Google gave us a couple of interesting insights into what is and isn’t important to search engine rankings during September, while Bing has been busy updating its platform to provide a better user experience.
Here are three of the biggest SEO stories from last month.
Keywords in Domain Name Aren’t Needed
Google’s John Mueller revealed in September that a keyword in a domain name won’t actually help the website rank for that keyword. The issue was raised during an Ask Google Webmasters video with the tech giant’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst stating that there is no ranking benefit gained from having keywords in domain names.
Responding to a question on this specific subject, Mueller said: “You don’t get a special bonus like that from having a keyword in your top-level domain. Anecdotally you can see that by searching naturally for anything that interests you. I’d venture a guess that the top results don’t have those keywords as a domain ending. Often it’s not even in the URL at all. That’s by design.
“Just because a website has a keyword in its domain name doesn’t mean that it’s more relevant than others for that keyword. In short, you don’t need to put keywords in the domain name.”
This has been quite the revelation in some quarters, as previously there have been some ranking factor studies that claimed the complete opposite.
Bing Upgrades Key Search Features
Bing spent September updating their key search features including autosuggest and ‘people also ask’ functions, as well as improving the intelligent answers according to region. The updates are designed to give Bing users a much wider range of results.
The upgrades also include semantic highlighting in search snippets, and have been possible due to Microsoft making significant advancements in the areas of Natural Language Representation and Natural Language Generation.
The autosuggest feature will now benefit from being integrated with a new technology called Next Phrase Prediction which will provide full phrase suggestions in real time for longer search terms. The intelligent answers feature now extends to 100 languages and over 200 regions, where previously it was only available in 13 markets.
Bing’s new use of semantic highlighting will also improve search snippets in all markets by highlighting related or relevant words in snippets beyond just the keyword used in the search.
Web Layout Changes Can Affect Rankings, Says Google
This September also saw Google warn website owners that updating their web layout might affect their search rankings. This is the case even if all the URLs and the site’s content remain exactly the same.
John Mueller confirmed: “Changing the layout of your pages can affect your search results. This is something that some people work on actively as well with regards to on-page SEO. So things like figuring out how to use titles properly on a page, how to do internal linking properly, how to provide more context for the article itself. All of this can definitely affect SEO.”
Rather than warning against making changes to web layouts, which are often necessary, Mueller said that it’s more that when you do make such changes, be sure to double check that everything has been done well. Pretty good advice!
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