Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Updates in 2018
The digital marketing world moves at lightning speed, especially when we’re discussing search engine optimization (SEO). Whether it be the latest Google algorithm update or a SEMrush tools change, it’s ever-changing. No worries, though, we’ll bring you up to speed with all of the major SEO changes that occurred in 2018.
2018 Google Algorithm Updates
August 01, 2018 | Medic Core Update
This new Google update peaked at the beginning of August and was named after its effect on a large number of health-related websites. Usually core updates have an impact on many different types of sites from various industries, but, according to Search Engine Roundtable, approximately 42% of the websites that experienced negative consequences from Google’s Medic update were in the medical, health, fitness or healthy lifestyle industry. This update, along with the tighter restrictions on health and addiction services in SEM, have hurt a lot of health-related businesses in 2018.
July 24, 2018 | Chrome Security Warnings
When Google rolled out its latest browser version, Chrome 68, it began marking all non-HTTPS sites as “Not Secure.” With HTTPS, your connection to the site is encrypted and your information will be private. Before if a website wasn’t secure, Google did not specifically call it out. Google switched to this obvious warning so users know when a website is safe.
July 09, 2018 | Mobile Speed Update
Google announced they would start ranking pages based on the mobile version of their website back in March, but it officially went into effect in July. Since a large percentage of searches come from mobile devices, Google decided they need to put more weight on the quality of a business’s mobile website. With the mobile-first update, responsive web design has become more prominent.
June 14, 2018 | Video Carousels
With video becoming increasingly popular, Google switched its desktop search engine result pages (SERPs) to show video carousels instead of video thumbnails. This is harming some e-commerce businesses because more users are scrolling through videos without ever clicking onto a website, thus taking away from organic results. Although this may increase impressions, clicks and click-through-rates are falling. If this Google algorithm update is going to hurt your business, G-Squared Interactive shared a helpful article to avoid your business showing up in video carousels.
May 13, 2018 | Snippet Length Drop
After expanding the length of snippets that display in the SERPs last December, Google decided it was best to take them back to their former length limit of about 150-160 characters.
April 17, 2018 | Unnamed Core Algorithm Update
Search Engine Land says Google confirmed a routine update that may boost rankings for websites that were “previously under-rewarded.” Google releases these broad updates a few times a year to make sure their systems are up-to-date and ranking businesses accordingly.
March 26, 2018 | Mobile-First Index
The mobile-first index officially rolled out - Are you prepared for Google’s mobile-first index? I officially rolled out. Crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page's content. Now, after careful testing, Google decided to index sites from their mobile version whenever possible, but it will still index desktop versions if mobile is not available.
February 06, 2018 | How to Provide Feedback on the New Google Search Console
With the new Google Search Console beta up and running, users can submit their feedback via the Help Forums or the Submit Feedback option in the Google Search Console to Google.
March 14, 2018 | Zero-Result SERP Testing
Google tested out zero-result search engine result pages. Instead of serving a list of results like a typical SERP, Google will simply give the answer if users are searching for a specific question. For example, if users are searching for the time, current temperature or what year a celebrity was born, Google will supply the correct response. This experiment only lasted about a week before a Google representative confirmed the test was over.
March 08, 2018 | Unofficially-named “Brackets” Core Algorithm Update
Google performs a few routine core updates each year, and confirmed another update that happened in the beginning of March. Some sites may see slight drops or boosts in their rankings.
Updates to SEO Tools in 2018
Google SEO Tools: Schema, Search Console and Google PageSpeed Insights
December 05, 2018 | New Indexing API and Structured Data for Livestreams
New tools have been introduced for people to discover livestreams in Search and Assistant. You can add structured data and utilize the Indexing API to let Google know when your video is live to get the red “live” badge. To add the structured data, use the livestream developer documentation to flag your video as a live broadcast and mark the start and end times. In addition, VideoObject structured data is required to tell Google that there's a video on your page. With the rise of live video, it’s great that Google now offers a way to code structured data for live videos with the API tool.
December 03, 2018 | Q&A Pages Have Rich Results Expanded
People search for answers to all kinds of questions on popular news sites, expert forums, and help and support message boards. Google developed a rich result type for question and answer (Q&A) sites. To be eligible for the feature, add Q&A structured data to your pages with Q&A content, including one question and one or more answers. With adding specific structured data to the message board, it allows Google to index the questions and answers for search queries.
