Technical SEO Roundup December 2019

Development News

10 Jan 2020 9 minutes
By Ryan Siddle
RS

Development News

Google Discontinues JSON-RPC Support

Posting within the Google Developers Blog on 10 December, Google announced that it is to discontinue support for both JSON-RPC and Global HTTP Batch endpoints.

Stating that it could no longer support the endpoints, Google said that its depreciation time will last until 12 August 2020.

Initially planned for March 2019, the search engine stated that "there will be scheduled downtime for Global Batch and JSON-RPC starting from February 2020 and running through August 2020."

Action Point

Read through the post to review a full timeline and breakdown of the depreciation. The post also provides detailed advice about whether you will need to migrate as a result of the changes.

Google News

New Publisher Center Launched

Taking to the Google Webmaster Blog, Google announced the arrival of a new publishing centre on 10 December.

Merging two established platforms, Google News Producer and Google News Publisher Center, the platform is designed to improve user experience and functionality.

New features include:

  • The ability to switch between light and dark logos.
  • Increased functionality for navigation between publications.
  • Improved permission settings for multiple users.
  • Easier URL configuration for Google News.

Action Point

The new publishing centre is now launched in English, German, French, and Spanish. If you're a Google Publisher, the new centre should work to streamline publishing processes and improve collaboration between users.

Google Introduces New Search Console Messages

On 4 December, Google announced the introduction of a new feature within Search Console wherein webmasters can access messages from Google.

Google Introduces New Search Console Messages Dec 2019

The messages, designed to improve both usability and transparency, are accessible throughout the console and are categorised into topics, including:

  • Mobile Usability
  • Performance
  • Coverage
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Datasets
  • Unparsable Structured Data
  • Products

Webmasters can also access older messages reaching back to May 2019. Messages from before this date are accessible through the legacy version of Google Search Console, under the "Legacy tools & reports" section.

Google has also introduced a new capability that allows webmasters to access all messages sent to a site, including ones that were not verified when they were sent.

Action Point

Familiarise yourself with the new functionalities and features, which should help you navigate through communications quickly and easily.

Google Announces Greater Accuracy for the Index Coverage report

On 18 December, Google announced via its Google Webmasters Twitter account that the Index Coverage report is now more accurate when providing information on indexed pages.

The search engine stated that as a result of the improvement, "some pages that were 'Crawled – currently not indexed' are now known to be indexed. You'll see a chart notification in this report."

Action Point

Previously, pages that looked not to be indexed may have been indexed by the search engine. This means that your site may look healthier in the Index Coverage report after the improvements, which went live on 15 December.

Check through the report to analyse whether you saw an improvement in total indexed pages.

BERT Launches Across 70 New Languages

Writing on 9 December, the Google SearchLiason tweeted that the BERT algorithm had rolled-out across 70 languages. Previously, the algorithm only applied to other languages within featured snippets.

Some of the new languages include:

  • French
  • Spanish
  • Danish
  • Dutch
  • German
  • Russian
  • Japanese

Action Point

BERT was a huge step forward in Google's neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP). Learn more about BERT in the Technical SEO Roundup for October 2019.

You can also read through Google’s original announcement.

Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines Updated

On 5 December Google's search quality evaluator guidelines were updated, showing greater emphasis on diversity, impartiality, and language used to describe users.

The relevant paragraphs can be viewed in the below image:

Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines Updated Dec 2019

It could be assumed that the new wording is used to help keep ratings impartial, as Google has been accused of political biases in the past.

Action Point

It's important to remember that the Search Quality Guidelines do not affect website ranking but are used to judge the quality and accuracy of search results. That said, the guide is extremely useful for understanding what is judged to be (or not to be) a high-quality site.

November 2019 Local Search Update Confirmed by Google

After much discussion among webmasters, Google confirmed that there was, in fact, a local search update that took place during November.

The update means that Google no longer considers only the business name and its description to sort and deliver local search results.

This update also means that businesses with non-descriptive names can benefit, even if the keywords within a search are not used or associated with a company's description.

Conversely, businesses that have named themselves solely to perform in local searches may be less successful.

