News | READING TIME: 6 MINUTES | January 11, 2021

SEO Trends: 2020 Recap

It is the job of every SEO expert to keep an eye out on the future and anticipate what Google is testing or looking to drop on our doorstep. SEO optimization is highly reliant on the developments of search engines; an SEO strategy can easily be rendered fruitless if it doesn’t keep up with the latest trends and developments. Likewise, any SEO guide which doesn’t stay up-to-date will be outdated quickly. Below, we present some of the biggest changes in the world of search engine optimization from 2020.

Quarter 1:

Bing Pages is launched

Bing Pages is a beta program that lets users manage their presence on Microsoft products such as Bing and Outlook. Participants in this program get their own page on Bing to help highlight their contact information and social media channels. They can also promote social media posts in relevant search results at no cost.

REF: Search Engine Land
REF: Microsoft

January 2020 Core Update

Google confirmed that a broad core algorithm update, simply titled the January 2020 Core Update, was released on 13th January 2020. This update is part of the constant improvement efforts of Google search, and as with other core updates, there was no sudden change in what factors are important to optimize. In short, the algorithms got better at identifying high-quality pages related to user search intent.

REF: Search Liason on Twitter
REF: Search Engine Journal

Google Search Console launches tool to temporary hide pages

Google launched a new removals tool for Google Search Console. This is accessed within Google Search Console, under the Index menu, labeled Removals. This tool does three things:

  1. Lets you temporarily hide URLs from showing in Google search.
  2. Shows you which content is not in Google because it is “outdated content”.
  3. Shows you which of your URLs were filtered by Google’s Safe Search adult filter.

Interface for Google Search Console Removals Tool

REF: Google Webmasters

New settings in Google Search Console

Google announced new features being launched on Google Search Console. The update included functionality for showing your performance data directly in Google search, along with the option to chose what types of emails you receive from Google Search Console.

REF: Google Search Central on Twitter
REF: Justia

Quarter 2

Google My Business’ new features for medical listings

It is no overstatement to say that 2020 has been largely influenced by the covid-19 pandemic. Too many people visiting a hospital during a pandemic can pose a health risk. Fortunately, Google responded to this by allowing healthcare providers to share prominent links to online care options on their GMBs (Google MyBusiness) and to present information about COVID-19. Non-healthcare businesses also got some new features to use, such as secondary opening hours specifically for seniors. These options have undoubtedly contributed to relieving already beleaguered healthcare systems.

REF: Google My Business

Quarter 3

Featured Snippet Highlight in Google Search Results

Before this update, clicking a featured snippet merely took the user to the ranking webpage – just like with any other search result. However, clicking a featured snippet now takes the user directly to the featured snippet text on the source web page.

There’s no markup needed by webmasters to enable a featured snippet. However, pages with snippets may disrupt implemented conversion optimizing elements by sending visitors past ads and/or calls to action, taking them directly to the relevant content. From an SEO perspective, measures should be taken to check pages that rank with a featured snippet and modify the calls to action appropriately.

Example of a featured snippet in Google search

REF: Danny Sullivan on Twitter

Free Product Listings In Google Search

Google announced that product results on the Google Shopping tab in the U.S. will consist primarily of free listings, helping shoppers choose the products and sellers that will serve them best, from the widest variety of options. Earlier, this tab worked as a SEA advertising space, wherein e-commerce retailers paid per click. Product ads will now appear separately at the top of the page, where they’re marked like Google’s other ad units. Early figures showed a stark increase in user engagement, and it will be interesting to see if and when free product listings are enabled in other markets as well.

Example of product listing in Google search

REF: Google Shopping

Quarter 4

Article Type Schema Data Inclusion In Rich Results Testing Tool

Google enabled the function of adding article structured data to news, blog, and sports article pages, that enhance their appearance in Google Search results. Your page may be eligible for different features depending on how you code your page.

AMP with structured data: AMP pages can appear in the Top stories carousel, host carousel of rich results, visual stories, and rich results in mobile search results. These results can include images, page logos, and other interesting search result features.

Non-AMP web page with structured data: Non-AMP pages that include article structured data can help Google understand more about the web page and show better headline text, images, and date published for the article in Article rich results.

Creating an AMP page with structured data:

Follow the AMP Project specifications. Follow the additional page guidelines to ensure that Google can crawl your page. Add a structured data element describing the article on the page.

Adding structured data to your Non-AMP page:

When you add article structured data to a non-AMP page, you can better suggest the right headline, date published, and image that Google should show in search results.

  1. Add a structured data element to your page, describing the article on the page.
  2. Read the guidelines to ensure that Google can crawl your page.
  3. Test your structured data using the Rich Results Test.

REF: Google Search Central on Twitter
REF: Google Search Central

Web stories in Google Discover

Google has brought visual and immersive Web Stories to Discover in the Google app, used by more than 800 million people each month. The Stories carousel, now available in the United States, India, and Brazil at the top of Discover, helps users find some of the best visual content from around the web.

REF: Google Web Creators

Microsoft Clarity

Microsoft’s Clarity is a new free analytics tool that provides website usage statistics, session recording, and heat maps. Compared to Google Analytics (and other analytics platforms), it’s a little basic but robust. It’s easy to use, and it has some interesting features.

Clarity records information about websites’ visitors, and their behavior. It summarizes that information in dashboards and allows webmasters to explore and highlight interesting segments and behaviors. It provides basic information on sessions, interactions, and engagement, and breaks users down by device type, country, and other dimensions. For all of these views, you can explore heat maps and session recordings. These records might help you to better understand your users and their problems. You might be able to use that insight to improve your website.

Example of Microsoft Clarity user interface

REF: Bing Webmaster

Google temporarily disables the “Request Indexing” feature

In October 2020, Google disabled the request indexing feature from Google Search Console to facilitate “infrastructure changes”. There was some concern over whether Google was permanently removing this feature, but just before New years, it was available again. Google also stated that sites with a large number of URLs should submit a sitemap instead of using the request indexing feature.

REF: Google Search Central on Twitter

Google Analytics 4

To help get better ROI from marketing in the long term, Google created a new, more intelligent Google Analytics. By applying Google’s advanced machine learning models, the new Analytics can automatically recognize and inform about significant shifts in trends, like products seeing rising demand because of new customer needs. It even helps you anticipate future actions your customers may take.

The “new analytics” provides customer-centric measurements, instead of measurement fragmented by device or by platform. It uses multiple identity spaces, including marketer-provided User IDs and unique Google signals from users who opted into ad personalization.

REF: Google Marketing Platform

About the author
Reza Ghazizadeh
Reza Ghazizadeh Client Success Manager Reza is a Client Success Manager and co-founder of GO MO Group. He has a total of 17 years of experience in digital marketing, IT, and complex digital business development. Works with large and small customers in B2B and B2C where leads complex IT development projects as a specialist in SEO & Google Ads (Ads, Remarketing & Display).
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