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 Dishes on Googlebot Evergreen and Improvements to Javascript Indexing

Google’s indexing bot, known as “Googlebot,” has been rendering websites using an outdated version of Chrome. Google has finally announced that they’ve updated Googlebot so that will always index sites using the most up to date version of Chromium, the open source code that runs the Chrome web browser. Coupled with that announcement, Google is touting the many improvements to how their bot will index JavaScript-based websites and applications.

According to Google:

Compared to the previous version, Googlebot now supports 1000+ new features, like:

  • ES6 and newer JavaScript features
  • IntersectionObserver for lazy-loading
  • Web Components v1 APIs

Studio Takeaway: This is a great thing, especially as more cutting edge web applications and software utilize JavaScript code to deliver lighting fast web experiences. It’s always been a trade off: do you want light code and a fast website, or do you want to get indexed? This Googlebot update is long overdue and will give SEOs who deal with the pesky task of getting js to index a slight sigh of relief.

Are We On the Verge of a Major Google Algorithm Update, or Not?

SEJ staffer Roger Montii is predicting a major Google Algorithm update based on recent events (rolled up as Google’s March 2019 update) which saw algorithm changes, mysterious deindexing which hit online publishers, and a much-needed update to Googlebot, Google’s indexing bot. He compares the recent changes to Google’s algorithm to what preceded the infamous Panda and Penguin updates in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

“One can only speculate as to what is going on at Google. It’s obvious that Google’s infrastructure is changing and at times broken.”

To the contrary, Google confirmed with Search Engine Land (aka Barry Schwartz) that there have been 0 algorithm updates since the March 2019 update. From the article:

“A Google spokesperson has confirmed with Search Engine Land that Google has not pushed out a new core search update and no infrastructure changes were pushed out around March 2019 core update or the more recent de-indexing bugs that happened last month.”

He wasn’t convinced, and the debate rages on.

Studio Takeaway: Google is constantly working on their algorithms, lately with the assistance of machine learning and AI, so tracking trends and making predictions is really a fool’s errand. As a search engine, they’ve also shied away from watershed algo updates and instead are making small-scale changes to focus on quality sites. We’re in agreement that Google’s algorithm is changing (when is it not) but don’t expect to be scrambling to compensate for a giant change any time soon.

Google has also lent some clarity to how they push out updates via Twitter:

SEOs Not Happy with Changes to Google Ads Platforms

Google announced two major changes to their display ads that are causing quite a stir in the SEO community: (1) they’re now showing ads on their mobile homepage which used to be just a search bar, and (2) they’ve launched a new image-based ad carousel that can show up to 8 ads in a single box, which is going to eat up more SERP real estate for organic results.

Wordstream is reporting the following details:

  • Between 4 and 8 images
  • A 70-character tagline with each image
  • And up to 3 headlines (for CTA experimentation!)

Studio Takeaway: Google’s push towards prioritizing ads spells trouble for highly competitive searches, meaning that in order to compete for real estate, you not only need to have a solid organic campaign, but you’ll also need to be capitalizing on Google Shopping Feeds, Rich Snippets, Google My Business, image search and more. You can no longer rely only on organic results to get the job done. If you want to know where to focus, just search your products and see what is showing up in the search results.

How-to and FAQ Added to Google Search and Google Assistant

Google’s I/O conference went into detail on some recently announced changes to their Search and Assistant platform. SEOs will be happy to know that they’re supporting rich data for “How-to” and “FAQ” content. SEOs will also be not happy because that means more data will be displayed in Google’s rich results without actually having to visit an actual page.

Studio Takeaway: We discussed this at a presentation to our team this week. The general consensus is that Google is moving away from being a search engine to an “answer engine.” These structured data types are designed to help their algorithms identify this type of content easier and deliver it to their users with more expediency. This is a good thing, for now, so ecommerce merchants should be using where appropriate.

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