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The Featured Snippet: March 2020

The Featured Snippet is the official SEO newsletter of Performics and is dedicated to keeping you update-to-date with the latest SEO industry news, trends, and events—all in an easy-to-read, summed-up format. See below for the latest version of The Featured Snippet:

In the March 2020 issue of The Featured Snippet:

  • Google & Bing COVID-19 Updates:
    • SERP Design Changes
    • COVID-19 Websites
    • SpecialAnnouncement Schema
  • Google to Move All Websites to Mobile-First Indexing (September 2020) 
  • Nofollow Attributes Now Treated as a “Hint” (March 1, 2020) 
  • Google Creates Support Group for Health Organizations
  • Google Gives Advice for How to Pause Business Online 
  • Google My Business COVID-19 Updates:
    • Google Provides Advice to Local Business
    • Google Disables Reviews, Q&A, and Editing of Business Listings

Google & Bing COVID-19 Updates

Both Google and Bing made several updates throughout the month of March in terms of keeping its users informed about the COVID-19 pandemic. Below we outline several of the highlights that both of the major search engines implemented including SERP changes, website updates, and schema updates. 

SERP Design Changes: 

Bing and Google made big updates to their search engine results pages with COVID-related searches. These SERP changes include surfacing the most recent COVID-related news, important information, and COVID-related data. Here’s a look at Bing and Google’s SERP for COVID-related searches: 

Google’s SERP [Updated: 4/7/2020]: 

Bing’s SERP [Updated: 4/7/2020]: 

COVID-19 Websites: 

Both Bing and Google created COVID-specific sites to inform users about up-to-date COVID information and data. Both sites offer tables/graphs regarding the latest COVID data, safety and prevention tips, important resources, and much more. Below are links to both sites and screenshots of each: 

Google COVID Site [Updated: 4/7/2020]:

Bing COVID Site [Updated: 4/7/2020]: 

SpecialAnnouncement Schema

Google and Bing also announced that they are supporting a new schema typed called SpecialAnnouncment, which allows organizations to mark up important COVID-19 updates, such as shelter-in-place directives, closure notices, and quarantine guidelines. When implemented, Google may choose to display these updates as rich snippets in SERPs. An example of what these rich snippets could look like is below: 

Google has an array of other resources to inform searchers and to help groups like local businesses and health organizations, available below. For a full list of things Google has completed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, check out this lengthy Twitter thread from the Google SearchLiaison account: 

Some of the highlights in this thread include: 


Google to Move All Websites to Mobile-First Indexing (September 2020) 

Back in November 2016, Google announced that it will start moving sites over to mobile-first indexing. After several waves of switching sites to mobile-first indexing in the span of four years, Google has announced that it will move all sites to mobile-first indexing. As a reminder, mobile-first indexing means that Google will use the mobile version of the site for indexing and ranking purposes. If your sites have not yet moved over, it’s important to check out Google’s mobile-first best practices to ensure your site is ready for this change.  


Nofollow Attributes Now Treated as a “Hint” (March 1, 2020) 

This news was covered in the September 2019 edition and the February 2020 edition of The Featured Snippet, but as another reminder, this update created two new nofollow attributes (“sponsored” and “ugc” or user-generated content) and announced that Google may use the attribute as a “hint” for ranking. They also announced that starting March 1, 2020, Google may now use the nofollow attribute as a “hint” for crawling or indexing. These updates are now officially rolled out by Google.

To better illustrate the change of the nofollow attribute, Moz created this very helpful chart shown below:


Google Creates Support Group for Health Organizations

During the global COVID-19 crisis, Google has been working hard to support health organizations who provide health-related content. Google released a best practices guide for these organizations that outlines recommendations for content creation and checking to see if your site is ranking for COVID-19 terms. This best practices guide can be found on the Google Webmasters forum. Additionally, Google has launched a support group aimed to help health organizations be more accessible on Google Search. In order to request access to this group, Google has requested that health organizations fill out this form


Google Gives Advice for How to Pause Business Online 

The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses to pause their online business altogether. In an effort to help webmasters through this tough time, the Google Webmaster blog released a guide to pausing online business. This guide includes practical tips, such as pausing site functionality connected to ecommerce and communicating news to customers. Google does not recommend disabling a site altogether.


Google My Business COVID-19 Updates 

Google Provides Advice to Local Business

Google My Business provided a handful of recommendations for users during the COVID-19 crisis and the breadth of national shut downs as many cities and states transitioned to new policies, such as shelter-in-place. These recommendations include updating listings to care for new, shortened hours or changes in services. Businesses may also mark their locations as temporarily closed.

Google Suspends Reviews, Q&As

In addition to providing best practices for GMB listings during the COVID-19 outbreak, reviews and replies to reviews have been suspended for the time being. The pause in functionality was likely implemented to help out businesses as reviews during this trying time may not be indicative of the businesses’ quality and level of service overall.

For a complete timeline of all changes to Google My Business during March, check out Sterling Sky’s timeline of local SEO updates