In the month of February, we have seen small updates by Google across many different services including normal search results, Maps, Gmail, AdWords and Images. From an uncertain start to SEO with what seemed to be a large algorithm change to increased requirements for companies to remain on the Google partnership programme, it’s been an especially active month for digital marketers.
We have compiled all the most significant changes, news pieces and potential algorithm updates in February 2020 from Google in this article to be viewed in their entirety from start to finish!
4th Feb – February Google algorithm updates early in the month
During the start of February, we saw an increase in turbulence in the SERP hinting that Google were making significant changes to their algorithm. Webmasters saw traffic dipping and spiking throughout this period. This volatility sky-rocketed during 8th to 13th February signalling google were making significant changes between these dates as we can see from the SEMrush sensor graph below:
Google remained mysterious, confirmed this turbulence wasn’t a core update and referred to questions about the potentially large update with “we do updates all the time”. This could be an indication that Google will continue to make large adjustments to the algorithm in the near future without prior warning or confirmation of these said updates.
6th Feb – Google searches with iPhone’s Siri
Google search capabilities were announced to become available to Siri on iOS phones and tablets devices. iOS users will have to update their devices to use this feature so may take a while to have an effect on SEO. Although it does demonstrate Google’s willingness to introduce voice searches in queries; which potentially means more long-tailed keywords and further prioritisation of mobile indexation.
6th Feb – Google notified advertisers that shopping ads will display on Gmail
Google Ads notified advertisers who use the platform that shopping ads will soon be able reach Gmail users. Google has stated that this feature will be enabled 4th March 2020. Shopping campaigns will be automatically shown on Gmail providing advertisers have selected “YouTube, Gmail, and Discover” under the “networks tab”.
6th Feb – A lot of awesome features announced for Google maps
Google released this blog post updating users about the new features planned for Google maps. The update is based around 5 tabs:
- Explore: displays the surrounding area on the map and highlights the most significant places.
- Commute: allows users to plan optimal journeys to their desired destinations giving users traffic updates and live public transport information.
- Saved: users can save their favourite locations in neat lists which are displayed on the map in the explore section.
- Contribute: users can update information about the local area which is then served to other users.
- Updates: gives users live updates and recommendations from local business and publishers.
Further features are being added to the commute section, allowing users to filter public transport journeys depending on these details: temperature, accessibility, women’s section, number of carriages (Japan only) and security onboard.
Google is also updating the live view function to show users directions in an augmented reality-like view after taking a snapshot of the surrounding area.
13th Feb – New requirements for companies to retain Google partnership
Google announced new, harder requirements for companies to remain as an official Google partner. These changes include a minimum spend of $20,000 USD across 90 days, half of the users under the company’s Google Ads account to be Google Ads certified and performance based on Google’s optimisation score recommendations.
The full table below shows the changes in the requirements in more detail:
We will have to wait and see until the end of June (when Google introduces the updated Partnership programme) to see the full requirements, especially relating to the changes in the “company performance” criteria.
20th Feb – Licencing information beta testing in image search results pages
Google began beta testing a new feature in image search result pages. This feature will allow users to see if a specific image is licensable. Within this feature will include two links:
- A link to the page which explains the image’s use.
- A link to a page where the user can potentially licence the image.
Sites should look to use image licence metadata on each image where licencing is applicable before the update actually goes live. However, it has to be kept in mind that this won’t affect SERP rankings as stated by John Mueller in this tweet:
If this is something relevant to your site, instruction on how to introduce this meta data in your images can be found in this guide from Google.
24th Feb – Sites being displayed differently in the top of local SERPs
Google began displaying third-party sites in prime positions in local search result pages called “Find results on”. These results can sometimes appear before or after paid results depending on the type of query.
However, this feature is only included in queries coming from Europe and so is likely to be Google’s response to the fine issued by the European courts accusing Google for promoting its own services in result pages.
Although results like these only appear in Europe, it could be a good idea for SEOs to attempt to compete for the new high value real estate on these results pages.
25th Feb – Google introduced new thumbnails in image result pages
Google added a new feature to Image SERPs which displays what type of content the image leads to: recipe, video or product. This will allow users to find the content they are looking for quicker.
With the introduction of this feature, however, Google has removed image size text which used to be displayed on the bottom left of each image thumbnail while being moused-over. Users will have to expand the image in order to view the image size.
26th Feb – Google punishing sites hosting guest posts?
Usually, sites receiving a lot of inbound spammy, low quality or links from obvious link schemes get punished by Google. However, recently there were increasing stories of Google imposing manual actions on sites which have published guest posts with outbound links at the end of February. It’s still unclear whether Google has introduced stricter rules in relation to guest posting but the evidence is there.
If you are worried about this affecting your site, label outgoing links in guest posts as nofollow/sponsored you should be in the clear. This tweet from Google’s Gary Illyes seems to confirm this.
It’s been another eventful month from Google; a lot of cool updates, improvements from a lot of Google’s services and, as always from an SEO point of view, mystery. A lot of Google’s announcements will start going live early March with an impact further down the line. We will be back with another roundup of Google updates next month to discuss the impact of these changes and future updates!