SEO Monthly Roundup October 2019

November 6th in SEO 5 minute read

Will there ever be a quiet month in SEO? With Google being the largest search engine in the UK, it looks increasingly less likely as October saw them launch another major update. With top news outlets like CNN and the Wall Street Journal taking an interest, it might be time for you to sit up and take notice. So, what have they done now?

Introducing Google’s BERT update

In no way related to Sesame Street, towards the end of October, Google announced a new major update titled BERT. So, what is BERT?

We’ll summarise this in bullet points to simplify it, so you can fully understand what the update might mean for you.

  • BERT is a machine-learning algorithm similar to RankBrain, built to properly understand search queries and on-page content. 
  • It aids Google in understanding more “human” search queries, i.e., queries that are more conversational and use natural language forms. This includes the context that words are used in and matching queries with the right content and solutions. 
  • BERT stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers” – Google wrote all about BERT here if you want to fully dive into what it means.
  • BERT is now live for all queries in English (US) language and also has a major impact on snippets in loads of different languages.
  • So far Google has seen massive changes since BERT was tested. It won’t replace RankBrain, it will be used in conjunction with it. 
  • You can’t optimise your site for BERT, you simply need to optimise your site for the humans that you want to use it. 

Here are some examples of how BERT improves search queries:

Photo credit: Google

And for featured snippets:

Photo credit: Google

As you can see, the featured snippet is far more simplified and search friendly for the user. This is a perfect example of using more humanised language with a simplified structure to the text. In the ‘before’ image the text is broken up and unclear, whereas the ‘after’ image shows a more conversational format which answers the search query succinctly.

It will be interesting to see the impact that BERT has as it rolls out over the coming weeks and months. It seems, for now, we just need to ensure that we’re writing for the people who are reading and using the content, rather than Google’s Bots, to get the best results.  

Google Maps introduces ‘Incognito Mode’ but what does that mean for your business?

Google recently announced that Android users will be able to do incognito searches on Google Maps with the same update rolling out on iOS shortly. Essentially, like incognito searches, users will be able to search Google Maps in incognito mode without their activity being saved to their Google account. 

So should you be worried? The short answer is no. It’s not a threat for businesses, Google is likely just covering all bases in response to GDPR and the increased interest in privacy. Incognito mode is simply a response by Google to give users more ability to keep their searches private. It doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will use incognito mode so there’s no need to be worried about the update. But you should remain aware of how your customers are behaving.

Google is set to stop indexing Adobe Flash content

Google has announced they’re going to stop indexing and ranking Flash content in their search results. This means Google will no longer process Flash SWF files, this includes both websites fully built with Flash and web pages partially built with Flash.

A representative was quoted as saying “Google Search will stop supporting Flash later this year. In web pages that contain Flash content, Google Search will ignore the Flash content.”. 

This won’t majorly impact most sites, but if your site is built with Flash then you should look into newer forms of Javascript and HTML5 sooner rather than later. Apple stopped supporting Flash on their iPhone devices and over time other browsers have followed suit.

Google starts testing Duplex internationally

Duplex is a new project that has been rolled out across America. It allows you to make restaurant bookings over the phone but instead of talking to a person on the phone you can make the booking through Google Assistant through an AI, but a human-sounding voice. 

Starting in New Zealand, Google will be testing Duplex on a set number of selected businesses. They will start by powering automated calls to these businesses to confirm their holiday business hours. 

Scott Huffman, Google’s VP of engineering commented:

Businesses in this pilot group will receive an automated call from Google asking to confirm their hours for the upcoming Labour Day public holiday on October 28, 

Once confirmed, these times will automatically be updated on Google Maps and Search for anyone searching for the business info for the holiday.

Duplex has already been tested on restaurant bookings as well as cinema bookings in the US. While car rentals and hairdresser appointments are expected to be added at a later date. 

iPhone device on table

Bing launch content submission pilot

Bing has launched a new content submission pilot. This allows publishers to submit not just a URL, but content and images.

So what’s different? Where before Bing only let publishers submit URLs to be crawled by their bots, now you can submit individual pieces of content and imagery. So now, you’re pushing the content and images straight to Bing, rather than them having to crawl the URL to find the content themselves. 

The launch is currently in a pilot stage which means Bing is reaching out to a limited number of websites to test the tool. Bing hasn’t officially launched details to the public yet but this is certainly something to keep an eye on. 

Is Bing showing domain sources in images?

Onto the final piece of major news from the SEO world, Bing has been spotted showing domain sources in their image carousels. Where before you would just see the image, now it appears they will start to show the domain where the image came from. This could potentially help users become more familiar with brands and improve click-through rates to websites. 

There’s a roundup of everything that happened in a very busy October. If you have any questions on any of the topics, please get in touch. At Zeal, we’re also offering you the opportunity to get a no-obligation, free SEO audit, so follow the link to get in touch with our SEO team and find out more.

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