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Melissa Fach

Google Search Improvements During Coronavirus Pandemic: Google News Update

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Melissa Fach
Google search news updates covid

In the past week, Google has improved the SERPs to help people find which restaurants are still offering delivery and takeout, and it has continued to expand and develop its products in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These updates include new ways to make announcements, a new COVID-19 experience on Google News, the creation of Community Mobility Reports, and providing new guidance on Google Search best practices for health and government websites.

It looks like the SERP volatility has slowed down a bit, so one less thing to worry about. 

SERP volatility chat for the week of April 7th

So let's move through the latest news, and please let us know how these updates have helped you in the comments below.

GOOGLE SEARCH

Takeout and Delivery Labels In Google Search and Maps

This past week several people noticed new labels in Google search and Google Maps showing delivery and takeout labels. As you can see below, two of my local restaurants had the appropriate labels. There first had delivery and takeout labels with an ad that offered an option for delivery. Door Dash is not the only company that delivers their food, but their ad got the spot.

Restaurant in Google Search with delivery and takeout labels

This next restaurant is not delivering, but you can pick up food, and notice, no ad. 

Google takeout label in the SERPs

Thibault Adda tweeted about these labels being in Maps; based on comments and articles online, it appears som areas can see this, and others do not. 


Google: SpecialAnnouncement Structured Data for COVID-19

Google announced there is a new way to make special announcements related to the pandemic that can be highlighted on Google Search. Webmasters can add SpecialAnnouncement structured data to their web pages or submit a COVID-19 announcement in Search Console

Google said, "At first, we’re using this information to highlight announcements in Google Search from health and government agency sites, to cover important updates like school closures or stay-at-home directives.

We are actively developing this feature, and we hope to expand it to include more sites. While we might not immediately show announcements from other types of sites, seeing the markup will help us better understand how to expand this feature."

For tips on how to implement COVID-19 announcements and to see more COVID-19 resources from Google Search, visit Introducing a new way for sites to highlight COVID-19 announcements on Google Search.


The New COVID-19 experience on Google News

Google announced additional updates to help people find and engage with the latest authoritative news on the pandemic. 

The New COVID-19 experience on Google News includes:

  • Combining the latest authoritative information on the virus at both a local and global level.
  • News is available across iOS, Android, and web platforms in over 20 countries.
  • More countries will be added soon.
  • Putting local news front and center with a dedicated section highlighting the latest authoritative information from local publishers in your area.
  • Users can also easily gain access to the latest guidance on the pandemic from the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as from other authoritative sources. 
  • Showing tweets from local authorities providing important announcements about COVID-19 in the community.
  • Experimenting with a fact-check section. Google is deciding on the best way of including a fact-check section in the Google News COVID-19 feature.

  • Expanded coverage with more languages in Google Assistant so users worldwide can receive the latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic on their mobile devices, and in more than ten languages on smart displays and smart speakers.

For more information visit, Ways To Stay Informed On Coronavirus News.


Google Best Practices for Health and Government Websites

Google has published recommendations for health authority or government websites on how to make public information regarding COVID-19 more visible on Google Search.

Recommendations include:

  • Testing common coronavirus queries to assess how users find your website and how it is displayed on both mobile and desktop browsers. You can test your pages using the Mobile-Friendly Test tool.

  • Check how you rank for top COVID-19 related queries: on the Search Console Performance Report and make changes if necessary, such as adding URL filters to focus on pages relevant to the virus. 

  • Using the Search Console Performance report, see the COVID-19 related queries your site ranks for and whether users click through to your site. Google recommends filtering for the last seven days to focus on topics most relevant to recent searches.

  • Update your site content, titles, and meta tags. Google recommends carefully considering the language used. They point out, "those concerned about COVID-19 will likely look for information using ordinary language, rather than precise medical terms. To better reach them, ensure that you're writing in the language they might use."

  • Check the top COVID-19 related queries in your language by visiting the Google Trends Coronavirus page.

  • Add structured data to FAQs and COVID-19 announcements. Google is able to more easily extract and show the information in search results in ways useful to the user.

For detailed instructions on how to implement each of these recommendations, visit Best Practices For Health And Government Websites


Google Postpones Ending Support for Data-Vocabulary Structured Data

Google updated its decision on ending support for data-vocabulary.org markup on Google rich results, saying that they will postpone the change ‘for the immediate future’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Google said they would re-evaluate this decision in June 2020.

In January earlier this year, Google published a post stating it was beginning to sunset data-vocabulary.org structured data and began issuing warnings for pages using this markup to give people time to replace it with schema.org markup instead. The original end date of support for data-vocabulary.org was April 6, 2020.

Sunsetting Support For Data-Vocabulary 


GOOGLE ADS

Changes Made to Inappropriate Content Policy

Google has made changes to its existing inappropriate content policy to clarify its policy on Sensitive Events. 

Below is the updated inappropriate content policy:

image.png

Here are is the full list of Inappropriate Content, and you can see the update here.


GOOGLE TOOLS

Authority Websites Can Submit COVID-19 Announcements on GSC

Google announced, "Authority Sites, such as government agencies, official health authority, and schools, can use this tool to submit an important COVID-19 announcement on their site, particularly if they are unable to use structured data. This includes the closure of facilities, rescheduling of events, and new availability of medical facilities (for example, testing centers)."

Users can select the announcement types below: 

  • COVID-19 Testing Facilities

  • Disease spread statistics

  • School closures

  • Shelter-in-place

  • Travel bans

  • Other/General

Here is a screenshot of the first part of the form:

Google Search Console announcement form

Learn more at Submit A COVID-19 Announcement For Your Site.


The Creation of Community Mobility Reports

In response to the growing pandemic and the measures taken to slow the rate of transmission, Google has presented the early release of its COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports. These reports provide the latest insights into what has changed regarding working from home, shelter-in-place, and other public health strategies aimed at "flattening the curve."

Here is how the reports work:

“The reports use aggregated, anonymized data to chart movement trends over time by geography, across different high-level categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential. We’ll show trends over several weeks, with the most recent information representing 48-to-72 hours prior. While we display a percentage point increase or decrease in visits, we do not share the absolute number of visits. To protect people’s privacy, no personally identifiable information, like an individual’s location, contacts, or movement, is made available at any point. “

And this is what they look like: 

Community Mobility reports

Community mobility reports detailed by state

These reports will initially cover 131 countries and regions, and in the coming weeks, Google will be working on adding more countries and regions. For more information, visit Helping Public Health Officials Combat COVID-19.


Guide Published On How To Use Structured Data With JavaScript

Martin Splitt announced a new guide on using JavaScript to generate structured data with JavaScript.

The guide provides best practices for:

See more details and tips at Generate Structured Data With JavaScript.


How to Use the Removals Report in Google Search Console

This week Google Webmasters posted a video on how to use the Removals report in GSC to request your content to be temporarily hidden in Google Search results.


That is all for this week. Please let us know if we have missed any important updates in the comments below.

Resources:

Melissa Fach
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US Personality of the Year 2017 Winner and die-hard Star Wars fan. Herder of cats. Non-cook. Find me on Twitter @SEOaware.
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