January was an interesting month for search. There were noticeable disruptions in the Google SERPs beginning January 17th with Google denying any updates or changes. On January 22nd Google announced a Panda refresh that affected 1.2% of English queries. The update was the 24th announced Panda refresh since it began in 2011.
This refresh was not attributed to the disruptions that were noticed several days earlier and Google has yet to acknowledge any changes occurring prior to January 22nd. Though there have been denials about other changes, webmasters agree that something out of the ordinary occurred for the Google algorithm in January and continue to watch for confirmation.
While the SERPs seem to be somewhat unpredictable there are no indications of changes that should be made to SEO strategies.
On January 18th Google announced that the new version of the Chrome browser will follow in the footsteps of Firefox and Safari implementing SSL for searches. While there will be no noticeable difference for users, this creates additional challenges for webmasters and SEOs.
With this new version of Chrome the data tracking for websites will become harder to analyze due to the increased number of (not provided) data being offered in Google Analytics. This will necessitate that SEOs and webmasters become more conversant in user engagement statistics rather than relying solely on keyword data to determine the overall performance of a website.
Google has enhanced the results for image searches to include a detailed description of the image along with a full high-resolution version of the image. Webmasters are noticing a decline in CTR from image searches because users no longer need to visit the site in order to see the full image.
With some businesses relying on image search traffic to bring users to their website this change may mean fewer visitors.
Google has begun offering help for business listing questions with a call center. While logged in to your Google+ account your requests may offer the option of receiving a call from Google to help you with your concerns.
A webmaster who tested the new service reported a response from Google within minutes of requesting a call.
As more and more businesses begin to claim their listings on Google the verification time period gets longer. Google has been taking as long as 5 weeks to verify a business once it has been claimed and local search optimization efforts take as long to take effect.
Along with a long wait period, some businesses have complained that Google sent them postcards without the PIN needed to start the verification process. Google has been alerted to these issues and insists that they are working on fixing them.
Facebook has implemented a new feature that allows users to see what their friends like more easily. With this new way of searching within Facebook local businesses may get a boost from their "like" networks.