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Roundup of Google updates from April 2020

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As we all began to accept the realities of the pandemic and this new way of life during April, many businesses have started to make headway on developing a digital strategy in order to minimise the negative financial impact of Covid-19. 

SEO agencies have been no different in this regard and Google itself has been particularly busy developing new features and tools that aim to support businesses in their plight.

While the healthcare industry has understandably experienced the most drastic and numerous changes in terms of SEO, there are also a large number of other industries who can take advantages of more generic alterations. For example, towards the end of the month, Google announced that they would allow businesses to list products on Google Shopping free of charge – leading to an influx of signups to Google Merchant Center. 

Without further ado, we will go on to discuss the issues above and many more below. Let’s get started!

a timeline showing google updates from April 2020 part 1
Emily Kemp, Marketing Executive at MintTwist

2nd April: Mueller once again confirms that Google will index hidden tabbed content

For some strange reason, many SEOs have persisted with the myth that Google alters the value of content behind accordions or tabs. This is despite Matt Cutts stating in 2013 that this was not the case, which was later reaffirmed by Gary Ilyes in 2016

However, certain members of the ever-inquisitive SEO community appeared to ignore this and maintained that Google did in fact still alter its valuation of tabbed content. 

This opinion has been rebuffed once again, this time by John Mueller. Mueller was asked the following question in a recent Google Webmaster’s hangout“In the mobile first indexing world, will the. hidden text, hidden content behind tabs and accordions still be devalued, for example because there’s a lower chance that it will be seen by a user?”

Mueller replied:

No. Specifically when it comes to content on mobile pages we do take into account anything that’s in the HTML. So if there’s something there that might be visible to users at some point we will include that… so that’s completely normal.

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google

Glad we’ve finally got that one cleared up then!

2nd April: Google My Business releases new type of announcement for Covid-19 measures

Google recently rolled out a new Covid-19 specific post type for Google My Business users. These allow businesses to leave a prominent post at the top of their profile, specifically outlining any changes to regular business procedures such as changes in service, stock levels, changes in operating hours etc. This will essentially act as a ‘pinned post’ so any new posts will appear underneath this, ultimately maintaining its prominence. 

The post will remain in its position for 14 days – at which point it will need to be republished (provided conditions have remained the same). Furthermore, these posts are only able to utilise text content and are available to every type of business. 

One final takeaway is that these posts can only be created on the desktop version of Google My Business (the posts themselves however, are visible on both desktop and mobile SERPs).

4th April: Could Google’s search algorithm finally be revealed?

Recent developments in an ongoing court case that Google has been involved in now for the best part of ten years could potentially prove to have seismic ramifications for the California tech giants. There is a distinct possibility that Google may well be forced to reveal its search algorithm to an SEO involved in the case. 

The case itself was created upon the raising of a lawsuit in 2012 by a company called Foundem, who alleged that they were the victims of anti-competitive, malicious practices by Google. 

This was alleged to have taken place in 2006, when Foundem claimed that Google was deliberately ranking its own products above their own in search results. Foundem are now seeking a claim for damages for the loss of business that came about as a direct result of being ranked down on the SERPs.

Foundem was a vertical search engine which served as a comparison tool, helping users to find the cheapest price for certain products found online. Initially, it was only available to a limited group of users but Foundem swiftly opened its doors, enabling anyone to use its services. 

Just two days after opening their doors, Foundem discovered that they had been buried deep (often hundreds of pages deep) in Google’s Search results, despite previously ranking on the first page for a multitude of search terms. 

This drop in rankings however, was only relevant to Google. The fact that search performance was maintained across a host of other search engines was what raised suspicions among bosses at Foundem that Google had been conducting itself in an anti-competitive fashion.

8 years later and the case is still raging on. Google refuted these initial claims by providing confidential documents to the UK high court, which they felt exonerated them. The judge overseeing the current case described these documents as an attempt “to explain the operation and aims of Google’s ranking algorithms, and how they have been applied to shopping comparison sites generally and Foundem in particular”.

Foundem then argued that these documents would be too technical for a lawyer to comprehend and so requested the introduction of an SEO expert. Philipp Kloeckner, to be precise.

Predictably, Google were rather wary about passing such confidential documents on to an industry expert and released the following statement: 

The integrity of Google’s ranking processes relies upon all webmasters or website owners having the same degree of access to information about Google’s ranking… This will no longer be the case if information of this kind is made available to some individuals offering commercial services to assist companies to improve their Search ranking.

