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Google confirmed “Subtopics Ranking” launched in Mid-November 2020 | Jan 2021 W2

By vivian on January 15, 2021

Hey there, SEO Peeps! It’s Friday again and you know what that means… it’s time for your weekly dose of SEO News. And this has really been a busy week, so here’s a quick roundup of what’s important: 

  • Google Confirmed “Subtopics Ranking” launched in Mid-November 2020
  • Google Index Coverage Report Updated with More Specific Categories
  • Brand new performance report for Google News Publishers in Google Search Console
  • Google might not be launching the Page Experience & Core Web Vitals Label/ Icon in search after all
  • [Speculative] Are we moving on from BERT to SMITH?
  • Moz Whiteboard: 21 Smart Google SEO Tips for 2021

Read on to get the juicy details. 

11/1/2021 – Google Confirmed “Subtopics Ranking” launched in Mid-November 2020

Danny Sullivan recently confirmed on Twitter that the search company has launched the subtopics ranking feature or algorithm in the mid of November 2020, that is weeks after they announced it at the Search On event in October 2020. 

If you recall from the announcement, this subtopics ranking is a machine learning way for Google to “understand subtopics around an interest, which helps deliver a greater diversity of content when you search for something broad.”

The example cited by Google is that if you are searching for “home exercise equipment,” they can also now understand its relevant subtopics, such as budget equipment, premium picks, or small space ideas, and show a wider range of content on the SERP. 

Here’s the GIF Google used to illustrate:

Subtopics ranking

Sullivan also added on Twitter This is a feature to help users find related interesting finds and stresses that the subtopics ranking update won’t change the look of search results, only broaden the diversity of content, when useful.”

But did you notice this change back in November? To learn more, here’s a post from Google that will help you see how they understand and perceive subtopics: How AI is powering a more helpful Google

11/1/2021 – Google Index Coverage Report Updated with More Specific Categories

Google has updated the index coverage report in Google Search Console with more fine-grained status and categories. 

The change will cause some of the errors or statuses to relabeled with the new, more specific categories. An example Google gave was that the generic “crawl anomaly” status is no longer reported, and will be replaced with more specific issues.

Google index coverage

All crawl errors will also now be mapped to an issue with a finer resolution. Other changes also include; 

  • Pages that were submitted but blocked by robots.txt and got indexed are now reported as “indexed but blocked” (warning) instead of “submitted but blocked” (error)
  • Addition of a new issue: “indexed without content” (warning)
  • Soft 404 reporting is now more accurate

13/1/2021 – Brand new performance report for Google News Publishers in Google Search Console

Google has launched a brand new performance report just for Google News publishers within Google Search Console.

This new feature would be available for Google News publishers, in the sense like only those who get Google Discover traffic can see the Discover performance report.

It is important to note that this is different from the news filter in the Google performance report from last July. That filter shows you the “News” tab in Google Search.

Google News on GSC

This new Google News performance report, which has its own tab under the performance section under Search and Discovers, shows you data from news.google.com, and from the Google News app on Android and iOS.

13/1/2021 – Google might not be launching the Page Experience & Core Web Vitals Label/ Icon in search after all

When Google announced the launch date of the Google Page Experience Update it also said that

…they may launch a label or indicator in the search results to convey to the searcher which pages do well with those metrics.

In fact, we have reported this over the weeks as we noticed Google testing with icons on the SERP. 

But keep in mind, this indicator may never launch.

Martin Splitt from Google confirmed yesterday that this label may never become a reality. Martin said on Twitter “Can I re-emphasize that the badging is an experiment? It may not happen in the end. We are looking into options here, that’s it.”

13/1/2021 – [Speculative] Are we moving on from BERT to SMITH?

There have been some speculations in certain SEO groups and forums that Google has launched a new algorithm that is better than BERT and RankBrain, code-named SMITH, which stands for Siamese Multi-depth Transformer-based Hierarchical Encoder.

However, do note that this is NOT LIVE, and it is currently just a research paper from Google. 

Roger Monti who wrote about the research paper did not say it is in production use. In fact, Roger wrote that it would be “purely speculative to say whether or not it is in use.” The paper was first submitted on April 26, 2020; and then version two was published on October 13, 2020.

Barry Schwartz believes the speculation comes from some Black Hat World forum threads where some are seeing ranking changes and claiming it has to do with SMITH. Google has never said it launched SMITH in production search yet.

But what is SMITH? Here is the abstract below but it seems like SMITH improves on BERT where it can understand language more in “long-form document matching” versus “short text like a few sentences or one paragraph” where BERT shines.

So it looks like it will help Google understand long-form content much better, and is generally the direction that SEO is heading. 

Also ending this week with some helpful SEO tips for 2021, do check out Moz Whiteboard: 21 Smart Google SEO Tips for 2021.

Source: Moz Whiteboard

The session covered practical tips that you should implement to move the needle on your organic traffic, so we definitely recommend checking the video out!

And that’s the end of this week’s SEO news. Do share what news you find interesting and do you think SMITH will come out anytime soon in 2021?

With that, we hope you will continue to strive your SEO with SEOPressor, and do leave any tips on how we can continue to improve and help you with your SEO!

But most importantly, stay strong and safe. And see you again, next Friday.

Updated: 17 May 2021


About Vivian

Vivian is an anthropologist lost in the world of digital marketing. She has an interest in learning about the science of marketing and the creativity that businesses use to transform themselves into purple cows.

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