Let’s start by stating the obvious: search engine optimization (SEO) is hard. For one thing, effective strategy includes more moving parts than even some of the savviest SEOs can master—everything from user friendly content to meta tags, search intent, customer experience, site load speed, mobile optimization and quality, inbound links.
The Google I/O 2019 event took place at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA. At this year’s event, Google offered many key points that those in the SEO industry will find helpful and exciting.
While many think Google I/O is a developer’s conference, much of the content it shares is very valuable for marketers and SEOs. This year’s key announcement of an evergreen Googlebot got the SEO industry revved up. That news along with the other useful SEO insights gained from the event presents a bright outlook for SEO moving forward.
Google Search State of the Union
Google’s John Mueller and Martin Splitt presented the latest Google search features. They explained how to use the new APIs and features to increase content visibility in the search engine.
Google search evolves and tailors itself to be what publishers and end users need. Gone are the days when Google search results were ten blue links on a page. Today’s search results feature pages in ways that are more eye-catching and beneficial. Tools used to direct how pages appear in the search have changed as well.
It’s important to understand how Google works in finding and indexing web pages. You need to understand how Google works before you can comprehend the changes to Google’s search results.
There are 130 trillion web pages that Googlebot crawls. New websites can wait for Googlebot to reach and index it through links. Submissions to Google Search Console also work. Googlebot starts with one page and then uses internal links to crawl the remaining pages of the website.
The use of backlinks, a solid internal link structure, and unique URLs helps Google find and index content. It’s still allowed to use robots.txt to prevent Google from indexing certain pages. Googlebot can find content now in a variety of ways from APIs, manual GSC submissions, and live streams to RSS feeds and Sitemaps.
Image Search Updates
Images add a lot of value to online content and are useful in a myriad of helpful ways. Improving its image search is a priority for Google and they strive to use it to make search results more meaningful.
In the past, if you searched for “birdhouses” you would get a wide array of images that wasn’t that helpful. Searching for “birdhouses” now offers a lot more context in your image results. There’s a strong chance of finding what you’re looking for on a relevant website with the image search as it is now.
When it comes to image search best practices, John had several recommendations:
Image placement near the top of the page with text around it.
Vital image text should be placed alongside the image, not embedded in it.
The use of high-quality images.
The use of responsive images with picture element and srcset attribute.
The use of structured data such as product or recipe markup.
The use of descriptive file names and clean URL structure.
Avoid CSS styles and use img tags instead to expedite Google processing.
The use of lazy-loading with IntersectionObserver which is a new default feature in the latest Chrome version.
John also spoke of some upcoming updates:
3D models in search: New 3D models in augmented reality in Google search is coming. It will offer users the option of a 3D model in AR where available.
High-resolution image opt-in program: Websites that use many high-quality images will have the opportunity to join an opt-in program that will let the images display across Google products.
Swipe up navigation: Google will make use of accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) within Image search. When the user swipes up, the page is pre-fetched and rendered for instant display.
With mobile-first indexing, Google is using the mobile version of a given page’s content for indexing and ranking. Mobile-first indexing began in 2018 with Googlebot smartphone crawling and rendering over half of the sites.
Google’s team goal is one hundred percent mobile-first rollout. The process requires all components including content, images, data, and metadata to be uniform across desktop and mobile. They are confident they will reach this goal.
They explained that a responsive design would yield better results than keeping a separate mobile version of a site. For more on mobile-first indexing, check out our post on the topic.
Rendering Engine Updates
Crawling the web using a GET request was a simple task in the past when most websites were straight HTML. Today’s websites often have more than HTML which creates a need for Google to crawl the rendered version of a given page. In the past, Google relied on a past version of Chrome (version 41) to render pages.
At this year’s Google I/O event, they announced Google’s rendering engine will be evergreen from this point forward. Googlebot will now be perpetually updated to render using Chrome’s latest version. Google has been testing and monitoring the evergreen update for several months.
They explained that Googlebot’s user agent hasn’t updated yet. To avoid breaking or disrupting anyone’s websites, they’ve decided to plan that for a future time.
Structured Data Markup
Structured data markup can offer solid context when it comes to a machine-readable format. While John recommended the integration of structured data using JSON-LD, using RDFa and microdata is also allowed. The integration of structured data enables Google to provide rich search results.
When you decide to apply structured data:
Determine the type of rich result you want to achieve for your website in the search.
Apply the markup at first with a test page.
Test everything with the Rich Results Test.
Applying structured data can help you achieve rich results in search but there’s no guarantee. It’s important to ensure the markup is error-free, compliant with Google’s guidelines, and the website is the best you can make it.
Search Console Speed Report
The Search Console is now updated with all the important features of the old version moved to the new one. The old version of this vital tool still works for those who count on features that didn’t transfer. Martin announced that there will be a new speed report and you can request beta access to it.
Powered off CrUX data, the new report provides an aggregated view of all website field metrics. The report will give you the ability to identify very specific issues and even review examples of the existing problems.
The report is important for more than search engine ranking. A website’s speed matters to its visitors and impacts bounce and conversion rates. Access to the data in the new Search Console report gives SEOS and web developers a great one-stop place to go to view vital information without accessing PageSpeed tools. The report will also provide historical data on enhancements and potential issues as they grow worse within a prescribed period of time.
When it comes to important SEO trends 2019, you can get free expert marketing advice today from Highpurple. Contact us today for a free audit. We’ll analyze your individual situation and recommend an effective strategy for achieving your marketing goals.
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