There was little news from Google on updates in January 2022, but there seems to have been a lot of volatility in search results again. With no official response from Google, SEO experts are looking for explanations. In the meantime, SEOPress made the SEO news by releasing a free instant indexing feature that lets WordPress sites request crawls from both Google and Bing.
Getting indexed is the important first step to ranking in Google. Getting indexed faster means getting ranked faster and that can only be good news.
Unconfirmed updates in January
Writing for Search Engine Roundtable, Barry Schwartz is an amazing source of information on Google news. He has an impressive range of SEO tools to follow changes in search engine results and he reported on what appeared to be one or more unconfirmed Google updates on January 11th, 14th & 15th, 19th & 20th and 22nd.
Analyzing these results and the reaction on SEO and webmaster forums, he concludes that there must have been one or more updates to Google’s algorithms in January, but these are unconfirmed by Google.
On January 21st, author Jason Barnard alerted Barry and other SEO experts that he was also seeing changes to updates in Google’s Knowledge Graph (an encyclopedic database about people, places and events used by Google to understand searches and also present information in search results). This suggests that changes in search results experienced in November last year and in January this year may not be caused by an algorithmic change, but updated Knowledge Graph data. It would be nice to know for sure!
Latest (unconfirmed) search algo update coincides with a #KnowledgeGraph update (again)
Intriguing. They were in synch November… then out of synch.
Just synched again.
— 𝄢 Jason Barnard 𝄢 (@jasonmbarnard) January 21, 2022
Changes to the Recipes schema
On January 18th, Google announced that it had changed the requirements for the Recipe schema that sites use to get rich snippets in search results for recipe searches. See our case study about Optimizing a Blog’s Recipe Pages with Schema to see how that is done.
This is a very small change, but important to know about if you do publish recipes on a WordPress blog. The structured data schema has properties concerning times: Preparation time, cooking time and total time. Google had previously suggested that these properties could contain time ranges, for example “10 to 15 minutes”. It now says that the properties must contain exact times. According to the schema.org definition of this data type, the correct value for a Preparation time of 10 minutes would be “PT10M” – using the ISO 8601 formatting for durations.
If you use Recipe schema, you should check that you follow these guidelines.
Dangers of language quality
On New Year’s Eve, Google’s John Mueller hosted a Google SEO hangout to answer SEO questions to an international audience (some may have been in January 2022 at the time of recording, which is why it gets into January’s Google News). One question asked whether a new, poor translation on a multilingual website could have a negative effect on the original language version on the same site.
The short answer was “Yes,” and the discussion brought up two interesting points.
- Firstly, that the quality of written content is a signal that Google uses to rank pages.
- Secondly, the quality score is calculated over a whole site. This is why a bad translation of all pages could have a negative effect on the original language. Many pages of poor content could lower the overall score of the site and cause ranking losses, even for high quality pages in the original language.
Google has already indicated that machine translated text is not considered good quality and it suggests that pages translated by machine translation (including Google Translate) should be noindexed (which means setting the meta robots tag to noindex).
Interestedly, the discussion drifted through the subjects of core updates and quality raters’ guidelines before concluding that blocking indexing of a new and poor translation would be the best solution. Possibly improving translations of important pages first before removing the noindex tag from them.
You can learn a lot more about multilingual SEO with our eBook International SEO with WordPress.
For setting meta robot tags in SEOPress see Manage Meta Robots.
John Mueller on English Google SEO office hours from December 31, 2021
Instant indexing for WordPress
As mentioned in our October 2021 news, Microsoft Bing and Yandex launched the IndexNow instant indexing API last year and Microsoft suggested that an IndexNow feature be added to the WordPress core.
Although discussion was lively on the update request, this is unlikely to happen. Microsoft therefore took the initiative of releasing their own IndexNow plugin for WordPress that enables automated submission of URLs from WordPress sites to both Bing and Yandex.
For the moment Google does not officially participate in the IndexNow initiative, but it is experimenting with it internally according to information given in the Off the record episode What to expect from Google Search Central in 2022recorded in January. It does, however, offer its own indexing API and, although this officially only supports requests to crawl certain types of pages, SEOs have reported that requesting crawls for any type of page does increase the speed of indexing.
With these very recent developments in mind, SEOPress added a new fast indexing feature to version 5.4 of the SEOPress FREE plugin which was released on January 20th. This new feature allows you to send up to 200 requests per day for Google and 10,000 for Bing. This popular initiative will improve and grow as search engines endeavor to find more sustainable ways to update their indexes.
Search Console URL Inspection API
On January 31st, Google announced the creation of the Search Console URL Inspection API. In the announcement, Google said that use cases would include:
- SEO tools and agencies can provide ongoing monitoring for important pages and single page debugging options. For example, checking if there are differences between user-declared and Google-selected canonicals, or debugging structured data issues from a group of pages.
- CMS and plugin developers can add page or template-level insights and ongoing checks for existing pages. For example, monitoring changes over time for key pages to diagnose issues and help prioritize fixes.
URL inspection is a feature in Google Search Console (previously Google Webmaster Tools) that gives you extra information about any webpage on your site. After entering a URL at the top of the Search Console page you will be able to see whether that URL is indexed in Google, reasons why it may not be indexed, when it was last crawled and what enhancements are possible through structured data found on the page.
On Search console, the result of one URL inspection will look like this.
Using an API, site owners can now retrieve this information for up to 2000 URLs per day. It will be interesting information to have in WordPress to check whether posts have been correctly indexed and refreshed since their last update. Coming soon to your screens soon!
If you haven’t already done so, now is the right time to create your Google Search Console account and validate your site, you can follow the guide here: Add your site to Google (Search Console).