[GUEST POST] How SEOs Should be Navigating Google’s 3 Major January 2020 Updates

February 5, 2020

Guest Contributor - PJ Howland - Feature

Spot Zero disappears and more. How to adjust your SEO strategy to Google’s latest updates.

Guest post generously contributed by PJ Howland, VP of Industry Insights for 97th Floor.


January 2020 has been a busy month for Google Search. While other businesses are getting back in the groove of a new year, Google has been hard at work.

In January Google announced three major updates to the search:

Each of these updates would have been enough to make waves for an entire quarter, but Google released them back to back, really embracing the “quick — like a bandaid” approach. 

Broad Core Update

The impact of this change was significant but broad-reaching. Many industries and SERPs are seeing shake-ups, but with little trends to make note of. SEOs that manage sites that were negatively affected by the broad core update need to understand how core algorithm updates operate. 

From Google, “A common question after a core update is how long does it take for a site to recover, if it improves content?

Broad core updates tend to happen every few months. Content that was impacted by one might not recover – assuming improvements have been made – until the next broad core update is released.”

To sum up, SEOs negatively affected by this core update should abide by previously announced EAT guidelines and sit tight for the next core update, which is probably months away.

New Shopping Feed

This update only applies to retailers selling clothing or shoes online, but we can sure that eventually it will rollout to the entire e-commerce world as the years progress.

As of today, when a user Google’s something like, “men’s shoes” they’ll have the option to click on the “Shopping” SERP feature at the top of the page as they have for years. The new element to take note of, is the amount of data Google is pulling from retailer’s sites to give users all the essential information right there in the SERP. 

Maybe one of the most startling aspects of this feature is the price comparison tool that’s starting to serve on products. In effect, making it foolproof to price shop articles of clothing from a Google SERP. We can expect to see minor updates and more industries added as the months continue, and within a couple of years it will be swimming with users who know what they want and don’t care where they buy it from. And once this platform has a wide user base, it will be a profitable PPC playground for Google, but a stiff bidding battlefield for online retailers.   

SEOs wanting to stay ahead of this curve will ensure they have a compliant, and fully synced Google Merchant Center account. 

Spot Zero is Gone

This update may seem the most benign, but it’s impacts are the most shocking. In case you missed it, on January 22nd, Google’s SERPs containing a featured snippet began including the featured snippet as spot 1, not “spot zero” as it originally had in years past. Additionally sites ranking for a featured will no longer be listed as an additional result on the front page of Google.

To an outsider this seems hardly worth the comotion, but for SEOs it’s worth closer examination. 

For years featured snippets have been shown to earn less clicks than base rank spot 1 positions. Many times the position 1 URL was the same URL as the snippet, so that URL would have had favorable click through rates, because it accounted for two results. But the new reality is an either/or, not both, situation. Meaning that some SEOs will have to deal with circumstances where ranking in the featured snippet will mean less clicks than the spot 2 position.

For the first time ever, SEOs will have to decide if spot 2 is actually more desirable than spot 1, which brings a whole new level of anxiety to SEOs. We may see a world where SEOs will need to be well versed in strategic deoptimization tactics.

Each of these updates bring their own unique opportunities for SEOs, but at minimum, SEOs should be annotating these updates in their analytics and tracking software. Additionally SEOs need to be ready to present the implications of these updates to their organizations, along with suggestions to pivot strategy as needed. 


PJ Howland - 97th FloorPJ Howland is the VP of Industry Insights at 97th Floor. His role is to champion 97th Floor’s mission; make the internet a better place. When he’s not shelling out content, he can be found at home living his lifelong dream of hobby homesteading.

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