Google

Foundem countered this by suggesting that Google simply withdraw the documents so that they are never seen. Google, however, claimed that these documents were fundamental to its defence. 

And that is how we came to the current impasse.

In an attempt to aid the progression of the case, the judge stepped in with an ultimatum, stating that Google will have to either withdraw the documents or allow Kloeckner to view them. 

If Google refuse to withdraw and refuse to provide the documents to Kloeckner, the judge has stated that he will step in and grant the SEO expert with permission himself. 

It appears that Google is now somewhere between a rock and a hard place, with an incredibly difficult decision to make. That said, there is always the possibility of Google paying millions in damages and settling the case outside of court – albeit with the inevitable by-product of tarnishing of their image that would accompany such a decision. 

6th April: Google reveals how Covid-19 special announcements render on SERPs

Having shared news with you regarding Google’s plans to implement special Covid-19 structured data in March’s Google updates roundup, we finally get to see what they look like in Search Results.

Google Reveals What COVID-19 Special Announcement Schema Looks Like in S

As can be seen above, these rich results include a click to expand feature on the short summaries of various updates. This may not have been seen by too many people yet as it is currently only available for health and government agency websites. This said, Google has stated that it is still in the process of “actively developing” this feature, so it may well undergo both cosmetic and eligibility changes as the situation develops.  

There are currently two ways to implement this feature – through structured data on the web page itself, or via the submission of an announcement on Google Search Console.

Google strongly recommends using the former. This is because it the easiest way for Google to consume the information, as well as providing the additional benefit of status reports within Search Console moving forward. 

The alternative is to fill out a form via Google Search Console, as shown below. However, it is important to note that this tool is still in beta testing. 

oogle Reveals What COVID-19 Special Announcement Schema Looks Like in S

Google describes the Search Console method as a short-term solution and not their preferred process. These Search Console-driven announcements are temporary as they remain visible for just 30 days – at which point they require a manual update. Finally, this particular method of implementation does not allow tracking or reporting within Search Console itself. 

All in all, if you have the technological capability and require Covid-19 structured data implementation, we strongly recommend applying this on your webpage itself rather than utilising the simpler Search Console method.

6th April: Mueller offers advice on displaying your own meta descriptions on SERPs

Many of you will be familiar with the pain of spending hours writing enticing meta descriptions to improve your click-through rate from the SERPs, only to find a completely different piece of text on your result when you test it.

In a recent Google Webmasters Hangout, John Mueller offered advice as to why Google may replace your meta descriptions and what can be done to ensure that the one you wrote gets displayed. 

So, your meta description may be altered by Google because:

  • It is not relevant or useful to the user.
  • The meta description is duplicated across several pages.
  • The meta description is not relevant to the search query of the user, but other on-page content is. Thus, meta descriptions for a particular page can vary by search query.

Mueller claims that this is done to provide the most useful meta description to the user for their particular search query and that there is no way of forcing Google to use the meta description that you have written every single time.

He then proceeds to offer some advice on how you can encourage your own meta description to be shown the majority of the time:

  • Unique meta descriptions are written for every page.
  • They match what users would typically search for to find that page.
  • They’re short enough to adhere to the snippet length.

7th April: Mueller critical of Web 2.0 link building

In one of his regular Google Webmaster Hangouts, John Mueller addressed the problem of spammy web 2.0 link building. 

I’m sure you are all aware of the practice of setting up a profile on a social media site such as Tumblr or Slideshare in order to acquire a subdomain and then linking back to your own site in an attempt to acquire a ‘free backlink’.

This is an incredibly simplistic tactic, but as Mueller reiterates in this video, it is a fruitless exercise. Moreover, it may in fact harm your SEO if anything. The question he was asked in full is as follows:

How effective is old off page SEO like backlinks creation? Many agencies spend lots of time doing old off page activities such as image sharing with links, article submission on sites like Tumblr, classified sites and other free posting sites where people hardly read any of the posts but those platforms for dropping links with some text basically majority of their site has poor quality posts.

