SEO Industry Updates – Q4 2018

search industry updatesGoogle Announces Plan to Shut Down Google+ for Consumers After Data Leak

Summary

Google announced plans to close Google+ for consumers on the heels of an admission that it discovered a bug in Google+ that allowed developers of “up to 438 applications” to access personal information from users who had opted to keep that information private.

This is unfortunate news given that the data breach was said to have been discovered back in March 2018, yet Google only announced recently.

Takeaways

  • Google’s phased plan will roll out over 10 months with full Google+ shutdown expected in August 2019.
  • The closure/evolution will incorporate some form of enterprise offering, though details are still pending from Google.
  • Details regarding profiles, content, user access, and specifics regarding the shutdown are still pending.

Google Gives the Okay to Place Third-Party Reviews on Your Site

Summary

John Mueller confirmed via Twitter that Google does not take issue with business owners posting third-party reviews on their site via direct copy/paste or by way of iframe or embed.

However, Mueller reaffirmed that taking things a step further by marking up third-party reviews on your site with structured data is still against their terms and conditions.

Takeaways

  • Many small business owners already do this. The “permission” from a direct Google representative offers added comfort that they can tout reviews from users on Yelp, Google Maps, and other platforms directly in their site’s content.
  • The public statement from a Google representative will hopefully make business owners aware of the risks associated with black hat SEOs recommending they markup reviews on their site for enhanced search snippet benefits.

Google Tests Sub-Images in Search Result Snippets for Sitelinks

Summary

Although only a test during this time, SEOs and webmasters may want to consider how to optimize for images that Google might start using for sitelinks in mobile search after this test comes to an end.

In mobile search results, Google is currently testing image thumbnails, not just for the main snippet, but also for the sitelinks. This change and test were surfaced by CNBC, who published their experience going to an internal search quality meeting at Google. For some time we have seen images in snippets, but we’ve never seen them in sitelinks before.

How did this come about?

CNBC sat in on the internal Google meeting where the search giant showed their example of images within search results. “The data ultimately showed that 91 percent of the time, raters found that image results were useful. In the live experiment, real users clicked through the pictures, too,” Google told CNBC. When Google tests new user interfaces, they take a data approach. If the data says the test is worth trying, they will make the change available to all searchers.

Why should we care?

If this test turns into an official rollout, webmasters and SEOs should begin to see how Google can determine which image is applied to which sitelink. Marketers will need to make sure the images are accurate, represents the content, and displays an image that would entice searchers to click.

There are a few things that could come from this test. Images for sitelinks could go live, Google could decide to show it to a subset of users, or Google might not push it live for awhile. If this test does go live for all searchers, Google may decide to remove it after.

Takeaways

  • Google’s image sitelinks are currently just in testing mode.
  • Search marketers should keep an eye on this and start researching ways to optimize this if Google decides to go live with it.
  • What to keep in mind: make sure images are accurate, make sure images are representative of the content, and make sure images are something that searchers want to click on.
  • Since this is a test, Google might decide to not go live with it at all. But it doesn’t hurt to optimize and try it out on a few pages to see what happens.

Mobile-First Indexing is Here!

Summary

Many websites owners have seen messages from Google Search Console by now titled, “Mobile-first indexing enabled for [your site].”

What does this mean?

As the name implies, Google is now crawling the mobile versions of websites first, whereas Google historically crawled desktop versions of websites first. The mobile versions become the “starting point for what Google includes” in the index (search results), as well as for how Google determines rankings.

Why did this happen?

Mobile is the primary device for Google users today, and so mobile-first indexing ensures users have a positive user experience and ultimately find what they’re looking for.

How will this change my rankings and what should I do for SEO?

First and foremost, it is important for a site to be responsive or have a mobile version. This is not just for SEO, but for the mobile user experience (UX) as well. Note that if there is not a mobile version of a site, then Google will still crawl the desktop version.

What’s now more important for SEO is to ensure that any valuable content on the desktop version is also on the mobile version. Sites that have “lighter versions” of their content on the mobile versions could see a change in Google rankings.

With mobile-first indexing, content within hidden tabs for mobile usability will no longer be weighted less than visible content. This can be one technique to ensure valuable content is on mobile versions.

Additionally, it is recommended to review and optimize mobile page speed and load times, as these can affect rankings.

The new Google Search Console includes Mobile Usability details, as well does as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test (no login required). For page speed, there are numerous tools including Pingdom and Google’s PageSpeed Tools.

Takeaways

  • Google will first crawl the mobile version of sites for indexing and ranking.
  • Mobile usability will play a more critical role for rankings than before.
  • Valuable content should be on mobile versions as well as desktop versions.
  • Hidden content for an improved mobile user experience will be given full weight.
  • Optimization of page speed and load times are recommended.
  • The new Google Search Console identifies mobile usability errors to be addressed.

Google Announces New Search Console Is Out of Beta

Summary

Google announced the release of the new version of Search Console. For the past year, it has been in beta testing as features were migrated from the previous version and new ones were added. Highlights of the updated Search Console include:

  • An expanded range of analytics data going back to the past 16 months (previously 90 days)
  • Simplified ability to upload sitemaps
  • Mobile usability report
  • AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) report
  • Manual action and security alerts
  • Information for the index status of specific links with the URL Inspection Tool

For the time being, site owners will still have the ability to switch between the old and new versions of search console as they continue to migrate all features.

Takeaways

  • Search Console is essential to assessing the health and performance of your site in the Google index.
  • New features such as the mobile usability report can help provide a better understanding of how your site functions on mobile devices & Is important to monitor with Google focusing on the mobile experience and mobile-first indexing.
  • The URL Inspection tool allows you to identify issues with your site on a page level & gives you the ability to re-crawl or re-index the page if necessary.

Updated Google Image Search for Desktop

Google has announced updates to Image Search on desktop devices. Image Search on mobile was updated earlier this year and is now being rolled out to desktop. Most of these updates provide more context to images so that users know what to expect if they were to click through to the site.

New features added to desktop Image Search:  

  • Image captions, which is generally the Title Tag of the source page
  • The domain name of the image
  • Option to include Image credits metadata

Takeaways

  • Google Image Search continues to be valuable “search real estate.”
  • The inclusion of title tags, domain, and image credits are additional opportunities for Google Image Search optimization.  

New Search Features Announced at Google’s 20th Anniversary Event

Google hosted a Future of Search event to celebrate their 20th anniversary at the end of September 2018. Here are the primary search features they announced that will be rolling out in the near future:

  • Activity Cards: A new search feature that helps users keep track of their “search journeys,” and to revisit related searches. According to Google: “Now, a new activity card will help you pick up from where you left off in Search. When you revisit a query related to a task you’ve started in the past, we’ll show you a card with relevant pages you’ve already visited and previous queries you’ve done on this topic.”
  • Collections: A personalized “Pinterest-esque” content hub. This feature has been updated so that users can save content from an Activity Card to their Collections.
  • Topic Layer: An addition to Google’s existing Knowledge Graph technology, which is built to understand connections between topics. Google describes the Topic Layer as being “engineered to deeply understand a topic space and how interests can develop over time as familiarity and expertise grow.” The goal of the Topic Layer is to continually improve Google’s understanding of how topics change over time, with the goal of “intelligently surface(ing) the type of content you might want to explore next.”
  • Dynamic Organization of Search Results: A new way of displaying relevant topics and subtopics on search result pages. The subtopics are unique to each query and help users explore similar topics.

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