July was another busy month in the world of search. Google rolled out a number of updates to its tools, including the replacement of the Structured Data Testing Tool with the Google Rich Results Test Tool. The search engine giant also delayed the mobile-first indexing deadline to March 2021 and launched some big updates to Google My Business. We’ve summarised all the latest search updates below.

Google Rich Results Test Tool to replace Structured Data Testing Tool

It was announced in early July that Google had removed the beta label from the Rich Results Test Tool (RRTT). In line with this, Google will deprecate the Structured Data Testing Tool with plans for it to still be available for the time being but become unavailable in the future.

Some have argued that this replacement is a downgrade of the existing Structured Data Testing Tool. For many SEOs, the Structured Data Testing Tool (SDTT) is an effective, easy to use tool to build and validate their own Schema markup. Many also argue that both tools fulfil completely different purposes, as SDTT demonstrates the machine-understanding context of a page to search engines, whereas the RRTT only shows the SERP enrichments of a page.

Why is this important?

  • The Structured Data Testing Tool is essential for many SEOs to diagnose problems with schema markup
  • Now that we know it will be eventually deprecated, it is time to get used to using the Rich Results Test Tool to avoid teething problems in the future

Google to delay mobile-first indexing deadline to March 2021

Google announced in late July that the deadline to prepare for mobile-first indexing has been pushed back to March 2021. Previously, the deadline to switch all websites to mobile first-indexing was September 2020. To recap, mobile-first indexing means that Google would predominantly use the mobile version of your site for indexing and ranking (in the acknowledgement that most users will visit via mobile).

Due to the pandemic, Google said that they understand that “it’s not always easy to focus on work as otherwise” so decided to extend their timeframe to March 2021. It is worth remembering that most sites have switched over already. In fact, in March 2020, Google stated that 70% of sites shown in their search results had already switched over.

Why is this important?

Though Google has announced this delay, SEOs and developers should still aim to ensure their site is mobile-friendly ahead of next March
You can check out Google’s Webmaster blog on how to prepare for mobile-first indexing.

New mortgage feature box on Google

Google has released a new search feature in the mobile SERPs for mortgage related searches. Rather than just the mortgage calculator feature that has been around since 2015, this feature box displays more on the finer details of buying a mortgage.

This feature is nested below the Ads at the top of the SERPs. It has several tabs that breaks down the below categories that most users want to know when researching mortgages. These options span across serving informational queries from users, looking to discover more about mortgages, and all topical, relevant news.

  • Overview: A definition of the word “mortgage”
  • Mortgage calculator: To calculate your monthly payments and purchase budgets
  • Rates: Displays the average rates for the day based on 30 year, 15 year or 1 year. This goes as granular as being able to calculate payments based on the rates in each state, the loan amount and your credit score
  • Process: A checklist of the steps you take when buying a new home or refinancing
  • Relief: Displays the different relief efforts for those that might need help with their mortgage during the pandemic
  • Types: A breakdown of the various types of mortgages using a featured snippet
  • News: News about mortgages
  • Videos: Videos about mortgages
  • History: A featured snippet on the history of mortgages
  • Refinance: Top news and stories on refinance options

Why is this important?

  • Though this is SERPs feature is only available in the US at the moment, this new addition represents a new challenge for SEOs with clients in the mortgage industry
  • If your business or your client’s is in this industry, it is worth flagging this new feature as soon as possible. Even if you are not based in the US, we can expect this to be rolled out worldwide soon and it might have an impact on your search traffic.

The Anti-Trust Hearing’s Implications on Google

The US House Judiciary Committee grilled the CEOs of top tech companies in July over accusations of anti-competitive monopolies. The common claims patterns across Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple were that “Each is a bottleneck for a “key channel of distribution,” like an ad market or app store. Each uses data and surveillance of other companies to protect its power by “buying, copying, or by cutting off” potential competition. And the platforms all “abuse their control over current technologies to extend their power” by preferencing their own products or creating predatory pricing schemes”.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai was one of the tech moguls questioned by the House Judiciary Committee. He was asked to explain whether Google’s goal of serving users with the most relevant websites clashed with their financial incentive to sell advertising and promote Google-owned products. Sundair Pichai was not able to provide a definitive answer on this.

