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SEO & Marketing News from March 2021

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Here in the UK we have a roadmap to normal – whatever normal is now. This means we have a glimmer of hope that our businesses can get back on track, and we can finally go back to see our nearest and dearest. 

If you’re in go-mode to bounce back from a year of complete disruption, then these news snippets from the biggest shifts in SEO and marketing are well worth noting down to ensure that your online presence remains strong. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve all got very used to in a year of lockdowns, it’s Googling everything.

SEO 

As another core algorithm update fast approaches, Google is hot on the advice to ensure web owners are doing all the best practices to avoid any search result dips. 

Aside from giving your website a full SEO audit in relation to the upcoming update, there are also some wise words from Google’s top experts about small tweaks that might just make a big difference to your user experience. 

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Google Gets Clear on Core Web Vitals

The Core Web Vitals update is being rolled out in May 2021 so Google have been doing their best to make it clear what site owners need to do to ensure their website remains relevant when the algorithm change comes into effect. 

Google has a specific FAQ’s page just for Core Web Vitals which was launched in December 2020, to help answer some of the most common questions around this big algorithm change. 

Google has since then been regularly updating the FAQs to provide more support and help to site owners. 

In March 2021, more updates were added to the Core Web Vitals FAQ page. 

One of the most significant details in the March update, is that Google has confirmed it will still rank the most relevant content despite how poorly it may score on its web vitals. 

Google commented that, “Our systems will continue to prioritize pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content.”

Unfortunately, this doens’t mean you can just ignore the Core Web Vital scores completely in the hope that your content is strong. 

Google continues to advise site owners to get scores in the green before this algorithm rolls out in May. 

Google Analytics Version 4 Launches

Google Analytics is by far the most valuable SEO tool you have in your armoury, so knowing what’s new is only going to help you continue to leverage your data. 

Google continues to pour resources into improving Google Analytics and this update brings with it many areas that site owners should be monitoring to keep track of online performance and user interaction. 

It’s not fresh news that Google has for a long time been playing with AI in order to support search queries and data, and now in version 4 of Google analytics more AI has been adopted. 

Some of these AI powers of Analytics 4 include automatic alerts to marketers to data trends such as surging demand for a product they sell. 

One of the most stand out differences to Analytics 4 and Universal Analytics is the reporting data. Reports are now designed to help marketers get much more insight into particular aspects of the customer journey. For example you can see what channels are driving new customers in the user acquisition report, and then use the engagement report to understand the actions these customers take. 

Overall, the new Google Analytics 4 provides a deeper insight into the customer lifecycle, which is data that can make a huge difference to your business activity. 

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Be Warned – Mobile-Friendly Does Not Mean Mobile-Ready

Being ‘mobile-friendly’ is a term that has been batted around the SEO realm ever since the mobile-geddon Google update. But there has been some confusion that Google really wants to clear up. 

In a recent Hangout, Google’s John Mueller advised site owners that mobile-friendliness is not the same as being ready for mobile-first indexing. 

Here’s the crux of the situation. 

When Google looks at a website and determines to move a site to mobile-first indexing, it does not just look at whether the site is optimised for mobile devices. 

I know – you’re thinking, hang on a minute, my sight looks great on mobile! 

But, there’s more to it than that. 

John explained that a key piece of data Google looks for when moving sites over to the mobile-first index is that the website shows identical content on all devices. 

As John says, “Mobile friendly doesn’t mean it’s suitable for mobile indexing (it could be easy to use on mobile devices, but lack a lot of the content, for example).”

You can discover whether your website has been moved over to the mobile-first index in your Search Console, as it will reveal whether Google is using the mobile or desktop version of Googlebot to crawl a site. 

Google Advises on URL Structures

Do you spend time making your URL’s look neat and tidy? 

Google thinks you’re wasting your time.

In a Google Search Central Hangout hosted in March, Google’s John Mueller revealed there’s no benefit to having an artificially flat URL structure compared to one that shows a directory path. 

John confirmed that the number of slashes in a URL is not an indicator of how important a page is, or how likely Google is to surface the page in search results. 

In the hangout John went on to explain that Google treats URLs as identifiers of content, not as a way to understand site structure.  

John agreed that it’s completely up to the website owner on whether they prefer a flat URL structure or one with depth. But John confirmed it will not help or harm a site by doing either one. 

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Google Stresses Importance of E-A-T

When Google rolled out the E-A-T content update, those biggest hit were health, medical and financial websites. These were coined as “Your Money or Your Life” websites by Google, as they sell products or services that can impact the happiness, health and financial stability of users. 

