November was full of interesting SEO news and updates. The SEO world never sits still and you never know when the next major update is just around the corner. Google is always at the forefront of any groundbreaking updates with further algorithm changes and Search Console rollouts.
Google confirms Search Algorithm update in November
Google is well known for its random algorithm updates and it appears November was no different. Some sites noticed major changes in traffic at the start of the month and Google confirmed that an update did take place. Many people rumoured that this was related to the BERT update (we covered BERT in the October SEO roundup) but it appears this was a fresh update.
What do we know about the update?
At this stage, we know very little other than the fact some sites have seen a fluctuation in rankings. Some even went as far as claiming they lost 50% of traffic to their website overnight. Google commented on the speculation claiming it was a regular, weekly update. You can see their comments here:
Some have asked if we had an update to Google Search last week. We did, actually several updates, just as we have several updates in any given week on a regular basis. In this thread, a reminder of when and why we give specific guidance about particular updates….
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) November 12, 2019
Google warns to not jump to conclusions
In a recent Google Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller warned search marketers not to jump to any conclusions over the update. The comment was made when a particular statement was posed to him about suspicious links, the statement was as follows:
“You could clearly see many unnatural links via recommendation widgets and other link building tactics.”
John responded by saying:
“In general if you look at your site and… it seems like there’s really a clear pattern of unnatural links associated with your site, that could be because you’ve been doing link building in some kind of… weird way, if you’ve been using widgets to build links, all of the usual kinds of things then that’s generally something I’d recommend trying to clean up regardless of any updates that happen.”
What John is essentially saying is that links from questionable sites should be dealt with anyway. He declined that the update was to target sites with poor link profiles but clearly emphasises the importance of cleaning up any dodgy links.
Many have complained to Google about the update so it will be interesting to see if there are any changes along the way.
You can watch the full Webmaster Hangout here:
Google Search Console starts page speed updates
Around 6 months ago, Google started testing a new speed report within its Search Console feature. The report is now set to roll out publicly to all Search Console users.
What do these new reports offer?
You can locate the Speed Reports under the enhancements tab on Search Console – titled “Speed (experimental)”. See below:
This section has been designed to help webmasters find parts of their website that have speed performance problems. Once you’ve located the issues, you can look into how to fix them.
Google will rate your site on 3 different rankings, slow (red), moderate (yellow) or fast (green). They’ll also share insights on how you can improve your site in line with their Page Speed Insights tool.
Why should you care about page speed?
Google understands that there’s no easier way to turn away customers than a page that doesn’t load. That’s why page speed is one of the most important ranking factors. Ignore it and it can have a real impact on your ability to rank well for certain keywords.
Bing utilising BERT worldwide
Following last month’s announcement of the BERT rollout across 10% of search results in the US, Bing has confirmed they’re utilising BERT worldwide. In fact, they’ve been using it since April! They talked through the issues they faced when rolling BERT out in a recent blog post.
In the post, Bing admitted that the new rollout was expensive and only made possible by Microsoft’s Azure platform. It was initially expected to take around 10,000 servers but has achieved with only 2000+ Azure servers. These updates are now available globally as of today.
Google advises Webmasters to avoid using Robots TXT to block indexing of URLs with parameters
Google’s John Mueller recently responded to a comment on Twitter regarding Robots TXT files. He advised the following:
He continued in a later reply to explain that Google wouldn’t be able to see the “rel-canonical” tag if it’s blocked by a Robots.txt. So you need to ensure you don’t use a Robots TXT file to block indexing of URLs with parameters.
Google updates video structured data features
Google has provided new information in their structured data help document on the latest enhancements to video search results. The document features details on how to mark timestamps on Youtube, monitoring your performance on Search Console and screenshots showing the structured data firsthand.
When it comes to displaying your timestamps, there’s no actual markup needed. You simply add the timestamp directly into your YouTube videos description. It’s been recommended by Google that the timestamp is in chronological order with each timestamp on its own line.
You can now also report on video data through Google’s Search Console. Within the Performance Report, webmasters can see how their video appears in search results. In turn, the report also helps site owners to troubleshoot for errors.
And that wraps up the important news from November, another busy month in the SEO world! If you have any questions on any of the news stories we’ve covered, please get in touch.
At Zeal, we’re offering you the opportunity to get a no-obligation, free SEO audit. Interested? Follow the link below to find out more.