Barry Schwartz – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Fri, 26 Feb 2021 20:45:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6.2 Don’t lose sleep over the Page Experience Update and more; Friday’s daily brief /dont-lose-sleep-over-the-page-experience-update-and-more-fridays-daily-brief-346445 Fri, 26 Feb 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=346445 Wouldn't it be cool if Google told us when specific ranking factors were no longer being used?

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, marketers, or has it been a long night?  

Are you up all night worrying about your Core Web Vital scores? Can’t sleep because the Google Page Experience Update is just around the corner?  Well, go back to bed, it will be alright! I get it but we’ve been through updates like these before. Remember Mobilegeddon, maybe the HTTPS update, or the intrusive interstitials penalty and many like it? They all turned out to not be a huge update that really impacted rankings that much at all. In fact, Danny Sullivan of Google said on Twitter, “It shouldn’t be the case that overnight, we flip some type of switch and there’s a massive change.” He admitted “that’s not typically how rollouts of this nature (such as speed, mobile-friendliness) have worked.” 

Relevance will rank supreme: “While all of the components of page experience are important, we will rank pages with the best information overall, even if some aspects of page experience are subpar. A good page experience doesn’t override having great, relevant content. However, in cases where there are multiple pages that have similar content, page experience becomes much more important for visibility in Search,” Google wrote.

So really, do not lose sleep over this, everything will be fine. Yes, tackle the Core Web Vital issues that are most serious. Ultimately having a good user experience on your site will help with conversions, site revenues and happier website visitors. But I wouldn’t bank on it giving you a noticeable ranking boost or even a noticeable ranking decline.

Barry Schwartz,
Your SEO Sleep Therapist

Facebook updates Ads Manager for SMBs

Facebook launched their “Good Ideas Deserve To Be Found” initiative yesterday to help SMBs with more personalized ads. With more local businesses moving online due to the pandemic, the goal is to help make social media marketing more accessible. Updates for SMBs include the following:

  • A simplified Ads Manager so SMBs can understand campaign performance and make optimizations faster
  • Waived fees for businesses selling with Checkout on Shops through June 2021 and waived fees for paid online events until at least August 2021
  • New options to note what type of dining experiences are available at restaurants
  • A new menu tab for restaurants on Pages so businesses can upload their menu directly to their Page
  • An updated Business Resource hub on Facebook and Professional Dashboard on Instagram with more information on how personalized ads work

Yesterday we reported that Google may be showing fewer featured snippets in its search results.  The decline started after February 18th, but it seems like at least one tool is showing a bounce back as of February 25th.

RankRanger shows that as of February 25th, Google is now showing about the same level of featured snippets as it once did prior to the decline on February 18th.  This might be a blip in the data or it might be our report triggered Google to fix some sort of bug.  We are not sure, but maybe the featured snippets you lost are coming back?
Read more here.

Why doesn’t Google announce deprecating search ranking signals?

Deprecating search ranking signals. Google’s John Mueller said Google generally does not announce when it deprecates search ranking factors or signals. But is that true? They did with rel next/prev, Google News stock tickers and genre and meta keywords, authorship, also told us when you stop using MapReduce and some other things.

Google update to Display and Video 360 API. Google announced an update to its Display and Video 360 API. Some of the new features include anew insertion order targeting service and bulk list method enabling the retrieval of insertion order targeting, additional output-only fields mp3Audio and oggAudio for third-party audio creatives and support for more performance goal types to assign to insertion orders and campaigns, including click and impression conversion rate performance goals.
Proper HTML. When it comes to metadata, you need to make sure that the syntax is exact.  Google can understand broken HTML pages for content purposes but with structured data and meta data, you need to get it right said John Mueller of Google.

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.

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Google Search may be showing featured snippets less often /google-search-may-be-showing-featured-snippets-less-often-346414 Wed, 24 Feb 2021 18:15:14 +0000 /?p=346414 The tool providers are noticing a decline in the number of featured snippets showing up in the Google search results.

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Starting around February 18, 2021, Google seems to be showing fewer featured snippet results in the search results page. Most, if not all, of the tools that track the Google search results, are showing significant declines in featured snippets showing up.

