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Digital Recap: New Google SEO Starter Guide and a History of Updates

Written by: Ari Santiago
December 15, 2017 • 4-minute read

New Google SEO Starter Guide and a History of Updates

In this recap of recent digital marketing highlights, we look at the new and the old. A new Google SEO Starter Guide—its first update in years—has been released. Furthermore, SERPs have been modified to feature more extended snippets. 

Finally, those who want to look to the past in planning the future will find something worth reading from the analysts over at Search Engine Journal.

They have been running a series of articles on the history of Google’s algorithm updates.

Google SEO Starter Guide Launched Anew

Google recently released its new SEO Starter Guide. The new guide, hosted online, combines salient points from their old Starter Guide, a .pdf file, and their Webmaster Academy, both of which are now defunct.

In the official announcement made on December 12, Google stated that the

“updated version builds on top of the previously available document, and has additional sections on the need for search engine optimization, adding structured data markup and building mobile-friendly websites.”

The guide is available in nine languages (e.g., English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish) and is set to be translated into 16 more soon.

Longer SERP Snippets

Around November, search analysts noticed an increase in both the maximum and average length of SERP snippets. Until mid-November, the overwhelming majority of snippets had capped at 165 characters. But toward the end of the month, some snippets were going close to 300 characters, even as some remained closer to the previous limit.

At the start of December, a Google liaison confirmed that the maximum length of snippets had increased. The confirmation included the observation that the increase in snippet length was not uniformly applied: the snippet length on any given SERP depends on the query it’s addressing and how Google’s search engine judges it would best be answered.

So while the average snippet length has increased—some analyses place it at over 200 characters—there’s still quite a bit of studying to understand how the search engine makes its calls.

Taking this into account, most experts are holding off on changing the meta descriptions that SERP snippets are based on and are instead sticking to the old optimal length.

Looking Back at Algorithm Updates

Few things cause a stir among online marketers, like a Google algorithm update. Every time the search engine changes, some businesses gain while others lose significantly. And with Google quiet on the finer points of these changes, it falls to outside analysts to determine how to respond to these.

All this was true—perhaps most intense—in the first primary Google update to cause such an upset: 2009’s “Vince” update.

In an ongoing series of articles, the Search Engine Journal looks back at the history of Google’s most significant algorithm updates, their reasons, and their effects.

The articles consider the implications of these changes for the future of SEO and how they might be used to understand the motivations and priorities behind the world’s pre-eminent search engine, which, as any SEO analyst knows, can sometimes be challenging to decipher.


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Ari Santiago
Ari Santiago
is a content marketing specialist for StraightArrow Corporation with a penchant for video and tabletop games. Sometimes wanders, but isn’t quite lost.



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