I’d like to share with you some of the most interesting changes/updates in search engines in the last week:

Google Launches New Shopping Programs as an Answer to Amazon

Google has been trying to tap into Amazon’s retail market for quite some time, and this week they’ve launched several new efforts called “Shopping Actions” that build on their current program and spans their product search, mobile shopping, cross-device transactions and voice search initiatives.

Shopping Actions are an attempt to create a “universal shopping cart” across devices and products, with a Google-hosted checkout. Google is charging retailers on a cost-per-sale basis, rather than their traditional “cost-per-click” basis of the regular search. This models itself after Amazon’s own cost structure of taking a percentage of sales.

The goal is to create a more personalized and intuitive shopping experience. Personally, I feel this is going to be similar to Google+ and other platforms. Amazon has created such a seamless and easy shopping experience, and Google has been slow to match that. This will not only require consumers to switch platforms, but also for brands to reallocate marketing dollars. Time will tell.

SMX West AMA With Google’s Nathan Johns

Last week, an AMA (Ask Me Anything) was conducted with Nathan Johns, a search quality analyst at Google. Here are some important takeaways:

Mobile-first Index and Speed Update

Mobile-first indexing is on the horizon for July of this year. This will hone in on the importance of speed and mobile-friendliness, both considered to be the most important factors of a mobile website. All website owners should be focusing on cutting down the website load time, and ensuring that their website is extremely friendly on mobile.

Core Search Algorithm Updates

March 7th saw a core search algorithm update, designed to “reward under-rewarded sites.” He noted that if you saw your website drop, you need to keep working on improving your site (not that you were penalized).

Ranking Signals

Several questions were geared towards ranking signals, and Johns gave some solid clarification:

  • Social media isn’t a ranking signal. Google compares links on social media pages the same way they view links on web pages. There is no special treatment for social media.
  • He wasn’t able to comment on whether “unlinked brand mentions” help or don’t help site ranks. An example is, if someone mentions your unique brand name on a website (We love Jay Nine, Inc for our web development) does this have any ranking benefit? This is important just because some seedy SEOs will try and sell you on increasing the number of times your brand is mentioned on the web.

Best Practices & Other Takeaways

Johns reiterated that creating your websites to provide the best user experience and content will see increases in search engines. Business owners and marketers should constantly experience everything their users are experiencing on their websites. You should be intimately familiar with everything about your website, and ask your visitors for feedback, and make the improvements. My own take is, they have been hammering this home for years now. A lot of business owners are still looking at tricks, looking for easy ways out, and buying domains with their main keywords. Instead, the website should focus on providing the best content and experience for your users.