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Google has announced they will be rolling out a broad update to their core search algorithm starting later today. 

While the updates are a regular part of maintaining and improving the company’s search engine, Google has typically been reluctant to give advance notice before the update has rolled out. In some cases, they have even been unwilling to address algorithm updates in-depth after their implementation. 

This is only the second time the search engine has announced a broad core algorithm update ahead of time, suggesting they are being more proactive in communicating with webmasters. 

Google’s Danny Sullivan says the update should start very soon and will take up to a few days to complete. 

The company’s announcement didn’t add any new guidance or recommendations for managing your site during and after the rollout of this update, but Google did recommend reviewing the existing guidelines for core updates:

  • Widely notable effects are to be expected, which can include drops or gains in search rankings.
  • Core updates are “broad” in the sense that they don’t target anything specific. Rather, they’re designed to improve Google’s systems overall.
  • Pages that drop in rankings aren’t being penalized; they’re being reassessed against other web content that has been published since the last update.
  • Focusing on providing the best possible content is the top recommended way to deal with the impact of a core algorithm update.
  • Broad core updates happen every few months. Sites might not recover from one update until the next one rolls out.
  • Improvements do not guarantee recovery. However, choosing not to implement any improvements will virtually guarantee no recovery.

Year in Search

Google has finally released its annual year in search list, breaking down the biggest stories and searches of the past year. As usual, it is broken down into several categories and countries, making it easy to see what was trending in 2016 in your area or around the world.

Google’s Top 10 Worldwide searches of 2016:

  1. Pokémon Go
  2. iPhone 7
  3. Donald Trump
  4. Prince
  5. Powerball
  6. David Bowie
  7. Deadpool
  8. Olympics
  9. Slither.io
  10. Suicide Squad

The top searches for the US are almost identical, except for a few changes. “Powerball” bounces up to the top slot, because it can only be played in America. Meanwhile, “iPhone” slides entirely off the list.

Google’s Top 10 US Searches of 2016:

  1. Powerball
  2. Prince
  3. Hurricane Matthew
  4. Pokemon Go
  5. Slither.io
  6. Olympics
  7. David Bowie
  8. Trump
  9. Election
  10. Hillary Clinton

While the iPhone 7 didn’t make the top US searches, it does lead the worldwide top tech searches of the past year. Apple also dominates 3 of the top 4 searches for consumer technology. Considering its recent reveal, it is also somewhat surprising to see the Nintendo Switch also makes the list at number 9.

Google’s Top 10 Consumer Tech Searches Worldwide:

  1. iPhone 7
  2. Freedom 251
  3. iPhone SE
  4. iPhone 6S
  5. Google Pixel
  6. Samsung Galaxy S7
  7. iPhone 7 Plus
  8. Note 7
  9. Nintendo Switch
  10. Samsung J7

Of course, there are plenty more interesting categories in Google’s Year in Search 2016 to look through including beers, fashion designers, GIFs and much more. Check out the lists for yourself.

Is Google a search engine? The answer might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised to find out that Google is in fact not a search engine. At least, according to a recent piece of legislation adopted by the European Union it isn’t. The same goes for Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or any other site currently in existence.

After two years of negotiation, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union agreed upon the final text of the Network and Information Security (NIS) Directive in December 2015. The goal of the legislation was to lay out the first set of EU-wide cyber security rules, but the initiative has received strong criticism already from many industries.

While digital technologies, social network platforms, and financial institutions have plenty of reason to take grievance over the legislation, search engines have the biggest bone to pick. The directive establishes a firm and specific definition for ‘online search engines,’ however that definition rules out any currently existing site. In fact, to be within the terms set by the EU, a website would have to break several other laws set by the European Union.

Here is the definition of a search engine according to the new directive:

“‘Online search engine’ is a digital service that allows users to perform searches of in principle all websites in a particular language, on the basis of a query on any subject in the form of a keyword, phrase or other input; and returns links in which information related to the requested content can be found.”

The primary issue with the definition is the key phase ‘in principle all websites’. Google, as well as Bing, Yahoo, and others, all index the vast majority of websites online, but they have a few boundaries. Google refuses to index any websites from the dark web or Tor websites, follows directions from robots.txt files to not be indexed, and complies with the European Right to be Forgotten ruling.

The Right to be Forgotten ruling allows users to request outdated, irrelevant, or embarrassing content be removing from Google’s listings. By following the orders of this ruling, as well as removing revenge porn and other objectionable content, Google and all other existing websites are ruled out as ‘search engines’ according to the new definition.

So what does this mean for Google and other sites which would be described by anyone other than politicians as ‘search engines’? Probably not much. Everyone will continue to call them search engines and any attempts from the EU to legally restrict Google from calling itself a search engine would most likely backfire.

