Just because there’s a global pandemic, doesn’t mean the digital world stops. Far from it in fact, as May has seen some of the most significant changes yet in SEO and marketing since 2020 began.
With an algorithm update to contend with and some major revelations from our favourite digital platforms, there’s plenty to keep you busy in the realms of marketing.
Not all the updates may impact your industry or business specifically, but from what we’ve seen, there’s news that is going to make changes for everyone, no matter how they’re showing up online.
Grab yourself a brew and some biscuits, and update yourself on the biggest changes we’ve seen in SEO and marketing during May 2020.
Search Engine Optimisation
Without a doubt, SEO has been the most turbulent in May thanks to a Google Algorithm update. But that’s not the only thing the Google folks have been busy doing. From putting the emphasis on mobile to making it known we should be focussing our energy on smart speakers, Google has provided some revelations in May that you may want to consider in your SEO strategy.
Google Has a Core Algorithm Update
If a global pandemic didn’t impact your online business, then Google certainly will.
In May 2020, Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed that a core algorithm update would be rolled out on May 4th. The update was officially known as the “May 2020 Core Update.”
As ever, your site may have noticed a drop or gain in the search rankings as the core update rolled out.
Notoriously, changes in search rankings are most often a reflection of the relevancy of your content. If you’ve been creating great, helpful content for your users during this time, then you may have seen a positive impact on your results.
Of course, this does mean that if you’ve not been honing in on creating relevant content over the past few months, you may have seen some sharp declines.
As the first core update since Covid-19, Google themselves have admitted that the searches in Google have vastly changed since the beginning of 2020. For example, Google has said there have never been so many searches for a single topic as there have been for Covid-19.
In the run-up to the core update, Google advised site owners, that they should simply be focusing on creating great content.
However, once the rollout was over on May 18th, dissatisfaction in the SEO community was rife.
The biggest complaint was that Pinterest was, for some reason, suddenly dominating the search results. And big brands like Amazon were completely taking over the winning search results.
Many have said this is due to the expectations of users. That since the covid-19 outbreak search terms for these brands have increased from users, hence Google now rewarding them with better search results.
But people are not happy – and it’s not just site owners, but even users. It appears that this update brought with it a wave of confusing results from Google.
A thread in Reddit with more than 3,000 comments had users commenting on how poor the search results have been.
Local search results have fluctuated, and some are even theorising that the unreasonable changes are due to Covid-19 having some impact on Google’s algorIt’s safe to say that this hasn’t been a successful update from Google, and many are wondering what their next move will be.
Google’s stance to site owners remains the same even after the update – keeping improving the quality of your content.
Google’s statement about core updates is “they’re designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.” However, with backlash even from users, we think everyone might be wondering if they got this one wrong.
Google Launches a Podcast
Anyone who needs to work at creating a strong online presence wants to know what’s going on at Google. After all, they hold the keys to more customers. So it may come as an exciting surprise that in May, Google announced they will be starting a podcast – “Search Off the Record”.
Google’s John Mueller, Martin Splitt, and Gary Illyes are teaming up to present insider knowledge about Google Search.
According to the trailer for the podcast, the team will be sharing knowledge from Google that isn’t even documented. For example, some episodes will give background information on the decisions around Google launches.
There is not yet any confirmation from the Google team as to when the first episode of the podcast will drop, but the page is now live on podcast apps, so you can follow them and be ready for the big launch.
Let’s hope it truly lives up to the hype!
Google’s Guided Recipes – Get Structured or Get Lost
Google has been at it even more in May by surprising the cooking community with a new feature that they rolled out without any warning.
Google released a “Guided Recipes” feature, which aims to support users who cook using Google Assistant. The Guided Recipes feature aims to help expand the reach of recipe content to voice search, enabling more people to cook from home using voice-assisted search.
No need for greasy hands on mobile phones anymore!
However, while this is great for those who like to cook easily from home with the help of their voice assistant, Google didn’t update the cooking community, meaning many bloggers who publish recipes daily and weekly were left completely in the dark about the update.
