Search Engine Land’s Top 10 News Stories Of 2016: Goodbye right-rail ads, goodbye visible PageRank & more

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If it feels like the search results changed a lot this year — especially Google’s — you’ve done a good job staying on top of search news. As we look back on the biggest stories of the year, several of them cover changes in SEO and ranking algorithms, and others are about new developments in AdWords and paid search.

In 2016, we said goodbye to those text ads on the right side of Google’s desktop search results and to the visible green PageRank bar. Paid search specialists said goodbye to an outdated AdWords interface. And we’re all in the process of bidding adieu to the idea of a single Google index. What a year it’s been!

Between now and the end of December, we’ll be looking back at the most-read articles and columns we published in 2016. Recaps from our SEO- and PPC-related columns will start to arrive next week, but we begin today with a look at the most popular news stories of the year.

Search Engine Land’s Most Popular News Stories Of 2016

This list is based on page views and includes news stories published between January 1 and December 12, 2016.

1. Confirmed: Google To Stop Showing Ads On Right Side Of Desktop Search Results Worldwide

Matt McGee, February 19: “Google is rolling out a dramatic change that removes ads from the right side of its desktop search results, and places ads only at the top and/or bottom of the page. At the same time, the company says it may show an additional ad — four, not three — above the search results for what it calls ‘highly commercial queries.'”

2. Powerball Numbers? You’ll Be Surprised Which Search Engines Knew Them

Matt McGee, January 10: “So who is showing the winning Powerball numbers in easy view for this popular search term tonight? Would you be surprised to know that both Yahoo and Ask.com are doing so? It’s true — have a look.”

3. Google Search iOS App Adds “I’m Feeling Curious” To 3-D Touch

Barry Schwartz, February 1: “Google has added a small but cute feature to the Google iOS search app that lets users hard press on the app and brings up a “3-D touch menu” for the ‘I’m Feeling Curious’ button. This is to make it faster for searchers to get ‘a fun fact’ from Google.”

4. Now we know: Here are Google’s top 3 search ranking factors

Barry Schwartz, March 24: “We knew last year that RankBrain was said by Google to be the third most important ranking factor, but Google refused to say what the first two were. Yesterday, in a Q&A with Google, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, said the other two factors were links and content.”

5. RIP Google PageRank score: A retrospective on how it ruined the web

Danny Sullivan, March 9: “Ever gotten a crappy email asking for links? Blame PageRank. Ever had garbage comments with link drops? Blame PageRank. Ever had to ferret out the how and why you should make use of the nofollow attribute on links? Blame PageRank. More appropriately, blame Google for ever making the PageRank score visible.”

6. Google updates Penguin, says it now runs in real time within the core search algorithm

Barry Schwartz, September 23: “Those long delays are now to be a thing of the past, according to Google. With this latest release, Penguin becomes real-time. As Google recrawls and reindexes pages — which happens constantly — those pages will be assessed by the Penguin filter. Pages will be caught and/or freed by Penguin as part of this regular process.”

7. Is a big Google search update happening? Chatter thinks so.

Barry Schwartz, September 2: “To be clear, it seems like there were two updates in the past twenty-four hours. The large update seems to be around core web search, which kicked off earlier this morning or late last night. The second update was likely around local rankings in Google.”

8.) Within months, Google to divide its index, giving mobile users better & fresher content

Barry Schwartz, October 13: “Google is going to create a separate mobile index within months, one that will be the main or ‘primary’ index that the search engine uses to respond to queries. A separate desktop index will be maintained, one that will not be as up-to-date as the mobile index.”

9. FAQ: All About The Changes To Google’s Ad Layout On Desktop Search Results

Ginny Marvin, February 22: “Google has stated that four ads instead of three may show more often on highly commercial queries, but what exactly does that mean? Well, examples from Google include ‘hotels in New York City’ or ‘car insurance.’ And yet, what you deem highly commercial may differ from Google’s definition. Generally speaking, the term is used for queries in which Google perceives an intent to purchase.”

10. Google is completely redesigning AdWords: Offers first peek

Ginny Marvin, March 28: “There are a few things that can be gleaned from the Google-supplied screenshot below (click to enlarge). In the image on the left, the Campaigns and ad groups are shown in the left-hand navigation, as they are now, but clicking on an individual campaign brings up a dashboard view that Google is calling an ‘Overview’ screen. Overviews will be available at the campaign, ad group and ad levels.”

Those are the most-read news stories of the year on Search Engine Land. In case you missed it earlier this week, we already published the top 10 news stories of 2016 on Marketing Land, and a similar list for MarTech Today is coming soon. Next week, we’ll begin posting a daily look back at the top columns that we published here on Search Engine Land throughout the year.

On behalf of the Search Engine Land editorial team, thanks for reading us during 2016. Happy holidays to you and best wishes for 2017!

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