Google is making a change to how featured some featured snippets function by taking users directly to the associated text when clicked. 

Featured snippets are the highlighted search results that appear at the top of some results pages, showing a specifically relevant bit of text.

The company announced the update through its Google SearchLiason Twitter account, which posted:

“As we have done with AMP pages since December 2018, clicking on a featured snippet now takes users to the exact text highlighted for HTML pages, when we can confidently determine where the text is.”

While it is a relatively small change, it makes featured snippets even more useful to searchers (and thus, more essential for businesses to put in place). 

Surprisingly, the company says there is no additional code or special markup needed to prepare your featured snippets for this change. 

Instead, the search engine is essentially using a trick that highlights specific text by tweaking the URL for each snippet.

As Roger Montti explained over at Search Engine Journal, this is a feature previously used for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which has the dual benefits of being easy to implement and trackable.

Google appears to be testing the idea of integrating its normal web search into search results on YouTube. 

Reddit users have been reporting seeing results and links to traditional web pages when doing searches on the video platform, as you can see in the screenshot below:

YouTube Showing Google Search Result

As you can see, Google places a single web page result among the video results, with an option to click the link or jump to a search directly on Google. 

The test appears to be limited, with many (including myself) being unable to replicate it. However, there are enough reports to conclude this is a legitimate test and not a glitch or hoax. 

So far, reaction to the move has been mixed. Many have decried the potential new feature as “annoying” and said they would “ryin the YouTube experience.”

However, there have also been those who see potential in the concept, saying it could make it easier to leap to Google when YouTube doesn’t provide the results someone is hoping for.

As one user described:

“Sometimes I’m looking for a tutorial but I want a video explaining it, and if it doesn’t exist now I have the option to do a quick Google search in the app.”

Personally I see some utility in integrating a single, non-obtrusive link within video search results. Obviously, those searching on YouTube are primarily looking for exclusively video content, but there are certainly scenarios where users are moving back and forth between YouTube and Google. This would be a convenient option for those situations.

Google will soon be updating their search ranking algorithm with a new ranking signal. This new signal will combine a number of existing signals with a recently introduced metric known as Core Web Vitals. 

The search engine says the goal of the new update is to better rank pages based on the quality of users’ experiences with the site. 

In addition to the new ranking signal, the company announced a few other changes it will be making to its systems in the coming future:

  • Incorporating page experience metrics into rankings for Top Stories in Search on mobile
  • Removing the AMP requirement for content to be shown in Top Stories

The “New” Ranking Signal

While the new signal is being called the Page Experience Signal, it actually combines a few existing search ranking signals with the recently introduced Core Web Vitals details. The metrics being brought under the umbrella of Core Web Vitals include:

  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Safe-browsing
  • HTTPS-security certification
  • Following intrusive interstitial guidelines

As the company said in its announcement

“The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile.”

How To Monitor Your Core Web Vitals

To help prepare webmasters for the coming update, Google has also created a new report section within Search Console. The goal is for the new report to replace the need for a suite of tools aimed at specific issues such as page speed and mobile-friendliness.

The tool can also filter data based on those which are “Poor,” “Needs Improvement,” or “Good.”

When Will The Update Happen

While the update doesn’t really change all that much regarding how webmasters and SEO specialists should approach managing sites, the company sees it as important enough to give a significant notice ahead of the release. 

In fact, Google says these changes to the algorithm will not be happening before 2021. Additionally, the search engine will provide another notice 6 months before it is rolled out.

In recent weeks, LinkedIn has been updating its algorithm it uses to rank content with new signals like “dwell time” or how long users spend with each piece of content. 

Even more, the company has also revealed its secret ranking recipe by using a blog post to dig deep into exactly how it ranks content. 

How LinkedIn Ranks Content

Similar to other major algorithms like those used by Facebook, YouTube, and Google, LinkedIn tries to tailor users’ feeds to their specific interests and niches. To do this, LinkedIn follows a specific process.

When a user logs on, there tend to be tens of thousands of potential posts the social network could choose to show you. To filter these down, the algorithm first applies a lightweight ranking algorithm referred to as a “first-pass candidate generation layer”. This helps choose specifically which posts you might see based on a number of factors including connections and keywords. 

From here, the algorithm now has to determine what order these posts will be shown in. 

As the company describes, “If Alice’s connection Bob recently shared an interesting article, what determines where Bob’s post will appear in Alice’s feed?”