If anything, it just goes to show that politicians aren’t the most in touch with modern technologies and platforms.

BingLogo

As of January 1st, Bing is officially powering AOL’s search results as the result of a long-term deal made by the two companies in June of last year. Rick van der Kooi, Corporate VP of Microsoft Search Advertising announced the change, saying:

“Today, I am excited to share that as of Jan. 1, Bing powers AOL’s web, mobile, and tablet search, providing paid search ads and algorithmic organic search results to AOL’s properties worldwide.”

Van der Kooi also shared some interesting bits of information to help illustrate the scale of the partnership, including:

  • 1 in 5 searches happen on Bing.com
  • Bing also powers search results for the third largest search provider in the US (Yahoo)
  • With Bing now powering AOL searches, the engine now powers close to one-third of all US PC web searches.

The company looks to gain even more ground by acquiring the built-in audience from AOL, which is responsible for generating billions of search queries a year.

Unlike Bing’s deal with Yahoo, Bing’s will be powering 100% of AOL’s search results across all devices. In the Yahoo agreement, only 51% of Yahoo’s desktop search results are powered by Bing, with no support for mobile.

BingLogo

While most people are getting ready for Halloween by preparing their costumes and making sure they have plenty of candy for trick-or-treaters, Bing is getting prepped by launching Halloween-related Cortana searches and a special Bing map showing the locations for haunted houses in the US, UK, and Canada.

In fact, Bing is prepared to help you make a last minute costume decision if you’ve waited this long. Just ask Cortana, “What should I wear for Halloween?”

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Cortana’s holiday spirit doesn’t end there. The search system has a new “guess the horror movie game” that will help keep you bide the time until Saturday. To start the game, just use the phrase “guess the horror movie.”

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Big Maps has also been given a spooky makeover for Halloween, complete with a “frighteningly fun color palette and a new set of Halloween-themed icons.” The map has been updated to also highlight local haunted house locations for Bing users in the US, UK, and Canada.

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Bing is also making changes to how they show e-commerce results for costumes just in time for the holiday. The company says costume images from e-commerce sites will now include its shopping cart badge sowing how many sites have the specific costume for sale.

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A similar badge will also be used on food images to direct users to recipes for frighteningly delicious Halloween treats.

mobile-closeup-campaign

Last week, during Recode’s Code/Mobile conference, Amit Singhal, senior vice president of Google Search, announced that over half of all searches conducted on Google each month are coming from mobile devices.

Mobile has quickly become a dominant force in search, but it has only overtaken desktop in both search and ad volume over the past year.

For this count, Google is not including mobile devices with screens over 6 inches in size, such as tablets. According to the company, Google is primarily counting mobile views as those coming from smartphones.

During his announcement, Singhal explained how the definition of search is changing as the way people interact with their devices and the internet evolves:

“Search as we think about it is fundamentally how you will interact with computing. Computing may live in a 4-to-6-inch device, it may live in a desktop, it may live on a 1-inch round device.”

The news was leaked by John Mueller on Google+ this week, while offering a warning to those who have yet to make their sites mobile-friendly:

“More than half of Google’s searches are now coming from mobile. If you haven’t made your site (or your client’s sites) mobile-friendly, you’re ignoring a lot of potential users. “

According to Search Engine Journal, Google also announced it has indexed over 100 billion links within apps, showing how Google is growing beyond the traditional idea of the web page.

mobile-closeup-campaign

It has been clear for some time now that neglecting to have a mobile-friendly site can hurt your Google rankings, particularly in mobile search results. However, some have been wondering if the reverse is also true. Does having a desktop-friendly web site have a similar negative impact on your desktop rankings in Google?

Well, last Friday Google’s John Mueller clarified the situation in a Google Hangout, saying you do not need a “desktop-friendly” site in order to rank well on desktop. The only caveat is that your mobile site must still render properly on desktop.

John Mueller said that you need to “make sure that desktop users can still see some of your content, if it is formatted in a way that works best for mobile, that’s perfectly fine.”

“You definitely do not need a specific desktop website in addition to a mobile website,” Mueller added.

If your business depends on desktop traffic and conversions to properly reach your market, it is still highly important to provide a pleasing experience when users come to your site. For that reason, I’d hesitate to suggest going all-in on mobile leaning design utilizing extra-large buttons and minimal navigation.

The most reliable strategy is to use a design technique such as responsive design to provide a great experience for users no matter where they are coming from. If that isn’t an option, it may still be best to keep operating separate sites for mobile and desktop so you don’t wind up losing customers just because they are using a desktop computer or smartphone.

