Danny Sullivan of Google confirmed over the weekend that one new ranking change went live in mid-November that was from the slew of announcements at Google’s Search On event last October. Google launched the subtopics ranking feature in mid-November, Sullivan said.
What are subtopics. Google said in October that subtopics rankings are “neural nets to understand subtopics around an interest, which helps deliver a greater diversity of content when you search for something broad.” Google gave this example, “if you search for ‘home exercise equipment,’ we can now understand relevant subtopics, such as budget equipment, premium picks, or small space ideas, and show a wider range of content for you on the search results page.”
Danny also explained on Twitter “subtopics don’t change the look of search results, only broaden the diversity of content, when useful.”
Mid-November 2020. Google apparently launched this in mid-November. Here is the tweet from Danny confirming this:
What it looks like. Well, it does not look like anything as Google said above, “subtopics don’t change the look of search results.” It may have caused some ranking changes in search but this one would not have been as large of a change that we are expecting from the passage indexing/ranking change, which is expected to be a 7% change to the overall Google search results.
Google did use this GIF to help us visualize how it works, but not how it looks:
Were there ranking changes in mid-November. Well, yes and no. Google did not confirm any ranking updates in mid-November, but we’re just now getting confirmation from Danny that subtopics rolled out then. I did cover some unconfirmed updates on these dates: November 5th, November 11th, November 17th & 18th and November 25th.
Why we care. If you noticed ranking changes in mid-November, it may be related to subtopics ranking rolling out. Is there anything you can change on your site due to subtopics rolling out in mid-November to improve your rankings in Google Search? I highly doubt it. This is about Google finding more relevant content by better understanding content on the web and matching that to relevant queries.
Having this knowledge is useful for the search community to understand. Does it change your day-to-day SEO practices? Probably not.