Why is this important?

The hearing revealed a series of memos in which Google revealed plans to handle competition, including one memo in which Google complained that a certain vertical was receiving ‘too much traffic’. This is the most extensive questioning of Google’s practices to date. While it remains unlikely, one outcome of the hearing could be to break up Google to make the market more competitive. We will have to wait to see the committee’s report on its suggested next steps.

Google Search Console adds image license structured data support

In July Google added support for image license structured data across Google Search Console and the Rich Results test tool. The schema markup allows webmasters to add licensing information to content in Google Images, giving credit to photographers and image owners in Google like never before.

The label first became available in February 2020 and is displayed on the image result with links through to the website where the image can be purchased, as well as a link to the license details.

Credit: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/data-types/image-license-metadata

The new report in Search Console is available under the ‘Enhanced reports’ section and allows users to see whether their markup has been implemented correctly.

Credit: https://searchengineland.com/google-search-console-adds-image-license-structured-data-support-338469

Why is this important?

The new section in the Search Console ‘Enhanced reports’ will allow users to monitor how their implementation of the image licensing structured data is indexed over time. It will also allow them to diagnose issues with the structured data, using tools such as the Rich Results Test Tool.

Google adds News filter to the Google Search Console

On July 21st 2020 Google added a new news filter to Google Search Console performance report. This new filter allows users to filter by results that appear in the News tab of Google Search. The new feature also allows webmasters to compare the data to traffic received from other sources, such as Web, Image and Video.

Why is this important?

More data is always a good thing. The news filter will allow webmasters, particularly those with a large informational content strategy, to dissect the traffic they receive from this area and plan their content strategies accordingly.

Google Maps Launches Social Profiles

On July 30th 2020, Google Maps globally rolled out a new social network powered by Google Maps. This social profile was stemmed from Google Maps’ Local Guides review launched back in 2015 to compete with Yelp Elites, allowing Google Map contributors to create in-depth business reviews and post images, helping other Google Map users to learn more about that specific location.

Five years on, Google officially expanded the functionality of their own profiles that other users can follow. It will be interesting to follow the impact this has, and how this benefits brick and mortar stores across the globe.

BrightLocal has explained in detail what a Google Local Guide is, how to get perks, and how to become a local guide here.

Why is this important?

  • Being launched globally and with a rewards system in place by Google, user-generated content that is being relied on with this new network, it’s crucial that Google actively monitors the contributions made ensuring they’re not attempting to manipulate Google or harm the business.

Google’s ‘Upgraded’ Guaranteed Badges

In the middle of July 2020, Google started to test the waters by offering a subscription-based offering on GMB dashboards. But what does this subscription look like?

For $50 a month, or $600 a year, businesses can pay for a ‘Google Guaranteed’ badge on GMB profiles and in the Local Map Pack. Before a business can be listed, there is a rigorous qualification process, including background checks and liability insurance. Currently, it’s limited to a select number of industries, such as home services, but this does differ from country to country.

Why is this important?

With many businesses pushing the boundaries with local SEO best practices on their current Google My Business profiles, including fake reviews and ratings, could this be the screening that we’re looking for across various local map packs, or is this an instance of Google continually capitalising on their search engine?

It will be interesting to review the overall CTR and online lead generation within local SERPs when this Guaranteed badge is fully rolled out, and how users respond to this change.

Looking for support in helping your business bounce back in lockdown? Get in touch with our team of digital specialists today for bespoke solutions to your business needs.

Hugo Whittaker

SEO Executive

Hugo is an SEO Executive at Impression, working with clients across a wide range of industries to help meet their business goals, whether it be increasing their online brand visibility, website traffic or ecommerce revenue.

Hugo has specialist knowledge in SEO and e-commerce marketing.

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