As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread worldwide, the majority of Google’s most recent updates in the past week have pertained to helping users better navigate the pandemic and find the information they need. Some of these include new event structured data options for postponed, canceled, or online-only events, as well as the introduction of a new format on the search results page for COVID-19 searches.
We have also seen some updates unrelated to the virus, including the creation of a new feature that allows for easier appeals of ad policy issues on Google Ads.
Another topic being discussed in the industry has been SERP volatility.
You can see via SEMrush Sensor that there have been fluctuations, but we don't have a reason why. We all know Google has been making a lot of changes to keep people informed on COVID-19; perhaps that is why? Or, it is just regular Google updates we are not being told about. Let us know what changes you are seeing.
Providing A More Comprehensive COVID-19 Search Experience
Google is introducing a new format on the search results page for COVID-19 searches. This format makes it easier for users to gain access to authoritative information and resources from health authorities, as well as obtain new data and visualizations. Google has said that as and when information becomes available, new information can also be added.
The new format shows:
A carousel of Twitter accounts from health authorities and local civic organizations, linking users to up-to-date local guidance on COVID-19.
A feature displaying some of the most commonly asked questions regarding COVID-19, providing relevant snippets from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Modules with a map and statistics of COVID-19 prevalence globally. This will show in the U.S. in the coming days in English first, before expanding to other countries and languages.
Google also worked with agencies and authorities to roll out a website focused on education, prevention, and local resources. You can check it out at google.com/covid19.
More information available at Connecting People With COVID-19 And Resources.
COVID-19 Guidance For Local Health Services
Another Google update (in the U.S.) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic includes a reminder alert on Google Search or Maps when users search for urgent care, hospitals, or other medical services. The alert advises symptomatic individuals to phone ahead to help reduce the risk to others of possible exposure to the virus and to prevent overwhelming local health systems.
An example is shown below:
More information available at Connecting People With COVID-19 And Resources.
Google Search Updates For Travel-Related Information
Google has made changes this past week to Google Search that means users will now see COVID-19 related travel advisories or restrictions for destinations, as well as links to relevant information when possible. When users search for flights on Google Flights or do a Google search for a specific airline, Google will now direct people to the Help Center article on airline policies for flight changes and cancellations.
Learn more at Stay Updated On Travel Advisories And Airline Policies.
Mixed Content On Chrome Doesn’t Impact Search Ranking
Google’s John Mueller replied to a Reddit thread last week that asked whether mixed content on Chrome affects rankings on its search engine. This was his response:
“Yeah, for the most part, it doesn't change anything. That said, if your pages no longer render completely in a browser, we probably won't be able to render those parts either. If your pages stop working in a browser, then you need to fix that.”
Google Provides New Optional Properties For Virtual, Postponed and Canceled Event Updates
In light of many events across the world being postponed, canceled, or changed to a virtual format due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Google has added optional properties (applying to all languages and regions) to its developer documentation, to help publishers and users keep events up-to-date.
Using the schema.org eventStatus property, you can update the current status of an event as follows:
Event postponements (but the new date is currently unknown):
- Leave the original event date in the startDate until it is known when it will take place and update the eventStatus to EventPostponed. This startDate property is needed to identify the unique event.
- When you know the new event date, change the eventStatus to EventRescheduled and update the startDate and endDate with this new information.
Event rescheduled to a later date:
- Change the startDate and endDate with these new dates. You can also mark the eventStatus field as EventRescheduled and add the previousStartDate, but this is optional.
Event moves from in-person to virtual format only:
- You can change the eventStatus field to indicate the new format with EventMovedOnline.
For more information, see the eventStatus developer documentation.
To mark an event as taking place online only, Google advises using the following properties:
For more information, see Google's update - New Properties For Virtual, Postponed And Canceled Events
Large Videos Showing On Google Knowledge Panel
Google has been displaying large videos on the knowledge panel for a query related to the release of the Playstation 5. It was found this week by Brian Frielesleben, who posted on Twitter the page result display:
First time noticing a video prominently displayed in the KP section of the SERP. Search term was "PS5". pic.twitter.com/O5blHu0Pah— Brian Freiesleben (@type_SEO) March 19, 2020
New Google Ads Feature Allows You To Appeal Policy Decisions Directly
Google Ads has revealed a new feature that makes it easier for advertisers to appeal policy decisions. Google said of the new feature launch that:
Google said, "We understand that sometimes well-intentioned advertisers make honest mistakes, and we want to empower every business to get their ads up as soon as possible.”
