Whilst there is a good chunk of this year to go, we have seen some massive changes in Google search in 2019. Changes that have heavily impacted on the results for users, along with business owners, and their web design and SEO providers.
The future of search is both unsettling and exciting. Google has pushed a huge amount of updates in SERP (search engine result pages). The tweaking of factors within the algorithms and brand new features were added and updated. This has made things even more complex than before. It tends to vary country-to-county. In some, Google search suffers a lack of updates and ‘improvement’, whilst other countries have been experiencing constant, wild fluctuations of their Google rank.
In the spirit of trying to offer some clarity to folks outside of the web design, seo and digital marketing sector, we’re looking back over 2019 so far to outline some of the bigger changes we’ve all experienced.
In 2018 it’s reported that Google performed 3,200 updates to their search product, these included features and frequent updates that were supposed to improve result relevancy and freshness. Google say evolution is the key to face the changes…
Continue Where You Left off…
At the start of the year Google added a feature that helped their users who perform searches on mobile and launched ‘activity cards’ to enable users to carry on from where they left their search. If you look for search queries “plumbers near me” or “emergency plumber” and are logged into your Google account – you may see a ‘card’ at the top of the results page. The purpose of this is to provide a simple way to continue your search.
This Google update worked on the pretence that this method was needed to make search history more accessible and more useful. It was supposed to help users keep track of their interests and be reminded of their tasks.
A Confirmed Broad Core Update to G Search in March
This was the first ‘officially confirmed’ update of this year from Google happened in March. The community dubbed this update Florida 2.0, but shortly after Google named this update Google March 2019 Core Update.
The updates could be clearly seen by looking at rank tracker tool charts. These movements in rank on a large scale are indicated with red bars or similar, which almost always indicates a large update.
Google confirmed the March update with the following tweet:
“This week, we released a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before. Please see these tweets for more about…”
Whilst Google performs updates on a daily basis, there are some broad algorithm updates that happen a handful of times in a year. This particular update, they say, was about quality, designed to improve the quality of overall results with no other details.
According to Google themselves – If a website was impacted by that, there’s nothing they can do to fix it. They say writing good, helpful content should be everyone’s focus. We suspect with a good amount of confidence, however, that link building, social media marketing and general presence online also remains a huge part of being successful in Google Search.
Seeing as content is clearly mentioned, it is a fair assumption that this one was a content related update, reportedly with a focus on the quality it provides to the searcher. To stay ahead of your competitors you should always be on the lookout for the opportunity to deliver great content. With this in mind, ranking in Google is set to become a whole lot more of a long term investment in time.
Originally named ‘Google Feed’ when it released and changed to Google Discover more recently, the tool was intended to display relevant content to users, even when they’re not searching. The product is reportedly utilised by more than 800 million people per month to stay up to date.
Discover operates based on searcher preferences, following particular topics, searcher behaviour and history. The tool suggests content related to anything you might be interested in. E.g. sport, TV, actors, brands, travel, weather etc.
Discover will no doubt have major implications on how the searcher will interact with the search and the web as a whole. Since a user personalises their search and can select the things they find interesting, the Google Search results may lose some of the popularity. A business just wouldn’t compete to be in the first 10 positions to win over the user, but rather the top 1-3 because that is the number of results a user sees on a mobile screen when performing a search.
When a searcher searches a topic, Google looks at pattern for each user and attempts to establish if the topics are related. Based on the data, Discover will float up the relevant topic that might interest the user next, even predicting their future searches. (Creepy right?)
Enriching Search Results Through Structured Data
Google has long recommended that website designers add markup to their content for the search engines to understand the topic. Tweaking structured data on your website will likely offer a way to receive an enhanced appearance in Google search results.
Google is pushing website owners to use more structured data as a way to highlight all sorts of things.
New features include:
- Brand awareness: for logo, local business, and sitelinks search box.
- Markup your content for more traffic: for articles, breadcrumbs, events, jobs, Q&A, reviews etc.
- Highlight your products on SERP for conversions: for price, availability, and reviews.
There’s such a wide range of content that you can use structured data for, the SERP has definitely evolved. The newest additions to the list are structured data is the “How-to” type of content. For example, “how-to” content can be highlighted, by adding structured data to the number of steps, tools required, duration, and more.
All structured data can be supported both on Search and Assistant and in visible in Search Console, where you can view various reports and monitor your site’s performance
Structured data reporting from GSC allows you to review errors, warnings and valid items, as well as the pages associated with such issues.
Mobile-First Indexing as the Default for New Domains
At the end of May, Google officially announced that as of June, mobile-first indexing was selected by default for all new websites. On 1st June, it became official that websites must offer exactly the same content to users and search engines for devices of all shape and size.
In light of Mobile-First Indexing launching, Google search has changed, showing the same content on mobile and desktop, forcing site owners to comply in order to stop their rankings from dropping. For newly designed websites Google is determining them to check factors to comply with the rules surrounding mobile-first indexing.
Google recommends websites to be 100% mobile friendly and continues to encourage responsive web design. These days it’s important for websites to use a single URL for both desktop and mobile websites.
June 2019 Core Update
Google announced on Twitter in advance that a core update was scheduled to roll out on June 3, 2019. Similar to the update from March, it was another broad core algorithm update.
“Tomorrow, we are releasing a broad core algorithm update, as we do several times per year. It is called the June 2019 Core Update. Our guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before.
Google hasn’t made any official statements on the following update, but John Mueller said that core update encompasses a broad range of rank factors. He said that there’s nothing specific to fix, lots of websites experienced ranking drops. (Helpful right?)
Site Diversity Update Roll Out
Just after the June Core Update, the Site Diversity update was rolled out. This update was created to improve searcher experience so they don’t see more than two listings from the same website in the results.
Google has explains that there might be occasions when you could see more than two search results in Google when they decide that it is relevant to do so. Fortunately it is improving and is being refined in order to offer more relevant results.
Navigate Search More Easily and Safer
Also related to diversity in SERPs, Google wants to display more types of content in the results that might interest you, including answers boxes and Knowledge Panels which can help you find key information.
Their search results page doesn’t look like it used to. For better or worse, it is more personalized, offering information from lots of sources in various formats: videos, images and text to link you to information as quickly as possible.
Enlist a fresh pair of eyes to look at your website. Have them review it and look for new ways to improve it. Consider who is searching through your website and what they are trying to find. Evaluate the overall user experience by looking at the visitor’s behaviour. These insights are extremely valuable and allow you to understand the user better.
If the user is changing, it’s a fair assumption that their online behaviour will change, and therefore search will try to mirror this change. SEO in the future of search gets even more complicated. It’s clear that Google is trying to shape the future of SEO by force, and we’re all just along for the ride!