Google SERP Updates for 2016

Google is always changing its algorithm.

If it’s not making formal changes then it’s testing out potential changes. At this point, the only thing that would be surprising is if Google didn’t have some surprises up its sleeve.

Recently, Google has started toying with some new changes. Some are only in the testing phase, and some have been established.

Here’s what we know about the Google SERP updates for 2016:

Longer Title Tags and Descriptions

Marketers may soon get more wiggle room in what they can include in title tags and descriptions.

Traditionally, the title tags that Google shows in its search results have been limited to only 50 or 60 characters. Yet, in early May, some astute observers noticed that search results were showing up to 70 or 71 characters in the title tags.

That might not seem like a lot, but it’s enough to fit in at least another word or two, which may be all you need to complete the headline you really wanted.

Additionally, Google has increased the characters it allows in the meta descriptions. Sites can now include about 100 more characters in the descriptions, which is about one more line of text. Instead of two lines of text, the descriptions now include three lines.

However, some results are still being shown cut off at two lines, even if Google is processing the additional line of text.

Longer Mobile Title Tags

The rules for mobile have always been a bit different than the rules for desktop.

With the latest changes, only the longer title tags are being applied to mobile search.

However, the changes don’t transfer directly. Actually, mobile search results get even longer title tags — 78 instead of 71. That’s a big improvement over the previous 50 or 60 characters that were displayed.

This creates more opportunities for marketing on mobile, but it also presents a bit of a conundrum. Marketers can’t just write the same content for both versions of the site and expect the responsive design to do the rest. They must create content specifically for mobile and specifically for desktop — which is something they should already be doing as mobile grows more and more separate from desktop.

Addition of Rich Cards

A while back, Google introduced rich snippets, which show just a little more than the basic title and description. Rich snippets include a thumbnail of the page picture or video, and the formatting is a bit larger and more noticeable.

Now, Google is introducing rich cards, which are small boxes that look just like the shopping results in search. The rich cards include a larger photo, a short title, a rating, and a time marker that shows recency.

The rich cards appear right at the top of search results, and users can scroll through them quickly to find what they need. The purpose of these rich cards is to make it easier for mobile users to search — again, showing the dominant position that mobile has taken.

Marketers will need to create content with these rich cards in mind. Specifically, they will need to choose great, eye-catching photos for their posts and write engaging headlines.

Right now, rich cards are being used to display recipes and movies, but industry experts are sure that their use will quickly grow to other categories. It is important that marketers start thinking about how to take advantage of these changes now, even if they are not immediately affected. Having that practice will help them be more competitive when the use of rich cards grows wider.

Moving Forward

It’s still unclear whether the longer title tags and descriptions will be made permanent. Google often tests out new features before it introduces them, and it has made no announcement about these latest changes.

Therefore, the longer titles and descriptions could slip away just as discreetly as they were introduced.

In the meantime, it is a good idea for marketers to experiment with the longer tags to see what difference they make to their results. Marketers can look at their history to see if they have gotten different results since the changes were introduced at the beginning of May, or they can conduct A/B testing of their own to find out what impact the changes make — if any.

It also important for marketers to start creating content with rich cards in mind, as well as to find other ways to make search better for mobile users. Mobile is expected to continue growing, so mobile marketing will be more and more important.

Of course, Google could change anything at any time, so it is also important that marketers remain aware of the current algorithm and any minor tweaks as they occur. They shouldn’t wait until they notice a decline in traffic or search ranking before they start wondering why. A good offense is also better than a good defense.

Moving away from an over-reliance on keywords and focusing on intent-based search instead will also help you to remain relatively untouched by unexpected changes.

Google Search Console Updates

Google’s search console gives you a wealth of data about how your site is performing.

You can use it to help you understand how people are finding your site and a little bit about what they do when they are on your site. You can use it in conjunction with Google analytics to gain insights about your site and to make important decisions about your marketing strategy to reach more customers.

Now Google has introduced some new features with additional search data that can help you gain even more insights. Here’s what you need to know about the Google search console updates:

What Comes with the Updates

Some of the updates for the Google search console include changes in the way clicks, impressions and links are measured.

Clicks and impressions will now be counted according to the associated application property, not the website itself. What that means is that clicks and impressions will be counted differently for a website accessed by a desktop computer and for the same website accessed by a mobile device.

Previously, all clicks and impressions to the website were lumped into together, regardless of how the user accessed the site.

The same changes are applied to the CTR values that are shown in the search analytics report. There are now separate values for the different applications.

The updates also include changes in how URLs are reflected in the Knowledge Panel, Rich Snippets, and local search results.

Here’s a quick overview: If your site URL shows up in local search, it will count as one impression. If a URL shows up multiple times, such as multiple locations that use the same URL, that URL is counted only once as well. The same is true if a local result and natural web result show up on the same page in search results.

Each of these URLs gets individual page impressions.

These changes are small, and Google says that most people won’t notice any big changes in their search reports. However, those who have a strong mobile presence may notice some big changes. The reason is that the updates primarily separate out traffic and impressions from desktop and mobile users.

Benefits of the Changes

When you look at your new console, you may feel crestfallen that some of your numbers seem smaller.

In reality, the numbers give you more information about how users are coming to you through search. You aren’t getting all that information lumped together in one big pile — you are able to see how users are accessing your site.

For many, that will mean seeing what an impact mobile really does make on your site. If you do not have a mobile site or you have not fully optimized the mobile site you have now, you’ll quickly realize the need to do both.

Mobile has already overtaken desktop in search numbers, and mobile users are expected to continue to grow. If you want to reach your full audience potential, you must develop a great mobile site.

Other Traffic Sources

Of course, the Google search console reflects only one source of your traffic: organic search.

There are many, many other ways for you to get traffic to your site, and you cannot overlook them. You can use Google analytics and other software to help you get to the heart of your traffic sources and help you find new ways to reach your target audience.

That means creating a comprehensive marketing strategy that includes content marketing and social media marketing in addition to search engine optimization.

Using the tools offered by CodeFuel can help you get results from your search and other marketing strategies faster.

For example, In-tag can help you to increase your page views, visit duration and other metrics by directing users to other content on your site. In-tag scans your site to find appropriate places to insert tags to other pages on your site or your other properties.

CodeFuel also offers an advertising platform that uses intent-based signals to find the best opportunities for ad placements. The tool focuses on delivering the right ads in the right places at the right times.

Other tools help to increase user engagement by positioning targeted content to capture the attention of users and by creating a more positive user experience.

These tools help you to get just the right placement for your content and your ads so that they can make the maximum impact. These tools will save you time and money, helping you to meet your goals faster and grow your revenue.

Of course, these tools will also help you to improve your SEO by increasing page views, visit duration and other metrics. You’ll notice those changes in the new Google search console. Use all these tools together, and you’ll get the maximum benefits to make your brand a success.