This year has been off to an… interesting start so far. As the world has been engulfed in a pandemic and drastic measures have been taken, we have seen the impacts on web traffic ripple through as well, and not only in the medical field. Besides this being the biggest news, there are other SEO and digital marketing updates we need to talk about as well. So go to the kitchen for a snack, pull your blanket closer, and read this as you are working from home and, of course, being very productive.
How COVID-19 impacts SEO traffic
While there is a chance a small portion of this fluctuation is attributable to a new algorithm update not yet announced by Google, fears over the virus and changes in consumer habits have contributed to major shifts in traffic. Some industries that have been severely impacted: airlines, travel, and medical (especially sites selling face masks and sanitizer). Industries that we expect to see hurt by the world events are the travel industry, rapidly losing customers; retail, with the focus shifting to e-commerce, and restaurants, focusing their operations on take-out and delivery only. Ensure your website and online presence are up to the challenge!
Google search and featured snippets update
You know when you search for something and it’s definitely not a stupid question, and Google provides you the answer in a box right after the search bar? That’s a featured snippet, which Google pulls from the site that seems to answer your question the best. There are also other suggested questions and different ways of presenting the information. Google has now introduced new rules – if your page is the one used for the featured snippet, appearing above the ads and the first positions, then your website cannot also be in the first or second position on the first page of results. This is important when considering how to write the content for your site, where the focus should be on intent and long-tail keywords.
This change brings a tricky nuance – some SEOs have noticed a drop in CTR when they get the featured snippet since people are more likely to just read the answer as opposed to going to the website and actually completing the wanted action. However, having your website as the featured snippet does increase visibility in terms of brand awareness and impressions, although this is harder to track and does not directly result in conversions or sales. Some SEOs are deliberately shying away from earning the featured snippet for this reason (you can choose to opt-out), so there is not a one-answer-fits-all for the featured snippet debate.
Mobile-first indexing of the whole web
For a few years, Google has been working on crawling sites based on their mobile versions, not the desktop ones, to ensure that mobile users receive a good user experience. According to Google Webmasters, “most sites shown in search results are good to go for mobile-first indexing, and 70% of those shown in our search results have already shifted over” where the indexing switches over when Google realizes the sites are ready to go. In September 2020, Google will be using the mobile version of your site to index, regardless of whether it is ready to go or not. This means that the crawling will be done with smartphone Googlebot as opposed to the traditional desktop version. The official advice from Google is the same as before – ensure your site is fully functional in terms of design and user experience, structured data is there, SEO is set up, and your URL structure works. Further, ensure you don’t serve a watered-down or shortened version of your site on mobile, make sure your design is responsive for all viewport sizes and you did all the testing.
Let’s celebrate women in honour of IWD
The 8th of March was International Women’s Day and we want to continue to highlight the amazing women shaping the SEO field and making their mark as women in tech. Check out this amazing round-up from Search Engine Land for inspiring stories, and to give you that boost of confidence you may need to get started on your own adventure.
To break it up a little, browse this collection of tweets:
New search console update
We’re happy to let you know that you’ll now have more and better data available to export in Search Console 📊 Learn more and see sample data in our blog https://t.co/jKm0Qp9jn8 pic.twitter.com/wlssPQli34
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) February 26, 2020
“Read more” into nothing?
This is really important for sites that use “read more” buttons. When Google is crawling, they likely won’t click this button. It’s possible that none of the info hidden behind “read more” will get seen by Google.https://t.co/uHRoK3VGxC pic.twitter.com/RhkqZOCfyo
— Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) March 2, 2020
Running out of content ideas? try this:
1/ New content strategy I’ve been testing out:
“X vs. Y keywords”
So far they’re working SUPER well.
— Brian Dean (@Backlinko) February 19, 2020
2/ What are “X vs. Y keywords”?
They’re things like
-“Convertkit vs. MailChimp”
-“Paleo vs. Keto”
-“UberEats vs. Postmates”
— Brian Dean (@Backlinko) February 19, 2020
In conclusion, the world is changing very quickly and so is SEO and digital marketing. We hope these updates were helpful for you and we will continue to monitor the ongoing situation! As always, feel free to send us a message if you need any help with your digital marketing or if you’d like us to write about something specific.