You can see the full video below, or jump to 12:50 in the video to get straight to Mueller’s answer.

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As you may have heard, yesterday Google announced massive restructuring that included launching a new parent company called Alphabet and appointing a new CEO. This is obviously big news, but it has also left many webmasters scratching their heads wondering what impact the new “slimmed down” Google will have on search.

Under the announcement, which was made by former Google CEO and new CEO of Alphabet Larry Page, Google will now be scaled down to only include the operation of the company’s primary internet products, while the newer research and innovation ventures will fall under the Alphabet umbrella.

For example, these ventures include Wing, a drone delivery system, Calico, a company focused on anti-aging, as well as robotics research and more.

The new, smaller Google will be led by new CEO Sundar Pichai. Since the announcement, several former and current Googlers, such as Matt Cutts, have expressed excitement about Pichai’s new leadership and think he is a great choice for moving the company forward.

Page says the restructuring will allow for a renewed focus on Google and described Pichai as someone who cares deeply about innovation.

While it is hard to predict the long-term implications of the restructuring, it seems as if there will be no immediate changes to Google search or AdWords. So, you can breathe a sigh of relief for now.

Starting now, Page will no longer be a part of day-to-day operations at Google, instead running Alphabet with President Sergey Brin. The pair says they are excited to be able to give attention to “more ambitious” projects, and they have no plans to turn Alphabet into a large consumer brand. Rather, Alphabet is set to be a platform for companies to grow their own brands.

Firefox Yahoo

Google has been heavy-handed in trying to woo Firefox users back to their search engine since Yahoo became the default search engine for the browser. It also appears to be working.

ComScore released the latest US search market share numbers for February and it seems Yahoo is gradually losing the gains they have made since they made a deal to become the default search engine for the browser and Google is reaping the benefits.

Screen-Shot-2015-03-18-at-10.47.35-AM-600x278

Since the switch over lost Google a small portion of users, Google has been practically begging users to make switch back. While there hasn’t been a mass exodus back to the motherland of Google, Yahoo is seemingly losing a slow but steady stream of users back to Google.

According to comScore’s report, Yahoo lost approximately 10 percent of its search volume from January to February, while Google recouped a tenth of a point along with Bing. This lines up with another recent report from StatCounter which also indicated a loss by Yahoo between January and February.

Screen-Shot-2015-03-18-at-10.57.59-AM-600x379

From the time Yahoo became the primary search engine to January, Yahoo had gained 1.2 points. Now Yahoo is still above their previous levels, but it has list .2 percent of those gains. The question is whether the trend continues.

It is important to note comScore’s numbers don’t include data from mobile searches, where Google is even more dominant.

bing-predictions-lentucky-ncaa

The first round of March Madness games begin in earnest tomorrow and Bing is helping you get prepared for the big NCAA tournament. The search engine is offering predictions and tournament brackets so you can gauge the best picks for each match-up and even get in on the action by submitting brackets to the official contest on NCAA.com.

Anyone searching for terms such as “NCAA,” “March Madness,” or “college basketball” will immediately see the entire tournament bracket, as well as Bing’s predictions for every one of the 69 games.

The responsive search features are the result of a partnership between Bing and NCAA announced last week, which allowed Bing greater access to stats and data. According to Bing, the wealth of data took over seven hours of data crunching Sunday evening to prepare their predictions this soon.

In a blog post, Bing Predicts chief Dr. Walter Sun claims there are more than 9.2 permutations involved in the tournament bracket, and explains how Bing used over 10 years of data to inform its predictions.

This includes offensive and defensive statistics, conference success in previous tournaments, the proximity of tournaments to each team’s home campus, the style of each team, their individual strengths and weaknesses, and many other factors which might result in them favoring certain match-ups over others. After ingesting these initial data sets, we applied our analysis of web and social sentiment to tune our predictions, resulting in projected outcomes for each of the 67 games of the tournament, including both predicted winner and probability of the team winning. We then present to you the 1 bracket which we think is the most likely to transpire.

Bing has pegged the Kentucky Wildcats as the team who will take the championship this year, which isn’t exactly a daring prediction given the team’s perfect 34-0 record. Bing’s team of statisticians are not the only team thinking the win streak will leak the Wildcats to win it all. The analysts from Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com give Kentucky a 41 percent chance of winning. For comparison, the second most likely team, Villanova, only received an 11 percent chance.

Bing’s special results page for the tournament also includes game schedules as well as team breakdowns similar to what the search engine showed during last year’s World Cup.

Bing’s partnership with the NCAA has most likely given the search engine a lead on preparing this search feature. Currently searching for anything similar doesn’t show anything special on Google, but that will most likely change before the opening games tomorrow.