The latest news in SEO and WordPress: December 2020 • Yoast

Camille Cunningham

Camille is content manager at Yoast. She writes and optimizes blog posts and enjoys creating content that helps people understand and master SEO.

Camille is content manager at Yoast. She writes and optimizes blog posts and enjoys creating content that helps people understand and master SEO.

It’s December, the last month of the year and that means that we’ve also had our last webinar of 2020. In this month’s edition, our SEO experts Joost de Valk and Jono Alderson discuss the latest in Google, Facebook, WordPress and other SEO news. To give some spoilers, you can expect to hear more about the importance of mobile optimization and the release of WordPress 5.6! Watch the webinar right here or read the highlights of our SEO news webinar in December 2020.

Watch the December 2020 SEO news webinar

In case you’ve missed this edition of our monthly webinar, or if you simply want to rewatch it, you can do so right here. It’s about 45 minutes long, and this is including a few interesting questions at the end. If you simply want to read the highlights, you can find those in the blog post below. Enjoy and don’t forget to join us for our next webinar on January 26, 2021!

What’s new with Google?

True to form, Google has lots of news for us this month. Most importantly, there was the launch of a major core algorithm update in December. But they’ve also given us new and improved crawl stats in Google Search Console, an update on the impact of page experience on your rankings and much more.

The launch of a major core algorithm update

Google has launched a major core algorithm update in December and there’s a lot of news around this. Joost and Jono have discussed this before, but now that the launch has happened we’d like to touch on it again. For the simple reason that some site owners might have noticed some changes in their rankings. Or might have woken up to the fact that they lost some traffic after this major update. Logically, this can cause some commotion.

It’s important to keep in mind that a Google update will not have a huge impact on your business overnight if you make sure that your SEO is in order. Keep your site’s performance up to par, create quality content and work on your technical SEO to prevent things such as a sudden drop in ranking or traffic. Continuously working on your SEO and user experience is and always will be the best advice we can give you. And if you do see any changes, remember that this may very well also be the case with your competitors.

A company in the US, Path Interactive, has looked into who were the winners and losers of this Google Core Algorithm update. Noticeable right away are a few big names in the top 50 losing domains, so make sure to have a look if you’re interested in this.

Improved crawl stats in Search Console

Google’s new Search Console has been gradually rolling out new features and tools since its relaunch. A fun surprise is that it now also gives you some new and improved crawl stats for your site. These stats give you a reasonably detailed overview of how often Google crawls your site, what kind of status codes your site is giving them, and if they’re getting any errors when connecting to the server.

Simply put, this gives you a top-level overview of what Google’s crawlers found on your site. It doesn’t give you an in-depth look as other tools might be able to, but it’s a great overview. Especially for smaller businesses, that tend to have more trouble with finding out where a crawling issue might stem from.

Page experience: a mobile only factor?

For now, page experience turns out to be mobile-only. But, that doesn’t mean you should sit back and relax just yet. As mobile usage keeps growing and, as we discuss later on, mobile shopping is also growing exponentially. Google is officially rolling out the impact of their core web vitals metrics in June 2021. These metrics are a unified way for Google to know how efficient, fast and performant your site is and this will become an official ranking factor from that moment on. For mobile, that is.

This might have to do with the fact that people usually have a faster connection when they’re browsing on their computer. Meaning that a lower site speed will be less bothersome and won’t impact their user experience too much. However, Google is working on icons to indicate page experience in Search. It seems as if this is meant to make users more aware of fast and slow sites before they click on the search result. And this icon can be interpreted as a badge that you can be rewarded for having a fast website.

It’s safe to say that Google has a strong focus on site speed as part of a better user experience. Everything they’ve been doing in 2020, and plan to do in 2021, revolves around speed, performance and network availability. So it would be good practice to focus on these areas and work on your mobile SEO.

Anchor text as a ranking factor

You might be wondering why this is considered news, but Google recently confirmed that anchor text is a ranking factor. This might not feel like news to you, but we would like to discuss it nonetheless. Because an interesting part of this announcement is that they also mention the length of anchor text. Although a longer anchor text isn’t necessarily considered better, it does tend to give more context.

This is interesting to keep in mind when working on your site or blog. The specific text you highlight in your anchor text is a signal that tells Google what that page is about. And something like ‘click here’ as your anchor text doesn’t give Google much insight about the contents of that page. So try to be descriptive and tactical with your anchor texts, instead of using ‘read more’ or ‘click here’ to link to other pages on and off your site.