Mueller could not have been clearer with his riposte:

“So off hand, all of those examples that you mentioned are really terrible ways of promoting your website. So that’s something where if you hire an agency and they go off and post links on Tumblr, on classified sites and free posting sites and they claim this is going to help your website then I would move to some other agency. So just to be really clear like this kind of activity has zero value for SEO. It’s not something where you’re promoting your website in any way but rather essentially they’re spamming the web. So that’s something I would strongly discourage anyone from doing.”

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google

He then proceeded to discuss the importance of natural link building, by reinforcing the fact that the best type of backlinks are naturally acquired through the creation of high quality content. As ever, content is king!

8th April: Google launches blog series of SEO case studies

Google recently launched a new blog series on its Webmaster Central blog that share a number of case studies and success stories that serve to highlight the positive impact of SEO.

Google claimed that the purpose of this was to help convince certain sceptics of the importance of SEO through hard numbers in the form of case studies. This could help an individual to talk their boss round into investing in SEO, or perhaps to encourage a new client that their investment is worthwhile.

The first in the series highlighted how a company generated a 93% increase in new signups through SEO and can be read here.

We look forward to reading the rest of the series in due course. 

9th April: Mueller offers advice on URL structures of AMP pages

In a Google Webmasters Hangout, John Mueller was asked whether Google had a preferred structure of URL when it comes to AMP pages. 

Here is the question in its entirety:

I was wondering if there’s any best practice for the URL structure of AMP pages. If you use a sub-domain or a folder in the upper level you can have a better possibility for analyzing in different tools. But I was wondering if there’s any benefit for Google if you put your AMP pages under the root domain instead of a sub-domain or parameters.

Mueller responded that the only thing to take into account when it comes to the URL structure is that they are all on the same domain. After that, whether you choose to use subdomains or sub folders is irrelevant in terms of organic impact.

The one point that Mueller does labour is that you should not change your URL structure too regularly. This results in Google having to reprocess the URLs which may negatively impact search rankings. See his response in full below:

The other thing I would watch out for with these alternate URLs is that you don’t change the patterns too often. So, ideally, if you pick something like a sub-directory or a sub-domain then try to keep that for as long as you can. It’s not quite the same as if you change your primary URLs with regards to search, but any time you change URLs in general then we kind of have to reprocess that. If you’re changing the alternate URLs that are associated with every page on your site then that means we have to process a lot of URLs to kind of understand that new setup. So pick pick a sub-domain, or sub-directory, or parameters if you want. Whatever works best for you. And try to keep that setup, ideally, for the long run.

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google

12th April: Google must pay French news publishers 

Google recently lost an important legal case in France which has resulted in them being forced to remunerate French news publishers for their content that they have used. 

In France, the law states that digital organisations are to negotiate a fair price for use of their content. However, this recent ruling from the French Competition Authority found that news organisations had been forced by Google to comply by allowing their content to be used for free.

Instead of complying with this legal necessity to provide a fair price, Google simply withdrew French news from displaying on its website.

Here is a translated quote of the decision from the French Competition Authority:

Google unilaterally decided that it would no longer display article extracts, photographs and videos within its various services, unless the publishers give it to them. free of charge. In practice, the vast majority of press publishers have granted Google free licenses for the use and display of their protected content, without negotiation and without receiving any remuneration from Google.

French Competition Authority

Google has now been given three months to negotiate in good faith with French news publishers in order to financially compensate them for the use of their titles, snippets and images.

Of course, this is a financial blow to the California tech giants, but the potential ramifications could feasibly be far more severe. The precedent has now been created that Google will have to pay news publishers for using their snippets, images and titles moving forward.

Google’s argument for not doing so is that it actually helps publishers by sending them traffic. This particular court case has found the contrary to be true and it will certainly be interesting to see how events unfold now from a global perspective. We are intrigued to see how the situation progresses from here on. 

13th April: Mueller offers advice on removing pages for SEO 

During a recent office hours hangout, Google guru John Mueller was asked about the ins and outs of removing poorly performing pages in an attempt to improve the performance of other pages on the website. He then provided a nuanced, helpful response to this. 

It is not an uncommon idea that removing poorly performing pages can help to optimise crawl budget, as this particular website owner attests to with his question to Mueller:

Can it help SEO by reducing web pages by marking our product pages noindex, which have almost zero impressions in the last 16 months. Currently 10 to 15% pages are like this and they’re just dead weight on our site. I was wondering that after noindexing such pages we will submit fewer pages to Google in the sitemap and Google could focus on the rest of our site better.