For many cooking publishers, Google has confirmed that this won’t affect visibility on mobile and desktop. But if you want your recipe to be found by those using voice search, you will now have to comply with the new structured data requirements.
Google Assistant, is available on mobile devices, smart displays, smart clocks, and many more app-driven devices. The new Guided Recipes feature will allow users to ask for recipes and have to read back to them with any accompanying images and videos.
As a user, this new feature will be highly convenient, but there are questions as to whether the new structure needed for the Google Assistant may result in a poor experience for users still using traditional mobile and desktop devices.
For any blog or business that publishes recipe content, this will be an update that they will need to take seriously and consider how they approach their site structure for their key audience.
Google Confirm You Should Choose Mobile
Google’s mobile-first indexing has been rolling out over the past two years. As more users search via mobile, Google has continued to tell site owners to make mobile websites a priority, and this has been hit home even more in May.
On a Google Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller once again stated that businesses and site owners should be making the mobile version of their website a top priority if they want to enhance their SEO.
During the hangout, John was given the question – for SEO should I focus on desktop or mobile?
John’s answer was a resounding, yes to mobile-first. As John said during the hangout, ever since Google switched to mobile-first indexing, the mobile version of the site is the only one that matters when it comes to rankings.
If you’re juggling where to put your SEO budget, the statement is clear. Invest in mobile SEO, and you’ll reap the rewards.
Bing Questions – It’s a Yes or No
Bing is forever trying to differentiate themselves from the Google Giants, and on May 19th Bing revealed an enhancement to their user queries which could make some big improvements to their usability.
Traditionally, Bing answers were very similar to Google. You type in a question, and you get a detailed featured snippet that you have to a) trust, and b) read to ensure you feel confident in the answer.
However, Bing have taken their results up a notch by providing users with a yes or no answer.
Particular questions will also trigger an option for the user to refine the search for a more specific answer.
While this new yes/no feature from Bing is already live in the U.S, it’s believed they will begin to roll it out across the globe in coming weeks.
For those targeting question-based content on Bing, now is the time to track the impact of this new feature, and discover whether the featured information will support more conversions or simply make people move on once they’ve gained their answer.
Google Lends a Hand to Local Businesses
The local business listing on Google My Business has enabled many local businesses to be found in their area for the product or service they sell. Of course, since covid-19 outbreak many small local businesses have had to temporarily close.
In a bid to help small business owners, Google has launched new tools in the Google My Business feature to enable customers to still support and back the locals they love to use.
People around the world want to see their favourite local businesses survive, and this new feature from Google launched on May 27th aims to do just that.
The Google My Business listing will now provide local businesses with the ability to add support links to their profile, enabling their customers to submit donations and purchase gift cards.
Starting in May, this new Google My Business is rolling out in 18 countries.
As a business you can either link directly to merchants such as PayPal and GoFundMe, or link directly to relevant pages on your website.
Since smart speakers first hit the market in 2014, there’s been a lot of noise in the SEO community about how websites should start to optimise for voice-related search queries.
However, research revealed in May from NPR and Edison Research has discovered that smart speakers may not be the next marketing channel we all predicted it would be.
According to the latest Smart Audio Report, nearly six years since the first voice-assistant, the user experience and technology have not significantly evolved enough for us to use them effectively as a marketing channel.
While people are using smart speakers, the research has found that the increase in people using these devices is incremental.
When you compare the smart speaker to other smart tech such as smartphones and smartwatches; the speaker sits within the novelty category, with few using the speaker to the best of its ability.
As revealed in the Smart Audio Report, in January 2019, there were nearly 118 million smart speakers in homes. The figure today is 126 million. That’s less than 10% growth, compared to the 80% growth seen from 2018-2019.
The simple fact is, until voice-related searches see a more significant growth, marketers will still be putting voice-search on the back-burner.
