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Episode 110 - November 27, 2019 - Light Version

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In this episode, we look at the November algorithm turbulence, the Bedlam update, and pore over John Mueller's thoughts on disavowing. We also cover major Google announcements and briefly mention our favourite SEO tips and tools from the past week.


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In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Information from John Mueller on the November 8 update and whether we should be disavowing
  • New reporting for Products Results in Search Console
  • Recipe sites may be experiencing the effects a rich results preview test
  • How to get Google to crawl your updated noindex tag faster
  • Advice from Google on how to take care of spammy links
  • John Mueller shares some insight on the ‘Indexed, though blocked by robots.txt’ item within GSC
  • Google says there’s no limit to how many pages you can index
  • Advice for sites which syndicate content
  • How do ads and visits impact a site SEO-wise or organically?
  • Are AMP page speeds shown in the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) when you look at page speed, or is it only the speed of the canonical URL that gets used?
  • In HTML, does order attribution matter?
  • How to diagnose and fix a drop in mobile app visits
  • Renew your .org domains asap!
  • Clarification on the URL removal tool
  • Some tweets can count in GSC
  • Further back and forth with sex-related legal queries
  • This recent local update has triggered the removal of product category descriptions
  • The Ahrefs toolbar on-page SEO report
  • Find the unused JavaScript and CSS on a page
  • Updates to the tools on TechnicalSEO.com
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates 

November algorithm turbulence

There are quite a few sites that we monitor that are seeing significant changes in traffic trajections starting at some point in November. However, other than the November 8 Google update, we do not see one particular day that we can call an obvious update.

This is often normal for November. Keep in mind that there are a number of seasonal factors that can impact traffic at this time of year. We commonly will see sites that have ranked #1 for commercial queries, slip to #2 or 3, often losing positions to sites like Amazon, Ebay or Walmart. If this happens, it may not mean that anything is wrong with your site. Rather, Google’s algorithms may be able to determine that at this time of year, more people who are searching have transactional intent.

We have had a few people reach out to us this week to say that their product pages are dropping in rankings. Our initial guess is that this is happening because Google is figuring out that many people generally prefer to buy from one of the big giants when it comes close to Christmas. Still, we are investigating the possibility that something else is in play here. 


More Bedlam - Google local chaos

As a reminder, the Bedlam update is the update that affected the local (i.e. maps) rankings. It likely started November 4-5, and can be hard to interpret as there was a huge organic Google update on November 8

The following are quotes from the thread on the Local Search Forum about this update:

  • We had been at #1 for multiple competitive phrases for several years. Then we dropped to spots ranging from about 6-12 (then briefly not even visible in search for one or two phrases). Then we went back up to #1 or #2 for all phrases, for about one day. Then this past Monday evening we went back down to about the same drop -- and those now on the top 3 are the same as when we dropped the first time. So this is starting to feel permanent.
  • All of this is exactly still happening on our end also. One day massive gains, next day massive drop.
  • We work with companies of all sorts that provide services to the elderly and their families. We have seen many clients' local rankings get hit in the past month and there is no sign yet of any recovery for them.

It seems that many sites are dropping in and out local rankings on a day to day basis. One member of the forum, Jason Parks has theorized that Google might be intentionally swapping out which businesses appear in the 3-pack, calling it the Swapasaurus Theory. It is quite an interesting read. It should be noted though that not all local experts agree with this theory.

At this point we don’t have any advice for recovery if you were hit by this update. We’re keeping an eye on the discussion though and hopefully will have more info for you in the future.


MHC Announcements

Another successful manual action removal 

Did you know that MHC has a 100% success rate removing manual actions for unnatural links? If you’d like to learn more about this service visit our manual action page. We would love to help! 


Have you checked out our new Wix homepage? 

We have 10 awesome Wix SEO tips right on the homepage! If you need help with redirects, internal linking, image optimization, server-side rendering, canonical tags and so much more, head over to our site! 


Google Announcements

Google Duplex moving beyond voice

Announced at I/O this year, Google Duplex was set to come to the web and now it has. You can now use your Google Assistant to purchase movie tickets with car rentals set to follow in the future. It will search by movie in the Google App, then provide you with options of where to buy your tickets. 


Google announces ‘Your News Update’

Introducing a smarter way to listen to the news hosted by the Google Assistant. As of this past week, users across the US are encouraged to update their Assistant news settings to try this feature out. It’s as simple as asking for the news to be played which begins to play a series of news stories that are personalized to things like your location, your search history, given preferences, and the top news stories. For those of you outside of the US, Google says that they intend to roll this out internationally in the next year.


Google SERP Changes

Google is still playing around with how to display the Ad label

As you may remember, the black ad labels were highly contested when they appeared this past May and it would appear that Google may be pondering a return of these labels. 


Google testing out showing small arrows pointing to page titles in the SERPs

Minor change here but it’s interesting to see Google play around with options to draw focus away from the ad labels. Check it out:


SEO Tips

Improve your content on Google Search (tips from Google!)

This almost 30 minute video shouldn’t be ignored and not just because it contains Martin Splitt. They discuss all things Googlebot including implementation and best practices. He also mentions tools and ways to improve site discoverability in modern times. 


With the introduction of BERT, should you be updating your keyword methods?

We absolutely love some of the Q&A that SEMrush puts on their Twitter regularly. This was a question that caught our attention as the SEO community is buzzing with questions on how to optimize for BERT. Here are a couple of our favourite responses:

Moral of the story? Optimize for humans!


GSC showing more impressions for a query containing string x and a page with string y vs. Just a query showing string x 

Johan Hülsen explains how this is possible. 


Debugging tip for JavaScript

You can use Chrome Dev Tools to search across all JavaScript sources for a page (including extensions).


