What’s New In SEO: December 2020

As if 2020 hasn’t been crazy enough, everyone living in the SEO world has had the added pleasure of adapting to even more changes and updates from Google. Some of these have made our lives easier and helped us adapt to the rapid changes in the Search landscape, and some… not so much (looking at you, December core update). Below we recap some of the recent changes Google has rolled out to bring 2020 to a close.

Google Maps Updates

Google has introduced two new search-related features for Maps in Q4:

Posts from Google My Business will now also show up as a new Community Feed under the “Explore” tab in Google Maps, increasing the exposure of these posts. Updates from businesses will also be displayed here, no longer requiring users to follow businesses to receive this information. There have already been 20 million submissions to this new feed, with plenty of room for growth.

As a follow-up to the updated insights for Google My Business a few months ago, recently added metrics will track the total amount of searches in Maps that triggered a business profile, whether performance is up or down from last year, provide a list of search terms people used to find your business profile and show how many times each search term triggered your business profile.

Google Passage Ranking

In October, Google previewed a new approach to ranking content where, in addition to indexing whole web pages, it will also be able to consider specific passages from these pages as unique content for search engine results. When this launches, Google’s systems will consider the content and meaning of specific passages when determining what is most relevant to rank in search versus looking at the page overall. 

How does this differ from featured snippets? Passage Ranking will determine how relevant to a query a page is via understanding of the page’s passages, while featured snippets determine the most relevant passage on a page that Google has overall determined to be relevant to the query. This new ranking factor won't be live until the end of the year but will be important to consider when building out strategies for 2021.

Google Search Console Updates

In November, Google Search Console announced important updates to this essential tool. The Disavow Link tool has been migrated to the new version of Search Console and has had its user interface updated. Google has also launched a new crawl stats report in Search Console, making it easier to find crawling issues. Reports detail total crawl requests over a time period, the total size of files, resources downloaded during a crawl, and average page response time for a crawl request to retrieve the content of the page.

There is still no news regarding the Request Indexing feature, which has been disabled since October. Google has said that they are evaluating this tool, so hopefully we’ll have it back sometime in 2021.

Google Refining Featured Snippet Experience

At the end of November, Google began a test where relevant contextual links would appear in featured results to give users more options to find the information they’re looking for. If a user clicked on one of these results, they would be sent to the third party’s site rather than the featured result. 

How could this affect organic click-through? This can, and likely will, result in fewer clicks to the site featured in the snippet. Because users are directed to other sites, the ultimate impact will be a reduced number of sessions. There would be, however, an opportunity to rank for these contextual links in other company’s snippets. What Google might do is determine how to improve both user experience and publisher performance, balancing both.

It’s hard to say if Google will act on this test, but regardless they appear to be working on refining featured results to provide searchers with a better user experience. Google will need to evaluate the best course of action to improve both the experience for users and publishers.

Google December Core Algorithm Update

On December 3rd, Google announced it was rolling out a Core Algorithm Update. Industry folks reported the biggest volatility in rankings in the first 48 hours of the rollout and then again around the 11th. As with any Core Algorithm Update, Google is advising anyone negatively impacted by this update to invest in creating high-quality content that follows EAT guidelines, make use of structured data and fix technical issues/ensure a smooth user experience.

And thats a wrap for SEO in 2020.

Written by Scott Chambliss on December 18, 2020


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Scott Chambliss