Happy New Year! The decorations are tucked away for another year and we’re all settling back into work, getting ready for the busy year ahead. The end of 2017 didn’t slow down on the digital news front, so let's take a look at what happened across the web while we were busy preparing for the holidays.
Google increases meta description length
Early in December Google gave us more characters in the SERPs by increasing the potential number of characters visible for meta descriptions. Moz saw a spike in average description length and as such have increased their recommended meta description length to 300 characters. Rand discussed what this means for SEOs in Whiteboard Friday.
Read the full story (Moz)
Google launches new rich results and rich results testing tool
Read the full story (Google)
Algorithm update targeting sites with no structured data and doorway pages
Mid-December saw a number of webmasters seeing significant movement in rankings. Later in the month, Google confirmed that it had made updates to their algorithm as part of “regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy”. While this doesn’t seem out of the norm (Google makes hundreds of changes each year), reports from SEMRush reported that the main changes being seen were to mobile SERPs, sites with no schema and sites that relied on doorway pages.
Read the full story (Search Engine Land)
Apple throttling iPhones
December wasn’t a great month for Apple. First of all, they had to deal with a number of pretty bad software bugs (a root bug on OS X, a crashing bug and a keyboard bug on iPhone), only for it to then be confirmed that Apple had been intentionally slowing down iPhones as they get older. Apple stated that the slowing down was to prevent devices from “unexpectedly shutting down” and “to protect its electric components”.
Read the full story (Wired)
Google Ad Grant policy changes
As of 1st January 2018, Google Ad Grants will now require accounts to achieve a minimum click-through rate of 5%. Accounts that fail to hit this CTR for 2 months in a row risk having their accounts suspended. However, Google has also stated that this 5% target is already lower than the current program average. This is one of a number of changes the Ad Grants program, which provides grants of up to $10,000 per month for non-profits, has seen as we move into 2018.
Read the full article (Search Engine Land)
YouTube has huge content moderation problems - especially with YouTube for kids
Current and former content raters have said that guidelines used to moderating content are confusing, inadequate and contradictory. Content raters, some who claim to have the worst job in tech (the article is paywalled), raised concerns about the volume of content targeting children that contains foul language, sexual jokes and violence, that as a result of these guidelines, could potentially be viewed by children, or even have its reach algorithmically amplified. To combat this YouTube plans to have more than 10,000 moderators in place during 2018.
Read the full story (Buzzfeed)
Chrome to start blocking (some) ads in February
Google has announced that Chrome 64, scheduled to be released by the end of January will automatically block some adverts as part of the Better Ads Experience Program. Advert types being targeted include adverts where audio or video is automatically played, pop-ups, prestitial ads accompanied by a countdown clock and “sticky” ads which cover more than 30% of the screen.
Read the full story (Computer World)
Eric Schmidt steps down as Alphabet Chairman
Schmidt’s decision leaves only really Larry Page still in an executive role. According to Google the decision had been a year in the making, stating that, "the role of full-time executive chairman was no longer needed after the creation of holding company Alphabet".
With Sergey Brin being much less visible these days, the move seemingly indicates a growing power and trust in Sundar Pichai.
Read the full story (Financial Times)
Snapchat plans to get easier to use
Snapchat’s legendarily-confusing interface is getting an overhaul to make it easier to use with the aim of improving mainstream growth. Main changes include removing the Stories page, using more algorithms to personalise content and providing more varied content in Discover The changes have been met with mixed reactions from the app’s fans.
This follows their push further into direct-response advertising (with self-service options, no minimum spend, and new ad formats designed for measurable outcomes) back in June.
Read the full story (Recode)
This month the Distilled blog saw Senior Designer Leonie Wharton talk us through creative content that has inspired her during Autumn, and Principal Consultant Benjamin Estes shared his experience on effecting change and solving technical problems.
Over on the Moz blog, Tom Capper warned us about data analysis pitfalls and how to avoid them, while Distilled alumna Bridget Randolph explained how mobile-first indexing works and how it impacts SEO.
On top of all of this, tickets for both SearchLove San Diego and Boston are still available on early bird discount, giving you the opportunity to meet the Distilled team and see the biggest names in search share their thoughts and tactics.