Google Updates in Q2: Winners & Losers

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Episode Overview: Without question the COVID-19 pandemic caused chaos in Q2, upending progress and rapidly changed the way organizations, companies and brands conducted business. As we enter Q3, it’s vital to review Q2’s effects on various industries to learn useful strategies for future success. Join host Ben as he previews Searchmetrics’ upcoming webinar Q2 in Review with Searchmetrics’ VP of Client Services Tyson Stockton. Together, they discuss Google’s May algorithm update in Q2 and how it affected the success of big-name brands and companies.

Summary

  • Google continued business as usual rolling out a new core algorithm update focused on content relevancy and query intent in May.
  • Brands like Spotify took a significant hit, losing visibility on general artist queries as Google directed queries to news articles and editorials about the artist and not their discography pages.
  • The majority of the changes Google implemented were largely influenced by user behavior and the keywords they used to conduct searches.
  • Google also took a proactive stance in providing comprehensive information about coronavirus, empowering users to search COVID cases by county and displaying a world map ranking areas with the most cases.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. Today we’re going to preview Searchmetrics as upcoming Q2 in review webinar. Joining us is Tyson Stockton, who is the vice president of client services at Searchmetrics. Tyson manages Searchmetrics’ SEO content and client success organizations. Outside of shepherding Searchmetrics’ largest and most strategic clients to SEO success, Tyson and I are going to discuss the Google update changes in Q2. Okay. Here’s our first installment of Q2 in review with Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ vice president of client services. Tyson, welcome to Q2 in review on the Voices of Search podcast.

Tyson:             Thanks Ben. Good to be back. Another day not in the office.

Ben:                 Well look. That’s kind of the summary of Q2 now, isn’t it? We’re going to talk a little bit about what’s happened in SEO, but I think the underlying context is we’ve had a quarter of everyone working from home and living through the coronavirus outbreak, and that’s had some impact on SEO. We’re going to talk about some of the other things that happen in the industry in parallel. Let’s start off by talking a little bit about the 800-pound gorilla in the room, Google. How did they handle this last quarter?

Tyson:             Pretty textbook. They rolled out regular cadence in their core algorithm update. Little controversy in the industry, like some people were debating whether or not it’s the right time for them to roll it out. I’d say it was just business as usual from their side. They were still progressing forward. That falls in the same rhythm in timing as previous years. Even though we’re in the middle of this COVID, I say no one should be too surprised that there was a core update in Q2 this year.

Ben:                 Somewhere there’s an engineer at Google who pushed the core update live, who looked up from his desk after working for 400 hours straight and said, “What do you mean coronavirus? I just pushed an update live.”

Tyson:            By desk, you mean his couch at home.

Ben:                 Sure. Talk to me a little bit about what the updates were this quarter. What’s the impact that we’ve seen on the SEO community from them?

Tyson:            The big one was the May core update, similar to other core updates. It’s focusing around content relevancy and intent of content and queries. This one fit the regular bill in some regards to core updates, but you had two different variables to it. One, it was in the midst of this shifting surge, consumer demand behavior. That made it a little bit harder to separate. Okay, well, it’s just more of changing behavior and what’s actually algorithm update. The other piece in comparison to other core updates is this one was a little more focused on the understanding of the query intent versus the content’s intent. The best example that we actually talked about on the podcast before was Spotify. Spotify took a massive hit because they lost a lot of rankings on general artist names. Before they would rank for Metallica and you’d get the discography page. Google interpreted that the intent when someone would surf Metallica is going to be more specific to potential news articles and editorial type information on the artist, rather than just where can I listen to artists.

Ben:                Tyson, tell me a little bit about natural language processing. It seems like that’s an important part of what Google’s update was. Where does Google stand in terms of understanding the purpose of a page, a passage, a post?

Tyson:           That’s been one of their core development areas over the last couple of years. [inaudible] definitely made strides in that understanding of language and intent. I think most of the core updates really that we’ve seen is all evidence of those progressions. As they’re making those steps forward, they’re also becoming less reliant on the legacy historical ranking factors that we used to use more frequently in SEO. It’s nothing new. It’s the continuation of the course that they’ve been on. But it’s aim for this one, it’s interesting to hone in on it’s the query intent rather than understanding what a page is about. I think you can match query intent to page as far as whether or not you’re serving up the best possible answer to someone’s question by either understanding the question better or understanding the answer that you’re matching to it. This one was definitely a little bit more skewed towards the question.

