search newsletterSearch News You Can Use
Episode 11 - June 19, 2017
Light Version

 

Hi everyone! I had a super busy week last week as I was speaking at SMX Advanced in Seattle. You can find my slides at the end of this article. I spoke on the process which I use to do my Traffic Drop Assessments.

In this episode we have a lot of things to cover. Many of them were topics that came up at SMX Advanced. For paid subscribers, we're starting off on a series of super easy to implement tips to help you improve your page load time. At SMX Advanced, Gary Illyes commented that when we move to a mobile first index, your page speed on mobile is going to be super important. I have found that every tutorial that I read on making page speed improvements is extremely technical and complicated. I don't claim to be an expert on page load time, but I am learning. I'll walk you through the changes that I make to my own website so that you can implement similar ones on your site as well.

In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Part 1 of our discussion on improving page speed. The goal of this series is to teach you really easy to implement things that can help improve your page load time. When the mobile first index launches, having a fast mobile site is critical!
  • A discussion on paid links and whether or not they still work.
  • Tips to help you make sure that Google is able to see how users engage with your site.
  • A neat tip to help you determine the reading level of your content.
  • Another neat tip that you can easily implement that will help you discover whether users are having trouble navigating your mobile site.
  • How to browse as if you were on mobile, right from your desktop computer.

Note: If you are seeing the light version and you are a paid member, be sure to log in (in the sidebar on desktop or below the post on mobile) and read the full article here.


Are you subscribed to my newsletter?
Get the lite version for free:

Or Subscribe to the full version for $18/month:


Latest algorithm updates

We know now that Google launches at least three updates every single day. Most of those are so small that we don't notice them, however. Barry Schwartz noticed an uptick in algo change chatter in the search forums on June 14, 2017. Also, some of the rank tracking tools like Mozcast and SEMRush Sensor noticed a significant change in rankings on that day as well.

I checked all of the sites which I monitor and there is possibly one site that saw a nice increase on June 14. This is a site that saw a dramatic "Fred" recovery on March 7, 2017.

Most likely this was another core algorithm change in which Google became better at detecting high quality sites.


A few bad links are not going to cause a penalty

There is a lot of confusion out there regarding unnatural links. Even prior to Penguin 4.0, a few bad links would not cause any site a problem. When a site is demoted by Google for unnatural links it is always because the site has been seriously trying to manipulate their rankings. If you have a few unnatural links, you're not going to be penalized.

 


Google posts moves to GMB

Google posts (not to be confused with Google Website Builder which I've written about below) has moved to the Google My Business dashboard. Google posts are not new, but as far as I can see, they are not yet available to everyone. Here is an example which Joy Hawkins posted of a Google Post in action. You can see that it adds a section to your knowledge panel that you can use:

Google posts

 

They can also appear directly in the search results when people are searching for your business:

Google posts in SERPS

I tried to sign up for posts and was told that it was not yet available in my geographic area. You can try signing up here.


Google Website Builder launches

If you don't have a website, you can quickly make one with the new Google Website Builder. From what I can see, however, this option is nowhere near as good as having a "proper" website.

The benefits of creating a site using Google's Website builder are mostly that you can get a site up and running in about five minutes for free. However, as Mike Blumenthal discussed, here are some of the drawbacks:

  • No schema support
  • No ability to change title tags or meta descriptions
  • No Google Analytics integration
  • No ability to add social sharing buttons
  • No https support (although that is supposedly coming soon

This sounds awful to me. I don't think web designers will be losing business to this free tool any time soon.


SEMRush Sensor now lets you see volatility for your specific industry

There are several tools out there now that monitor volatility in the SERPS. Sometimes these can be useful in helping to determine whether there is a major update happening. Recently SEMRush Sensor started to show volatility according to category:

 

semrush sensor overview

 

And now, if you have a project set up in SEMRush, you can see the volatility for your particular projects:

 

Semrush sensor

 

I don't put a lot of weight on these weather tools, but I do like to use them in conjunction with other things that I see going on. For example, if I think that there is a big algorithm update AND I see changes in the tools, then I am more confident that there is a significant update happening. So far from what I have seen, the SEMRush tool seems to be one of the more accurate ones.


How long should it take for a new site to regain rankings when migrating to a new url?

If you switch to a new url, even if you do everything correctly, you will likely see a temporary drop in rankings. Assuming that you have done things correctly, those rankings should return. Gary Illyes was asked at SMX Advanced how long that would take. The answer, though, depends on the complexities of a site. He said that it could take anywhere from two weeks to three months. Others in the crowd commented that really large sites can take up to six months to recover rankings after migrating.


Is user engagement a ranking factor?

For me, Gary Illyes' answer to this question was the most important discussion point of SMX Advanced. Is user engagement a ranking factor? The argument against this being true is that Google would have to have access to Google Analytics in order to measure engagement. But, this is not true. Google really should be able to measure user engagement by looking at what people do on a site when they are browsing it with Chrome or from an android phone.

Many of you will remember the Google PageRank Toolbar. Years ago, Google gave us this toolbar to use for free. You could go to any site and see the PageRank of that site. So why did Google do this? I think that most likely, this was an early attempt at being able to look at user engagement metrics. If I had the Toolbar installed, then Google likely was able to determine all sorts of things about the pages that I visited such as what sites I visited, how long I spent on each site, what links I clicked on and more.

As more and more people changed their browser to Chrome, Google was able to get this type of information in a different way. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons why the PageRank Toolbar was discontinued. Google didn't need our browsing data any more.

