Google to punish slow mobile sites in search
Google has announced a change in how it ranks websites for mobile searches. From July, it will take page speed into consideration as one of its signals. The change, coined the Speed Update, will punish very slow websites.
Though speed will become more of a factor in determining the order of search results, the change is not so drastic as to make it the only one. There will be times that slow pages still rank highly, for example when they incorporate the most relevant content relating to the search.
Google says the update will only affect pages that ‘deliver the slowest experience to users’, affecting a small percentage of queries.
This focus on speed is critical as the majority of Google users today search the web via mobile devices, like smartphones. In fact, mobile searches surpassed desktop searches in 2015 and mobile has continued to grow in the years since to as much as 60 per cent.
Smart texting coming to Android phones
Google’s Gboard keyboard for iOS and Android is working on adding a ‘smart reply’ feature to the keyboard.
Smart reply is already available in certain Google apps, including Inbox, Gmail, and Allo. Now, it is coming to phones, offering contextually relevant phrases to reply with, just by tapping once instead of having to type.
The feature is being built to work with a selection of messaging apps, including Hangouts, Android Messages, Allo, Facebook Messenger and Messenger Lite, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Tencet.
WhatsApp rolls out business profiles
WhatsApp has announced the launch of WhatsApp Business, a dedicated tool for brands.
This adds a range of business-specific tools to the social messaging app that include:
Business profiles to provide customers with information such as a business description, email or store addresses and website.
Messaging tools that give quick replies to frequently asked questions, greeting messages that introduce customers to a business and messages that let them know busy times.
Messaging statistics will review simple metrics like the number of messages read to see what’s working.
Account type will let people know that they’re talking to a business.
WhatsApp started rolling out confirmed business accounts last August, when it also announced the forthcoming business tools. At that time, the social messaging platform noted it would be making it easier for users to understand when they were communicating with a business by changing the colour of the text bubbles when engaging with brands.
Video chats to boom on Messenger
Facebook Messenger boss David Marcus is predicting video chats will leap this year, in particular group video chats.
Video calls doubled on the social messaging platform in 2017 over the previous year with 17 billion video chats logged. Facebook will also place increased emphasis on group video chats, a rising trend among younger users. It added masks and emojis for group video chats in July last year and has developed a dedicated group video app, called Bonfire.
New features come to Instagram Stories
As Instagram continues to pile pressure onto Snapchat, the Facebook-owned social app has added in small variations and tools to better differentiate its Stories option.
This week, users have reported a few different options in testing, expanding the possibilities of what can be done within the app and offering opportunities for increased brand engagement.
First off, a new text-only Stories option called Type enables users to create a blank screen with a text overlay that includes new tricks and fonts.
Instagram is also testing out a transparent background GIF library for Stories, in collaboration with Giphy. This connects to a set of GIFs that are custom-designed to stand alone and can be added as animations to Stories posts.
In addition, the social network is adding a new notification for when someone takes a screenshot of a user’s Story, similar to Snapchat.
There’s also a new active user status indicator in direct messages, letting people know when their connections are available.