Last month, things seemed fairly quiet on the Google algorithm front. There were rumors of a change around the end of June, but then -- things were calm again.
Was it a sign of a looming summer break? Was the algorithm on vacation?
As it turns out: Nope. Definitely not.
The algorithm knows no such thing as a “break,” it seems -- and neither do we -- that is, until we fill you in on all things Google from last month.
We’ve put together another list of the major highlights from the most talked-about search engine -- this time, for the month of July. Read on for the full recap.
July News About Google
More Algorithm Updates
In early July, Glen Allsop of ViperChill published a rather damning account of his email newsletter ending up in the spam box of half his followers -- with no explanation -- and theorized that Google had something to do with it.
After receiving emails from numerous subscribers confirming that this was taking place and publicly speaking out about it, he saw that he wasn’t alone, and that similar issues were experienced by the likes of Noah Kagan and Shane Parrish. The culprit, he said: a newer Gmail feature that displayed a warning when the person to whom you’re sending an email reply might be phishing.
Around the middle of the month, Allsop announced that he had finally gotten some feedback on the matter, and that he was told by a Gmail product manager that “This was due to a one-off bug that was subsequently fixed."
The precise nature of that bug has yet to be determined -- but we haven’t come across many new reports since the middle of the month.
Additional Traffic-Impacting Changes
On July 10, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable warned of signs of a major algorithm change -- one that was, in a word, messing with marketers’ SERP rankings, noting that SEO tracking tools like MozCast, SEMRush, and Accuranker were “all on fire.” In other words, they were all showing signs of volatility.
Finally, around the middle of the month, Google confirmed this volatility on its Search Analytics Report, releasing the following statement:
An incremental improvement in Google's logging system now provides better accounting for results in lower positions. This change might cause increase in impressions, but also a decrease in average positions. This change only affects Search Console reporting, not your actual performance on Google Search.”
That logging system improvement, explains Search Engine Land, isn’t a bug -- rather, it’s “a feature change in how Google measures the data in the lower positions” that doesn’t ultimately impact marketers’ rankings. So while the change might be reflected in Search Console reporting, it won’t affect your actual search performance.
Launch of Google Hire
On June 20, Google for Jobs officially launched, incorporating listings into the general SERP in response to job-related queries. It sparked rumors that Google was making significant efforts to move into the recruiting and professional networking space -- and when Google Hire launched on July 18, it did nothing to stop that chatter.
The real value of Hire, according to the statement, is its integration with Gmail and Google Calendar. It’s designed to sync with recruiting email exchanges and related calendar items.
And with Hire, those calendar invites -- and this is the part that makes us geek out the most -- automatically include details like the full interview schedule and what questions each interviewer should focus on.
Clearly, it’s a suite of tools built for employers, while Google for Jobs seems to focus more on job seekers. We’ll be keeping an eye on how this ultimately plays out in terms of any competition with the likes of LinkedIn, and other platforms designed to benefit both employers and prospects.
Even More Ad-Blocking Measures
On June 1, Google announced it would further crack down on websites that feature intrusive ads -- like the ones that play with loud sound or music, for example.
And at an intersection of the most recent June announcement, and the January algorithm change to penalize sites with intrusive interstitials, Google announced on July 11th that it would be taking even further measures to stop annoying ads. This time, the focus was on what it called “pop-unders”: the ones that “‘pop under’ your window, so that you don't see them until you minimize your browser,” according to the official statement.
“We do not believe these ads provide a good user experience,” the announcement continued, “and therefore are not suitable for Google ads.”
After that statement was released, Google updated its Ads best practices and policies to provide further clarification around this new rule. But moving forward, Google ads will no longer be allowed in any pop-up or pop-under formats -- nor will Google ads be allowed on any sites whatsoever that prompt these kinds of interstitials.
Voice Search Analytics Will Be Available for Webmasters
When we first began covering voice search trends, one of our biggest points of frustration was the lack of data available around how many search queries are submitted via that medium. Google has said time and time again that, eventually, this feature would be available -- but SEMs have yet to see it.
But at the recent SMX Advanced event in Seattle, Google webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes renewed this promise that voice search data will be available to webmasters, most likely within the Search Console's Search Analytics report … eventually.
And while IIlyes failed to provide a tangible date or timeline around the availability of this data, he did say that the technology behind voice search must be repaired and enhanced in a way that allows such insights to be clear and actionable to SEMS.
The E.U. Antitrust Kerfuffle
Finally -- and yes, this event technically took place in late June -- European Union antitrust officials announced that Google would be fined $2.7 billion “for unfairly favoring some of its own services over those of rivals,” according to the New York Times.
It’s one of the more recent developments in the E.U.’s penalties against technology companies -- in July 2016, it ordered Apple to pay $14.5 billion in back taxes to Ireland, and in January 2015, a “tax deal” between Amazon and the Luxembourg government was found to permit the company to underpay its taxes for at least 10 years.
But the implications of the ruling against Google are the most apparent in the changes it must make in order to comply -- which may impact its algorithm, at least in Europe. That’s because, at the time of the ruling, the algorithm was allegedly causing Google’s own services, like advertising and shopping, to appear more favorably in search results.
At first, that partially resulted in Google ceding a certain amount of prominence to its rivals in shopping and local business results. But that was short-lived when said competitors claimed that they were asked to pay Google in exchange for such prominence. With that deal having fallen through, the E.U.’s investigation remains open.
While we’re not sure how much the mid-July SERP changes had anything to do with this ruling -- as we mentioned earlier, Google provided a different explanation for it -- the timing seems a bit coincidental. We’ll be monitoring the latest developments in the E.U.’s investigation, to see how Google’s compliance actions may impact marketers.
Until Next Month
As always, we’re watching all things Google. We’ll continue to pick out top news items, algorithm updates, and trends that can aid your marketing.
Enjoy your August -- we’ll see you next month.
What were your favorite Google news stories and search trends in July? Let us know in the comments.