Google SERP Displays Change Again

Do you ever get the feeling Google changes things up just to toss SEOs off guard?

In late June, the company announced it was scrapping parts of the popular Google Authorship program, frustrating marketers who liked the credibility and search advantages that using the “rel=author” tag had offered.

Google has decided to institute some other changes as well, it appears. On July 16, SEER Interactive noted that Google appeared to be limiting the number of video snippets shown in its search engine rank pages. Cue another round of panic in the SEO community.

Google has offered only a few official comments on the action, saying that snippets will continue to be shown in videos, so that means speculation is running rampant over the company’s motivation for cutting back and what the end game is. Here’s a look at why Google probably made the decision and what it means for SEO.

A Drop in Video Thumbnails

Comparing searches done earlier in the year with those done in mid-July, several web sites found major differences in how many video snippets come up. Mozcast put the drop in the number of video snippets shown in a search at 27.8 percent. For instance, a search on comedian Louis C.K. may have turned up a SERP with six videos in the top 12 before July 16. But since July 16, that number has dwindled to just a couple.

Immediately SEOs began getting twitchy over the change, especially coming so closely after the recent Google Authorship shift. Several web sites, including Moz, SEER, Distilled and Wistia, began sharing information to make sure they were gauging the dropoff in snippets correctly. The data kept coming back the same: There was, indeed, a marked decline in the number of video snippets per page.

Sites That Weren’t Impacted

At the same time, SEOs noticed a curious pattern. While video snippets from many other sites appeared to be removed, the video thumbnails for YouTube, which is owned by Google, were unaffected. This set off a lot of alarm bells.

Google appeared to be favoring its own site, at the expense of others. After all, it’s much easier for a search result with a video to stand out when it’s one of the only video snippets on display. When other video snippets pop up in a search, they don’t draw the eye quite as quickly.

That combined with Google’s decision to eradicate the Authorship program photos means one thing for SEO: It’s suddenly harder to capture attention for your client’s page. Many studies have shown that people are more likely to click on a search result with an accompanying video.

Of course, the big question is why is this happening? There are a number of theories for why Google snipped the snippets.

Theory No. 1: An Algorithm Tweak

Whenever anything changes for Google, there’s always a chance it’s related to an algorithm tweak. Sometimes such moves have unintended consequences. The search giant may have been playing around with something else and unintentionally cut down the video snippets appearing in search.

Or it may have been trying to do exactly that in order to boost YouTube’s visibility. It’s hard to say since Google has not come out and copped to the change, let alone offered a reason for it. Still, if there are other unexpected SEO changes that fan out from this, like aftershocks from an earthquake, it’s a good bet the video search was impacted by a tweak to the algorithm.

Theory No. 2: Exclusivity

Google likes to reward high-quality content, that much has been known for years. It’s possible that the company is cleaning up its search results in order to highlight only the really good video content that deserves a special designation, i.e. the video snippet in SERP, which has suddenly become an endangered species.

Intrepid SEOs have noted that, in addition to YouTube, a handful of sites including Vimeo, Vevo, Hulu, Ted and Daily Motion have continued to display video snippets in search results, suggesting that the site is fine with including good videos in its search results. It’s simply weeding out the lower-quality ones, much as it would weed out stories that jump on trending topics by content mills trying to grab cheap clicks.

Theory No. 3: An AdWords Power Play

This may be the most popular theory of all, which just goes to show what SEOs think about Google. There’s a theory floating around that the change is part of a greater push by the search giant to get people to buy AdWords. By eliminating things like Authorship and video snippets, which help a company’s results to stand out in a search, Google is essentially making people who had previously relied on SEO have to buy ads to stand out.

These changes will also help AdWords advertisements stand out from the pack, because they continue to have photos with them. That sets them apart from the now photo-less and video-less majority of search results.

Theory No. 4: This Is All Nothing

Remember what I said at the beginning – Google likes to keep SEOs off guard. There’s a very real possibility that all this means nothing.

It could just be a few quirky days of searches that don’t add up to anything. Maybe there’s a chance that Google was experimenting with removing the snippets, saw the reaction, and backed up a bit. Perhaps this has been going on for quite a while and no one had really noticed. Or the engineers at Google were bored one day and decided to have a bit of fun. If so, they’re undoubtedly laughing at all this speculation right now.

The Final Verdict?

It’s hard to say without getting better direction from Google what the company is thinking. But since most everything SEO-related comes down to money, the AdWords push is probably the most likely answer. The fact that video snippets declined almost at the same time that Google Authorship photos disappeared can’t be a coincidence, and that points back to wanting AdWords to stand out.

