1. Recommendations In Google Analytics – Google Analytics now has tailored recommendations to help users become aware of new features by reviewing your property’s history, settings, and trends across Analytics. The recommendations appear in the Insights and Recommendations section of the homepage, as well as throughout Analytics wherever they’re relevant.

Going forward, you should check you Google Analytics accounts regularly for outages, updates, and, now, recommendations. As always, we discourage enabling auto-apply recommendations.

2. HTTPS Report In Google Search Console – Google has announced it will begin rolling out a new HTTPS report in Search Console.  The announcement came via Google’s Search Central Blog and indicated the search engine expects the launch process to take a few months. This new report will show how many indexed URLs on your site are HTTP and how many are HTTPS. 

With the ability to check a page’s HTTP/HTTPS status from Search Console, Google can help us  address the issues that are causing the HTTPS URL indexing failure.

3. Hey Google!, Can I Use STOP Words In My URL? – Stop Words are common words like “a”, “and”, and “the.” In the early days of search, those kinds of words used to not be considered important for SEO because they weren’t considered important for search engines.

Now someone asked John Muller of Google, “In Short, when using words from a page title in the URL, should I include stop words, too? For example, should I call a page why-is-the-sky-blue.html or why-sky-blue.html?”

To this question, Muller answered “Words in URLs only play a tiny role for Google Search. I would recommend not overthinking it. Use the URLs that can last over time, avoid changing them too often and try to make them useful for users. Whether you include stop words in them or not, decide to use numeric IDs, that’s totally up to you.”

4. Hey Google!, Is It A Good Idea To Target Keywords With Zero Search Volume? – During a recent Google Search Office hour, someone asked whether or not they should try ranking for zero search volume (targeting long tail search queries) keyword. Lizi Harvey from Google responded that “…You can optimize for whatever keywords you want. And it’s not always about the keywords that have the most volume. I would think about how people should find your page and target those keywords.”

Lizzi’s answer is similar to what’s written in Google’s documentation in the SEO Starter Guide. The SEO starter guide document also recommends thinking about how users might find a webpage. What’s interesting is that they suggest thinking of how different readers might search depending on their knowledge or experience level. Someone who’s new to a topic might search with unconventional phrases while someone who’s experienced will use the jargon that is commonly used. For example, someone new to saltwater fishing might search for saltwater fishing lures. Someone who is more experienced might search for a pikie metal lip plug (which is a handmade wooden lure that swims with a puppy tail wagging motion).

5. Hey Google!, Will You Penalize Sites That Look The Same? – Google’s John Mueller answered the question if Google penalizes sites that are nearly identical. Mueller used examples of different levels of similarity between sites and suggested which one to avoid.

First off, there’s no penalty or web spam manual action for having two almost identical websites. That said, if the URLs and the page content is the same across these two websites, then what can happen for identical pages is that our systems may pick one of the pages as a canonical page. This means we would focus our crawling, indexing and ranking on that canonical page. For pages that aren’t identical, we generally index both of them. For example, if you have the same document on both websites, we’d pick one and only show that one in search. In practice, that’s often fine. If you need both pages to be shown in search, just make sure they’re significantly different, not just with a modified logo or color scheme.

John’s answer is interesting because it provides an insight into how Google deals with actual duplicate content where the entire content is identical. In this case he says that it will canonicalize one version of the content, which means that it will choose one version of the content for ranking purposes. This can pose a problem for sites that syndicate their website content, which is why it’s important for websites to require the publisher of the syndicated content to use a cross-domain canonical.

6. Hey Google!, Is There A Benefit To Publishing Content Daily? – During a recent SEO Office hour, someone asked if adding content on a regular basis was helpful for ranking.

The answer that was given from Google: “No. Posting daily or at any specific frequency for that matter doesn’t help with ranking better in Google search results. However, the more pages you have in the Google index, the more your content may show up in search results.”

It’s been noted over the past few years that Google does not crawl all content. And if the content isn’t crawled then it’s not going to be indexed, which is important for ranking. Part of the reason why Google might not crawl that content is the overall quality of a website. 

The other big reason why we don’t crawl a lot from websites is because we’re not convinced about the quality overall. So that’s something where, especially with newer sites, I see us sometimes struggle with that. And I also see sometimes people saying well, it’s technically possible to create a website with a million pages because we have a database and we just put it online. And just by doing that, essentially from one day to the next we’ll find a lot of these pages but we’ll be like, we’re not sure about the quality of these pages yet. And we’ll be a bit more cautious about crawling and indexing them until we’re sure that the quality is actually good.

Getting crawled then is the first hurdle to ranking. Getting that crawled content indexed is the next step, which seems increasingly difficult for some publishers. In the past. John Muller has offered the recommendations for helping web pages get indexed:

  1. The first tip was to make sure the pages can be crawled and that there isn’t a technical reason why a site can’t be crawled. He suggested crawling your site to check how easily pages can be crawled. A site crawler like Screaming Frog will show 500 errors if the server is unable to serve the web pages. Similarly, check your Search Console for 500 errors because that is the classic indicator that the web host is having trouble serving web pages. 
  2. Promote the web pages that are having trouble getting indexed.”…So that when our systems look at your website, they say, oh this is actually a legitimate small business. We should try to index everything. Because especially if you’re talking about a smaller website with a couple hundred pages, that feels like something where if we have a little bit of a hint then we’ll go off and get all of that. If you’re talking about an e-commerce site that has 500,000 pages then obviously (like) if we get all of those pages or not, that’s a totally different story.
  3. Use internal linking to help Google determine which content is important. “for example, that are linked from the home page are usually a sign that you care about these pages, so maybe we should care about them more.

