Did you find yourself falling behind in the run up to Christmas and New Year? No need to worry, our December 2019 SEO Roundup is here to help you get caught up so you can start the new year on track.
The Local Search update was finally confirmed by Google in early December and now we can provide a little more guidance on how to deal with it.
Neural matching is an AI method of connecting words with concepts to understand what a search is asking for. It is explained as a super-synonym system that allows Google to make better connections between users’ search queries and the most relevant local businesses.
This update means that Google no longer only considers only the business name and description to sort out local search results and that businesses can rank highly even if the keywords from the user’s search are not included in the businesses’ name or description. This will certainly benefit those businesses whose names are not particularly keyword-friendly.
Perhaps annoyingly, our advice is that you shouldn’t do anything specifically to adapt to this update.
A positive from the latest local update is that keyword spam in business names won’t have as much effect as Google will now not rely on the name alone to rank. Google is now looking at much more than just the business name, which highlights the importance of embedding your keywords throughout your content even for local SEO.
So, unless you’re relying on spam tactics to rank (we hope not), there’s nothing to change, you can just continue to boost your local SEO ranking through the likes of Google My Business and building relevant links.
Google stated that this was a global update and has finished rolling out but that local search results are still likely to shift further over time. So keep an eye out for any further movement.
Following the introduction of the BERT update in October 2019, which only affected 10% of US English queries, it was revealed by Google on the 9th December that BERT had finally rolled out worldwide to over 70 languages.
The BERT update provides a way for Google to better understand and interpret natural human language and thus provide more relevant answers to users’ search queries. This is because the BERT update means Google can understand the relationships between entities and the finer nuances and context of searches with modifiers to allow for a more specific focus rather than just on the core terms in the query.
In simple terms, BERT allows Google to understand exactly what users are searching for and provide results to answer just that. Even words that can have multiple meanings can be identified correctly by Google, due to the rest of the search query to allow for relevant results only.
We can expect to see some wobbles, as with any update, but, on the whole, we think BERT will create movement for the better.
For specific, long tail search queries we are likely to see positive movement for more specific content that more accurately answers users’ niche questions. Top level content, however, is likely to see negative movement for these more refined queries as it will be too broad to answer specific queries. Nevertheless, we think this more specific focus will provide the opportunity for us to create a wider array of related content, each with different functions and focus, around a single topic.
As we said in our November roundup, there is nothing you can do to specifically optimise for BERT, as it is just looking for answers to users’ queries. Like we said, keywords are still important but they should be naturally weaved into your content and not over-optimised. Humans generally ask questions in a long tail style, so your content should naturally include long tail search queries to increase its relevance.
Google is now using BERT to assign news into topic categories to appear in separate carousels at the top of the results pages.
Top stories have appeared in a carousel here for quite some time now, but this development of the BERT update will mean that, rather than have all news thrown in together, the carousels will be designed to help users find the articles that are best related to a particular news story.
Additional carousels obviously mean less space for organic listings, so we expect to see a decrease in click-through rate for high ranking organic news pieces. Despite above-the-fold organic listings becoming fewer, there is a lot more opportunity for above-the-fold placements in the carousels. Therefore increasing the importance of getting featured in Google news for those publishing news content.
As with the initial BERT roll out, this is only affecting English queries in the US for now, but we can expect it to roll out to the UK very soon.
Although it will be interesting to see how things develop over time, here at Blueclaw, we believe this will be a positive change to Google’s algorithm and will allow more niche content to appear for the more specific searches that are relevant to it.
Google has upgraded the features available to App + Web properties in Google Analytics which were introduced earlier this year.
App + Web properties are now able to:
Most of the features that are now available were previously only available to web properties, but this update means that from December 10th became available to App + Web properties in English. We expect they will soon be available to all languages.
Google Search Console’s Index Coverage report has been updated to show pages that were Crawled – currently not indexed as Indexed.
You may notice a change in your Index Coverage report in December, which Google has reassured does not reflect any changes in your site, but updates to their system to provide a more accurate accounting system. It means pages that were previously crawled but not indexed are now indexed, and thus there is likely to be an increase in the number of pages indexed on your site.
This is an important update as indexed page ratios are a well-used metric for SEOs to measure the health of a site. Pages that you thought were not indexed before, as this is what Search Console was telling you, may have, in fact, been indexed. So, your site may actually be healthier than you thought.
In Google Search Console, you can expect to see a change alongside an annotation like this:
Just to reinforce, this is nothing to worry about and this is not reflective of anything that has changed on your site, it is simply Google Search Console updating to give you a more accurate report.
With an increasing focus on users, human language and more refined search queries, we can expect to see more optimisation for this moving forward into 2020. We’ve put together some of our 2020 predictions if you still need to refine your new year strategies.
And don’t hesitate to get in touch if you feel you need a little guidance with your 2020 strategy. We’d love to help with your new year’s resolution to get your digital marketing nailed!