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Christmas is almost here, and yet, Google keeps rolling out changes. We know you are busy working, planning for the holidays, and perhaps shopping a bit, and might not have the time to keep up with all the changes they have made. So, we a pre-Christmas digest to help you catch up on all the changes.

Before we run through Google news updates, we have to ask — have you checked out Google’s Santa Tracker this year? There is a lot to see and do. And, you can say to your Google Assistant, “Hey Google, what’s new at the North Pole?” and find out what Santa is up to, get the North Pole Newscast, hear some Santa jokes, and more. Santa Tracker HQ can get you in the holiday spirit, so check it out. 

Below you will see several updates and news items; let us know how they have impacted your life.  


BERT Expanded Into 70 Languages 

Through the @SearchLiaison Twitter handle, Google announced that BERT rolled out to over 70 languages worldwide. 

Google News Digest: BERT, Search Quality Guidelines Updates, and More. Image 0

The next day, Danny Sullivan tweeted about the rollout. Barry Schwartz explained his tweet, saying that even with the rollout, “It still impacts about 10% of queries where BERT is live in. The other 90% do not use BERT for understanding queries and content.” 

Source: Google LiaisonGoogle BERT International Launch Still Impacts ~10% Of Queries 

Google Updates Search Quality Guidelines 

On Thursday, December 5, Google updated its search quality guideline and added a section 0.0 that breaks down why and how people search, different kinds of searches and search results, diversity in search results,  and what search results should and should not provide to users.  

Perhaps the most important update to the guidelines was section 0.2.

Google News Digest: BERT, Search Quality Guidelines Updates, and More. Image 1

As you can see, there is a section focused on objectivity and avoiding any personal biases one may have. We all know that the political climate across many countries is a bit touchy at the moment; clearly, Google wants to make it clear that political bias will not impact quality rater decisions. They have two different sections that touch on political affiliations: 

Google News Digest: BERT, Search Quality Guidelines Updates, and More. Image 2

Google News Digest: BERT, Search Quality Guidelines Updates, and More. Image 3

Sources: Google Search Quality GuidelinesGoogle search quality guidelines update emphasizes users of diverse backgrounds

New Search Console Messages

Console messages are now available through a panel accessed by clicking the bell icon at the top of any page within Search Console — on top of the bell will be the number of notifications you have. This feature allows you to gain access to messages throughout the console; there is no need to leave reports to be able to see messages. The messages will also be placed in different subcategories under three main categories — Coverage, Enhancement types, Performance, and others. 

Another new feature in messages is the ability “for site owners to access all the messages sent to the site, even those that were previously sent, regardless of when they were verified and when the messages were sent. Now, when users gain access to a new site, they can see messages the site have received in the past.” Note, the message panel will only show messages only from May 23, 2019.

Source: Introducing the new Search Console messages

Google Package Tracking Program

Google has created a new package tracking feature that allows shipping companies to show customers the status of their packages right in the SERP. This program is available in all countries. Shipping companies can sign-up to participate in this feature and also give feedback on how to improve it. 

Google News Digest: BERT, Search Quality Guidelines Updates, and More. Image 4

Source: Package Tracking Early Access Program

Better Organization for Top Stories in Search

Google is using the latest in machine learning to provide new improvements in Search to help people find related ideas around a topic so they can quickly gain a deeper understanding about their query and find the information they need.

Google developed a new story-understanding technology to map out the people, places, and things involved in a news story and draw connections between them. They stated, “This technology allows us to create distinct groups of news articles. To generate these groups, we use a variety of machine learning techniques, including BERT models, to examine the related articles and determine where one story ends and another begins. Our research has shown that clustering results into clearly-defined stories is critical in helping people easily navigate the results and identify the best content for their needs.”

Search engine users will now see key information in the top stories carousel, like notable quotes and related opinion pieces. The goal is to offer a more well-rounded view of a news story. Google wants to expand the types of journalistic contributions they highlight to users in the SERPs.

