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Episode 107 - November 6, 2019 - Light Version

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In this episode, we look at all of the recently published resources on BERT and pick out the important parts you should know. We also cover tips from the Google Webmaster conference. This is a great episode with a lot of awesome SEO tips, so be sure to read it all!


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In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Dawn Anderson’s amazing BERT article
  • Some of the “misinformation” clarified
  • Can BERT be used for understanding our pages as well?
  • How to use BERT for meta descriptions
  • The Speed report in GSC is beginning its rollout
  • Google updates the JavaScript troubleshooting & JS SEO basics guides
  • Highlights from the Google Webmaster Conference Mountain View: Product Summit
  • Controversy over how Google parses robots.txt
  • It would seem as though the rich snippets image bug has returned
  • Some of the search operators appear to be buggy
  • What voice search says about the security of your site
  • John Mueller and Martin Splitt discuss site speed and SEO
  • Your site speed matters
  • Context matters to Google!
  • What impact does traffic have on the worth of a backlink?
  • Google can override the key info you provide to the public if they think it’s in the users’ best interest
  • If you are overloading a page with too much javascript...
  • It sounds like Bing will be handing out more penalties soon
  • Ads and interruptions can destroy content experience
  • Switching to mobile-first indexing should have little to no effect on rankings
  • Workaround to get the URL to show in Chrome
  • John Mueller discusses whether link velocity could hurt you
  • Google has a new initiative aimed at a health record search tool for doctors
  • Firefox 72 to hide API prompts
  • Yext's new tool ‘Yext Answers’ soon to help brands with queries on their sites
  • Handy Chrome SEO bookmarks
  • Create your AMP stories for galleries
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates 

November 3, 2019 - poss small update?

We had several clients with significant upticks in Google organic traffic starting November 3, 2019. Given that we are writing this on November 5, it is a bit early to make judgements just yet on what happened.

Most of the sites that saw increases starting November 3 had a similar pattern:

It is also important to note that each of our clients that saw some improvement November 3 are sites that truly have been actively working on improving quality. In some cases when we see a minor algorithm update, we feel that Google has changed some criteria in how they assess quality. In this case, we think it is possible that Google is recognizing the changes these sites made.

At this point we’ll call November 3, 2019 a minor quality update. We’ll let you know if this seems more significant.


Recent discussion and clarification on BERT

Summary of BERT information that is important to SEOs

We covered this in detail for our paid subscribers last week. This week, this info is available to everyone. We’ve also added new points that have come to light since last week. Here is a point form list of the important things we should all know about BERT.

  • The change impacts 1 in 10 queries.
  • It’s only affecting English queries right now (other than for languages/countries that have featured snippets.
  • It is designed to help Google understand queries more like a human would. For example, previously if you searched for “parking on a hill with no curb” Google would have put too much emphasis on “curb” and present results for parking on a hill with a curb. Now, they can appropriately understand the query.
  • BERT is a neural network that was trained on the entire English text of Wikipedia.
  • It is not currently being used for ads.
  • There is no real way to “optimize for BERT”. However, if you have been writing text that is geared for search engines rather than humans, this is likely going to be less effective now. 

There’s no such thing as a BERT score says Google

In a recent tweet, Danny Sullivan was asked about how BERT values a page. Danny clarified that BERT doesn’t assign value to pages. In a recent Hangout, John also said that he doesn’t believe that there is a specific way to optimize for BERT apart from writing naturally. Remember, BERT is meant to help understand languages and is broken down by sentence and phrase. Write naturally and hopefully you’ll reap the awards!


MHC Announcements

It’s important to write, discuss and share! 

Working together is something SEOs have the unique ability to do. We share insight, knowledge and professional experience on an array of topics in a global capacity. Sharing your theory is great as it generates open discussion that can lead to new ideas. We need to ensure we encourage each other to embrace our analytical side when major changes occur in the industry. With all that has come forth surrounding misinformation about BERT, just remember to separate fact from theory and there is no harm done! 

Thanks for this great reminder, Marie! 


Happy Movember from MHC! 

Some of our guys have decided to defy their girlfriends and go ahead with growing moustaches in support of men’s health. If you’d like to support them, you can donate here. We’ll share some pictures with you as the boys get hairy! 