Google vets YMYL websites vigorously as there is a major concern for misinformation. The bottom line is, Google doesn’t want these sites to harm people. 

Of course when the E-A-T roll out occurred many websites lost ranks and visitors. It seemed that the industry specific impact meant even those who were playing by the rules saw some loss. 

In a Google Search Hangout in March, a website owner of a health company asked John Mueller how they could come back from the E-A-T roll out to enhance visibility. 

John Mueller explained that the only way to bounce back is to follow Google’s guidelines of E-A-T – Expertise, Authoritiveness, Trust. 

John also went on to say that all site owners regardless of industry should be ensuring they are following the E-A-T guidelines to enhance site content and in turn improve SEO.

Google Answers Featured Snippets Volatility

If you read our February 2021 news report, you’ll know that Google’s popular Featured Snippet was going through some volatility – with snippets disappearing. 

At the start of March 2021, this was still the case, with Google removing some snippets entirely from search queries. 

In another episode of a Google Hangout, John Mueller explained that there is not always stability in gaining a featured snippet and that Google does change the threshold of what triggers a snippet. 

John went on to say, “The featured snippets and rich results in general, those kinds of things can fluctuate over time. And I know the teams are always working on those features and trying to fine-tune the triggering.”

The answer does appear to be more testing from Google, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out across the rest of the year, and if featured snippets continue to be as coveted as they have become. 

 

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Anchor Text Advice Straight from Google

Anchor links, is text used in a link to take the user to another page or reference. For a long time Google has always been very sensitive about how anchor links are used. 

Back in the old days, having the right anchor text could help you rank for desired keywords. But this isn’t the case now, and Google now generally keeps quiet about its opinions on anchor text, or more specifically external anchor text. For example, when you’re linking from another blog or website to your own website.  

However, in the name of transparency, Google’s John Mueller covered the topic of anchor text and links in a recent Google Hangout. 

In regards to Internal links and anchor text, John explained that this is a positive thing, and helps give content context. 

John said, “With regards to internal links you’re giving us a signal of context. So basically you’re saying, in this part of my website you’ll find information about this topic.

And that’s what you would use as the anchor text for those internal links.”

In regards to external links and anchor text, John also provided some clarity on this topic, explaining that again, it needs to provide context. 

John said, “With regards to external links, if you’re linking out to other people’s websites, the same things. Like, supply some context why people should go and click on this link, what kind of extra information it gives.”

Moving onto the anchor text itself, John revealed that it’s important to create anchor text that tells a user what to expect when they click a link to an internal or external page.

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Bing Rolls Out 5 Upgrades

Bing is upping the game with five upgrades to its search results. Yep, not just one, but five! 

The new upgrades come as visual imagery is becoming a key trend in our search habits. 

Bing’s aim with the new features is to provide a richer search experience for users, combining both visual imagery and text based information all in one view. Bing describes the new results as more engaging and more intuitive. 

The full list of upgrades include; 

  • Intuitive highlighting of content
  • Integrated visual search
  • Expandable carousels
  • Infographic-like SERPs
  • Richer results for local queries

From March 2021 many of these features will be live in Microsoft Bing, but others will be gradually rolled out across the next few months.

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Marketing 

The online world is noisy right now as everyone vies for attention. Getting your message out there in a clear and relevant way is essential to keep the attention of your target audience. 

With these marketing updates, it’s good to know what may just work to make you stand out from the crowd. 

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LinkedIn Wants to Join the Audio Hype

There has been a boom in social apps with visual and audio content, so it’s no surprise that LinkedIn wants to get in on the trend. 

The news hot off the social press, is that LinkedIn are currently developing their own audio rooms product to tap into the rising love for apps such as Clubhouse. 

A sneak preview of the app shows the current UI is very similar to Clubhouse, with a feature box for the speaker and then a list of those joining the discussion. 

It could cause some trouble for Clubhouse, as LinkedIn has confirmed it will only launch when there is an Android version, something which Clubhouse still doesn’t have. 

Right now, LinkedIn says they are just in a testing phase, but to expect something soon. 

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YouTube Dislikes Thumbs Down

A thumbs down on YouTube is just one way to feel like someone passively aggressively disliked your content. But this could soon be the end of the negativity click. 

In March YouTube confirmed that they were experimenting with removing the public dislike counts on some creators’ videos in an effort to reduce the impact of negative behaviour on the platform. 

The like and dislike counts will still be able to be seen in the Creators Studio, but they would not be publicly displayed. 

This echoes the same experiment that Instagram is still going through of removing the like count on posts. 

It’s an interesting journey for these social platforms to take, and only time will tell if this makes a truly positive contribution to users.

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