If you’re extremely pushed for time we’ve condensed this month’s post into the short video below.
Your to do list this month!
- Read about how Google removed many star ratings from their results pages as part of their Sept. 2019 Review Rich Results Update
- If you’re a service-area business you should check in to your Google My Business (GMB) profile to see if Google have updated your area served field
- Read about the Google Search core algorithm updates released last month
Self-serving reviews removed from the SERPS
Filed under: The SERPs > Rich snippets
Towards the middle of last month Google updated us about a further change to the way they’re displaying content snippets -and specifically rich snippets – on their SERPs.
This was part of the first of two core algorithm updates last month which Google have named the Sept. 2019 Review Rich Results Update. People in the industry are calling it Star-mageddon, such are the implications for the their clients.
Rich snippets are the collective term given to the additional elements that are sometimes presented alongside these three in content snippets. Rich snippets are highly desirable in that they are known to attract clicks.
Review snippets are a form of rich snippet that have always been particularly desirable. These are those star ratings that you’ll have seen yourself I’m sure.
While it will still be possible to get review snippets as part of your content snippets, Google told us that reviews that they deem to be “self-serving” will not be included anymore – and we’ve already seen a significant number removed since this was announced last month.
The screenshots below show the same SERP before and after this update. You’ll notice the review stars missing from the latter.
So what do they mean by self-serving?
Well Google had to go back and clarify this – updating their original blog post and included some useful FAQ – because there was much confusion in the industry.
Self-serving means that the reviews – according to Google at least – are not in the best interest of the user. They are – for example – reviews about a business, assigned to a page on the businesses’ website. These reviews might have been left on their own website – or indeed a third party review platform, like TrustPilot for example.
The FAQs referred to earlier explain that there’s nothing we need to do.
But I would definitely recommend, if you’re concerned about star ratings on SERPs, that you read the blog post.
Last thing, you should continue to pursue reviews for your products or services, as these will continue to be displayed if the content has been marked up correctly. We are not suggesting you stop asking your clients for reviews about your business either, we’re simply passing on that these won’t always appear in the new SERPs.
Service-area businesses should review changes to their business profile
Filed under: Local SEO > Google My Business optimisation
Business owners who set up their GMB profiles, with a service area illustrating how far from their location they provide their service, might have had their service area updated by Google this month.
We saw emails sent by Google in the middle of last month encouraging profile owners, that hadn’t updated their service area themselves to, “review new changes to your Business Profile.”
If you didn’t receive an email, and want to check whether Google have updated your profile, the best thing to do is login GMB and look on your dashboard to see if there are any “Updates from Google.”
If you do, you can review any changes made and agree or disagree with them a necessary!
Rank tracking by location isn’t the best gauge
Filed under: Reporting > Rank tracking
In a month when we were flooded by announcements from Google, we read an interesting piece on Local SEO blog, Sterling Sky, about rank tracking by zip codes which whilst wasn’t new news, we thought was worth mentioning all the same!
The article explains that whilst rank tracking by location does provide some indication of how well a business or its content is ranking, it’s not going to be 100% useful because proximity is such a hugely influential factor in Google’s local search algorithm.
Google do not use postcodes to determine their results. Their results are influenced by (amongst other things) the exact location of the searcher (their GPS location) – and this is a crucial difference to understand.
The post explains that within a one mile location, the results are going to vary hugely.
The image below should help illustrate this.
This shows the rankings for a coffee shop in Haywards Heath for the search [coffee free wifi]. The centre point is their location. The number 2 indicates their position in the Local Pack when this search is performed here.
I think it’s safe to say they might be a little disappointed with this result, but it’s hard to compete with national companies like Costa Coffee, who in this instance beat them to first position.
What I hope this illustrates is that half a mile west or east, i.e. still within Haywards Heath, their ranking changes to 3rd and 4th respectively.
So rather than rank tracking solely by town or city – we should be tracking within each location as well.
We just wanted to include this as food for thought. Your rankings in your home town may look fantastic, but that’s most likely because you’re Googling from your business’s location. Half a mile down the road the results could be quite different.
There are tools available that help us understand more about our rankings within a location. If this is of interest to you, then please let us know.