Google Announcements

Google’s official WordPress plugin, Site Kit, is now available for all

This past week Google announced that SiteKit is everyone for everyone and can be found in the WP plugin directory. If you own a WordPress site, oversee or work on a WordPress site, or are working on a plugin or hosting provider, there are several benefits for you. Check out the link below for more.


Google has begun sending out more performance notices

Some SEOs have recently began to see some nifty performances sent their way via GSC. They basically indicate things like your top growing pages, as well as your total clicks and impressions for the last month. Barry Schwartz notes this these aren’t really new (being that they first surfaced this past August), but the change here is that Google looks to be sending more of these lately.


Fitbit has been acquired by Google

Google announced that they have entered a definitive agreement to acquire Fitbit. They want to move more in the direction of wearable technology, and say they will  work with Fitbit’s team to bring the best AI for wearable technology. 


Beta for Google’s new Ads Lead Form Extension 

Google has announced a new beta for their ads lead form extension that is designed to help webmasters with securing data from users who click on their ads. This allows you to get in contact with the users and follow up based on their interest in your ad on mobile.


Google SERP Changes

Google rolls out a new Knowledge Panel feature for universities

This is a really cool feature for universities. It will let them answer the top questions that are searched online as a knowledge panel. If you have a university page this is a feature you don’t want to miss out on! 


SEO Tips

A quick lesson in self-referencing canonicals

Canonicals in general can be a tricky subject to understand! Thankfully Kristina Azarenko gives a superb explanation of self-referencing canonicals using a simple metaphor.

If you want to brush up on canonicals and get a better understanding of this tricky topic, we broke it down in simple terms over on our Wix SEO site. 


Lily Ray discusses E-A-T strategy

If you’re looking for a dose of Halloween and E-A-T this podcast episode is for you! An E-A-T strategy is not one with quick returns, so listen to Lily give her expertise on how to make it one that will be beneficial in the long run. 


How Bing uses Quality Raters

We liked this tweet by Frédéric Dubut of Bing:


How to enable targetText on Chrome

Hats off to Lily Ray for this one!


Eric Enge & Barry Schwartz discuss SEO testing, structuring content, and managing client expectations

This is part two of Barry and Eric’s chat, focusing more on SEO related topics as well as discussing Google. Eric gives a great reminder that what works for some clients doesn’t work for all, and this can contradict what Google puts out there. We loved the part where he says that SEOs have a tendency to over complicate things, as we often do ourselves. For example, when G announces a major update, don’t focus on the algo but what the purpose of it is. Publish great content, promote it and focus on the end game!


Google does not intent to add Google Discover referrer but there is an alternative

Asked whether SEOs could see Discover-specific referrer, John said that as far as he knows, there are “no plans to break that out out further.” In the meantime though, you can take advantage of the Google Discover performance reports in GSC.


Updating your PHP could mean drastic speed increase

This is a case of upgrading clients sites to 7.3 resulting in a speed increase of up to 200% after upgrading. Worth considering! 


Google Help Hangout Tips

What to do if your product page is outranking your category page

Make sure your category page is internally linked well within your site as this can help with its ranking. Additionally, make sure you’re not keyword stuffing when linking, as G will see this as a less reputable page and be more careful when showing it. 

To take it one step further, add a visual element like a banner to the page that will help users distinguish between the two types of pages, and guide them to the right one smoothly. 


Can spammy links hurt a site algorithmically? 

If Google looks at a site and sees a lot of spammy backlinks, it will assume there is malicious intent. It can then be demoted and lose visible rankings. So yes, spammy links can definitely hurt a site. Be sure to read our article on disavowing for more guidance on this.

Marie went further and defined that a spammy link is one intended to manipulate PageRank.  Here is G’s list of these. 


What constitutes a link scheme?

John describes a link scheme as one that excessive linking between a large scale of sites. Specifically when a group of sites work together to cross link to each other means they are likely  involved in a link scheme exchange. 


Your GSC numbers could be off 

When your data is fresh, you could see a different number than once it has settled down. This has changed since GSC now uses fresh content. 


Other Interesting News

Google says they intend to close the gap between the time it takes to index Google Shopping content and other content

When asking why shopping content gets indexed faster, the result is that this gap will be closed. 


