In January, Google told us about the update they rolled out. In early February, a lot of people woke up to significant changes in organic traffic for no specified reason. After a lot of speculation, an (unconfirmed) update by Google has affected a lot of websites, and significantly. While we are still waiting on any word from Google, below is useful information regarding this update and other important changes in the world of SEO for the month of February. It might be time to change up your strategy! Let’s dig in.
February 7th Google Update 💔
Just a week before Valentine’s day, a lot of people got their hearts broken when they woke up in the morning on the weekend following the unofficial February 7th update. Many websites in different industries noticed massive drop-offs but also big increases in organic traffic, signaling that something has changed in the way Google ranks websites. Marie Haynes remarked that some keywords shot up from not ranking at all to the first position on Google, for no good reason with no quality improvements made. This is unusual for Google updates and it is difficult to identify what exactly is being rewarded and punished.
From her Twitter thread, here is a summary of responses about sites being affected negatively and positively:
There are speculations that this is due to BERT, fixing the credibility of pages, and analyzing how links contribute to authority and rankings. This article from Barry Schwartz below has further thoughts and experiences of different marketers in the industry.
Happy Birthday, Google Maps 🎉
Maps celebrated its 15th anniversary (rolled out in 2005, just for the visual dramatic effect) this February. They updated the app logo, and added new features for the 1 billion users turning to the app to navigate their lives. The new easy-to-access tabs include “Explore” with helpful near-by attraction suggestions, “Commute” to make sure you’re on time, “Saved” to keep track of your places, “Contribute” to share photos and reviews, and “Updates” from local experts and publishers.
Voice Search on Google 🎤
Voice search is one of the biggest upcoming trends of 2020 and it makes total sense. With in-home assistants, smartphones, and car assistants, voice is often more convenient and faster than typing. For SEOs though, how do you track voice searches and queries and the actual results they yield from your site? Well, according to John Mu, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, you can’t. The only thing you can do is test sample queries and questions yourself using Voice and see if your site comes up in the results or answers.
Bye, Intrusive Ads. Hi, Better UX 👋
Imagine, you are watching a cute dog video on Facebook and right in the middle of it, you get an ad for something completely irrelevant. Annoying, right? Well, the Coalition for Better Ads announced an entirely new set of standards on February 18th, based on research from 45,000 users worldwide. The three types of ads found to be particularly disruptive are video ads longer than 31 seconds that cannot be skipped in the first 5 seconds, ads of any duration appearing in the middle of the (dog) video, and ads appearing on top of a playing video obscuring more than 20% of the video. Starting August 5, 2020, Chrome will stop showing these ads and YouTube will be reviewed for compliance with the Standards as well. This is huge for advertisers!
Are You Still With Us? 🙏
There’s been much debate on what length of content is the most optimal for a website – long form or short form. At around 640 words currently, this article is medium in length. According to this tweet, if the content is of high quality and brings value to the user, very long-form is not necessarily correlated with a drop-off in readers.
Shopify + SEO = <3
With more than one million users of the e-commerce platform, the next question is – how do you rank for your amazing products on Google? This thorough guide not only lists the first basic steps to set up your Shopify store’s SEO such as setting up Google Analytics, and having a secure site with a custom domain, but also provides more technical advice and guidance. This includes things like ensuring a logical site structure, doing keyword research and optimizing your page titles and meta descriptions. Want some more? Check out our very own Shopify SEO Guide.
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