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.

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Google Launches Product Results Report in Search Console

Retailers now have another key data point to look at in the Google Search Console dashboard. Google has added a Product Results report for online sellers where they can see how their products are performing in rich results. 

The report is located at Performance > Search Appearance > Product Results.

Right now, you can get statistics like clicks, impressions, click-through rate, and average position as a gross figure for all your products on a date-based timeline in one place.

Studio Takeaway: This update essentially makes it easier for ecommerce stores to quickly drill down into the product performance data. Right now, you can only see all of your products as a whole, but we have a feeling that Google will soon roll out the ability to drill down into your specific product results in that report. 

Bing Has Been Utilizing BERT Model on Larger Scale Than Google Since April 2019

Google announced a massive algorithm update earlier this month called “BERT” and called it the biggest update to search in the last 5 years. Here’s what they said about it on their developer blog: 

“This breakthrough was the result of Google research on transformers: models that process words in relation to all the other words in a sentence, rather than one-by-one in order. BERT models can therefore consider the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it—particularly useful for understanding the intent behind search queries.”

The search industry began scrambling to figure out how that would impact search results. 

This week, Bing quietly announced that they are also using BERT and (surprise, surprise) they’ve been using transformer-based models since April 2019. They’re also using BERT at a larger scale than Google. Currently, Google’s BERT update only affects 10% of searches.

Studio Takeaway: With 2019 coming to a close, it’s safe to say that Bing is working hard to become a bigger player in the search landscape. With their recent updates to webmaster tools, local business profiles, and BERT, we’re going to keep an eye out for them in 2020.

Google Is Testing a Two Different Rich Results Right Now

Murmurings across the SEO industry have revealed that Google is testing out two rich results updates. 

This week SERoundtable.com reported that Google was testing new recipe rich results that allowed users to preview a recipe before taking them to the recipe page.

Photo credit from SERoundtable.com

The other rich result test has to do with (*cue ominous orchestral hits) Smart Home results. On Twitter, Google announced that the Rich Results Testing Tool can now show you if your rich results are eligible for Google Assistant, which would get it into Google Home and other smart devices.

Studio Takeaway: The update to recipe rich results seems like a pretty useless change. In general, recipe pages are long and include lots of lists, details instructions, and more. Google doesn’t really have a good way to structure all of that content into a rich result. If anything, this is just going to force users to click twice to get what they want, which won’t make them happy.

As for the updates to rich results display, this is noteworthy. Position “0” is a term often used to refer to the rich result that is showcased above all other organic listings. It will be especially coveted in smart display technology and voice search. Does this update to the rich results preview tool indicate that SEOs need to be optimizing more for hands-free search?

Matt Cutts Emerges from the Ether to Chime in About Google Actions on Tech

Matt Cutts, formerly in charge of search spam at Google, has added context to a 10 year old tweet he posted in response to a blog post about Google trapping software developers by opening up their API to allow people to make new tech and then changing their Terms of Service to prevent them from monetizing it. Here’s the tweet thread:

You can read the article in reference here.

Studio Takeaway: Back in the mid-2000s (when this author was getting his feet wet in SEO), Matt Cutts was a mythical figure. These were the days when link directories and keyword stuffing worked to improve your SEO, not devalue it. It was the wild west and Matt Cutts was the sheriff in town. 

In the SEO world, there has always been an element of the “unknown.” Search results change all the time, sometimes it seems like it’s completely random. Pages will get less traffic after a ton of content work. Traffic increases after you launch an Adwords campaign. All kinds of different things happen with a website and it makes you wonder if Google is meddling behind the scenes.

This Twitter thread from Matt Cutts reveals a more pragmatic take on why Google does what it does. 

Other Interesting Links

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