The SEO industry is volatile, with changes happening on a near-daily basis. Some changes are good changes, other changes are not so great.
One important thing is that you must continue to adapt to these changes in order to survive in the SEO industry.
It’s also worth noting that, in terms of algorithm changes, they happen so frequently that it’s not exactly worth reporting on every single Google algorithm change. Most are insignificant.
The ones that are larger (such as core updates) are all worth reporting on.
But, by working to keep updated on the latest trends and updates throughout the search industry, it is possible to continue staying ahead of the curve, long after everyone else has given up trying.
That being said, the latest updates for the month of April are below. Enjoy!
Google Tests a New Image Search Pack
It was being reported in early April by Brodie Clark that Google has been testing a new image search pack.
More specifically, this change would be providing more details about the images that Google is showing in image search.
And all this would be happening without you having to go directly to Google image search.
This is a screenshot of what Google was testing:
How Does This Affect SEO?
For SEO professionals working on image search and specifically for image optimization, this change wouldn’t really do all that much to the process. But, for people who use the search results, this change would help them navigate images better because of the information they get right up front.
Whoa, check this test out. When clicking an image pack result in web search, a popup now appears. Has been happening for a while with free product listings – looks like the same could be coming for images. Also spotted by @punit6008 via @rustybrick https://t.co/kKYG2eg6ij pic.twitter.com/IVdW77vYV5
— Brodie Clark (@brodieseo) April 3, 2022
Google My Business App Is Being Replaced
April 5, 2022: Google has previously warned everyone that the Google My Business App is going away entirely. On April 5th, Google began warning users that this is officially coming to pass.
The email that they were sending explained that users need to start using Google Maps and Search to keep your Business Profile up to date. Also, this helps you connect with customers.”
It also linked to the Google Maps application on iOS or Android-based devices.
Andy Simpson over on Twitter shared the following screen capture of the Google My Business announcement. He noted that there was no specific termination date happening according to the screenshot:
The email also included this GIF that showed exactly what GMB profile users need to do in order to keep things rolling according to what Google wants to see:
Google Business Review Tool for Profiles Works for Larger Accounts
While this tool isn’t new, the ability to manage a larger quantity of accounts is. Ben Fisher over on Twitter announced that there is a newer ability for account managers to really work on larger numbers of accounts with the tool.
More specifically, it allows the management of over 10 Google Business Profiles.
For local SEO professionals who work on many business accounts, this is going to be a wonderful new feature.
— Ben Fisher (@TheSocialDude) April 1, 2022
I think dispute was there btw, but the ability for accounts with more than 10 profiles is absolutely new.
— Ben Fisher (@TheSocialDude) April 4, 2022
New Google AI Language Model: Pathways (PaLM) Has Scaled to 540 Billion Paramters
As an AI language model one of the first, GPT-3, is known as an LLM (or large language model). This type of language is utilized for automating writing through certain types of programs. A brand-new LLM announced by Google last year, called Pathways (PaLM, for short), is a single language model that may be able to generalize across domains and tasks, while also increasing efficiency significantly.
If GPT-3 is its predecessor, PaLM could be considered a successor to GPT-3 on steroids.
Google uses multiple TPU v4 Pods in order to train single language models.
What does this new language model actually mean?
It means breakthrough capabilities in certain language, reasoning, and coding tasks.
For example: language understanding and generation. According to Google, Pathways surpassed even GPT-3. Other LLMs that it surpassed includes: GLaM, Megatron-Turing NLG, Gopher, Chinchilla, and Lambda.
In addition to language understanding and generation, PaLM also showed significant breakthrough capabilities when it came to tasks that required common-sense reasoning.
The new reasoning score is especially interesting, said Google, because it approaches the 60 percent average of problems usually solved by 9 through 12 year old children. This was their target audience for that set of reasoning questions.
Another improvement of PaLM is that it also generates specific explanations for certain scenarios. These scenarios would require deep language understanding, along with other factors in order to arrive at the correct answer.
Clearly, large language model understanding of language is progressing rapidly. Even surpassing GPT-3.
We predict that this will enable Google to provide improved search results utilizing better AI systems, and better understanding based on the query in the future.
Indeed, Google’s goal with the new Pathways system is the following vision:
To “Enable a single AI system to generalize across thousands or millions of tasks, to understand different types of data, and to do so with remarkable efficiency.”