At SMX Advanced last week, Gary Illyes was asked whether user engagement was a ranking signal. There was a long pause before he answered. He then said that these metrics were sometimes used to test how the algorithms are doing. Also, he said that they use user engagement data in personalization. The example that he gave was that Google can know from our past engagements whether searches for "python" were likely to be about the programming language or the snake.

For me, this statement was HUGE.

If Google can figure out what sites I engage with, then can't they see what sites everyone likes to engage with? If Google wants to show searchers the sites that are the most useful ones, then wouldn't it make sense that they try to figure out which sites people are engaging with the most?

Note: Paid newsletter subscribers have additional information on ways to make sure that Google is able to see the user engagement that is happening on your site.


What are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?

I have to admit that I have not been paying attention to PWAs. There was a lot of talk on PWAs at SMX Advanced and I thought I would share with you what I learned. Please know that I'm no expert on PWAs. Every time I hear them discussed I feel like everything goes over my head. But, I think that as SEOs we should be paying attention. As such, here is my understanding of what we need to know.

A PWA is like an app, except that rather than being downloaded from the App store or the Play store, it's just another part of your website that acts like an app. Even though these applications feel like an external app, they are simply webpages coded in javascript. Because they are cached on your phone, they can run even without an internet connection and they are usually super fast.

PWAs work with something called service workers. The service worker can do things like deliver push notifications, cache stuff offline, and work with geolocation stuff.

From what I understand, PWAs can be a great way for companies to create something that works like an app, but at a fraction of the cost and time as you don't need an app developer in order to make one.

There are many posts online about PWAs but here are some that I found the most helpful and easy to understand:

https://moz.com/blog/introducing-progressive-web-apps

 


More on Mobile-First from SMX

Gary Illyes spoke on the Mobile first algorithm during a session at SMX. For those who are new to the term, the mobile first index is one which Google plans to move to in the future. It will mean that your mobile version of your site is by far the most important one. Google will base all rankings, both mobile and desktop off of information it gathers from the mobile crawl of your site.

Here are the important points from his talk:

  • Mobile first is going to be a BIG change. However, Google is working hard to make it so that it won't have a terrible detrimental effect on too many sites. They know that not everyone will take heed and make changes.
  • There is no imminent timeline for the release. It could happen in 2018 or it could be "many quarters" from now. He said it could even be four to five years from now!
  • If you have content that is on your desktop site, but NOT on your mobile site, then you will not rank for it, even on desktop searches.
  • Google is having some difficulty figuring out how to use PageRank in a mobile first index. Many sites that use an m. dot for their mobile domain do not have links pointing to their mobile pages.
  • If your mobile pages don't have rel annotations (i.e. canonical, hreflang, etc.) or schema, you will need to make sure that they are added to the mobile version of your pages.
  • If a page exists only on desktop and is not on your mobile site, it will not rank anywhere.
  • However, if a site has absolutely no mobile versions of its pages, then the desktop version will still be used for crawling and ranking.
  • Google is considering offering a tool to webmasters that will allow you to see how your site will fare in a mobile-first index before it actually is live.

 


Recommended Reading

Local SEO Expert Q&A: 56 Answers on Local Marketing

This is an excellent, long read all about local search.

How to Audit a Site for Structured Data Opportunities

This is a good read for anyone using structured data.

 

The above is an interesting presentation. I agree with almost all of it. I'd love to see that data that shows that reavowing old disavowed links helps as I've yet to see a case where that is true.

This is my presentation from SMX Advanced in which I describe the process I use in doing Traffic Drop Assessments.

Want more?

Paid subscribers of my newsletter received lots of additional information this week including the following:

  • Part 1 of our discussion on improving page speed. The goal of this series is to teach you really easy to implement things that can help improve your page load time. When the mobile first index launches, having a fast mobile site is critical!
  • A discussion on paid links and whether or not they still work.
  • Tips to help you make sure that Google is able to see how users engage with your site.
  • A neat tip to help you determine the reading level of your content.
  • Another neat tip that you can easily implement that will help you discover whether users are having trouble navigating your mobile site.
  • How to browse as if you were on mobile, right from your desktop computer.

Note: If you are seeing the light version and you are a paid member, be sure to log in (in the sidebar on desktop or below the post on mobile) and read the full article here.

Want to see the full newsletter?

It's well worth the $18 per month!

You can subscribe to Dr. Marie Haynes' newsletter by clicking on the Paypal button below. You'll get an action packed email every two weeks.

You'll also have access to past episodes, including this one.


Part of the challenge of SEO is staying on top of industry news, trends, and techniques There is so much information out there that it is easy to get bogged down in information overload and trying to disseminate what's truly important from all that noise can be really time-consuming and challenging. 

Marie's newsletter is a game changer because it manages to cut through the fluff and deliver high-quality information that is not only really important for those that do SEO, but it is presented in a format that is really easy to absorb.
If you are looking for a trusted information related to search that is highly actionable I would strongly reccomend Marie's newsletter.
Paul Macnamara - Offers SEO Consulting at PaulMacnamara.com

I would love for you to leave a comment on any of the topics I have written today. Also, if there is something you would like to see more (or less) of in this newsletter, please let me know.

Read Previous Episodes of Marie's Newsletter.


*This post contains an affiliate link to SEMRush. If you click on a link to SEMRush and purchase, I will receive a commission. Please know that my recommendations of SEMRush are not based on financial incentives. It's a great product and I might as well take advantage of the fact that I can make some commission should you buy, right? I'm happy to answer any questions you have about how I use SEMRush. It truly is one of my favourite tools.

Google update newsletter

Want an update when Google makes a big algorithm change or other announcement? Sign up here!

This is a weekly newsletter. We will never send spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit