March has possibly been the toughest month for Facebook since it was created 14 years ago. Whistleblowers revealed how the social media giant had shared data with Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm behind successful presidential and Brexit campaigns. The data they gathered was then used to develop software and allegedly influence choices at the ballot box.
This saga is still ongoing with Mark Zuckerberg due to stand before Congress in April.
Within 48 hours an SEO was able to rank above sites such as Amazon and Walmart for high-value money terms, for just $12. By exploiting an XML sitemap vulnerability, Distilled VP Product, Tom Anthony had exposed a major flaw in Google’s product.
The twist is that it was all done in good faith, and any vulnerability was immediately declared to Google with a full fix for this bug now in place. As a reward Tom Anthony was rewarded a bug bounty of $1337, becoming the first bug bounty for a black hat exploit.
The end of March saw Google confirm that mobile-first is finally rolling out after a year and a half of “careful experimentation and testing”. The aim of this is to ensure that mobile searchers have the best possible search experience, in particular on domains where the mobile and desktop experience are vastly different. Google very clearly states that they continue to have one single index rather than separate indexes for mobile and desktop results.
It was short and for some, sweet, but for a brief while, we saw zero result SERPs for the first time. Google commenced running a large-scale experiment that saw all organic results removed for queries such as “What is the time in Seattle?”, instead displaying a Google Knowledge Card and the option to show all results.
While the change certainly caused noise Dr Pete from Moz reports that of the 10,000 searches MozCast tracks daily only 0.01% of searches were impacted, meaning high-volume, competitive queries were generally not affected.
Google has begun to make significant effort to help media companies retain paying readers by allowing publications to appear higher in search results if a user is a subscriber. Google will also be sharing search data to help publishers identify potential subscribers.
Several publishers including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Washington Post have already been getting users ready to pay for content as advertising revenue continues to dry up.
Publishers also feel that the likes of Google and Facebook should be doing more to support trusted journalism in the combat against fake news which has been rife in recent years.
Sticking with publishers, Google has indicated that it is looking into providing publishers a new path to appear in the increasingly-important Top Stories carousel on mobile search results pages.
While AMP was a considerable success for users, meaning a previously slow website could render quickly even on a relatively poor connection, there were a number of publishers who had complaints about the level of control publishers were being given over their own content.
Google is looking to address this by offering publishers new frameworks that they would have to work within, however, at present, there is no timeline on when these changes would be implemented. For now, publishers have to continue to contend with AMP.
Core algorithm changes always create conversation in the SEO community, even more so if Google comment on any shifts. Early in March as the community reported higher than normal levels of flux the @searchliaison team released the below statement via Twitter. As it suggests, larger than normal changes were made; however, this is one of many changes that they continue to make throughout the year.
In a move that surprised most of us in the SEO community, it has been announced that WeWork is to acquire SEO and marketing company Conductor. According to TechCrunch, the move indicates that Conductor are planning to expand their expertise into other types of marketing and advertising
WeWork President & Chief Financial Officer Artie Minson elaborated on that idea in an emailed statement:
“There’s a lot that make WeWork and Conductor a natural fit. Seth and his team built Conductor to provide the insights, education, and resources their customers need to succeed — in other words, Conductor helps their customers do what they love, and do it better. Conductor has made it easier for us to reach potential WeWork members who are looking for workspace. It’s also helped us get the word out about the services and amenities that we offer to companies of all sizes.”
Distilled wrapped up March with our first SearchLove conference of 2018 in sunny San Diego. For those of you that made it we hope you had a fantastic time, and for those that missed out, we hope you can join us in either Boston or London later this year. In the meanwhile, speaker slides are now live on Slideshare for you to get an insight into the topics covered. For those that are DistilledU members, all the conference videos will be live by the end of April.
On the blog front, Principal Consultant Ben Estes had a busy month continuing his Effecting Change series with How to present a recommendation, and he talked us all through taking our first steps in Google Data Studio.
Anant Choxi produced an excellent guide on how to get more YouTube views, which was followed up by a special guest post from Christian Højbo Møller educating us on, What mathematics can teach us about email marketing?
Finally, closing off the month Consultant Robin Lord headed over to Moz showing us how to get around some of the quirks of Unbounce in his post Getting Around the "One Form" Problem in Unbounce.