This week: Google explains a change, an old search result label is disappearing, and you’d better get rid of “intrusive interstitials” from your website.
Here’s what happened this week in SEO.
“Mobile-Friendly” Label in Search Results Is Going Away
When you’ve Googled around for various bits of information over the past couple of years, you might have noticed a “mobile-friendly” label next to some links in the search results. Now, that label is going away.
Google introduced the label two years ago as a way of informing users that a specific site catered well to mobile users. Now that 85% of the sites in mobile search results meet the “mobile-friendly” standard, Google sees no need to continue with the label.
Site owners will still see the mobile usability report in the Search Console, but end users won’t see the label in the SERPs.
Note that the mobile-friendly ranking factor is not going away.
Google Will Crack Down on “Intrusive Interstitials” in January
On January 10, 2017, Google will crack down on websites that display “intrusive interstitials.”
Keep in mind that in this context “crack down” means “lower rankings.”
Google views the interstitials as user-hostile to website visitors with a smaller screen (i.e., mobile users).
Big G defines “intrusive” interstitials as pop-ups that:
- cover the main page, especially when that page was arrived at directly from search results
- must be dismissed before accessing the main content
Google will also penalize sites that feature interstitial-like content above the fold while the main content is below the fold.
Interstitials that will not be penalized include:
- Pop-ups that display legal info, such as age verification or cookie usage
- Login dialogs
- Banners that don’t take up too much screen space
You Can Now Split Test AMP Pages
This week, Google announced a new AMP component that allows you to conduct user experience tests with AMP pages.
The new feature lets you configure how much traffic you send to specific AMP variations. Then, just as you normally would, you evaluate your analytics to see which option works best for users.
You’ll need to put your propeller hat on to configure AMP for testing, though. If you’re not familiar with basic development concepts such as JSON and XML, you’re probably better off outsourcing the experiment.
If you’re a code geek, there are plenty of examples on GitHub.
Google Again Testing Thumbnails in Mobile Search Results
It looks like Google is once again toying with the idea of showing thumbnails in mobile search results.
This week, Dan Smullen posted a screenshot of image thumbnails he noticed when performing a mobile search for “green car.”
This isn’t the first time Google has experimented with image thumbnails in mobile search results. There was a similar experiment conducted a couple of years ago.
Google Explains New Keywords Planner Restrictions
If you pay attention to this space regularly, then you know that Google recently restricted access to Keyword Planner so that only people with active, paying campaigns can enjoy the full features of the tool.
A couple of influential folks in the SEO community reached out to Google for an explanation. Big G responded by saying that the move was an attempt to thwart bots.
Here’s the whole statement: “This change was made so that we can consistently give advertisers the data they need to optimize their accounts, while preventing ‘bots’ and other services from abusing the intended use of Keyword Planner. The search volume estimates, though displayed differently in some cases, still provide an accurate and helpful view of how many clicks and impressions keywords may receive.”
Of course, there are countless ways to prevent bots (did I hear anyone say “Recaptcha”?) without restricting access to the tool. So this explanation seems to be, at best, spin.
The reality is much simple: Keyword Planner is a tool designed to be used by paying advertisers. Unfortunately (for Google), many SEOs are using it as a free utility to help them find search terms that can be profitable.