November has been quite a crazy month, Google started their mobile first index and updated “featured snippets” and “top stories” algorithms. There were also some changes in the user interface and we also witnessed the reversal of an unnamed Google update.
Here are the changes that happened recently -
Google’s New User Interface
Google’s desktop search interface seems to be sporting a new look with fresh fonts and bold lines. What more. The “Tools” and “Settings” feature now directly come under the search box. A month ago, Google was testing this interface. Now, Google has also confirmed this and the new UI is on a roll-out to desktop searches.
Google Using “Sentence Compression Algorithms” for Desktop Searches?
Sentence compression algorithms extract the best answers for a search query and display the answer on the featured snippet. According to a report by Wired, Google is training its neural networks using data crafted by “Pygmalion”, a team of Ph.D linguists. But, no results in the featured snippets section have been altered drastically. If Google’s sentence compression algorithms will influence results in featured snippets and to what extent, we will probably have to wait and see!
Top Stories Algorithm Tweaked to Show Results from High-Quality Sites
A few weeks ago, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai said Google would strive to “drive news from trusted sources”. Quoting Sundar Pichai, “Sure, fake news as a whole could be an issue. From our perspective, there should just be no situation in which fake news gets distributed, so we are all for doing better here. I don’t think we should debate it as much as work hard to make sure we drive news towards more trusted sources, have more fact-checking, and make our algorithms better.”
It looks like Google acted super-fast on the CEOs request to feature news from trusted sources. From what we have seen, news articles from low-quality sites are not being featured (anymore) in the Top Stories section.
Mobile-First Index Experiment
Google recently went live with their “mobile-first” index. A lot of experts knew this was on the cards but since Google had mentioned that they have a lot more to figure out with mobile-first index, we were not expecting this to happen anytime soon. Well, it is live for a limited set of users but will be gradually rolled out.
So, what is changing with the mobile-first index? Google will crawl and index the mobile version of your website and take that as its primary parameter for ranking signals and content. Because Google is still testing the waters, no big rise or fall in rankings is expected.
Crawl Budget and Meta NoIndex Tags
Google’s John Mueller reiterated the fact that using meta noindex tag will not help you save your crawl budget. Crawl Budget refers to the number of pages Google will crawl on your website. This is determined by a number of parameters like the number of links to your site and the number of errors that Google chances upon.
Again, it is pretty obvious that the only way for Google to know if there is a meta noindex tag on your page is to spend their budget crawling the page. The same goes for canonical tags also.
Was there a Search Update?
On Nov 10th to 15th, while some people reported a drop in rankings, some saw a massive spike. Amidst discussions abound on SEO forums, the search update went unconfirmed (and largely unnoticed!). Ten days later, people reported gains in ranking. Some believe that the reversal of effects was because Google rolled back the Nov 10th update while according to some, it is because of the effects of the mobile-first index being tested!
Did we miss covering any major search update? Let us know in the comments.