It has been an eventful two weeks; BERT is one everyone's mind and the talk of the search community (we have more info on that below). Plus, there several important updates regarding Google Ads and there is tool news all marketers need to see. Also, the days of Flash are officially coming to an end (we know, you already thought Flash was dead, but it is "official" now).
So keep reading, and learn about new snippet layouts, lead form extensions, Google's WordPress Plugin, new Local Favorites on Google, and much more.
GOOGLE SEARCH NEWS
Unquestionably the main news of the past two weeks was the core update that Google themselves called "the biggest leap forward in the past five years, and one of the biggest leaps forward in the history of Search."
It all started with this tweet:
Meet BERT, a new way for Google Search to better understand language and improve our search results. It's now being used in the US in English, helping with one out of every 10 searches. It will come to more counties and languages in the future. pic.twitter.com/RJ4PtC16zj— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) October 25, 2019
BERT is a neural network-based technique for natural language processing that now helps the search engine to better understand complex queries. It analyzes them as a whole sentence rather than a list of separate keywords, which lets Google suit users' needs better. Here is an example:
Even though Google considers BERT one of the most important updates in its history, no major fluctuation was noticed on SERPs since it rolled out. However, there has been news about some big sites facing a decline supposedly as a result of BERT, one of them being the New York Times.
If you wonder what you have to do to comply with the new update, Google's traditional answer is "nothing":
There's nothing to optimize for with BERT, nor anything for anyone to be rethinking. The fundamentals of us seeking to reward great content remain unchanged.— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 28, 2019
Let us know if your site was affected by BERT in the comments section.
New Expandable Featured Snippet Layout
Some Twitter users noticed a new look of expandable featured snippets. This type of SERP feature was introduced over a year ago. And now Google appears to be testing a new version:
Surprisingly (sarcasm), no official information about the scale or results of this test is available at the moment.
Flash Becomes History
Google is preparing to stop indexing Flash in search. Adobe earlier declared that it will stop supporting this technology in 2020.
For now, Flash is disabled by default in the latest versions of Chrome, Edge, and Mozilla browsers. Later this year, Google Search will start ignoring Flash content on websites.
In quite a moving post on Webmasters Central Blog, Google's engineering manager Dong-Hwi Lee reminisces about the times when Flash "was the answer to the boring static web, with rich animations, media, and actions." Now, replaced by new standards such as HTML5, it is far past its former glory.
Source: Goodbye, Flash
Corporate Contact Markup Deprecation
Corporate Contact markup is no longer supported in Knowledge Panel.
✒️doc update✒️ Corporate Contact markup for Google knowledge panels is deprecated. If you’re verified as an official rep of a Google knowledge panel, you can suggest a change directly: https://t.co/lRztejQYGM Deprecated doc for reference: https://t.co/7tq3VVQwJJ pic.twitter.com/I4X4e2zihz— Lizzi Harvey (@LizziHarvey) October 24, 2019
Google states that now, this data will be collected automatically.
Source: Structured Data Documentation
GOOGLE ADS NEWS
Global Release of Responsive Search Ads
Responsive ads are now available for all advertisers in all languages. Such ads allow you to use multiple headlines and expanded text versions for different customers. Google states that using them may dramatically increase the efficiency of your campaigns. Learn more about implementing responsive ads here.
To help you manage responsive ads, two new tools have been released:
- The Performance column helps you to easily track the stats for your responsive ads and quickly identify those that underperform.
- Ad variations tool allows you to run tests of different ad copy texts and compare results.
AdSense Tips for Seasonal Activities
The holiday season is nearing, and Google decided to create a checklist for AdSense users to help them get prepared for the busiest time of year.
It lists tools that can help you optimize your AdSense account and websites, such as Auto ads, PageSpeed Insights, and more. Features some nice imagery, too:
App Campaign Asset Updates
App Campaigns help app advertisers reach customers by promoting their apps through Search, Google Play, YouTube, Discover, and the Google Display Network. App Campaigns utilizes the businesses ad text ideas and assets like the app's store listing to design a variety of ads across several formats and networks.
Google recently announced, "Over the coming months, we will update App campaign modeling to attribute traffic to each of your creative assets and improve the way campaigns select and serve asset combinations as ads. This will help you make more informed design decisions, particularly as new App ad inventory goes live on Discover and YouTube Search."
Source: App campaign asset updates
Lead Form Extensions
About two weeks ago, Steven Johns noticed new lead form extensions:
His thread shared multiple pics of the changes, and he mentioned you can also integrate your own CRM.
You can read here about the BETA option of using lead form extensions in Search ads, and learn how to attach, edit, and remove a lead form extension to your Search campaigns. Google states, "Lead form extensions help you capture interest when potential customers are searching for your company, products, or services on Google."
GOOGLE TOOLS NEWS
Page Speed Report in GSC
Google Search Console now features a new report that allows you to check your website speed. It evaluates the average loading speed for all indexed pages that are not new in Search Console and had a sufficient amount of visits. There are two main metrics: FCP (first contentful paint) and FID (first input delay). Naturally, you want to keep both as low as possible according to this table:
There are separate reports for desktop and mobile speed, keep an eye on both of them! Page speed is one of the few ranking factors that were officially confirmed (twice!) by Google as very important. Even the most recent #AskGoogleWebmasters video starring John Mueller and Martin Splitt was dedicated to this topic. By the way, check it out:
Local Favorites Lists Show Most Loved Restaurants on Google
One of the hardest parts of traveling is finding a great place to eat. To help with that, Google created the Local Favorites lists that highlight the most loved restaurants in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City.
They also explained another way you can find great places to eat, "We're also celebrating the top ten “Hidden Gems” and “Rising Stars” restaurants in each city. Found by few and loved by all, Hidden Gems have great ratings but at a lower volume. Whereas, Rising Stars are less than two years old, but are quickly gaining popularity."
You can filter Local Favorites, Rising Stars, and Hidden Gems by city and restaurant type. You can find them online on the Maps explore tab under “Lists.” If you are hoping for your favorite restaurant will one day be added to a list, Google suggested, "Continue supporting your favorite businesses by leaving reviews, adding photos, or sharing their Business Profiles on Google with friends, and they might become a future Local Favorite."
Google Duplex Tested Outside the US
Using the help of Google Duplex technology, which makes it possible for AI to conduct natural conversations to carry out complex tasks over the phone, the search engine started a pilot to confirm holiday hours for a small number of local businesses in New Zealand. Businesses that were in the pilot group received an automated call from Google asking to confirm their hours for the upcoming Labour Day public holiday on October 28. Those times were automatically updated on Google Maps and Search for users searching for the business's info for the holiday.
Google Releases its Site Kit WordPress Plugin Out of Beta
Google's WordPress Plugin is now available for anyone to use. Google claims, "Site Kit makes it easy to set up and configure key Google products, giving you authoritative and up-to-date advice on how to succeed on the web."
This plugin will provide users with a single dashboard where they can see data from Google Search Console, Google Analytics, PageSpeed Insights, and AdSense within WordPress. Site owners, professionals, developers, agencies, and hosting providers, Google explains here how this plugin can help you.
Google claims the plugin only requires 3 simple steps to get started. The plugin will provide stats for your entire site and per-page insights.
Search for Beginners First Episode
Google has launched a new video series called "Search for Beginners." Probably the most surprising part about it is that it does not feature John Mueller, unlike quite a few other series such as #AskGoogleWebmasters or Google Search News. The first Search for Beginners video is called "Do I Need a Website?" Enjoy!
That is it. I am done with the most important Google news for today. Stay tuned for our next digest in two weeks!