A new Panda update is finally here, but rolling out slowly over months "not to confuse people, but for technical reasons." Google confirmed that Panda 4.2 began about July 18. Panda is the search engine's algorithm update that penalizes sites with low-quality, thin content pages that don't meet Google's quality standards. Since almost 10 months elapsed since the last Panda update, webmasters who made site improvements in the interim hope their efforts will start paying off.
Google released a new API (application program interface) for developers to use to pull data from the Search Analytics tool in Google Search Console. Secondly, Google discontinued its Autocomplete API as of August 10, an interface that some had used for keyword research though it was an "unpublished and unsupported" feature.
Twitter content is showing up in Google SERPs again! Google announced that real-time tweets are now included in desktop searches.
The local pack results in Google have shrunk from a 7-pack to a 3-pack. The full address, phone number and link to the local business's Google+ page have been removed; the interface retains "photos, reviews and prices" according to a Google source. Local-SEO experts such as Mike Blumenthal expect increased exposure for the top 3 local results and decreased visibility for all lower-ranking sites.
The private photos management software within Google+ was discontinued as of August 1. Taking its place is Google Photos, the standalone app launched in May that similarly allows users to back up, edit and create private photo albums but with additional features such as automatic tagging of the elements in the picture. Other Google+ changes are happening, including the ability to operate Google products from a private, non-social Google account that does not have to be tied to a Google+ profile. Most recently, Hangouts got its own independent web app location at hangouts.google.com, still offering voice and video calls and text chat for free, but no longer requiring users to access the feature through the Google+ social network. As for that, Google VP Bradley Horowitz has said that Google+ will receive "a slew of" planned enhancements and continue as a network where users around the world can "connect around the interest they love."
In conjunction with the Google+ changes, Google announced changes to YouTube. The comment ranking system has been improved to reduce "junk" comments, and comments posted on YouTube no longer simultaneously appear in Google+. In coming weeks, people will be able to set up a YouTube channel without needing a Google+ account.
In Google search results, a new experimental feature lets users book an appointment with a local service provider right from the knowledge panel about that business. Google calls this Place Action Forms, and it's available for businesses connected with Demandforce automatically.
Google has begun testing ads for home services, initially appearing in results of San Francisco-area searches for plumbers and locksmiths. Google's entry into the competitive home services advertising market will impact existing providers such as Angie's List, Yelp, Thumbtack and new entrant Amazon Home Services.
Google confirmed it now displays three text ads for some queries at the top of mobile results, which crowds organic listings (including, in some cases, the local pack) out of the above-the-fold view. Secondly, a site's mobile search result can now contain expandable sitelinks, enabling users to click to access additional navigation links to important or relevant site pages (of the search engine's choosing).
Mobile users hate interstitial ads, according to empirical data collected by Google. Smartphone users trying to get to an app's content abandoned the attempt 70 percent of the time when presented with a full interstitial ad to download the mobile app. Google found that showing the same call to action in a small banner at the top of the screen was much more effective and didn't alienate users.
App indexing may cause Google search results to include a suggestion to download an app, even when the person doesn't have that app installed, if the search engine thinks the application would answer the searcher's query. This new development was revealed in a Webmaster Office Hours this week.
Internationally, Europe's Right To Be Forgotten (RTBF) legislation came a step closer to censorship this month when a UK regulator ordered Google to remove links to subsequent media stories that talk about Google's removing links. The search engine has 35 days to comply or face enforcement fines, but may also appeal.
If you've noticed your Google Search Console Sitemap reports showing a lower-than-usual count of indexed pages, it may just be due to a reporting bug. Google rep Gary Illyes says the company is looking into it.
YouTube launched a new player, with a user interface across many platforms that is "less in the way" and provides a "transparent" player with "auto-hiding controls," according to a Google representative.
Google AdWords has made it easier to set up display ad campaigns no matter your experience level. A new Marketing objective interface takes people through the process of setting up a campaign that meets their goals.
Sponsored video ad tests have been spotted within search results pages for Google as well as in Bing and Yahoo.
Many webmasters have noticed a drop in organic traffic from Bing lately. That is because Bing has migrated to HTTPS encrypted search for users. As a result, keyword data is now unavailable for most Bing traffic (similar to Google's [not provided] after moving to secure search in 2011). Unlike Google's rollout, however, Bing has also shifted its reporting of organic traffic into the category of referral traffic from Bing.com in analytics.
Twitter direct messages are no longer limited to 140 characters. The ability to write longer DMs (up to 10,000 characters) should particularly benefit companies and organizations that use Twitter for customer service.
Twitter released new event targeting features to help advertisers interact with audiences connected to a live event.
Facebook announced a new feature called Live within Facebook Mentions. Available only to "public figures with verified Pages," Live is Facebook's answer to Meerkat and Periscope, enabling influencers to share live video, engage with their fans in real-time, and then automatically post the video to their Facebook page.
Facebook continues to build its mobile advertising business. Autoplay video ads have been lucrative within Facebook, so this month the company expanded its available ad types to let third-party app developers in the Facebook Audience Network use autoplay video ads to help monetize their apps. In addition, publishers who already use full-screen interstitial ads can now deliver Dynamic Product Ads (which personalize ads based on the products users have previously viewed), Carousel Ads (allowing up to five images within each ad unit), and Click-To-Play Video ads.
Facebook has started testing animated GIFs in ads and Page posts, rolling it out for "a small percentage" of Facebook Pages to start with.
Also in development is Facebook M, a digital assistant currently being tested as a feature within Facebook Messenger. The company said M will go beyond similar AI-based services (Siri, Cortana and Google Now) by actually carrying out tasks for you such as making a purchase or giving a friend a gift.