April’s top SEO stories included the rollout and impact of the latest Reviews focused algorithm update, which now covers more than just product reviews; as well as some other changes to previous guidance on ranking signals and SERP appearance.
Video snippets will now only appear for pages where video is the main element, there’s new shipping and returns markup for product structured data, and Page Experience ranking signals have been rolled into the general Helpful Content guidance (and Google is deprecating the GSC Page Experience and mobile usability reports!). We’re also seeing more news about integration of conversational AI and chatbots with search.
In other search news, Google seems to be rewriting more page titles again, and Bing is testing AI-generated stories in SERPs. Google has also been busy rolling out a number of new features and testing others, including map auto-expansion feature and slider buttons for product result thumbnails, while FAQ snippets seem to have dropped since the March algorithm update. John Mueller also shared some insights and clarifications around a few topics, including links from news sites, using AI to write SEO content and how Google handles iFrames.
April’s Top Stories
April Reviews update: the latest Reviews update was released on April 12, and it appears to focus on experience signals, calling out the addition of the “Experience” to the old E-A-T acronym (now E-E-A-T). The scope of this update has also changed significantly since the last one, now covering reviews about “services and things” as well as “products”. The initial impact was reportedly significant for sites that were affected (although some of this volatility may have also been corrections post-March’s core update) and about 2 weeks after the announced release of the update, there seemed to be an increase in movement and volatility. The rollout officially finished on April 25, and overall this update looked more volatile than previous product reviews updates according to SEMRush and Rank Ranger data. Read a summarized overview of the update here.
Google changes guidance on video snippets: while in the past Google has included two formats for showing video snippets into SERPs, Google has now changed their criteria to no longer show the video snippet format for pages where the video is ”not the main element of a page”. This change will also cause changes in the GSC video performance reports.
Page experience update rolled into helpful content guidance: Google has updated their guidance relating to “page experience” and the Page Experience update, removing it from their page about “ranking systems” and stating that “Google’s page experience was never a ranking “system” but is still considered a ranking “signal”. In addition to “page experience” they also removed “mobile-friendly”, “page speed”, and “secure site” signals from the Ranking Systems page. The official guidance is now that these are important ranking signals, and are considered as part of the Helpful Content update. Google has also updated the Helpful Content guidance to include a new section on page experience. This update also means deprecation of the GSC page experience and mobile-usability reports and mobile-friendly tests, although the Core Web Vitals and HTTPS reports will remain.
Google adds shipping and returns markup for product structured data: Google has added new structured data markup for products that allows retailers to specify information about shipping and returns policies and have it displayed in Merchant listings. This change applies to “merchant listing experiences”, such as the Shopping Knowledge panel and “Popular Products” SERP feature. They are also adding a report in GSC to allow retailers to monitor and fix the structured data that enables the display of this information.
Conversational AI coming to Google Search and quality raters shift focus to chatbots: While Google’s most recent foray into consumer facing AI, Bard, was presented as a standalone product, Google does plan to integrate conversation AI into search, as we learned when Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, stated in an April 6th interview with the Wall Street Journal: “will people be able to ask questions to Google and engage with LLMs in the context of search? Absolutely.” The initial effort to integrate new AI-based features to is apparently already being worked on now under the name Project Magi, alongside an all-new, more personalized search engine. Given this, it’s not surprising that Google has apparently prioritized rating chatbot prompt responses over rating quality of regular search results for some of its human Quality Raters team since January, as well as to help improve Bard.
Read on for our roundup of what else is new in search this month:
Industry News and Updates
General News and Updates
- Evergreen Content Doesn’t Rank As Well In Google When Topic Is In News
- Google & iFrames: Debunking Myths, Understanding SEO Impact
- Google’s John Mueller On Using AI To Write Content…
- Google: Don’t Judge Links Based On The Type Of Site They Come From
- Google Introduces New Crawler To Optimize Googlebot’s Performance
- Bing Chat Adds Images & Videos, Improves Local Results & More Changes
SERP Tests and Updates
- Google: Google Testing Map Auto-Expansion Feature In Web Search
- Google: Google Testing Slider Buttons For Product Result Thumbnail Images
- Google: Google FAQ Snippets Drop For Many Sites On April 5th
- Google: Google Search Rewriting More Titles Again?
- Google: Google Search Update Fixes Some Problematic Site Names
- Google: You Can No Longer Opt Out Of Google’s Education Q&A Carousel
- Google: Google Testing Displaying Follower Counts In Search Result Snippets
- Bing: Bing AI-Generated Stories In Search Results