Each time Google modifies its algorithm or the layout of its search results page, marketers must reevaluate their strategy for organic and paid search because what worked in the past may not continue to work.
2016 brought a number of changes to Google’s search results that were big enough for marketers to take note of. Here are some of the major changes that caught our attention.
Paid search layout change
Early in 2016, we wrote about how Google changed the layout of paid search ads on desktop, resulting in an above-the-fold takeover of up to four paid ads. This change caused a two-week spike in the percentage of paid click-throughs on leading high volume keywords before leveling off to an approximate two percentage point increase in paid clicks. Our search data found that these results varied by industry, underscoring the need for marketers to not only understand the overall search trends, but also to understand industry-specific search trends.
Penguin added to Google’s core algorithm
In September, Google announced that a real-time, more granular version of Penguin is now a part of its core algorithm. From Penguin’s inception in 2012, Google’s goal has been to reward high quality sites that employ white hat SEO methods while penalizing sites that employ what the search giant labeled “black hat webspam.” Sites that have accidentally incurred penalties from Penguin have plenty of tools to recover from these penalties. Site owners can manually remove bad links or disavow them within Google’s Search Console. And, they can work on securing new, high-quality inbound links.
Closing the gap between searching and booking
In travel, Google continues to make it easier for searchers to go from looking for flights and hotels to actually booking. Sean O’Neil at Tnooz writes, “Even when Google enhances its search in unoriginal ways, the travel industry needs to take notice because the search giant might someday become a major booking tool for consumers.”
This October, Google announced new features to alert users when flights will soon increase in price, help users find the best hotel deals, and make travel planning easier on mobile.
“Flashcards” takeover organic search results
In December, Google has experimented with what Edward Cox at Heavy is calling “flashcards” in search results. Search results may now show news “flashcards” that feature three different news stories in a carousel-like display. And, they may also show Twitter “flashcards” that feature three different tweets in a similar configuration.
This layout change could make it difficult for all but the largest news organizations to earn traffic from trending news-related keywords. And, it could increase the need for smaller news organizations to optimize their Twitter accounts for possible inclusion in the Twitter “flashcards” section.
Bottom line: Search results changed significantly in 2016 and will continue to change. Marketers who stay on top of these changes overall, at the industry level, and even all the way down to the keyword level will be better able to adjust their search strategies and tactics in a positive direction. To bring you some of the keyword level insights you may be seeking, Jumpshot is currently analyzing industry-specific organic and paid search trends. Stay tuned as we plan to release these insights soon.