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Google is rolling out a new addition to its “About this result” feature in search results which will explain why the search engine chose a specific result to rank.

The new section, called “Your search & this result” explains the specific factors which made Google believe a specific page may have what you’re looking for.

This can include a number of SEO factors, ranging from the keywords which matched with the page (including related but not directly matching terms), backlink details, related images, location-based information, and more. 

How Businesses Can Use This Information

For users, this feature can help understand why they are seeing specific search results and even provide tips for refining their search for better results. 

The unspoken utility of this tool for businesses is glaringly obvious, however. 

This feature essentially provides an SEO report card, showing exactly where you are doing well on ranking for important keywords. By noting what is not included, you can also get an idea of what areas could be improved to help you rank better in the future.

Taking this even further, you could explore the details for other pages ranking for your primary keywords, helping you better strategize to overtake your competition.

What It Looks Like

Below, you can see a screenshot of what the feature looks like in action:

The information box provides a quick bullet point list of several factors which caused the search engine to return the specific result.
While Google only detailed a few of the possible details the box may include, users around the web have reported seeing information about all of these factors included:

  • Included search terms: Google can show which exact search terms were matched with the content or HTML on the related page. This includes content that is not typically visible to users, such as the title tag or meta data.
  • Related search terms: Along with the keywords which were directly matched with the related page, Google can also show “related” terms. For example, Google knew to include results related to the Covid vaccine based on the keyword “shot”.
  • Other websites link to this page: The search engine may choose to highlight a page which might otherwise appear unrelated because several pages using the specific keyword linked to this specific page.
  • Related images: If the images are properly optimized, Google may be able to identify when images on a page are related to your search.
  • This result is [Language]: Obviously, users who don’t speak or read your language are unlikely to have much use for your website or content. This essentially notes that the page is in the same language you use across the rest of Google.
  • This result is relevant for searches ih [Region]: Lastly, the search engine may note if locality helped influence its search result based on other contextual details. For example, it understood that the user in Vermont, was likely looking for nearby results when searching “get the shot”.

The expanded “About this result” section is rolling out to English-language U.S. users already and is expected to be widely available across the country within a week. From there, Google says it will work to bring the feature to more countries and languages soon.

Google’s take on the popular Story format hit a big milestone, as the company recently reported more than 100,000 new Google Web Stories are getting added to the search index every day. 

Combined, these daily new stories have helped accumulate more than 20 million Web Stories total since the launch of the content format. 

The report also notes that more than 6,500 new domains have published their first Web Story since October 2020, when Web Stories were launched for Android and iOS devices, as well as being added to Google Discover

This led to a significantly larger reach for Google Web Stories and a significant increase in interest from brands.

“Last October, we created a home for Web Stories in Google Discover so users could find a personalized stream of the best Web Stories from around the internet. The goal with Web Stories is to enable publishers and creators to easily build and take full ownership of their content.”

Unsurprisingly, putting the short video clips front-and-center on Google’s content discovery page has also helped millions of users check out and engage with Web Stories every day.

For those who are still skeptical about Google Web Stories, or those who just want to improve the stories they are putting out, Google compiled data from users to create five suggestions for creating the most engaging and exciting stories for your audience. 

Five Tips For Engaging Google Web Stories

  1. Lifestyle content, complete with inspirational imagery and messages, informative how-to info, or relevant product-partnerships drive the most engagement of any vertical.
  2. Thanks to a diverse array of visually engaging topics and videos, the Arts and Entertainment and Food and Drink verticals consistently get the most impressions.
  3. Users show a clear hunger for new Arts and Entertainment, Celebrity, and Sports/Gaming content. “With new TV, movie, and game releases rolling out all the time, these verticals offer opportunities for growth.”
  4. Though Google has seen successful Web Stories of all sizes, users are typically willing to click through an average of 11-15 pages before ditching a Web Story. 
  5. Users watch an average of 1.7 Stories for every Web Story opened on Google Discover. However, this can vary significantly across industries and demographics. 

