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Google I/O 2019 SEO Highlights

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GOOGLE I/O

Google constantly crawls around 130 trillion webpages, notwithstanding the hundreds of thousands of new websites that are added to the internet every day! For web content publishers and developers around the world, this means that it might be a while before their website is crawled and indexed (by the Googlebot), and consecutively discovered by users through Google Search! If you are worried your website is not getting enough online traffic, the recent Google I/O 2019 conference held in California, USA might have useful insights to help your situation. Sit back and have a look at the biggest announcements that were made at the eagerly-awaited, annual symposium and their impact on global SEO (search engine optimization) trends.

  • Revolutionary, new Google Image Search

Google has come a long way since when its search results were minimalist, blue links to websites that featured as its top ten search results. Today, you can do so much more with visually rich content to have your website/online business be instantly noticed both on Google as well as its products like Google Discover. Web content publishers and developers would benefit from images that are not just relevant in terms of what the user is searching for i.e. keywords but can also be interpreted more accurately on account of the context that they come along with. If you are a little lost here, picture searching for ‘tire swings’ in Google Image Search – if images came with descriptors like ‘how to build a tire swing’ or ‘buy tire swings in India online’, it would help you find what you are looking for faster.

The following are a few points worth remembering when including images on your site:

  • Use high-quality images that are contextually relevant to the text on your site.
  • Do not include important text inside the image – place it around or alongside the image instead.
  • Use descriptive, well thought-out file names, a unique URL and structured data markup like product (https://schema.org/Product) and recipe (https://schema.org/Recipe) for your images.
  • Mobile-first indexing is changing the way a webpage is discovered, with more than half of all websites being crawled and indexed by Googlebot for smartphone. It is recommended that you have the same website for both mobile devices and desktops, with images that are responsive to different devices (you can use the <picture> element for this).
  • Do not block the crawling of images on your site by using robots.txt.
  • Until recently, Google used the older version 41 of the rendering engine, Chrome. However, it now uses the latest, evergreen version of Chrome that will now be continuously updated. Use the lazy loading option with the IntersectionObserver, a default feature of the new Chrome renderer.
  • Let Googlebot know that you are providing large, high-resolution images by opting in through the Google Search Console with specific structured data. This will ensure that your images are shown across Google products, like Google Discover. (This Feature was announced as “Coming Soon”)
  • Embedding images by using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) will lead to them being ignored for crawling. Use img tags so that Google can discover your images without any delay.
  • AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages) with images can benefit from Google Image Search, where the former’s pre-fetched or rendered version will be made available to the user when they ‘swipe up to navigate’.
  • 3D images will be made part of augmented reality which will enable users to view comprehensive 3D models in Google Search.  (This Feature was announced as “Coming Soon”)

 

  • Structured data markup

Structured data indicates to Google how you want your content/webpage showcased in various search results. In other words, a web publisher or developer must use structured data markup to communicate the context of their web content in a machine-readable format to Google. You must remember here that using structured data does not mean that you will surely land rich results (which are a combination of rich cards and rich snippets, for a more interactive user experience).

Ensure that you stick to Google’s structured data guidelines for grammatical soundness. Having an uncluttered website of high quality is also way to gain rich results. In fact, Google webmasters John Mueller and Martin Splitt recommend that you first determine what rich result you would like for your webpage, execute the structured data markup via a test page, and use the rich results test feature on Google Search Console. They also suggest using JSON-LD to execute structured data, although microdata and RFAs are also an option.

The following are the new types of structured data that will be part of the upcoming rich snippets:

  • The ‘how-to’ webpage directs users to execute a specific task with descriptive text, images and even tutorial videos in a comprehensible and logical sequence.
  • If your webpage contains a question followed by multiple answers on a specific subject, it is called a ‘Q&A’ page. In this case, you can use the structured data markup schema.org QAPage, Question, and Answer types.
  • If your webpage contains many questions and answers on it, it is an FAQ page.
  • It is important that your webpage prominently display the correct date with the relevant time zone. Use the datePublished and dateModified schema with the correct time zone designator for AMP or non-AMP pages. When using structured data, make sure to use the ISO 8601 format for dates.


  • Google Search and JavaScript sites

Google has started working towards making sure that JavaScript, which is now a regular feature of almost every website, works in favour of and not against SEO. Googlebot now employs the latest, constantly-updated version of Chrome to render and crawl webpages for search. This means that a developer can take advantage of the numerous features of JavaScript without requiring the use of as many polyfills (a piece of code to execute those features that are not supported on a browser) as in the past.

The new JavaScript features supported now include ES6, Web Components v1 instead of the previous Web Components v0.

No matter what application architecture you use, be it React, Vue.Js, Angular or others, the previous Google I/O 2018 update of dynamic rendering being a probable solution to JavaScript not being successfully processed by crawlers is no longer reliable. Instead of this previous work-around measure, you are advised to now consider a combination of server-side rendering and hydration, along with pre-rendering that is suited to static, seldom-updated pages like blogs. It is also important to remember that lazy-loading is used to initialise/load images only when needed i.e. as the user scrolls through a webpage, leading to the more efficient operation of a program. Use the loading = “lazy” tag inside the image tag to make this happen.

  • What about websites that have been discovered but not crawled yet?

The Googlebot places URLs that it discovers in a queue and crawls, renders and indexes them individually, as opposed to going from one linked page to another instantly. If you see a ‘Discovered – currently not indexed’ status for your website on the Google Search Console, it means that the Googlebot has not indexed/crawled your site although it knows it exists. This could be because your site’s crawl budget, i.e. the frequency at which the Googlebot crawls a website, is too low. The crawl budget is also applicable to resources loaded from the webpage during rendering, namely JavaScript files loaded from script tags or XHR, or fetch requests triggered by JavaScript. In order to optimize your crawl budget, make sure any unnecessary JavaScript requests are deleted.

  • New features in the Google Search Console

The Google Search Console, as Martin puts it, is your window into the world of search for everything regarding your website. All the vital features of the older search console have been migrated to the new version. The all-new Google Search Console makes available to you an index coverage report that contains stats about which webpages have been crawled and if they have not, the reason for it. The performance report indicates how your website has been performing over a specific period. Besides these, the speed report will show you how fast your webpages are, while the discover report will let you check your webpages’ metrics such as clicks and impressions.

The world of SEO is fast-changing and keeping up with the latest website-building trends and their impact on it can only work to the advantage of all budding SEO professionals. We are already looking forward to next year’s Google I/O conference and the announcement of the latest innovations in the worldwide web & Search Marketing.

Big thanks to my colleague Hiten for helping me with this article.

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