  4. Focus less on quantity and more on the quality of content. 

7. Non Google Merchant Center feeds Are Eligible For Product Rich Results – Merchant Center feeds are no longer necessary to be eligible for product rich results. Google expanded eligibility for Merchant Listing search experiences and product snippets through the use of structured data. This change affects merchants, product review sites and product information aggregator sites. In the announcement, Google stated

Initially, product snippets in Google search results were primarily powered by schema.org Product structured data, and merchant listing experiences were primarily powered by product details supplied via a Google Merchant Center feed. Now merchants can be eligible for merchant listing experiences by providing product data on web pages without a Google Merchant Center account. This improved eligibility has in part been made possible by recent extensions to product-related properties and types in schema.org for areas such as apparel sizing and energy efficiency ratings.

Google also announced that it is removing from Search Console the Product structured data report and replacing it with two new reports. The new reports that are viewable within Search Console are:

  • Merchant listings report – Merchants that sell products should use the merchant listing report. This report shows structured data issues related to the free listing experiences.
  • Product snippets report – Sites that publish product reviews or don’t sell products but use product structured data should use this report. This report shows structured data problems related to product snippets in search. The product snippets report absorbs the old product structured data report. The data from the old report is now available within this new report.

8. Google Now Supports Performance Max Campaigns In Ad Scripts – Ad scripts let you automate specific actions in your ad account, saving time and making management of large or multiple accounts much easier. Advertisers and developers using Google Ad scripts now have support for Performance Max campaigns. You can pause and enable the campaign, and modify most asset types. However, you won’t be able to modify text assets or create new campaigns or asset groups. Furthermore, listing groups cannot be managed via Scripts. If you’re interested in setting up your Performance Max campaign script, you can visit the AdsApp here. You can read the announcement from Google here.

9. Google Ads Introduces “Manage” Tab In Recommendations – Google has added a “Manage” tab to give advertisers more control and flexibility over how recommendations are applied. 

  • Maintain your ads – This option includes recommendations to improve your responsive search ads, remove redundant keywords, and update your conversion tracking
  • Grow your business – This option helps with advanced recommendation optimizations such as upgrading keywords to broad match, maximizing conversions with auto bids, and adding store visits as conversions.

Google says these new bundled recommendations give advertisers more flexibility, but this seems to do the opposite. You can select and deselect the options you want, but the options are broad and don’t provide any details on what’s being changed. If you don’t know specifically what updates are being made, then the element of control is lost and Google gets the upper hand in terms of how “flexible” they can really be. Like any new Google feature, always make sure auto-apply is turned off until you’ve had the chance to test it for yourself.

You can read the update from Google here.

10. Google Rebrands Ad Extensions & Adds Features To Create Engaging Ads – Google has renamed the Google Ads extensions to “assets” plus it has released new workflows, tools and reports to “make it easy for you to deliver more engaging ads and provide you with helpful, actionable information about their performance.”

First off, Google’s now referring to ’ad extensions’ – like sitelinks, callouts and additional images – as ‘ad assets’, which aligns the broader scope of Google’s new approach to your various add-on elements. And with the shift to these being viewed as additional assets, Google’s looking to make it easier to manage them as well, by providing a broader overview of the assets that you can include within your campaigns. Per Google:

As you create assets and apply them to your campaign, the preview tool will automatically update so you can see them in the context of your ad. In addition, Google Ads will now recommend assets based on your chosen campaign goal. For example, if you’ve selected “Leads” as your campaign objective, we’ll automatically recommend that you add a lead form asset.”

Google’s also added a new ‘Ads & assets’ menu, where it will display stats for all of the assets across your account, providing more context on which elements to include.

There’s also a new ‘Combinations’ report, which will display sitelinks, callouts, and images alongside your headlines and descriptions, making it easier to review your ad approaches from a higher viewpoint.

In combination, the new reporting tools will provide much more oversight of your Google campaigns, and their related elements, which could help to uncover new opportunities and options to optimize your results.

Google says that unified reporting in the ‘Assets’ page will roll out over the coming weeks for all campaign types that previously supported ad extensions, while the updated combinations report will roll out ‘in the next few months’.

11. Microsoft Launches Multimedia Ads – Microsoft has announced new ad formats to be shown at the top of search results in Bing Search, Windows 11, and Microsoft Start. The new ad formats are collages of videos and images shown at the top of search results. On the right side, the search result is expanded and opens to a bigger window so the user never needs to click off the page. 

Here are the best practices and general guidelines for those thinking about taking advantage of the new formats:

  • The responsive ad format uses Microsoft machine learning to combine images, headlines, and descriptions to create relevant visual ads
  • To ensure your ad stands out, there will only be one Multimedia Ad per page. (This could also mean much higher costs.) 
  • The ads leverage Creator tools which are available in the Ads platform. The tools allow you to extract images from your website, edit the images, crop, and add colors and filters 
  • Use the Bulk API and Editor tool to create or modify Multimedia Ads in bulk 
  • The new ad formats are available immediately where Bing Search is available. Soon, Microsoft will expand to new surfaces and experiences such as DSA and retail

You can read the full announcement from Microsoft as well as review their case studies here.