For more information about Google Web Stories, check out the latest announcement in this blog post or explore Google’s playbook for creating the most engaging Web Stories here.

We all know that the search results you get on mobile and the ones you get on desktop devices can be very different – even for the same query, made at the same time, in the same place, logged into the same Google account. 

Have you ever found yourself asking exactly why this happens?

One site owner did and recently got the chance to ask one of Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller.

In the recent SEO Office Hours Session, Mueller explained that a wide range of factors decide what search results get returned for a search query – including what device you are using and why this happens.

Why Are Mobile Search Rankings Different From Desktop?

The question asked to Mueller specifically wanted to clarify why there is still a disparity between mobile and desktop search results after the launch of mobile-first indexing for all sites. Here’s what was asked:

“How are desktop and mobile ranking different when we’ve already switched to mobile-first indexing.”

Indexing and Ranking Are Different

In response to the question, Mueller first tried to clarify that indexing and rankings are not exactly the same thing. Instead, they are more like two parts of a larger system. 

“So, mobile-first indexing is specifically about that technical aspect of indexing the content. And we use a mobile Googlebot to index the content. But once the content is indexed, the ranking side is still (kind of) completely separate.”

Although the mobile-first index was a significant shift in how Google brought sites into their search engine and understood them, it actually had little direct effect on most search results. 

Mobile Users and Desktop Users Have Different Needs

Beyond the explanation about indexing vs. ranking, John Mueller also said that Google returns unique rankings for mobile and desktop search results because they reflect potentially different needs in-the-moment. 

“It’s normal that desktop and mobile rankings are different. Sometimes that’s with regards to things like speed. Sometimes that’s with regards to things like mobile-friendliness.

“Sometimes that’s also with regards to the different elements that are shown in the search results page.

“For example, if you’re searching on your phone then maybe you want more local information because you’re on the go. Whereas if you’re searching on a desktop maybe you want more images or more videos shown in the search results. So we tend to show …a different mix of different search results types.

“And because of that it can happen that the ranking or the visibility of individual pages differs between mobile and desktop. And that’s essentially normal. That’s a part of how we do ranking.

“It’s not something where I would say it would be tied to the technical aspect of indexing the content.”

With this in mind, there’s little need to be concerned if you aren’t showing up in the same spot for the same exact searches on different devices.

Instead, watch for big shifts in what devices people are using to access your page. If your users are overwhelmingly using phones, assess how your site can better serve the needs of desktop users. Likewise, a majority of traffic coming from desktop devices may indicate you need to assess your site’s speed and mobile friendliness.

If you want to hear Mueller’s full explanation and even more discussion about search engine optimization, check out the SEO Office Hours video below:

A representative from Google announced the search engine began rolling out a broad core update (appropriately titled the June 2021 Core Update) this week. Surprisingly, the announcement also revealed a second update is expected to roll out next month. 

Note that this is not the Page Experience Update which Google is planning to launch in mid-June.

Typically, Google rolls out a broad core update every few months. For example, the last update before this came nearly six months ago, in December 2020. The gap between updates before that was even longer, with the previous update arriving in May 2020. 

Obviously, this raises some questions about why the company felt the need to start releasing a two-part algorithm now, rather than waiting to roll it all out at once next month. 

Google being Google, details about what the broad core updates will change are relatively scant. Still, here’s what we do know:

Why Two Core Updates?

Based on statements from Google liaison Danny Sullivan and others, it seems the search engine simply didn’t want to sit on some of the completed updates while it waited for the rest to be finalized. 

Sullivan did note that some effects from the first part of the update may be temporary, however, as the second part rolls out. 

“Of course, any core update can produce drops or gains for some content. Because of the two-part nature of this release, it’s possible a very small slice of content might see changes in June that reverse in July.”

What You Should Expect

As with most broad core updates, Google is giving somewhat mixed signals about how big the impact will be. 

