Google made a series of announcements and adjustments this week that paint an interesting picture of the company's future.

As last week ended and most of the United States kicked off a long weekend to celebrate Memorial Day, Google was putting the finishing touches on its first Penguin update. The algorithm, which the company rolled out on April 24, is Google’s way of combating webspam and a series of practices it considers black-hat SEO.

Google’s Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts took to Twitter Friday night to announce the rollout of Penguin 1.1. Like most updates of its various algorithms this year, Penguin 1.1 was a minor data refresh, Brafton reported. The move impacted fewer than 0.1 percent of searches. Some have speculated that the update was aimed at addressing a few issues with the initial launch, especially as some sites that were hit hard by Penguin 1.0 saw traffic restored this week.

Many companies using SEO and content marketing to drive website traffic saw their rankings plummet. Using excessive keywords and complex linking schemes aimed at search crawlers is an especially troubling practice for users, since it often results in a poor experience. Both Penguin and Google Panda are designed to bring users content that is most likely to satisfy their needs.

Linking consumers to the brands and businesses they’re looking for is Google’s desired goal. The updates to search are a part of that strategy. On Wednesday, Google announced that Google Places will become Google+ Local, which is the latest move designed to help Google+ pick up the steam it has struggled to amass since its launch nearly one year ago.

Google+ users will now see a Local icon in the left sidebar of their Google+ homepage. Clicking on it brings up a series of listings, using data from Zagat, which Google acquired last year, to inform users. Reviews, ratings based on Zagat’s 30-point system and Google+ data are all available on the Local pages.

Brafton detailed Google+’s struggles in becoming a premier social platform in reporting that the average piece of content shared on the site receives less than 1 interaction. Whether it’s a +1, share or comment, few are actually engaging with content shared on Google+.

Another adjustment to a Google service came this week when Product Search became Google Shopping. The move makes the experience for both vendors and their customers largely different. Product placement will now be sponsored, so those leveraging the PPC model can boost their presence on Google Shopping by bidding more. Meanwhile, the text ads and organic search listings on the pages will be ranked the same way. This puts those hoping to boost traffic and conversions with SEO in competition with those using paid search. While many companies leverage both channels, those spending more may see their products featured more frequently.

Google’s presence in ecommerce has been formalized since 2002, when it launched Froogle. While the service has undergone many changes, Google Shopping is the first paid format the company has used, Brafton reported.

Naturally, the move drew the ire of some, frustrated that the paid model may price some businesses out. Like most moves made by the company this year, it came with detractors. Overall, however, Google remains a dominant force in web marketing, especially search.

Amit Singhal, Google fellow, told the Wall Street Journal this week that the recent introduction of Knowledge Graph has resulted in more searches conducted on the website. According to Singhal, users are interacting with content more aggressively, clicking on the additional links provided.

Brafton reported that the websites that create the content Google is sharing on its SERPs with Knowledge Graph have enjoyed the results. Essentially, the pages are seeing more traffic and their visitors have an increased desire to find information on topics for which people search.

Creating engaging, informative content has helped companies draw more traffic and keep their prospects around longer. Using content marketing to position a business as a thought leader and developing a rapport with readers is one of the greatest benefits of strong website content.

Using social media marketing to boost site traffic also requires strong website content, Brafton reported on Friday. A study from Greenlight suggests that using links to engaging articles, images or other content is more likely to generate clicks than buying ads on Facebook. The report found that 75 percent of consumers rarely, if ever, pay much attention to the paid content on the platform. Meanwhile, 35 percent said they at least regularly interact with content shared by brands on the network.

In general, this supports a general content marketing principle that web users want information. Using articles, infographics or videos to draw the attention of prospects will help a campaign achieve its goals more than buying an ad spot on the site will.

Appealing to consumers with social content is especially important given the role they now play in web marketing. People are more likely to trust endorsements from friends and other social contacts than they are from the brands themselves. As such, creating content that compels and existing fan or follower to share with their friends will help drive traffic and conversions.

Zuberance reported that a survey of consumers found nearly all of respondents can recall sharing at least one brand recommendation on a social network. Thirty-eight percent said they have advocated for between five and nine brands. Meanwhile, 30 percent have advised a contact to buy from between one and four companies, and 32 percent have suggested at least 10.

Brafton reported that social’s evolution into the web’s answer to word-of-mouth marketing makes it an imperative element of any new media marketing effort. As time spent on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks increases, the significance they play is likely to follow suit.

Last week, all three giants in search made headlines, before Google dominated conversation this week. Looking ahead to next seven days, the Father’s Day holiday will be a major point of emphasis on the web, and content marketing campaigns can leverage the event to infuse an element of freshness into articles and blogs.

Joe Meloni is Brafton's former Executive News and Content Writer. He studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has written for a number of print and web-based publications.