For this, LinkedIn looks at what it calls “viral actions” which include:

  • Reacts
  • Shares
  • Comments

Based on individual users’ actions, the algorithm weighs these interactions with content to determine which content is most likely to create user engagement.

How Dwell Time Fits Into This

While LinkedIn’s algorithm has largely been successful at curating a feed with content most likely to generate user actions, the company says it has noticed some downsides to this approach. 

Specifically, actions like clicks and shares are relatively rare when compared to the total number of people seeing each piece of content. In the grand scheme, focusing on some binary metrics like clicks may miss out on other more passive forms of engagement which may reflect quality content. 

In other words, LinkedIn’s old system could see simple measures like whether someone clicked a post, but it wasn’t factoring in more complex metrics like how long a person was spending with a piece of content after taking action. 

This creates problems when content simply doesn’t live up to its promise or users could potentially share misleading posts to drive clicks.

When this happens, people might click on a post and almost immediately return to their feed.

With the old system, these posts would get rewarded for the number of clicks made, despite the content being unsatisfying. 

Because of these issues, LinkedIn says accounting for dwell time provides numerous advantages for its algorithm:

LinkedIn Dwell Time Benefits

How This Affects You

Overall, this update should have very little negative impact on those already creating informative and engaging content on the professional social network. If anything, you may benefit as the new algorithm punishes those sharing clickbait.

However, it is unclear if LinkedIn’s latest system also accounts for the overall length of content. This could potentially create issues where shorter updates might be downplayed over more in-depth content simply because people spend less time with each individual post. This may be something to keep in mind as the impact of this update takes effect.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted or changed almost every part of our daily lives in some way, and that holds very true when it comes to online search. 

Google has been tracking these shifts from the initial outbreak to our current time where over 4 billion people are staying home around the world and many in America are returning to work. 

In particular, Google says it has seen five key trends reflecting how online search behavior, consumers’ interests, and purchasing behavior have shifted over the past few months.

The five key trends in online search after COVID-19 include:

  1. More consumers are relying on multiple devices
  2. Increased reliance on Google search
  3. People are using online tools to create and develop virtual relationships
  4. Routines are adjusting to reflect being at home
  5. People are increasingly practicing self-care

Let’s dig into what these trends really mean and reflect:

Multiple Devices

With the huge jump in people working from home or spending extra time relaxing inside, Google has seen a similar increase in the amount of content consumption. Specifically, the company says staying home has led to at least a 60% increase in the amount of digital content watched in the US.

This means many consumers are relying on one device to indulge in their favorite content online while using another device to browse products, look up information, and connect with friends. 

Increased Reliance On Google

The search engine has seen a massive increase in searches for critical information and a wave of content designed to inform the public about safety, updated business practices, and other essential needs.

For example, Google has seen that online search interest for terms like “online grocery shopping” and “grocery delivery” grew 23% year over year in the US. 

Online medical needs have also skyrocketed, with online search interest in telemedicine climbing by 150% week-over-week. 

Building Virtual Relationships

Businesses may be opening, but many are still practicing social distancing which keeps them away from friends and family. In lieu of being able to spend time with loved ones, people are finding new ways to build relationships online:

As of April, Google Meet has hosted at least 3 billion minutes of video meetings, with nearly 3 million new users joining every day. 

Online search shows increased interest in digital recreations of normal social events, such as a rise in search interest for “virtual happy hour” or “with me” content which shows people doing ordinary tasks like cleaning, studying, or cooking. 

Changing Routines

As social distancing and quarantine continues for many, online search interest has shown that many are adapting their typical routines to be internet-first.

For example, search interest for “stationary bicycles” and “dumbbell set” has continued to rise while many try to stay healthy from home. 

Google also reports that search interest for “telecommuting” in the US has continued to grow since it reached an all-time high on Google and YouTube in March.

Practicing Self-Care

To help cope with the mental and physical toll of the COVID-19 epidemic, many are turning to online search to assist in practicing self-care from home. 

Some examples of this from Google’s report include:

  • Views of mediation-related videos are 51% higher in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • Searches for “bored” spiked significantly and have remained heightened since March. 
  • Searches for at-home activities such as “games,” “puzzles,” and “coloring books” have remained increased since March. 

Read the Full Report

The full report includes additional data as well as recommendations for responding to these changes to online search over the past few months. You can read the entire 39-page document here (PDF).

