Updated 2. May 2022 by Peter Ottendahl Anberg

Google News April 2022

Google News April 2022

The fight against spam 

Google released their annual webspam report. Here they detail how they work to combat online spam and keep the SERPs free from malicious actors. According to them, their sophisticated antispam algorithm called SpamBrain caught and removed six times more spam than in 2020. In short, this means Google can keep 99% of all searches free of spam.

Another big part of the fight against spam is their updated review best practices, which should help prevent spun content from dominating the SERPs on queries that result in reviews being shown. 

Source: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2022/04/webspam-report-2021

Google now allows removal of more personal information

Google has long allowed people to request them to remove personal information. Typically, this would bea s a result of doxxing or hacking, where for example sensitive information like credit card numbers and other banking information might appear online.

Now, the policies are adjusted and you can request more kinds of information to be removed. This includes things like contact information (names, phone numbers, addresses) or information that can lead to identity theft (sensitive log-in information)

Source: https://blog.google/products/search/new-options-for-removing-your-personally-identifiable-information-from-search/

Google announces major breakthroughs in new AI model PaLM

Google is not just the world’s largest search company but likely also one of the largest AI researchers in the world. And in a recent research paper, they talk about the major breakthroughs achieved by their new Pathways Language Model, or PaLM. Allegedly, this new AI architecture doesn’t just outperform current language models but also humans in reasoning and arithmetic.

I encourage you to read the more in-depth walkthrough at Search Engine Journal, but we’ve also highlighted a couple of examples of the advanced reasoning skills PaLM achieves here:

Question:

Sean was in a rush to get home, but the light turned yellow and he was forced to do what?

Answer Choices: (a) take time (b) dawdle (c) go slowly (d) ocean (e) slow down

Answer:

The answer is (e) slow down.”

Input:

Jennifer looked out her window and sees a really cool cloud below her. She unbuckles her seatbelt and heads to the bathroom. Is Jennifer probably traveling more than 300 miles per hour relative to the earth?

Model Output:

300 miles per hour is about 480 km/h. This is about the speed of a commercial airplane. Clouds are usually below airplanes, so Jennifer is probably on an airplane.

The answer is “yes”.”

How to react:

  • Marvel at how a computer outperforms your own reasoning skills. 

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-palm/444585/

What happens when you update images?

A lot of people experience strange errors when updating a lot of images to their website. And there’s a single good reason for that. According to John Mueller, Google is significantly slower at indexing images than they are web pages. Or in his words:

“Probably what is happening there is the general crawling and indexing of images, which is a lot slower than normal web pages.

And if you remove one image URL and you add a new one on a page, then it does take a lot of time to be picked up again.”

This is just a fact of life, but you can speed it up a bit by redirecting the old image to another image.

How to react:

  • Remember to implement redirects if you are changing images on important pages
  • Do remember that for some SERPs, visual content is very important – so changing images can definitely change ranking signals.

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/why-updating-images-can-backfire/445977/

Can you use more structured data than the official guidelines?

Google published a recent podcast episode featuring Google employees Martin Splitt, Ryan Levering and technical writer Lizzi Sassman. The talk fell on structured data. Structured data is specific code that helps Google understand the content of your page.

Google has a list of structured data recommendations that can help you achieve rich results on the SERPs. But when you check the official documentation for schema, you can notice many more types. So what are those useful for? 

According to Levering:

“We can potentially use that for some things at Google.

…I never advise people to not put structured data on their web page if it makes semantic sense.

…We also have some things that we do to generally understand the topic of the page. And sometimes the data you put on that can go into that…  So it is useful but just in a more implicit sense right now”

The use of structured data relates heavily to semantic and entity SEO.

How to react:

  • Browse Schema’s offerings to figure out what types of structured data is out there
  • Test how adding structured data benefits different pages.
  • We would recommend using it especially on pages that could do with some “disambiguation”, i.e. where the topic isn’t very clear to Google. A reliable signal here is what queries the page is ranking for. 

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/non-recommended-structured-data/445107/

Google introduces Multisearch

A new update to Google Lens allows you to combine text and visual search to better hit the right queries. Search Engine Journal has a great tutorial.

What is Google’s stance on AI generated content?

AI generated or written content is very popular in the SEO community now. Everything from Jasper to GPT-3 has become mainstays. But it’s not that simple to implement. At least, according to John Mueller, Google has a very clear stance on AI content:

“My suspicion is maybe the quality of content is a little bit better than the really old school tools, but for us it’s still automatically generated content, and that means for us it’s still against the Webmaster Guidelines. So we would consider that to be spam.”

How well Google is able to identify this kind of content is another story entirely. There is good reason to believe that Google has a hard time finding it automatically.

How to react:

  • Consider how heavily you rely on AI generated content
  • Monitor closely the pages you generate automatically and be ready to change things up if they are affected

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-says-ai-generated-content-is-against-guidelines/444916/

Do unlinked brand mentions count like links to Google?

No, not like links. John Mueller confirmed that very clearly. They are not the same, but not something you have to avoid. For Google, an unlinked brand mention is just that: text on a page. It might be used elsewhere in other algorithms, but should have not have the same effect a linked brand mention is. 

How to react:

  • Try to reach out and get branded mentions to become links
  • When interacting with journalists, try to get a link as part of the deal from the beginning.

Source: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/does-google-treat-unlinked-mentions-like-links/444596/

How does being out of stock affect product page rankings?

E-commerce SEO is a big and arduous tasks. And how to handle out of stock products is a classic issue. And there is good reason to have an updated and strong framework to this. According to John Mueller, out of stock pages are viewed as soft 404’s. So depending on the search intent of the given query, they might have reduced rankings.

How to react:

  • We generally recommend that products that will be out of stock for longer times should be noindexed
  • Permanent out of stock items should obviously just be removed
  • In some cases, being out of stock is more the rule than the exception (think of Playstation 5), in which case you should supply users with other useful information (expected return, prices, pre-order lists)

Source: ​​https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-out-of-stock-products-may-impact-search-visibility/444500/