SEO Highlights for September and October
Autumn is here, bringing with it thick jumpers, PSLs and SEO highlights galore. If you would like regular updates from Uprise Up on the world of digital marketing, follow us on Twitter.
Continuous scrolling on mobile
Continuous scrolling has rolled out to mobile search results in the US. Now, when you reach the end of page 1 more search results load automatically without you needing to do anything. In fact, you can scroll through up to 4 pages of results before needing to click a ‘load more’ button. If your pages are ranking just off page 1 at the moment, then your visibility just got the opportunity to be greater.
Continuous scrolling is an interesting change as it does open up the competition between search results. Users are given more options to browse before needing to click anything. There’s some debate over how much this will affect CTR and traffic, though we can’t see this update stealing too much traffic from the top positions at this stage. Though we’ll understand more when this update is released more worldwide.
12 Structured Data Fields no longer used by Google
In October Google removed 12 Structured Data fields from their help documents, claiming the fields removed were ‘unused by Google Search and Rich Results Test doesn’t flag warnings for them’. In other words, they no longer do anything for your SEO.
For those not in the know, Structured Data is a piece of code embedded in the head of a page. Visible to search engines only, it is used to provide search engines with the key details they need to know from that page, helping them understand the page much quicker during crawls.
The fields being removed are:
- Structured Data type: HowTo
- Structured Data type: QAPage
Fields: mainEntity.suggestedAnswer.author, mainEntity.dateCreated, mainEntity.suggestedAnswer.dateCreated, mainEntity.acceptedAnswer.author, mainEntity.acceptedAnswer.dateCreated, and mainEntity.author
- Structured Data type: SpecialAnnouncement
Fields: provider, audience, serviceType, address, and category fields.
Do you need to do anything in response to this?
As Google is simply ignoring these fields now, you don’t need to worry about removing them, though please be aware that Google equally won’t inform you of any issues with these fields either. Instead, we recommend simply refraining from using these fields in any future Structured Data added to your site.
Core Web Vitals: What was the impact?
As one of the most anticipated changes to search this year, there’s been discussion in the SEO community as to how extensive the impact of the Page Experience Update is since it finished rolling out for mobile in August.
The result is disappointingly, but not unexpectedly, vague. Many sites responded to the planned update by having their developers focus on improvements that would enable their sites to fall inline with target scores for the Core Web Vital metrics. Where site changes were deployed with the specific intention to improve scores for Core Web Vital metrics, it is almost impossible to isolate the impact. Summer 2021 saw a lot of change on Google Search, with many confirmed and unconfirmed updates going live, leading to a search landscape that was already full of temperamental rankings (see Mordy Oberstein’s Tweets on ranking volatility in 2021). And with the update release taking several weeks, the introduction of Page Experience was also too gradual for any ranking changes to be attributed to the release of the Page Experience update.
From a data perspective, this has proven to be quite frustrating, with clients wanting to know the impact of putting time and resource into improving the page experience of their site. An impact we can’t honestly provide at this stage.
Discussion is also revolving around how we measure this impact too. Though an organic change would be reflected in rankings, this update looks at the usability of the site. Usability affects all channels, at which point metrics such as conversion rate perhaps become more telling. Though indicative of UX improvements generally, conversion rate won’t tell you if Core Web Vitals are affecting your organic performance in search results, just that you’re converting well with the audience you do attract. So a telling metric, but not one that gives the full story for SEO.
Though some tools claim they can see improvements in sites which pass the CWV assessment (meaning your site meets criteria for all 3 metrics), that improvement still appears to be quite minor, with Sistrix seeing a 3.7% improvement in visibility by the end of the update rollout (this is just for domains that pass CWV). And even then they admitted they couldn’t isolate it from other ranking factors.
So, the advantage of optimising for CWV, from an organic sense at least, still remains unclear. As others have argued, page experience helps with conversions, making it a factor you still need to consider outside of your SEO. Perhaps the desktop rollout planned for February 2022 will provide more insight?
Google Chrome testing new features
Google took to their Chromium blog last month to reveal two new features they’re testing: Side Search and Journeys. Both are designed to help users engage with search results and find the information they want.
Side search is a feature that means the user can now access the search results page for their query whilst viewing one of the pages, seeing both at once. The search results are shown in a side panel, enabling the user a more fluid ability to jump between different pages. Google claim the intention behind this feature is to enable better comparison of search results. It’s a feature I’d imagine will be utilised more with transactional queries – people looking for a restaurant or gift hunting for example.
With this feature I think bounce and exit rates will be the metric to monitor – it’ll suddenly become a lot easier, and perhaps more tantalising, for the user to jump around. Engagement will also become much more paramount – capturing the user’s attention quickly and efficiently will be necessary to reduce the distraction side search will offer.
To try this tool yourself, you need the Chrome OS Dev Channel on your desktop. Happy jumping!
Google also revealed Journeys, a tool which will help group together your search history into relevant groups. This can make it easier for you to re-visit pages, rather than needing to sift through your search history or trying to recreate your original search journey. Though this isn’t a feature I can see impacting organic search for individual sites, it is a change likely to impact UX in search as a whole.
This will only work for searches on a given device, Journeys doesn’t work across devices yet. Google speculate there may be potential for that adaptation down the line, but for now Journeys is restricted. To try Journeys for yourself, Google are rolling it out as an experiment on Chrome Canary on desktop. I’d imagine pending on feedback this will be rolled out more widely soon.
Did we miss anything?
If there was anything else that happened over the last few months that caught your eye, feel free to tweet us at upriseUPSEM, email us at [email protected], or simply send us a message through our contact page. We’d love to hear from you.
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