Previously, a policy appeal had to go through the support team. Now, it is possible to resubmit an ad soon after the policy issue has been fixed. Users can also appeal a policy decision directly in Google Ads if they believe Google Ads has made an error.
To make a submission in either of these situations, all advertisers need to do is simply hover over a disapproved or limited ad and see if the ‘appeal’ link shows.
Users can keep up-to-date with the appeal status in Policy Manager, which you can also see when hovering on a disapproved or limited ad.
For more information, visit Easier Resubmissions And Appeals Of Ad Policy Issues.
Four New Asset Reporting Feature Updates
Google has revealed it is rolling out for its App campaigns four new asset reporting features. These assets will give users more helpful insights regarding their campaign performances. These new updates include:
Better guidance for performance ratings: The tooltips for performance ratings that appear when you hover over a rating will advise a user on the action they should take for that specific asset.
Keeping better tabs on assets: Google will be rolling out two new columns in asset reporting at the ad group level, specifically for asset source and orientation. The updates will be available to active App campaigns in the coming weeks.
Introduction of performance charts: Google will soon introduce performance charts that allow you to view changes for your ad assets over time. For example:
Ad previews: The upcoming ad preview tool will display sample ads assembled from your assets, as they may appear in eligible App campaign placements. Below is how the feature will look like:
For more detailed information, visit Get Better App Campaigns Creative Insights With New Asset Reporting Features.
Upcoming Chrome And Chrome OS Releases On Pause
Google announced on Twitter and on the Chrome Releases blog that it will be temporarily pausing new Chrome and Chrome OS releases, citing adjusted work schedules.
During this time, we will not promote Chrome 81 from beta to stable. We plan to begin shipping Dev channels again in the near future, and will continue shipping Canaries as planned.— Chrome Developers (@ChromiumDev) March 19, 2020
In the blog announcement, Google said:
“Our primary objectives are to ensure Chrome continues to be stable, secure, and work reliably for anyone who depends on them. We’ll continue to prioritize any updates related to security, which will be included in Chrome 80.”
You can see the announcement here Upcoming Chrome Releases.
Temporarily Closed Button Now Inside the Google My Business Dashboard
Joy Hawkins tweeted this morning that there Temporarily Closed option is now available.
There is finally a "temporarily closed" button inside the Google My Business dashboard! pic.twitter.com/7QJy6M6aJj— Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) March 25, 2020
Google My Business Experiencing Limited Functionality Due To COVID-19
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Google has said there will be temporary changes to Google My Business.
This limited functionality has been noticed on Twitter by a number of SEOs:
There are a LOT of things with Google My Business that are not functioning as normal right now due to COVID-19. Many of these just started on Friday. I have compiled a list of everything I'm seeing thusfar here: https://t.co/F6IqRRxrA3— Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) March 23, 2020
I'm experiencing issues with post rejections although we are posting the same message on various locations and not getting rejections on all of them. We are initially able to create the posts, but they are retroactively rejected.— Laura Ferruggia (@lauregg) March 24, 2020
On the subject of functionality, Google My Business released a new post that states, “Our current focus is on the quality and reliability of information on Google Search and Maps. We want to ensure users and business owners have access to essential features like whether the business is open or has special hours.’
Temporary changes to Google My Business highlighted in the post include:
All Q&A’s, new reviews and review replies are unavailable.
Delay on publication of new listings, claims, and verifications for other types of businesses to Google Maps and Search.
They will prioritize reviews for edits critical to health-related firms.
More information at Limited Google My Business Functionality Due To COVID-19.
Learn How to Determine Which Pages Have Been Crawled and Indexed in Google Search Console
In the Google Webmasters Search Console Training, Daniel Waisberg shows how to find out which of your pages have been crawled and indexed by Google, and any problems found during the process.
Some Helpful Recent SEMrush Resources: