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Episode 103 - October 3, 2019 - Light Version

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In this episode, we dive into our thoughts on the changes seen with the September Core Update in great detail. We also revisit the Daily Mail case, discuss several Google announcements, and provide you with some awesome SEO tips. Please note there will be no newsletter next week as we are away at Pubcon!


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In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • For paid subscribers: Our early thoughts on strategies for recovering if you were hit by the September 24 core update
  • What we have noticed with sites that saw big changes September 24-27
  • Our current theory on what is happening with the September 24, 2019 core update
  • Is the Daily Mail seeing a recovery after a huge core update hit?
  • Possible local component to the September 24 core update
  • Google says that their newly added GSC Breadcrumbs report had errors
  • Google now has a new interface for ‘Change of address’
  • The user agent of Googlebot will be updated before year-end
  • Can Google recognize text from images?
  • Google testing sidebar filters
  • Your headings are important (check out this survey)
  • Does your agency publish its address?
  • More granular control now available for snippets
  • Awesome UI tips!
  • What Bill learned about winning a featured snippet in 15 minutes
  • If you’re wondering why there is no Discover Report in GSC for you…
  • Suggestions that Boris Johnson’s PR has a smart SEO
  • Google Review stars down in SERPs -- here’s those industries that have been impacted the most
  • Local sites losing gold stars in SERPs
  • You can now say goodbye to the Knowledge Panel order online buttons
  • Have you discovered document.designMode?
  • What’s the deal with word count? And how does it relate to thin content?
  • The crawl rate setting takes time plus a recommended fast solution
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates

September 24, 2019 - Announced core quality update

As we reported in our last episode, Google announced a core quality update which began to roll out on September 24, 2019. 

This appears to be a fairly significant update. From what we can see so far, this update has affected many verticals strongly. We are seeing changes across many types of sites including eCommerce, health, and legal. 

Others in the community are seeing nice improvements as well:

At MHC, we were thrilled to see that several of our clients who have been working on improving overall site quality are seeing nice gains. Here a few examples.

This is a medical site that has been working on many different elements of improving quality. We worked with them to change much of the copy on their website that we felt could cause users not to trust their business or product. They made many other changes related to improving their trustworthiness (the “T” in E-A-T) as well:

medical-site-improvements

Here is another health site that we are working with. They made similar changes in their site, all with a goal in inspiring users (and Google) to trust them more. Hopefully these increases stick!

non-medical-site-improvements

A few of our alternative medicine sites that were hit hard with the June 3 core update are seeing very mild improvements so far. We are really hoping this line continues to trend upwards:

alternative site mild improvement

It is interesting to see that with this update we are seeing nice increases in several sites that are NOT medical in nature. Several of our clients in the legal space are seeing nice improvements in rankings. These two sites worked on several aspects of E-A-T, but also improving technical aspects on their site and trimming out thin content.

health-site-improvementsanother-nonmedical-site-improvements


What you need to know about the September 24, 2019 Core Update

When Google announced this update, they linked to their post called, “What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates.” If you don’t have time to read the full post, here are the important parts:

  • The point of a core update is to “ensure that overall, [Google is] delivering on [their] mission to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers.
  • For some sites, a fix may not be possible.
  • If a fix is possible, the first place to start is in looking at Amit Singhal’s 23 Questions to ask re: Panda, or better yet, the summary on core updates, mentioned above.
  • The post refers readers to read Google’s Search Quality Guidelines, and especially the parts on E-A-T.
  • If your site was negatively affected by a core update, most likely recovery will not happen (if it is to happen) until another core update rolls out. These tend to happen every few months.

In most cases, if a site has been negatively affected by a Google core update, there is no instant quick fix. Our process for reviewing sites in terms of quality generally produces a 140+ page document filled with investigation and implementable advice. It’s rare that we find a single smoking gun as the cause for a site’s quality issues. What we are finding is that in most cases, if a website represents a legitimate business that many people trust, recovery is possible. 

We should note, however, that one area in which we have not seen many significant recoveries yet is for alternative medical sites. While some of our clients have recovered a portion of their June 3 losses, not all have. You can read more on this in our recent article on the importance of being in line with scientific consensus if you want to rank on Google. If you have had the MHC team do a site quality review for a medical site, a few weeks from now, you should be receiving a copy of a detailed whitepaper we are currently working on that contains as much practical advice for improving your site as we can recommend. We’re learning a lot by analyzing the sites that are seeing improvement following a June 3 hit and we want to pass that on to our clients.

If you are a paid subscriber of the newsletter, in the next section you can read some more of our thoughts on what we believe Google is doing in the September 27, 2019 core update. (By the way, if you are not a paid member, if you sign up now, you will have access to all of the past 100+ episodes’ premium content.


