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What You Missed Last Month in Google

It's September, and yes -- we're sad that summer is coming to an end, too.

Around here, August is just such an exciting time. It means beach days, baseball games, blueberries being in season -- and for Google's part, it meant a lot of news.

Gone are the days, it seems, of August coming with a lot of downtime -- at least, that seems to be the case for the aforementioned search giant. As we said last month, Google knows no such thing as a “break” -- and neither do we, until we fill you in on all things Google from last month.Click here to download our free guide to search engine optimization (SEO) for  2017.

We’ve put together another list of the major highlights from the most talked-about search engine -- this time, for the month of August. Read on for the full recap.

August News About Google

More Algorithm Updates

Toward the end of the month -- around the 19th -- a few outlets were reporting were reporting changes in Google search results, which largely amounted to what Search Engine Roundtable called "chatter [that] died out" after a couple of days of intense speculation. 

Here's a look at the month's MozCast:

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 12.23.42 PM
Source: MozCast

While the cast shows an ever-so-slight spike in the days surrounding the time these changes were reported, there have been more significant spikes at other points throughout August that weren't accompanied with similar rumors. 

The SEMRush Sensor showed a similar pattern:

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 12.31.41 PM
Source: SEMRush

However, you'll notice that this image comes with a bit of a footnote. On August 19th, the Sensor added that there may have been an update in Google Rankings -- but didn't provide much information beyond that. It summarized the same reports from webmasters that were synthesized by Search Engine Roundtable, stating that "details of an update are unclear at the moment."

Google, for its part, seemed a bit displeased with this chatter -- which isn't exactly a new development. Back in 2016, Google's webmaster trends analyst, Gary Illyes, affirmed with the tweet below the belief that such algorithm forecasting and reporting tools are far from perfect and often pick up on incorrect signals that have nothing to do with ranking:

That impression seemed to continue with these more recent spikes, with John Mueller -- another webmaster trends analyst at Google -- sending out this tweet in response to one webmaster's speculation over possible changes in search results:

That said, we wouldn't discourage marketers from keeping an eye on tools like MozCast or SEMRush Sensor -- but at the same time, we wouldn't advise using them as the end-all, be-all of your SEO strategy. When analyzing your organic traffic, you can certainly use these tools to support your overall strategy, but we caution you to also take a close look at everything else that's going on: things like CTR, queries that are getting people to your content, and other sources of traffic.

New Results for Queries Related to Depression

On August 23, Google announced its partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to create PHQ-9: A questionnaire that users who search for "clinical depression" can take -- voluntarily -- to measure their levels of depression. 

The questionnaire is just one part of the resulting Knowledge Panel that's displayed when these queries are entered, which also lists basic information on depression, as well as symptoms and types of treatment.

depression
Source: Google

The purpose of this new feature, according to National Alliance on Mental Illness CEO Mary Giliberti -- who authored the official announcement on The Keyword -- is for "more people will become aware of depression and seek treatment to recover and improve their quality of life." However, she also cautions that "while this tool can help, it’s important to note that PHQ-9 is not meant to act as a singular tool for diagnosis."

The tool's effectiveness has been tested by some outlets, including BuzzFeed's Morgan Shanahan, who identifies as clinically depressed. In her review of the PHQ-9, she guides the reader through each question and why she provided the answers she gave to each one. Ultimately, she surmises, "each person who takes this test, depressed or not, will come through with a deeper understanding of what depression can look like."

The Pixel 2 Is Coming 

Mobile tech writer Evan Blass -- who has earned quite a reputation for his product announcement leaks -- tweeted on August 23rd that Google will debut the latest version of the Pixel on October 5th: one year and one day after the first model was brought to light.

The Snapdragon 836 refers to the device's internal processor, or SoC, which stands for "system on chip." The first model of the Pixel runs on the Snapdragon 835, which means that this change could result in incrementally better processing speed and battery life

As is so often the case with the imminent release of new and (hopefully) improved versions of mobile devices, The Verge reports that not only are current Pixel models selling for between $125-$200 less than their original prices, but also, any purchase of a Pixel device now comes with a free Daydream View headset, which is Google's VR viewer. We'll be watching this story as it develops, and will share details of the Pixel 2 as they become available.

Google Is Trying to Emulate Snapchat

First, it was Instagram. Then, it was Facebook. Now, Google is reportedly joining the ranks of tech giants trying to emulate Snapchat's ephemeral content features. Its alleged name? "Stamp": A hybrid of Stories ("St") and AMP, Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages.

The feature will reportedly be modeled after Snapchat Discover, which allows brands to publish content created specifically for Snapchat. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google will potentially partner with such publishers as the Washington Post, Vox, and Mic, who "would run stories that could be several swipeable slides encompassing text, photos and video, just as on Snapchat.” The difference, however, is that Stamp won't be its own app -- rather, this content would display under the Google search bar.

Because of Google's history of forays into social media -- Buzz and Wave, to name two of its more notable flops -- we're encouraged to see that it doesn't seem to be making any attempts to build a new social network. 

Android Oreo Launch

Yes -- this news also makes us crave a certain sandwich cookie.

Timed to be announced alongside the August 21st solar eclipse, Google unveiled the latest Android mobile platform: Oreo.

One of the more prominent features, according to the official announcement penned by Android & Google Play VP of Product Management, Sameer Samat, is its picture-in-picture capability. Samat uses the example of wanting to check your schedule while on a video call without losing live visuals -- with Oreo, users can now do that. Plus, it boasts better payment security, and better speed, with boot time that is rumored to be twice as fast as the Pixel's.

So, why do all of these mobile announcements matter to marketers, anyway? Well, with more and more users turning to these devices as their primary browsing platforms, mobile is more important than ever: It's one of the best places to reach your audience. And with different operating systems offering different options for consuming content -- whether it's by way of an app, a browser, or more -- we want to make sure marketers are aware of these various platforms.

Stay tuned -- we'll be covering more of this information as it becomes available. In the meantime, here's an adorable promo video of Android creatures watching a soaring sandwich cookie:

 

More Crackdowns on Loud, Annoying Websites

Last month, we reported that Google partnered with the Coalition for Better Ads to create stricter guidelines for audibly intrusive ads -- you know, the kind that loudly play in a tab you forgot you had open without you having clicked to play it.

Now, Google is taking that same approach to websites across the board, with a looming Chrome feature that allows users to mute entire pages.

Right now, Chrome tabs can be muted by right-clicking on them and selecting "Mute tab" -- but that silence is canceled once the browser (or tab) is closed. This new feature will come with a setting to mute or unmute a site from the Page Info bubble, as per the image below:

sound-site-setting
Source: François Beaufort

Until the formal launch, users with access to the experimental Canary version of Chrome can test it.

In the meantime, we'll make one general recommendation: Let your users decide when they want to listen to your audible content. If a video plays without them asking it to, chances are, your audience will take advantage of these options to silence you. After all, this development is just the latest in a few channels experimenting with the sound on/sound off debate. 

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 September -- we’ll see you next month.

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