Action Point

Check through your Google My Business account to see whether you were affected by the update. If you find that your traffic has dropped, you may wish to evaluate your content and analyse whether it is providing information that users might need or find useful.

Google Launches New Features to 'App + Web' Properties

On 10 December Google announced that it upgraded its 'App + Web' property in Google Analytics.

The enhancements to the App + Web properties include the ability for better and custom analysis options, alongside:

  • Faster access to data.
  • The support of over 50 webstreams.
  • Cohort and user lifetime analysis.
  • Automated and custom insights.
  • Backward pathing and data retention.

Action Point

If your site also has a web app, App + Web is a great Google Analytics property to measure date from each. Familiarise yourself with the new features to make the most of the data.

Alternatively, check out this official guide for setting up and linking your app and website for Google Analytics.

Bing News

New User-Agents Announced

Writing on 16 December, Bing announced two new evergreen bots as it works to adopt the Microsoft Edge engine.

The new bots, for desktop and mobile are:

  • Desktop: Mozilla/5.0 AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko; compatible; bingbot/2.0; +http://www.bing.com/bingbot.htm) Chrome/W.X.Y.Z Safari/537.36 Edg/W.X.Y.Z

  • Mobile: Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 6.0.1; Nexus 5X Build/MMB29P) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/W.X.Y.Z Mobile Safari/537.36 Edg/W.X.Y.Z (compatible; bingbot/2.0; +http://www.bing.com/bingbot.htm)

    Older bots include:

  • Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; bingbot/2.0; +http://www.bing.com/bingbot.htm)

  • Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 7_0 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/537.51.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/7.0 Mobile/11A465 Safari/9537.53 (compatible; bingbot/2.0; +http://www.bing.com/bingbot.htm)

  • Mozilla/5.0 (Windows Phone 8.1; ARM; Trident/7.0; Touch; rv:11.0; IEMobile/11.0; NOKIA; Lumia 530) like Gecko (compatible; bingbot/2.0; +http://www.bing.com/bingbot.htm)

Bing states that the "W.X.Y.Z" at the end of each string will be substituted with the latest version of Microsoft edge used by the search engine.

Action Point

To ensure that your website is compatible with the new bots, we suggest installing Microsoft Edge to check that your site renders properly. However, in the majority of cases, there should be no issue.

Alternatively, check your Bing Webmaster Tools dashboard for any new alerts.

Yandex

Vega Update Released

On 17 December, Yandex officially announced the release of Vega algorithm, which works to offer "a uniquely human element" for its users.

Containing more than 1,500 individual improvements, the update also introduces Yandex.Q., a Q&A service that connects "people with answers to their searches from qualified experts."

According to Yandex, as a result of Vega, its search index has doubled in size, with over 200 billion documents now available to searchers. The search engine also states that it is also using pre-rendering technology for mobile users to return information quickly.

Andrey Styskin, Head of Yandex Search, said: "With this new search update, users across the RuNet are helping us do just that."

Andrey continued, saying that: "By contributing their knowledge, experts are enhancing our algorithms and helping our Search users, who continue to grow; over the past year, Yandex's search share on Android in Russia rose 4.8% to 54.7% in early December."

Action Point

Check Yandex.Webmaster to see whether your site has been affected by Vega. The introduction of Yandex.Q is interesting, as it means that the search engine will focus on unique, quality information when providing answers to users.

We would suggest reviewing site content to check whether it provides expert or uniquely insightful information to users.

Further Reading

Google Webmasters Publishes 2019 Review

Like many digital corporations, Google published its review of 2019, discussing some of its most significant updates, changes, and regrets from the past year.

Search Engine Land Publishes Comprehensive Google My Business 2019 Roundup

On 30 December Search Engine Land published a comprehensive roundup of Google My Business updates from 2019. The article, which segments updates by date, is worth checking out if you or your clients are involved in local SEO.

Early Access Program Opened for Package Tracking

On 5 December it was announced in the Google Webmasters Central Blog that an early access program is open for organisations that want to offer package tracking information to users through SERPs.

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