Google News Showcase expands

We’ve discussed the relationship between Google and the publishing industry during our webinar in July. It’s becoming more difficult for news publishers to get people to click through or go to their site. What we see happening increasingly is Google showing this content directly in the search results. To offer a possible solution Google is expanding their News Showcase.

With these new updates in Google News Showcase, users will get access to content that’s usually behind a paywall. In exchange for their email address that will be provided to the news publisher in question. Note that this is something news publishers will sign up for themselves, as they will also be paid by Google to provide this (limited) access to paywalled content. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

Google stresses the benefits of AMP again

On their blog, Google once again talks about the benefits of AMP. If you’re not familiar with AMP yet, this is a web standard that you can use to build web pages. It was originally created by Google to help people make faster sites on mobile, because this can be quite hard to do. AMP allows you to build a speedy mobile site without having to master HTML, Javascript or other areas such as security and networking.

AMP has evolved a lot as a platform, it’s open source and there are lots of people from different companies involved in the process of making it even better. And now, this group of people will be joined by our very own Jono Alderson. He has been elected to be part of the AMP advisory committee, a group of people that come together on a regular basis to discuss what direction AMP should take to better it even more. We’re very proud of Jono for joining this committee and contributing to making AMP, and with it the web, better.

What’s new in WordPress?

This December webinar comes with great news when it comes to WordPress. Because earlier this month the latest release of WordPress was launched. This version, WordPress 5.6, is called Simone and it was led by an all-female release squad. It’s a pretty cool release, packed with loads of great features that help bring WordPress to a higher level. As almost 40% of the web is now powered by WordPress, these features are very welcome in turning WordPress into sophisticated software that caters to every user.

Our core team at Yoast has worked on this release quite a bit, and one of the things they’ve worked on is the new default theme Twenty Twenty-One. It’s worth checking out, as it is one of the best default themes when it comes to SEO. Plus it has a beautiful dark mode. Our team has also done quite some work on the PHP side and other features in this latest release, so we’re quite happy to see that the upgrade to WordPress 5.6 went quite smoothly for most users.

What’s the latest at Yoast?

We had the Yoast SEO 15.4 release two weeks ago and this was quite a major release. In Yoast SEO 15.4, we introduced a seamless integration with Elementor. Elementor is one of the biggest page builders out there and now you’ll be able to use Yoast SEO in this editor as well.

Additionally, we had the release of Yoast SEO 15.5 this week, which was a relatively minor release in which we introduced support for the Hungarian language. We hope this will help users of our plugin that (want to) write their content in Hungarian. As December is always a bit of a month to wind down, this was our latest release and the next one will be in January.

But that’s not all! We have other exciting news, as we had our very first episode of the Yoast SEO podcast this month. You can already listen to this first episode, where Joost talks to Christi Olson (Microsoft) about their views on Search Engine Marketing. We plan to make these podcasts a regular thing, so we already have our next one planned. This episode will be with Aleyda Solis and it will air next week. so make sure to check out our Podcast page!

In other news, we’d briefly like to go into Shopify breaking records over the Black Friday weekend and the rise in mobile shopping worldwide.

Shopify merchants break records over Black Friday weekend

Shopify put out some data insights that their merchants broke records with over 5.1 billion in sales during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. That’s an profound amount of money, even for Shopify that has already had a great streak this year. They’ve grown immensely by a whopping 76% percent in 2020.

One of the things that Shopify has done an incredible job of is making it very easy for small owners to sell stuff online. Also making them a competitor for WordPress in that sense. It’s mostly all small businesses and independent retailers, and we love seeing platforms that help grow these kinds of businesses.

Mobile shopping is gaining share this holiday season

In somewhat related news, everyone seems to be shopping on mobile. As a site owner, this means that you have to optimize your entire customer journey on mobile. From homepage to checkout. There are still a lot of businesses where the mobile site looks okay until you get to the checkout. If you’re looking for a trustworthy payment processor, check out players such as Stripe. They might cost you a bit more, but they make your checkout so easy. And with consumers exceedingly expecting a flawless experience, this is crucial.

That’s it for SEO news in December 2020

That’s it for the highlights of this month’s edition of the Yoast SEO news webinar. If you want to know a bit more about the topics discussed, make sure to check out the rest of our webinar on YouTube. We hope you enjoyed this recap and hope to see you for our next edition in the new year! This edition will take place on the 26th of January 2021 and if you want to stay up to date about this event and others we have planned, make sure to sign up for our newsletter below this blog post. Have a great December and see you then!

Read more: The latest news in SEO and WordPress: November 2020 »

This content was originally published here.