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 Announced September 2019 Core Algorithm Update, Slow Rollout

This week, Google announced that they would be rolling out a core algorithm update over several days. No details were given about the nature of the update in the initial and subsequent Twitter announcements by the Google Search team.

Once Google gave notice, the SEO community started digging through traffic stats and have been regularly chiming into industry forums and comment threads about losses, gains, or nothing at all.

So far, the biggest thread in all the chatter has been related to Google filtering results for user intent. 

According to a few sources, the update is causing ranking fluctuation by temporarily removing typical filtering for users, and then as the update rolls out to all the data centers, rankings should normalize. 

Search Engine Journal did a very informative deep dive into Google filtering and how it actually works. You can read that post here.

Some SEOs are also saying that this update is continued tweaking from the June 2019 Update. 

Notably, one of the biggest losers from the June 2019 update, The Daily Mail UK, are seeing a huge bounce back with the September 2019 Update as reported by German data company, Sistrix:

This is the third core algorithm update Google has publicly announced in 2019.

Studio Takeaway: All week, we’ve been looking through stats to see if there are any major trends with our clients. Ecommerce site rankings have been volatile with both the March 2019 and June 2019 updates. With this update, we didn’t really see an overall up or down trend with our client traffic. Some of our merchants who put a lot of effort into their content strategy are slightly up, but the majority have seen little to no fluctuation. When Google initially made the announcement, the only detail was that the rollout would take days – how many days wasn’t really clear. 

We’ve also worked with a few clients in the medical/health industry that are currently working to recover from drops during the June 2019 Core Update and we are just now starting to see a turnaround in their traffic trends after a couple months of reduced traffic and impressions.

All our insights lead us to believe that this update is a continuation of Google’s major focus for 2019: quality content. Sites who are in line with Google’s content quality guidelines will likely see improvements; sites that have neglected to get up to speed will probably see some drops.

Google Announces New Ways to Control Your Search Results Snippets

The Google Webmaster blog has announced that they are giving webmasters more control over how information for their website is shown in search. They’re adding new attributes for <meta> tags and ways to control what content can be shown in search results with HTML. 

Here are the new meta tag attributes:

<meta name=”robots” content=”nosnippet”> – directive that tells Google not to show a textual snippet being displayed for your page in search results

<meta name=”robots” content=”max-snippet:150″> – directive that tells Google the max number of characters to show in your search results snippet. Currently, meta descriptions have a max display length of 165. 

<meta name=”robots” content=”max-video-preview:120″> – directive that tells Google the max number of seconds you want a video preview to display in a search result.

<meta name=”robots” content=”max-image-preview:large”> – directive that tells Google the max preview size of an image you want displayed. You can use “none,” “standard,” and “large” as attributes.

The HTML attribute is a quicker version of the content=”nosnippet” meta tag and allows you to control certain pieces of information on the page and can be applied to <div>, <span>, and <section> elements. 

The syntax looks something like this:

<p>We are a <span data-nosnippet>ecommerce marketing agency</span>.</p>

Studio Takeaway: The rule of thumb is the more real estate that you can take up in search results, the better. Applying limits to what can be included in your search results snippets seems counter-intuitive. However, we do see potential benefits in being able to prevent certain snippets of information from showing up in SERPs with the “nosnippet” meta tag and the new HTML attribute. Can’t think of a use case off the top of our head but there’s certainly one out there for someone.

Google Search Console Now Shows More Recent Performance Data

Google Search Console has made a few changes to their performance report dashboard that allows webmasters to drill into data less than 24 hours old.

They made an announcement on the Google Webmaster blog, saying that the #1 feature webmasters wanted was fresher data.

Now you can see performance reports that show data over the last 24 hours, as opposed to the last 7 days, which was previously the most recent date segment.

They’ve also added a feature that allows you to see performance data as a whole by specific date so you can easily reference site performance after major changes, holidays, and more.

The blog post also stated that the data you see in those reports may not be 100% accurate right away, but Google will replace that data with the actual numbers within days.

Studio Takeaway: We love fresh data! This will come in handy for major content updates, backlink campaigns, algorithm updates, and more. In our opinion, the more ways to look and segment data in Search Console the better.

Search Engine Roundtable Dishes on Bill Lambert, Supposed Google Insider

SERoundtable is now openly discussing the case of Bill Lambert and we couldn’t be happier. This is one of our favorite SEO industry storylines of 2019. It’s got it all: intrigue, conspiracy, and search ranking algorithms. 

If you don’t know the Bill Lambert saga, here’s a brief backstory:

  • Bill Lambert is a commenter on the SERoundtable comments section
  • He claims to be a Google Insider
  • He often comments about Google algorithm updates, providing internal information on what algorithm updates are targeting, and how they are rolling out
  • He often makes predictions as to when the next algorithm update will be coming and has been right on a few calls
  • He has a distrust of Google “suits” who he believes are just playing with algorithms to increase Google’s bottom line revenue
  • Some regular commenters in the SERoundtable comments and other forums have started calling him “the oracle”

After months of making waves in the comment section, Bill Lambert has received his very own post on SERoundtable. 

SERoundtable principal writer and contributor, Barry Schwartz, published this uncharacteristic editorial titled “IMO: Bill Lambert Is Not A Googler Or Google Spy.”

Unidentified man resembling what we think Bill Lambert probably looks like pictured above, probably in the Google offices on his way to the SERoundtable comments section

Here are some of his takeaways:

“We have an issue here with someone claiming (not even claiming but acting as) a Googler, or a Google spy, or someone with inside Google intel, who comments here.”

“I analyzed all the Bill Lambert comments on this site, looked at many things and I really do not believe he is a real Googler or a Google spy. I don’t believe he is for a bunch of reasons including his IP addresses will be in Europe for a few weeks, then in Asia, then in the US. He sticks with an IP address and then it changes his next go around. Yea, he can use proxies and various methods to cloak his IP, I get it.“

“The way he talks is not like a real Googler would talk. A real Googler has no reason to spend so much time here as he does.”

“My advice, assume Bill is just a troll and not a Googler. It doesn’t do you any good anyway to believe he is a real Googler anyway.”

On top of that, John Mueller publicly came out about Bill Lambert’s Google claims this week

Studio Takeaway: Want a hot sports take on this? Bill Lambert is associated with Google somehow and is sharing information they don’t want publicized in SERoundtable comments. 

Here’s our evidence:

  1. He seems to have intimate knowledge about what Google is doing with their constant algorithm updates.
  2. This summer has been especially busy with algorithm changes and updates to their search technology so it’s likely that Google would bring on additional manpower, maybe even contractors
  3. The fact that his IP changes could be evidence that he travels regularly. Just this week John Mueller was in Stockholm for whatever reason, so it’s not a surprise that a Google employee would be on the move
  4. He has demonstrated an inherent mistrust of Google’s motives behind their algorithm updates and his comment continually reference “suits” which we assume to be executives looking to grow the bottom line rather than improve Google’s search products. His somewhat pessimistic view of what Google has been doing lately is right in line with his distrust of those at the helm. It’s also why he’s chosen the SERoundtable comments thread as his soapbox, it’s the last place Google would look for a potential whistle blower.

What do you think? Stay tuned for more Bill Lambert drama.

Other Interesting Links

A lot of official Google announcements have overshadowed a few other notable tidbits from the week. Here they are below:

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