The previous two weeks have seen a number of interesting and important changes from Google, with particular relevance for marketers and e-commerce merchants. There are lots of small practical changes for you to make that should, when combined, lead to a noticeable increase in rankings and traffic.
With that in mind, here are all the latest SEO developments, chatter and news from the last two weeks.
SEO News at a Glance
- Google has begun to roll out another update targeting product reviews. Reviewers should ensure their content meets Google’s quality guidelines.
- Google is displaying the return period for products in some search snippets. Merchants may see an increase (or downtick) in click-through rates as this feature rolls out to more queries.
- The “People Also Ask” feature is showing in search results at normal levels after a brief decline in frequency, which is an important listing for SEOs and marketers alike
- Google adds an automated FAQ feature to business profiles, giving more flexibility to business that take advantage of this function.
SEO News and Updates
Google Begins Rolling Out a Product Reviews Update
On the 27th of July, Google began implementing an update targeting product reviews. It’s the fourth in a sequence of review-related algorithm changes that started in April 2021.
This update relates mainly to content published on review sites, like “best of” and “top rated” posts. Ecommerce sites that publish in-depth reviews of products in their catalog should also expect to be included.
If you publish product reviews on your website, you may see a fluctuation in rankings. That said, it doesn’t look like this update will carry the weight of previous installments for this series on product reviews, and only minor algorithm modifications are anticipated.
Google has published documentation about how to write high-quality reviews. Advice includes demonstrating expertise, evaluating competitor products, and including links to other helpful resources.
Search Quality Rater Guidelines Updated
Google has updated the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, with three main changes:
- The recently published Search Quality Rater Guidelines: An Overview will be modified in accordance with changes. This is a valuable summary for SEOs and marketers that don’t have time to read the full document.
- More examples have been included to illustrate how YMYL (Your Money Your Life) pages—that include details that can detrimentally affect a reader’s life if misapplied—should be evaluated.
- Updates to E-A-T guidelines, pointing out that the purpose of a page should be considered when accounting for quality. For example, an ecommerce page selling shoes will generally be less informative than an article about neuroscience.
Search Quality Rater Guidelines have become an important source of information for SEOs, providing insights into what Google values and the principles on which its ranking algorithm is likely based. Acronyms like YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) and E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, and Trust), which come from the guidelines, are ubiquitous in the search community.
“People Also Ask” Snippets Showing at Normal Levels
In the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed a decrease in the number of times the People Also Ask feature appeared in the SERPs. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Your mind isn’t playing tricks on you.
People Also Ask was showing at around half the typical frequency—in 30% of results as opposed to the normal 60%. It looks like it was a glitch on the part of Google and regular service has resumed.
SEOs and marketers often use People Also Ask to identify new keyword opportunities, expand existing content, and research new market segments to target.
Google Displaying Returns Period in Some Search Results
In a move that is significant to e-commerce retailers, Google is now showing the return period for products in some search results. Short blocks of text stating “15-day returns” and “30-day returns” have started to appear under the main description for product and category pages.
It’s unclear how Google obtains this information, and there aren’t yet structured data tags that can be applied to web pages. It’s possible that it’s taken from details submitted in Google Merchant Center about return windows for products, or even from the page itself.
This change has the potential to affect click-through rates for e-commerce pages, so it’s something to keep an eye on and perhaps experiment with. The best thing you can do at the moment is to ensure that information about returns is up-to-date on your website product pages and in your Merchant Center.
Automated Chatbot FAQ Feature Added to Business Profiles
Businesses now have the option of setting automated responses to questions sent via the business profile chatbox. There hasn’t been a public announcement about this feature from Google, but several people have picked up on it.
You can set answers by navigating to your business profile and selecting Customers > Messages > Menu > Menu Settings > Manage Frequently Asked Questions.
Remember to review your FAQs after changing them to ensure that they’re being served correctly when users ask questions.
Google Adds CNAME DNS Verification to Search Console
Google announced on Twitter that web admins can verify their sites in Search Console using a DNS CNAME record, a type of DNS (Domain Name Server) record that maps an alias domain to a canonical or “true” domain.
Previously, verification by changing DNS settings was only possible with the “TXT method,” which involved copy-and-pasting several lines of text into a domain’s TXT records.
If you regularly add sites to Search Console, it’s one more verification method to be aware of.
Google Retires the Use of the Word “Headline”
In a minor update, Google has modified Search Central documentation to remove the word “headline,” which was used interchangeably to refer to both the main title of a page and header elements (H1, H2, H3, etc.). Instead, instances will be replaced with the specific terms “header” and “title.”
This is understandable, given the potential for confusion. SEOs should ensure they use the correct terminology moving forward.
And that’s it for this month! We’ll see you in another two weeks. To round off, here’s a little joke for you. How does Sergey Brin like his turkey served? With a large portion of keyword stuffing (but we don’t recommend this :).
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