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Google SERP Displays Change Again


Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like Yuma Dental succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.

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By cranbak on July 30, 2014 | Webmaster
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New App Allows Users to Alter Appearance – Beauty Mirror Can Change Selfies And Video

It’s not just movie stars and supermodels who can have their images improved virtually.

beautymirror-screenshot-2Thanks to a new app launched today, selfies and videos can be altered to get rid of that double chin or alter some make-up that may not be quite up to snuff. Beauty Mirror, the new iOS mobile app enables users to enhance their image in real-time video while using either their iPhone or iPad as a virtual mirror.

The app uses 3D face tracking enabling users to apply customizable facial, skin and anti-aging effects to every angle of their face while they look in the camera. The changes are seamless and designed to produce an improved image.

“Beauty Mirror is designed to give users a very natural looking modified image through the addition of subtle effects, like skin clearing and slight weight loss,” said Miriam Pettinen, director of partnerships and mobile strategy, in a press release. “We’re excited to bring an app to the marketplace that will not leave users looking very obviously edited, but instead just slightly more polished.”

Created by the team at ModiFace, makers of the Sephora 3D AR mirror, the app has virtually no delay when applying enhancements. The live simulation updates face location and pose every .3 seconds with up to 14 effects applied to the face instantly. Some the things a user can change are eye enlargement, a facelift, skin clearing, weight reduction and erasing acne.

Available for free, Beauty Mirror lets people take a picture of themselves at any point, save it directly on to their device and then share it.

The app continues to change, though, as Beauty Mirror will soon be using filters to be applied while using video chat programs.

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New App Allows Users to Alter Appearance


W. Brice McVicar is a staff writer for SiteProNews.

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By cranbak on July 21, 2014 | Webmaster
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New Google Translation Tools: Edit Text, Change Language & Hear Translation Directly Within Search

Google has added new translation features, making it easy to edit translation search terms, change languages or hear the translations directly within search. Going off a tip from @WilliamHarvey, when searching the word “translate,” Google now delivers a quick search option for entering…

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By cranbak on July 16, 2014 | Webmaster
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SEO or Site Change, or a Google Algo Update Causing SERP Positioning

Was that your latest site change, or a Google algo update which caused your site’s positioning to change? WebmasterWorld Members discuss how to help identify whether there’s an algo change, a manual penalty, or a SEO change to the site that has caused the movement.

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By cranbak on July 9, 2014 | Webmaster
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VIDEO + SLIDESHOW: Managing Search, Managing Change

About the only constant in the life of a search marketer is change. Changing algorithms, changing products and features, new online marketing channels… but there are other important changes that are vital to manage, such as developing new sites and acquisitions, handling corporate…

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By cranbak on July 2, 2014 | Webmaster
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Former Googler: Links That Change Are Trusted Less By Google’s Algorithms

A former member of the Google search quality and web spam team, Pedro Dias, said publicly on Twitter yesterday that “Google is less likely to trust a link once it has changed from the first time it was seen.” So if you changed the anchor text or URL path of the link, the value and…

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Will The Smartphone Become Obsolete? – A Look at How Cloud Technology May Change the Future of Mobile Handsets

In the current mobile manufacturing competition, device makers strive to give users a distinct product with unique features. So is it possible to imagine a common, ubiquitous device? That is, a mobile handset virtually the same as every other? Distinguished not by ‘bells & whistles’ and physical features, but by its cloud-based, personalized profile, services and apps delivered to the user via SaaS?

Such a concept is interesting to consider, because some analysts believe that’s the future for mobile handsets. Placing aside the recent patent wars between Samsung, Apple, and by extension, Google, it’s clear that smartphone innovation has leveled. Critics contend that there is only so much device innovation, until what’s truly unique are the services delivered to that device. For example, will a flexible screen or a less obtrusive fingerprint scanner truly enhance my mobile experience further?

By contrast, in the 1960s ‘dumb’ terminals represented an early mainstay of mainframe computing. Before the introduction of personal PCs, users dialed in to a time-shared system, requested application access and all processing occurred on the mainframe.  Granted, the cloud makes possible a level of computing, volume and scalability virtually unimaginable back then. But is the model really that different?

Current trends, such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and near 24/7 availability, indicate the shrinking divide between work and home. The attraction of a single, generic device that provides both leisure and work functions is obvious. Such a model increases security (via cloud-based user authentication), sandboxes work and personal interactions while offering high performance. What more could a user ask for?

