SEO & Google Search News - September 2016

SEO News: September 2016

By Britt Bischoff on September 16, 2016 in Digital Marketing

Editor's note: The post was originally published on 9/16/16, and has since been updated for accuracy.

There's been some big changes happening with Google in the last month, and I thought I'd give you all an update. Here's what's most important to know for September 2016:

Google Penguin 4.0 algorithm update

September 23, 2016

For two years, the SEO world nervously awaited the next Google Penguin algorithm update, and it's here. The Penguin 4.0 algorithm rolled out on Friday, September 23, and so far it's being recognized as one of the "nicest" and most fair algorithm updates by the SEO community. The impact of this update has been pretty small. It's also likely that many won't see the full impact of this for a few weeks until it's fully rolled out and the dust settles. 

A couple very big changes to note with Penguin 4.0: it's now real time, baked into part of the core algorithm, and more granular than ever. 

This new Penguin algorithm is good news for people who've suffered from any Penguin update in the past and they've been actively pursuing recovery efforts because it means quicker recovery and less severe sitewide implications. Rather than waiting until the next refresh to assess improvements, changes will happen very quickly, or as soon as Google recrawls and reindexes your pages. Real time also means that both the good and the bad techniques will be noticed right away, and punishment by devaluation will happen more rapidly and without notice. Because of this, I can't stress enough the importance of watching your search traffic and your backlinks a littler closer. Penguin 4.0 is also designed to be more granular in how spam is devalued. This means that if you're penalized, it's only going to affect the pages and sections involved, not your entire domain.

Read Google's full announcement here

*Potential* Google algorithm update

September 15, 2016

If you've noticed your rankings jumping quite a bit in search during the 2nd week of September, it's probably this. This is thought to be a continuation of another unconfirmed algorithm update from September 2nd, and has been reported as intensified turbulence. The type of turbulence that's being seen in the search results with this tweak is indicative of a type of general update, and is not related to Panda (site, content, quality) or Penguin (link spam). Most of the ranking jumps have been tremendous boosts - often to page one for a few days, followed by rankings drifting back down and settling.

Note: This is not associated with the Google Penguin 4.0 update.

Google's "helpful" button addition in reviews

3rd week of September

Google added a "helpful" button to the reviews feature, as a way to "upvote" quality reviews and sort by those that are most helpful. I have a sneaking suspicion too, that this will also lend a small amount of weight in local search ranking or act as a quality signal for review content and rating quantity factors by allowing users to decide what is quality and quantifying the amount of quality reviews.

Mobile search showing thumbnail images

2nd week of September

You might notice on mobile searches an image accompanying the search result. This is because Google is now showing thumbnail images next queries in mobile results, and mostly product based queries.

New Google Algorithm Penalty - Coming Soon

This is an update from the last week of August that was overlooked. Google's getting even more serious about improving mobile usability, and they're launching a new search algorithm penalty for mobile pages that have "intrusive interstitials" that get in a user's way. The expected launch date is January 10, 2017, and these pages will be demoted for banners, popups or other interstitials that make content less accessible to a user. 

Here's some examples they gave: 

  • Popups that cover the main content upon entering the page from search or when they're on the page.
  • Popups that cover the majority of a mobile screen.
  • Using standalone popups, pages, or other interstitials before allowing users to access the main content. Gated content would classify as standalone interstitials.

This doesn't mean we can't use popups, banners, or other forms of notifications on mobile screens, but to be respectful and reasonable with them. This penalty is only limited to interstitials that are intrusive to mobile experiences. Additionally, there are interstitials that won't be affected by this signal, including popups or notifications for legal obligations or cookie usage or age verification, login screens on private content, easily dismissable popups or banners, banners or popups that use a respectful and reasonable amount of screen space.

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