Search is continuously updating so, to make sure your SEO strategy is as successful as possible, it’s important to stay on top of them and understand what each update means for your business. Here are the updates made throughout April that we think you should be paying attention to.

1. Google is officially rolling out instant loading Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) within your own domain

Previously, Google created a separate AMP cached page from your main mobile page, which made the AMP version load very quickly.

Unfortunately, this could also lead to user confusion because the AMP page’s URL started with “Google.com” rather than showing the actual URL of the page’s domain.

In addition to user confusion, this also made it difficult to know if the page was authentic and secure because the domain’s “green lock” showing information about that domain’s security certificate was unavailable for the AMP versions of pages.

As a result, Google is now rolling out AMP Real URL, which will allow the AMP version of pages to still be served from a cache to maintain their fast speeds but will also retain the original pages URL and all the benefits and transparencies that go with it.

This is all possible thanks to an emerging new feature called signed exchanges which is available in browsers that support the necessary web platform feature.

It is currently limited to Chrome but availability will expand to include other browsers as they gain support (e.g. the upcoming version of Microsoft Edge).

2. AJAX/XHR calls have been added to Google’s list of things that will use up your crawl budget

This update mainly impacts large scale sites, it’s not something that most publishers have to worry about.

If new pages are found and crawled on your website on the day they’re published, you don’t need to focus on crawl budget.

Likewise, if a site has less than a few thousand URLs, most of the time it will be crawled efficiently. For larger sites, though, this should be a consideration.

Earlier in April Gary Illyes broke the news:

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Here is the response from AJ Kohn:

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And finally, a quick point here from Kevin Indig:

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3. Math sans bold unicode makes your Google snippet stand out

We’re already aware that Google prevents many forms of Unicode from working because they can make search result pages look awkward.

However, for some reason, math sans bold unicode characters seem to work in Google’s search results. Dave DiGregorio posted an example on Twitter.

We’ll be keeping an eye out to see how this impacts click-through rates (CTR).

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4. Google SERP changes: more images, featured snippets and videos appearing

Images

SEO Clarity recently published data showing images in the top ten search results leapt from approximately 24% occurrences to 34% occurrences. This increase started around 13th April.

But why should you care?

Over the last few months, Google has been hinting that SEOs should be focusing more on image search.

With Google now showing even more image search boxes in the main search results, images may become another source of traffic to your website and may be a clear opportunity to get moving on image optimisation.

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Featured snippets

We’re also seeing an increase in featured snippets showing up in the top of the search results. This is supported by data from Mozcast, Rank Ranger and STAT.

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Videos

Statistics from Rank Ranger shows a 23% increase in desktop video carousels being shown in Google search results. However, Moz does not show such a big increase.

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5. Google: sitemap dates vs web page dates

John Mueller from Google explained on Twitter the difference between the time stamp date in an XML sitemap lastmod date and the date on a webpage.

John stated that the sitemap lastmod dates the last time the page as a whole was updated for crawling/indexing.

The date on the page is the date to be associated with the primary content on the page.

John Muller originally stated: “A page can change without its primary content changing,” and he doesn’t think “crawling needs to be synced to the date associated with the content.”

He highlighted an example, demonstrating that “site redesigns or site moves are pretty clearly disconnected from the content date.”

Finally, he then added this tweet:

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6. Google announces suggested posts from Google My Business (GMB)

On April 15, Google announced a new feature that lets you automatically post suggested reviews as customer testimonials. This is only available in select countries but the announcement didn’t specify which ones.

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Here’s what it looks like:

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7. Google introduces point of interest establishment category to business listings

There are reports of business owners and local SEOs saying they are seeing a new category being added to some of the business listings they manage.

This category was initially called POI establishment but has recently been updated to “point of interest”.

Some believe that when you are assigned this category and look at the Google Maps screen, it will list that listing as a point of interest.

Android developer docs states: “By default, points of interest (POIs) appear on the base map along with their corresponding icons. POIs include parks, schools, government buildings, and more.

In addition, business POIs appear by default on the map when the map type is normal. Business POIs represent businesses such as shops, restaurants, hotels, and more.

Business POIs on indoor maps (floor plans) appear only on a lite mode map. A POI corresponds to a place, as defined in the Places API.

For example, recreational parks are POIs, but things like water fountains are generally not POIs (unless they’re of national or historical significance).”

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8. Google’s Home & Assistant listings may need a Google guaranteed label

You may have seen the Google local services ads before; they have the Google guarantee label attached to them.

But, when the Google Assistant started showing ads, people asked ‘how does one not pay to show up in the local listings if you need the guarantee label but those come from local services ads?’

They look like this:

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To be clear, we knew Google could show these if you are listed by HomeAdvisor and Porch. But Greg Sterling dug into this and reported on How to appear in local services listings in Google Assistant and Google Home.

In short, if you do not have a listing with HomeAdvisor or Porch and you aren’t in Google local services ads, you can submit a request to be Google Guaranteed using this form.

Greg said: “In order to be Google Guaranteed, businesses must pass a background check and have their license and insurance details verified.”

This form is specifically for local services providers in the businesses of Appliance repair, Electrical, Garage door repair, Heating and air conditioning, Housecleaning, House painting, Locksmithing and Plumbing.

So, no, you don’t technically need to pay to show up as a local service provider in the Google Assistant or Google Home, you can fill out that mysterious form.