Here in the UK November is when we light the sparklers and set off the fireworks, but it wasn’t just our gardens that were alight with activity – the digital realm has been on fire with updates and algorithm changes that have been causing some serious sparks.
Always the ones with our fingers firmly on the pulse, we’ve rounded up the hottest SEO news from November to ensure you’re not missing any steps.
As always with so much change going on it’s important to take note of any major updates that may impact your own website. Pour a hot chocolate, get comfortable and take note of what’s been shifting.
Google Has a Bug
No don’t panic, Google didn’t catch covid-19, but at the rate of mutation, it wouldn’t surprise us. Instead, it appears that a rare algorithm bug causes sites to get stuck in a strange limbo that prevents them from ranking.
The news of this ‘algo bug’ was confirmed by Google’s John Mueller, in a Google Office-Hours hangout.
In the Q&A session, Mueller was answering a question about how long it takes for Google to re-rank a website that disappeared and then returned.
Part of Mueller’s answer revealed that a rare bug at Google stops a website from ranking for any keywords at all, not even the domain name. Mueller describes this as a state of limbo. According to Mueller the bug happens in reaction to spammy activity on a domain and can last for many years.
Things to look out for as a sign of this kind of hidden penalty is that the site doesn’t show up on Google Search Console. Including the site not ranking for anything, even its own domain name.
One suggestion Mueller made was to always check the state of a domain name before purchasing it to ensure there are no hidden penalties.
Google Reveals Best Practice for Title Tags
What is the best length for a title tag? – That’s the question posed to John Mueller in another series of Google Office-hours hangouts.
In Google’s search results it is common for the title tag to be 60 to 65 characters long. Titles that are longer than this often get shortened by Google, or in some cases, even rewritten.
As the title tag is featured so prominently in the search results it’s essential to get this write to gain relevant clicks from users.
Of course, title tags are also a tiny ranking factor, so consideration has to be made.
The person asking the question in the Google Hangout was concerned as for journalistic purposes the titles they publish have to be longer than 65 characters. So this person is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Longer titles for the readers, or shorter titles for SEO.
Mueller answered saying that, “No. We don’t have any recommendation for the length of a title.”
Mueller confirmed that the title length is up to the publisher to decide, and not a ranking related SEO issue.
In Google’s own title tag best practice documentation it states;
“Title links are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query.”
So there you have it, folks, you don’t need to stick to the 65 characters, but as always think about your user.
Google Maps Adds 4 Features for Shopping
If you’re a local business you may just get excited about the news of this new local feature by Google Maps.
As we know, local shops have been hit the hardest by the covid-19 pandemic, so ramping up local shopping is desperately needed.
In a bid to support more local businesses Google has now added the following four features to its Google Maps app.
Customers will now be able to see how busy a particular area is, and the trend of busyness throughout the day. This is meant to support customers who want to avoid large crowds and attend areas when it is less busy.
The directory tab has been created to support travellers and customers in finding shops within large areas such as Airports, and Shopping Centres.
The Directory tab will show you which stores are in the buildings, including help with locating airport lounges, car rental, parking, restaurants and shops.
For example, if you are in a large shopping centre the Directory tab will give you a list of the shops in the space along with their opening times.
During the height of the covid-19 pandemic, Google piloted a grocery shopping tab that enable people to collect groceries from local shops.
Google has now fully launched this feature in Google Maps and enhanced it further with a track order status.
4.More Information about Restaurants
Google Maps has expanded the information it has on restaurants, as this has been one of its most popular features.
Customers can now share details about the restaurant’s price ranges, and whether they offer other services such as outdoor seating, collection and delivery.
Is Googlebot Slowing Down?
In November, publishers worldwide shared data which suggests the rate of crawling by Googlebot is slowing down.
Many SEO experts and publishers took to Twitter to reveal graphs of the decline of the crawling happening on their websites.
Although this slowing down has not affected all sites, there was a hive of discussion about what could be going on at Google.
The evidence provided seemed to suggest that Googlebot was no longer crawling 304 pages, but this has not been confirmed or denied by Google.
Even as we write this, there is no update from Google about what changed, so there is still only hype about what could be happening. Either way, one thing is for sure, is that Googlebot has changed its indexing pattern.
