Here we go, yet another month of all sorts of changes to the Google SERP and the features found on it! In the great month of October, we were privy to see Google start to roll-out its 20th birthday updates, the coming of an all-new way to hunt down the best hotel, and some more Google update action (yep, more updates... again). I've also got an exclusive look at the first set of data on the relatively new Explore Panels!
There was no major Google algorithm update this past month that shook up the entire SEO community. Instead, we got a few shorter "bursts" of rank volatility that had their own story to tell. On top of that, mobile indexing multiplied by immense proportions, Chrome's update brought us more direct answers, and a good dozen or so SERP feature tests and changes popped up.
Oh, and Google announced a slew of some pretty big changes that could change the entire way we think about search and go about optimization vis a
vis the user's experience.
Most SEO professionals know the ins and outs of the trade – that content is king, that technical SEO optimization is a must, and that you can’t get serious rank traction without quality backlinks. The thing is, that succeeding as an SEO agency is not just about knowing SEO, it’s about understanding how to manage the client relationship, a central part of which is knowing the right way to prepare SEO reports.
There's this sentiment that rank has become increasingly more volatile. To a large extent, we've chalked this up to machine learning, or RankBrain in specific. That said, what does the current ranking landscape actually look like? How does it differ than the allegedly more stable past? What new ranking dynamics has machine learning left us with? What can we do about them?
August was a month for the Google SERP record books and it's not all thanks to the monster of an update that rolled-out. Yes, the early August Google Update, commonly referred to as the Medic Update, was massive and I'll surely discuss it and how it has changed the name of the game in many ways. However, one of the most exciting things to develop over the month has been Google Posts and it's move towards independence.
Welcome to the SERP News covering August 2018!
Google's early August update was one the most drastic changes I've ever had the 'pleasure' of studying. No site within any niche was safe. Not even the top results on the page could withstand its algorithmic inertia. Amidst the waves of rank fluctuations, a peculiar site pattern emerged, one that had us wondering...
Can Google now profile your site?
What's Google showing in the new desktop carousel? Where do the carousel's YouTube URLs rank within YouTube itself? Is the SERP getting the best YouTube has to offer? Can you optimize for YouTube and the desktop video carousel simultaneously? Does top spot YouTube placement guarantee carousel priority?
I took 155 video carousel keywords and compared the rank of the top 6 cards in each carousel to the URLs rank inside of YouTube - these are my results.
I don't think I need to say that Google's August 2018 broad core update was a big deal. You can judge an update by the buzz it gets... and this update was thunderous. Of course, anyone and everyone
is grasping at straws trying to 'figure the update out'. How impactful was the update? Which sites did it hit? What kind of sites were affected? While I can't definitively explain the update (Can anyone?), I did some digging and came back with some small trinkets of algorithmic treasure. Here's what I found.
When it rains it pours, or in SEO terms, when Google showers us with changes to the SERP, it follows them up with even more adjustments! The June SERP's big-ticket momentum rolled right into July as the SERP continued to evolve at break-neck speed... a Speed Update that is. Not only did the search engine roll out its highly anticipated mobile speed update, but it made a splash with some serious SERP feature shifts and a series of tests to hotel Knowledge Panels that make all previous tests look like child's play!
Have you felt it? Google's SERP features have bulked up and have moved from being a concern to sites ranking organically to being a competitive juggernaut that every SEO needs to constantly consider. Now, the search engine is going all-in with a new tactic: hybrid SERP features that combine elements from multiple features (so as to better hone in on a legion of different user intents). At the same time, it feels like Google is using its "traditional" features to offer a more powerful SERP feature punch these days.
Let's take a walk through the SERP as I've seen it and see what's perhaps going on.
Image Thumbnails, a mobile SERP favorite, are now present on far more SERPs than they had been just days ago. The proliferation of the thumbnails on the mobile SERP does not appear to be a simple across the board increase in the SERP feature. Rather, the data indicates that the uptick is heavily due to the feature now being relevant to local queries on mobile.
The recent past has been an adventurous snapshot in time on the Google SERP. There seems to have been a shift in how Google uses its SERP features on a variety of levels. Due to the dynamism of these adjustments, I don't think we as an industry have fully been able to define the current construct, both in terms of the actual changes that have been made, and in terms of the unifying elements that make them a part of Google's larger strategy. With that, I'd like to present one of the many missing pieces of this puzzle, a new bidding system for Google's Local Pack and Featured Snippets.