A new survey shows just how prominent voice search is becoming in the journey from shopping to purchase.

According to the latest survey from Chatmeter, approximately 90% of smartphone owners say they use their device’s virtual assistant. More importantly, a large group of those are specifically using voice search to look for local business information.

Approximately 40% of smartphone users specifically say they “use voice search to ask for directions, an address, or business hours for a nearby location.” Additionally, more than a quarter of consumers say their “number one use for their voice device is to find a local restaurant, show, or business.”

This reinforces recent statements from prominent figures in the world of search, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who said: “local mobile searches are growing faster than just mobile searches overall, and have increased by almost 50% in the last year.”

One of the biggest uses for virtual assistants is also making in-person purchases or to visit new businesses, with almost 90% of users saying they turn to virtual assistants for driving directions.

While the rise of voice search will likely have huge ramifications for how we understand and optimize for online searching, these findings actually reinforce the importance of optimizing local listings on both desktop and mobile devices.

For example, a business’s Google My Business listing is responsible for providing all of these types of information, including giving directions, facilitating phone calls, and providing business hours.

Google My Business is already an essential part of establishing your business within your local industry and finding new customers nearby. Now, it is also becoming a necessity for helping voice search users find your business when they are ready to take action.

After months of warnings, Google is officially rolling out its “Speed Update” for all users.

Google updated its original blog post to say the new ranking factor would be rolling out for all mobile search results throughout the day – though it is unclear exactly how long the Speed Update will take to fully go into effect.

What is Google’s Speed Update?

Essentially, Google’s Speed Update is just a mobile version of the speed-based algorithm used on desktop search results for years. Rather than rewarding the fastest sites, the update is better described as punishing the slowest sites online. This is particularly important for mobile-based search results because numerous studies have shown that people are likely to leave a webpage if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

What this isn’t, is a large-scale algorithm shift. The majority of sites are likely to see little to no change after the roll-out. However, it is unclear just how harshly it will penalize the slowest sites out there.

Will you be affected?

Google refuses to give an exact estimate of just how many sites will be affected by the rollout, but they have said it will “only affect a small percentage of queries.”

Still, if your business’s website is notoriously slow, you may be at risk for a loss in search ranking and traffic. If you’re afraid you may be on the chopping block, you can see how your site stacks up using a number of Google’s tools, such as the Chrome User Experience report, the Lighthouse tool, or the Page Insights tool.

As always, it is recommended that you take steps to make your website as fast as possible. This can be done a number of ways, including reducing image file sizes, finding faster hosting, or reducing the number of widgets or the amount of content on a single page. Even if your site is safe from the Speed Update, you don’t want to risk losing potential customers while they wait for your page to load.

Pinterest is giving video advertisers even more screen real estate with a new video ad unit that expands to fill the entire width of your screen.

The company first introduced promoted videos over two years ago. Since then, Pinterest says they have proven to drive business and measurably impact purchasing decisions.

“Two years ago, we launched the first version of Promoted Video on Pinterest. Since then, people on Pinterest have tuned in to watch high-quality videos so they can find ideas, make decisions and do what they love. When you think about the mindset and behavior on Pinterest, it’s no surprise that people say that videos from brands on Pinterest add to the experience (1.6x) and that they are more likely to make a purchase after viewing a video (2.6x)”

As their name suggests, max width promoted videos are designed to spread out significantly further than the typical Pinterest videos in feeds and search results on mobile devices. This makes them stand out even more and truly get the attention of viewers. The format is available in both 16:9 (cinematic) and 1:1 (square) aspect ratios.

While announcing the new promoted video format, Pinterest claimed that users are more interested in seeing videos from brands on Pinterest rather than other platforms.

“People on Pinterest really are more interested in videos from brands than on other platforms. 67% of Pinterest video viewers say that videos on Pinterest inspire them to take action. In contrast, only 32% of people say that about other platforms.”

For the moment, Pinterest is just getting started testing these max width video ads with a small group of select advertisers, however they say the format will be available in Pinterest’s ad manager later this year.

Facebook gives business page owners a lot of information that can be useful for growing your brand and increasing engagement with your business page. However, that information has been limited to just those using the desktop version of the site until recently.

This week, Facebook introduced a new Analytics app capable of measuring your business page performance on the go.

The app, now available for both iOS and Android, includes all the major metrics you could hope for to keep an eye on your business page even when you’re away from the office or a desktop computer. You can also set up alerts to notify you when notable changes occur to your performance.

With the new Facebook Analytics app, you can:

  •  Check the metrics you care about most in a personalized overview tab.
  • Create dashboards with the reports you have saved on desktop.
  • Browse automated insights relevant to your business.
  • Get notifications about anomalies in your data.