With more businesses adjusting to the ‘new normal’ that covid-19 has provided us with, it’s clear that digital platforms have had to step-up in order to support more company’s adopting a digital-first approach.
If your business wasn’t online before, we can bet that you’ve been adopting a digital strategy now. We’ve seen everything go online, from fitness classes, cookery schools, to even hairdressers.
These are the updates in the marketing world that have helped accelerate online commerce.
Facebook Shops Launches
Facebook has always been fond of small businesses. Especially as many a small business has Facebook Ads to thank for their success, and now Facebook has taken their support for the small business even further.
On May 19th, Facebook announced the release of Facebook Shops. The new feature allows retailers to create an online store and sell directly from both Facebook and Instagram apps.
For many small businesses who have been impacted severely by covid-19, the introductive of Facebook Shops has been a lifeboat to many, enabling them to get online quicker and sell directly to their target audience.
The best benefit of all is that Facebook Shops is also working alongside eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, BigCommerce and WooCommerce, to provide integration. So if you’re already set-up on another platform, adopting Facebook Shops is still available to you.
LinkedIn Took a Drop
While this news won’t be affecting your website, we felt it was good to reveal as it just goes to show that even the big brands can get their SEO wrong sometimes.
On May 6th in the early hours, LinkedIn dropped out of visibility from Google completely. Yes, you read that right – LinkedIn temporarily disappeared from Google!
If you attempted to Google any web pages from Linkedin on Google Search, Google would not show any results.
It might sound like something from a horror movie – has Google just decided to wipe out LinkedIn?
But no, this was, in fact, a major technical error from LinkedIn.
There are many ways a site can ‘accidentally’ remove themselves from the search results. From blocking search crawlers to just uploading the wrong file in the code of the website.
This very public error from LinkedIn just goes to show it’s best to leave the SEO to the pros.
YouTube Rolls Our Premium Advertising
YouTube is one of the most underutilised marketing channels on the internet, and now it’s relaunched it’s premium advertising.
On May 19th YouTube announced that YouTube Select; a new and improved package for advertisers.
YouTube will now package content in what it calls lineups that are specifically tailored for topics around beauty and fashion, entertainment, technology, sports and much more.
As YouTube TV has seen a dramatic increase in connected viewing during the coronavirus pandemic, this new advertising package has been created to help brands monetise their channels and tap into the increased trend of live TV.
From trials of the package, YouTube has said that global lineups delivered an average awareness lift of 13% and an average purchase intent lift of 9%.
If you haven’t yet considered the power of YouTube, now is very much the time. According to U.S data YouTube has more than 100 million people watch YouTube and it’s YouTube TV monthly service.
Google Podcasts Gets an Update
For podcast creators seeking to get more exposure, the new Google Podcasts update revealed in May aims to support users in discovering new podcasts related to their interests.
With many podcast platforms discovery has been a critical issue for creators. It’s back-breaking work online to try and get podcasts discovered by your target audience. The mainstream of discovery for many has been through social channels.
However, Google has recognised how much quality content podcast creators are generating and has been working hard to provide more recognition.
It began in May 2019, when Google confirmed that podcasts would be listed in search results. And then in August 2019, Google announced that podcasts could be played directly from the results page.
Now Google has once again stepped it up by improving their own Google Podcasts dashboard to provide users with the ability to discover new podcasts based on their interests and what they’re currently listening to.
For podcast creators, and those considering creating a podcast, this is music to their ears, as finally podcasts can be discovered in a much more organic way.
Anchor Launches Webinar Tool
The podcasting platform Anchor, owned by Spotify, has launched a new feature enabling users to convert video conference recordings into podcast episodes.
As online webinars and conferences have increased during the covid-19 lockdown, businesses can now repurpose more of their content, enabling it to go further and reach more people.
While this is not the only platform to offer this service, Anchor is the only free digital platform that does this. Which means for businesses who are currently tight on a marketing budget, you can distribute your audio content across all podcasting platforms for free. Meaning your webinar or conference can be published on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and other podcasting apps.