On one hand, the company says most sites won’t notice any changes to their presence in search results. At the same time, Google says the update will produce “some widely noticeable effects.”

From past experience, we can predict that sites producing quality content and keeping up with overall Google guidelines will be largely unaffected. Those within more controversial or less reputable industries (online gambling, some medical niches, law, etc.), may be more likely to see some fallout even if they have been doing everything “right”. 

Those using tactics which can be seen as more “spammy” such as republishing content, using user-generated content in overbearing or spammy ways, or using questionable guest-blogging practices may also be likely to see some negative results as the update rolls out.

Ultimately, we will all have to wait and see as the update finishes, which Google says should take about two weeks. 

What To Do If You Are Affected

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about broad core updates is that you can be impacted even if you aren’t doing anything ostensibly “wrong”. Some pages may see negative ranking shifts despite following all of Google’s guidance. 

This makes recovering a tricky proposition, but Google has provided some advice for brands negatively impacted. 

Specifically, the company suggests asking yourself the following questions about your brand:

Content and Quality Questions

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

Expertise Questions

  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
  • Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

Presentation and Production Questions

  • Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
  • Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?

Comparative Questions

  • Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

While not hard and fast guidance, these questions can help you evaluate your site and find areas to improve upon before the next broad core update. 

Thankfully, in this case we know the next update is coming quite soon – July 2021 – so there is a chance any negative effects from the ongoing update will be short-lived. 

It can be easy to take for granted how little spam shows up in the dozens of Google searches we make every day.

While we are almost always able to find what we need through the search engine without an abundance of malicious, copied, or just plain spammy websites, the search engine says it has been ramping up spam detection behind the scenes to fight the seemingly endless hordes of illicit or otherwise problematic sites from filling up its search results.

In fact, Google’s webspam report for 2020 says the search engine detected more than 40 billion pages of spam every day last year. This reflects a 60% increase from the year before.

How Google Search is Fighting Spam

It is possible there was a distinct increase in spammy sites last year, potentially due to disruptions and other changes brought about by the Covid pandemic. According to the search engine though, the bulk of this increase is the result of increased spam prevention efforts with the help of AI.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have helped the company keep with new spam methods and are credited with allowing the search engine to reduce auto-generated or scraped content “by more than 80% compared to a couple of years ago.”

This AI-based approach also frees up Google’s manual action spam team to focus on more advanced forms of spam, such as hacked sites which were “still rampant in 2020.”

To show you how this approach works and helps filter out the bulk of webspam before it even gets added to Google’s indexes, the company shared a simple graphic:

COVID Spam and Misinformation

As with everyone, Google faced unprecedented situations in the past year as it responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included devoting “significant effort in extending protection to the billions of searches” related to the virus.

One part of this effort was instituting a “more about this result” feature which added additional context about sites before clicking through to one of their pages. This intends to help users avoid bad actors that popped up, especially during the early stages of the pandemic.

Additionally, the search engine says it worked to remove misinformation that could be dangerous during the course of the pandemic.

What This Means For You

Assuming you are a reputable professional in your industry, Google’s increased efforts to fight spam should only be a source of comfort. There have been fewer reports of sites being incorrectly targeted by these spam prevention methods in recent years, while the overall level of deceptive, spammy, or harmful sites in the search results has plummeted. 

All in all, this means a better experience for both users trying to find information and products, as well as brands fighting to reach new customers online.

If you are an online retailer, you are no doubt familiar with Google’s wide array of special features built for online shopping. You are also probably aware of how confusing it can be to get included in these unique search results.

To help clarify this process and make it easier to get your products highlighted in Google’s search results, the search engine recently revealed some technical tips and tricks for e-commerce sites. 

Why It Takes Extra Work To Get In Google Shopping Results

The first question most business owners or site managers might have when they start trying to get their products included in Google Shopping results is “why do I have to do all this extra work?”