As it stands today, high smartphone obsolescence and the introduction of 60-70 new models per year is simply unsustainable, both commercially and environmentally. A report by Recon Analytics found that the average smartphone lifespan in the U.S. is 21.7 months. The notion of a long-term, composite mobile phone may seem remote, according to some industry watchers. However, Phonebloks and WandUlar represent two initiatives that have garnered support for a modular smartphone approach based on easily available, freely assembled components.

According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) which tracks IP networking trends, mobile data traffic will account for 12 percent of global fixed and mobile data traffic by 2018, up from three percent in 2013.  Globally, mobile data traffic by 2018 will be equivalent to 417x the volume of global mobile traffic ten years earlier (in 2008).  An increased reliance on the cloud as we move from a product- to services-based model is one indicator that the smartphone may be a bridging technology. The next stage? At the 2014 Consumer Electrics Show in Las Vegas, wearable devices and the Internet of Everything were the hot items.

As if to emphasize this trend, Google has made recent moves that should attract attention. The company not only sold the hardware manufacturer Motorola to Lenovo, it recently acquired Nest, a company forging the way with wireless, sensor-based intelligence. By gradually extending the home-based concept of behaviorally smart, networked devices to other vertical industries, Google is moving to the next level of innovation.

Imagine a sensor-embedded environment that has learned to cater to user needs based on previous behavior, hand gestures and voice activation. Now imagine a wearable, specialized device that enables you to do things more efficiently and effectively than a Smartphone, such as conversing, browsing, making purchases or even playing games. While there may be bumps along the way (i.e., the recent Nest design snafu), such a reality is conceivable.

Extending such a concept even further to other industries (healthcare, energy, manufacturing, etc.) represents a true paradigm shift. Parallel developments in related areas support such a change. These include Software Defined Networking (SDN), nanotechnology, and multi-core processing. For example, while SDN may be seen as a nascent even embryonic trend, a number of major companies are committing substantial resources to achieving such capabilities.

Moreover, while Google sold Motorola, it retained Moto, the Advanced Technology and Projects group responsible for Project Ara. Recognizing the diminishing returns related to producing new smartphone models, Project Ara focuses on making available highly modular smartphones. On the Project Ara website, the company states its goal is to “create a third-party developer ecosystem, lower the barrier to entry, increase the pace of innovation and substantially compress development timelines” for modular devices.

Personal attachment to smartphones is considerable and its obsolescence may be hard to imagine, controversial, and even unwelcome. However, it may be useful to keep in mind the observation of management theorist Peter Drucker who said the most dangerous competitor is the one you can’t see.

While it may be difficult to conceive transitioning to a generic, modular smartphone, the question to ask is: Can we afford not to? For some, it may also be comforting to note that new technology doesn’t completely erase old technology.

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Will The Smartphone Become Obsolete?


Kerry Doyle has covered business and technology issues for over a decade, first as a technician at the fabled PCWeek Labs and a reporter for PCWeek magazine, then as senior editor at He has contributed content to organizations as diverse as IDG/ComputerWorld, Monitor Group, Harvard Business School, and Global Knowledge. As a freelance journalist, he provides cogent analyses of the newest trends in technology, from nanotech to the cloud, with a focus on issues relevant to both enterprise leaders and SMB owners. Used with the permission of

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By cranbak on June 16, 2014 | Webmaster
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Apple Opening Touch ID to App Designers – Could Change the Way Online Purchasing is Completed

A small announcement is causing some big ripples.

It didn’t get much attention immediately following Apple‘s WWDC address earlier this week, but the Internet was abuzz Tuesday with what little was said about the company’s mobile payment strategy. Craig Federigh, Apple’s senior vice-president of software engineering, spoke for about two hours and unveiled numerous new products the company is working on but it was a one-minute mention that seemed to initially get bypassed and, later, caught some attention.

As Mashable reported, Federigh displayed a slide about Touch ID, Apple’s fingerprint scanner included on last year’s iPhone 5, and slipped in the fact app developers will be able to soon access to apply that feature through a new API.

So what?

Well, part of that presentation included a demonstration of how personal finance application Mint could use the Touch ID rather than the common use of passwords.

The big picture of this means Apple may finally be advancing with its much-discussed, much-delayed online payment system.

While virtual currency isn’t a new concept it is one area Apple hasn’t been as strong as other companies.

If app designers and existing apps can access Touch ID it could open up a whole new world for both Apple and its customers. The ability to safely and securely — what’s more secure than fingerprints? — make purchases could totally reinvent online financial transactions for millions of consumers.

