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Peak Ace on Air Episode #22: Organic Search October 2020 Update

Did you miss us? After a week’s break, we’re back with another episode of Peak Ace on Air. And what better way to start a new month than with a little recap of what actually happened in October in the world of organic search. (Spoiler: it was a lot.)

How does a Google search actually work?

You’re in luck: Google published an hour-long video explaining all about how search actually works. Don’t let the length put you off – it’s a very informative, higher-level intro into the topic. It impressed us so much that it made its way into Peak Ace’s internal trainings!

Passage indexing

One of the big new stories in the Peak Ace October bulletin: Google has announced it will start also indexing individual passages from websites in the English language (at least for now.) Search Engine Journal has a great explainer on this topic with its implications for SEOs.

It’s actually more of a ranking change and not an indexing change, however. This means that Google will not only look at the content across the website, but will also be able to rank specific parts of the content on the search results, in order to get more precise results. For example: if the user’s question is best answered in one specific section of the page, and then that part is shown in the SERPs. This will affect around 7% of queries – by no means a small change.

Search Engine Journal has another article about the passage indexing leveraging the new BART algorithm. It’s a long read, so save time for it on your lunch break – it’s well worth it, and a must-read for our own SEOs.

How Google’s Core Web Vitals updates will impact online publications

Bastian also found a study about how Google’s Core Web Vitals’ criteria for evaluating website performance could affect online publications. The latest update could come as a significant hit, as some forms of -page advertising can cause website layouts to shift and jump around, detracting from user experience. (Remember when you could read the newspaper without jumping out of your seat at a sudden and ear-splittingly loud Honda commercial starting to play out of nowhere or the page sliding all over the place so you can only read half the story? Those were the days…)

Interactive content: how do masks work?

Dominique found an interesting content piece from the The New York Times about how face masks actually work to prevent coronavirus infection. This animated landing page is fully scrollable, showing the different ways that face masks work and explaining their effectiveness. We’d recommend you check out the piece as it’s a really nice showcase of how to use interactive content to make a complex topic understandable. It even includes an IG-filter which can be opened via QR code, to create some social media traffic.

One note though: the landing page did end up freezing Domi’s screen when she used it so as with all great ideas: execution matters too.

Ryte’s interview of Bing’s indexing team

Ryte, a website content optimisation platform, interviewed the indexing team at Bing and tweeted the main takeaways.

  • CTR can be used to determine the relevance of a query and will therefore affect rankings
  • Featured snippet satisfaction can be measured by how it diminishes the CTR of other search results
  • Links matter less for Bing than for other search engines
  • Bing tries to index updated content faster through easy-to-index API
  • Bing’s way of removing old/deleted content from the index is to simply 301 it to the homepage, rather than providing a 404/410 error.

This last point sparked a lot of controversy on Twitter as it seems a little strange…

What do journalists want? 

Reboot asked multiple journalists from major, predominantly UK publications about what they actually want from content pitches from PR people. Their study is a great guide to approaching journalists and getting your story featured.

The questions they asked were:

  1. Where do you come up with your ideas for stories from? Do you ever look at email pitches?
  2. What makes you open a pitch over another?
  3. Is there a preferred time of day that you read your email pitches?
  4. Do you ever read these at weekends or bank holidays?
  5. How far ahead do you plan your pieces to publish?
  6. What are your pet pitch peeves?
  7. Are you often asked to add a link on pieces you publish? What is your policy/opinion on this?

Answers were not very surprising, it’s easy to see differences between markets when it comes to outreach. But one of the universal insights from the study is that often, online editors make the decision based on whether the magazine can link to a piece or not. Lucky for you, this is easily determined beforehand by checking how the magazine links to outside sources currently. Are all the links no-follow or do they only do mentions?

And the greatest tip on how to get your content covered: make sure it has something the journalist would actually want to cover, with interesting and relevant data or other assets.

Google Webmaster Blog Updates

Last but not least, Google blogged about a few things we’d like to highlight.

They no longer support data-vocabulary, but that’s just as well, since it’s actually no longer recommended to use it anymore. Schema would work much better in this case.

Also, as the most important shopping season is approaching (and this year it’s never been more important), Google released some best practices for Black Friday- and Cyber Monday-related pages (or indeed any seasonal e-commerce page).

  1. Create the page early so that it gets crawled on time
  2. Follow standard SEO best practices
  3. Link to the page from your home page
  4. Use a recurring URL
  5. Include a relevant, high-quality image
  6. Remember to get your page recrawled

And that’s a wrap, phew! Next week we’ll be back with a new topic, to be announced later in our social channels. That gives you plenty of time to spend going through our other latest great episodes here on our blog.

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