You can download the Facebook Analytics app in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Once you have it installed, you can get started monitoring your business page by logging in with your usual Facebook Analytics credentials.

Google is sending emails to webmasters that are being migrated to the search engine’s new mobile-first index. If your site gets indexed, Google will start choosing the mobile version of your site as the default choice – meaning your site is fast enough and optimized for mobile users.

The search engine first said they would start sending notifications to websites being migrated into the mobile-first index, but the emails have only started being actually seen in the wild over the past few days.

The notifications are coming a bit late, considering Google has confirmed that it began moving websites over to the mobile-first index months ago.

You can see a copy of the email as shared by The SEM Post or read the full text below:

”Mobile-first indexing enabled for <URL>

To owner of <URL>

This means that you may see more traffic in your logs from Googlebot Smartphone. You may also see that snippets in Google Search results are now generated from the mobile version of your content.

Background: Mobile-first indexing means that Googlebot will now use the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking, to better help our (primarily mobile) users find what they’re looking for. Google’s crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have historically used the desktop version of your site’s content, which can cause issues for mobile searchers when the desktop version differs from the mobile version. Our analysis indicates that the mobile and desktop versions of your site are comparable.”

Google has been banging the drum for speeding up mobile websites for what seems like forever now, and they’ve released numerous tools to try to help webmasters do just that. This week, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the search engine announced two more resources to show websites how they are performing – a new “Mobile Scorecard” and Conversion Impact Calculator.

The tools present marketers and webmasters with visual-heavy depictions of how their website stacks up to the competition and what they may be missing out on by not being quicker to load pages

Google’s Mobile Scorecard

The Mobile Scorecard uses data from the Chrome User Experience Report to compare the speed of several sites on mobile. This allows you to directly compare your site against your closest competitors in a race for the fastest website. According to Google, the Mobile Scorecard can give information on thousands of sites across 12 countries.

Even if you’re the leader of the pack, Google recommends making sure your site loads and becomes usable within five seconds on most mobile devices and within three seconds on 4G connections.

Google Conversion Impact Calculator

Of course, the biggest thing keeping most businesses from enhancing their websites for mobile devices is money. To help sway you towards making the investment, Google is launching the new Impact Calculator which shows how much revenue you could be missing out on because of a slow loading speed.

The calculator uses data from The State of Online Retail Performance report from April 2017. This report found that every second it takes for your web pages to load can hurt conversions by up to 20 percent.

The tool calculates your potential lost conversion revenue based on your average monthly visitors, average order value, and conversion rate.

Both the Mobile Scorecard and Impact Calculator are available to check out here.

Starting today, Google’s own web browser will start blocking troublesome ads across the net. The company has been warning they would be launching their own ad blocker since last June, and has officially started rolling out. By default, Google’s Chrome browser will remove ads from sites that use disruptive ad techniques.

“A big source of frustration is annoying ads: video ads that play at full blast or giant pop-ups where you can’t seem to find the exit icon,” said Rahul Roy-Chowdhury, vice president for Chrome. “These ads are designed to be disruptive and often stand in the way of people using their browsers for their intended purpose — connecting them to content and information. It’s clear that annoying ads degrade what we all love about the web.”

What is getting blocked?

The built-in ad blocker is designed specifically to filter out ads on any sites that repeatedly show offensive or disruptive ads. These include a wide swath of frequently used ad techniques including pop-ups, prestitial ads, and flashing banner ads.

Google is using the guidelines laid out by the Coalition for Better Ads (CBA) – a collective of advertising and media companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Unilever.

Rather than just block the offending ads, the tool will instead block ALL ads on any site that has broken the rules repeatedly. That means, all ads get stripped away is a publisher continues to let intrusive ads persist on their site after a warning.

Chris Bentzel, engineering manager for Chromium (an open-source version of Chrome), says Google is using this approach because webmasters are largely in control over what ads they choose to display.

“Although a few of the ad experiences that violate the Better Ads Standards are problems in the advertisement itself, the majority of problematic ad experiences are controlled by the site owner — such as high ad density or prestitial ads with countdown,” said Bentzel.

According to Bentzel, Google’s mission isn’t to block ads at all. They want to encourage webmasters to clean up their sites and deliver quality, unintrusive ads (like those offered by Google AdWords).

“Our goal is not to filter any ads at all but to improve the experience for all web users.”

According to The Guardian, approximately 42% of sites that have received warnings from Google ahead of the ad blocker have since altered their ad displays.

Why start blocking ads now?

The news that Google was designing its own ad blocker raised eyebrows when it was first announced. Considering Google runs perhaps the largest ad platform online, it is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black for the search engine to complain about ads.

More likely, the decision to launch an ad blocker of their own was motivated by the growing use of third-party ad blockers across the internet. While some ad blocker companies have partnered with Google to “whitelist” the ads from the search engine, many also strip out ads published from AdWords. This cuts into Google’s potential ad reach and can cause ad spend waste in some cases.

