The SEO community noticed what seemed like two Google algorithm updates on Sept. 2. One seemed to affect the core ranking algorithm (responsible for determining quality, relevance, etc.); the other caused local SERP rankings to noticeably shift, with many spammy local results dropping out of the results. Google has not confirmed either update. In a Google Webmasters Hangout, John Mueller confirmed than the changes were not related to the Penguin update that we have all been anticipating for nearly two years. Rather, Mueller suggested that since Google is always improving its algorithms, several smaller updates might have occurred that were not significant enough to announce. Later in the same hangout, John Mueller said that when Penguin does get updated, Google will announce it, though not necessarily in advance.
Widget makers were warned in an official Google blog post that links within widgets may be seen as manipulative and in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Google reminded webmasters that such links need to be nofollowed or removed. (Note: If your site has links from widgets, you’d better do some serious link pruning, since penalties are likely to follow such a specific warning.)
The "mobile-friendly" label no longer appears in search results, though the mobile-friendly ranking boost still applies in mobile searches. (This change might have been to declutter the mobile SERP and make room for the new AMP label coming to mobile results soon.)
Google announced that mobile pages "where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results" will suffer a ranking hit starting Jan. 17, 2017. Google already demotes app-install interstitials; the latest news will expand that punishment to mobile sites using other types of intrusive pop-ups or interstitials.
Google is telling advertisers the minimum number of reviews is increasing to have Seller Ratings extensions display in AdWords ads. Businesses must have at least 150 reviews in the past 12 months, up from the previous minimum of 30, to have their rating stars automatically displayed.
The promised preview tool for AdWords expanded text ads is now live across the globe. Advertisers can test how their new ad text looks and make sure it isn’t truncated in the results. Expanded text ads allow for two headlines, up to 30 characters each, and a description of up to 80 characters. Advertisers should use the new tool to help prepare for the end of standard-length text ads; Google’s cutoff for accepting standard ads has just been extended to Jan. 31, 2017.
Google introduced a new look for the Google Merchant Center. The redesigned interface looks more like other Google products and is live globally. According to the AdWords blog announcement, the updated Merchant Center has "the same functionality you’re used to, with more streamlined navigation and easier access to additional Shopping programs."
An EU commission has ruled that Apple owes as much as 14.5 billion euros in additional back taxes to Ireland, where the company’s European sales are based for tax purposes. Neither Ireland, Apple or the U.S. favors the ruling, and Apple has appealed the decision.
Matt Cutts gave a rare interview discussing some of his challenges and frustrations while working at Google. The amiable former head of webspam for Google remains officially on leave, and he is currently working with the Defense Digital Service at the Pentagon.
The Court of Justice of the EU has ruled that a for-profit publisher cannot hyperlink to a site that displays content it doesn’t have the legal copyright to show. With a few exceptions, "every act of communication of a [copyrighted] work to the public has to be authorised by the copyright holder" in the EU. The controversial decision burdens the publisher with investigating the legality of an external site, crimps the free flow of information on the internet, and obviously impacts search engines operating in Europe.
Snapchat is eliminating the collaborative local Stories feature that curated what people in and near big cities were doing.
Twitter will change the way characters count in tweets beginning Sept. 19. As first announced in May, Twitter will exclude from the 140-character limit: images, GIFs, polls, videos, quoted tweets, and a user’s @ name used at the beginning of a tweet. Not counting these types of content in the maximum character count will effectively expand the potential size of each tweet.
LinkedIn announced conversion tracking for LinkedIn ads, a capability already offered to advertisers on other social networks. LinkedIn’s tracking data offers extra value for B2Bs, however, by including audience segment information along with the counts, based on its own extensive data on people’s job titles and categories.
Facebook now allows advertisers to expand their business across borders. They can now use the Lookalike Audiences tool to find new people in other countries who are similar to their current customers.
Facebook Messenger bots can accept payments natively instead of sending users to an external site. This enhancement is part of the Messenger platform 1.2 update that launched this week.
At the Apple Event, the company announced the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models, which feature enhanced HD wide color displays, stereo speakers, and dual cameras (shipping starting Sept. 16). New AirPods that provide wireless audio from multiple devices will be available in October, and Watch Series 2 was also announced. These new hardware technologies will support increasing emphasis on rich visual and audio experiences for content marketing consumers as well as the future of voice search.