Essential Updates: Google Crawling, Return Policies, Search Filter, and WordPress Upgrade: Weekly SEO Updates - Date: Thursday, June 13th

Google Shifts to Smartphone-Only Crawling for All Sites

Starting July 5, 2024, Google will use the Googlebot Smartphone crawler exclusively for indexing all websites. This change aims to simplify systems and assist sites in debugging device-specific issues. Sites already optimized for mobile will see no change. However, websites not accessible on mobile devices will no longer be indexable. Googlebot Desktop will still appear in server logs for certain features like product listings and Google for Jobs.

As I have been saying for some time, websites must prioritize Mobile UX for their websites. Ideally when approaching a website project, such as a new build or a revamp, its a non-negotiable that sites are designed and developed mobile-first or in simultaneous harmony with desktop. Not just from a traffic perspective but from a search engine perspective, sites that are “mobile-first”, will be prioritized. 

New "Web" Filter Launched in Google Search

Google has introduced a new "Web" filter on its search results page, which displays only text-based links. This filter is available alongside other search result filters, such as images and videos, and can be accessed from the top of the results page or the "More" option.

Critical to make sure that you have the right schema for the right pages, therefore Google and other search engines can maximize the display of your content in the results, in multiple formats, links, filters and other assets. 

Upgrade to WordPress 6.5 for Lastmod Sitemap Support

Google and Bing advise WordPress users to upgrade to version 6.5 to benefit from native support for lastmod dates in sitemap files. This update, highlighted by Bing's Fabrice Canel as a "game-changer," helps crawlers determine page update frequencies. Google’s Gary Illyes emphasized the importance of the lastmod element, recommending accurate updates only for genuinely changed content.

Important to check the indexed schedules of your sitemaps and also that sitemaps are utilized correctly to avoid missing indexing periods.  

Organization-Level Return Policy Markup Support Added

Google now supports structured data markup for organization-level return policies, allowing businesses to define a general return policy instead of individual ones for each product. This update simplifies managing return policy markup and can enhance visibility in search results, knowledge panels, and brand profiles. Businesses without a Merchant Center account are encouraged to use this feature, which can be validated using the Rich Results Test.

As always, Google is improving the UX of their mega-search engine. This feature is yet another feature adding an improved experience to the “top of the page” results. Years ago, we got excited when we achieved positions #7 and #8. As AI draws nigh (excuse the pun) the top results and snippets will be what counts; everything underneath the “AI” generated response and beyond results in position 1-3 will certainly be disregarded by browsers. 

As clear as it seems, Google is prioritizing keeping people within the browser functionality. Therefore websites must pursue owning and dominating certain positions to gain long-term organic visibility.