Google tell us about the importance of original reporting and also pre-warn us again about a core update
Filed under: The SERPs > Algo updates
Google published a blog post last month highlighting how they have updated their search algorithm to “better recognize original reporting, surface it more prominently in Search and ensure it stays there longer.”
Whilst I think we have been aware for a while that original reporting tends to receive an elevated position in the SERPs, this was a useful reminder and ultimately a boost for content of this nature and encouragement to publishers who are creating it, rather than recycling old news.
To paraphrase the post a little more, Google suggested publishers creating original reporting should be rewarded since the creation of this type of content is “an endeavor which requires significant time, effort and resources by the publisher.”
They went on to explain that this change of position has been updated in their Search Quality Rater Guidelines To quote Google again, the SQRG provide a “clear description of what we value in content when ranking”
We created a digest of these guidelines recently, should you not have the time to read all 167 pages.
They also, not for the first time, pre-announced another core update towards the end of the month – the September 2019 Core Update.
Whilst they didn’t tell us very much about the nature of the update, they did point us towards a blog post they published back in August, so that should be your point of reference if you want to find out more about it.
Read the blog post from Google
If you’re planning out your content for the next 12 months. this is a useful reminder that if you can, you should go create something new rather than recycle old news.
Also if you haven’t read the SQRG, and you’re looking to create content that ranks on Google Search, now would be a pretty good time to do so. At the very least take a look at our digest.
Fresher data in Search Console
Filed under: Reporting > Google Search Console
Towards the end of last month, Google announced (I know, they had a busy month announcing things!) that they had improved the Performance report within Search Console – the free tool that provides valuable insight about our websites – to include more recent data.
Basically the most recent data included in the report is a matter of hours old, rather than 2-3 days as it was previously.
They also explained that they had improved the exporting feature so you can see clicks, impressions etc, broken down by day.
None, it’s just something for you to be aware of.
Two new link attributes announced
Filed under: Website optimisation > On-page
The final two articles this month are a bit more technical/geeky than usual, but we thought they were worth reporting on all the same.
Whilst no one knows what the 200 plus factors are that determine how well a piece of content will rank on Google’s SERPs, we have known for a long time that the number and quality of links pointing towards a piece of content, has a significant influence.
For 15 years, content creators who link out to other content from theirs have been able to add a ‘nofollow’ link attribute which suggests Google should not pass on any goodness through the link when they are considering how to rank said piece of content.
Nofollow was introduced to combat comment spam – where people were playing the system and gaining from links where they really shouldn’t have.
15 years later Google have announced they’re introducing two new link attributed, which can be used instead of ‘nofollow’, namely, ‘sponsored’ and ‘ugc’ (user generated content).
As content creators we now have the choice between three link attributes which we can use the help Google understand the nature of the outbound links we are creating in our content.
Google go on to explain in the Post the following which I’ve copied below verbatim.
“When nofollow was introduced, Google would not count any link marked this way as a signal to use within our search algorithms. This has now changed.”
So this is an important change. Rather than ignore ‘nofollow’ links – which they have in the past – they will be using them as “hints” about which links to include as a factor in their overall search algorithm.
There’s nothing you need to do. You certainly don’t need to go back through your old content and update nofollow links to one of the two new attributes – although you could of course if you want to! It’s just something for you to consider going forward.
What you should do is read the blog post so you the full picture about the change.
Google gives us more control over what our content snippets look like
Filed under: The SERPs > Content snippets
We have been able to tell Google what title and url to display for our content in their content snippets, should they decide to rank our content on their SERPs.
But until now – well later this month anyhow – we haven’t been able to influence how the description looks, or what part is included. We’ve only been able to tell Google if we don’t want a description included.
Whilst we can assign meta descriptions to our content, Google do not have to use them if they think a different part of the content on the page would be more useful to users. And they often don’t!
Google have told us that from next month, we can add meta tags to our content which will tell Google how many characters to include in the description, specify the length of a video preview or indeed the size of an image (should they choose to display one).
Whilst this might not be an issue for the vast majority of you reading this, we thought it was useful knowledge to impart – and nice to see we as content creators have a bit more control than we used to!
None as such, unless you’re particularly concerned about the description Google have included for a certain piece of content on the SERPs.