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 Indexing Outages

There have been so many updates to Google search products this week that we wouldn’t be able to cover them all in a short column, so we’ve linked to all additional updates at the bottom of this article. The big story this week was the rampant indexing outages that users noticed and Google Acknowledged via the Google Webmasters Twitter account.

Ultimately, we’ve had two separate indexing issues in the span of 3 days.

On Wednesday (5/22/19), an indexing bug that prevented new content from being indexed showed up. According to reports, it was most apparent in the recent results filter. They ended up getting resolved that day.

Then, late Thursday night, another indexing issue unrelated to the earlier instance. As of publication, the issue persists and there is no information from Google or other SEOs as to what it might be affecting and when it might be resolved.

Studio Takeaway: The issue, as far as we can tell, is related to new pages being indexed quickly. No reports have indicated that there was any de-indexing of existing pages so most ecommerce folks have nothing to worry about. Luckily, ecommerce sites aren’t really reliant on Google’s ability to index extremely time sensitive material. We saw instances where Indian election updates weren’t making their way into the index and it impacted some news organizations’ event coverage.

Apparently, People Actually DO Use Voice Search

It’s hard to have a conversation about SEO strategy today without mentioning optimizing for voice search. It’s always been a question of whether or not there are enough people using voice search to warrant time devoted towards optimization, when you can make more progress with on-page content, site speed, etc.

A new study, released by Uberall, shows there are a growing number of folks using voice search. They found that 21% of respondents are using voice search every week. Of those respondents, the majority are using voice search to find local business information when they’re at home, in their car, or walking to a destination.

Studio Takeaway: It’s nice to know an actual number behind voice search, but as far as things go from an ecommerce perspective, voice search has a way to go before it is directly driving sales. From the feedback in the study, it sounds like the majority of respondents are using it for information gathering, so unless you have a brick and mortar, you’re probably not seeing a huge percentage of revenue originating from voice search. That being said, Google is inventing new ways for people to buy directly within their search products, so it wouldn’t surprise us to see ecommerce abilities in the future.

Quality Raters Guidelines Updated (More Info on Interstitials and Page Authority)

This is a deep cut from this week’s news but seems very important for those who are focused on quality content. Google has updated their Quality Raters Guidelines (a series of guides and recommendations for Google’s quality rating team to assess the quality of websites and influence how they rank them) after several months. With this update, they’re tackling two major standards: interstitials and authority.

Interstitials are pop-up ads or other modals that block content from being able to seen on the page. The new QRG have updated guidelines on popups and how they should be rated, especially for mobile experiences. Here is the updated guideline:

“A single pop­-over Ad or interstitial page with a clear and easy­ to ­use close button is not terribly distracting, though may not be a great user experience. However, difficult to ­close Ads that follow page scrolls, or interstitial pages that require an app download, can be truly distracting and make the MC difficult to use.”

They’ve also made a distinction to their quality ratings for content. The new metric is called “Page Quality.” According to Google, Page Quality encompasses a higher level view of a page’s content and context based on a user’s search intent. It incorporates their widely known E-A-T quality guidelines (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) and a bit more. Here is the updated guideline for how raters should be assessing page quality:

“Remember that we are not just talking about formal expertise. High quality pages involve time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. Sharing personal experience is a form of everyday expertise.”

“Specifically for content creators, everyday expertise can be assessed based on the talent/skill level depicted in the MC (e.g., great hair­styling advice, painting/crafting abilities, skillful home/DIY work, etc.). In cases where the content creator is not demonstrating formal or everyday expertise but is not doing any harm, Medium is an appropriate rating.”

“Pretty much any topic has some form of expert, but E­A­T is especially important for YMYL pages.”

“For most page purposes and topics, you can find experts even when the field itself is niche or non­-mainstream. For example, there are expert alternative medicine websites with leading practitioners of acupuncture, herbal therapies, etc. There are also pages about alternative medicine written by people with no expertise or experience. E­A­T should distinguish between these two scenarios.”

Studio Takeaway: For ecommerce merchants that are creating high quality content, it seems like Google is making room from a less formal kind of expertise and creating a way for raters to account for everyday, informal expertise as a measure of good content. Bottom line: Continue to be authoritative, be real, be authentic, and you should be fine.

As for the interstitials, Google pushed an update a couple years ago that punished misleading or malicious pop ups that disrupted a user’s experience. Just make sure that if you’re using popup ads or modals that they aren’t frustrating users.

If you want to get more insight on the changes to the rater’s guidelines, we recommend reading Melanie Slagg’s breakdown over at SEM Post.

Bing Makes Their AI Search Algorithm Open Source

A Bing update! Bing is actively working on improving their search functionality by making their algorithm, called “Space Partition Tree And Graph” (cool name, huh?), publicly available on Github.

They’ve also released some helpful videos and examples of how users can utilize SPTAG to crawl billions of bytes of information in milliseconds.

Studio Takeaway: Yes, Bing is still a search engine and they’re actively working on remaining competitive. Yay Bing! You still have a long way to go to catch up with Google.

Lots of Small Google Updates Happened This Week

Every Google tweak and update generates a headline. Here are some of this week’s updates you might also want to know about:

Relevant links: