It’s been a busy one for search this month…

A big step for ‘mobile-first’

Google has announced it’ll be starting to migrate sites that follow best practice for mobile-first indexing, so for those sites the search engine will now primarily gather information across the web using their mobile experiences.

Site owners will begin to receive notifications via Search Console that their site is now being crawled ‘mobile-first’, however for those who don’t receive notifications in the coming weeks, there shouldn’t be any direct impact on organic performance. Only sites which aren’t going to be significantly impacted will be migrated for now.

Sites with desktop-only experiences will continue to appear in the index and the shift to mobile-first represents a change in the way Google gathers data, rather than how it ranks the information it finds.

That being said, we at Epiphany, like Google, encourage business owners to accommodate and, where appropriate, prioritise the needs of mobile device users in the experiences they offer. Google has recently updated its guidelines for how to prepare for mobile first indexation and mobile best practices in general.

But that wasn’t the only Google update…

Google has confirmed a core update which rolled out around the middle of March. While it’s been reticent to officially acknowledge such updates in recent months, Google representative, Danny Sullivan, confirmed the update via Twitter on 12th March.

Updates were made to the core algorithm, which usually happens a few times a year to improve overall results for users. Google has said that the update will mainly benefit sites that had previously been undervalued, rather than strictly penalise any sites, but of course this will result in some ranking fluctuations.

We would advise that there should always be a focus on creating industry-leading user experiences and content whether your site appears to have been affected by the update or not.

Duplicate content

Duplicate content may be recognised by Google before the page has even been crawled. Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, revealed that Google may make an assumption that content is duplicated if parameters are present on a URL, that is also present on URLs that it has previously found offer up duplicate or near duplicate content.

He went on to say that site owners could avoid the issue of Google making assumptions by carefully monitoring the usage of parameters on a site.

A new My Business dashboard

The new Google My Business dashboard is being slowly rolled out to more people. Some new features include no need to change between card and list view, an easier to navigate dashboard and that adding more listings won’t impact page load speed.

A change to results pages

Google experimented briefly in March with showing answers without search results for queries such as the time, mathematic equations and unit conversions. A button underneath the ‘omni-result’ was shown providing the option to see the traditional related search results.

However, Google faced criticism from some quarters where intent for a particular query is mixed. For example, a user searching for ‘time’ may be looking for the time of day or the famous magazine publisher.

Reducing results pages to a single answer could dramatically impact traffic from organic search for sites where such ambiguity exists. The test was quickly stopped after negative feedback from users.

Knowledge panels for musicians

Musicians can now post directly to search results. Google has allowed post updates by musicians to appear in the results in their Knowledge Panel when searches for the artist’s name are submitted. It’s now live for all musicians around the world who already have Knowledge Panels.

Google adds accessible routes to Maps

Google is introducing wheelchair accessible routes as a new feature on Google Maps. Information about which transport hubs are wheelchair friendly for example has been included on Maps to “make public transport work for everyone.”

The information gained by Google was taken from meetups with local guides where those requiring improved access were also able to provide information about locations that do and do not currently offer it.

Updates of street views have also occurred so these people are able to look around a location to make sure it’s suitable for them to visit.

New captions for Google images

Images are now getting captions to make them more descriptive and to use the added context to help rank media more appropriately for specific queries.

The website URL where the image is from is already shown in results so it is hoped that by adding the caption, users will be able to more easily determine if what they are looking at meets their needs. It’s likely captions could also play a part in improving experiences for visually impaired users as well as potential applications in voice search.

What’s new with Bing?

Bing is supporting JSON-LD formatted markup by building new verification tools. It currently only supports markup for Microdata or RDFa formats.

Although there is no current time frame on when this will be available it certainly marks a shift for Bing who will undoubtedly look to harness the power of structured data for improved crawling and indexation of content as well as how they serve information to users in search results and across associated platforms.

Instagram launches shoppable posts

Instagram has revealed that it is launching shoppable posts, meaning that retailers can create shopping experiences for their customers. This experience acts like a shop window, displaying the product and containing a small amount of product information for the user to click on and buy.

Brands will be able to tag their own products, as easily as they can tag a person. The customer just clicks ‘shop now’ and then they are taken straight to the product on that particular website.