Early April Also Saw Significant Google Search Ranking Volatility
This ranking volatility was so high it was off-the-charts, approaching the maximum that most of the tools reported (Semrush, Advanced Web Ranking, etc.)
There was speculation by several prominent SEO professionals that this could be signaling the end of the product reviews update.
Glenn Gabe posted on Twitter that he saw some sites that were impacted by the March 2022 Product Reviews Update.
Seeing late volatility with some sites impacted by the March 2022 Product Reviews Update. Most of that movement is in the same direction (surges continuing or drops dropping more). Maybe the tail end of the PRU… Stay tuned. pic.twitter.com/9PmpUQB0co
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) April 6, 2022
Google Showcases New Automobile Search Comparisons
Mordy Oberstein reported on Twitter that Google was showcasing brand-new automobile search comparisons.
For those of you in the auto niche, this could be a very big deal for publishers.
You can also select different makes, models, and years to compare!
Totally nuts! pic.twitter.com/gxaqcAePde
— Mordy Oberstein 🇺🇦 (@MordyOberstein) April 3, 2022
Google Announced New AI Capabilities for Local Listings
More specifically, Google announced in April that they now use an AI implementation in order to update their Google Maps elements.
For example, local business hours listed in Google Maps can be updated with AI. Google correlates these updates with many things such as hours posted on a business owner’s store front via streetview photography, popular times (like real-time location data), and other factors.
Don’t forget to check your business hours in your profile regularly – this is because there are human editors as well, including Local Guides and Searchers.
Google Disavows Negative SEO Yet Again
Pardon the pun on disavow. But Google has come out to disavow negative SEO.
There is a situation in which Google has previously disavowed negative SEO, where Danny Sullivan himself did here:
I’ll defer to @JohnMu but I believe we generally view that as an optional thing.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) November 21, 2019
John Mueller himself explained on Twitter that negative SEO is not something that has much of an impact:
That’s usually more about XSS & hacked content. This can definitely negatively affect a site’s visibility in search. It’s always good to clean it up (and lock it down appropriately), even when there aren’t new links involved. Good work!
— 🦙 johnmu.xml (personal) 🦙 (@JohnMu) April 11, 2022
This is nothing new, and Google has been doing this for years. But, it’s always good to keep things updated.
Related to Recent Searches Along With Trending Searches Tested on Google
Google has been busy with testing new search features in April. There are new related to recent searches, along with trending searches in the search bar instead of Google showing the PAA (people also ask) information.
Shameem Adhikarath on Twitter shared screenshots of the new tests:
— Shameem Adhikarath (@shemiadhikarath) April 8, 2022
Google Trusted Store Badge Went Live
At the end of March, Google had officially announced on their blog what’s known as the Trusted Store badge.
This badge shows up for merchants that have a Google Shopping experience scorecard score of excellent.
They also launched brand-new Merchant Center insights reports.
There were initial reports that Google was going to let merchants who have this trusted store badge get a rankings boost, but ultimately they decided against it.
Perhaps they did not want these merdchants toi use this attribute to game rankings?
This is likely to roll out to merchants based in the United States over the upcoming months.
Google Product Reviews Update is Now Fully Rolled Out
Around April 11th, Google confirmed officially that the product reviews update has now officially completed rolling out.
Sorry for the delay in response. It was almost… almost… almost…….
Yes! The rollout is now complete!
— Alan Kent (@akent99) April 11, 2022
This update is the 3rd version of the update within a series of these algorithms. The first being April 2021 and December 2021, respectively.
This resulted in significant rankings volatility at the beginning of the month of April.
Google Now Says That Automatically Generated Content is Against their Webmaster Guidelines
The middle of April also saw Google updating their Webmaster Guideilnes to add some information about automatically generated content.
Namely, that this type of content is against the guidelines, but only “when it’s intended to manipulate search rankings.
This is where it was added in the guidelines.
What is interesting to note that there was almost always the line about automatically generated content, it’s just that Google clarified it to mean “content that is intended to manipulate search rankings.
Google has also explained that this kind of content is not of high enough quality for them to show in their search results:
Content generators / spinners have been around since the start of the web. People have used all kinds of tools & tricks to do that (see image). As far as I can tell, most sites have trouble creating higher-quality content, they don’t need help creating low-quality content. pic.twitter.com/5Gt7WgEo4t
— 🦙 johnmu.xml (personal) 🦙 (@JohnMu) March 20, 2022
Not All Product Comparisons Are Something That Will Trigger the Product Reviews Algorithm
Alan Kent from Google offered his own insights on the Product Reviews Update, in that not every product comparison is going to trigger the product reviews algorithm against your site.