Google’s whole thing is analyzing sites and automatically delivering that information in its search results, right? Why can’t they just pull your product info when your pages get indexed?

The simple answer is that Google knows online retail changes very quickly and shoppers get very frustrated with out of date or inaccurate information. If this became a frequent problem, users would likely stop paying attention to Google’s product-related search results. 

While the search engine regularly re-indexes updated webpages, it can’t guarantee pages will be indexed fast enough to ensure information is up-to-date for searchers. 

Additionally, there are some features which online retailers tend to provide to help shoppers which can make things a little confusing for search engines to understand. 

For example, Google says it still struggles with accurately telling the difference between these types of information:

  • Original Price vs. Discounted Price
  • Related Products vs. The Main Product Being Sold
  • Taxes or Shipping Costs vs. The Actual Product Price

This is why the search engine asks online retailers to help provide this information for Google Shopping results.

Now, let’s get into the advice from Google Developer Advocate Alan Kent and how you can get your products into Google product showcases.

Two Ways To Give Google Your Product Data

In the latest Lightning Talks video, Kent discusses two different ways site managers can get their product information to Google. 

The first method is by using structured data. This is essentially using special coding embedded into pages to provide Google with additional information typically not provided through regular site code or markup. 

This is generally seen as the advanced approach because it requires significant knowledge of coding and the latest structured data techniques. 

The other method covered by Kent is by directly providing product data through Google Merchant Center, which can be done with:

  • A feed of all product data manually submitted to the search engine.
  • An API developed to update products individually as changes are made on your site. 

For more information, check out the guide provided by Google.

Conclusion

While providing product data to search engines is essential for appearing in these specific product-centric search results, the company emphasizes that these practices don’t replace traditional SEO.

“Remember that SEO still matters for organic search. Make your product details, such as images and descriptions, appealing to your customers.”

If you want to watch the full explanation from Kent, it is available below:

Throughout 2020, approximately 65% of searches made on Google were “zero-click searches”, meaning that the search never resulted in an actual website visit.

Zero-click searches have been steadily on the rise, reaching 50% in June 2019 according to a study published by online marketing expert Rand Fishkin and SimilarWeb.

The steep rise in these types of searches between January and December 2020 is particularly surprising because it was widely believed zero-click searches were largely driven by mobile users looking for quick-answers. Throughout 2020, however, most of us were less mobile than ever due to Covid restrictions, social distancing, and quarantines.

The findings of this latest report don’t entirely disprove this theory, though. Mobile devices still saw the majority of zero-click Google searches. On desktop, less than half (46.5%) were zero-click searches, while more than three-fourths (77.2%) of searches from mobile devices did not result in a website visit.

Study Limitations

Fishkin acknowledges that his reports do come with a small caveat. Each analysis used different data sources and included different searching methods, which may explain some of the variance. Additionally, the newer study – which included data from over 5.1 trillion Google searches – had access to a significantly larger data pool compared to the approximately one billion searches used in the 2019 study.

“Nonetheless, it seems probable that if the previous panel were still available, it would show a similar trend of increasing click cannibalization by Google,” Fishkin said in his analysis.

What This Means For Businesses

The most obvious takeaway from these findings is that people are increasingly finding the information they are looking for directly on the search results pages, rather than needing to visit a web-page for more in-depth information.

It also means that attempts to regulate Google are largely failing.

Many have criticized and even pursued legal action (with varying levels of success) against the search engine for abusing their access to information on websites by showing that information in “knowledge panels” on search results.

The argument is that Google is stealing copyrighted information and republishing it on their own site. Additionally, this practice could potentially create less reason for searchers to click on ads, meaning Google is contributing to falling click-through rates and making more money off of it.

Ultimately, Google is showing no signs of slowing down on its use of knowledge panels and direct answers within search results. To adjust to the rise of zero-click searches, brands should put more energy into optimizing their content to appear in knowledge panels (increasing your brand awareness) and diversify their web presence with social media activity to directly reach customers.

