We know just how difficult it can be to keep up to date with all the updates that Google throws at us.
That’s why we’ve decided to compose a monthly roundup of all the latest SEO news, tool releases and tips.
So, what’s been happening in the world of search this November?
Feeling lost with Google’s algorithms at the minute?
You’re not alone.
November seems to have been quite a volatile month in terms of Google updates with little clarity about what has actually happened.
We’ve pulled out three major updates that seem to have had the most impact across a range of industries. If you haven’t suffered this month, you may be one of the lucky ones!
Okay, we know what you’re thinking, BERT happened in October, but it seems unfair not to mention it and share our insights with you in our first SEO News Monthly Roundup; after all, this has been claimed to be the biggest step forward for Search in the last 5 years.
BERT is all about improving the relevance of results to users by improving Google’s ability to interpret and understand natural human language and provide better results for long tail search queries. Whereas words can often have multiple meanings, BERT enables Google to pick up on which meaning it is that the user is looking for depending on the context of the rest of their search.
To rank highly according to the BERT update, content needs to be optimised for users and not Google bots. So, in short, no, you can’t do anything specifically to optimise for BERT.
Content that is optimised for users should still include keywords, but these should be fluently weaved into natural, conversational content that simply answers the user’s questions. And if you think about how humans ask questions, their search queries are more likely to be long tail, so your content should naturally include long tail queries to increase its relevance.
Google will also now be able to understand over-optimisation that you may have done previously. So, just focus on writing for human users, not for machines and you shouldn’t have an issue.
Side note: BERT is currently only affecting 1 in 10 search queries in the US and the rankings affected are long tail keywords so you may not see much, if any, impact in your daily tracking.
For normal humans this is great news; the ability to search for an answer naturally rather than having to type in multiple words lacking any sort of flow. But it may not be for SEOers that have become accustomed to fitting multiple keywords in to any given sentence in an attempt to increase their rankings.
But this should be a good thing in the end. Whilst you’ve been focusing your optimisation efforts on pleasing Google, you may have forgotten about optimising for maximum conversions. By improving the relevance of your content to answer users’ questions in plain English, you will also improve the chances of users finding you when they actually need you rather than accidentally.
SEO win – an increase in longtail relevancy.
Bonus wins – a decrease in bounce rate and an increase in conversions.
In early November, we saw an impact felt across many industries as Google released an unannounced update which seemed to only do favours for spam sites.
It has been questioned whether this is just further impacts of BERT but this is unconfirmed. Infact, Google rather denies that the update was even significant at all, claiming it was just another “regular update”.
However, the reaction of many businesses across many industries tells us different, with Twitter in uproar off the back of this Google SearchLiason tweet.
Due to the lack of clarity at the minute, our best advice is to continue to look where quality of experience can be improved and monitor the impact of further updates on this.
Perhaps the most notable change to Google’s algorithm in November is the local SEO update, which is the biggest shake-up of local SEO since the introduction of the Possum back in 2016.
Google caused chaos in early November, changing their local SEO algorithm to focus even more tightly on proximity. This means that businesses closest to where a user performs a search are favoured, and, unfortunately, as with previous local updates, spam sites benefitted in terms of the Google Maps rankings. Google does, however, seem to have made a few adjustments to the initial algorithm update with rankings restoring in some places.
One good thing we have seen from the local algorithm update is that the changes relate to relevance. Rather than focusing purely on the category a business sets in their Google My Business account, Google is now paying more attention to the wider set of search terms that apply to businesses allowing them to rank for those too.
As with the increase in spam locally, businesses and SEO agencies need to become more vigilant about fighting against spam. The update may also see an increase in Paid ads amongst businesses who want to quickly extend their radius.
Aside from the updates which may have hindered your performance, there are a few notable tool updates which may help you understand how to get back on track.
There have been a couple of helpful updates to Google Search Console this month which can help you understand where and how you can continue to improve your site’s rankings.
A new report captures data for your Product rich results.
Product rich data that is shown by Google includes helpful information for users such as your product descriptions, price and availability. You can now look at the impressions and clicks that these rich results generate via Google Search Console’s Performance report.
Click into Search Appearance then ‘Product Results’ to see:
This is helpful to understand your search performance for your product rich results so that you can then optimise these.
A new Speed report classifies URLs by speed and identifies issues causing slowness.
The new Speed report in Google Search Console couldn’t have come at a better time with Google’s current focus on page speed as a ranking factor. At the same time, users’ expectations of websites are rising with over 50% of users leaving a site that doesn’t load within 3 seconds.
As well as monitoring your site over time (which you should be doing anyway), this report should prove useful to track fixes you have made to your site to evaluate their impact on performance.
Using this report, you won’t need to guess how you can improve your site anymore – you’ve got the data in front of you. And these results of page speed reductions speak for themselves.
Great news for all you keen analysts out there!
Google Site Kit is a brand new plugin available for WordPress sites which allows data from your Google Analytics, Search Console, AdSense, PageSpeed Insights, Tag Manager and Optimize to flow straight into your WordPress.
So, this plugin isn’t just for SEO but it highlights the cross-overs between SEO and CRO or PPC. It’s a great plugin for site owners, web developers and agencies alike.
If you’re still feeling lost with the latest SEO updates, get in touch, we’d love to see how we can help you respond to these changes and improve your search engine rankings.