Google Page Experience Will Roll Out To Desktop
Google has confirmed that in February 2022 the Page Experience update will be rolled out across desktop.
The Page Experience was already rolled out to Mobile earlier this year, so it was only time before the rollout took place on desktop.
We know that the Desktop rollout will use the same algorithm as the mobile version with the same ranking signals of the core web vitals.
Google has also confirmed that it will add a new report into Google Search Console to help you understand how your desktop pages are performing.
As you prepare for this update in February, now is the time to swat up on your core web vitals.
Google Drops Mobile First Indexing Deadline
It’s rare that we see Google be so kind, but in November they announced that they would no longer put a deadline to sites switching over to the mobile-first index.
The news comes as Google revealed that some sites may have difficulties moving to mobile-first indexing.
In an open statement, Google’s John Mueller said, “after analyzing the sites that are not yet indexed mobile-first we have determined that some of these sites are still not ready to be shifted over due to various, unexpected challenges that they’re facing.”
The shift to mobile-first will still happen, but there is no set deadline anymore. Instead, Google is trying to work with these sites to support them in the switchover.
Even if you thought this was one you missed, it is still a switch you need to action.
Microsoft Bing Launched Page Insights
After months of testing, it’s official, Page Insights on Bing is alive!
When using Bing, users will now see a lightbulb icon on the right-hand side of the search results that provides more details about the search result.
In a statement, Microsoft said, “ this feature provides summarized insights from a page on your search results so you can find what you’re looking for faster.”
The benefit of this new feature is that Bing aims to help the user verify the source of information.
As a website owner, you may want to check that the information in the ‘Insights’ box is correct, as right now it is all automatically generated.
For now, this Bing feature will only be available on desktop, because the screen size for the display is limiting on smartphones.
With months of testing, it will be interesting to see if this feature becomes popular with users.
Google November Core Algorithm Update
On November 17th Google launched a core algorithm update with no warning. The update hit hard and fast and left many SEO experts extremely frustrated at the volatility the update caused.
Many major sectors were hit hard including the health sector and retail sectors. However, overall the data reveals that this was a broad update with no specific targets in mind.
As ever it’s tough to recover from these core updates, especially as Google reveals very little about why this update was taking place, or what site owners should be considering.
Many site owners were left infuriated by the timing of this core update as November is the peak eCommerce time, with both Black Friday and Cyber Monday the biggest days of online shopping.
Google has not revealed anything further about the basis of this core update and instead has been suggesting for site owners to consider the following questions if they have been hit.
- Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
- Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
- Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
- Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
Google Adds Local News Features to Search
Google says that searches such as “News near me” has tripled over the past five years, which is why in November Google made the move to include more local news features into search.
Local news organisations depend on organic search traffic to distribute their news, so this move by Google is trying to find more ways to help local news publishers survive in a time of digital news distribution.
Now when you search for news locally, you will be provided with a carousel of stories.
There are still questions about if this will really make a difference to the dramatic decline of local publishers.
Speaking about how the content will rank, Meghann Farnsworth, a Google spokesperson said, “Any publisher’s content is eligible to rank within the carousel if their content is relevant to what a reader is searching for.”
“Publishers with more Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness for a given topic or location will rank accordingly.”
Google November Spam Roll Out
In November Google launched a spam roll out across eight days to combat sites that were participating in spammy activity.
This update was announced via Google’s Twitter account, and they claim that if you were following best practices you would not have seen any shifts.
Spam updates in general target specific Google guideline violations.
If you did see any changes, it may be wise to check what was going on with your website for Google to consider you to be participating in spam.
Google’s Recommendation on Video Content
Video is becoming the king of content. With an ever-increasing YouTube dominance on the web, and social platforms increasing their video content, it’s no surprise that Google is offering up recommendations on how to get your video content seen.
In November Google updated its video best practices to help your content gain the best possible ranks.
The updated advice from Google is, “to give your videos maximum exposure, create a dedicated page for each video, where the video is the most prominent subject on the page.”
So essentially, if you want your videos to perform well in Google, make it the most prominent feature on a page.
Of course, as well as this advice, it is still best practice to ensure you are using titles and descriptions for your videos, and even a transcript on the page can be useful.