Mueller then began his response by stating that there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to removing pages from Google’s indexing for SEO purposes:

It’s something that I know some sites do. I think it is not a totally unreasonable approach to say that the pages that nobody cares about I essentially removed from my website. But it’s something where I wouldn’t just blindly do this. So if you’re just blindly focusing on the number of impressions that you have for individual products and you drop them from search then it’s very easy to drop things that are actually useful but they’re just not that common.

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google

Essentially, Mueller is saying that it depends entirely on the page itself and you must ask yourself why exactly it is underperforming. There is no blanket rule. Simply using impressions to justify removing a page is a futile exercise. 

He then proceeded to discuss the idea that having fewer pages causes higher rankings. He states that this isn’t always the case but it can help certain websites:

With regards to just having fewer pages and those fewer pages then ranking higher, I don’t see that happening so much. It can help for a very large website to reduce the number of pages that they provide just purely from a technical point of view and that if we can like crawl 1/10th of the pages on a website and it’s a lot easier for us to pick up those 1/10th of those pages a lot faster.

That can in turn help us to figure out well maybe these are the pages that are really important for the website. But if you’re just dropping a handful of pages here and there, I don’t think it changes anything for crawling and probably not much for the website in search overall.

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google

All in all, it’s all about tackling the removal of pages on a case by case basis. It could be that a page simply needs improving or updating. For example, if an old product page no longer gains traction due to a newer version of that product coming out, then maybe the old product page should reflect this and allude to the newer version.

At MintTwist, we echo Mueller’s sentiment and strongly suggest taking the time to analyse each and every page before simply removing it because it does not generate enough traffic.

13th April: Google introduces new healthcare features for search

Google is attempting to aid the connection between patients and virtual healthcare providers with the introduction of two new features in April. 

The first of these serves to highlight a potential virtual offering on the profile of any healthcare providers currently utilising Google My Business. 

In most cases, clicking this link will take the user through to a landing page where they are able to directly book a virtual appointment with that institution. An example of what this will look like on the SERPs can be seen below.

Google's new feature to book a virtual appointment

The second feature aims to offer the user important information on the virtual healthcare service provided by a given institution, such as price and relation to health insurance. 

ew Google Search Features Help Connect People With Virtual Healthcare Options

We can see above what this will look like, and Google’s statement on its release is as follows:

For example, when people search for “immediate care”, we’ll be able to also present available virtual care options and related information such as the out-of-pocket price charged for a visit (for those without insurance) and an easy way for people to directly connect with the virtual care platform.

Google

In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, virtual healthcare is more important than it’s ever been and this is reflected in the search habits of Google’s users – hence the rollout of these new features.

13th April: Google offers insight into how search behaviour has changed during the Covid-19 pandemic

Google has offered an incredibly useful and intriguing insight into how search behaviours have changed during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Google identified the 5 main areas in which search behaviour has altered:

  • Assembling critical information
  • Discovering new connections
  • Adjusting to changes in their routines
  • Praising everyday heroes
  • Taking care of themselves and others

We will now delve into each of these areas in more depth.

Consumers have a critical need for new content to help them get by and adapt to the recent changes in life. Retailers are moving to delivery methods, schools are closed, much of the workforce is staying at home, among other changes. Businesses and organizations need to provide clear, specific information with details about where, how, and when to get the things they need.

Assembling critical information

This reflects the need to inform customers of changes to the running of your business in the current global situation and how you are adapting to this new way of life. This includes information such as changes to delivery methods, closure of schools, whether your business is working from home etc.

Google offers the following information with regards to critical information:

  • Acknowledge the new reality
  • Give people credible, detailed, and current information about your operations. Reinforce that you’re there to help
  • Regularly update communications across your website, blogs, social handles, and Google My Business page
  • Be flexible. Help customers with cancellations, refunds, and customer service

Discovering new connections

In a strange way, many people have rekindled old relationships or improved existing relationships as a result of the state of lockdown. This could be virtual or possibly even with members of the same household. This should be reflected in the behaviour of businesses – find new ways to connect to both local and global customers and attempt to encourage shared experiences.