Google has released a detailed document they are calling the COVID-19 Marketing Playbook to help you create a strategy for marketing your brand during and after the ongoing pandemic. 

The recommendations included are based on Google’s own observations of how businesses are responding to the quickly changing situation and the company’s internal data.

The Three Stages of COVID-19 Marketing

According to Google’s guide, there are three stages of marketing as the situation has unfolded:

  1. Respond
  2. Rebuild
  3. Recover/Re-frame

Here is what each of those stages mean and how you can do to help your business during each step:

Respond

What’s Happening?

Businesses are responding and adapting to fast-changing consumer behavior and fluctuations in demand.

What Can You Do?

Solve what matters today to get your business ready to rebuild.

Rebuild

What’s Happening?

Businesses are planning for the recovery and rebuilding their marketing fundamentals, with deeper insights, tools, and measurement.

What Can You Do?

Prepare to capture dynamic demand and position yourself well for the recovery.

Recover/Reframe

What’s Happening?

Businesses are reframing their business models and digital marketing practices to restart or maintain growth.

What Can You Do?

Implement marketing learnings from the crisis into your long term business strategy to drive sustained growth.

The Three Stages of COVID-19 Marketing Strategy

Similarly, Google says there are three steps to marketing your business during the pandemic:

  1. Use consumer insights to drive your approach
  2. Assess the impact on your business
  3. Take action now

How COVID-19 Has Affected Search

Google has identified three specific ways the ongoing COVID-19 situation has affected search patterns so far:

Shock

Sudden change in behavior, unlikely to be sustained

Example: Quick rise and fall in school-related searches as shelter-in-place orders were implemented.

Step-change

Sudden change in behavior that may sustain

Example: Quick increases in exercise-related searches have stabilized at heightened levels during this time.

Speed up

An acceleration of existing behavior that may sustain

Example: Google has seen an acceleration in the growth rate of delivery-related searches that appear to be maintaining for now.

How Google Has Responded To COVID-19

To illustrate how to put these concepts into practice, Google points to its own response to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights five principles to ensure your strategy remains effective and relevant:

  • Context – Related to localization
  • Constantly Reassess – Being flexible and responding to changing trends
  • Creative Considerations – Evaluate if artwork, tone, words, and other create aspects are appropriate
  • Changing priorities to navigate uncertainty – Being helpful in a way that fits the current reality
  • Contribution at every opportunity – Identifying ways your brand can help that are specific to the pandemic

 

Download Google’s COVID-19 Marketing Strategy Playbook here (PDF) or read the full announcement about the playbook here.

After 8 years, Google is finally bringing organic, unpaid listings into its Shopping search results.

Starting next week, the Google Shopping tab “will consist primarily of free product listings.”

Google Shopping Organic Listings

This is a huge shift from how Google has treated the section in the past. Since 2012, the Shopping tab has been exclusively for paid product listing or ads.

The decision comes during the ongoing shutdown of many local businesses, driving consumers to online retail. In particular, Amazon has seen a massive surge in usage this month.

Although the company says it had plans to open the Shopping tab for organic listings before this, Google’s President of Commerce Bill Ready noted the ongoing crisis was a major motivation for “advancing our plans to make [Google Shopping] free for merchants.”

Importantly, the change is permanent and will not revert as businesses across the country begin to reopen.

“For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs,” said Ready. “For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings.”

What Happens To Paid Shopping Listings

With Google moving to make the Shopping tab more like its traditional search engine results pages, the company will begin treating paid shopping ads similarly to ads shown in other areas.

Paid shopping ads will primarily appear at the top and bottom of results pages in the Google Shopping tab. Additionally, carousels of product listing ads will continue to be only for paid ads.

How To Get Your Products Indexed

Google says the revamped shopping tab will continue to be powered by product data feeds provided through Google Merchant Center. Although GMC was once a paid service, the company opened the Merchant Center to all retailers for free more than a year ago, as it began to integrate organic product listings into search results across the platform.

To get your own products included in search results within the Google Shopping feed and elsewhere across Google, you’ll need to start a Google Merchant Center account and upload a product feed detailing the products you carry. Additionally, you must opt-in to “surfaces across Google” to be included in organic results.

A new survey of over 900 Americans suggests many business owners may not understand the basics of search engine optimization (SEO), such as how Google ranks websites.