What the tools show. All of the tools that track featured snippets in Google’s search results showed a decline in how often they show up starting after February 18tth.

Moz is showing a decline:

7.5% to 4.5%

RankRanger is showing a decline:

9.5% to 8.5%

SEMRush is showing a decline:

6.9% to 5.1%

SEOClarity is showing a decline:

25% reduction

Each of these tools track different sets of keywords and featured snippets but they are all showing declines.

Why it matters. If your site gets a lot of traffic from featured snippets in Google Search, this may impact your traffic. Keep an eye on your analytics, check to see if your top performing featured snippets are still showing up. If Google is not showing any featured snippet and you still rank number one for the query, you are probably okay. But if you rank lower, you might want to make sure to add appropriate and relevant structured data so Google richens up your result and you can get more clicks.

This may be a bug and Google may start showing these featured snippets again or this may be an intentional change on Google’s end. We do not know but we do know there was a change to how often certain categories of search results in Google will show featured snippets.

Postscript. The day later, RankRanger is now showing a return of featured snippets to a normal level. The other tools do not show it yet so maybe it is a bit too early to say that this is now resolved? We will keep an eye on this change:

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Google Search Console adds ‘associations’ so you can link with other Google accounts /new-google-search-console-associations-346326 Mon, 22 Feb 2021 16:08:24 +0000 /?p=346326 These can give you a better and wider view of your data across your various Google services.

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Google announced a new feature in Search Console named “associations.” Associations lets you connect your Search Console account with other Google accounts, such as YouTube, Google Analytics, Android apps and much more. You can access this feature by clicking here.

What are associations. Google said an “association is a connection between a Search Console property, and some other entity or property in another Google service: for example, between a Search Console property and a Google Analytics account, a YouTube channel, or a Chrome Web Store account.”

What accounts can be associated. Here is a list of the various Google accounts that you can link with associations:

  • Google Analytics property: View your Search Console data, such as organic search queries, in your Google Analytics property. Starting today, you can also link Search Console domain properties to Google Analytics and get better coverage of your organic search results. We recommend using this option as it can help you get a more complete picture in the Search Console reports in Google Analytics.
  • Google Ads account: View the paid and organic report in Google Ads.
  • YouTube channel: Link your videos to your associated website.
  • Play Console app: Use App Indexing.
  • Actions Console project: Verify your brand and enable cross-platform functionality.
  • Chrome Web Store account: Publish apps and extensions to the Chrome Web Store on behalf of your site.

How does it differ from domain properties. Domain properties replaced property sets in Search Console back in 2019. Domain properties are a way to verify your whole domain in Search Console and see your data across www vs non-www, http vs http, Android app and more all in one place without having to go to each individual property.

What associations look like. Here is a screen shot of associations in Google Search Console:

Google Search Console Associations

Existing associations. You were able to do associations prior and to make it simple, Google said “any existing associations are automatically carried over to the new Associations page.” For example, when I checked my associations, I see my Android App, YouTube channel and Google Analytics account.

Why we care. Google will be giving us more information and more data in Search Console and the other services. Google said it can “unlock more functionality for your site.” Some of that means you can see your organic performance in your Google Ads account and having these associations can give you a better and wider view of your data across your various Google services.

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Video: Eli Feldblum on the SEO industry maturing through the years /video-eli-feldblum-on-the-seo-industry-maturing-through-the-years-346320 Mon, 22 Feb 2021 13:27:26 +0000 /?p=346320 In this three part series, we go way back into the early days of the SEO industry and walk you through how it matured over the years.

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Eli Feldblum, the SVP of Search Marketing at MWWPR, stopped by my home in the warmer months to catch up on things. We actually went to high school for one year together back in the 90s. Some how, we both ended up in this industry and have stuck with it since.

In this three part video series, Eli and I chat about the good old days talking a little bit about our high school days, the first Israel SMX conferences, and how he helped co-found and invent early SEO software. We then spoke about how the SEO industry matured over the years, where we shared some disturbing examples of search spam over the years. And finally, in part three, we spoke about what types of websites and content efforts really make a difference and last the time within the Google search results.

