It’s that time once again where we lasso up all the news from the digital world and give you it all in one healthy dose.
As the digital landscape is in a constant state of change, we know how important any month can be when it comes to your website’s performance. One change in a month can mix up your entire marketing strategy. This is why we highly recommend you pour yourself a cuppa, grab the biscuits and deep dive into our news roundups so you can keep well ahead of the changes.
There are some seriously great insights from Google in this month’s SEO news and ones that could be impacting your rankings.
With a completed algorithm update, and some words of wisdom from Google’s finest, there are many action points to take away from September’s news
Google Page Experience Fully Rolled Out
By far the biggest news of September is that the Google Page Experience is now complete.
After months of discussing what was going to happen, and what to keep an eye out for, we can all put our eyes into analytics and take a deep breath.
Google’s Page Experience update took in total two months to roll out, from July to August.
The update comprises of four key elements, Core Web Vitals, Mobile-friendly, HTTPS, and no intrusive interstitials.
The most well-known of the four is Core Web Vitals (CWV), as this has been touched upon non-stop in 2021, as it has been identified as a ranking factor in itself.
What’s been different about this update is Google’s transparency.
Google updates are usually shrouded in mystery, leaving every SEO scratching their head and investigating what the change was.
But with the Page Experience update, Google has been very transparent and even offered guidance to site owners to support them in getting prepared.
With this in mind, as any site owner, it would be wise to use these ranking factors and begin to assign resources to improve them.
Captchas Blocking Google Bots
Captchas are those quirky pop-ups that help your website distinguish whether it’s a human or a robot trying to access your website. They’re often in the form of those number or word questions, where you have to try and make sense of the jumbled up words or decipher the letters.
These captchas were added to many sites to stop lots of robots from spamming sites with fake enquiries.
Now in September 2021, Google’s John Mueller has come out and said that these captchas could be harming websites that use them to gate their content.
In an Office Hours webinar, Mueller said if the Googlebot lands on a page with a captcha blocking the main content, it will assume that’s the only thing on the page.
Mueller did offer some words of advice around using captchas. He revealed that you can safely use captchas if the main content is still accessible. Alternatively, if you insist on having a captcha, you can serve Googlebot a different version of the page than regular users are served.
In this case, Googlebot can have a captcha-free version, while users have to complete the captcha before viewing the content.
This does take some more leg work and can be tricky, so we would really ask why you want a captcha in the first place?
Core Web Vitals & Your Google Ranks
Now that the page experience update is officially rolled out, how do we know if these core web vitals are affecting rankings?
In a Google Office Hours, John Mueller answered this question from a worried site owner who believes they’ve lost 20% of their traffic since the update.
Mueller confirmed that Core Web Vitals started to be rolled out page by page from July to August, therefore any changes to traffic would have been felt over time, and not immediately.
Mueller advised that a dramatic drop in rankings, say overnight, is definitely something else, and not related to the CWV rollout.
The advice to all site owners is to keep a lookout for gradual declines, as this is a sign that something isn’t right.
Google Working on Indexing Instagram & TikTok Videos
The power of Instagram and TikTok could look to grow in 2021 as there are reports that Google is in talks with the social platforms to index their video content.
Google brokered a similar deal with Twitter in 2015, with Twitter providing Google with the ‘firehose’ of its Twitter data in exchange for a licensing fee. Now tweets can be found in Google’s search.
Google has yet to confirm or deny the deal, but it will be interesting to see how this one pans out.
Google owns TikToks competitor YouTube, so we can’t imagine it’s going to sign a deal so easily for giving up its secrets. However, having its videos indexed on Google, the biggest search engine in the world only creates more publishing power.
We’re intrigued to see how this deal plays out.
Update on Google Page Titles
Last month we reported on the strange happenings of Google changing titles to pages and posts across the search results. People were baffled about what was going on, and most importantly why it was happening.
Now in September, Google has given some further insight into why it’s replacing page titles, and what this update means.
Since the initial rollout in August, which was a shock to everyone in the SEO world, Google has refined the update and provided guidance.
Google says that it will replace a page’s title in the SERPs in cases when it does not describe a page as well as it could.
For example; half-empty titles, where a page may just have the site or company name, but no other information about the page or its contents. Inaccurate titles will also be changed by Google, where it believes the title is not describing the page contents correctly.
Google has said that it will continue to use 87% of sites original titles.
As Google states;
“The changes we’ve made are largely designed to help compensate for issues that creators might not realize their titles are having. Making changes may help ensure your title element is again used. That’s really our preference, as well.”
Website Themes Impact SEO
So you’ve picked a wicked theme for your new website – but could it be the one thing that holds it back from being ranked?
Google published a short video in September with John Mueller explaining how a theme could impact SEO.
Mueller said, “It’s easy to consider website themes as just a splash of colour on top of a finished structure. But there’s so much more involved.”
As Mueller clarifies, a theme will determine headings, text, images, page load times, structured data. Many elements that impact SEO rankings.
Themes can ultimately make it easier for search engines to understand the content and where to index it.
Mueller recommended that site owners should always test a theme before committing to it.
Google Rolls Out New Travel and Leisure Features
With a year that saw many travel and leisure businesses die a death thanks to covid, Google has revealed its efforts to support this sector with new features in organic and paid search.
The new features will include ticket booking links, pricing in the search results, a “Things to Do” ads, and an eco-certified badge for hotel listings.
The aim of the new features is to help travel and leisure businesses pick up more business online and bounceback after the pandemic.
It seems we’ve never been more fickle about social media platforms. Does anyone remember HouseParty?
With a growing balance between connection and safety, it seems more social platforms are having to be considered about their approach.
Knowing the social news is vital in ensuring you’re remaining relevant and conscious on these platforms that spread to the masses.
TikTok Reaches 1 Billion Users
With TikTok almost being banned in the US, being actually banned in India, and facing numerous challenges from rival platforms; it’s incredible to believe that TikTok is celebrating reaching 1 billion users.
In a statement, TikTok said; “More than 1 billion people around the world now come to TikTok every month to be entertained as they learn, laugh, or discover something new. We’re honored to be a home for our immensely diverse community of families, small businesses, and creators who transform into our favorite stars.”
TikToks biggest surge of popularity came in 2020, with many using the platform as a new source of entertainment during the covid-19 pandemic.
Instagram Shelves ‘Instagram for Kids’
Owners of Instagram, Facebook, were set to launch an ‘Instagram for Kids’ later this year, but have now had to shelve the project after child safety groups wrote to CEO Mark Zuckerberg explaining how damaging the platform could be for children.
The idea for ‘Instagram Kids’ was for tweens aged 10-15 to have a platform that their parents could also monitor. Facebook has found that many of these ages try to get around the existing age restrictions, so rather than having them abuse the system, they sought to build a platform specifically for this age group.
However child safety groups highlighted the psychological harm such platforms currently create, saying, “there is a relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding” which they claim “presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing.”
Facebook has said it will continue to work with these groups, but has now decided to shelve this idea until there is more clarity on the purpose of the platform and guidelines on child safety.