Compared to non-business owners, the 394 business owners surveyed were slightly more informed – though both groups showed a clear knowledge gap.

Based on the survey results, almost 1 in 4 business owners and more than 2 in 5 non-business owners said they were not at all or only vaguely familiar with SEO.

When asked specifically about how Google ranks pages, over 1 in 3 business owners and more than half of non-business owners said they had little to no understanding of the process.

As Fractl, the company behind the survey, explains:

“Not only does that mean they might not be implementing the most effective content strategies and optimizing their websites appropriately, but they’re also likely missing out on low-hanging fruit, like improving site speed and considering site structure.

The good news is that if they learn about SEO now, they can make leaps in the right direction that will help them against their competitors.”

How About an Actual SEO Quiz?

Rather than entirely relying on self-reporting, Fractl also gave survey participants a simple 8-question quiz on SEO. When the scores were averaged, business owners received a 48.7% on the quiz, while non-business owners scored a 38.7%.

Notably, the majority of the survey participants said they believed SEO is either “moderately” or “very” important to the health of their business, indicating a disconnect between the desire to learn and having the time or access to resources to do so.

As the study concludes, “With greater SEO knowledge, companies can see massive gains in their marketing and sales goals and establish a foundation for greater long-term growth.”

After gradually applying its “mobile-first” algorithm to qualified sites over the past few years, Google is signaling it will be expanding the indexing system too all sites within a year – whether they are ready or not.

As reported by Twitter user @KyleW_Sutton and Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz, Google has begun sending out Search Console notices to sites who have yet to be included in the mobile-first index describing why their site is not ready.

Within the alerts, the company says “Google expects to apply mobile-first indexing to all websites in the next six to twelve months.”

What Is Mobile-First Indexing

Recognizing that more searches were beginning to come from mobile devices rather than desktop computers, in 2016 Google announced it was launching a new ranking system which prioritized sites that had taken steps to be “mobile-friendly.”

For example, sites with responsive mobile designs, fast loading speeds, and had removed Flash would be prioritized over those which had issues rendering on mobile devices in search results.

Initially, this took the form of an entirely separate indexing system for search results exclusively on mobile devices. However, the company has been working to create parity by making mobile-first indexing the primary method of crawling all sites.

The announcement that mobile-first indexing will be applied to all sites within a year marks the opening of the final chapter in the years-long effort to ensure all search results will load well whether you are at an office computer, using a phone on-the-go, or lounging with a tablet.

What This Means For You

If you have received this email or alert, it is a major warning sign that your site isn’t ready for a huge number of modern devices. Depending on what issue is present, it could mean something as small as an issue with a specific image presenting errors or as bad as your site being entirely unable to render on smartphones.

Either way, there is a large chance the issues present on your site are already affecting your rankings by preventing mobile-searchers from finding your site in search results. This will only get worse as Google moves forward with applying mobile-first indexing to all sites unless steps are taken to resolve the issues Google has observed.

Bing revealed major overhauls to its Webmaster Tools suite this week. The new layout and features aim to make the tools available to SEOs and webmasters faster, easier to use, and more actionable.

As SMX West, the company said the first phase of the overhaul would be coming the first week of March, with a sleeker interface and three primary new features:

  • Backlinks Portal: The current inbound links report will be merged with a disavow links tool to become part of the backlinks report portal.
  • Search Performance: Similarly, the company is combining its page traffic and search keywords reports into a unified search performance report.
  • Sitemaps: Bing is giving its current sitemaps page a general overhaul to make it more valuable to online marketers and webmasters.

When It’s Coming

As the company said in its announcement:

“We are delighted to announce the first iteration of the refreshed Bing Webmaster Tools portal. We are releasing the new portal to a select set of users this week and will be rolling out to all users by the 1st week of March.”

What It Looks Like

Search Engine Land provided several screenshots of what the new portal will look like once it goes live:

Search Performance Report

Backlink Report

Disavow Link Tool

Sitemaps

Once they go live, anyone with a Bing Webmaster Tools account can access the new features by navigating to the Sitemaps, Inbound Links, Page Traffic, or Search Keywords reports.

Why It Matters

Despite being frequently overlooked by brands and marketers, Bing has been quietly cementing its grasp on a significant percentage of the search market. The new tools will make it easier for those taking advantage of this opportunity to better understand their website’s performance and refine their efforts for even better performance in the future.