Making Wikipedia more reliable 

Internet Archive has created a bot that will crawl Wikipedia’s sources and verify them. You can click a link and see a two-page preview as they have scanned over 50,000 books. They’re trying to give more context surrounding these sources. The Wayback machine has archived 387 billion pages since 2001, and scanned 3.8 million books. They have yet to scan all of the books cited by Wikipedia, but scan over 1000 a day and are making their way there. 


Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

Google now displaying your short names

One of the more anticipated features in local this past year (ie. short names) has been live for several months now, but site owners can now see their short name appear on their GMB profile (though Joy Hawkins notes that this appears to be currently restricted to mobile browsers, not including the Maps app).


Local SEO - Tips

More short name available for local businesses

If you haven’t had luck securing your desired short name, you may be in luck! Over on the Local Search Forum it was mentioned that some previously unavailable names may be up for grabs. 


Recommended Reading

This Is What Happens When You Accidentally De-Index Your Site from Google Jeff Baker
https://moz.com/blog/accidentally-deindex-your-site
Nov 5, 2019 

This is an interesting case of an accidental de-indexing and what it meant for his site. Jeff includes his thought process when he suddenly lost all of his keyword rankings and what he did about it. 

He started by deleting the old sitemap, building a new one and uploading it to SC and requesting reindexing. What were the results? In one week he had a 33% drop in search presence. This number decreased with time, but they lost high conversions throughout the process. It took six weeks until they fully recovered. 

Even once pages were re-indexed, the search visibility was never restored. The hardest part was having them re-indexed. Some pages took eight to nine weeks. He definitely does not recommend trying this even as an experiment. 

 

How Might Google Extract Entity Relationship Information from Q&A Pages? – Bill Slawski
https://gofishdigital.com/entity-relationship-information/
Oct 29, 2019

This is another great patent focused article from Bill over at Go Fish Digital. This time, Bill is digging into a patent granted earlier this year regarding how Google could utilize websites that provide a question and answer format could be helping to feed Google’s Entity recognition and understanding. 

The basic premise is that a Q&A page will likely include information about an entity, and its relationship to another (included in the answer). For example, if someone asked “Who is Barack Obama’s wife?” on Quora, the answer displayed as “Michelle Obama” tells Google about those entities relationships to each other. The patent details how Google can pick up on these and most importantly, to determine which answer on the Q&A page is the most likely to contain the correct entity relationship information. After all, people don’t always answer correctly on these sites! 

 

The Featured Snippets Cheat Sheet and Interactive Q&A – Britney Muller
https://moz.com/blog/featured-snippets-qa
Oct 25, 2019

Brittany Mueller recently hosted a webinar on featured snippets, the broadcast didn’t go as smoothly as usual, although, Moz has since posted a detailed Q&A round-up of the most common questions. If you have questions about featured snippets, you’ll likely find your answer here. Also included is a helpful Featured Snippet Cheat Sheet. Here are a few questions we found particularly interesting: 

  • What are best practices around reviewing the structure of content that's won a snippet, and how do I know whether it's worth replicating? - Ask yourself, does it succinctly answer the query? Does it sound good as a voice answer? Does the page provide additional answers or information around the topic? The goal is to ask questions and determine why Google is finings this particular page more deserving than others. 
  • Can I win a featured snippet with a brand-new website? Generally, if you’re ranking on page 1, you have a chance. 
  • How should content creators consider featured snippets when crafting written content? Consider the searchers intent, are you providing the information in a way the user prefers ie. video, image, text etc. Then review all other results on page one, are there similarities? 

There are a number of great resources within this post and if you still have questions about featured snippets, consider asking in the comments section. The Moz community has always been a great place to learn from others expertise and they are more than happy to help. 

 

How we optimized our Crawl Budget by removing 72% of Skroutz indexed URLs while growing to 30 million sessions – Vasilis Giannakouris
https://engineering.skroutz.gr/blog/SEO-Crawl-Budget-Optimization-2019/
Oct 30, 2019

This is quite the #longread featuring a successful case study on crawl budget optimization for a massive e-commerce site that led to improved search performance. Crawl monitoring was so vital to the team of SEOs finding the biggest sources of inefficiencies, significantly reducing the bloat in the index, and ultimately improving the time-to-indexation for new URLs. One of their key takeaways: no-index does not mean Google stops crawling. Also be careful when consolidating pages as it can be a long process to recover rankings.

