The changing SERP: Understanding and adapting to dynamic search results

Consumer search behaviors are changing rapidly. According to a recent report from BrightEdge (disclaimer: my employer), 57 percent of searches now begin with a mobile device, and last year Google revealed that voice search has increased to about 20 percent of all Google mobile search queries.
And of course, Google is constantly adjusting their SERP layout in order to better align with a searcher’s context and expectations. Consumers now expect to see rich content in SERPs that includes not just standard text listings, but video, images, local map results, featured snippets and more. The standard organic listings themselves also sometimes feature rich snippets, which enhance the listing by presenting information in a way that is easy to scan and often visually appealing.
Paid search ads have changed as well — in 2015, Google doubled the size of its highly visual product listing ads (PLAs), and last year they announced that up to four search ads could appear for “highly commercial queries,”

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Updated: Google home page search box now shows you recent searches by default

Google has changed the default behavior of the search box on the Google.com home page. Now, when you go to Google’s home page, the search box will automatically expand to show you your most recent searches.
Seeing these recent searches automatically expand below the search box, before you even click into the search box to enter your search query, feels awkward. It almost feels like this is a bug.
Matt Cutts, former Google search executive, said on Google+ he finds the experience “super annoying” and wants a way to opt out of this but cannot find the opt-out. Here is a screen shot from Matt Cutts:

We have emailed Google for more details, but we have not heard back at this writing. We do hope this is a bug and Google will revert this behavior shortly. Stay tuned.
Postscript: Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that this is not the behavior they want and it was likely a bug. “We

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Google beefs up mobile shopping results for the holidays, adds more product info & buying guides

Google is beefing up its mobile shopping experience to prepare for the holidays, now showing buying guides for broad categories like “sewing machine” and “coffee grinder” searches and adding more product-related information for specific product searches.
“When you search for a specific product, Google.com now shows you other helpful information, like related items, and allows you to compare reviews, prices and other specs, side by side,” writes Google product management director for Google Shopping, Jennifer Liu on Google’s The Keyword blog.

Google says it has added a “newer model available” label to tech-gadget product listings so searchers know if they’re browsing the most recent version of tech products.
According to the announcement, Google’s recently redesigned mobile shopping experience has helped bring more product information to the forefront with features like a “Quick View” button in Google Shopping ads that lets users preview detailed product information.
Google also noted its recent knowledge panel updates that quickly surface product photos, videos, reviews and

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Report: Smart speaker owners increasingly using them instead of typing or swiping

Unlike VR headsets or wearables, smart speakers are rapidly emerging as a mass market technology platform. The latest to document relatively high satisfaction and usage of these devices is call-tracking and analytics company Invoca.
Earlier this year, Invoca surveyed 1,000 people in the US who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home device. The survey asked questions about current behavior and a range of hypothetical scenarios.
The company found that people use smart speakers more frequently over time, with 89 percent using them daily. Here’s a more detailed usage breakdown:

33 percent of owners said they used the devices more than five times daily.
28 percent used them four to five times a day.
24 percent used them two to three times a day.

In addition, 58 percent of respondents said that they used assistants to “accomplish tasks they used to do through typing or swiping.” So there’s some substitution going on, and there’s apparently an appetite for more.
By some estimates, Amazon controls

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Google changes info command search operator, dropping useful links

Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that they have changed the way the info command, a search operator that gives you more details about a site, is displayed in search.
Previously, the info operator would give searchers the snippet plus additional links to find more operators that show links to the site, the Google cache link, similar sites to that site and more. But that whole section has been removed, and now Google is showing just the snippet.
Here is the before shot from a couple of years ago:

Now what I see is only the snippet:

Google told us this is the new changed behavior for the command.
The post Google changes info command search operator, dropping useful links appeared first on Search Engine Land.

