Whilst there was no significant update to Google’s algorithm in February, we can warn you that there is one just around the corner that you may need to prepare for.
We were also treated to a couple of useful tool updates to improve reporting and assist with site moves.
In short, no.
Although there had been many discussions around the middle of the month that hinted towards a February 2020 update, it was ultimately confirmed not true by Google, as Danny Sullivan took to Twitter to reinforce a thread of Tweets published last year explaining the difference between core updates and small day-to-day updates.
A normal indicator of a major update is a sudden influx in discussions online, whether that be on social media or in forums. If an update has hit a particular niche, it is normally also noticeable as there is an influx of chatter in that specific niche.
These indicators were both missing.
Undoubtedly, some sites saw some fluctuations. But this was just from day-to-day updates and no cause for real concern.
It is, however, interesting that these fluctuations happened around the same time that Google announced some updates to it’s Search Console reports (more info below). With these updates involving suggestions of how to improve structured data, it is possible that a lot of site owners were busy trying to fix the issues highlighted by this. Hence the movement in search results, possibly.
Google Search Console now features a new report where you can track your markup for reviews snippets.
Review snippets appear as short excerpats from a review on the SERP.
These new reports are
The new Review Snippets report is available to all sites that have implemented structured data to markup their reviews and ratings and can give lots of handy insights into errors, warnings and valid pages.
In the Performance report, you can now add ‘Review Snippets’ as a new Search Appearance filter to show the clicks, impressions and click-through rate for your snippets.
The new test tool allows you to test your structured data before you publish it to highlight errors and make suggestions on how it could be improved.
These new reports should give you an idea of how your review snippets are performing and recommendations to improve them.
Search Console has also rolled out extra features for their Change of Address tool to help with site owners with their site moves.
The Change of Address tool allows site owners to submit their new domain so that Google can crawl and index the new one instead of the old. There are two new features in this tool to help to track the change.
If you decide to change your domain, you’ll need to spend a lot of time implementing 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new ones.
The new Change of Address feature will let you know whether or not your redirects are valid so that you can identify and resolve any issues before confirming that these redirects are correct.
Once a Change of Address has been submitted to Search Console, it will now show a reminder notice at the top of the screen that the site is currently moving domains. Google Webmaster notices have previously stated that it takes up to 180 days for a full site move, so we assume that the notices will be present for this period.
This time around Google have actually pre-announced an update so you can take action to avoid any fluctuations in your rankings come early March.
In September last year, Google announced that it would start to treat nofollow attributes as hints and no longer as directives for ranking purposes.
From March 1st, Google will treat nofollow links as a hint to the purposes of crawling and indexing too, which is the second of the two-part update to how Google treats nofollows. This means that pages you have marked up as ‘nofollow’ could indeed be followed, crawled and indexed.
It has been common for site owners to use nofollow tags in order to tell Google not to crawl certain pages that could be thin on content or only contain a form.
Although Google obeyed these nofollow tags before, there has always been alternative (and some may say better) ways to stop pages being indexed, such as the meta robots noindex tag.
We can’t say at this stage whether this update will affect rankings, or by how much, but we want to make you aware of it so you can prepare and keep an eye out. We would recommend reviewing your nofollow links and changing the ones that could be ignored.
Should you see any worrying movement in your rankings and wish to discuss it with our team of experts, please don’t hesitate to contact us.