Google has been pushing its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project hard this month. AMP is an effort to make the mobile web faster as well as an attempt by Google to eliminate the need for ad blockers, which many people use to make browsing faster but which threaten Google’s ad revenues. Today, AMP went live in Google search results, showing AMP content in a carousel for some queries. A few weeks ago, Google launched an AMP testing tool for webmasters’ use. While best suited for publishers, AMP is not suitable for every business.
On Friday, Feb. 19, Google rolled out ad layout changes in its search results, removing text ads from the right-side column and increasing the number of text ads at the top of results for “highly commercial queries” to four. Google said that only PLAs and ads within the Knowledge Panel will be shown on the right. These changes make desktop SERPs look more like mobile results, but impact the visibility of organic results by pushing them farther down the page. The impact on AdWords costs is yet to be seen.
Google released a brand new version of its Webmaster Guidelines, after its redesign of Google Search Console last month. Jennifer Slegg has done SEOs a service by documenting the changes.
Google's John Mueller announced on Google+ that Google now supports JSON-LD in addition to schema for structured data markup of Reviews and Products. Structured data markup is what enables rich snippets to display in search results.
Google confirmed this week that when you move a website from http: to https:, there's no PageRank lost through the 301 (or 302) redirects. This point was one of 13 FAQs that John Mueller posted in G+ to help answer people's questions about moving to a secure site.
Google recently began seeking user suggestions in two parts of the SERP. First, you can now suggest changes to a Knowledge Graph card if you are an official representative of the person or company the card is about. Second, some featured snippets at the top of a search results page now contain "Is this helpful? Yes/No" to allow feedback.
Google took down a link network in Japan and announced it on the Japanese Google Webmaster Blog. It's the first time Google has publicly announced a link network penalty since 2014, causing some to wonder whether this may be the first of many.
Alphabet is in discussions with European governments to try to settle tax claims related to Google search, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai and EU's anti-trust chief will meet on Feb. 25. Google has agreed to pay $185 million in back taxes to the UK for profits made from UK advertisers 2006–2011, during which Google paid taxes through its subsidiary in Ireland, where tax rates are lower. The company agreed to pay UK taxes more commensurate with its UK earnings from now on.
In other news, Google has agreed to cooperate further with the EU's landmark ruling known as Right To Be Forgotten by scrubbing search results on all Google domains, including .com, on searches coming from Europe.
YouTube announced new Real-time ads that will enable advertisers to immediately jump on a trending topic, such as last year's "left shark" performance during the Super Bowl halftime show. Real-time ads can display across YouTube, apps, and the Google Display Network. Currently in beta with a few select brands, Real-time ads will be rolled out "more broadly later this year," according to the official announcement.
Nonprofit organizations in the U.S. can use YouTube's new donation cards to let people donate directly from a nonprofit's YouTube video, with 100 percent of the money going to the cause since YouTube is waiving any processing fee.
Picasa users need to know that Google is moving on from Picasa and transitioning users to Google Photos.
Google AdWords is rolling out a new format with four ads at the top of the page and none on the right. Google confirmed that this arrangement will apply to "highly commercial queries" where searchers have a high intent to purchase. The change applies to SERPs in all languages and worldwide.
Google released a new AdWords app for iOS that's available to all AdWords customers globally. Once downloaded, the app lets users monitor campaigns, update bids and budgets, and receive alerts on an iPhone.
Alphabet surpassed Apple this month as the most valuable company in the world. Google's parent company announced fourth-quarter financials showing quarterly revenue of $21.32 billion and per-share earnings of $8.67, far exceeding Wall Street expectations. The resulting after-hours trading sent the stock price up six percent.
Twitter announced the schedule for the #HelloWorld tour, an educational conference for developers interested in building for the Twitter platform. Dates are set from February to May in many cities worldwide.
Twitter's Q4 financials showed no growth in its user base, causing Twitter stock to slide 12 percent in after-hours trading. The company also announced a controversial new algorithm-based timeline called Show me the best tweets first, which is disabled by default for now — no doubt because when BuzzFeed reported rumors that Twitter was going to an algorithm-based feed instead of the current live timeline, a tweetstorm ensued with users and even celebrities protesting under the hashtag #RIPTwitter. Twitter plans to switch the new timeline on for all users in the coming weeks, and letting them turn it off if desired in settings.
Twitter may increase the length limit for tweets from 140 to 10,000 characters as early as this quarter. Though the timeline view would probably not change (since the user must tap/click to see the text beyond 140 characters), user backlash has been harsh. CEO Jack Dorsey responded that Twitter "will never lose that feeling," and though he avoided confirming that the change will happen, he emphasized the advantage of letting text be searchable — an ability that reporter Matt McGee observes would also help Twitter with ad targeting.
Twitter introduced First View, a new type of video ad that displays in the prime advertising spot on Twitter for 24 hours, appearing near the top of each user's tweet stream when first logging in.
Twitter also rolled out a new GIF button that lets users search for a GIF (thanks to partners GIPHY and Riffsy) and include it in a tweet or direct message.
Facebook's fourth quarter financials exceeded Wall Street predictions with net income above $1 billion for the first time, sending shares up by 14 percent following the announcement on Jan. 27.
Some new Facebook features have been announced. 1. Facebook Live Video streaming is now available to any iPhone user in the U.S., with rollouts planned for iPhone users worldwide as well as Android users in the coming weeks. 2. According to Chief Product Officer Chris Cox, Facebook Reactions will go live for users in the U.S. "in the next few weeks." The feature expands the Like button to offer five additional emojis — angry, sad, love, wow and haha. 3. Page admins can now reply privately to a public comment using a new Message option; Facebook promised the feature last August and has just released private message replies to all Pages.
The news hasn't all been rosy for Facebook, though. India's telecoms regulators blocked Facebook's Free Basics service on the grounds that it would violate net neutrality. Then a French appeals court ruled against Facebook for suspending a user's account that had posted a famous realist painting of a nude woman. As a result, Facebook was fined for censorship and a precedent was set for other lawsuits against Facebook outside U.S. jurisdiction.
Instagram began allowing 30-second video ads for advertisers, which is longer than the 15 seconds allowed for user videos, and is testing 60-second video ads with a few selected advertisers such as T-Mobile and Warner Bros.
Yahoo launched a redesigned home page and app to make it easier for people to find relevant content, follow developing news stories live, view comments inline, and converse with the Yahoo community. In other news, Yahoo's Q4 financials revealed revenue of $1.27, which beat Wall Street estimates. The company is cutting costs by reducing its workforce by 15 percent and closing its offices in Dubai, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Madrid and Milan. It is also considering selling off its stakes in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan. Facing an uncertain future, Yahoo has formed a committee to explore "strategic options", including potential buyers, and may be headed for a board battle. Meanwhile, the company held its Mobile Developer Conference this month.
The latest search share statistics from comScore show that Google's share of desktop searches is 63.8 percent, down a little from the 67-ish range it held back in 2013 and 2014, while Bing's is up to 33.1 percent, a 5-point increase compared to 2013. Total desktop search volume, however, is decreasing, as might be expected with the rise of mobile search.