Ok, so we all know Google actions a range of updates on a regular basis, usually through fairly fundamental algorithm changes (cutely named Panda, Penguin and the like). However, especially with the recent rapid acceleration of behavioural changes we have seen due to Covid-19 & the resulting Lockdown (totally blowing a lot of our 2020 digital trend predictions out of the water!), the search giant has been making a number of smaller, more subtle moves & other tech platforms have changed how they work with Google’s tools, which may impact your business.
It’s fair to say some of these changes have been directly linked to the Coronavirus outbreak, whilst others have been crafted as a direct response to some of the other events affecting global internet use such as the #BlackLivesMatter movement and resulting protests and socio-political instability. Let’s explore 5 Google Updates and how they might impact you business.
5 recent Google updates and how they might affect your business:
- Facts – Google has been adding a ‘Fact Check’ label to Image Search Results:
With the aforementioned socio-political instability, not to mention previous digital scandals like those involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica during times of political unrest, ‘fact-checking’ has really come to the fore for many of the tech platforms we use on a daily basis. Google’s way of combatting the spread of Fake News has made it’s way into Image Search, with the addition of fact-check labelling on image results. Google explained:“Photos and videos are an incredible way to help people understand what’s going on in the world. But the power of visual media has its pitfalls—especially when there are questions surrounding the origin, authenticity or context of an image.”
Is that image of a shark swimming down a street in Houston real? Google Images now has “Fact Check” labels to help inform you in some cases like this (no, it was not real). Our post today explains more about how & when fact checks appear in Google Images:
When a user opens out an image from the thumbnail, Google will now display a snippet / summary of the information found on the web page where the image is featured. These “Fact Check” labels will only appear on select images that come from sources which are deemed independent & authoritative. Although it isn’t exactly known what criteria Google expects publishers to meet in order to be considered “authoritative”, they are using an algorithm to determine which publishers are trusted sources, coupled with ClaimReview structured data markup which some publishers are now required to use to indicate fact check content to search engines.
If your business is posting content which may fall into this category or be misread as fake news, now is the time to look into the ClaimReview structured data markup and to continually work on your site’s authority in your space. It also pays to be mindful of the sort of content you are sharing on your own website and across social media during times of instability.
- Freebies – Google has been giving businesses Free Ads in Google Maps:
Everyone loves a bit of Free Advertising, right? Whilst the world of digital advertising has been turned upside-down (well, shaken a little) by recent trends, free advertising can rarely be a negative thing, and Google have been giving businesses the opportunity to promote themselves for free in Google Maps until September this year through their smart campaigns.“Every month, over 1 billion people use Google Maps to see what’s around them, search for businesses, and find directions. Promoted pins on Google Maps help your business stand out during these moments by displaying a prominent, square-shaped Google Maps pin.”What does this look like? Well, particularly of use for smaller local businesses, these ads in essence take the form of a promoted pin. These promoted pins can help your business stand out in Google Maps by highlighting specific services such pickup or delivery, both of which are prevalent sales features for any business that is now in the process of reopening in these post-lockdown times.
So, up until September, smart campaign advertisers with a Google My Business listing will not be charged for clicks, calls, or sales generated from promoted pins. Acording to sources, Google has already started rolling out promoted pins to smart campaign advertisers with a Google My Business profile, and they will be fully available in the coming weeks.
- Mobile First – Google has tweaked how it indexes sites with Mobile, Desktop and AMP versions:Ok, so we’re all optimising for a mobile-first experience, right? (Of course you are!). John Mueller recently hosted a Webmaster Hangout, to discuss how Google handles multi-platform sites in a mobile-first index. This boiled down to an understanding of the Web Vitals measurement, for sited which have been built with both a mobile and AMP version. We may need to write an entire article on Web Vitals as they’re going to become very important ranking factors in 2021 according to Google – so knowing which version of a site Google will use for indexing and user experience scoring is important.Which is where this webinar comes in handy, as Mueller went on to summarise that, for indexing purposes, Google will use a mobile version of a site if both a mobile and AMP version co-exist; and that Google would not use the AMP version of a site for indexing if there’s a mobile version of a site. Mueller said:“With regards to AMP and mobile and desktop, we treat AMP pages as being alternates by default. So we wouldn’t use the AMP pages for indexing.”You can watch an explanation of this and Web Vitals in the recording from the session here:
If your business’ website (like many) has all three different site versions (mobile, AMP and desktop),then optimise for the fact that Google have said these sites will have their mobile version crawled for indexing and the AMP version used for Web Vitals scoring.
- Safari Secure – Google Analytics data collection soon to be blocked by Apple’s proprietary browser:It has been reported that Safari, Apple’s own browser, will soon block Google Analytics from tracking & collecting data about user’s browsing activity. This week saw Apple’s latest macOS announcement at WWDC and it mentioned that their latest version (strangely called “Big Sur”) will feature a Safari browser with a new and improved privacy report, listing all trackers blocked when browsing on a site – more importantly, the screengrab from their press release showed GA specifically being blocked.
This could be a real game changer for how you access data about everything from traffic and sources, to on-site behaviour. It is key to point out that Safari only accounts for around 9.4% share of the desktop browser market so not ALL is lost; but 10% of your data being missed could still leave a hole in your ability to draw accurate insight on your user behaviour.
Expect this update to start coming into effect in Autumn 2020, and prepare for some interesting reporting in Google Analytics and other platforms as a result.
- Weigh Anchor – Google advises on how it looks at internal anchor text on links and ‘visible effects in search’:One for the more tech-y Search Engine Optimisers out there, this update came again from John Mueller’s webinar, where he discussed the impact of internal link anchor text on search. Put simply, the anchor text is the actual text of the hyperlink on the page (classics include “click here”, “read more” and if you’re an older-hand at SEO, actual keywords within body copy).There is a long-standing understanding that the anchor text used to link to another page will help that page rank for the keyword phrase used in that anchor text, often called ‘passing on link juice’. In the past, using keywords in the anchor text of external links (links from another site) used to automatically help a page rank better, but this practice was actually devalued some years ago.
Mueller went on to explain a very subtle but valuable point about anchor text. It is the case that Google gleans the context and value of the link by both the anchor text AND the content of the linked page. So, the upshot of this for your business? Ensure any internal linking is done ‘sensibly’; avoid keyword stuffing (of course), but contextualise the links wherever possible and make sure the surrounding text as well as the destination content are all contextually linked – ultimately it comes down to the user experience (we wrote an article about user experience recently here), and signposting content as efficiently as possible, describing what the user expects to find when they click the link, is certainly a good place to start.
These are just five of the recent changes in the digital space which may impact how your website and, ultimately, business performs. If you’d like to speak to us for any advice around these recent changes, or your wider digital marketing strategy, and are looking for an agency to deliver genuine results (like we’ve done with our clients), then please feel free to get in touch.
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