Seven of the most interesting SEM news stories of the week


Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from around the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week: Google begins experimenting with its PLAs, there are some stats on ad spend, we answer “what is the most trusted media source?” (I’ll give you one guess) and there’s a very tenuous time-frame for when Penguin is arriving.

How Google fought bad ads in 2015

Google has released a report on how it helped to clean up the bandit-populated wasteland we call the internet. Google has more than 1,000 sheriffs dedicated to taking down bad ads. In fact 780m ads were shot down from the top of saloon bar roofs on to the hay bails below or drowned in a horse trough.

Here are some of the black-hatted baddies Google busted in 2015:

  • Counterfeiters: Google suspended more than 10,000 sites and 18,000 accounts for attempting to sell counterfeit goods.
  • Pharmaceuticals: blocked more than 12.5 million ads that violated healthcare and medicines policy.
  • Weight loss scams: suspended more than 30,000 sites for misleading claims.
  • Phishing: stepped up efforts to fight phishing sites, blocking nearly 7,000 sites as a result.
  • Unwanted software: disabled more than 10,000 sites offering unwanted software, and reduced unwanted downloads via Google ads by more than 99 percent.
  • Trick to click: toughened up on ads designed to look like system warnings from your computer. Google rejected more than 17 million.

google better ads report

Social ad spend increased 50% year-over-year

New research from Kenshoo (gesundheit) suggests that spend on social advertising increased by 50% in the final quarter of 2015 with most of that growth helped along by the introduction of Facebook Dynamic Product Ads and Instagram ads.

Spend on search advertising increased by 8% thanks to a growth in retailers’ use of product-focused seasonal Product Listing Ads (PLAs), while mobile continues to be the biggest driver of growth in both search and social.

While there were fewer impressions for social ads in the quarter, the Click-through-Rate (CTR) went up by 64% YoY resulting in 30% more clicks and CPC went up 10% compared with the previous year.

Google adds AMP error report preview in Search Console

As Accelerated Mobile Pages become an increasingly important facet of mobile optimisation, Google has announced that it will provide a preview of error reports in Search Console, ready for the official launch of AMP in February.

This is direct from the source:

“The AMP error report gives an overview of the overall situation on your site, and then lets you drill down to specific error types and URLs. This process helps you quickly find the most common issues, so that you can systematically address them in your site’s AMP implementation (potentially just requiring tweaks in the templates or plugin used for these pages).”

amp pages attributes

Quora tops the list of UK sites gaining the highest increase in Google visibility

IndexWatch announced the sites that made the most ground in the battle of the Google SERPs in 2015, with the crowd-sourced question and answer site coming first, with an improvement of +298.21% on the previous year. This was closely followed by,, and

There are more details and the full top 100 here.

Bye bye organic results! Hello MASSIVE PLAs!

As Chris Lake reported this week, Google has begun experimenting with an expandable mega layout for its product listing ads.

expanded plas

This new layout includes a clickable arrow icon that doubles the number of products and essentially takes over the entire SERP. Bad for organic results, good for retailers still struggling to rank highly for their products as it gives them a bigger playground to… uh… fill with ads.

Here’s a horrible vision of the future courtesy of Chris Lake…

massively expanded plas

Google is more trusted than actual news sources

The Edelman Trust Barometer has revealed that for the second year in a row, people trust search engines more than they trust the actual sources providing the news itself.

Search engines also beat social media, but that’s probably not as surprising.

Why do people trust search engines so much? Possibly because they see an appearance of an article ranking highly in the SERPs as a mark of trust, also it might be because Google News offers an array of different headlines from various sources, so it’s easy to make a comparison of them all.

Search Engine Watch’s own weekly SEM news round-up will patiently wait for next year’s results to see how it did. Sigh.

Google’s next Penguin roll-out to happen within weeks

This from Gary Illyes, Google’s Webmaster Trends analyst…

You can decide for yourself whether this counts as ‘news’ or whether Illyes just got tired of all the pestering.


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