There have been quite a few major updates that have come out in the last month, so we’ve summarised and analysed the major changes and updates for you to read and learn.
Microsoft released a free new analytical platform in October called ‘Clarity’ which enables website managers to review and measure the engagement between the user and the site.
Clarity provides engagement metrics, website performance data and debugging information. This will help marketers and website managers to accurately map out the user journey and see what parts of the website they are engaging with.
Microsoft also stated that this tool is compliant with all of the GDPR laws which means that it respects the user’s privacy. Along with this, there are no traffic caps to use this platform and Microsoft says that adding the tracking code to your website will not decrease the performance of the site.
The main features of Clarity include recording of users sessions which you can playback, page heatmaps and an insight dashboard.
Sessions Playback: Review how your users are interacting and navigating through your site by watching their sessions.
Page Heatmaps: Find out which parts of a page attract the most amount of attention to optimising your pages further.
Insights Dashboard: At a glance, you will be able to see where users are clicking and where you can further optimise your page.
For US retailers, Google will highlight promotions and deals run by the merchant. This change by Google is an effort to give retailers maximum exposure whilst giving the users the best deals available.
Previously an interest form was required to use promotions on ads. However, the process has been made much simpler and quicker as now Google will automatically enable promotions. Retailers can edit the promotions directly in Merchant Center and the approval time has been reduced to just a matter of hours.
Google will highlight promoted products across the following surfaces:
Google has been a big advocate of AI, using it to help their algorithms to better understand user intent so they can provide relevant results. Google AI efforts have stepped up recently with more updates using natural language software and with improvements made to Google Assistant. Now, Google has made further updates on how AI is used for Google search.
BERT – When BERT was originally announced, it was used in 10% of search queries. But Google announced that they are now using BERT in almost every English language search query. This allows Google to better understand every search term, rather than certain types or longer queries.
Spelling – Google announced a new spelling algorithm that helps Google to better understand misspelt words and the context they’re in. This will allow them to produce relevant results even when the query has been misspelled.
Passages – Google is now indexing passages within a page and not just the web pages itself. This will impact 7% of search enquiries and will mean that passages from a web page can be ranked when returning a search query. This will enable users to find more specific information which is located deep into the website.
Subtopics – A greater diversity of web results will start appearing for broad search enquiries, instead of only just one particular topic. This will result in increased competition for broad keywords but will give an opportunity for certain web pages to appear for broad keywords when they didn’t have an opportunity before.
Video – The new Google AI can understand videos and assign a tag to describe what it’s about so that they can send users directly to the video. With the rise of video marketing, this update highlights the importance of videos to both users and Google.
The indexation of passages by Google is an update that seems to be slightly overlooked in terms of potential impact on interaction by web users. Put into perspective, it was estimated that around 3.1% of English search queries were impacted by the initial Penguin update. With an estimate of 7 – 10% of searches being impacted by the “passage index” update, expect some noise to be raised when this kicks into gear.
There is definitely an opportunity with this update for the “little guys” to compete for high volume questions that everyone is answering.
On the other hand, if the answer is provided on SERP then how many people will actually visit the page?
If you’re not already creating content that “educates” and provides answers for your target audience, it’s time to do so.
At Honchō, we’ve come across retail and e-commerce platforms who have performed extremely well doing this. And with the updates to indexation of passages and an increase in “sub-topics” to broader search terms, strategically creating content is a must.
Google has been providing live busyness information for some restaurants and businesses in the SERPs, but they’ve now announced that this real-time reporting feature is expanding globally. Millions of locations and businesses around the world will now have live information on how busy they are.
This update is now also moving into Google Maps. The new feature will mean that this information always shows, even when users aren’t searching for a specific location.
Adding live busyness information is not the only update made to Google Maps in the last month. They’ve also made updates to Live View and announced they have a new method of verifying information for businesses that show on Google Maps and Search.
Users navigating themselves with Live View will be able to learn more about a restaurant, store or business as you see them. You’ll be able to use Live View to quickly see if a business is open, their rating, how busy it is and their health and safety information.
As well as this, Google has announced that they are using their conversational technology, Duplex, to call and verify the business information on Google Maps and Search. These updates will allow users to learn the latest situations. Health and safety information is now at the front and centre on Maps & Search.
With the level of detail and information provided by Google Maps significantly increasing (and likely to continue increasing over time), having a business that offers great value will be more important than ever.
For example, even if you have great “service” reviews but have a low food hygiene rating score, this could be something that is flagged and impacts your digital marketing significantly moving forward.
Along with the optimisation of your SEO and digital marketing, the quality of your service and external factors will play a strong role in the success of your business and online performance.
Ensure all your business achievements and awards are highlighted where possible.
Brand reputation management is a key part of digital marketing, so where your business has a low score or a negative results/review, show that you’re tackling the problem. In the case of a review, make sure to respond. In the case of a negative business score or detail; respond if you can, assuring the public you are fixing the “issue”.
Google announced in mid-October that the “Request Indexing” feature within Google Search Console will be temporarily disabled to make some “infrastructure changes”. This feature is expected to be disabled for at least a few weeks. However, as of the 6th of November, this feature is still disabled.
Requesting indexation can speed up the process of indexing a page but it does not guarantee indexation. However, this feature is very heavily used by SEOs and website managers alike. Google stated that they’ll continue to find & index content through their regular methods, but without the index requesting tool, new pages might be slightly slower to be indexed.
At Honchō we see our fair share of SEO migrations and if you’ve ever worked on these then you know the potential challenge of ensuring no/minimal loss of organic traffic.
During the period of Request Indexing not being available, we ran into the challenge of not being able to submit some post-migration URLs for a client.
As well as using the XML sitemap submission to ensure new URLs were captured, we also ensured internal links from well-established pages to these new pages were implemented. We now have a set of new product pages already appearing on the first page of SERP just two weeks later.
According to Bloomberg, Google is looking to turn YouTube into a shopping destination, allowing users to purchase a product they see in product reviews, unboxing videos, tutorials and so on. Consumers already use YouTube to determine whether to make a purchase or not, so Google wants to make the most of this opportunity by adding functions to let consumers make the purchase on YouTube itself as well.
A YouTube spokesperson confirmed that product tagging features are being tested with a limited number of channels and YouTube creators are being asked to tag and track products shown in their videos. However, it’s unclear how Google will make money or if the YouTubers also profit from this. Google has labelled the project so far to be an “experiment”.
Google is always experimenting and testing things out but this would be a major new update to everyone’s favourite video sharing platform. It would undoubtedly add revenue opportunities for creators but also could help improve the conversion rate for those who advertise on YouTube if users are able to complete the purchase without ever having to leave the app.
At the beginning of October, Google confirmed that they are experiencing two separate indexation issues, regarding mobile indexation and canonicalisation.
Site managers were not able to change or update anything on their part to resolve this issue so they had to wait till Google fixed it themselves.
The Google Search Liaison Twitter account has since confirmed that they’ve resolved both issues.
Web Stories have been appearing in search results since 2019, but now it’s been added to Google Discover. A section at the top of Discover will have a dedicated Google Web Stories carousel for users in India, the US and Brazil with plans to extend it to more countries as well.
This increases visibility for those who post Web Stories as the Discover section in the Google App reaches over 800 million people per month. This is a great opportunity for website owners to post Web Stories to gain much more exposure to their website and potentially gain more traffic. Web Stories look and feel similar to Instagram stories, but unlike Instagram, Web Stories are hosted on the publishers own websites, giving them full control.