November 08, 2018 | Webmasters Notified of Unclear Subscription Pages for Some Sites
If pages do not provide sufficient billing information, the webmaster is now notified through Google Search Console. Note, this only applies to the websites that do not provide enough billing information for subscriptions/transactions so this does not apply to all sites. This update shows that Google is making it a priority to notify websites that do not provide a good and straightforward user experience.
September 04, 2018 | New Google Search Console is Now Live for Select Reports
With Google Search Console graduating out of beta, there are also additional features released including:
- The Manual Actions Report has moved to the Overview page to ensure critical alerts aren’t missed.
- There’s now a “Test Live” capability in the URL inspection tool which runs an inspection on the live version of the page.
- There are now better alerts regarding pages affected by Crawling, Indexing, AMP, Mobile Usability, Recipes, or Job posting issues. Other alerts include HTML code fixes (if necessary), and the ability to notify Google when an issue is fixed.
Google Search Console remains the one tool that digital marketers and webmasters have to communicate directly with Google. With these new updates, Google is attempting to simplify the process of identifying website errors. At Blue Compass, we have already seen improved accuracy of these new reports, and expect to see the new Search Console roll out even more new-and-improved functionality.
August 21, 2018 | New Google Search Console Features: Links, Mobile Usability, and Site Management
Google Search Console has announced new features and updates to the links and mobile usability reports. The new Links Report combines Links to Your Site and Internal Links, allowing users to look at all links to their website in one place. This report gives users the ability to see their links similar to how Google sees them.
The new Mobile Usability Report allows site owners to fix mobile issues that have been identified by Google, such as clickable elements being too close together, with an option to submit a validation and reindexing request when an issue is fixed. With Google’s increased focus on mobile-first, we are not surprised they are now placing more importance on identifying mobile errors. Webmasters and digital marketers should not disregard this report, but instead take advantage of these opportunities for improved ranking in the search engine results pages.
June 25, 2018 | New URL Inspection Tool in Google Search Console
There’s a new URL Inspection tool detailing crawl, index, and serving information about web pages, directly from the Google index. This tool allows users to search a specific URL and see if it is indexed, how it was last crawled and understand which URL Google is using as the canonical tag for the page. Previously, Google Search Console provided only limited pieces of information about specific pages, leaving webmasters to fill in the blanks using their best guess. The URL Inspection Tool was the most requested tool by users of Google Search Console, so they have unveiled it for the new Search Console.
January 17, 2018 | The “Speed Update” Announcement
Google announced that on July 9, 2018 pagespeed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches for all users. Google has conducted studies that show people want answers to their questions as fast as possible. In fact, 53% of mobile users will leave a website if it does not load within 3 seconds. Speed has been a ranking factor for sometime on desktop, but with the rise of mobile searches it was rolled out to create the best user experience possible for mobile searchers.
January 10, 2018 | PageSpeed Insights Gets Real-World Data
Google announced that PageSpeed Insights (PSI) now evaluates how well a page adheres to a set of best practices. The Speed and Page Loads Distributions sections are now categorized as Fast, Average, or Slow. The Optimization score now categorizes a page as being Good, Medium, or Low based on its performance and includes optimization suggestions. The Page Stats section shows what updates a developer can make to produce the page faster with updates to the appearance and functionality of their website. PSI gives simple scores on how pages follow best practices to make it easier for users to understand how they’re following key metrics for pagespeed. There are more tools now than ever from Google to identify page speed optimizations.
January 08, 2018 | New Google Search Console
Google released a new Google Search Console (GSC) beta in 2017 to a limited number of users and made it available to all GSC users on January 08, 2018. The new Search Console experience is for users to explore a more “simplified process of optimizing a website's presence on Google Search.” Its functionality includes search performance data up to 16 months, index coverage, Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) status, and job posting reports (the most popular features). The beta version will be easily accessible from the previous version of GSC so users can easily work within both.
The new features of the beta will allow for more information when it comes to index coverage reports, AMP, and job postings to live alongside the current version of Google Search Console.
December 03, 2018 | New Tool: Log File Analyzer
Log File Analyzer, a new tool in beta, will allow users to take a look at your site from the perspective of a Googlebot. Users can rely on this tool to identify issues that might keep search engine bots from accessing and indexing their website. In addition, this new feature allows users to better understand what content Google considers priority. If you find that your website is not being indexed as expected, check out this new tool as a starting point.