You can learn more about Eli on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @feldbum.

Here are all three videos in order:

If you’re a search professional interested in appearing on Barry’s vlog, you can fill out this form on Search Engine Roundtable; he’s currently looking to do socially distant, outside interviews in the NY/NJ tri-state area. You can also subscribe to his YouTube channel by clicking here.

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Passage based rankings, core web vitals and responsive search ads; Friday’s daily brief /passage-based-rankings-core-web-vitals-and-responsive-search-ads-fridays-daily-brief-346235 Fri, 19 Feb 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=346235 I hope you like SEO rants...

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, and here comes an SEO rant for you.

As you know, Google launched passage based ranking in the afternoon of February 10 (PST time if you want to be exact). As you may also know, I am obsessed with watching Google organic rankings, the chatter in the SEO community and the tracking tools. And I have to say, there was minimal impact with this update. Google touted the update, when they first disclosed it last year, as being big, impacting 7% of queries globally

But, no. First, when it launched last week, it only launched in the US English results, it did not launch globally. Second, the SEO chatter in the community and the tracking tools almost all show little to no impact from this update. If you’ve been looking at the Search Shorts below, you know about the unconfirmed February 8 update and the unconfirmed February 17 update but those updates were not related to the passage-based ranking release on February 10 in the afternoon. They are different updates that happened before and after the passage ranking update was released.

To make matters worse, you have some SEOs thinking they can see this update because of some scroll-to-text filter in Search Console. Those are not passage ranking results, those are likely featured snippets. Plus, the horrid communication from Google made things worse.  Google first called it “passage indexing,” when it had nothing to do with indexing. Then Google showed a screenshot of a featured snippet as an example of passage ranking, when it later said passage ranking results won’t look different.

Passage ranking helps pages that are not well optimized rank for content deep within the page of content. Most SEOs would not notice this update because the sites are well optimized and structured well for search engines. This is about Google ranking content within pages that are not well optimized for search and unlike with Panda or Penguin updates, SEOs wouldn’t take much notice of this update. I guess I’d say passage ranking is more like a BERT or RankBrain update than anything else.

So there is my rant, I dig a bit more into this on my personal blog if you want more of this rambling.

Barry Schwartz,

SEO Editor and disgruntled search algorithm watcher

Google core web vitals boundaries in Search Console

You might soon see more green in your Google Search Console core web vitals report. Google said the metrics defining the boundaries for LCP, FID, CLS, which used to be < (less than), are now defined as <= (less than or equal to). So you might see a change in statuses, for the better, in this specific report.

Why we care. With the Google Page Experience Update coming in May, we are all getting ready to ensure our sites fare green with this update. We are not sure how big of a ranking factor this will be, but even if this is a small ranking factor, making these user experience changes to your site can help make users happier and potentially increase site conversion rates and performance.

Read the announcement here.

Responsive search ads now the default

Google announced today that responsive search ads will officially become the default ad type for Search campaigns in Google Ads, though expanded text ads can still be created.

RSAs allow advertisers to input multiple headlines and ad copy variations, and Google Ads uses machine learning to determine which variations to use based on what queries people are searching for. The variations are tested to determine which combinations perform best. The Ad strength score lets search marketers understand how to improve their RSAs for better performance.

Marketers like Frederick Vallaeys say that RSAs can outperform ETAs when optimized correctly, while other ads managers believe that the move toward automation clouds their view of the data that helps them improve their ad performance manually.

Read the announcement here.

Display ads now available in Google Ads attribution reports

Google added Display ads to Google Ads attribution reports, which are now available alongside Search (including Shopping) and YouTube ads to give advertisers a more holistic view of their Google media.  Both Display and YouTube ads in attribution reports are now in beta. Attribution reports include Top Paths, Assisted Conversions, Path Metics, and Model Comparison reports.

The Top Paths report, shown above, can help you identify the most common paths customers take to complete a conversion, based on the ads they’ve interacted with. This can give you a more holistic view of how your Display ads are working together with your ads in search (including Shopping) and/or YouTube to drive conversions.

