The big story in August was all about page titles, as SEOs started to see a high volume of SERPs with rewritten titles (often based on H1s on the page). We’re also seeing some more clarification and detail around the Page Experience update (including Core Web Vitals) and how it integrates with the core algorithm updates.
In other Google news, the July link spam update took a month to fully roll out, and Google is still working on moving all websites to mobile-first indexing. John Mueller offered some thoughts on handling website downtime and Google News sitemaps, and the Google Trends team published a list of 15 tips for getting the most out of Google Trends. On the SERP features front, SEOClarity did an analysis that showed the People Also Ask and Local pack features were the most commonly shown in SERPs, and Google is now showing an “Affordable Picks” carousel in mobile search. We’re also seeing a “Did You Know” box in Bing search results.
And for those who want to test their SEO knowledge, Google has updated the format of their documentation to be more interactive, with a new “Google Crawling Exam”.
August’s Top Stories
Google rewriting page meta titles: in mid-August, SEOs started to notice some rewrites to page titles appearing in SERPs. While it’s not unusual for Google to make small adjustments to titles, these changes seemed to be happening on a larger scale and with more dramatic alterations (with meta title copy being replaced completely with H1 tags, anchor text or other text from the page), with some websites reporting significant impact on performance. There was speculation that this was related to the relatively new “passages” indexing, although Google has now stated that this is not the case. In response to the discussion, Google’s Danny Sullivan proposed a possible solution, although so far this is not officially something Google is planning to do.
Google did, however, release updated guidance providing more details on the update, and clarifying that they did introduce a new system of title generation during that timeframe, which is not based on the query but rather focuses on describing the overall content of the document. These rewrites are also apparently generated dynamically, and can change in response to modified title tags on the page.
More details on the Page Experience update: on Aug 4, Google announced that they were removing the Safe Browsing signal from the Page Experience report in Google Search Console, citing the reason that “these issues aren’t always within the control of site owners” and that Safe Browsing is not being used as a ranking signal.
John Mueller also stated in early August that the Page Experience update was more than just a tie breaker ranking signal, saying that “it is a ranking factor, …but it also doesn’t replace relevance.” According to John this is not a change in how the update works, but rather a clarification around how it’s been understood by SEOs. He also clarified that the June and July core updates that rolled out separate from the Page Experience update were not focused on page speed, despite speculation that this was the case.
Read on for our roundup of what else is new in search this month:
Industry News and Updates
- Bing shows a “Did You Know” box in search results
- Google: Website downtime shouldn’t impact search rankings
- Google: Try to use one sitemap file for Google News
- Google: Core updates can sometimes impact Image Search and Local Search
- Data: Most popular Google Search features are People Also Ask & Local pack [SEOClarity]
- Unconfirmed algorithm update: Google Search Ranking Algorithm Update August 6th Through The Weekend?
- July Google Link Spam update took a long time to roll out
- Aug 15: Google Search Ranking Algorithm Update On Saturday (possibly related to link spam update)
- Aug 18: Google Link Spam Update Still Rolling Out Over 3 Weeks Later
- Aug 25: Google Link Spam Update Took A Full Month To Roll Out
- Google adds author URL property to uniquely identify authors of articles
- Google Trends: 15 tips for getting the most out of Google Trends
- Google now showing “Affordable Picks” carousel in mobile search
- Google still working on moving all sites to mobile-first indexing – no ETA
- Official Google Crawling Exam: Google tests your SEO knowledge on crawling
GSC and BWT Updates
- Google Developers Blog: Simplifying the Page Experience report (removing Safe Browsing and Ad Experience plus other improvements)
- FAQ: Google Search Console Insights – behind the curtains
- Google’s tool to report indexing bugs is now available in the U.S.