Despite a lack of major news stories, it’s been an interesting two weeks in search, largely due to a myriad of small updates and announcements. Google also made a few mildly embarrassing missteps.
MOZ was removed from the Google index after an overly-broad DMCA request. And it was later discovered that Google’s official digital marketing course contains incorrect advice about content length and keyword density.
On a more positive note, Google published several updates to Search Central. There are two new pages, one on metadata and the other on schema for Q&A and flashcard pages. You’ll also find extra information regarding page titles—if you’ve experienced incorrect titles in search results, stay tuned.
You’ll want to take note of multiple minor feature updates and announcements. A handful of sitemap extension tags are no longer supported by Google, Search Console has a filter for translatable results, and an indexing report for videos will be released soon.
We’ll also be covering inclusive ranking factors, Vimeo, and virtual reality optimization (don’t worry, it’s not a thing yet). With all that in mind, let’s look at all the recent news, updates, and tidbits from the world of search engine optimization over the last couple of weeks.
MOZ Removed From Google Index After False DMCA Request
MOZ was removed from Google’s index after a DMCA notice was filed, a mechanism in which copyright holders request content to be removed from a site.
As the issue was resolved quickly, this may seem unnewsworthy. But the story clarifies an important point for site owners regarding a process that has long been viewed as open to abuse and error.
The fact that Google responded quickly is a positive sign. It also shows that the search engine is aware of problems associated with DMCA and that SEOs have a safeguard against misuse. In a statement issued through Search Engine Land, Google said, “If we find that pages have been removed from our results in error, we reinstate them, which we did in this case.”
The events in which MOZ was embroiled demonstrate how important it is to monitor indexation through platforms like Search Console. Additionally, it hints at what happens when the human element is eliminated from some processes and automation is left unchecked.
Google Recognizes Its Own SEO Course Contains Mistakes
If you were thinking about instructing your SEO team to take the recently-announced digital marketing course from Google, you have reason to pause. It looks like some of the training is false. And that isn’t an opinion from third parties. Representatives from Google have said so.
Course material specified that pages should have a 2% keyword density and a minimum of 300 words of content to meet industry standards. Search Liaison Danny Sullivan quickly responded by saying, “This can be ignored,” and emphasized the relevance of Search Central documentation as the authoritative resource.
To our minds, the incident highlights the importance of having a multi-faceted training system for in-house SEO. It’s essential to draw from multiple sources and not take official advice at face value.
Google Makes Several Updates to Search Central Documentation
Google has made several updates to its Search Central documentation. Practically all of the topics outlined in Search Central are foundational aspects of search engine optimization and web admins need to be familiar with Google’s guidance.
Here’s an overview of the changes:
- Metadata elements - A new page covers best practices in relation to metadata. It also specifies which elements not to use in the <head> section of a webpage to avoid issues with HTML processing.
- Quiz schema for flashcard and Q&A pages - Another recently published document outlines instructions for adding Quiz schema to flashcard and Q&A pages. The guidance—titled Education Q&A—helps webmasters structure their content so it’s eligible for inclusion in the Education Q&A carousel, and in Google Assistant and Google Lens results.
- Title links - Search central guidance on titles has been amended and now includes a troubleshooting table, covering issues like half-empty, obsolete, and inaccurate title tags. If your title links aren’t appearing correctly in search results, consult this section.
All of the new advice is relatively easy to implement, and although traffic gains are unlikely to be significant, there are no downsides from an SEO perspective.
Google Deprecates Some Sitemap Extension Tags
Google will be removing support for some sitemap extension tags in August. Sitemap tags are instances of extended syntax that provide information about media files.
If you use any of the video and image extension tags listed below on your sitemap, it’s a good idea to remove them:
Your rankings won’t be affected if you don’t remove the tags listed above, but it’ll keep your site uncluttered and up to date. You may receive warnings in Search Console after the update is made.
Google Releases New Two Search Console Features
Google has released two new search console features: a filter for translated results and a video indexing report.
The filter in the performance report allows admins to monitor searchers that interact with their website in a translated language. Google will sometimes translate the title tag and description of a result and serve it in response to foreign-language queries. If a user visits the site, they will interact with pages through Google Translate.
The video report, which was announced at Google I/O, helps web admins identify and resolve indexing issues on video pages on their site. There’s no exact release date but it’s expected fairly soon.
Vimeo Adds Structured Data to All Videos
Vimeo has decided to add structured data to all of its videos, making it likely they will receive increased exposure in search results. If you publish content on Vimeo, you may see more hits. It’s also worth experimenting with the platform if you don’t already use it.
Inclusive Schema to Become Image Ranking Factor
Google has announced that it will include diversity as a ranking factor in the near future. In essence, image data related to skin tone, hair texture, hair color, and so on will be incorporated into the algorithm.
A new inclusive schema for labeling images and other visual assets will be released soon. SEOs should keep an eye on this development and consider tailoring their use of images accordingly.
John Mueller Clarifies Role of Meta Descriptions in Rankings
It’s an ongoing SEO debate. Do meta descriptions affect rankings? Well, according to Google Search Advocate John Mueller, the answer is no.
In an SEO Office Hours session, he said, “...the meta description is primarily used as a snippet in the search results page. And that’s not something that we would use for ranking.”
However, he did point out that meta descriptions can affect whether or not people click on a result, and therefore still carry importance. So while this age-old debate amongst SEO still rages, understand that there is value in owning real estate in results and attention should be given to meta descriptions.
Should You Be Thinking About Virtual Reality Optimization?
How often do you think about virtual reality? If you’re like most SEOs, it probably won’t be very often. But it may well turn out to be the next big thing.
If you’re interested in this topic, Tyler Kurtz published a fascinating piece in Search Engine Land, titled Virtual environment optimization (VEO): The next evolution of SEO?
We’re not there yet, of course. Odds are we’re not even close. But it’s definitely a direction we’re trending towards as technology becomes more immersive.
SEO by the Sea Founder Bill Slawski Passes Away
Bill Slawski was a widely respected and pioneering search expert, well known for his incisive posts taking apart Google patents on his blog SEO by the Sea. He was also SEO Director at Go Fish Digital. Tributes have been pouring in on Twitter, and he’ll be missed by many in the industry.