Source: Smarter organization of top stories in Search

Review Carousel In Local Knowledge Panel

Mike Blumenthal tweeted a screenshot of a review carousel: 

Barry Schwartz shared another tweet showing search users how to find the review carousel:

Source: Google Tests Review Carousel In Local Knowledge Panel

Google Local Panel: See the Number of Minutes From One Location to Another

Dave DiGregorio noticed Google was providing the number of walking minutes to another location in a local panel. While this option has been a nice feature in hotel results in the past, this is a new tool for local panels that will be extremely useful to users. 

Source: Google Local Panel With “X Minutes From Landmark”

Pages Being Pulled Into Google My Business Results 

Jason Parks discovered that pages were being pulled into GMB results with a favicon and a link. 

No official word on this yet, but it makes sense for users, so we hope this test leads to you seeing more and more of this option. 

Source: Google Local Pack Tests Site Cards Element


Ability to Request Explanations for Campaigns: CPC or eCPC Search Campaigns

It can be frustrating and time consuming to try and figure out why campaign metrics are fluctuating. Google has a new Beta program that will give you more information performance changes. All you have to do is click the  “See Explanations” button.

Here are some important things to keep in mind regarding this program:

  • Explanations is currently available for manual CPC or eCPC Search campaigns.
  • Explanations can compare two time periods of equal length within the last 90 days.
  • Explanations may only show for campaigns with significant performance changes.

Google News Digest: BERT, Search Quality Guidelines Updates, and More. Image 5

Google News Digest: BERT, Search Quality Guidelines Updates, and More. Image 6

Source: Understand performance changes with explanations

Test: Local Service Ads For Realtors

Barry Schwartz reported on Google testing Google Local Service Ads specifically for realtors. He was notified by Matt McGee: 

Google News Digest: BERT, Search Quality Guidelines Updates, and More. Image 7

There is no word from Google on this. Other users have not been able to replicate the results, so this could just be a test. 

Source: Google Tests Local Service Ads For Realtors


Measure Multiple Web Streams In a Single Property

Google recently introduced enhancements in Google Analytics that will allow you to measure multiple websites, do even more custom analysis, and get faster insights from your data. Google said, “App + Web properties now support multiple web streams, including Firebase web apps, in a single property—up to 50 data streams across your apps, websites, and web apps. This allows you to see metrics aggregated across all your related apps and websites, or apply filters to compare them individually.”

Google also added two more options for custom analysis, cohort analysis and user lifetime. There is also an update to the existing pathing technique and a larger window for historical data. See all the new options and capabilities on Google’s blog

Source: What’s new in App + Web properties

No More Support for JSON-RPC and Global HTTP Batch Endpoints

Google announced that it must address features that are no longer compatible with the latest architecture and business requirements, including JSON-RPC protocol and Global HTTP Batch. Google planned on decommissioning these features on March 25, 2019, but discovered that some customers might not have received the earlier notification. So, they extended the deprecation timeline to Aug 12, 2020. Beginning in February 2020, Google will periodically inject errors for short windows of time. You can see the dates for planned downtime here

Source: Discontinuing support for JSON-RPC and Global HTTP Batch Endpoints

New Publisher Center with Helpful Features

Google has merged Google News Producer and Google News Publisher Center and created “Publisher Center” to help improve user experience and functionality. The new features allow you to update light and dark theme logos and manage your publication’s identity.

Google stated, “It also provides an easier way for those that own multiple publications to organize and switch between them, particularly with improved permission settings that make it easier to collaborate with colleagues. Additionally, publishers can now point to the URLs for their website’s sections instead of RSS to configure sections in Google News. Content for News will now come directly from the web, just as it does for Search.”

Source: Launching a New Publisher Center

That is all the news we have for this digest. We hope whatever Google updates that occur during the week of Christmas and New Year’s doesn’t force you away from your families or vacation.

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