It may have been a small drop of water in the huge sea of announcements by Apple but the ability for Touch ID to expand will surely cause waves to crash on the shores of consumerism.

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Apple Opening Touch ID to App Designers


W. Brice McVicar is a staff writer for SiteProNews.

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By cranbak on June 3, 2014 | Webmaster
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Adapting to Change, Harnessing New Trends, Eyeing the Future ­ Search Engine Land Summit

You deliver results daily, but staying successful means identifying opportunities, implementing new technologies and processes, developing great people, and preparing for the next big thing. Invest a day in Search Engine Land Summit and hear from thought leaders in search and internet marketing…

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By cranbak on May 27, 2014 | Webmaster
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How Big Data is Sparking Social Change

Thanks to the ability to quantify and qualify personal data and metadata through the plethora of social networks, apps, and device usage among the masses, large companies are able to target customers and reach audiences on a more granular level than ever before, making big data a significant commodity in the commercial market. Now there is proof that big data is becoming even more widespread and having an impact on the world from a socially conscious perspective. Today, with the help of humanitarian data scientists, mission-driven organizations are aiding people living in extreme poverty and enduring the food crises.

Max Richman, a lead data scientist at Mobile Accord, volunteers for DataKind, a community of data scientists and activists working together to spark social action. He says businesses are ahead of the game as far as harnessing big data, but non-governmental organizations are starting to catch up and get more creative.

“In a certain sense, commercial partners get the possible utilization of big data and want to use it more quickly,” shared Richman. “But we’re seeing interest across the broad social sector with groups wanting to help people through mobile phones and other tools.”

Richman is currently working with Geopoll and the World Food Programme (WFP) on a project that revolves around using mobile text to conduct food security surveys in conflict regions. Since the initiative started, collecting data through SMS to assess the availability of food in households in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has proven to be more timely and cost-effective than previous surveying methods. Richman says using mobile phones has decreased survey costs from $40 to $5. In addition to implementing the mobile surveying tactic, Geopoll built and interactive dashboard to help WFP see how numbers are trending.

How valuable is big data on its own?

Fellow DataKind volunteer Kush Varshney is a researcher at IBM. He says the convergence of activism and big data is creating great opportunities for NGOs,  but it’s going to take more than collecting data to generate tangible results.

“Data isn’t valuable without analysis or converting insights and information,” said Varshney. “So just having raw data is great, but until you do something with it or until you have some hypotheses it’s not going to useful.”

Varshney recently wrapped a DataKind project with an organization called GiveDirectly, which makes unconditional cash donations to impoverished households in Africa via mobile telephony. Using satellite images to identify the poorest villages in Kenya and Uganda, Varshney and his team were able to help GiveDirectly cut costs and time spent typically spent when data is collected manually.

“From Western Kenya to Uganda, we identified the types of roofs homes had to determine a village’s relative wealth,” explained Varshney. “There are two types of roofs. Iron is one and thatch, which is made of grass, is the other. Thatch roofs are common in the poorest areas.”

Varshney said working with satellite images was beneficial for more than one reason.

“A lot of times, getting information on the ground is difficult because of local politics,” he shared. “So if it’s possible, collecting data through satellites is a good idea.”

Another way data is being aggregated for social impact is through internet scraping. In March of 2013, Richman and a team of data ambassadors joined forces with the World Bank to examine the food crisis and its correlation to extreme inflation. They did this by scraping several websites and creating new datasets around food pricing.

“We had volunteers at one of our hackathons help us,” said Richman. “Anyone who knows how to use Google can do internet scraping.”

Richman’s team used a number of different tools including Python, ScraperWiki, and the Wayback machine on the project. The goal was to see if the data scientists could mine free resources on the web to predict inflation rather than wait every six months for official statistics to be released.

What’s next for the project? A senior economist at World Bank has voiced interest in analyzing the data that was scraped and comparing it to WB’s data.

Thanks to mobile technology, satellite imagery, and a buffet of online tools, gathering and assessing data has never been easier, and there’s never been a more crucial time to do it. The burning question to probe moving forward is, how is big data going to be organized, distributed, and protected — in business and in activism.

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How Big Data is Sparking Social Change


Melissa Jun Rowley is an award-winning journalist, on-air host, and content strategist with a passion for all things tied to social innovation. She is currently the founder and editor-in-chief of Incentivize, a digital media company focused on the convergence of capitalism and activism. Used with the permission of

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By cranbak on May 23, 2014 | Webmaster
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