Why we care. Display ads within attribution reporting can help you see how your campaigns across different channels complement each other and move customers along their journey. You can also use that information to help you make better campaign and budget decisions.

Read the announcement here.

JavaScript redirects, domain privacy and thin content.

JavaScript redirects. Google’s Gary Illyes recommends avoiding JavaScript redirects. He told Redditors that if they have to use them, “it [JavaScript redirects] works on Google, but I see other search engines are having a tougher time picking them up.”

WhoisGuard and Google rankings. John Mueller of Google said using WhoIsGuard or other domain privacy settings won’t have a positive or negative impact on your rankings in Google or your SEO.

Thin content video. Google’s Aurora Morales posted a new video on the Google Search Central YouTube channel on thin content and why quality content matters. It is mostly just information from the Google help documents but this one is fun to watch.

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.

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Google updated metric boundaries for core web vitals in Search Console /google-updated-metric-boundaries-for-core-web-vitals-in-search-console-346227 Thu, 18 Feb 2021 12:45:19 +0000 /?p=346227 You may see more green scores in your core web vitals report in Search Console.

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If you check out your core web vitals report within Google Search Console over the next day or two, you may start to see a lot more green scores. This is not necessarily because of anything you may have done to improve your site metrics. It may be because Google made a small change to the metric boundaries it uses for defining red versus yellow versus green scores in this report.

What changed. Google said, “The metrics defining the boundaries for LCP, FID, CLS, which used to be < (less than), are now defined as <= (less than or equal to). ” Google disclosed the specific metrics boundaries, which I embedded below, but we know now for Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift – those specific boundaries changed from a less than to a less than or equal to boundary.

Core Web Vitals boundaries

What is the impact. Google said, “You might see a change in statuses.” Google said this would be “for the better” in the core web vitals report.

Here is what the Search Console report looks like:

More on LCP, FID, CLS: Here is more information on these specific metrics:

  • LCP (largest contentful paint): The amount of time to render the largest content element visible in the viewport, from when the user requests the URL. The largest element is typically an image or video, or perhaps a large block-level text element. This is important because it tells the reader that the URL is actually loading.
    • Agg LCP (aggregated LCP) shown in the report is the time it takes for 75% of the visits to a URL in the group to reach the LCP state.
  • FID (first input delay): The time from when a user first interacts with your page (when they clicked a link, tapped on a button, and so on) to the time when the browser responds to that interaction. This measurement is taken from whatever interactive element that the user first clicks. This is important on pages where the user needs to do something, because this is when the page has become interactive.
    • Agg FID (aggregated FID) shown in the report means that 75% of visits to a URL in this group had this value or better.
  • CLS (Cumulative Layout Shift): The amount that the page layout shifts during the loading phase. The score is rated from 0–1, where zero means no shifting and 1 means the most shifting. This is important because having pages elements shift while a user is trying to interact with it is a bad user experience.
    • Agg CLS (aggregated CLS) shown in the report is the lowest common CLS for 75% of visits to a URL in the group.

Why we care. With the Google Page Experience Update coming in May, we are all getting ready to ensure our sites fair green with this update. We are not sure how big of a ranking factor this will be, but even if this is a small ranking factor, making these user experience changes to your site can help make for happier users and potentially increase site conversion rates and performance.

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Google goes dark theme and passage ranking sees the light: Friday’s daily brief /google-goes-dark-theme-and-passage-ranking-sees-the-light-fridays-daily-brief-346053 Fri, 12 Feb 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=346053 Plus, making the case for more Google Search Console data.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, SEOs and PPCs or whatever titles you may have today. 