November 15, 2018 | New Content Ideas Generator Tool
There is now a Content Ideas Generator tool to help users come up with headline ideas for articles and blogs. The tool is a fantastic way to combat writer’s block. It gives a launching pad to start blog posts or write the perfect headline.
November 01, 2018 | Stats Page Redesign
The statistics page has been refurbished and features updated information about SEMrush and its databases. With 8.3 billion keywords in over 113 countries (with 62 of them added back in July of 2018), SEMrush is the most comprehensive keyword database on the market ensuring you get the largest keyword database to inform your research. It’s an essential tool for marketers to use to inform their keyword strategy.
October 09, 2018 | Brand Monitoring Now Classifies Brand Mentions Sentiment
The Brand Monitoring Sentiment Analysis tool now classifies mentions of your brand name as positive, negative, or neutral with an option to manually change sentiments if you disagree with the classification. While brand mentions are not a direct ranking factor, knowing how others are talking about your brand can help to drive content strategy and backlinks.
September 04, 2018 | Competitive Intelligence 2.0: The The Ultimate Competitive Analysis Tool
Competitive Intelligence 2.0 toolkit provides competitive SEO analysis that gives you an opportunity to look at your rivals’ marketing strategies including social media, traffic sources, PR and more. Often, SEO strategies are driven at least in part by what competitors are doing. This tool allows SEMRush users to get a holistic view of competitor tactics, and use those insights to build more valuable, data-driven marketing campaigns.
September 03, 2018 | SEMRush Keyword Database Expands Further
The quantity and quality of collected data for the Keyword Magic Tool has increased. SEMRush added 26 more countries bringing the database to 7.7 billion keywords. With SEMrush having the largest keyword database on the market, we find ourselves consistently turning to this tool for reliable and robust keyword and topic research data for our clients.
September 03, 2018 | CPC Map Tool Gives Insight into Local PPC Campaigns
A new tool, CPC Map, will assist with advertising campaigns allowing users to compare PPC costs and search volume of keywords on a local level. While SEM bids do not correlate directly with the difficulty of ranking for keywords organically, it is one indicator of the competition for keywords.
August 28, 2018 | Mobile Data in Traffic Analytics Added
Mobile traffic data has been added to the Traffic Analytics tool in the Traffic Overview, Geo Distribution and Subdomain reports. With the huge rise in mobile usage, viewing desktop statistics about competitors and keywords just doesn’t cut it anymore. With this new feature, SEMRush users will be able to get more granular as they learn about how their audiences and competitor audiences interact with websites.
August 22, 2018 | Position Tracking Now Includes Zip Codes
The Position Tracking Tool now allows users to target a location by zip code. For local businesses, tracking their rankings nationally is generally not an accurate reflection of their SEO efforts, so we’re excited to see more opportunities to track local rankings from SEMRush.
August 07, 2018 | Keep Your Brand’s Info Consistent with SEMrush Plus Yext
The new Listing Management Tool is a collaboration SEMrush and Yext, a digital knowledge management platform, that helps to keep information consistent across a variety of platforms. Local listings are one of the most important pieces of local SEO, with search engines tracking where business listings appear and how accurate and consistent the information is across platforms. With Google My Business and Local SEO becoming even more important, it makes perfect sense for SEMRush to incorporate this feature into their platform.
July 19, 2018 | Optimize Your Internal Site Linking
An Internal Linking Report has been added to Site Audit to identify errors related to internal linking on a user’s website such as having pages that have too few links to get to or ones with too many links that Google will penalize. The Internal Linking Report provides all of your site’s link architecture on one page and contains a list of issues with your site (if applicable) and how to remedy them.
June 08, 2018 | Layer on More Google Search Console Data
Users can now add Google Search Console widgets to reports in report builder. The three reports that can be added are Overview, Data by Category or Metrics Chart. Overview provides you with such data as Total clicks, Total impressions, Average CTR, and Average positions. The Data by Category reports shows data in categories such as queries, pages, countries and devices. The Metrics Chart shows the changes of all of the metrics for GSC widgets in the last 90 days.