In a Google Search Central SEO session recently, Google’s John Mueller shed light on a way the search engine’s systems can go astray – keeping pages on your site from being indexed and appearing in search. 

Essentially the issue comes from Google’s predictive approach to identifying duplicate content based on URL patterns, which has the potential to incorrectly identify duplicate content based on the URL alone. 

Google uses the predictive system to increase the efficiency of its crawling and indexing of sites by skipping over content which is just a copy of another page. By leaving these pages out of the index, Google’s engine has less chances of showing repetitious content in its search results and allows its indexing systems to reach other, more unique content more quickly. 

Obviously the problem is that content creators could unintentionally trigger these predictive systems when publishing unique content on similar topics, leaving quality content out of the search engine. 

John Mueller Explains How Google Could Misidentify Duplicate Content

In a response to a question from a user whose pages were not being indexed correctly, Mueller explained that Google uses multiple layers of filters to weed out duplicate content:

“What tends to happen on our side is we have multiple levels of trying to understand when there is duplicate content on a site. And one is when we look at the page’s content directly and we kind of see, well, this page has this content, this page has different content, we should treat them as separate pages.

The other thing is kind of a broader predictive approach that we have where we look at the URL structure of a website where we see, well, in the past, when we’ve looked at URLs that look like this, we’ve seen they have the same content as URLs like this. And then we’ll essentially learn that pattern and say, URLs that look like this are the same as URLs that look like this.”

He also explained how these systems can sometimes go too far and Google could incorrectly filter out unique content based on URL patterns on a site:

“Even without looking at the individual URLs we can sometimes say, well, we’ll save ourselves some crawling and indexing and just focus on these assumed or very likely duplication cases. And I have seen that happen with things like cities.

I have seen that happen with things like, I don’t know, automobiles is another one where we saw that happen, where essentially our systems recognize that what you specify as a city name is something that is not so relevant for the actual URLs. And usually we learn that kind of pattern when a site provides a lot of the same content with alternate names.”

How Can You Protect Your Site From This?

While Google’s John Mueller wasn’t able to provide a full-proof solution or prevention for this issue, he did offer some advice for sites that have been affected:

“So what I would try to do in a case like this is to see if you have this kind of situations where you have strong overlaps of content and to try to find ways to limit that as much as possible.

And that could be by using something like a rel canonical on the page and saying, well, this small city that is right outside the big city, I’ll set the canonical to the big city because it shows exactly the same content.

So that really every URL that we crawl on your website and index, we can see, well, this URL and its content are unique and it’s important for us to keep all of these URLs indexed.

Or we see clear information that this URL you know is supposed to be the same as this other one, you have maybe set up a redirect or you have a rel canonical set up there, and we can just focus on those main URLs and still understand that the city aspect there is critical for your individual pages.”

It should be clarified that duplicate content or pages impacted by this problem will not hurt the overall SEO of your site. So, for example, having several pages tagged as being duplicate content won’t prevent your home page from appearing for relevant searches. 

Still, the issue has the potential to gradually decrease the efficiency of your SEO efforts, not to mention making it harder for people to find the valuable information you are providing. 

To see Mueller’s full explanation, watch the video below:

Google is introducing a new label to highlight Black-owned businesses in Google Shopping search results. 

This is intended to help shoppers prioritize minority-owned and operated businesses or products when shopping online if they desire. 

The search engine originally launched the label in July 2020 to highlight Black-owned businesses in Google My Business pages and local searches. 

The label is small and unobtrusive, simply reading “Identifies as Black-owned” when viewing a company’s Google My Business or Google Shopping listings. You can see what it looks like in action below:

Who Can Get The Label

Notably, the label doesn’t appear to require any verification, which may explain the “Identifies as” part of the tag. For the moment, though, the label is only launching in the U.S.

