At the start of a new year Google often announces a flurry of changes and improvements to the search engine. It impacts website owners and webmasters as websites will need to be tweaked and changed as a result.
Google provide a very helpful 8 minute video here:
Here’s a summary of the main points:
Google Search Console updates
The updated Google Search Console is now two years old. It provides excellent summary information on your websites performance on Google search and is well worth signing up for if you haven’t already done so.
Mobile first indexing
Google have clarified that when your website switches to mobile first indexing, it will look at content only available to mobile devices. They will not look at the desktop version of your website at all.
Support for data-vocabulary.org structured data was recently deprecated. This markup was mostly used for breadcrumb markup, so if you added that early on, you should double-check the breadcrumb report in Search Console.
Enhancements to search and BERT for more natural language searches
Google is always tweaking and improving the way it responds to users’ searches. This is based on issues reported, feedback from testers and its own research on how user behaviour is trending.
For the uninitiated, BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers.
In practice it is the next stage Google’s objective of understanding the intent behind searches by understanding natural language better.
Search is about understanding language. It’s our job to figure out what you’re searching for and surface helpful information from the web, no matter how you spell or combine the words in your query.
Google Fellow and Vice President, Search
The technology enables anyone to train their own state-of-the-art question answering system. It helps Google understand natural language better and rank search results accordingly (Understanding BERT).
Websites using SSL must be properly configured
If your website uses secure SSL (running as https rather than http) then the latest version of Google Chrome will block or autoupgrade images or resources that cannot be loaded over SSL.
This should be something that your web developers should be able to fix (No more mixed content messages).
The original post in Google’s excellent Webmaster’s blog is here: Google search news for January 2020