His overall point was that it all depends on how you structure and create your content, and whether it is something that can be called a product review (or not).
Also, thin titles such as “‘X vs Y’ in the title is unlikely to make it considered a legitimate review.”
You can certainly do comparison product reviews, but just saying “X vs Y” in the title is unlikely to make it considered a legitimate review. For more info on comparison and “best” rankings see https://t.co/qEo6rWcLqx
— Alan Kent (@akent99) April 12, 2022
A review that compares two (or more) products is completely valid and useful to users. I was just saying it holistically needs to look like a review (title and contents), not just claim to be a review in the title and the contents is really a link farm with no real value.
— Alan Kent (@akent99) April 13, 2022
Google Changes Top Stories to Include a Highly Citied Label
In its quest to combat disinformation across the world wide web, Google implemented one of the more significant changes to Google search that has happened in the past several months.
Google’s announcement happened at the end of March.
This change was the highly cited label.
This label is designed to show how often a particular source has been cited across the web.
In addition to this announcement, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai also announced that Google is investing $10 million to help fight disinformation about the realities and facts of the war in Ukraine.
Google Search Console Sent Intrusive Interstitials Notifications
Although intrusive interstitials are not new and have been a part of the algorithm for several years now, what is new is the email notification they are sending out.
The email notification called out sites that had their interstitials in a “possibly annoying manner” on their sites.
The email subject line said “”Improve your page experience by removing intrusive interstitials from [insert domain name here].”
There was a thread that was posted in the Webmaster help forums from somebody that got these emails.
What’s interesting to note is that Google tends to email about manual actions that are levied against a site. They do not email via Search Console for algorithmic issues.
Clearly, something has changed regarding intrusive interstitials, so if your site has them, please consider reviewing the guidelines to make sure you don’t fall under penalty for these:
Google also confirmed that even with the desktop update, that intrusive interstitials that were applied on mobile will also now apply on desktop, including the algorithmic ding.
Yes, that’s my understanding. Essentially all of the Page Experience factors would then apply to desktop too. That seems more consistent.
— 🦙 johnmu.xml (personal) 🦙 (@JohnMu) November 5, 2021
Google Also Tested “What People Are Saying” Search Results
Mid April also saw Google testing a new type of search result called “What People Are Saying”.
These types of search results are designed to show results from discussion forums on the particular topic that is being searched.
Aleks on Twitter is the first who saw this type of search result in the wild:
@rustybrick New or not new?
I honestly can’t say I’ve ever stumbled on “What people are saying” before pic.twitter.com/aTF1HI3EV9
— Aleks SEO (@AleksAtWork) April 18, 2022
Google Explains Whether They Use the CSS .Class Selector for Document Structure Understanding
The CSS class selector is a selector in the CSS language that selects certain elements with a specific class attribute.
There are two types of selectors: id and class. ID is invoked when you use the (#) sign, followed by the ID name. Class is invoked with a period (.) character, followed by the class name.
John Mueller on Twitter explained that Google doesn’t use the CSS class selector for this purpose. Although Google actually does render your page and knows its layout based on how it is rendered, it does not use the CSS directly in order to do so.
Not that I’m aware of.
— 🦙 johnmu.xml (personal) 🦙 (@JohnMu) April 17, 2022
Google Search Begins Testing Sidebar Navigation
April also saw Google Search testing returning the sidebar navigation option:
— Muharrem Eminoğlu (@MentorPerplexed) April 19, 2022
The sidebar navigation was the default navigation over a decade ago. They are, apparently now testing bringing that type of navigation back.l
New Featured Snippets “From the Web” and “Other Sites Say” Being Tested
April also saw Google testing more new featured snippets. These featured snippets included “From the Web” and “Other Sites Say”.
Vlad Rappaport over on Twitter was the first to report this new behavior in the search results:
Here’s another variation I just noticed… pic.twitter.com/Uugg3XrLpx
— Vlad Rappoport 🇺🇦 (@vladrpt) April 19, 2022
Google Search Has the Capability of Writing Its Own Knowledge Panels
Instead of scraping and displaying data from other sites, apparently Google Search now has the ability to write its own knowledge panels.
