Spring has well and truly sprung in the UK, and there have been a range of key developments in the search marketing community during the month of May. Let’s get straight into things, as we list the news you just can’t miss out on.
Google Research publishes new paper detailing a new ‘Reinforcement Learning’ algorithm
Google Research published a new research paper titled, “Ask the right questions: Active question reformulation with reinforcement learning” in May 2018, which specified a new algorithm which has a new system for answering queries. This algorithm could continue to change the impact of traditional ranking factors. Google Zurich’s Jannis Bulian and Neil Houlsby discussed this new framework, which uses ‘deep reinforcement learning’ to Ask the Right Questions at International Conference on Learning Representations 2018.
The research paper focuses on an approach to query reformulation which uses a new method of presenting those queries to a ranking engine. This is a machine learning algorithm, which uses a Reinforcement Learning approach. In a nutshell, the algorithm has no prior knowledge of how a ranking system should function. This ‘black box algorithm’ uses a learning system that reformulates the user query, and asks the ranking engine numerous questions, to then select the most suitable answers from many sets of answers.
Google’s continuation patent For ‘PageRank’ granted
Google has been granted an updated patent for their PageRank calculation.
- This is essentially the indexation logic for analysing links across the web, it appears Google is adapting it’s ‘seeded’ sites per topical niche/industry, which pass the greatest PageRank. Below are some key insights:
- High quality sites are different for every niche. This changes what is meant by an authority site.
- Improving rankings via link building is now a problem of identifying the links that are the shortest distance from the most authoritative ‘trusted’ or ‘seeded’ sites about the topic you want to rank for.
- There are over 200 ranking factors that influence ranking positions, however using PageRank calculations based on ‘seeded’ sites helps to act as a gatekeeper for which sites can be considered for ranking, and those which don’t.
- Google is essentially using a ‘Distance Ranking Algorithm’ to determine how close a site is to the trusted ‘seeded’ sites per topical niche.
For further details, it is worth visiting SEO by the sea, where Bill Slawski has provided a comprehensive overview.
Google shortened search results snippets, after expanding them last December
Google dramatically increased the length of search results snippets in December 2017, however in a recent statement, David Sullivan of Google stated, “Our search snippets are now shorter on average than in recent weeks.” He went on to add that they were, “… slightly longer than before a change we made last December.”
According to RankRanger’s tracker tool, the new average description snippet field on desktop is 160 characters, which has decreased for 300+ characters.
On mobile, the search results snippets reduced to an average of 130 characters.
SEOs who have spent a lot of time expanding the meta descriptions on their websites may now be considering reviewing them to shorten their lengths. A recent study by Yoast suggested that Google does often dynamically pull from the content on your web pages, rather than your meta descriptions.
Google AdWords has new responsive search ads which can show 3 headlines
Google has released a new AdWords feature in beta mode. It enables Google to test combinations of an advert with multiple headlines and a couple of descriptions dynamically to serve the combination most suitable to achieve the stated goal of the advertiser.
This new ‘Responsive search ad (beta)’ advert type can also provide a greater amount of real estate than a standard text advert. This is essentially acts as a reward for trying machine learning. Unfortunately, Google’s new responsive search ads are not available to all advertisers yet, as they are part of an initiative to offer the opportunity for machine learning models to do the work of ad creative optimisation.
Google’s responsive search ads offer the ability to:
- Show up to 3 headlines instead of 2.
- Show up to two 90-character descriptions, instead of one 80-character description.
- Set up to as many as 15 headlines, and 4 descriptions.
- Try different headlines which highlight different features, benefits, offers, CTAs etc.
- “Pin” headlines and descriptions to specific positions, to satisfy sensitive accounts that require disclaimers etc.
Google launches new Google My Business API
Google has launched a new Google My Business API, which offers a new dashboard to manage numerous locations. As local searches on mobile devices are increasing 50 percent year on year, Google has been expanded Google My Business to provide the best user experience possible.
Google has released a new agency dashboard which includes:
- A single registered account on GMB to manage an unlimited number of locations.
- User Groups to control access to locations and manage internal teams.
- Easier product workflows to manage listings.
Those agencies which have been selected as part of the program can manage additional categories of content, including posts for multi location brands and small businesses at scale, and merchant descriptions.
Google says website changes can take months before impacting search results
John Mueller of Google, has stated in a recent Webmaster Central video, that it can take months before major website changes are processed by search ranking algorithms.
In relation to the recent Google core algorithm updates of March & April 2018, a range of SEOs have been seeing volatility in their organic traffic metrics. So the following questions were posed to John Mueller:
- Is the traffic drop related to the previous condition of the site?
- Will metrics improve now that site has been updated?
- Or, is the site being negatively impacted by recent changes?
In response, Mueller suggested that it is a lengthy process to recrawl, reindex, and reprocess a website. Therefore, any immediate organic traffic uplifts or decreases following recent site adjustments which coincide with core algorithm updates are unlikely to be related.
John Mueller said, “I wouldn’t expect to see fast changes. It’s more a matter of like, maybe, several months over which it takes for us to recrawl, reindex, reprocess the website to understand how it has changed how we need to change how we show it in the search results.”
We hope that you have found our roundup of search marketing news for May 2018 useful, and as always we’d be delighted hear your thoughts on any of the news above, or if we’ve missed anything important.
See you back here next month!