As we ushered in a new year, Google updates in January 2017 range from resolute to reactive—all in the name of an improved and safer user experience.
Secure Your Site
Beginning in January 2017, Google will begin identifying web pages that collect passwords or billing information as “Not Secure” in Google search engine results pages (SERPs) unless the pages are served over HTTPS with an SSL certificate, which encrypts transmitted data.
The update impacts version 56 and later of the Chrome browser.
Google first starting identifying sites with a Mobile-Friendly label in November 2014, but removed that label in August 2016 when it determined that 85% of all websites were optimized for mobile devices.
While the Mobile-Friendly label didn’t likely impact click-thru rates (CTRs) by much, the Not Secure label could force a sharp decline in traffic from organic search, as individuals are becoming more savvy and extremely cognizant of which sites they provide personal information to, due to numerous cyber security breaches over the last few years.
Say Goodbye to Mobile Pop-Ups
In perhaps the most critical of Google updates for advertisers, the search engine announced last year that on January 10, 2017 it would begin penalizing sites that use “interstitials”—which applies to pop-ups that users have to dismiss in order to continue navigating on a site, as well as advertisements that cover the top half of the page. Pop-ups that are part of a legal obligation (i.e. to verify a user’s age or notify about cookie use ) won’t be penalized, nor will small banner ads.
Chat Coming to the SERPs
Google is now providing consumers with the ability to initiate an instant message or chat with companies directly on the search engine results pages. The pilot program at Google translates into the addition of a “Message” call-to-action (CTA) button on local listings—which are typically displayed below sponsored ads and above traditional organic results.
When clicked, a chat will be initiated through the company’s SMS number or via Google Allo. Interestingly, Bing is rolling out the same feature but will initiate chats through the chat solution of the business’ choice (i.e. Facebook Messenger).