January was an eventful month for SEO! Google changed the way SERP snippets appear on desktop…and then changed it back less than a week later after it went over poorly. There was also a mild broad core algorithm update, URL Removals were finally added to the new GSC platform, and data-vocabulary.org schema has been deprecated, leaving Schema.org markup as the go-to way to win enhanced results from Google.
What actions should you take to make sure your site stays competitive in organic search and continues to drive traffic? Should you be worried about the January 2020 Core Update affecting your website? We discuss everything that changed in January and the potential impact below.
Remember When Google Changed SERP Snippets…And Then Changed Them Back?
Perhaps the biggest thing to happen in search engine news was Google’s poorly received change to how listings appear in search results. Google moved URLs to the beginning of each listing and added the site’s favicon in hopes of boosting brand identity – although skeptical members of the SEO Community suspect it was to make results look more like ads. These changes were rolled out on mobile devices back in May 2019, but desktop results weren’t changed until January.
However, the changes did not last long and were partially reverted when Google pulled the favicons from listings after just a week. Unfortunately, Google kept URLs and breadcrumbs above the titles in listings – which was perhaps the worst offender in this change.
Google January 2020 Core Update
On January 13th, Google announced via their SearchLiaison twitter account that a broad core algorithm update would be rolling out immediately. Broad core updates generally don’t see significant impact to rankings and can be considered a “refresher” in how sites are ranked. Matt Southern with Search Engine Journal compared broad core updates to a personal favorites list of movies: over time, you may change what you consider to be your favorite movie, but that doesn’t mean the previous favorites are now considered bad.
There’s no consensus on what industries or factors Google looked at when implementing these changes, and usually, broad core updates see minor changes made to multiple factors. MozCast concluded the impact of this update to be about average with health-related sites being hit a bit harder than other niches.
Search Console Gets its Own URL Removals Tool
Google finally added the URL Removal tool to the new Search Console platform and built out its functionality with new features and capabilities. The tool has been moved under the “Index” section of GSC and is now labeled as “Removals”. The tool also sees dedicated tabs to content that has been updated and content that has been removed.
The “Temporary Removals” tab provides ways to either remove a page from index for about 6 months, or to clear the cache and update a page’s search snippet. The “Outdated Content” tab allows users to indicate that a page no longer exists on their site and should be pulled from index. It also allows users to notify Google that the snippet refers to content no longer present on a page and should be updated. Finally, the “SafeSearch Filtering” tab provides a way to see what content on your site it removed from SERPs in SafeSearch and allows you to contest it.
Data-vocabulary.org Structured Data is Retired
In minor news, Google is now deprecating structured data built using data-vocabulary.org. The impact of this change is minimal though, as:
- Most sites use schema.org structured data now, and
- This type of schema was typically used for just breadcrumb markup
Additionally, if you are unsure if you have data-vocabulary.org schema on your site, GSC will provide a warning and indicate what pages are affected. If you find that your site is using the outdated markup, we can update your site to meet modern standards and implementations.