Google also noted the spike in search interest of these topics:

  • “With me” videos on YouTube
  • “Study with me” videos up 54% year-over-year
  • “Bulk cook with me” and “disinfect with me” are also trending right now
  • Multiplayer video games
  • Virtual happy hour

Adjusting to changes in their routines

The current state of isolation for the vast majority of us has also led to changes in routine, which is reflected in search behaviour. For example, Google states the increase in search interest for DIY queries and home workout queries.

That said, there has also been high interest in watching others adapt to their new routines. Google offered the following advice for aiding this adaptation of routines:

  • Let people know that solutions are available whenever, wherever
  • Assess when people need you most, whether through your own first-party data (like site analytics or email opens) or Google Trends, and adjust your communications strategy accordingly
  • Update or publish often. There’s a need for content that informs, entertains, connects, and promotes wellness

Praising everyday heroes

We have also noted an incredible increase in gratitude being shown to ‘key workers’ up and down the country, highlighted by the weekly clap for the NHS every Thursday at 20:00.

Google provided the following recommendations for joining in with this support:

  • Look for people who are helping, and find ways to support or celebrate them
  • Consider who the heroes are among your employees, your customers, or even your local community
  • Consider whether you have nonhuman heroes that can contribute, like your technology, your operational rigour, or your equipment

Taking care of themselves and others

The current lockdown has also led to many paying far more attention to the physical and psychological wellbeing of themselves and others.

Google note a significant increase in search activity around physical and virtual activities which aid people in this process, such as ‘puzzles’, ‘relaxation’ and ‘virtual tours’. They offer the following advice:

  • Facilitate virtual collaborations with outdoor spaces and the cultural institutions people yearn to visit
  • Join the conversation about home-based health and well-being
  • Pivot to platforms and formats that make sense for people staying home

Finally, Google also notes that a survey they conducted towards the end of March showed that 84% of consumers have had their loyalty to a brand impacted by their behaviour in the current market. What are you waiting for? Go forth and connect!

a timeline showing google updates from April 2020 part 2

15th April: Google replace physical conferences with online video series

Google announced a new crossover event that will bring together its top advocates into a mega series of videos that will be released throughout the year covering a number of topics that will be similar to those discussed at Google Webmaster Conferences. 

Confirmed participants so far are:

  • Martin Splitt – Google Developer Advocate
  • Daniel Waisberg – Google Search Advocate
  • John Mueller – Google Search Advocate
  • John Brown – Publisher Policy Outreach Lead

By moving these talks online and removing the requirement of registration, Google is bringing its information to you and massively improving accessibility. 

Subtitles will be available in the following languages:

  • Vietnamese
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
  • Hindi
  • Russian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Indonesian
  • Chinese
  • English

You can watch a short trailer for the upcoming series below:

20th April: Martin Splitt offers SEO advice on infinite scrolling

In a recent tech SEO virtual conference titled ‘Better Together’, which was held on 14th April, Google’s Martin Splitt took the time to remind SEOs that Googlebot cannot scroll through pages. Consequently, this can lead to critical indexation issues. 

In the conference itself, Splitt referred to a specific example that he had previously encountered where a website’s content was missing from Google’s Search index due to the implementation of infinite scrolling. He also revealed how he fixed the issue. 

Infinite scrolling, or lazy loading as it is also known, means that content only loads when a user scrolls to the bottom of the page. Of course, as mentioned, the major issue here is that Googlebot does not scroll. Instead, it lands on a page and crawls whatever is immediately visible. Ultimately, this will lead to a whole host of content being left out of Google’s index.

Splitt went on to state that users should not just rely on scrolling – although native lazy loading for images and the use of IntersectionObserver API is adequate. 

In the instance that lazy loading is imperative to the website, then the JavaScript library must support loading data when it enters the viewport.

An alternative to the above is utilising paginated loading. This is Google’s official choice of implementation, who offer the following statement on the subject:

If you are implementing an infinite scroll experience, make sure to support paginated loading.

Paginated loading is important for users because it allows them to share and reengage with your content. It also allows Google to show a link to a specific point in the content, rather than the top of an infinite scrolling page.

Google

So, in order for your website to effectively utilise paginated loading, you must be able to provide a unique, shareable link to each section of the webpage that takes the user directly to that section. 

Splitt then proceeds to highlight the importance of testing and the fact that the user involved in this specific case study could have avoided the issue altogether with sufficient testing. 

