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24/11/21 Beu Smith

Inside Scoop: Google Announcements and Search Industry Updates

Overview

I don’t know about you, but November has been busy with Black Friday prep, Christmas ideation and just the general eCommerce ramp up to the end of the year. So much so, a few Google updates and changes almost slipped through the net. If you are in the same boat as me then fear not, I’ve navigated through the seas of search and trawled through what's been happening to bring you a catch up of what's gone on (#sailingmetaphors).

Executive Summary 

  • Desktop Page Experience becomes ranking factor 
  • Google My Business changing to Google Business Profile
  • More Anti Spam updates 

Page Experience Becomes Ranking Factor For Desktop in February 2022

We have seen from Google’s updates and search changes over 2021 that page experience, core web vitals, and load speeds have all been a major focus for the search giant. From June to August, Google rolled out their page experience update focusing on mobile and slowly increasing in importance over time. 

So it comes as no surprise that this is now being applied to desktop as well. In fact, Google said this would happen in May when Jeffrey Jose tweeted:

Jeff Jose Tweet

Fundamentally, this update will be exactly the same as it was for mobile with the main focuses being on Core Web Vital Metrics:

  • LCP (Largest Contentful Paint)
  • FID (First Input Delay)
  • CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift)

We did an in depth guide to page speed and how this will impact SEO if you need any of these metrics breaking down and some insight on how to optimise for them.

The measurement across mobile and desktop is paralleled where possible, Google provided this table to help visualise the applicable factors.

Table

The advantage to this update is that desktop page speed tends to be faster than mobile. For a start, PCs and laptops have a more secure internet connection with faster and more consistent Mbps. Not only this, but most websites render better on desktop unless a mobile version or AMP alternative is available. From my experience auditing website speed, desktop usually scores higher but that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods.

As we know from previous core updates, if Google gives forewarning on a ranking factor change or new addition, you better sit up and pay attention. Our recommendations here are to audit, test and analyse your pages, use multiple tools and get a variation of data to help understand where the opportunities are to optimise your desktop (and mobile) page speed. 

Beu’s top tips:

Start with focusing on quick wins where possible like optimising image formats, using HTML and resource compressions, alongside lazy-loading content below the fold. These will improve the three main CWV metrics and shouldn’t be too hard to implement. From there you can delve into removing unused resources (JS & CSS), remove or defer render-blocking resources, and add size attributes to dynamic content (images, videos, CTAs etc) to allocate accurate DOM space and reduce CLS.

Google Business Profile to replace Google My Business

Google is looking to roll out changes to their well-known Google My Business platform and migrate it into search under the new name Google Business Profile. The announcement looks to remove the separate management dashboard and replace this with being able to manage your details directly in the search results and maps.

Along with the current features like opening hours, location, images, and contact information, Google will be adding some new features initially for the US and Canada that will likely be rolled out to other locations:

  • Access, manage and optimise your Google Business Profile from Google Search or Maps by typing the brand name or ‘My Business’
  • Call History (available in US and Canada)
  • Message and Contact Interface Changing

While this feature initially feels like it is more targeted towards singular location businesses, there are plans to introduce a feature called “Business Profile Manager” which will allow you to manage multiple business listings. For the time being, the Google My Business dashboard will still be available while Google finds a way to modify this feature into search. We expect to hear announcements in the coming months.

Here are some examples of the new features listed above:

Messages 

Messaging Gif

Call History (US & Canada)

Phone call history

New Messaging/Contact

Phone messaging

November Anti Spam Update 

Google updates and core algorithm roll outs are not new or a surprise to any seasoned individual working in the industry, but the frequency and focus Google is giving to fighting spam speaks volumes to me.

SERP graph

This November roll out is the forth update they have announced since June where they released part one and two of a spam update and again in July where they dropped the Link Spam Update. Now, three months later there is another spam update being tweeted by Google which is a lot of focus and indirect chatter about the importance of protecting your users and site against spam.

The full details remain unclear whether this targets links, content, mixed resource content, web directories, or user generated content, but what is clear is that Google is putting a lot of resources towards fighting toxic signals that can impact your performance. So it would be very wise if you haven’t yet to review your current spam status and look to improve it. 

Here are our top tips for improving your spam score:

  • Backlink Audit - Review external links which are pointing to your site and separate the spam from the authentic links
  • Review and update the disavow file - Check your new spam list of domains and URLs against the existing disavow file to ensure you aren’t dupliating any links, and add new domains/links and re-upload the list to search console.
  • Ensure you use absolute URLs in your source HTML
  • Add self-referencing canonicals to every page 
  • Review and optimise sitemap.xml to ensure only 200 response code URLs exist (no redirects or broken links) and include all your priority pages 
  • Ensure all transfer protocols use a secure connection (https) not un-secure (http)
  • Add commands to your robots.txt to refine your crawlability from unknown or risky sources. This can be tested in Google robots.txt tester before uploading to your site.

While this won’t necessarily get you ranking in #1 for all your tracked keywords, it is a fundamental task which is required to show you are actively maintaining your site's health. Technical fixes and routine maintenance along with performance strategies work synonymously, often with profound results.

Summary 

These updates aren’t about to break the front page headlines and in many ways could get overlooked, but if you zoom out there is a wider picture. Page experience is an important ranking factor but equally casts a wide net, having sub-factors like speed, functionality, UX, site maintenance etc. 

The anti-spam updates also factor into this as market-leading results should have the users best interest at heart with transparent ethics, not exposing their users to potential cyber attacks or spam risks.

Ultimately these updates and changes tend to orientate around the same points which are:

  • Provide the best result for the users’ intent (informational, geographics, transactional, ecommerce
  • Ensure your site has Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
  • Good page experience - Core Web Vitals, Site Speed & UI/UX
  • Optimised Content - Meta data, on-page content and regular blog/informational articles
  • Site Maintenance / Technical SEO - Clean coding, sitemap.xml, robots.txt, indexation, canonicals and links 

Ensure these foundational markers are optimised first before any enhancements are implemented and you should safeguard yourself against any negative performance from Google updates.

Beu Smith

SEO Lead specialising in techical SEO across eCommerce, B2B and B2C. Passionate about delivering organic growth.