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5 min read

Google Algorithm & Search Industry Updates in October 2020

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

Across October, we’ve seen a large shift in leading analytics platforms providing a more complete cross-channel view of the customer lifecycle, utilising machine learning to provide smart insights into consumer behaviours and website performance to drive more effective marketing decisions. We discuss the platform announcements below.

Microsoft announces Clarity 

Microsoft Clarity is a free analytics solution that became generally available on October 28th 2020, with the further USP of respecting consumer privacy by being GDPR compliant as a user behaviour tool.

From digging around Microsoft Clarity’s tool, it competes impressively with other user behaviour tools on the market, such as Hotjar and CrazyEgg minus the price point! After a quick set up, you’ll have access to customer session playbacks, heatmaps and an insights dashboard. 

Another useful feature of Clarity is the sheer data filtering options available, e.g. device, country, session duration, amount of clicks, browser, page count and many more. If that wasn’t enough from a free tool, Microsoft also states to have a “very low impact on page load times” and put absolutely no caps on traffic held and stored. If you’d like to find out further, read our full guide to Microsoft Clarity.

What does this mean for you

For marketers, Microsoft is providing a free solution that’s easy for both developers and non-developers to gain granular insights about their customer base, without mining data. In addition, the visualisations of the platforms heat mapping and session playbacks can help with A/B testing certain changes to the see and understanding how users are really interacting with your site. 

Google Analytics 4 Launches

Around the middle of October, Google Analytics 4 was launched, which will now be the default when adding a new property in GA. 

Google Analytics 4 focuses a lot more on customer-centric measurements, improved their integration with Google Ads and is now able to pull YouTube conversion into the platform. Google explained how their advanced machine learning models will now automatically alert you of any significant trends within your data sets, such as rise in consumer demand. 

A further integrated approach with Google Ads allows for much deeper insight into consumer behaviour, how they interact with you and to reach even more relevant audiences to help increase your overall ROI.

What does this mean for you

It’s advised to set up the new Google Analytics 4 for all existing properties to reap the AI based benefits available with this update. However, do bear in mind that this will require tag changes to mitigate disrupting the current tracking accuracy. If you require analytics consultancy from industry experts, be sure to get in touch. 

Google to Highlight Best Shopping Deals in SERPS

Google has rolled out new features in its US SERPs to help retailers highlight deals and boost their visibility as we enter the festive period. Businesses with Google Merchant Centre accounts can edit their promotions in the platform, with approval time taking hours now rather than days. 

This will apply to:

  • Google Shopping Ads
  • Free listings 
  • Google Images (on mobile)
  • Local inventory ads

Google will also launch a new ‘On Sale’ filter in the Shopping tab on desktop and mobile. Furthermore, the search engine giant will facilitate better reporting for promotional products; retailers can tag their promotional inventory with custom labels, which will then allow them to gather data on impressions and clicks across shopping ads and free listings so they can make more informed decisions. 

What does this mean for you

If you are a retailer looking to maximise the effectiveness of your online campaigns, these new updates will help you boost your visibility on the run up to Black Friday and Christmas. Google has said that the new features will be available to people who also just have free listing campaigns in the US. It is currently solely available in the US, but it may soon be spread to Europe. 

AI Updates: Google Announces Individual Passage Based Ranking 

Google hosted its Google Search On event on October 15th to detail the latest developments in its algorithm. During the event, the search engine giant announced several developments in its use of AI. They announced a new spelling algorithm to better understand misspelled words and the fact that BERT is now present in nearly 100% of queries.

Most notable, however, was the announcement that it is now better able to understand the relevance of specific passages on a page to a search query. Google is now able to identify specific passages on a page and use that to better determine which pages best answer a user’s intent. 

The ‘Passages’ update means that the search engine can find the and serve the pages with the most relevant information to a very specific search, even if the pages overall are lower in quality than more general pages without passages that answer the intent of the specific query. It is important to note, however, that this does not mean that Google is indexing specific passages, but rather it is better at ranking pages based on the relevance of its passages.

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Why does this mean for you

This update is seen as significant in the SEO community as it will affect 7% of all searches, according to Google. SEOs should review their content to find passages that answer specific queries, and optimise them by improving their heading structure, keyword targeting and internal linking. 

Google Lawsuit

Google is now the subject of a lawsuit by the US Department of Justice on the accusation that it holds an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising through contracts and agreements that stop competition. This is a landmark case as it is one of the most significant challenges to the dominance of Silicon Valley firms in recent years, and the most noteworthy since the US Department of Justice sued Microsoft in the 1990s.

What does this mean for you

The case is set to last for a number of years given its complexity, so there are no immediate considerations for SEOs. Nevertheless, if Google is found guilty of anti-competitive tactics it could lead to the company being broken up to make the search engine landscape more competitive. This would benefit other search engines such as Microsoft Bing and the potential new Apple search engine. SEOs would then be more ready to consider those search engines in their SEO strategies.