During the conference, Splitt used screenshare to showcase how he discovered the problem himself by utilising Google’s rich results test. This allows you to view the exact content that Googlebot can crawl upon landing on any given URL.

Google’s Martin Splitt Explains Why Infinite Scroll Causes SEO Problems

The key takeaway from this is that testing is imperative before pushing a website live or implementing a new feature, such as infinite scrolling or lazy loading.

21 April: It is now free to sell products on Google Search Results

Google recently announced that it will now be free for merchants to list their products on Google Shopping.

This change has now rolled out in the US and will be available globally by the end of the year according to Google. Google Shopping results will now consist primarily of free listings, although the paid listing route is still available in return for more prominent positioning. 

Google stated that this action was being taken in an effort to support struggling businesses who could not afford to pay to be featured on Google Shopping, as highlighted in the quote below:

And as consumers increasingly shop online, they’re searching not just for essentials but also things like toys, apparel, and home goods. While this presents an opportunity for struggling businesses to reconnect with consumers, many cannot afford to do so at scale. With hundreds of millions of shopping searches on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online.

Google

A Merchant Center account is required in order to take advantage of this new offering and Google is currently working on streamlining the onboarding process. We strongly recommend creating an account as soon as possible so that you are best placed to exploit this new process.

22nd April: How long does it take to rank a new URL after implementing a 301 redirect?

During a recent Ask Google Webmasters video, John Mueller was asked the following question regarding 301 redirects:

After a 301 redirect, how long does it take Google to start ranking the NEW URL instead of the old one? I did a redirect from A to B with 301, then Google indexed BOTH but instead of ranking the new one, Google is still ranking the old URL.

Interestingly, Mueller’s response highlighted the fact that Google does not help its own SEO team with SEO questions! Here is the start of his reply:

That’s something that even the SEO team within Google wanted to ask us. Unfortunately, we can’t help the Google SEO team with SEO questions.

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google

Mueller goes on to discuss how 301 redirects are merely one of many factors when it comes to recognizing the canonical version of a given URL. 

At a general level, a 301 redirect is just a signal for canonicalization. You’re telling us you’d prefer to have the destination page indexed rather than the originating one. And that’s fine. However, we use lots of factors for canonicalization, not just redirects… In practice, what happens here is we spot the redirect, but we also look at the other factors.

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google

These factors include:

  • Internal links
  • Sitemap files
  • References to that URL

If all factors align, then Google will treat the destination URL as canonical.

To summarise, if internal links are updated, along with the sitemap files and other references to the original page now point to the URL, then Google should realise the ‘true’ canonical. Additionally, if there is a backlink from an authoritative external domain, you should reach out and request that they update the link.

RELATED
How businesses can benefit from internal link building

The most definitive way to check which URL Google sees as the canonical is to use the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console, as shown below.

23rd April: Google introduces new feature to keep tabs on films and TV shows to watch

Google has launched a new watchlist feature that allows users to keep tabs on any films or TV shows that they want to watch. They released the following statement:

When you’re deciding on a TV show or movie to watch, there are a lot of options out there. And figuring out what content is available across all your subscriptions can be time consuming and overwhelming. You can already find TV and movie recommendations in Search and today we’re adding a new Watchlist tab on mobile, so that you can keep track of what to watch next.”

Google

Of course people are able to collate their own lists any way they see fit, but this new feature provides a convenient centralised method that allows users to maintain a robust list. This can be accessed by searching “what to watch”, as shown below:

Google Search Adds Feature For Keeping Track of Movies & Shows to W

Users will be able to scroll through the personalised recommendations and click ‘watchlist’ in order to add them to their list. The list itself will be linked to the user’s Google account, so will be available across devices. 

With the current lockdown, we’re getting through a tonne of TV shows and movies at the moment and many of us at MintTwist will certainly be taking advantage of this new feature!

23rd April: “There aren’t any great matches for your search”

There was a strange development in April when Google announced it would be informing users that no results could be found for their search query with the following messaging:

oogle Now Tells You: There Aren’t Any Great Matches for Your Search

While we are all aware (particularly those of you who are regular readers of our Google Update Roundups!) that Google is constantly striving to improve its algorithm in order to better understand language and search habits, finding a relevant answer to certain search queries is not always possible.

The idea behind introducing the messaging was to save users time and prevent them from scrolling through a plethora of irrelevant search results. Furthermore, the messaging also provides alternative search queries that may help the user find exactly what they are looking for.

