The Week in Search is a weekly column produced by the Studio team to keep marketing professionals and ecommerce merchants up to date on changes in the search industry, and provide valuable context on what it all means. If you have questions or think we missed something, email us directly.

Google Announces Updates to Googlebot; Will Block Mixed Content on Sites Soon

In a blog post, Google announced changes to its web crawling user agent, Googlebot. The crawler will be regularly updated to be in sync with the Chrome browser starting in December 2019. This is a follow up from the announcement at Google’s I/O conference that they will make Googlebot “evergreen” going forward. 

Alongside this post, they also announced that they will start cracking down on mixed content errors on websites.

Currently, Chrome will just show mixed content. Starting in December 2019, Google will block mixed content from showing on a web page and show users an insecure warning for sites with mixed content. From there, users can choose to load the insecure content on the web page or continue without it.

In January 2020, Chrome will automatically upgrade insecure content to the “https” version if that resource exists.

Studio Takeaway: For 99% of websites, this really doesn’t mean anything will change for you. In the post, Google outlines some cases where sites might be affected, so if you don’t have normal website infrastructure, go read about how to test your site.

For ecommerce sites that load 3rd party images, the blocking of insecure content could be an issue. Make sure that all of your media sources are served from secure URLs, otherwise you could have quite a headache just in time for the holidays.

For more context, read this helpful article about the difference between Chrome and Chromium browsers.

Google Puts Out a Small Business Search Trends Report

This year, Google launched a small business toolkit that helps mom and pop shops find the right Google products to help them succeed online. 

The initiative, called “Grow with Google” (sounds familiar, right?), has put out a brief report on local search trends. Here are the takeaways:

  • Search interest in “mom and pop shops” hit a 3 year high
  • 350x more search interest in “local” and “near me” than 10 years ago
  • Search interest in “local shops” hit a record high last year

Studio Takeaway: We’re a little let down with this report. Although the graphic looks nice, there’s nothing too compelling here data-wise. We dug around to see if this was just a segment of the data they made available, but it looks like this is it. 

Google Talked About H1’s A LOT This Week

Who knew that H1’s would be a major topic of discussion in search for 2019? That’s, like, basic SEO stuff, right?

This week, Google sort of started a controversy when John Mueller continued his tirade against the SEO value of H1’s. In a webmaster hangouts session, he said: 

“And especially with html5 having multiple h1 elements on a page is completely normal and kind of expected. So it’s not something that you need to worry about. And some SEO tools flag this as an issue and say like oh you don’t have any h1 tag or you have two h1 tags. From our point of view that’s not a critical issue. From a usability point of view, maybe it makes sense to improve that. So it’s not that I would completely ignore those suggestions but I wouldn’t see it as a critical issue.”

“Your site can do perfectly fine with no h1 tags or with five h1 tags.”

From there, SEOs started to argue about whether this advice had creedence or not. Here are some hot takes from the comment section on Search Engine Roundtable.

In response, John Mueller put out an #AskGoogleWebmasters Youtube video addressing the controversy in an attempt to set the record straight on H1’s. You can watch it below:

The big takeaway is this: Google’s crawlers are smart enough to understand the context and hierarchy of your content with or without H1s. 

Hopefully that puts it to bed.

Studio Takeaway: This was topic was addressed a few weeks ago, so we’re not sure why it’s all of a sudden causing such a stir. H1’s are great for accessibility and should be used if your target customer base is likely to have accessibility issues, but as an SEO strategy, it’s not a deal breaker. 

Algorithm Update Chatter This Week

Search Engine Roundtable is reporting some chatter in the search forums about algorithm updates. This is corroborated by algorithm monitor tools also showing a small spike starting on October 3, 2019. 

There’s no consensus yet on if this is a bigger updated or what types of sites are being targeted.

Studio Takeaway: Read this tweet.

Other Interesting Links

Lots of other stories related to Google search. Here they are if you want to dig deep into this week’s search news: