The latest round up of organic search updates

Around the middle of May, you might have noticed that we published some search industry updates. The idea behind these updates is to give you as much information as possible to help you to stay ahead of your competitors when it comes to organic search.

Since our last update, there have been a lot of developments and movements in the search industry (some of which I’m really excited about) so I wanted to provide you with an update on ways that you can improve the visibility of your site as well as give you a heads-up as to what’s coming soon.

GDPR and The Mobile Interstitial Penalty

“We’ve updated our privacy policy” is probably a phrase that you’re sick of seeing when you open up your emails.

In case you’re not aware, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) came into force on Friday the 25th of May. I won’t go into the details here, but if you’d like to read more about it then we’ve put together piece on how Manchester United dealt with GDPR here.

What I would like to talk about is how GDPR might affect your organic rankings. Last year Google released an algorithm update containing the mobile interstitial penalty. This essentially penalises any site that uses intrusive pop ups on their mobile site when users visit it from search. It all stems from putting user experience at the forefront – forcing a pop up into a user’s face as soon as they visit your site is far from a good experience, and Google will punish you for it.

Most site owners took heed of this algorithm update and started to remove any intrusive mobile interstitials from their site.

However with the introduction of GDPR, people are now adding interstitials to their site once again, but this time to declare changes to their privacy policy or the way in which they collect data. In a recent webmaster hangout, John Mueller stated that Google doesn’t discriminate between interstitials and that anyone using an intrusive interstitial to declare GDPR changes could see themselves hit with a penalty.

It’s crucial that you do include GDPR information on your site, but please don’t do it via a pop up that engulfs the entire screen on mobile devices. A subtle interstitial would be a better alternative for this.

Google Posts Video Feature

If your business operates out of multiple locations as well as having an online presence, it’s likely that you have a Google My Business account. If not, then I recommend that you set one up as soon as possible – it’s incredibly important for local SEO.

If you do use Google My Business, you’ve probably noticed the ‘Posts’ feature. This allows you to add a post and image to be shown on your Google My Business account to advertise a certain aspect of your business. This could be events, offers or even just highlights that you’d like to share.

These posts have been shown to have a minor impact in terms of ranking locally, but they also tend to increase CTR to your site as the posts themselves are attractive and enticing when implemented correctly.

To enhance the posts feature even further, Google added video support. This gives users the option to add a video to their post instead of the basic text and image. This might be a little more time consuming, but as video continues to rise in popularity, it makes sense that you should be using it to promote your brand where appropriate.

Google are expanding support for job listing schema

Last year, Google announced the launch of support for structured data, or schema, for job listings in search.

If you’re not familiar with schema, it’s a markup language that sits within the code of your website and tells search engines what the content on your website means rather than just what it says.

Using schema markup on your site can help crawlers to understand more about the data contained on your pages and this increased awareness could therefore lead to increased rankings. It also changes the way that your pages look in search.

For example if you’ve ever searched for a recipe and found cooking times, an image and reviews all present in the search listings then it’s very likely you’ve witnessed schema at work.

As it does with recipes and much more, schema also adds something extra to job listings in search:

Example of job search results

Image source: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/job-posting)

Before you run away to ask your developers to implement this, I’m afraid I’m going to have to burst your bubble. If you’re located in the UK, you won’t see the benefit from this just yet.

When schema for job listings was first launched, it was only available in the US. However, Google recently announced that the feature will now be available in countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Whilst this isn’t the news that the UK based SEOs wanted – it’s still a step closer to the feature being available in the UK. So whilst it might not be used now, there’s nothing stopping you from getting it implemented ready for when it does roll out.

Is structured data for datasets rolling out soon?

Whilst we’re on the topic of schema and structured data, Google have recently updated their documentation for structured data for datasets. A dataset is defined as any element that contains a collection of data – the most common use of this is a standard table. For example a size guide for clothing or a frame size guide for bicycles. So structured data for datasets is just communicating exactly what is contained within a table to a crawler to help them to display the information more efficiently in search. As I mentioned above, increased awareness from crawlers leads to better indexing, which leads to improved (and relevant) rankings.

Previously this documentation for this stated that it wasn’t yet supported by search crawlers. The updated documentation now states that the feature is in pilot with the recommendation that webmasters begin to implement it, suggesting that we might see a roll out soon. If you have datasets present in any form on your site, it’s time to start marking them with schema.

Google have updated the recipe schema documentation

I’m going to continue with the topic of schema, simply because there have been some major developments in the use of structured data recently.

Recipe schema was one of the first types to become available in search, and since its initial roll out, thousands, if not millions, of sites have implemented it. That’s why you’ll find that most recipe page results in Google look attractive and contain rich content such as images and ratings.

Google have recently revisited structured data for recipes and have decided that there’s still work to be done. They’ve added extra properties that you can mark up away from the standard image, cooking time, calories etc, giving you even more detail on the information contained within the recipe.

If you ask me, this is to coincide with the rise of Answer Engine Optimisation where search engines are expecting to have to serve recipe results to a Google Home or Amazon Echo device. Bottom line – if you include recipes on your site then take a look at the new documentation and see what you can add to your pages.

Google send out inaccurate WordPress notifications

If your site is built using WordPress, then you’re probably aware that an updated version of the platform has recently been released.

To go alongside the release of the latest version of the platform, Google attempted to notify any sites that hadn’t updated that their sites were out of date and that they should upgrade to the latest version.

Unfortunately, in trying to be helpful Google also emailed site owners that had upgraded with the same message. It’s safe to say that this confused a lot of people and caused the search giant to submit a statement to clear things up.

They’ve apologised if the message has been received in error and have asked site owners to ignore it if they’re running the latest version of WordPress. They’ve also asked that anyone who received the message in error contacts them with information as soon as possible.

15% of all Google Queries are never seen before

Back in 2007, Google revealed that a whopping 25% of all searches are new to the search engine. This percentage stayed static right up until 2013 where it began to drop a little.

At the latest Google I/O conference, John Mueller and Mariya Moeva stated that the percentage of searches that are never seen before now sits at 15%. Whilst this is a substantial drop from 2007-2013, it’s still an incredibly large amount if you consider that trillions of searches are conducted per year.

The point that I’m trying to make here is that keyword research is still as important as it has ever been. New keywords are being introduced to Google and growing in popularity by the day so it’s important that you’re always looking for new ones to target. Plus, if they’re new to Google then they’ll be lower competition – capitalise on this before someone else does.

Google AdWords to deactivate accounts with no spend

If you’re a regular AdWords user then you’ll have noticed that there have been a lot of changes to the AdWords experience lately. Yes, even the new interface that continues to divide our paid search team.

It’s no secret that Google place a lot of time and effort into developing AdWords and improving the overall user experience, but there have been a lot of improvements made lately. One of these is to begin deactivating any accounts that have no spend attached to them.

The argument here is that if they’re not spending, they’re probably not used and therefore are taking up resource that they shouldn’t be. The AdWords team claim that this will speed up the interface and make the lives of paid search professionals easier.

The wrap up

I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got for you for now in terms of major goings-on in the search industry but stay tuned for our next instalment to ensure you’re staying ahead of the competition.

If you’d like to discuss anything that I’ve covered in this article further then please feel free to get in touch with us here.

Written by Alex Wright

SEO Manager