There were several new developments across the search engine landscape last week. These include aesthetic changes, how search engines acquire and match data, and even how to go about submitting a webpage to Google Index.
Amazon’s Alexa Now Uses Yext to Acquire Local Business Data
This past week, Amazon changed the way Alexa acquires local business data. Previously, this data came indirectly from Yelp, but now it will come directly from Yext.
The change was instituted so that search results from Alexa will include the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding business names, addresses, phone numbers, and hours of operation. It has been reported that Yext intends to expand these data fields in the future to provide more information.
Takeaway: Businesses that use Yext or a business directory management solution (like Mediagistic Premium Listings) that integrates with Alexa will be optimized for voice-related searches performed through Alexa. Considering the Amazon Echo currently leads the pack in terms of smart speaker market share, this means companies using these solutions will have an edge on any competition that isn’t using these services.
Google Assistant and Speakable Match Queries to Relevant TTS Results
The speakable markup is the result of a collaboration between Google and schema.org that quickly identifies portions of a webpage or an article that are well-suited for text to speech (TTS). Speakable structured data allows the Google Assistant to reach a wider user base by disseminating content through new channels.
The Google Assistant uses such data to return up to three results for topical news searches and supports audio playback for TTS. When a speakable section is read out loud by the Google Assistant, it identifies the source and sends the article’s URL to your phone or other mobile device.
Takeaway: Google is preparing for a future where voice-related search is the new frontier. Search will soon become more diversified than ever, and businesses need to be prepared to stay at the forefront of these trends. Now is the time to start looking at the microdata on your site and seeing if it’s up to par.
A New Design for Google’s Image Search Results Pages
It seems that Google has been testing out a new look for its image results search pages. This redesign features the rounded corners that were rolled out for Google’s most recent redesign of regular results, along with a few other changes.
The new design has an in-line photo viewer that opens to the left of the results pages. It allows users to keep scrolling down while continuing to view the selected image. The background of the results pages has been changed from black to white and the once colorful image search suggestions have also been changed to a plain white.
Takeaway: Since this redesign is still being tested, most users will probably continue to see the same results page that they’re accustomed to seeing. All of these new design elements are purely aesthetic. One would imagine that Google is simply trying to create a unified look for its image results pages and its regular SERPs. But industry observers believe that image SEO is coming back in a big way, and this change only confirms that Google is looking at opportunities to improve the UX of image search.
New White Panel for Google’s Local Panel
Since January, Google has been testing a new design for local panels in mobile search results. The first difference is that the interface has been changed from blue to white. Another difference is that the correlating call, directions, and website buttons are now enclosed in a circle.
Takeaway: These are merely aesthetic changes that don’t really affect the user experience. Many users will already be able to see these changes, but others may have to wait just a little while. However, this further illustrates that Google is looking to holistically incorporate local search into the overall search engine experience. Many SEO experts say we’re quickly moving into a world where all search is becoming local, and this move underscores this point.
Google’s Public URL Submission Tool is No More
Anyone who has tried to submit pages to Google Index recently already knows that the process has been changed. Google has removed its public URL submission tool and they suggest using Search Console’s Fetch and Submit Tool. Users can also notify Google of new pages by submitting a sitemap file.
You can submit up to ten individual URLs a day by following a few simple steps. However, to submit pages through Search Console you must be able to verify that you own that site. It’s also worth mentioning that a request takes several days for a request to be granted. Additionally, recrawling isn’t guaranteed and will not take place immediately.
Takeaway: Since now you must prove ownership, this could cause issues for those who want to submit new URLs for websites they don’t personally own. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress that automatically submits your sitemap, you won’t have to worry about this too much.