As we move into the new year and a new decade, there are no signs that Google has any intention of slowing the pace of updates, changes, innovation, and improvement in the world of search. However, in an effort to prepare for the future I thought it might be a good idea to look back at the major updates and changes Google released in 2019.
March 2019 Core Update
Google released the March 2019 Core Update on March 12th, making it the first major update of the year. It is believed that this update was focused on Google’s continued to emphasis on the importance of Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness when it comes to medical and financial websites (YMYL-Your Money, Your Life). It became evident that Google was placing increased importance on websites with a strong brand name behind them and a broad focus of topics. Websites that deal with more niche topics saw decreased traffic and engagement. In a post March Core Update world, it became increasingly important to build trust by providing the user with accurate and informative content. A website should always seek to focus content around meeting user expectations and clearly answer or solve their query.
June 2019 Core Update
The June 2019 Core update was notable as it was the first time Google has announced a core update ahead of roll out. However, despite this notable first, details around the effect of the June 2019 update remain vague. Some large publisher sites like the Daily Mail UK appeared to be hit hard by the update. Google maintained that the Core Updates in general are not specifically aimed at one element and encompass a broad range of algorithmic changes. John Mueller of Google explained that “Sometimes the web just evolved. Sometimes what users expect evolves and similarly, sometimes our algorithms are, the way that we try to determine relevance, they evolve as well.” What is clear is that the quality of the site and the content on the site is more important than ever. Google is working to better understand how a user wants their problem solved and how a site can solve that problem.
Site Diversity Change
I previously wrote about the Diversity Change in July. This change was focused on increasing the diversity of search results in a SERP and limiting the number of URLs that where returned from the same domain. The goal was not to show more than two listings from the site, with obvious exceptions like branded or navigational searches. Google also maintained the right to show more relevant results from a domain where it saw fit, rather than including other less relevant sites in the name of diversity. Most experts agree the effect of the update was relatively small in the scope of Google changes and updates. It is worth watching to see how search diversity evolves moving into 2020.
September 2019 Core Update
Similar to the June 2019 update, details around the focus of the September 2019 Core Update are not readily available. They did however release a blog on the Webmaster Central Blog that offered some guidance around Core Updates. It highlighted that site may see ranking fluctuation based on content being re-assessed. An interesting comparison they drew was creating a list of top movies in 2015 and then again in 2019. That list is sure to change to include new movies and reassess others. Similarly, a page that is affected by a core update is just being analyzed under an evolved set of guidelines. As always Google presses the importance of strong and quality content. The blog provides several questions to test a website against. These questions cover content quality, expertise, presentation, and comparison against other sites.
I also had the chance to cover the BERT Update earlier this year. This update was focused on updating the google search algorithm to understand longer tail searches through context and nuance. This update was to affect 10% of search queries and be a one of the largest leaps forward for search in recent history. BERT’s goal was to serve stronger results to an individual as a function of understanding more of the search query. BERT is likely a building back to whole host of updates coming in the future, and it serves as an interesting jumping off point for innovation and improvements to Google Search. Just Recently BERT launched globally, affecting the search results for 72 languages.
November 2019 Local Search Update
In Early November Google began “making use of Neural matching as a part of neural matching as a part of the process of generating local search results.” The goal of neural matching is for Google to be able to better understand if a user’s query has local search intent. The Google Search Liaison Twitter account calls this a “super-synonym system”. Google’s goal is to serve more relevant pages, even if they don’t contain the exact words used in a search, through understanding how the page is related to similar words and concepts. Google maintains that relevance, prominence, and distance are all key factors to ranking well in local search. With neural matching Google seeks to improve their understanding of true relevance.
As a whole 2019 was an interesting year. It is clear that Google, now more than ever, values the quality, validity, and accuracy of content across the web. Google is striving to understand the user and their intent better every day. They know the future of search is in providing the best results, at the fastest speed, with the most seamless interface for the user. I expect 2020 and the next decade will be full of changes, updates, and innovation that revolutionize the way we search.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the Anvil Media 2020 Predictions article, and let us know what you think the future of search holds!