It’s time for that March lion to roar onto the scene. Time for St. Patrick’s Day, the first signs of spring, and the end of Q1.

February is coming to a close.

And being that it’s a shorter month, February seems to have flown by. A lot happened in the world of tech, much of the news coming from Google.

We’ve put together another list of the major highlights from Google — this time, for the month of February. Read on for the full recap.

1. Double Featured Snippets Are Coming

Google announced today that it will be rolling out a new element to its search engine results page (SERP): featured snippets.

The announcement comes somewhat on the heels of a recent post on Google’s official blog took a deep dive into how its featured snippets work, where Danny Sullivan, public liaison for search, explained that while this piece of the SERP has been helpful to many, it isn’t quite perfect.

One item to be addressed, Google Search Product Management Director Emily Moxley wrote today, is the concept of nuanced queries: the ones that could be seeking multiple answers on a given issue. Using the example of a query like “tooth pain after a filling,” Moxley explains that user could be looking to find out if this type of pain is normal (the “why”), or learn about the duration of the pain (the “how” or “how long”). 

For that reason, Google will begin rolling out the display of more than one featured snippet in the SERP that could answer the user’s question, depending on the words used in the search — what Moxley calls “multi-intent queries.”


Source: The Keyword

As we wrote earlier this month, displaying more featured snippets in the SERP introduces a higher barrier to earning clicks, especially if the snippets answer the query sufficiently enough that the user doesn’t need to look — or click — any further.

“Testing methods to maximize featured snippet exposure is going to become the norm in SEO,” says Victor Pan, HubSpot’s Manager of SEO. “But being able to turn that view to a click, an engagement with content, and trust with your website has, and will always be the tougher problem.”

2. Better Ads Standards Take Effect

Last summer, Google announced that on its Chrome browser, it would be removing ads from sites that don’t meet the Better Ads Standards. The initiative launched on February 15, and Google began blocking ads that did not meet the criteria.

The goal was not to do away with ads completely. Rather, it was to discourage webmasters from creating and placing digital ads that interrupt a user’s content consumption — characteristics like automatically playing loudly, or not allowing users to navigate away from the ad until a certain amount of time has passed.

Coalition for Better Ads_Better Ads Standards
Source: Coalition for Better Ads

However, Google also wanted to ensure that critical ad revenue wouldn’t be lost as a result of these changes. In fact, better ads would actually boost those efforts, as intrusive ones motivated users to install browser plugins that block ads altogether — which would remove any ad engagement and the resulting income from its display.

According to Chris Bentzel, Google’s Engineering Manager, early tests of this feature showed that it was, for the most part, effective. The 42% of tested sites that failed the Better Ads Standards actively took the initiative to remove their intrusive ads and, three days before the launch, passed and met the criteria for a better user experience.

It sounds as though webmasters will be notified by Google if their sites contain non-compliant ad experiences. If, they have not addressed and modified the ads to meet the new standards within 30 days of notification, Chrome will actively block ads on that site.

Sites with such intrusive ads will display the following message:

Source: Google Chromium Blog

3. AI Comes to AdSense

We’ve written a lot about the things that a bot can do (albeit, not always well): write a screenplay, compose a classical masterpiece, name paint colors. And now, it seems, AI can help you build an ad campaign.

Last month, Google AdSense introduced a new feature called “Auto ads,” in which machine learning helps marketers place and monetize ads with smart automation.

With Auto ads, the AI behind the feature crawls your site to find the best pages and areas for potential ad placements, and displays them only when the probability of both a strong performance and user experience are high.

It does this, as the name suggests, automatically — all the ad manager has to do is select the ad formats she wants to use in her AdSense settings, then copy and paste the generated code on the pages where ads can be displayed.

To emphasize, copying the code onto all pages doesn’t mean ads will actually display there. That’s where the machine learning comes in to determine if it’s an optimal location for ad placement.

Source: Inside AdSense

4. AMP’d Up Emails

The AMP initiative — or Accelerated Mobile Pages — was first introduced by Google to help webmasters create sites and ads that provide a rich experience, but also load quickly and maintain a high performance across different browsing platforms. That, as the name suggests, includes mobile.

Until recently, the open-source AMP initiative only applied to websites. But early this month, Google announced that it would be launching a preview of “AMP for Email” for Gmail developers, which is slated to bring those same fast, rich, and high-performing experiences to email.

One of the primary goals, according to the official announcement, is to allow users to complete more tasks without navigating away from their inboxes — things like RSVPing to events for which they receive HTML email invites, completing a survey, or managing email subscriptions.

Source: The Keyword

Email marketers and developers can sign up for a preview here.

5. Other Google News You May Have Missed

Clips Is Now Available for Purchase

Google Clips, the wireless smart camera announced at the company’s October 2017 #MadeByGoogle event, was officially released for purchase last month — only to receive less-than-stellar reviews.

Many were confused about the camera’s purpose when it was first released, The Verge reporter Sean O’Kane describing it as a “deeply weird product.” On Tuesday, his colleague Dan Seifert didn’t have much better to say, reviewing Clips as something that “just doesn’t work that well.”

Android Announcements From Mobile World Congress

At Mobile World Congress 2018 (MWC), Google announced it will be introducing two new Android programs to smartphones: The Go edition of Android Oreo, and Android One.

The former — which will be built into select phones from Alcatel and Huawei, among others — boasts a more optimized experience with higher speeds for devices with a memory capacity of less than 1 GB. The latter will introduce an entirely new suite of devices, primarily from Nokia.

Source: The Keyword

A Further Foray Into the Internet of Things

Google is no stranger to the internet of things (IoT), with the ability to control Smart Home lighting and more with Google Assistant-enabled devices. And with its recent acquisition of Xively, it appears that the company has grander plans for that sector.

Xively, previously a division of LogMeIn, is largely known for its device management capabilities. But rather than contributing toward future buildout of consumer IoT products, this “addition of Xively’s robust, enterprise-ready IoT platform,” wrote Google’s IoT Product Manager Antony Passemard in a statement, “can accelerate our customers’ timeline from IoT vision to product, as they look to build their connected business,” making it a logical fit for Google’s Cloud IoT Core team.

Until Next Month

As always, we’re watching all things Google. We’ll continue to pick out top news items, algorithm updates, and trends that can aid your marketing.

Until the month goes out like a lamb, have a great March.