I mean, we all know we are tasked with a lot and sometimes it involves not just us fixing title tags or doing keyword research but other times it involves coding, graphic design and even a little tax law. We do it all. Okay, enough about professional titles…

Today’s theme of the newsletter is, “Is that new?” As some of you may know, people ask me countless times a day, “Is this new?” The thing is, Google is always testing new interfaces, new designs, new features and releasing tweaks and changes to its ranking algorithm that are unconfirmed. Well, what is new is that Google launched passage ranking the other day in the U.S. search results in English, but what is not new is that Google made an update to the image search results algorithm to reduce duplicate results and improve search refinements

Recently, Google has been testing a new dark theme appearance in the search results. In fact, Google started testing it in December but over the past few days more and more have been seeing this theme. The issue from a search marketing perspective with this new dark mode is that the ads are a bit harder to distinguish from the organic listings. I mean, this shouldn’t surprise anyone, making the ads harder to distinguish has been a Google trend. 

Oh and feel free to message me on Twitter @rustybrick if you think you spotted something new, I can try to let you know if it is … or not. :)

Barry Schwartz
“Is This New” unofficial Google Liaison 

Google launched passage ranking in the U.S. English results

google logo with graphic of text being highlighted in a page

After announcing passage ranking, formerly known as passage indexing, last October, Google has officially confirmed that it began to roll out passage indexing in the US English search results. It plans on rolling it out globally at some point, which is expected to have a 7% impact in the search queries.

This roll out began on Wednesday, February 10, 2021, in the afternoon Pacific Time for queries in the US in English. So, go check your rankings and Google organic traffic for any changes.

Read more here.

Google Search dark theme mode expands but search ads are hard to distinguish

Example of a Google search result with a black background and one with a white background

You see, in light mode, the Ad label is black on a white background but in dark mode Google is using a gray font for the Ad label on a black background. Why not use white font, why not use that blue font it is using for the title of the snippet? Maybe because it is harder to see?

Google has been testing the dark theme for a couple of months now and it is starting to be seen by more searchers. I wouldn’t be surprised if it begins to officially roll out to all searchers soon.  And with the Ad label as it is now, don’t be surprised if you get some accidental clicks on your ads. 

Read more here.

Google Images should be more relevant and less duplicative

Example of a google image search for duke of hastings and floral dress

Last November, Google released a new update to Google Image Search, the company just announced this week, several months later. The update makes improvements in two areas:

  1. The results should reduce duplicate images, so that we can display others that are relevant yet visually distinct.
  2. The search refinements for alternate meanings of words should have improved in terms of the categories and images Google selected.

So, if your Google Image Search traffic saw a change in November 2020, this may be why.

Read more here.

We want more data from Google Search Console and here is why

screenshot of search console interface showing soft 404 errors

Glenn Gabe wrote an outstanding article on why it is vital for Google to give us more data within Search Console. “There is limited export capability from the Coverage reporting, which is especially tough for medium to larger-scale sites,” he explained, “Currently, there is a one thousand row limit per report.” 

For example, a site with just two hundred pages could easily export all indexed pages, and typically all excluded pages by category. But sites with hundreds of thousands, or millions, of pages, are often severely limited by just one thousand rows per report. And, that can hamper a site owner’s ability to fully identify patterns of problems across the entire site, export more URLs by category, and then of course, address all of those problems in a timely manner.

Google Search Console should provide more data per report. Glenn provided specific cases where more data would have helped site owners, and he provided a way for you to get involved by including a poll in the story that you can complete.

Besides our poll, yesterday Google read the story and created their own poll and posted about it on Twitter. Words matter and so does exporting your data.

Read more here.

Google doodle illustration of Maria Grever with music notes in the background

Google Doodle for María Grever. The Doodle on the Google homepage yesterday was to celebrate the Mexican singer and songwriter María Grever, considered to be one of the country’s greatest composers.  You can learn more over here.

SEO for images. Google’s John Mueller posted 12 tips and more on how to optimize your images for search engines.  The video is just under 10 minutes long and is pretty detailed.

Google homophone-detection. John Mueller on Twitter: “I don’t think we’d have a “homophone-detection” part in our algorithms, but we do pick up “pseudo-synonyms” / typos like these. My assumption is that natural language processing models deal with the common cases like these without additional help.”

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.

