March 2022 SEO News Recap

Authors: Robyn Riley, Carolyn Wilborn, Kelsey Burnham, Nicole Moore

In our March 2022 SEO News Recap, dive into the latest news and updates from ROI’s SEO experts on search engine optimization, including insights into the switch to GA4, tips for content SEO, Google Search Console URL inspection tool errors, and more.

Google Analytics Is Dead; Long Live Google Analytics!

If you’re an ROI client, you’ve been notified about Google’s announcement on Google Analytics. In a nutshell, Universal Analytics (UA) will stop processing new hits on July 1, 2023. Instead, Google recommends that all users set up Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

By moving to GA4 now (while UA is still working), a site will have at least a year’s worth of historical data in GA4 once UA is no longer available.

The ROI Revolution Analytics Team has been working for the past year to prepare for this transition! If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to your ROI team. If you aren’t an ROI Revolution client, now is the perfect time to connect with an expert who can help.

Google’s Danielle Marshak on How Google Understands Videos

Google’s Danielle Marshak explained in a recent Search Off the Record podcast how Google understands the content within videos:

  • Audio from the video file allows Google to understand words that are spoken.
  • Characters (i.e. headings) help Google understand where sections and important moments occur.
  • Imagery within the video is still a challenge, but Google is working on using imagery to identify objects, animals, and motions.
  • Google uses structured data to better understand videos and to find the video in the first place.
  • Text on the page (intro text and transcripts) gives context to the video and helps Google better understand what the video is about.

Internal Linking Is Critical for SEO

In a recent SEO Office Hours meeting, someone recently asked if internal linking was important. Google’s John Mueller replied:

“Yes, absolutely. I think it’s one of the biggest things that you can do on a website to kind of guide Google and guide visitors to the pages that you think are important.”

He says it goes beyond having breadcrumbs or hreflang tags on your site (and marking them up with structured data). Your website should have an intentional internal linking strategy with HTML links between the different parts of your site that you find important.

Tip: Use relevant anchor text when linking between pages. Avoid anchor text of “here” and “click here.”

Google: The Google URL Parameters Tool Is Scary

John Mueller recently reminded us that the URL Parameters Tool in Google Search Console still exists (though it’s found under Legacy Tools & Reports), and Google will listen to anything added to it.

If you’re not familiar with this tool, it allows you to “specify Google’s behavior when crawling your site with specific parameters.” While this sounds beneficial, it can be “scary,” as Mueller said.

Once your parameters are set, they’re often forgotten about, and no tools (including GSC) will report on issues caused by those specifications. Instead, he recommends using “noindex” or robots.txt to limit indexing of parameterized URLs.

EAT & How It Affects Your Ranking

The concept of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (aka EAT) has been around in SEO for several years now, and the ROI Revolution SEO team has been working with clients to help improve the ways in which their sites demonstrate these factors.

But it’s not always completely understood how Google interprets EAT signals or uses them in search results rankings. Google’s John Mueller has said for some time that there is no EAT score, but that doesn’t mean that EAT isn’t important. In a recent SEO Office Hours video, John says that EAT may not be a direct ranking factor, but that the algorithms are likely working to understand the same concepts.

It’s a “fuzzy area,” as the algorithms are “trying to understand the context of the content on the web…”

If you’re interested in learning more about EAT and how your website can improve, talk to your ROI SEO team or reach out to our experts to set up a conversation. You can also check out the article 14 ways Google may evaluate EAT from Search Engine Land.

Google Search Console’s URL Inspection Tool Errors

Google has announced there have been errors within the URL Inspection tool in Google Search Console since March 1. As of March 15, there has been no update on the fix. Many businesses are still seeing incorrect errors and incomplete information as of March 18th. According to John Mueller on Twitter, the issues are still partially ongoing. So, if you’re seeing issues with the tool, you’re not the only one.

Blog | Google Search Console Errors Google Search Console errors can significantly harm the accuracy of your website reports. We’ve put together a list of some of the most common Google Search Console error reports, how to determine what might be causing your error, and, in most cases, how to fix it. Read the blog.

Understanding Google Search Personalization

When it comes to what you see when you use Google, we know that the search engine takes a number of factors into account – most directly, your location and your language. If you search for “pizza” in New York City, for example, you’ll get very different results than if you search in Raleigh, NC, or Paris, France.

But does “personalization” go deeper than that?

Many people seem to think so, including public figures. Google’s Danny Sullivan responded to a recent podcast during which Andrew Yang, politician and podcaster, and Ramesh Srinivasan, a UCLA professor, discussed Google personalization. Danny wrote a long series of Tweets in response to their discussion, explaining why search results might differ depending on who is searching, but not because those results have been personalized.

Google has said, “We do not personalize search results based on demographic profiles nor create such profiles for use in Google Search.”

You can read about this misunderstanding in a thread from 2018, and Danny Goodwin goes into the history of the discussion and debate in an article on Search Engine Land.

Google Page Experience Update for Desktop Is Done Rolling Out

As of March 3, the page experience update for desktop has completely rolled out, but there shouldn’t be any significant impact on rankings. The original page experience update, announced in 2020, was first rolled out to mobile in May and June of 2021, and other than mobile-friendliness, the same factors are being used in this update.

Desktop page experience signals can be tracked through Google Search Console, but Google reminds us that “while this update is designed to highlight pages that offer great user experiences, page experience remains one of many factors our systems take into account.”

If your site has seen any drastic changes, it will likely be more than just Core Web Vitals and the desktop page experience update that’s contributing to that drop.

What Is BERT & How Does It Affect Google Searches?

BERT is a machine learning model that works to better understand human language. Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, or BERT as we like to call it, is designed to understand context beyond the definition of individual words, or how words relate in a phrase or sentence.

For example, if you searched “can you get medicine for someone pharmacy,” you would get results about prescriptions and pharmacies. But with the evolution of BERT, Search can now understand that “for” means that you’re asking whether pharmacies allow you to pick up medicine that is prescribed to someone else.

How is BERT trained? By taking out 20% of input words in a phrase and making the computer guess the words that are missing. Over time, the model begins to understand that different words have different meanings, depending on the context of the surrounding language.

For example, in a phrase like “pretty tough,” pretty doesn’t mean beautiful, it means very. As BERT advances, Search improves to better understand what users are looking for when they input queries in the format in which they speak and think.

The SEO Impact of Changing Website Hosting Location, From Google

John Mueller from Google has said that Google will slow down crawling on a site that has had a recent hosting location change to ensure that crawling the site will not cause unnecessary issues. Once Google has determined crawling the site will not cause issues, Google will resume crawling at a normal rate.

Additionally, the hosting location of a website can impact site speed: users closer to the hosting location likely experience faster load times than those farther away. Care should be taken to ensure that the hosting location is not moved significantly far from your base of users (like out of the country) or that the site thoughtfully uses a CDN or multiple hosting locations.

Longer page load times can certainly impact your SEO, particularly as the Page Experience update is now impacting the desktop and mobile experiences.

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Sources

ROI Revolution