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This Month in Search – November 2021

November’s ‘must know’ search and digital stories from across the web all in one place…

Tuesday 16th November

Voice Search Not the Future

This has been on my read list for a few days (I like the author, and the subject covered was a conversation by a couple of smart Googlers). Despite having repeatedly poohpoohed the ‘voice search is the future’ optimism, I find myself in the odd position of having to disagree with some of the conclusions of the article (though not the quotes used).

The quotes – and some of the article – refer specifically to ‘future of SEO’ – this, I think is a matter of interpretation. Google is now far far better at understanding natural language than it was when voice search became ‘a thing’. Its passage ranking and various topic retrieval tweaks, have made the Google algorithm far better a prospect for voice search (though not, as ever it was, transactional queries, which may be where the cold water has come from that has clearly been poured on the ambitions of a Star Trek style interface).

Voice search absolutely is a part of the future, and it will represent an aspect of the future of search – will it be something that needs to be worried about by SEOs? Probably not – though various methods of mixed interface could change that. As someone that has been kicking this subject down the road as dependent on a couple of specific technologies, it’s weird for me to be in this position, but while I wouldn’t recommend putting your eggs in the voice search basket, I think writing it off completely would also be a mistake.

Monday 15th November

Google Ads Bug resolved

Over the weekend, CPC went what – in technical terms – is known as ‘completely bonkers’, with CPC raising anywhere from 20-4000% for some Google Ads accounts.

The Google Ads system encountered an unexpected issue between 6pm PST on Friday Nov 12 – 3am PST Saturday, Nov 13 that affected Shopping Ads. We identified and fixed the issue. Everything is working as expected now.

There has been indication that Google will be issuing refunds, but not how much or for what. If your account has been impacted (pretty much anything operating Shopping Ads), then you or your account manager will need to contact a Google Rep for

Friday 12th November

Microsoft Audience Network policy update

Personally, I’ve not had much experience with Microsoft Advertising, so this came as a shock to me – but it appears that the platform has updated its policies to bring it inline with others in the ad space. The new policies will now forbid the advertising of lawsuits, gambling and other generally prohibited products and services. The move is covered in more detail on the Search Engine Land blog.

Amazon algorithm battles

There won’t be too much to surprise anyone that has dealt with Amazon and its algorithms – but in a second Search Engine Land piece for the day, there’s something to be said for the conclusion that it represents a similar struggle to the traditional SEO vs Google battle that has been in progress for the last few decades. Accusations of an overreliance on algorithms vs. a general complacency on behalf of tech that is reinforced by growing profits.

Thursday 11th November

B2B sales post

Another quiet news day leads to another non-newsy recommended read – this time Econsultancy. While it’s a sponsored post, and therefore should be taken with a pinch of salt, it raises some interesting points on the need to simplify the path to purchase for B2B services.

Spam update complete

It’ll take a little while before the research comes back on the real impact of the update, but Google has announced that the ‘November 2021 Spam Update’ (catchy) has been completely rolled out.

Wednesday 10th November

Dwell time discussion

On a day where there’s little noteworthy going on, there’s a nice little dissection of dwell time on the SEJ site. There’s nothing hugely revelatory in the conclusion that it’s not a ranking factor, but there is an interesting point made that, along with other often discussed metrics, it is likely a part of what makes your site ‘healthy’ – though the metrics themselves have no impact on your rankings, the sum of their parts – a generally useful and user friendly website certainly is. It’s an argument that will go on – and while I vacillate on the subject, it’s tough to think of a reason that individual Googlers would lie about it.

Google My Business Rebrand (and some other stuff)

Google My Business wasn’t its original name, and Google Business Profiles may come and go, but there’s an interesting article on Search Engine Land about how Google is (mis?)using the dashboard and access to small business owners in an attempt to combat anti-trust legislation in the US.

This is why I specified individual Googlers – the business itself has developed an unerring ability to find the wrong choice in a wide range of late. The ‘why we care’ section is well worth a read.

Tuesday 9th November

Theories on the ‘November spam update’

While nothing definitive has been announced by Google beyond the update itself, there have been a few articles on the possible targets that might have been aimed at by the update – this includes cloaked text containing links, but is more broadly, according to general consensus, content which breaches webmaster guidelines.

Monday 8th November

There will be blood more updates

SE Roundtable features an article based around a tweet from Danny Sullivan. As Barry Schwarz points out in response to one of the comments, it’s less interesting from a news perspective based on the information in the tweet, more that it’s been around a year since the last confirmed update, so it’s interesting to see comment – especially following speculation on the update to the Quality Rater Guidelines.

danny sullivan 2021 November Tweet

New Facebook Group Features

In what I can only assume to be an attempt to really capitalise on becoming the acceptable face of 8-chan, Facebook are allowing MySpace style customisation options to Facebook groups which will allow admins to:

  • Customise colours, post backgrounds, fonts, and emoji reactions.
  • Select formats they want members to use when posting in a group.
  • Create a unique greeting message for all new members joining a group.

There are also new options from Reddit and other image boards:

  • Facebook Group admins will have the ability to create subgroups around specific topics.
  • The option to communicate in real-time with other group members through Facebook or Messenger.
  • The option to set up regular events online or in person.
  • Give virtual awards to other members, recognising contributions.

There are plenty of other familiar ‘new’ options which you can check out in a SE Journal article on the changes.

Machine Written Content

While the most shocking thing about this was the fact that 2017 was four years ago, it bears commenting on as the community increasingly experiences the buzz around bulk content production using various ML products. As things stand, it may go against the rules – but I’ve seen algorithmically generated content lately that’s better written than human efforts, and I’d be interested to see how they’d spot the difference at this point. The comment from John Mueller on the possible rule change is covered on SE Roundtable.

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