MHC Announcements

Our next newsletter will be in two weeks time

With the whole team at Pubcon Vegas next week, there will be no newsletter published the week of October 7th. We promise to bring home some great information and share it with our readers the following week in episode 104 on Wednesday, October 16th. Stay tuned!


Don’t forget to visit our booth at Pubcon

Don’t forget, if you’re coming to Pubcon Vegas that the MHC team has a booth! We can’t wait to see you there. We are also happy to complete an interview on our Wix competition while at Pubcon. Contact us here


Google Announcements

Google announces a webmaster conference in Mountain View, Cali (Space is limited, apply today)

Building on the success of their recent webmaster events held around the world, Google has announced a mini summit at their Headquarters in California on Monday, November 4, 2019.

It’ll be an eventful day as attendees will hear talks from Search product managers, will have a chance to take part in some Q&A, and it’ll also feature a product fair where attendees have the opportunity to have a direct conversation with product managers. 

To take part, you can apply here. And for those of you who cannot make it, Google says that intend to share plenty of content and feedback once the event ends.


Google SERP Changes

Google is testing out an interface that shows 4 colourful dots in the corner of "Top News" queries on mobile

In the top right corner of the mobile SERPs you may see these dots which open a link to learn how Search works. This seems like a good step towards promoting transparency about how the news is shown in Search that people who aren't SEOs may appreciate. We have not been able to replicate this so we assume this may be test. 


SEO Tips

Google Search News - Episode 1: GSC changes, nofollow links, new meta tags, and more

This new series definitely has the MHC stamp of approval. We particularly enjoyed the weather forecast. The show is designed to provide you with updates on Google changes. Here is the information that was covered in this episode: 

  • Search console dashboard being replaced. John reminds everyone that some legacy features are still on the old search console and not everything has been moved over yet. 
  • Webmaster office hours have changed. You can find new sessions a week prior on the YouTube community page and on the event calendar. You can ask questions in the comments, or vote on questions you like. 
  • John defines the uses of the two new attributes to outbound links. Sponsored is for advertisements, sponsored etc., while UGC is for links created by your users in UGC. These are all considered hints for ranking. As of March 2020, they will be used as hints to help G discover new pages. If you have an existing website, you don’t need to make changes. 

He also discusses the new attributes they announced last week as well as the review stars changes. It is a great recap for anyone wanting a bit more clarity on Google’s recent changes. 


#AskGoogleWebmasters discusses changing servers

How should you preserve your SEO when changing servers? Well, changing the server alone is pretty uneventful for Google provided everything else stays the same. In this scenario, Google will read just how frequently it crawls your website (which is automatically done) in order to avoid causing issues and overworking your server -- Google of course throttles back to ensure it does not overload your new server and begins to increase this overtime in a safe manner.

For more advanced info on site migrations, John suggested this resource along with the webmaster help forum.


Google Help Hangout Tips

H1 tags are not critical for search ranking

John Mueller says that your pages can have no h1 tag or five h1 tags, there's no upper or lower limit. He suggests that you use your h1 tags to provide more structure to a page, so that both users and search engines can understand which content falls under the different headings. He calls this more of a usability issue, rather than a critical issue.

One thing that wasn't addressed in John's answer was how multiple h1 tags can impact accessibility -- multiple h1 tags can cause confusion for those who use screen readers because of the way they work to scan the page. So while it's fine to have multiple h1 tags on a page, we think that usability and accessibility outweigh design.

We should also add that following this topic getting picked up by various sources, John later said this:


Other Interesting News

Yoast SEO v12.2 responds to Google’s snippets change

The latest version of the WordPress plugin, Yoast SEO, has been released as of this week (October 1st to be precise) and opts INTO all snippet features by default. This is because of Google's latest changes to snippet settings which gives webmasters more flexibility and choice in how these snippets are included. 


Local SEO - Google Announcements

Location groups are not intended to be in the GMB app

GMB support recently said on Twitter that location groups will not be available on mobile app. It’s unsure whether this will change in the future but you can track new GMB announcements here, or keep an eye on our newsletter. 


Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

Minor update: GMB now shows Under Review instead of Pending Review

Local experts have expressed their satisfaction with Google making progress on GMB profiles. Rather than listing user-suggested edits as ‘pending review’, you can now see ‘under review’ which looks a little more professional in the overall setup. 


SEO Tools

Nofollow Trio -- Highlights your different attributes

One of our readers (shoutout to Jon Hogg!) let us know about their new Chrome extension called Nofollow Trio. Basically it highlights the three different attributes (rel=nofollow, rel=sponsored, and rel=ugc) and has the capability to be used for a single domain, multi sites, or on an as needed basis. 


