SEO news roundup April 2017

A lot has already happened in at the start of quarter 2 in the Search industry. So, let’s get caught up!

Merkle Q1 2017 Digital Marketing report

The Merkle digital marketing report has just been released. The report shows that overall organic search was down YoY in quarter 1 of 2017 BUT. However, this was the smallest decline seen in the last 5 quarters.

Merkle Digital Marketing Report

Source: Merkle

As usual, desktop and tablet organic visits decreased YoY. However, mobile organic visits increased by 15%.

Google and fake news

Google has been having some PR problems lately. In late 2016, it was revealed Google’s algorithms were manipulated by right wing groups to display offensive and controversial results. Essentially, ‘fake news’ was being displayed to users.

In a response to this feedback (and loss in revenue), the search engine made a few changes to tackle fake news and false information. On April 7th, Google launched the fact-checking label within Google news.

fake news tag in Google Search

Source: Google

It had previously been working on this with journalists in October. This helped to demonstrate that stories displayed to users were fact-checked by the International Fact-Checking Network, using the ClaimReview markup.

On April 25th, Google announced it was making changes to its algorithms and feedback forms to tackle fake news.

“Ranking changes: We combine hundreds of signals to determine which results we show for a given query—from the freshness of the content, to the number of times your search queries appear on the page. We’ve adjusted our signals to help surface more authoritative pages and demote low-quality content, so that issues similar to the Holocaust denial results that we saw back in December are less likely to appear.”

Ben Gomes VP, Engineering at Google

Our team wondered if these changes were the cause of recent algorithm updates, but Gary Illyes confirmed this was a separate algorithm change.

So, if your website has been hit by the recent algorithm updates (see below), this is completely separate.

Google algorithm updates

There has been some chatter in the SEO industry about a possible update on the 4th and the 17/18th April.

There has been no confirmation from Google, but it most likely tweaks to the Phantom V and Fred updates, which focus on quality. The bottom line is webmasters should be focusing on improving the quality of their content, UX and link activities.

Don’t believe me? Below is a Searchmetrics screen shot of client who has worked on improving the quality of their website and since the updates in Q1 of 2017, has seen nothing but improvement in Google organic search.

Searchmetrics graph Fred update


Source: Searchmetrics

If you’re looking for more detailed tips, check out this great post from Glenn Gabe on the “Fred” update.

More featured snippets with images

Google has dialled up the number of featured snippets with images on them. However, the image is not necessarily from the same website as the snippet, which can cause issues between direct competitors (as in the image below).

Google search showing featured snippet with image

Source: Google

This means that competitor images can appear in featured snippets, even if their content does not. Follow Google’s guidelines on how to optimise images for search if you’re looking to get your images in featured snippets.


Moz reports 50% of page one search results are HTTPS.


A Google Webmaster Trend analyst confirmed they would not be making HTTPS a stronger ranking signal.

New certification program for mobile site developers

Google announced the Mobile Sites certification for web developers on April 3rd. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll know mobile search has overtaken desktop. Therefore, it is very important for webmasters to think about the mobile experience for users. This is why the Google Developer team has created the mobile sites exam, to make sure developers and designers have a resource to make them create great mobile experiences for their users.

“Passing the Mobile Sites exam signals that you have a demonstrated ability to build and optimize high-quality sites, and allows you to promote yourself as a Google accredited mobile site developer.”

Chris Hohorst, Head of Mobile Sites Transformation

If your developers pass the test, it gets added to your Google Partners profile. Below is a screenshot from Branded3’s Google Partner profile. Two of our developers are mobile site certified!

Branded3's Google Partner Profile

Source: Branded3 Google Partner

Alphabet hits $600 billion

Alphabet hits $600b market cap for the first time.

Other SEO news in April

There was so much useful content and news in April we can’t cover all of it. Here are some more highlights:



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