Danny Sullivan confirmed this on Twitter around the last half of this month.
Danny also explained that this is not new, and this has been live in Google Search since at least 2018, and the attriebution was added in 2020.
It’s not new. Some knowledge panels have descriptions by human writers at Google, as this page explains: https://t.co/CDWM5RiJtn
It’s been like this since at least 2018, but the -Google attribution was added in 2020.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) April 21, 2022
Google Universal Analytics Reporting Bugs Will No Longer Be Actively Repaired
March saw Google announcing that they are forcing everyone to upgrade to Google Analytics 4.
April saw more steps towards making this happen. Earlier this month, there were some reporting bugs that were happening with analytics reporting.
Google had posted a response to the issue that indicated that the issue may be temporary, but there are no active plans to fix this issue. Instead, the solution is to upgrade to Google Analytics 4:
“As you have indicated that you were experiencing an issue with realtime reporting in your Classic Analytics property. Our Product and Engineering team has extensively investigated this issue to find the root cause, but after making a few improvements to the report we have not been able to fully eliminate the issue.
Knowing that this issue is temporary and that ‘Google Analytics 4’ (GA4) properties have an improved Realtime report that does not suffer from this issue, we’re no longer seeking to resolve this issue. We recommend waiting a few minutes to see accurate numbers in UA Realtime reports, or we invite you to consider implementing an GA4 property alongside your existing Universal Analytics property to access our next generation of Real-time reporting (help center: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/9744165?hl=en&ref_topic=9143232).
We understand that this may be frustrating to hear after so many months of waiting, but please know that we exhausted all options before coming to this conclusion. Unfortunately we will not be able to help troubleshoot the Realtime inflation/deflation further.”
Clearly, this does not sit well with some SEO professionals, who are not happy:
— DansDeals (@DansDeals) April 21, 2022
Very Large Google Algorithm Update on April 20th-21st
Most Google algorithm updates are generally small, and are not worth reporting. However, there was a major update around April 20th-21st that’s worth keeping an eye on.
The SEO discussion forums were flooded in chatter talking about major traffic swings as a result of this particular update.
In addition, all of the Google Algorithm update tracking tools were showing numbers that were off the charts, including Semrush, Rankranger, and Mozcast.
Google Ads Strike-Based System Has Nine New Policies Added
Google is planning on updating enforcement procedures for their Google Ads Strikes system in June of 2022.
There is an addition of nine new policies added to the system.
Google will begin implementing the strike-based system on June 21, 2022. There will be a gradual build up period of approximately 3 months.
The new policies that will fall in this system include:
- Personal Loans
- Mail-order Brides
- Compensated Sexual Acts
- Bail Bond Services
- Call Directories, forwarding services
- Credit Repair Services
- Misleading Ad Design
Google explains the following:
“When a warning or strike is issued, advertisers will receive an email informing them of the violation. Once an advertiser receives the first or second strike, they will be required to correct the violations and submit an acknowledgement form in order to resume serving ads. Strikes expire after 90 days and the account is considered in good standing if there are no additional violations. Advertisers will still be able to appeal any enforcement decisions.
We already administer immediate account level suspensions when we detect egregious policy violations such as circumventing our systems (e.g., creating new accounts to bypass multi-strike suspensions), phishing or misrepresenting the product or service to intentionally mislead users.
Our goals are to increase accountability for advertisers and to also encourage them to learn more about our advertising policies to prevent future violations, creating a better overall experience. We will continue to provide resources in the Help Center to make it easier for advertisers to comply with our policies and optimize campaigns.”
Google Search Console URL Parameter Tool Is Now Gone
Google announced in late March, 2022 that the URL parameters tool in Google Search Console was going away.
Google wrote “In short: We’re deprecating the URL Parameters tool in Search Console in 1 month. There’s no action required from the current users of the tool.”
Google also explained that only around 1 percent of parameter configurations currently specified in the tool are useful for crawling.
This tool is being deprecated because of the overall low value for both Google and Google Search Console users.
Thanks to Lead SEO Brian Harnish at Hennessey Digital sister site iloveseo.com for these monthly SEO reports! Check our blog often for the newest recap or head to iloveseo.com for the latest in SEO news, tips, strategies, editorials, and more.