What kind of January was to Google and its Research system? Re-reading our blog’s last weeks articles we already can perceive a quite intense month, with a speed up in the operations obviously generated by the launch of the core update. Piecing back together in detail Big G’s work and news is the latest episode of Google Search News on Youtube, with John Mueller recounting what actually happened over the month.

Main Google news in January 2020

The series, specifically conceived to update webmasters, editors and SEO specialists on Google’s ecosystem, is at its third episode (right after its first Google newscast in September and November’s recap video), and has a pretty dense index, so much that Mueller himself jokes about it saying “it’s been a busy time!“. And indeed it was, given the fact that among covered topics we can find:

John Mueller racconta le novità di Google a Gennaio 2020

Updates to the Google Search Console

This month “we celebrated the two-year anniversary of the new Search Console”: to create “new features to replace the old ones has been a long process, and it was awesome to receive so many feedbacks from users”, says Big G’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst.

Recently, the team taking care of the suite worked in order to make fresher the data showed inside Discover Report (similarly to what happened for the performance report) and to make even more comprehensive the report on Coverage. Moreover, there have also been some interventions on the system of communication to users, that can now find the messages directly into the Report section they refer to, so to make easier to identify and fix the reported issues.

A new documentation for mobile-first indexing

Mobile first-indexing keeps on growing. The process of scanning and indexing with mobile devices to keep in line with what the most part of users see whenever navigating the Web,  that from the 1st of July 2019 has become the number one system used by Googlebot, in the past few months allowed the bot to interpret a lot of old sites this way and hence recognize a higher number of problems that webmasters should fix.

The medium-long term goal of Google is to complete sites mapping through smartphone agent, so to keep up with what the most part of web users actually see. With its mobile firts index Google only indexes the contents in the mobile version of sites’ pages, not limited to the text, but to images, headings, links and structured data as well. Mueller also lists some quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Images on the site must contain an alt attribute, be on high resolution and incorporated in a prominent position on the page.
  • Ads possibly present on mobiles must be placed so not to block priority content.
  • Sites using distincted URLs (m-dot URLs) have to verify that URLs on structured data – such as breadcrumbs, products, videoObjects – present on mobile device versions are updated to mobile device URLs, as well as hreflang links.

News on structured data

Speaking of structured data, Mueller reminds us that Google uses different formats of these markings to better understand the content of web pages: over the last few weeks, the company decided not to support data-vocabulary.org anymore (mainly used for breadcrumbs) starting from the 6th of April 2020, now completely relying on schema.org.

Changes in Google Research

“Every year we make thousands of updates in Google Search”, says Mueller, that are needed to guarantee the users the discovery of “useful and relevant” information; even in the latest period of activity this area has been pretty lively, with interventions such as:

  • The use of BERT in Google Research, a modern system with ehich the machines can interpret and comprehend human language, and that is very useful to Google in order to better understand what people are really searching for and which are the contents offered on indexed pages.
  • January 2020 Core update for the ranking, a.k.a the update of the main algorithm of the search engine launched on January 13th.
  • Modifications to the visible design of the Research: Google experiemented a new look for desktop users, similar to the mobile search layout, and it keeps on testing in order to always improve also thanks to all received feedbacks.
  • Reducing duplications in SERP for featured snippets: before, Google used to show a page among search results twice, both with its traditional link and the “result zero”, a big preview of the content. With the work of deduplication of featured snippet the page will only appear once.

Changes on Chrome

Among the latest news, the YouTube video also reports a modification on Chrome, that becomes even stricter toward those sites using the HTTPS protocol wrong and thus owning mixed contents. Meaning pages secured with the Https padlock but still owning unsafe resources, such as images or Javascript items: “Mixed content is bad”, remarks Mueller, and makes pages unsecure.

Rendering, Googlebot has an updated user agent

A news on the rendering activity, too: as already anticipated in the past months, Google is adopting a more modern version of Chrome for this operation and a part of this change is still in progress. To be specific, Googlebot will have a user agent similar to the one users of the Google’s browser regularly use and also its name/version will change (therefore, sites currently identifying the passage of the bot by using it specific name will have to update the specifics).

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