Throughout 2018, SEMRush has been making significant efforts to improve data-synthesizing across platforms. We are already trying out some of these new features which allow us to layer Search Console and Google Analytics data directly onto SEMRush reports.
May 28, 2018 | Authority Score
Authority Score is a new metric available under Backlinks Analytics that shows how beneficial a backlink can be. Backlinks continue to be a major ranking factor indicator for Google and other search engines, but quality of links will only grow in importance. With this new tool, marketers can take a more data-driven approach to pursuing backlinks to their website.
May 23, 2018 | Track Your Baidu Rankings with Position Tracking
Rank tracking is now available for Chinese search engine, Baidu. While Google is the largest and most popular search in the United States, Baidu is the largest and most popular in China. This feature is great for those that do business internationally or for promoting your brand in China.
April 09, 2018 | Updates to the Brand Monitoring Tool
SEMrush has introduced a few updates to Brand Monitoring, including a new Backlinks tab in the Statistics report, Backlinks by Day chart, and Top Backlinks chart. Another feature is Link to URL filter in the Mentions tab that allows users to view all brand mentions that contain a specific backlink. This new tool allows marketers to see at what pace their backlink strategy is being implemented, and get an idea of how certain pieces of content are being used as resources.
April 05, 2018 | Optimize Website Speed with Site Audit
March 27, 2018 | SEO Writing Assistant Extension for Google Docs
There’s now a smart extension for Google Docs called SEO Writing Assistant. It gives a user the overall score, readability, target keywords, and recommended keywords for a webpage. The tool also allows the user to download the original SEO Content Template to ensure your text is SEO friendly. Simply download the SEO Writing Assistant from the Chrome Web Store to get started.
March 07, 2018 | Discover Webpage Resource Errors
Webpage Resources checks have been implemented into the Site Audit Tool to let users know about poor status and how to fix the issues which can lead to a drop in Google rankings with indexing failure and low website speed.
February 05, 2018 | Brand Monitoring: Tracking Mentions in Brand Monitoring
There is now a new feature called Brand Monitoring. It allows users to keep an eye on brand mentions of their domain. Not only does this help with reputation management, but it’s also great for SEO. When other reputable brands mention your content, this indicates to Google that it is a reliable resource.
January 17, 2018 | SEMrush Sensor Out of Beta
Sensor is no longer in beta. The tool gives a user data about the volatility of the Google search engine results pages (SERPs) and keeps users in-the-know about Google algorithm updates daily. There’s a Sensor Score that indicates the current volatility of the SERPs. The most relevant feature is Person Score which lets you track ranking fluctuations for exact keywords.
January 15, 2018 | New SEMrush Keyword and Search Volume Data
The keyword and search volume databases have been updated. Keyword database updates include retiring outdated keywords and updating the database with fresh and trendy terms. The search volume database update includes a new machine learning algorithm for search volume forecasting and validation to raise estimation accuracy standards. This means the database is getting more comprehensive and reliable, showing us that this is a great tool for SEOs and marketers.
October 01, 2018 | Ranking Keywords Database Doubles from 80 to 160 Million
More keywords have been added to the US, UK, CA, and AU databases giving users more visibility to the keywords a user is ranking for. This allows for more accurate keyword data, better understanding of what terms a brand is ranking for, and more keywords gives us more information about search volumes for different keywords.
August 27, 2018 | Find New Link Building Opportunities with Link Intersect
The new Link Intersect Tool allows users to view which sites link to a user’s competitors. This is a great way to grow a link building strategy and get insight into how competitors are doing. This tool allows you to see whether your competitors have high-quality links or links from sites with poor reputations. This tool is invaluable to get insight on how competitors are doing with their backlinks.
May 02, 2018 | New Link Explorer Tool and Updated Link Index
Link Explorer now has more data and new features for understanding a website’s backlink portfolio. This updated tool includes new Domain Authority and Page Authority rankings, as well as an updated spam score to determine which backlinks are quality.
Our Digital Marketing Team Will Keep You Up to Speed on the Latest SEO Practices
2018 was a big year for changes in SEO. Our search engine optimization experts continue to monitor all digital updates and use this information to boost our clients’ digital presence. For even more in-depth content about SEO and a range of digital marketing topics, be sure to check out the Blue Compass blog! If you’re ready to take your Search Engine Optimization to the next level, contact our experts at Blue Compass.
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