“We’ve already seen more and more people express their discontent with annoying ads by installing ad blockers, but blocking all ads can hurt sites or advertisers who aren’t doing anything disruptive,” said Roy-Chowdhury.

Estimates from PageFair indicate approximately 11% of internet users have third-party ad blockers installed.

“By focusing on filtering out disruptive ad experiences, we can help keep the entire ecosystem of the web healthy, and give people a significantly better user experience than they have today,” Roy-Chowdhury said.

For now, Google estimates its ad blocker will only affect around 1% of all ads. So, don’t get your hopes up for an ad revolution. Most users are unlikely to notice a huge change online, and only those who are most egregiously abusing the rules are expected to be hit.

Google has been encouraging webmasters to make their sites as fast as possible for years, but now they’re making it an official ranking requirement.

The company announced this week that it will be launching what it is calling the “Speed Update” in July 2018, which will make page speed an official ranking signal for mobile searches.

Google recommends checking your site’s speed using its PageSpeed report, as well as using tools like LightHouse to measure page speed and improve your loading times.

As Google’s Zhiheng Wang and Doantam Phan wrote in the announcement:

The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

While Google says the update will only affect a “small percentage of queries”, it is impossible to tell exactly how many will be impacted. Google handles billions of queries a day, so a small piece of that could still be a substantial number of searches.

This is the first time page speed will be made a ranking factor for mobile searches, but it has been a ranking factor on desktop since 2010. It makes sense to expand this to mobile since there is a wealth of evidence showing that mobile users prioritize loading time when clicking search results. If a page doesn’t load within three-to-five seconds, they are likely to leave the page and find another relevant search result.

Tweetstorms have grown from a user-initiated trick to get past Twitter’s original 140-character limit into a legitimate feature this week, as Twitter launches a new feature to combine tweets into a longer statement.

In a blog post, the company says the ability to tie tweets into what they are calling a “thread” will be rolling out to all Twitter users “in the coming weeks.”

Since the launch of Twitter, it has been tradition for users to reply to their own tweets to expand on what they want to say. Often, these tweets and replies will be labeled with numbers to make it clear what order to read them in.

Now, Twitter is simplifying the process with a “+” button which lets them continue their thought in a thread. The process can be repeated to make threads as long as users need (up to 25 threads). People will also be able to add tweets to new threads.

Thanks to the new feature, the way tweetstorms or threads are shown in people’s feeds will also be changing. Instead of scrolling through the list of tweets in replies, users can simply click a “show this tread” label to expand the full set of tweets.

The decision to launch the thread feature now is an interesting one. The company has already expanded the maximum length of tweets to allow users to fit more in at a time. With the latest move, Twitter has made it clear that brevity is quickly falling down their list of priorities in favor of more complex conversations.

Pinterest is expanding their platform – directly into Facebook’s. Hoping to create some synergy that will bring in new users, Pinterest is launching new features directly available from Facebook’s Messenger.

The new features, built around a chatbot for Messenger, make it possible to use Pinterest without ever having to actually open Pinterest.

According to Pinterest, the move is actually just capitalizing on the social platform’s already existing presence on the site. Each week, nearly 1 million pins have been shared from Pinterest across Messenger before the launch of the cross-platform features.

Pinterest’s Facebook Chatbot

Pinterest’s new chatbot will allow users to browse Pinterest’s site and content with guided advice and recommendations. When you start a conversation with the chatbot, it will ask you to choose from a list of categories – such as “trending,” “food,” and “home.” Based on your choice, the bot will then show you a carousel of pins from that category.

You can also directly search Pinterest with text queries, however, you can not use the platform’s visual search technology by sending in pictures for similar pins.

While users might find this service to be a useful way to quickly find the pins they are most interested in, advertisers might be disgruntled to learn that the Chatbot will not include Promoted Pins.

Native Pins for Messenger

In the past, when you clicked on a pin that was shared on Messenger it would automatically open in Pinterest’s site or app. Now, pins will open within Messenger itself, thanks to the Chat Extensions feature.

Facebook’s Chat Extensions feature is designed to allow users to interact with content from other brand’s sites or apps without leaving messenger, therefore also making it easier to share that content again within Messenger.

Pinterest is using this to deliver Pins directly to users on Messenger, as well as including a gallery of Related Pins and a search bar to find more pins.

With these, users will be able to find and share pins within Messenger without ever having to leave the conversation they are having with their friends.

Interestingly, Facebook is also allowing Pinterest to generate revenue with this chat extensions. If a person’s Facebook account is connected to their Pinterest account, Pinterest will also include Promoted Pins within the Related Pins section and search results shown through the chat extension.