A lot of stuff has already gone down in 2020. The two most notable events were Google’s Core update that dropped on January 13th and the Featured Snippet (FS) update on January 22nd. Both were in keeping with Google’s preference for making January even more miserable than it already is. The first was a blow to a lot of publishers we follow, and the second had people freaking out as they saw their average rankings plummet in Google Search Console.

If you haven’t seen it already, check out our latest 30/30: 30 Mins on the Last 30 Days in Search, Social and Content.

Google Core Algo Update and the Fearsome Featured Snippet

On the bright side, Google isn’t using silly names like Penguin and Panda to announce their algo updates. This update focused primarily on Your Money Your Life (YMYL) searches, meaning searches for answers about how you can improve your financial situation and what to do about that suspicious physical ailment that doesn’t seem to be getting better. 

It also had negative impacts on publishers, possibly as a knock-on effect for the ones that write a lot about money and life. Notably, the celebrity website TMZ took a big hit after the update, though retailers seem to have been largely unscathed.

Once again, it looks like Google is working hard to de-value questionably sourced information or user experiences built around clickbait in favor of information with a reliable and unimpeachable pedigree.

Once again, it looks like Google is working hard to de-value questionably sourced information or user experiences built around clickbait in favor of information with a reliable and unimpeachable pedigree.

Conductor has explored the initial reaction to the featured snipped update at length here, but the bottom line is the Goog flipped a switch and a lot of folks flipped out. Some highlights of the changes to Google’s core product and most salient experience are:

  • There are now 9 results on a featured snippet page instead of 10.
  • Google has “de-duplicated” the snippet and the first result, meaning people with dual rankings at the top of a page don’t have a dual ranking anymore. 
  • Consequently, some folks are seeing significant declines in CTR.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. Google taketh away then turns around and giveth with the other hand:

  • Deduplication does not appear to apply to video snippets. So if you have a video version of your content, you may still get that double listing.
  • The People Also Ask box doesn’t count as a dual listing, so you may have a result there and on the main SERP.

This is welcome news for some. Having a result in the People Also Ask box is a mixed blessing, however, because users have to click twice to get to your page.

In their effort to remove duplication at the top of the SERP, Google forgot to rank the Featured Snippet as the number 1 result (in the past it was counted as the 11th result), which means for accounting purposes, though some sites still had their URL at the top of page 1, in Google Search Console it looked their average rank had dropped through the floor. Not. Good. Goog. Not good.

This is just an accounting problem, however, and won’t destroy CTR as if the listing weren’t on the page at all. More than likely, Google will fix the issue quickly.

A New Shopping Experience Is Either Great for Retailers or Awful — It Depends

Google rolled out a new shopping experience to mobile in January that is either the best thing since sliced bread or another attempt to appropriate other people’s data to keep people on Google and lower CTR.

The new experience looks great, and from the consumer point of view, it’s an improvement over the previous experience. The point is to allow you to comparison shop with pictures and prices in the Google platform instead of going to many different retailers’ websites, keeping a million tabs open on your browser, and losing the great pair of shoes you saw somewhere, but … where?

Retailers: traffic to your site will go down. But if conversions pick up, is that a bad thing?

The downside for retailers: traffic to your site will go down. But if conversions pick up, is that a bad thing? Why bother making your site searchable (or browsable?) when you can outsource that to Google?

So far the feature is limited to clothing, shoes, and accessories. The listings are controlled through Google Merchant, and getting listing on these pages is free (for now). 

But clearly Google is moving to become the destination for people just actually, physically buying something from the SERP. What other company has a search engine that allows you to buy stuff? <cough, cough, AMAZON. cough.> These are high stakes moves, and some people have called Jeff Bezos an “economic terrorist” for how he treats the merchants on his site. Just sayin’.

Drumroll Please: Conductor Launches Marketplace!

I don’t usually promote products in the 30/30, but this product is near to my heart.

Conductor Marketplace connects our agile, agency-style services and world-class SEO platform in an easy-to-use interface. It is the first product I worked on, and I’m unabashedly proud of it.

That’s it for January 2020. Watch the full webinar here. See you in 30 days!

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