The Search News Round Up: Google’s Data Highlighter, Raven Scraps Rank Checking, Yandex Launches Personalised SERPs & Google Applies Confirmed Click to in-app Ads.

Those who work in the industry of search engine optimisation are forever kept on their toes, for it is a constantly changing and evolving practice. With new SEO developments announced almost daily, keeping up to date can be difficult for even the most vigilant engineers.

Helpfully, each week the Fresh Egg blog summarises the most significant SEO news for your convenience.  This week Google announced its new Data Highlighter tool, Raven scrapped its Rank Checking feature, Russian search engine Yandex announced personalised search features, and ‘confirmed click’ in-app functionality was implemented by Google mobile ads. Grab yourself a cuppa and read on to learn more…

Google introduces WYSIWYG Data Highlighter tool

Google uses microdata included in the HTML of webpages to provide better search result snippets for users. For example, searching for an upcoming gig could show exactly when and where the event is taking place, without the user needing to click through to subsequent web pages listed in the query results, should this microdata feature.

These rich snippets have been desirable to many businesses and individuals since Google announced them, but only those with good knowledge of HTML have so far been able to implement them. Earlier this week, Google introduced its Webmaster Tools ‘what you see is what you get’ (WYSIWYG) Data Highlighter tool with point-and-click navigation, simple enough for even novices to use. Although this tool can currently only be used to create rich snippets for events, its introduction and development will democratise access to structured data markup, and should further improve search experiences for users.

Raven scraps its Rank Checking feature

SEM gizmo hub Raven Tools has announced it will be axing its search engine results pages (SERPs) Tracker Tool in its entirety on 2 January 2013. The Google AdWords API Team has determined this service currently contradicts the terms of its API, to which access will be withdrawn from Raven should they not comply with the request to stop scraping Google’s pages to supply rankings data.

Judging SEO efforts against ranking positions for certain search queries is fast becoming a dated measure in the industry, particularly in the wake of local and personalised SERPs. The demise of the Tracker Tool should encourage engineers – and their clients – to consider improved metrics for measuring the effects of SEO work. Of course, some SEO engineers may continue to use other third party, rank checking tools which provide unauthorised Google data.

Yandex announces personalised search for Russia and other CIS markets

Yandex is the search engine with the largest market share in Russia, used by 60% of web users. Aware of Google’s various efforts to improve search engine experiences for its users, this week Yandex announced personalised search improvements to ensure its rival does not encroach on its dominance.

Yandex now provides personalised SERPs which take online behaviour and previous queries into account, and becomes more useful as the user’s number of searches increases. While Yandex use in the UK is very minimal, it is important for SEOs to be aware of changes across all search engines. This news is particularly important for those working for clients with potential audiences in CIS countries.

Google applies ‘confirmed click’ functionality to in-app smartphone display ads

Most people with a smart phone have inadvertently clicked on advertisements, due to their often inconvenient placement in free applications. Now when users touch an outer edge of an ad, they will be prompted to confirm their click before the related webpage will load. Google’s initial testing shows while clickthroughs are decreased, confirmed clicks notably increases mobile advertising conversion rates.

Companies pay for these advertisements on a pay per click (PPC) basis, and so ensuring good value is important – accidental clicks rarely lead to conversions. The need to confirm clicks will also decrease frustration for users.

“By expanding confirmed clicks to in-app image ad banners, we’re now making this improved user experience consistent across the vast majority of the ads that we serve in mobile apps.”

Allen Huang, product manager, Google mobile display ads.