The latest news in SEO and WordPress: September 2020 • Yoast

Joost de Valk is the founder and Chief Product Officer of Yoast. He’s a digital marketer, developer and an Open Source fanatic.

Another month, another SEO news webinar at Yoast HQ! For the uninitiated, in these webinars, Jono Alderson and myself, run through the most important bits of news relevant to us and to you. We cover many SEO topics and expand on internet marketing and the state of the web itself. Plus, we’re having a ton of fun doing so and you get to ask your questions as well. One regular viewer already called the webinar one of the best hours of his month!

Stay on top of the latest changes in SEO by getting a Yoast SEO academy training subscription. This also gives you the opportunity to watch earlier videos of SEO News and develop vital SEO skills by completing a variety of courses.

What’s new in Google

The most important news from Google is them trying to aim for ‘safer’ search results. With everything that’s going on right now, it makes sense for them to highlight this. From the outside at least, it looks like Google is doing everything it can to make sure that the search results won’t be vandalized with the upcoming election — and everything after that. To do this, they need to become even better at separating fact from fiction.

How does Google corroborate facts? How does it validate them? These days, everything happens so fast and not everyone is speaking the truth. But what’s truth? They are investing a lot in technologies to understand those sentiments. BERT, for instance, helps them understand language better. And in the background, Google’s fact checking Schema can help them distinguish facts from fake news.

As this technology evolves, it is has other consequences. As a site owner, you will also come into contact with this. It is going to be more important to be truthful and you have to prove that you know what you are talking about. You won’t be able to rank anymore if you are trying to be someone you aren’t, for instance. If you tell people the grass is purple while the consensus is that it’s green, you’ll strike out.

Google hiding search terms in ads

Google has made it harder to get precise keyword data for your ads. That’s really important in the ads world because some of those keywords might be expensive to bid on, and you might end up bidding on keywords that you don’t want to be bidding on because it’s not a good fit because of an error. Or you might be missing data on small keywords that convert really well, but now you have no idea. Very annoying. We’ll be flying largely blind like when Google removed organic keywords.

This move won’t make Google more money. If nothing else, I think this will cost Google money, which is why I think that they’re doing this for legal reasons.

Google also launched a couple of new search features, one being the new nearby filters for products. This shows stores around you that are selling that product you want right now. It even mentions that it is available for curbside pickup. This is really cool, as it might get people to take their bike and go to the store to pick it up instead of ordering online. I know I would!

New Schema for licensing images and eCommerce

More Schema is always a good thing. We’re obsessed about Schema because this is the future of how we communicate with search engines. This month, Google added new image licensing labels to Google Images, powered by Schema. These give the owner of an image the chance to highlight the license of a particular image in Google. It gives them more control over how people can uses these images and even make money from it by selling them on a dedicated page. We’re looking to see if we can get this built in to WordPress.

If you have an online store, Google now also lets you describe your shipping details for use in Google Shopping. Google uses the shippingDetails Schema to understand what your delivery times are or what you charge for shipping.

What’s new in Bing and Microsoft

Bing has been quite busy improving their search experience using AI. Their autosuggest and Also Asked features should now be much smarter. Also, as mentioned last time, there are new goodies to be found in the Bing Webmaster Tools. This time it’s a solid URL Inspection Tool that let you uncover issues.

Microsoft as a sole licenser of GPT-3

Microsoft has teamed up with Open AI to exclusively license to the GPT-3 language model, which is a topic that we talked about in our August webinar. The GPT-3 stuff certainly is incredible, and if Microsoft is commitment to using it at any layer of their technology, they can build some awesome stuff. Something to keep a close eye on.

What’s new in Facebook

Facebook is under a lot of scrutiny right now and we’re also not very excited about the two bits of news we discussed.

Breaking the embeds

Starting on October 24, you can no longer simply drop a link to your Facebook or Instagram post in your WordPress post and see an embed appear. Facebook is killing the API that handles that. In it’s place, every site will need an API key to have that work. Luckily, there are plugins that will allow this to keep on working. But WordPress can’t ship with an API for this, so you’ll have to do it yourself.

Facebook and Instagram embeds should remain working for stuff that’s already embedded, but we’re not 100% sure that they will, new embeds will become impossible without a plugin. Of course, all of this is an ongoing desire to have everything happen within the walled garden of Facebook itself.

