Optimization Station: Recent Google Updates

All aboard for the most recent Optimization Station updates from our SEO team, on changes that could affect your organic search ranking and performance.

1. Google is Testing Search Results Without URLs

Google is testing the removal of website URLs from search results, showing only the website name instead. Since they (Google) introduced breadcrumbs site-wide a few months ago, they’ve been slowly phasing URLs out of search results. Removing URLs completely likely won’t have too much effect on SEO, but a couple Reddit users did raise some interesting points.

  • One user was concerned that phishing sites may try to use the branding of sites they’re trying to impersonate. In a worst case scenario, these sites may be able to trick users into sharing sensitive/personal information like credit card numbers and passwords.
  • Another user points out that while this likely won’t change much in terms of SEO, it will change how users interact with search results, because users won’t be able to decide whether or not to click through based on the perceived trustworthiness/authority of the URL.

Without URLs in search results, users won’t instinctively be drawn to the brand name that they immediately recognize, and instead would simply select the content that applies to them the most.

2. Google Chrome Will Block Mixed Content

Google recently announced that Chrome will begin blocking web pages with mixed content beginning in December 2019. For those who are unaware, mixed content is when a secure page (https) includes unsecure content (http) like images, scripts, and styles.

According to Google, mixed content “degrades the security and user experience of your HTTPS site. Using these resources, an attacker can often take complete control over the page, not just the compromised resource.”

When this change is rolled out in December, Google will do two things:

  1. They will automatically upgrade http content to https if the resource exists, and
  2. They will allow users to change their Chrome settings to allow mixed content if they wish to

The unblocking setting will be completely removed by January 2020 and pages with mixed content will no longer show up in search results.

Man searching on laptop for SEO performance

3. Google Lets Site Owners Customize Their Search Result Snippets

Google has always shown search snippets based on the users’ queries and the device that they’re using. Whereas previously, site owners could only select whether or not they wanted a snippet to be shown, Google is now allowing them to customize their search snippets.

The customization methods involve robot meta tags and a new HTML attribute.

With these customization methods, site owners will be able to whether or not to show a snippet, a maximum text amount to show, a maximum video duration to show, and a maximum image size to show.

With the new HTML attribute, users can set where their featured snippet ends.

While it’s great to have Google feature your content directly in their search results and recognize your website as an authority, it often prevents users from clicking through to the site since the “answer” is already given on the SERP page.

With these changes, featured snippets become much more valuable than they were previously.

A few other quick notes on this update

  • It has no effect on search rankings. It only changes how results are seen by the user.
  • The robot meta tag changes come into effect mid/late October 2019 and the HTML attributes will be introduced later in the year.
  • Google will 100% follow these settings. They will not use it as a “recommendation” as they often do.
  • There will be no difference between mobile and desktop settings.

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us today.