 

Effective SEO Implementation for Software Businesses – Viola Eva
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-software-businesses/331019/
Oct 29, 2019

Do you own or work for a Software Company? In this amazing article by Viola Eva, they go over how you can structure your site and content in a way that works will for SEO and for Google. Viola goes into a technique of ‘siloing’ your website to create topical relevance to that will improve UX and help you compete in your niche. Some great advice provided by Viola include optimizing your homepage, creating a main navigation that supports your SEO efforts and creating content for your blog and how to optimize it. If you want to learn more about Site Structure and how to better optimize your site for SEO this is definitely a recommended read! 


Recommended Reading (Local SEO)

Spooky Review Strategies & Halloween Reputation Management Horror Stories – Garrett Sussman, Greg Gifford, and Claire Carlile
https://blog.grade.us/halloween-reputation-management/
Oct 31, 2019

Reviews are a major component in the decision factor for users. For local SEO, reviews are a major factor in your GMB position. This article dives into the importance of reviews and strategies to help you improve in this tricky area. 

Greg Gifford recommends creating a simplified site for reviews. Moving these into a landing page removes friction and funnels users. Carlile and Gifford recommend an “enhanced ask” technique that provides topics for users to write about. They provide some great horror stories but don’t worry, they come with recommendations. If you’re struggling with getting reviews, this is a must read article.

 

Tales of Horror from the Dark Side of Google My Business – Jason Brown
https://www.brightlocal.com/blog/tales-of-horror-from-the-dark-side-of-google-my-business/
Oct 31, 2019

Strap yourself in for this spooky tale of GMB horror stories. Jason Brown acts as the narrator and features a number of experts on such topics as unfavourable name changes, fear-inducing photos, rotten reviews, and bizarre Q&A answers. This is rather light read but serves as a good reminder of what @DamonGochneaur has said in that user-generated content can be a nasty merry-go-round if not carefully monitored.

 

#GTMTips: Track Outbound Link Clicks In Google Tag Manager – Simo Ahava
https://www.simoahava.com/gtm-tips/track-outbound-links-google-tag-manager/
Oct 30, 2019

This is a great tip for using Google Tag Manager to track outbound link clicks from your website. It’s not something many of us think to track, but there can be insights to be gleaned here. The setup within GTM is not overly complicated if you follow the steps outlined by Simo for creating the auto-event variable with an “outbound” component type.


Jobs


Who writes this newsletter?

When I, Marie, started this newsletter in 2012, it was a way for me to email each of you if Google updated the Panda or Penguin algorithms. As my business grew, the newsletter became an excellent training resource for my new staff. Now, our entire team at MHC is involved in writing newsletter content. 

I am so thrilled to see how the newsletter has grown. Thank you, readers, for all of your wonderful feedback!


Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • Dawn Anderson’s amazing BERT article
  • Some of the “misinformation” clarified
  • Can BERT be used for understanding our pages as well?
  • How to use BERT for meta descriptions
  • The Speed report in GSC is beginning its rollout
  • Google updates the JavaScript troubleshooting & JS SEO basics guides
  • Highlights from the Google Webmaster Conference Mountain View: Product Summit
  • Controversy over how Google parses robots.txt
  • It would seem as though the rich snippets image bug has returned
  • Some of the search operators appear to be buggy
  • What voice search says about the security of your site
  • John Mueller and Martin Splitt discuss site speed and SEO
  • Your site speed matters
  • Context matters to Google!
  • What impact does traffic have on the worth of a backlink?
  • Google can override the key info you provide to the public if they think it’s in the users’ best interest
  • If you are overloading a page with too much javascript...
  • It sounds like Bing will be handing out more penalties soon
  • Ads and interruptions can destroy content experience
  • Switching to mobile-first indexing should have little to no effect on rankings
  • Workaround to get the URL to show in Chrome
  • John Mueller discusses whether link velocity could hurt you
  • Google has a new initiative aimed at a health record search tool for doctors
  • Firefox 72 to hide API prompts
  • Yext's new tool ‘Yext Answers’ soon to help brands with queries on their sites
  • Handy Chrome SEO bookmarks
  • Create your AMP stories for galleries
  • 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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