Facebook Business Suite

Which brings us to the next topic of more walled garden stuff: Facebook’s Business Suite. We’ve seen this coming for a while. You can now use Facebook as the singular resource for your business. They really want you to see Facebook as the everything-you-need eCommerce solution. Facebook doesn’t want you to have a website, and they don’t want you to be in the Yellow Pages. For Facebook, Facebook is where you need to be. I’m not too delighted about more walled gardens.

Let me remind you of one of my golden rules: own your own online property. Have a website where you can do whatever you want. Don’t be tricked into having everything on a third party platform just for the sake of convenience.

What’s new in WordPress

WordPress is at the heart of everything we do and we try to communicate about that. We not only build a plugin that helps you gain success in the search engines with your WordPress site, but we are actively helping build WordPress itself. At the moment we have four people working fulltime on WordPress and the fifth one — an awesome lead for our WordPress team, Francesca Marano — started today.

Google launches the Web Stories WordPress plugin

Google has released a Web Stories plugin for WordPress that allows you to build web stories that look like the example below in the search results. This is some of the best UI I’ve seen built on WordPress. Plus, it’s all open technologies. Much of the stuff Facebook and Instagram do goes against the thought of the open web, while this is very open web. It’s an open source competitor or equivalent to Instagram’s story format. Visual storytelling is a thing and this Web Stories plugin will help everyone build cool stories on your own website.

The team at Google, impressively, built this in a relatively short time, and it shows you how much Google is invested in the WordPress ecosystem, which makes me very happy.

What’s new in Yoast SEO

On the day of the webinar, we launched Yoast SEO 15.0. While that sounds like a huge deal, it’s actually just a continuation of our versioning. That’s not to say this is a small release, which it isn’t, but might be interpreted as one. I am actually very happy with Yoast SEO 15.0 as it gives you a couple of great new tools and improvements.

For one, we’ve completed our Gutenberg roadmap and finally have everything from the Classic Editor meta box ported over to the block editor sidebar. Yes, you can do all your post improvements and settings from the sidebar. We’re big fans of the block editor so where very excited to bring you this.

In addition, we also launched a table of contents block for the block editor. This is a very simple, but powerful feature that lets you drop in a TOC with the click of your mouse/tap of your finger. The contents are generated automatically with IDs — which also lets you get jump links for your content in Google. Last but not least, Yoast SEO 15.0 comes with full Arabic word form support in the Premium analysis.

Other news

We can’t list everything we talked about in the SEO news webinar, but there are a couple of asserted bits of news that I wanted to highlight.

Cloudflare and the Wayback Machine

Cloudflare is on fire. It is a business that bring some of the most cutting edge technologies to the make. It offers a lot of services to improve the performance of your site, while also keeping it safe from hackers. At Yoast, we use their tools and we love them. If don’t know who they are, please check them out. They are building the future of the web and we owe them for doing that.

Cloudflare is announcing new features and technologies left and right, but I wanted to mention the partnership they struck with the Wayback Machine. There used to be a feature where if your website goes down thanks to a crash at your hosting, Cloudflare would continue to serve a version of your website from their cache. This meant, your visitors get to see a cached version of your site while you fix. They’ve improved that so works with the Wayback Machine. Now, they can get a much more up-to-date and much more accurate version of your site. It’s nice partnership that makes websites more robust and a bit more secure.

That shared hosting research

Last month, there was an article doing the rounds which led to a lot of discussions. It was a comprehensive and pretty well done study on the ranking differences between sites hosted on a shared hosting platform and sites on a hosted platform. The theory has always been that sites that potentially share hosting with spammers, malware spreaders, porn and other low quality, and maybe even harmful sites would be detrimental for performance in the search results.

With the necessary caveats, this research proved that theory to be true — although it is hard to make any judgments based on this. Of course, John Mueller from Google already said this isn’t how it works and there’s no value in this. But, we all know that’s not entirely true.

Even if this is flawed research, it is further evidence of one of our arguments to win at SEO: invest in a good hosting plan! It’s not that shared hosting is bad, but if you make money with your website don’t skimp on proper hosting. Every dollar you invest in this will pay dividends. Get better hosting is what we say to everyone. Do it!

That’s it for the SEO news in September

Join us next time for another SEO news webinar! Sign up for Yoast SEO Academy and you’ll automatically be invited once we’ve planned a new date for our next webinar. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you soon!

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