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US court orders Google not to comply with Canadian court’s order delisting search results

A federal court in California has blocked implementation of a Canadian Supreme Court ruling that ordered Google to delist websites associated with a company called Datalink from Google’s global index. The Canadian decision (Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions) was an example of a court in one country asserting authority over global activity outside its jurisdiction.
Because Google exhausted its appeals in Canada, the company filed an action in the US District Court in Northern California, asserting that the Canadian decision violates US law. The US federal court agreed with Google and issued a preliminary injunction — effectively overruling the Canadian Supreme Court:
Congress recognized that free speech on the internet would be severely restricted if websites were to face tort liability for hosting user-generated content . . . It responded by enacting Section 230 [of the Communications Decency Act], which grants broad immunity to online intermediaries . . .
The Canadian order would eliminate Section 230 immunity for service providers that link to third-party websites.

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Google searches now correspond to user location instead of domain

Google announced today that it is changing the way it labels country services on the mobile web, Google app for iOS and desktop Search and Maps.
According to Google, one in five searches is now location-related. To make search results more relevant, Google says the country of service will no longer be indicated by the country code top level domain name (ccTLD) such as “google.co.uk” for the UK or “google.com.br” for Brazil, but instead will default to the country where the user is performing the search.
From the Google Search Blog:
So if you live in Australia, you’ll automatically receive the country service for Australia, but when you travel to New Zealand, your results will switch automatically to the country service for New Zealand. Upon return to Australia, you will seamlessly revert back to the Australian country service.

Google says that typing the relevant ccTLD into a browser will no longer return various country services. Instead, users must go into their settings

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Yext begins to verticalize local business listings syndication with ‘Yext for Food’

Business listings with more content see more engagement, tend to rank higher and perform better overall. And as more searches take place on mobile devices (and eventually smart speakers and virtual assistants), marketers will need to expose more local business attributes and enhanced data for discovery and competitive advantage.
According to previous Google research, 50 percent of smartphone users conducting local-intent searches visit business locations within 24 hours. These numbers are even higher and more immediate for restaurants, which often see searches translate into visits within a few hours or less.
TripAdvisor found that “Restaurants with hours of operation on their TripAdvisor listing see 36 percent more engagement than those without them.” Yelp reports, “Businesses who complete their profiles see, on average, 5x the customer leads each month.”
Both sites also point out the importance of images on profiles. TripAdvisor said restaurants with between 11 and 20 photos see “double the amount of diner interaction over others with no photos at all,”

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Placed introduces offline attribution for paid search campaigns

Google and Facebook both have offline attribution. Now, Snap-owned Placed is introducing what it says is the first “media-independent” solution for paid search campaigns. (Multiple companies have offline attribution for display).
Here’s the methodology as described by the company:
Placed Attribution for Search directly measures the search click through a redirect implemented by the advertiser. This click redirect allows Placed to map keyword clicks to its audience that generates over 140 billion latitudes and longitudes on a monthly basis. Placed’s location platform represents the largest set of active locations in the industry. Using these raw locations, and patented models to identify visits and assign them to places, Placed can directly connect paid search to store visits.
To showcase the new paid search attribution offering, Placed released the results of a case study with RetailMeNot. Paid search clicks, for various traditional retailers, went through a RetailMeNot landing page to enable the offline tracking.
The companies found that close to 40 percent (38 percent) of

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Answer engine JustAnswer now uses bots to route questions to human experts

JustAnswer is one of the survivors of the “answer engine” or Q&A craze that was prevalent a number of years ago. The venerable (or ancient) Yahoo Answers is still around, and so is Quora, but various efforts from Google, Facebook, Amazon and a range of startups are gone.
The most recent entrant, Biz Stone’s Jelly, was acquired by Pinterest earlier this year.
The pitch is compelling: Humans are better than algorithms at answering complex questions, and users want “answers not links.” Yet almost nobody has been able to get the formula right (quality + scale + a business model) — and that includes Yahoo and Quora. But JustAnswer has managed to make it work.
Founded in 2003, JustAnswer adopted the paid-advice model that was also used by the original Google Answers. Each user who connects with one of 12,000 experts on the site pays on average $30 for a consultation. There are no ads. Most of JustAnswer’s traffic comes from SEO.
Last week,

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