Posted by Erin Schroeder, Copywriter & Online Specialist

With the largest search engine on the Web plugging away each day and testing in the works for the country’s first driverless car, it seems that Google is always doing something to advance – or shake up – the online world and the bigger technology landscape.

So what has the digital giant been up to lately? Here are two projects you may or may not have read about in the headlines.

Ad Placement Overhaul

This one goes back to Google the search engine and the pay-per-click (PPC) services it offers. In a not-so-publicized move, Google recently rolled out an update that translates to removing paid ads from the right-hand sidebar on user desktops. It was reported that this is a global change affecting “highly commercial queries” – ones where there is a perceived intent to purchase – with product listings predicted to take the place of paid ads.

One concern businesses have raised is how this move will affect SEO. With ads erased from the right sidebar, there are now more paid ads appearing at the top of the page (four versus three) and featured at bottom. That means organic ranks may get pushed down or bumped to the next page which is likely to make the race for top rankings even more competitive. And what about those paid ads on the lower half of the page results? Many advertisers are wondering just how much visibility these will actually receive.

Hands-Free Payment

Entering pilot mode in the San Francisco area so far, Google is testing a new service that allows customers to pay for goods without even pulling out their phones or wallets. How will it work? Users will download an app to their smartphones, add a photo of themselves for ID purposes and link a credit or debit card to their account. When making purchases with participating outlets, customers will simply say that they’re paying with Google, the app will kick in and the cashier will verify their identity.

Let’s rewind to 2002 when Google first unveiled PPC and marketers scratched their heads wondering how the whole paid search and SEO thing would pan out. Isn’t it incredible to see how the Web has progressed, mobile tactics have soared and technology overall has evolved?

But back to that driverless car. One of Google’s self-driving cars was in a minor accident last month that appears to be the first one caused by the vehicle versus the other (human) driver.

Looks like there is always room to keep fine-tuning technology.