While users are free to still scan through the results pages, Google suggests that this is largely unnecessary:

Starting today in the US, we’re rolling out a new message that lets you know when Google hasn’t been able to find anything that matches your search particularly well. While you can still go through the results to see for yourself if they’re helpful, the message is a signal that we probably haven’t found what you’re looking for.

Google

26th April: Google releases Covid-19 marketing strategy playbook

Towards the end of April, Google released its Covid-19 Marketing Playbook which is designed to provide a framework to businesses for creating a marketing a strategy during the pandemic. It has been based on Google’s own observations on how businesses are coping with the rapidly developing state of play.

The playbook itself outlines three methods for economic recovery:

  1. Respond
  2. Rebuild
  3. Recover/Reframe

These are explained in more detail below:

oogle Coronavirus Marketing Playbook

The playbook then proceeds to discuss the three stages of a marketing strategy:

  1. Consumer insights to drive your approach
  2. Assess the impact on your business
  3. Take action now

Google also identified three major search patterns during the current pandemic that would help to better understand consumer insight:

  1. Shock
    Sudden change in behaviour, unlikely to sustain
    Example: Searches related to school closings
  2. Step change
    Sudden change in behaviour, may sustain …showing signs of stabilization at elevated levels
    Example: Home workout related searches
  3. Speed up
    Acceleration of existing behaviour, may sustain …showing signs of continued behaviour for now
    Example: Delivery related searches

In order to identify industry-specific search patterns that can help formulate an efficient marketing strategy, Google recommends the four following tools:

  • Google Trends – Visualisation of actual search trends. This shows the increase/decrease in usage of a particular search term by date or geographic area etc.
  • Google Alerts – Create custom alerts that are directly delivered to your email inbox, highlighting the latest news/mentions of a chose keyword or topic
  • Shopping Insights – See shopping trends for certain product categories/brands
  • Find My Audience – Identify your YouTube audience

All in all, the new playbook is a very useful starting point for businesses hoping to maintain productivity and sales during this difficult period.

You can download the playbook in its entirety right here. Why not get started on your own digital strategy today?

27th April: PageRank ebook by Princeton University available for free

Highly regarded search expert Bill Slawski recently tweeted a link to a free, comprehensive book on PageRank published by Princeton University. 

The book provides an in depth view on how search engines rank different web pages. The detail of the book is currently unprecedented when it comes to examining PageRank and exactly how it works. 

Over the course of 100 pages and 7 chapters, the book delves deep into the inner workings of how search engines rank pages. This includes investigating the mathematics behind PageRank, the sensitivity of it and large scale implementation issues among other topics. 

While a lot of the information is now outdated, the book itself delivers incredibly interesting and comprehensive insight into the science behind PageRank, providing readers with a general overview of how search engines work.

You can download the book in its entirety here.

29th April: Google rarely show sitelinks search boxes on SERPs

During a recent Google Webmaster Central office hours hangout from 28th April, John Mueller stated that sitelinks search boxes are rarely shown on the SERPs, even with the inclusion of structured data markup.

A question was asked by an SEO during the hangout who stated that his boss was upset as the sitelinks search box was not displaying on the SERPs.

Here is Mueller’s response to that question:

With regards to sitelinks search box, this is kind of a tricky one and something I see people struggle with from time to time. The hard part here is that adding the markup does not make it more likely that a sitelink search box will be shown. But rather, if we were to show one, we would use one that’s based on your markup. So it’s very rare, or it feels very rare, that we would show a sitelink search box in general – for queries, for sites. And only for those cases where we would show it, if you have the markup we’ll try to use the markup, if you don’t have it we’ll just use the default setup. So that’s something where, if you’re currently not seeing a sitelink searchbox at all, then adding the markup for that will have no effect.”

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google

This point is not a new one by any means, as the official Google developer document states that:

Google doesn’t guarantee that a sitelinks search box will be shown in search results. Additionally, using the sitelinks search box markup doesn’t make it more likely that a sitelinks search box will be shown.

Google’s developer document

Furthermore, there is an element of expectation management when it comes to the implementation of any type of structured data. This is simply a means of communicating to Google exactly how you want your rich results to be displayed. However, whether this happens is down to Google’s algorithm itself. 

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