What's new in search?

We’ve been looking at some of the more interesting trends that have taken place in the world of search in the past month and what these changes may mean.

Search is always changing, with developments and updates every other day. Some of the changes implemented by Google and other search engines fly under the radar, but some are important and can completely change our search strategies.

We’ve been looking at some of the more interesting trends that have taken place in the world of search in the past month and what these changes may mean for businesses and digital marketing in general. Here are three changes that we think have the potential to cause a significant impact.

AMPs to roll out across organic search

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) have been a big talking point within the SEO community, and we talked about how AMPs might affect your business back in February. We’ve seen some interesting developments since then, though, with AMP pages now due to roll out across organic search.

To recap, the project was officially rolled out by Google in February this year, with the aim being:

“The Accelerated Mobile Pages (“AMP”) Project is an open source initiative that came out of discussions between publishers and technology companies about the need to improve the entire mobile content ecosystem for everyone -- publishers, consumer platforms, creators, and users.

Today, the expectation is that content should load superfast and be easy to explore. The reality is that content can take several seconds to load, or, because the user abandons the slow page, never fully loads at all. Accelerated Mobile Pages are web pages designed to load instantaneously -- they are a step towards a better mobile web for all.”

AMPs have primarily been used by major news publishers, with the likes of The Guardian, The Independent, and BBC News all getting involved. Notably, on the 30th of June, eBay announced on its tech blog that AMPs had recently been rolled out for its mobile browsing experience. In the blog piece, the company stated that although AMP is tailored towards publisher based content, it is still an open source project - meaning that there was nothing stopping it from incorporating aspects into ecommerce pages.

eBay cited one of the main reasons for incorporating AMPs as that it knew most of its traffic was coming from search engines like Google. This raised an interesting question for many observers – was this a sign that AMP pages were rolling out to areas other than content publishing?

The answer to this question came on the 2nd of August when Google announced that it was rolling out AMPs to the whole of organic search. Previously, AMPs were only featured in a ‘top stories’ carousel, whereas in the coming months, AMPs will be present throughout organic listings.

Does this mean that AMPs will receive a rankings boost? Not quite. Vice President of Engineering at Google David Besbris stated that AMP pages will not receive a rankings boost, but that if there were two identical pages with one AMP and a mobile friendly page – the AMP page would be served.

Despite this, back in early June, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes confirmed that mobile page speed would be a ranking factor in Google’s next mobile friendly update. Considering that the aim of the AMP project is to deliver near instant loading pages to mobile users, surely this means that they will be ranked higher?

Perhaps the only thing holding back AMPs at the moment is the lack of user awareness. Bresbis alluded to this, explaining that user awareness was ‘not well established’ and that most people don’t really know what an AMP was. More importantly, most users don’t know the benefits, which are:

  • Average loading speed of less than a second
  • 4 times faster on-page experience than non AMPs on average
  • Use 10 times less data

These points are particularly important considering that nearly 60% of searches now come from mobile devices. In this context, if you can raise awareness that your website loads almost instantly on mobile and uses 10 times less data than your competitor, you’re on to a winner!

Following the announcement that AMPs are being rolled out across organic search, we predict that ensuring your site has AMPs will be a must for ranking well on mobile devices no matter what industry you are in. Looking at AMPs from a user experience and consumer perspective, as soon as consumer awareness of AMPs – especially points about instant loading times and using a lot less data – becomes more widespread, users will be actively looking for that little AMP icon.

Payday loans banned from PPC ads

Recently, Google’s ban on adverts that promote payday loans has come into effect. Adverts for loans that require repayment within 60 days or, in the US, loans with interest rates above 35% will be banned from Google. New ads to promote these loans are no longer being accepted and existing ads will be removed from Google over the coming weeks.

However, this doesn’t mean that payday loan lenders are banned from Google entirely, as they will still be present within the organic results. In effect, this ban will have a detrimental effect on new entrants into the payday market who rely on adverts to get to the top of the result pages quickly. More established brands, like Wonga, have the advantage of an established SEO strategy and already dominate the organic results. New entrants into this market will have to invest in a long term SEO strategy to gain visibility on Google and put their products in front of potential customers.

Google announce price extensions for mobile ads

The new ad extension announced in July allows pricing information for products and services to be displayed in text ads. These extensions will only appear on mobile search at the moment, and will only be displayed for the advert in position one.

The PPC team at Equator is really excited about these extensions, not only because these ads will take up a significant amount of space on mobile screens – pushing down the competition – but because they provide a fantastic opportunity to show pricing information to potential customers.

Particularly for hotel clients, the extensions will allow us to showcase ‘from’ prices for individual locations and ‘from’ prices for different room types. It will also help advertise special offers, as sale prices can be promoted along with the corresponding start and end dates.

As these extended ads will also push down the organic listings, getting to the top of the SERPs through the map pack is even more vital, emphasising the importance of having a good local SEO strategy.

We’re always on top of developments in search, so if you’re looking to find out more on how these changes may affect your brand and what you can do to capitalise on them, get in touch with our SEO experts today.

By Rory Long and Lynne Andrews, SEO Executives.