Google has kept marketers on their toes this year with big news like the January 2020 core update, the favicon and black ad label release on desktop, and the featured snippet update. This week, we don't have any verified algorithm news, but we have noticed some significant volatility in the SERPs this week via Sensor. Google has not made a statement confirming any new updates or changes.
It is hard to predict anything at this point, but keep an eye on Sensor to track fluctuations and gain insights.
We do have some news updates below you should be aware of regarding Google Search, Google Tools, and Google Ads. So keep reading and be sure to share with us any changes you have seen.
GOOGLE SEARCH NEWS
Multiple Signs On the Need to Improve Your Content
Remember when Gary Illyes from Google said this?
Everyone's reaction when low quality and spammy content is not indexed anymore pic.twitter.com/QU8S2nCupb— Gary "鯨理／경리" Illyes (@methode) January 22, 2020
Before that tweet and since then there have been multiple reports of people having issues with new content not being indexed, even when trying to manually submit it through GSC:
If your site relies on manual index submission for normal content, you need to significantly improve your site. Search console does not fix your site, you need to do that yourself.— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) February 3, 2020
John Mu suggested to "significantly improve your site" when asked about content. Then three days later Gary Illyes Keynoted at Pubcon Austin and spoke about improving content:
I’ll say it again for clarity. You cannot optimize for BERT. But you should work on your writing skills and learn to flow and transition in your writing and write for a lay audience. @methode— Nicole DeLeon (@nicoleldeleon) February 6, 2020
Side Personal Note: I spoke to Gary personally at Pubcon about content. Flow and transition were emphasized. I have been in this industry for a while, and I can tell you that when reps from Google keep stressing the same thing over and over, you should listen.
I know the practice of creating content to rank for random keywords in the hope of being seen and then maybe getting a conversion has been a strategy for many, but those days are over. People need to stop creating random and useless content in the hopes of ranking for a keyword. Instead, create content for education, for intent, to solve a problem, to offer solutions, and always consider entities.
One last tip — make sure whoever is writing for you and whoever plans content campaigns have, at a minimum, a basic understanding of BERT. Recently, John Mu stated, "BERT is a modern way for computers to understand natural language. We use both for working out what the user was really looking for, as well as for better understanding of the pages in our index." It is always best to listen to Google and consider what they are not saying when they are dropping hints.
Another SERP Test or Bug
The SEMrush team found what appears to be a new, more open style search results page design.
A new SERP test from #Google?💣Or a new bug?! It looks like an #AMP article placed outside of Top Stories feature but similar to regular organic results. And...AMP feature on desktop, wait, what?⚡🤯 Have you seen this before? @rustybrick @sejournal @sengineland pic.twitter.com/SKdJCciSzI— SEMrush (@semrush) February 6, 2020
And we weren’t the only ones to notice it…
Google is continually testing, so this could just be one more test or a big they fixed.
Google’s John Mueller Says Avoid Hreflang attributes in the Anchor Tags
John Mueller cleared up some confusion in the SEO sphere through a recent Reddit thread this week. Mueller responded to a user’s question on the right and wrong ways to use hreflang attributes.
Mueller advised the user to not place hreflang attributes in anchor tags (as the user had done previously)
You can learn more about Hreflang Implementation here.
Google Posts Rejected in Google My Business
Google Post PSA Update: The Google has noted that the fix went live today for new posts so any new post you create should work as expected.— Mike Blumenthal (@mblumenthal) February 10, 2020
Google also noted that they will publish old posts that were rejected in the next few days.
Last week, many were reporting that their Google posts were being rejected. There has been a huge number of business owners complaints about it, especially in Google My Business forums:
Mike Blumenthal replied with a possible solution:
And others found that making changes to image file names worked for them:
This could be a bug or could be new standards for images. If you face this issue, reach out to Google My Business forums for help.
GOOGLE ADS NEWS
Get Your Google Shopping Ads on Gmail, Discover, YouTube
Google announced on February 6th that starting the week of March 4th, Shopping ads in your standard Shopping campaigns (which includes both Product Shopping ads and Showcase Shopping ads) "that target the Google Display Network will be eligible to appear on Gmail in addition to YouTube and Google Discover." This is alongside the YouTube and Discover feed, which Google started extending showcase shopping ads to last year, and it is something Google has slowly but surely been opening up space with.
For more information on Google Ads AP and AdWords API configurations, and to see how to allow your advertisers to opt-in or opt-out of Gmail, YouTube and Google Discover for standard Shopping campaigns, visit Google's article Gmail on standard Shopping campaigns.
GOOGLE TOOLS NEWS
New Removals Tool Launched In Google Search Console
A new removals tool has been released that does the following:
Temporarily blocks URLs in Google.
See outdated content removal requests.
See URLs on your site reported as adult content.
Here is a screenshot of temporary removals provided by Google:
For detailed information on how to and how NOT to use this tool, visit Google's Removals Tool in the Search Console help section.