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Google My Business adds messaging to desktop interface /google-my-business-adds-messaging-to-desktop-interface-346070 Thu, 11 Feb 2021 23:43:03 +0000 /?p=346070 Businesses can now message with customers through their web browser, not just the mobile app.

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Google is rolling out the messaging functionality within the Google My Business desktop interface. This is not fully live yet, but many can see it already. Previously, messaging was available through the Google My Business mobile app, but not within the Google My Business desktop interface.

What it looks like. When you log in to Google My Business on your desktop browser, you may see a “Messages” button on the left side navigation. If you click on it, it loads the messaging chat box tool. You can see your customers on the left, click on them to load the chat window and then respond to their chats.

Here is a screenshot:

Google MY Business messaging interface showing messages and responses like a chat box on desktop

More details. Google has been pushing messaging recently within Google My Business and Google Maps. So the addition here is welcomed and not a huge surprise. Google began offering forms of messaging within Google My Business in 2016.

Henry H. who also sees this feature is excited about the launch, so are many other local SEOs.

Why we care. Many businesses have desktop computers open and ready to use. Often it is easier and faster to type on a full size keyboard when responding to customer requests. So this should make the process of responding to customers easier for some businesses.

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Google Image Search update reduces duplicate image results /google-image-search-update-reduces-duplicate-image-results-346036 Thu, 11 Feb 2021 18:42:21 +0000 /?p=346036 Google said this launched in November, so it seems Google is November but is just announcing this now.

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Google announced on Twitter that in November 2020 it has released an update to Google Image Search that reduces duplicative images in the image search results: “We made an improvement to Image Search to reduce duplicate images, so that we can display others that are relevant yet visually distinct.”

Visually distinct. Google has said the images it shows are now more visually distinct from each other, providing a more diverse set of relevant images for your query.

Here are some screenshots Google embedded to convey the differences:

November 2020. Google said in its announcement that this went live in November 2020, “we hope this improvement, which we introduced in November, helps everyone better make use of Google Images to be inspired and informed as they search visually.”

If your site gets a lot of Google Image Search traffic, you may want to check back at your analytics to November time to see if there were any substantial changes to your image search traffic.

Alternate meanings. Google added that it made improvements to the images and categories it uses for alternate meanings of words. The obvious example Google presented was jaguar, which can be the animal, sports team, car manufacturer or others.

Google previously added a menu at the top to let you filter based on those alternate meanings and better narrow down the search results to what you are looking for.

Here are the examples of this:

Why we care. If your site depends on Google Images for traffic, you may have already noticed changes to your traffic back in November. Either way, this update is from a few months back and Google is now just announcing that it went live. Hopefully you fared well with this update.

Google launched it in order to provide a better set of diverse images for searchers when they use Google Image Search.

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Google passage ranking now live in US English search results /google-passage-ranking-now-live-in-us-english-search-results-346034 Thu, 11 Feb 2021 18:26:47 +0000 /?p=346034 Google said this can have a 7% impact on search queries - so this might feel like a big update.

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In October 2020, Google announced passage indexing, a new way of Google ranking specific passages from a web page in search. Google has updated us that passage ranking, as they are now properly calling it, went live on Wednesday, February 10, 2021, in the afternoon Pacific Time for queries in the US in English.

What is passage ranking. “Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right,” said Google, “since sometimes the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page. We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to not just index web pages, but individual passages from the pages. By better understanding the relevancy of specific passages, not just the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for.”

Google said passage-based indexing will affect 7% of search queries across all languages when fully rolled out globally.

Passage rankings vs indexing. When Google first announced passage ranking, the company called it passage indexing. It was not a true accurate description of what it does – so now Google is calling it passage ranking. We explain this more in our story named How Google indexes passages of a page and what it means for SEO.

It is live. Here is Google’s announcement that this is live:

Why we care. Google said passage ranking will affect 7% of search queries across all languages when fully rolled out globally. It is now live in the US/English results, so it should have an about 7% impact in the US/English search results.

If your rankings changed in the past 24-hours or so, it might be related to this change. Although, Google has said there is nothing SEOs need to change for passage ranking, it is more about how Google understands your content. So do not rush to make any changes to your content yet.

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