SEO Monthly Roundup September 2020
Our SEO expert, Richard Foulkes rounds up the latest SEO news in the industry
Sometimes a lot happens in one month, other times nothing happens and Google still refuses to comment if it happened anyway. Or they simply announce they’re about to release an update appropriately named after the month they release it in.
Which means for many of us we’ll be left longing for the days of a new algorithm update named after a fluffy animal.
Despite their lack of creative naming, Google continues to enhance their search engine.
So here’s our SEO roundup of everything Google did and didn’t do in September 2020.
Rewriting OUR Meta Descriptions
It’s nothing new right? Google has been rewriting Meta descriptions for years. Some speculate it’s down to Google testing lower ranking pages to improve their relevancy. Or perhaps it’s just not a big fan of your optimised description.
Either way a recent study from Portent found that across 30,000 keywords Google had rewritten around 70% of the associated Meta descriptions. Which based on this data, means Google only chose to accept 30% of the optimised descriptions you spent hours, may be even days tweaking (sad times).
But all is not lost, this study was only conducted on 30,000 keywords and it regularly found that pages in position 4-6 were being rewritten the most often. Is this just Google attempting to boost the relevancy of those pages?
What should we do about it?
Do what we know we should, it might feel like a waste. Especially if Google is going to rewrite our descriptions. But in reality, it’s our duty as SEO’s. A well optimised Meta description stands more chance of sticking in the SERPs than one left to its own devices.
It’s also a good idea to include the important stuff upfront.
Where possible include the keywords you’re targeting in the first 100 words to avoid Google cutting off the important stuff on Mobile or Desktop, it’s a safeguard at the very least.
Anchor Text Continues To Be Important
Anyone in SEO knows the power of internal and external links and in a recent Webmasters Google Hangouts. John Mueller gave a pretty direct answer, not something we always get. He was asked:
“Can Google get context for what is around that link?”
The question itself was referring to a previous comment about the number of links that exist with little to no context in the anchor. Links such as “click here”, or “visit site” etc.
John Mueller’s reply was interesting, he said:
“Sure. But that is more kind of secondary. Like that really strong piece of context from that anchor text that is missing in that case. And then small things around the side, that does help us a little bit. But really the kind of primary aspect of that link is kind of gone. And usually that doesn’t matter. It is not that it counts against your web site in anyway, it is just for this particular link, we don’t really know what the context is.”
So that simply means even if context exists around the link Google won’t use that context to replace the actual context of the anchor text.
Put in even simpler terms, our internal or external links should always be keyword focused and never just “click here”. Our reliance on the secondary signals (words around links) isn’t enough for Google to deem it relevant.
Google My Business COVID Support Measures
During September, Google introduced a range of new features to their Google My Business platform to help with the current COVID pandemic and its effect on local stores.
The release happened around the 11th of September 2020 and is designed to help businesses indicate if they are COVID secure and offering guidance on any precautions being made in-store.
Here’s what the Google My Business Help section states:
“Food, retail and service businesses can add attributes to let customers know about the safety measures in place at their business.
Safety measure attributes include:
• Masks required for customers or staff
• Temperature checks required for customers or staff
• Appointments or reservations required”
This update has been followed by a range of previous COVID updates going back to March 2020. These allowed stores to highlight if they were temporarily closed during lockdown, offering takeaway or open by appointment only.
It’s great to see that Google has this functionality available to local and small businesses up and down the UK, in such a testing time. Kudos Google.
Did An Update Happen?
Whether you’ve followed the SEO industry for years or months you’ll learn pretty quickly that us ‘SEOs’ love the prospect of a Google update.
So much so, that even the slightest fluctuation in rankings brings a rush of SEO experts sprinting to the finish line in an effort to be the first one to give it a cool name.
But did one happen in September 2020? Well technically no despite SEMRush and RankRanger showing spikes in their SERP trackers. Google didn’t confirm any updates during this time frame.
What they did confirm was that they were aware of two issues impacting URLs. The first issue was related to Mobile indexing and the second related to canonical redirects and how they detect duplicate content. This meant that there had potentially been some URLs that were not found in the index.
So there you have it, a pretty eventful September in the SEO industry!
Are you worried you’ve been hit by a dreaded Google update? Or need some local SEO support? Feel free to get in touch and our SEO team we would be happy to offer our advice and expertise!