To access the tool, visit https://search.google.com/search-console/removals.
Google Search Console Announces New Reports for Review Snippets
Google has announced support for review snippets in Google Search Console. This means you will now be able to see warnings errors on markup on your site if you have implemented ratings or reviews structured data.
Let’s take a peek at what this looks like on the performance report:
And here is a video with Google's Daniel Waisberg discussing how to monitor Rich Results in Search Console.
Brand New Enterprise IT Controls for Data Studio
Answering IT administrators pleas for more control over Data Studio, Google has responded with the launch of three free enterprise features that allows them to do just that.
1. Organization Management Through Cloud Identity Integration
Google Cloud Identity allows Cloud Identity admins more control over how Data Studio is used as well as who uses it.
2. Enterprise Audit Logging
Audit logging provides IT admins organization-wide visibility into Data Studio usage, similar to that available for apps like Drive and Calendar. Admins can now see which users are creating Data Studio reports, and who they are sharing those reports with.
3. Organization Sharing Policies
There is also the implementation of new Data Studio sharing policies, which reduces the risk of data exfiltration and enables IT admins with greater flexibility when it comes to sharing permissions that are in line with your company policies. You can learn more about setting permissions here.
Google Maps Turns 15: New Look and New Features
Did you know that Google Maps has been helping directionally challenged people get to their destinations for over 15 years now (more than 1 billion to be exact?)
To celebrate, Google Maps has treated us to a new logo and icon, as well as a range of new features.
The updated app provides five easy-to-access tabs: Explore, Commute, Saved, Contribute, and Updates.
The new transit features in the Google Maps app will provide needed information when traveling via public transportation.
Google is also working to improve Live View and offer better assistance when users are searching for a location; changes should be coming in the next few months.
Google Creates SOS Alerts for Coronavirus
The coronavirus is a health crisis we should all keep an eye on. Google announced the activation of an SOS alert for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
Today we launched an SOS Alert for searches at Google related to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. We do these regularly for crisis events around the world where public safety might be at risk . Here’s a refresher on what you’ll find.... pic.twitter.com/RpwZE6gTvM— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) January 30, 2020
As shown in the above Tweet, that means searching for coronavirus or a related query will now cause a white card to appear, showing the SOS alert, which can then be shared. The SOS alert also provides help and information.
Better Protection Against Insecure Downloads in Google Chrome
Google has kept last year's promise to provide better protection for users from insecure content. Starting in April 2020, Google Chrome will allow only https pages to download secure files.
In Chrome 82, any attempts at non https downloads will cause a warning to appear on the screen before allowing the user to go ahead with downloading certain insecure file types of images, audios, videos, and text formats. However, this is only temporary: in future Chrome releases, these will be completely blocked.
Here is an example of a potential warning you might come across:
Google Chrome Expands to Ad Blocks Within Videos
Starting August 5, 2020, the browser will prevent all ads on websites worldwide that show any of the following types of ads listed below.
Image or text ads
This move is based on standards for ads that show during video content from the Coalition for Better Ads. The Better Ads Standards was created to reduce the number of disruptive adverts causing users to ban ads online completely.
This ad block will also apply to YouTube videos too. Google has stated that:
Similar to the previous Better Ads Standards, we’ll update our product plans across our ad platforms, including YouTube, as a result of this standard, and leverage the research as a tool to help guide product development in the future.
Source: Videos with fewer intrusive ads
On iOS shortcuts, You Can Now Ask “Hey Siri, Search Google.”
The latest update to the Google app for iOS means that it is now possible for users to ask Siri to conduct a search on Google. To use it, you need to set up the Siri shortcut, which can be done in a matter of minutes.
Make sure you have the latest Google app version installed, and open the shortcuts app on your phone to create shortcuts. Then, simply tap +add action and choose the Google app and customize the voice command.
Articles to Learn From
Recently we have been sharing great articles from the industry. This week, we have some very helpful information (and a presentation) — check them out.
- Google Helping Identify Semantic Entities in Audio - Bill Slawski
- Revisiting The SEO Importance of Quality Indexation For Large-Scale Sites [Case Study] - Glenn Gabe
- Disambiguating Equiprobability in SEO - Dawn Anderson
- Have Teachable Moments at Google Been Replaced with Related Questions? - Bill Slawski
- The Custom HTML Tag Guide For Google Tag Manager - Simo Ahava
- SEO and Intent 2020: New Study Reveals True State Of Search - John Lincoln
- How To Prove SEO Performance Value To Non-SEOs - Mike King
- [Data Study] The Websites Most Likely to Rank for a Brand Name - Brian Patterson
- Scaling Google indexation checks with Node.js - Jose Hernando
- FTC cracks down on comparison shopping site over fake reviews and deceptive rankings - Christopher Maynard
That is all for this week’s digest!
Do you have any questions or thoughts on subjects we’ve covered in the digest? We love to hear from our SEMrush community, so please share your questions or opinions in the comments below.