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Peak Ace on Air #34: Organic Search February 2021 Update

It feels like we’re rushing through 2021! It’s already March and the time for the organic search update for February has come. Lots of interesting things have happened and we had many topics to discuss. Some of the updates were even a bit controversial, which just goes to show that in the world of organic search, nothing is set in stone.

Associations in Google Search Console

Search Engine Land reported on Google updating the Search Console by allowing people to add “associations” or other Google properties to it. They want the GSC to be used as a hub for communications between developers, SEOs and other people who use Google’s services, to let us all get a better overview of what’s connected and who has access to which property. This makes it similar to Google Analytics.

The Google page experience update

Those who have been hoping (or fearing) that the new Google Page Experience Update would be a game-changer of sorts will most likely be disappointed (or relieved). As covered by Search Engine Land and Search Engine Roundtable, the update most likely won’t live up to the hype.

Indeed, the upcoming update is proof that if Google pushes something through its PR machine, it tends to get over-emphasised and initially seems much more momentous than it is. Needing to change from http to https was similar: it wasn’t a make-or-break situation if you didn’t make the change immediately, and you didn’t get a massive boost in rankings if you did.

Google’s Danny Sullivan also tweeted that updates of this calibre don’t have an impact as immediate as flipping a switch, and that the changes tend to be relative to an individual’s situation and position in the industry, or to the set of topic clusters you want to rank for.

It’s likely that page experience will become more valuable over time, but you shouldn’t except a done-deal after the launch. In conclusion: don’t lose sleep over it, but do get your website performance up to a good level and keep on improving it as a long-term process!

Google Search Console: Change in metrics

Google Search Console made another change; a small but noticeable one. They changed the thresholds for LCP, FID and CLS from “less than” to “less than or equal to”. Search Engine Land was quick to cover this topic in more depth, but the main thing to know is that you might see more green in your reports. Now, being right on the threshold is also considered “good”.

Google Passage Ranking live in the US

There’s more big news across the Atlantic; namely that the Google Passage Ranking update is now live for US English search results, as reported by Search Engine Land. There’s technically nothing new about that. However, contrary to the initial plans, for now Google will ONLY be rolling it out for the English language. At the moment, a rollout for other widely used and spoken languages is still on hold.

Now, this leaves a lot of room for speculation. Apparently, Google wants to rely on the language where they will have the most data to research the update’s impact. But will it stay that way? And does it mean that Google doesn’t think it’ll get enough data from other (even widely used and spoken) languages? We’ll probably never know.

If, at this point, you are a bit lost and thinking ‘what exactly is passage ranking again?’, just hop onto our Peak Ace on Air Episode from last year where we cover this update in more detail and present you with some good resources about it.

Google Search Center Live Event

Google held its first Search Center Live Event in 2021, tailored mostly to Asian time-zones; especially for Japan. At one point the moderators mentioned that it was 2am in America! We’re not sure if this could ever happen with Peak Ace on Air…

The event was, for the most part, a fireside chat with some Q&As. Participants could also see the Google podcast live. It didn’t really reveal much, except for when Gary from Google said that even page titles which are longer than what’s displayed carry value. So here’s a reminder for everyone using SEO tools that warn you about titles being too short or too long: just make the titles readable, sensible, and encouraging for the people clicking through to your website.

Google Search Console reporting soft 404s

Google updated its reporting on soft 404s (pages with content or products which are no longer available). This update could have done away with a lot of URLs deemed as “soft 404s”, as reported by GSQi in their article. They cover the topic a lot in their article, which looks into what soft 404s are and how you can work with them, as well as providing other top tips. So, what are you waiting for? Go and read their article if the softer side of 404s is relevant to your website.

How to use Google Search Console API and Google Clouds/JavaScript with Google Sheets

The Google Search Console API might be difficult to use sometimes, but a lot of webmasters (and, of course, SEO managers) rely on it to push data from Google to other reports. Bastian found this great article by Tobias Willman on how to use API and JavaScript in order to get your data into a Google Sheet. So, if you are struggling with API, do read the piece. It’s a good low-barrier entry into the topic.

An SEO roadmap with free resources

For those just starting out in SEO, not knowing what’s important and where to start, this massive collection from learning.seo is truly all you’ll need. It’s a spreadsheet which you can copy and edit to your liking, covering resources from Google as well as from bigger SEO tool and content provider sites. It compiles information on tech SEO, linkbuilding, web performance, mobile, EAT, free tools for web performance monitoring – basically, we can safely say that it covers everything SEO out there. If something isn’t on the list, it’s probably not that important!

The Best Digital PR & Link Building Campaigns from Root

Here’s another massive list for inspiration, this time for creative link building content marketing campaigns. Root Digital created a big list of digital pr & link building campaigns, with over 300 campaigns being listed! You can browse the list by industry or by market to get a better idea of the types of content that have previously worked for specific markets. You’ll get the link count of the campaign and some other basic information, and then you can actually visit the campaign via a link. So, if you were looking for some campaign inspiration, look no further – they’ve got it covered.

Making cold emails hot again

Cold emails are not just for B2B companies, they are part of the daily lives of content marketers and digital PR managers. That’s why it’s great that Dominique found the recap from Bibi Raven about her session in the Digital PR summit.

It’s important to scale your outreach efforts into different markets in order to be efficient, but sending a lot of emails too quickly means they won’t be super personal, which can diminish their quality. However, there is a middle-ground to be achieved through segmentation.

In her session, Bibi points out that it’s always important to think about the target audience, the target magazines, and how to segment emails in order to address each one to different target groups. She gives some tips on broad and narrow targeting, such as looking for sites that rank for the keywords you are targeting, sites which are important for the customer’s journey, and sites about the topics your audience is interested in.

This helps with keeping your outreach emails both efficient and personal, as the huge mass of contacts is segmented into smaller sections. This is also the method we use with our outreach templates, which we tailor for each target magazine or audience type – from press, to lifestyle, to career and HR.

Google showing fewer featured snippets

As reported by Search Engine Roundtable, as of the middle of February Google has been showing fewer featured snippets than before. We’re not sure of the reason for this; whether it’s a bug, or if something else has been going on. The number of featured snippets is back on the up now, as we’ve seen with our clients, but it’s still not at the level it used to be.

PDFs can be ranked as featured snippets

If you think that PDFs are just something that B2B companies use to collect email addresses, think again. As per this tweet from Glenn Gabe, it seems that PDFs can be shown as featured snippets. This is interesting, as we content marketers are often asked to create whitepapers for our clients and put them on websites as PDFs, only for them to end up sitting on the landing pages as links. So, if they really can be shown as fractured snippets, it could have an impact on how people will view the importance of PDFs in general and on how they are written.

The importance of PDFs can sometimes be inflated, but they are still a valuable resource for attracting certain target audiences. The issue that frequently arises with them is the fact that they are often not optimised for mobile. They are usually huge in size; mobile phones just save them somewhere and don’t open them immediately, and they are not easy to read on a mobile screen. So, if you do use PDFs, make sure that they are scannable, diminished in size (there are a lot of tools for that), and that they provide great added value. If they meet these criteria, then they are definitely worth creating.

And that’s a wrap for February! The recap for March will air after Easter, but until then there are a lot of interesting episodes happening about B2B marketing, events, mobile first indexing and, excitingly, our birthday episode! Make sure to follow us on Linkedin, Facebook and Youtube so that you never miss when a new episode airs (spoiler alert: every Tuesday at 4pm Berlin time).

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