Recommended Reading

Google and Review Snippets – Mike Blumenthal & Aaron Weiche
https://gatherup.com/blog/google-and-review-snippets/
Sept 23, 2019

This has been quite the topic in the last couple of weeks which we touched on many times in our recent newsletter episodes. Mike and Aaron want to make it clear: Don’t throw out the donut just because it lost its sprinkles. There’s still plenty of value in first-party reviews!

 

The Google Feature Magnifying Disinformation – Lora Kelley
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/09/googles-knowledge-panels-are-magnifying-disinformation/598474/
Sept 23, 2019

The knowledge panel can be a very helpful part of the SERPs for users. Look up a known entity, and you are provided with that neat little box that gives you the cliff notes on that entity. In this Atlantic article, Lora Kelley looks into how knowledge panels have been used to spread misinformation through “vandalism” i.e. people altering the sources that Google uses to draw such information from such as Wikipedia and Wikimedia data. 

 

When Google SERPs May Undergo a Sea Change – Bill Slawski
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/when-google-serps-undergo-sea-change/327913/
Sept 30, 2019

A recent patent granted in July 2, 2019 from Google can give some great insight as to how Google operates behind the curtain. Bill Slawski gives us a deep dive into what the patent is about and how Google can change SERPs based on key Search Engine Scores particularly on Impact Measures. We definitely recommend this read! 


Recommended Reading (Local SEO)

4 Things to know about Google posts in the 3-pack and local finder – Joy Hawkins
https://searchengineland.com/4-things-to-know-about-google-posts-in-the-3-pack-and-local-finder-322727
Sept 27, 2019

Joy has nicely summarized important information concerning Google posts in the 3pack and local finder. These posts began early this year and have grown increasingly lately. If your business is displayed in the local pack, you may want to consider making the changes in this article.

 

My Business Is Closing for Renovations – What Do I Do? – Nikki Brown
https://www.sterlingsky.ca/temporarily-closed-google-my-business/
Oct 1, 2019

If you do not want to leave your customers upset, you may want to consider updating your GMB to reflect a temporary closure. You will need to get in touch with GMB support to assist you but it’s important to note that you use ‘temporarily closed’ rather than ‘permanently closed’. If you’ve never gone through this process, you can thank Nikki for this next part -- your GMB will be marked temporarily closed but the same cannot be said in the Google Maps app. So since it’ll show as open, you may want to quickly update the business’ description, add to the Q&A (don’t forget to upvote it so it surfaces in a higher position), and utilize an event posts to communicate with your customers when you’ll reopen.

 

Hermit Crab SEO: a Google Maps Ranking Tactic That Should Not Work – Phil Rozek
http://www.localvisibilitysystem.com/2019/09/30/hermit-crab-seo-a-google-maps-ranking-tactic-that-should-not-work/
Sept 30, 2019

Hermit Crab SEO is an seo tactic used in local seo that involved moving your place of business, creating a new GMB page for that location but leaving up your old GMB page with your old business address. The hermit crab is used an analogy of moving to a new shell, however in this reality, you still benefit from your old shell. This is a very interesting study of the hermit crab seo tactic, and something to consider when moving businesses. 


Jobs


Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • For paid subscribers: Our early thoughts on strategies for recovering if you were hit by the September 24 core update
  • What we have noticed with sites that saw big changes September 24-27
  • Our current theory on what is happening with the September 24, 2019 core update
  • Is the Daily Mail seeing a recovery after a huge core update hit?
  • Possible local component to the September 24 core update
  • Google says that their newly added GSC Breadcrumbs report had errors
  • Google now has a new interface for ‘Change of address’
  • The user agent of Googlebot will be updated before year-end
  • Can Google recognize text from images?
  • Google testing sidebar filters
  • Your headings are important (check out this survey)
  • Does your agency publish its address?
  • More granular control now available for snippets
  • Awesome UI tips!
  • What Bill learned about winning a featured snippet in 15 minutes
  • If you’re wondering why there is no Discover Report in GSC for you…
  • Suggestions that Boris Johnson’s PR has a smart SEO
  • Google Review stars down in SERPs -- here’s those industries that have been impacted the most
  • Local sites losing gold stars in SERPs
  • You can now say goodbye to the Knowledge Panel order online buttons
  • Have you discovered document.designMode?
  • What’s the deal with word count? And how does it relate to thin content?
  • The crawl rate setting takes time plus a recommended fast solution
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

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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 recommend Marie's newsletter.
Paul Macnamara - Offers SEO Consulting at PaulMacnamara.com


That's it for this episode! Stay tuned for our Youtube video (my channel is here). If you want to follow me on Facebook, here is my page.


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