As Google says:

“Starting today, we’re extending the Black-owned attribute to Google’s shopping tab, so people can easily identify and but-from Black-owned businesses on Google … [This] feature will become visible to shoppers and available to all U.S. Google Merchants in coming months.”

How To Add The Label 

The process of adding the tag to your own product listings is managed entirely within the Google Merchant Center.

To do so:

  • Sign in to your Merchant Center account
  • Select the “Tools and Settings” menu in the top-right corner of the page.
  • Find the “Business information” page.
  • Go to the “About your business tab” and scroll to the “Business identity attributes” section.
  • Select the “Identifies as Black-owned” attribute and any others relevant to your business.
  • Select “Include my business in promotions for Black-owned businesses” if you would like to be highlighted in pages showcasing Black-owned businesses.

Why Google Is Expanding The Black-Owned Business Label

As the search engine explains in the announcement, over “the past 12 months, Google search interest for ‘Black-owned businesses’ has skyrocketed 600% based on Google Trends data comparing January-December 2019 to January-December 2020. Across the country, people have been looking for ‘Black-owned restaurants,’ ‘Black-owned bookstores,’ ‘Black-owned beauty supply’ and more, which speaks to the diversity within the Black business community.”

Even more, Google says it wants “to make it easier for people to support and spend dollars with the Black businesses they love.”

Google is warning brands that Web Stories which don’t follow through on their promised content may but cut from appearing in Google Search and Google Discover.

In an announcement, the company explained that users have expressed disinterest in Web Stories which “tease” content but require users to click through to get the full experience. As such, brands using this style of Web Story run the risk of having their content demoted.

What Are Google Web Stories?

Google’s take on the popular Story format first appeared back in 2018, going by the name of AMP Stories. 

These quick, visual posts or ads function almost identically to Facebook or Instagram Stories, but appear within the Google mobile app when exploring the Discover tab or searching for websites.

One thing that makes Google’s version of these posts unique, however, is that Web Stories can easily be shared to any platform, including competing social networks.

What This Change Means For You

In the announcement, Google’s Paul Bakaus explains that “a one- or two-page teaser for your blog post doesn’t tell a satisfying story to a reader, so Google will do its very best to not show these to users.”

With this in mind, Google is planning to stop showing “teaser” based Web Stories across its platform. 

If you are concerned your Web Stories may be affected, Google recommends following a few Do’s and Don’ts:

Dos:

  • A shopping inspiration list that highlights products and links out to places where you can buy them.
  • A short version of a recipe with complete ingredients listed that leaves more detailed instructions behind a click.

Don’ts:

  • A one-page story that mentions a recipe in the headline, but is just a bunch of photos that redirect to the website.
  • A list highlighting beautiful cities in Europe, but just listing a city and a photo and pointing to the blog link for any actual information.

It is worth noting that the above example image Google shows of a recipe web story actually clearly falls into the “Don’t” category here. This highlights how unclear the actual implementation of this new policy is currently.

People are Tired of Clickbait

As Bakaus notes, users expect complete content from Stories, not a lure leading to a comprehensive blog post.

“Unfortunately, from what users are telling us, this isn’t what they want. Instead, web stories are best when they tell a full story and aren’t used to “tease” other content.

“Readers don’t like to feel forced to click through to a connected blog post to finish reading.”

How This Affects Monetization

One of the biggest reasons many brands used “teaser” Web Stories was to help drive traffic to their own monetized content. This new policy could potentially disrupt this strategy entirely. 

Despite this, Google urges you to “think about the users consuming [Web Stories] and how Google showcases them.”

At the same time, the company notes that “you can directly monetize Web Stories with in-between-page ads.”

Bakaus does admit this may not be as effective or lucrative, though the company hopes to improve this situation in the future:

“A well-optimized blog post might still make you more money today, but ad networks are working on building out and expanding their Web Story integrations, so you should see both CPMs and fill rates improve over time.”

You can hear Paul’s full explanation of the policy and the best practices for creating Web Stories in his Google Web Creators video below: