The last two weeks have seen several feature releases from Google. In addition, Google documentation updates and explanatory content from John Mueller (Google’s Search Advocate) and other sources provided search engine optimizers with clarity about a handful of long-running uncertainties.
In terms of practical features, web admins can now take advantage of indexifembedded tags that tell Google how to handle embedded content. There’s also a new search section on mobile results. The upcoming release of the “Topics” feature, in line with Google’s depreciation of third-party cookies, is also an important development.
In other news, Google made a few changes to its online guidance. SafeSearch documentation has been merged, and a new note in Google Webmaster Guidelines lays out the relationship between “Car” and “Product” schema markup. John Mueller also provided some insights into how Google evaluates internal links and Danny Sullivan (Google’s Search Liaison) explained how “deduplication” works in relation to “Top stories.”
Let’s dig into the latest updates, announcements, and search-related analysis from the last two weeks.
Topics to Replace FLoC as Part of Google’s Privacy Sandbox Initiative
On January 25th, Google announced that it would be retiring “Federated Learning of Cohorts” (FLoC) and replacing it with an alternative targeting technology called “Topics.”
“Topics” is part of Google’s “Privacy Sandbox,” an initiative tasked with developing digital tools that allow publishers and advertisers to continue to leverage data about user behavior as cookies become redundant.
“Topics” will share subjects that individual browsers have expressed interest in with third-party sites, thus negating the need to provide confidential personal information. Google published a nifty little explainer video that shows how everything works.
In an official blog post, Google wrote: “With Topics, your browser determines a handful of topics, like “Fitness” or “Travel & Transportation,” that represent your top interests for that week based on your browsing history. Topics are kept for only three weeks and old topics are deleted.”
It’s still early days, and a developer trial will launch in Chrome shortly. What the final tech will look like remains to be seen. Nonetheless, it’s a change that will affect all businesses that rely on visitor data to serve ads and generate audience insights. It highlights the importance of web admins taking Google’s depreciation of cookies seriously.
New Robots Meta Tag (indexifembedded) Added to Documentation
Google has introduced a new robots tag – indexifembedded – that lets web admins stipulate that they’d like Google to index content that’s embedded in iframes (and some other HTML tags) on third-party pages (or elsewhere on the same site) even if the “unembedded” content on the parent page contains the noindex tag.
Google says that it may prove to be a particularly useful tool for media publishers, who often allow third parties to embed content but don’t want to publish the content on their own site.
You can learn more about the new tag in this recently published post on the Google Search Console blog. Currently, Google is the only search engine that supports this feature.
New Mobile Search Feature on Google Mobile
Google has released a new feature called “People search next” on its mobile search pages. A Google spokesman confirmed the rollout with Search Engine Land.
“People search next” appears alongside other features like “Related searches” and “People also search for.” It would appear that it is only available in the US at the time of writing.
“People search next” is interesting from an SEO perspective for two reasons. First, it provides content creators with new ideas for keyword-focused pages. Second, search result page widgets like this one potentially take up space occupied by results from third-party websites. It’s essential for SEOs to be aware of these changes as they may affect how ranking strategies are formulated.
Google Updates SafeSearch Documentation
Google has updated its SafeSearch documentation but the guidance remains the same. All documentation is now available in one place instead of spread across different subsections of the Google Search Central documentation.
If you haven’t already, you should make sure that your website is optimized for SafeSearch. The instructions show you how to check if some or all of your web pages are being filtered and how to remedy any mistakes on Google’s part.
Google Clarifies Car and Product Schema
Google has added a note instructing web admins about how to label “Car” markup in a way that doesn’t obviate eligibility for “Product” review snippets.
The note reads: “Currently Car is not supported automatically as a subtype of Product. So for now, you will need to include both Car and Product types if you would like to attach ratings to it and be eligible for the Search feature.”
In a nutshell, this means that you should use both car and product schema on vehicle listing pages. If you only use “Car” schema markup, product reviews may not appear in search results.
Google Removes Time Ranges From Recipe Schema Markup
If you publish recipes on your blog, then Google’s update to its “Recipe” documentation will be of note and you’ll need to make some minor changes to your schema markup.
All references to ranges have been removed and Google no longer supports time ranges for “Time” properties. Instead, Google advises publishers to use “an exact time; time ranges aren’t supported.”
John Mueller Provides Some Insights Into How Google Evaluates Internal Links Based on Page Location
“Internal linking” refers to the practice of linking to different pages of a website so as to create an optimized “flow” of authority (or “link equity”). The argument runs that well-structured internal link architectures are correlated with higher rankings.
In an office-hours hangout, Search Advocate John Mueller said that the location of internal links on a page (header, footer, in-content, etc.) doesn’t matter from Google’s perspective. So it looks like SEO’s don’t need to worry about exactly where they place internal links. It is likely a much better approach to focus on optimizing user experience.
Danny Sullivan Provides Insight Into Deduplication Process for “Top stories”
In reply to a tweet by Executive Editor of The Verge Dieter Bohn, Search Liaison Danny Sullivan shed some light on how Google’s deduplication process works in relation to “Top stories.”
In a nutshell, Google will remove a link to a webpage from the main results if that link appears first in “Top stories.” However, if the “Top stories” widget appears after the normal results, the link is not removed.
Danny Sullivan said, “…we deduplicate a link from web results if a link appears as the first link in Top Stories and if the Top Stories box appears before web results. If it comes after, we don’t.”