The SEO landscape is constantly changing in ways that can have a significant impact on your brand’s Google presence. ROI Revolution’s SEO experts diligently stay on top of all the latest updates so that we can alleviate some of the confusion and proactively prepare our clients for upcoming changes. In this October 2022 SEO News Recap, you’ll uncover updates like:
- Two big Google updates complete on the same day
- Google clarifies product reviews information
- Temporarily taking your website offline
- Tell Googlebot about new content
- It’s OK to have empty ALT text… sometimes
- Changing URLs for SEO purposes is unnecessary
- Webmaster Guidelines are now Google Search Essentials
- Big Announcements from Google’s Search on 22
Let’s get started with your October 2022 SEO News Recap!
Authors: Robyn Riley and Niki Morock
1. Two Big Google Updates Complete on the Same Day
On September 26th, the September 2022 core update and the September 2022 product reviews update finished rolling out. The core update took two weeks to complete, while the product reviews update only took six days.
If you feel your website might have taken a hit from either of these updates, you can likely determine which one by looking at the content on your site. If much of your content contains reviews of any types of products or if the products you sell tend to be the subject of reviews, the culprit is likely the product reviews update. Otherwise, you should look at Google’s advice for what to do if you’ve been affected by a core update.
Additionally, Google released its October 2022 spam update on October 19th, and it completed just two days later. This update improves how Google detects sites that do not comply with their spam policies.
2. Google Clarifies Product Reviews Information
Google has released a total of five product reviews updates so far, starting in April 2021 and including the one mentioned above. Recently, several points of clarification were made in a flurry of tweets among SEOs and Google representatives Danny Sullivan and Alan Kent. Here are the highlights:
- Structured data may help Google understand that a page contains a product review, but having structured data is not a ranking factor – it’s just one of many signals Google can use.
- Google updated its documentation on writing high-quality product reviews with examples of who could write product reviews (quoted directly here):
- An expert staff member of a merchant who guides shoppers between competing products
- A blogger who provides independent opinions of products
- An editorial staff member at a news or other publishing site
- Google’s Danny Sullivan explained that product reviews updates focus on page-level content. However, if a significant portion of a website’s overall content is product reviews, the entire site may be judged by the quality of those reviews.
3. Temporarily Taking Your Website Offline
Does your website need to close or be unavailable for a day? Not sure how to do it without tanking your SEO?
Google’s John Mueller recommends using a 503 status code to tell Googlebot your website is temporarily unavailable. Be sure to remove the 503 as soon as possible, using it for a maximum of up to one day.
If any of your site’s top pages are removed from SERPs while your site is down, check them in Search Console and request indexing.
As a reminder, “Google won’t index all pages. This is normal and expected,” so be judicious with the “request indexing” feature. Lastly, if you use a 503, “you’ll need to wait 1-2 weeks after removing it for everything to settle back down.”
4. Tell Googlebot About New Content
Have you ever wondered how to get new content indexed quickly? Google’s John Mueller answered that question in a recent series of tweets.
He recommends not only including a link to your XML sitemap file in your robots.txt file but also using the ping tool to let Googlebot know about the new page(s) in your sitemap.
To use the ping tool, you’ll need to “send a GET request in your browser or the command line to this address, specifying the full URL of the sitemap. Be sure that the sitemap file is accessible: https://www.google.com/ping?sitemap=FULL_URL_OF_SITEMAP.”
5. It’s OK to Have Empty ALT Text… Sometimes
Decorative images that don’t add content to a page don’t need alt text, Google’s John Mueller confirmed in a recent Search Off the Record podcast.
A Twitter user expressed concern over potential accessibility issues with this, and Dr. Marie Haynes explained that this is for decorative images only. Her example was “an image as texture behind a heading.” Other examples, according to W3.org, include things like borders, spacers, corners, and images where adjacent text sufficiently describes them.
6. Changing URLs for SEO Purposes Is Unnecessary
John Mueller of Google recently stated that changing URLs for the sake of SEO is a risky action. In fact, in the short term, it could negatively affect your rankings because when you change your URL, you must add a redirect.
It takes time for Google to crawl and process those changes, so your position in Google’s results pages may slip. Mueller points out that changing URLs does not usually positively affect rankings, so it’s typically not worth the effort.
7. Webmaster Guidelines are Now Google Search Essentials
After two decades of existence, Google refreshed its Webmaster Guidelines, simplifying them in many cases and clarifying them in others, and rebranded them as Google Search Essentials. These “essentials” cover technical requirements, spam policies, and key best practices , and they should be required reading for any site owner, webmaster, or SEO who wants their website to perform well on Google Search.
8. Big Announcements from Google’s Search On 22
In what appears to be an expansion of its use of MUM (Multitask Unified Model), Google’s Search On 22 event introduced several new features that are now, or will soon be, available in Search, especially in the iOS app. A few of the exciting advances include
- The expansion of multisearch: Now, in addition to using your phone’s camera to search in Google Lens based on a photo, you can add text to the query to narrow down your results. “Near me” query additions are coming soon to multisearch, as well.
- Shortcuts added to the iOS app: Under the search bar in the Google app, there are new buttons for shopping for products, translating text, searching from an image in your camera roll, solving homework problems, and identifying a song.
- Many more visual elements in search results: For an increasing number of queries, Google is showing more images and videos in the results, including ideas for things to do, tips, and visual stories.
- Translated news: Whether you’re searching for news locally or globally, you can find it now from original sources, translated to English by Google translate. This allows searchers to view “authoritative reporting from journalists” where the news is happening.
Tying It All Together: October 2022 SEO News
From Google’s growing emphasis on reviews and ratings to insights gleaned from Google experts, this month was full of organic search updates that could be a great boon to your business if you leverage them correctly.
If you think your brand could benefit from having a team of SEO experts by your side to help you navigate the constantly shifting organic search landscape, send a message to our SEO team today.
To learn more about recent SEO news, peruse our library of SEO news recaps from the past few months:
- September 2022 SEO News Recap
- August 2022 SEO News Recap
- July 2022 SEO News Recap
- June 2022 SEO News Recap
- Google Search Central Blog, List of Google Search ranking updates.
- Google Search Central Blog, What site owners should know about Google’s August 2019 core update.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Google: Structured Data May Help Us Identify Product Reviews Content.
- Google Search Central Documentation, Write high quality product reviews.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Google Product Reviews Update Is Primarily On A Page-Level Basis But Not Always…
- Search Engine Roundtable, Jewish High Holy Days Approaching: Google Shares Tips On How To Temporarily Close Your Site.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Google: Pinging Sitemaps Help Get New Content Indexed More Quickly.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Google: Leave Alt Text Empty For Decorative Images & So Does W3C.
- w3.org Tutorials, Decorative Images.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Google Really Wants You To Avoid Changing URLs Just For SEO Reasons.
- Google Search Central Documentation, Google Search Essentials.
- Search Engine Land, 10 biggest announcements from Google Search On 22.