Ben:               Google is understanding their customer a little bit better, and that’s affecting what content they present to them when they’re searching. Were there any other updates or any other adjustments that Google made this quarter that you think are relevant?

Tyson:           We’ll touch on a little bit more niche ones in the industry trend section. But really this was the flagship main story. I’d say you had changes of how Google was interpreting the intent keywords based on user signals, which we touched on in a lot of the COVID episodes. But I’d say if I was to summarize, what’s the big thing that you need to know from Google’s side in Q2, it’s definitely the [inaudible] update and how that shifted the landscape.

Ben:               The algorithm update has shifted the landscape. I do want to touch on Google’s handling of the coronavirus and COVID-19. Talk to me a little bit about how this impacted Google, and what did they do to support the world as they struggle through the outbreak.

Tyson:          We have to talk about COVID in a Q2 summary?

Ben:              We have to talk about COVID in a Q2 summary. Yes. That’s the biggest thing that happened in the world. Sorry. I know I’m sick of it too. But you’re recording this from your bathroom. We do have to talk about that, Tyson.

Tyson:          I know, but the tile has nice acoustics.

Ben:              Touche. Go on.

Tyson:          How Google has adjusted to this is I think has been a few different folds. The most, I guess, in your face one is things that they did from [inaudible] elements. As this one hold a lot of different information, now lets you search different COVID cases in counties. You’re going to get more aggregated and more data now form. They also though were changing the way they’re interpreting different queries based on how often they were being used with other different words. An example in that sense could be a world map that we talked about where now the CDC is ranking for the term world map because there’s so much intent behind it. Someone wants world map, they probably want to know where corona cases are. Google shifted also a little bit by picking up on those user signals, again, what the intent of the queries are.

Ben:             Yeah. From the SEO perspective, I think Google obviously is trying to publish an experience related to COVID. Obviously that is going to be on people’s mind. It changes user intent for a wide variety of queries. I also think that they should be commended for putting together some services about where to find testing. There were some other things that Google, as a broader organization, or maybe this is alphabet, not specifically Google did to try to help people get tested, find where testing is happening. Congratulations to Google. Thank you for supporting the world and trying to make people aware of the coronavirus and understand how they can get help. It’s obviously a powerful tool. Tyson, any last words about Google and what they did in Q2?

Tyson:         Yeah, This is actually a little bit back into Q1 as well. They also changed some of the signals that different storefront owners can use for changes in hours of operation. They allowed for different schema mark up, to basically say take out, whether it’s temporary, closed, and these nuances that we’re facing with this time.

Ben:             Yeah. Obviously the changes in Google My Business are hopefully not only related to the coronavirus, but obviously there are new types of circumstances and availability. It’s nice to see that Google spent some time there. Tyson, it’s interesting to hear your thoughts on what happened in Q2 related to Google. We’re going to bring you back tomorrow, and we’re going to talk about some other topics that you’re going to be discussing in more detail on Searchmetrics’ upcoming Q2 webinar. That said, give me the dates and times of the webinars so people that are interested in this conversation, they know where and how to get to you.

Tyson:         Yeah. We’ll be on live at 11:00 AM on July 22. This will be with Kathy Brown, one of our senior SEO consultants and myself. We’ll go through what happens in Q2. We’re going to cover a little bit more details around the Google updates. We’ll also dive into some of the tech SEO updates, and then also complete it with more industry trends and shifts.

Ben:             Great. We’re going to bring you back tomorrow. We’re going to cover some of the technical things that have changed in Q2 as another preview for Searchmetrics’ upcoming webinar. If you’re interested in signing up for the webinar, you can go to searchmetrics.com/webinar. Okay. That wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Tyson Stockton, who’s the vice president of client services at Searchmetrics.

Ben:             We’d love to continue the conversation with you. If you’re interested in contacting Tyson, you could find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is Tyson_Stockton, or you can visit his company’s website, which is searchmetrics.com.

Ben:             Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, just head over to voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter. My personal handle is Benjshap. If you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the workweek. Hit that subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right. That’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.

 

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