor.

Eric Goldman quoted the court's ruling and rationale, which reaffirmed and relied upon earlier law asserting that the First Amendment protects search engine results as speech:

But there is a more fundamental reason why the First Amendment bars e-ventures' claims. Google's actions in formulating rankings for its search engine and in determining whether certain websites are contrary to Google's guidelines and thereby subject to removal are the same as decisions by a newspaper editor regarding which content to publish, which article belongs on the front page, and which article is unworthy of publication. The First Amendment protects these decisions, whether they are fair or unfair, or motivated by profit or altruism.

It's strange that the court waited until after the discovery phase was over to come to this position, which is a matter of law - rather than a factual question. Nonetheless, it's a recognition of the search-results-as-speech principle first announced in 2003 in Search King v. Google:

Therefore, the Court finds that under Oklahoma law, protected speech-in this case, PageRanks-cannot give rise to a claim for tortious interference with contractual relations because it cannot be considered wrongful, even if the speech is motivated by hatred or ill will.

While e-ventures could appeal its chances of success are basically zero. The law says that Google can present its search results in any manner it wants - a rule that does not exist in Europe.

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Google Data Studio now connects to Search Console

Google's reporting and data visualization tool, Data Studio, now integrates with Google Search Console.

Search Console joins AdWords and Google Analytics among others as a data source for report building. Marketers can build reports that include only Search Console data, or combine it with other sources to compare paid versus organic traffic trends, for example.

Search Console metrics can be aggregated by either site or by page in the Data Source creation flow within Google Data Studio by selecting either “Site Impression” or “URL Impression”.

As of last week, users can build an unlimited number of reports in Google Data Studio. The email used for the Data Studio account needs to have access to Search Console in order to use it as a data source.

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Unconfirmed Google algorithm update may be better at discounting links and spam

Google may have made some tweaks to their algorithms this week on how they target link spam and other forms of spam. Google would not confirm or deny there was an algorithm change, but based on the signals I am tracking, there appears to have been an algorithm update that has hit those who undergo more aggressive link building.

The update seems to have happened around February 1, 2017. It may have been a tweak to how Google Penguin detects and discounts spammy links, or it may be a totally new algorithm - we are unsure. But many of the folks within the “black hat” SEO community seem to be noticing this and complaining that their tactics are not working as well.

Some are saying that their PBNs, private blog networks, are not working as well. Some are saying Google is slower at picking up new links. Some think Google hit their sites with penalties.

The vast majority of the Google search results tracking tools, such as MozCast, Algoroo, RankRanger and many others, are showing significant turbulence around February 1.

This is all despite many of the more “white hat” SEO communities not really noticing or complaining about ranking changes in Google.

If we had to guess, I'd say this is an algorithm update around how Google discredits spammy links, maybe updating the Penguin algorithm or something else.

We should note that Google did launch an algorithm update specifically for Google Japan and Japanese content this morning, but that is unrelated to this link update.

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Google local knowledge panel testing promotion box

Google seems to be testing a new box in the local knowledge box panel that allows Google My Business owners to post deals and promotions below their core listing. This was spotted by Mike Blumenthal and you can see it yourself for a search on [theme park collection orlando fl].

Here is a screen shot that shows “latest from the owner” followed by a message about saving 10 percent, then with a “learn more” button that takes the searcher to driving directions on Google Maps.

This looks similar to the Google Posts feature Google launched a while back, but I doubt this is the same platform.

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