Latest episode of Search For Beginners discusses choosing the right platform and tips for working with a web developer

Great video here if you’re looking to find a web developer, and if you should use a platform for your site or build a custom one. 


Google Help Hangout Tips

Are you better off having your external links as a citations or a reference list at the bottom of your page, or keeping them within the main text? 

John says that having in-text citations provides a lot more context that helps understand what those links are about. So if you want to reference important information, make sure you have clear anchor text and put the links in a place where users reading that page will find them useful. 


Google discusses GDPR overlays on a site

For GDPR overlays, Google tries to recognise and differentiate legal banners from ad banners (interstitials may still cause issues, though). Another thing to remember is that if you're only serving those overlays for people in the EU, because Googlebot crawls from the US, the overlay would not be seen: 


Other Interesting News

Google bug where images disappear in recipe rich results may be starting to be fixed

This has been a lingering issue that has been going on for about a month now. Fortunately, it would appear that may be fixed just in time for American Thanksgiving:


Bug: new meta tag resulted in pages not being indexed 

Google recently announced they will give Webmasters more control over Search Results Snippets. Unfortunately one of these controls, more specifically, the Max Image Preview Tag may have caused some issues. If you used this Tag and set the value size to none Google would mistakenly take this as a No Index Meta Tag resulting in the page being dropped from the index. Fortunately John Mueller on Twitter has said that they are aware of the bug and are currently rolling out a fix.


Google Optimize hopes to achieve a more consistent experience for repeat site visitors

This is pretty neat for tracking. This Google Optimize update lets them understand when someone is a repeat visitor to the site.  G gives a great example that explains how this works here.  


Mastercard banning Negative Option Billing 

This is really interesting. It’s not new by any means (it was revealed back in January), but it seems to be getting a lot of attention lately and for most of us, this is the first time we’re hearing about it. Anyways, Mastercard is stopping the function that bills users after they have subscribed to a free trial. It’ll be interesting to see if any other credit card providers follow suit on this matter.


Big news from Twitter surrounding inactive or unresponsive accounts

This isn’t strictly related to SEO but it’s good to be aware of for brand accounts; Twitter is apparently planning on shutting down accounts which don't accept their new Terms of Service by December 11, 2019.


Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

GMB reviews URL showing up in SERPs 

Looks like this isn’t the first time this has been seen and could be related to G pushing Local Guide reviews. 


Local SEO - Other Interesting News

Temporary issue with GMB Q&A entries not appearing

This was relatively short-lived but enough to likely cause frustration with users. If you were frustrated by this and wondered what was happening, just know it’s been resolved as of this past Monday.


SEO Tools

Good news, the AlsoAsked.com tool has expanded!

We featured this back in ep108 and it’s a neat tool that allows you to explore related questions surrounding a query. Well, now it features multi-regions and multiple languages.

We encourage you to check it out, but do keep in mind that it’s in Alpha which means things may not be fully functional and items may be broken.


Recommended Reading

Types of Content Hubs: 5 Approaches & 30+ Examples – Kane Jamison
https://www.contentharmony.com/blog/content-hubs/
Nov 19, 2019

We often hear the phrases “hub and spoke” and “topic clustering” thrown around in SEO, but they’re more broad concepts than specifically-defined approaches to content hierarchy. Be sure to check out the article for specific real-world examples. Kane is also open to growing his list if you have a different type of content hub worth adding.

 

Complex Search-Results Pages Change Search Behavior: The Pinball Pattern – Kate Moran & Cami Goray
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/pinball-pattern-search-behavior/
Nov 17, 2019

As the SERP landscape continues to evolve, it should be no surprise that the way the average user interacts with it is quite unusual. As layout features get introduced, update and change form, these changes impact the users’ attention distribution on the page. Because of this, the ‘SERP-processing gaze pattern’ which has been observed has been coined, ‘the pinball pattern’.

 

Better Content Through NLP (Natural Language Processing) - Whiteboard Friday – Ruth Burr Reedy
https://moz.com/blog/better-content-through-natural-language-processing
Nov 22, 2019

This Whiteboard Friday is all about how Google uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) and neural networks to better understand content -- essentially, Google is trying to better understand the relationship between entities, words, and how people use words to search. 

 

Part I Chapter 10 - SEO Yvo Schaap, Rachel Costello, and Martin Splitt
https://almanac.httparchive.org/en/2019/seo
Nov 2019

A fascinating look at the web through the eyes of Google says John Mueller. The Web Almanac is used to “analyze on-site elements of the web that impact the crawling and indexing of content for search engines, and ultimately, website performance.” If you want to learn about some of the key characteristics and trends behind 5 million+ websites, this is a great resource to understand exactly how the SEO fundamentals take shape in the real world.

 

How to Use Images to Increase Search Visibility and Get More Clicks – Ann Smarty
https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2019/11/images-search-visibility/
Nov 21, 2019

Ann Smarty’s article posits that as Google shifts their emphasis to mobile search, images with meta descriptions are going to become critical. Images naturally draw the eye, so having visual content such as images can give you an advantage in organic search. Ann has created this really great guide on using your images to build organic visibility. It contains tips on how to optimize the potential to generate visual search snippets in Google, as well as advice about how to use images to stand out within the results. 

 

Google for Jobs: Everything you need to know to optimize for better ranking – Marco Bonomo
https://searchengineland.com/google-for-jobs-everything-you-need-to-know-to-optimize-for-better-ranking-325411
Nov 20, 2019

Google for jobs is a recruiting platform competing in an intense market. This article includes how to set it up, the right schema to use, whether to use an indexing API or a sitemap, and of course, how to rank for it. This article is in depth with steps, images and bulleted points on how to best optimize for Google for jobs so be sure to read it in full if you plan on posting! 


Recommended Reading (Local SEO)

Patent: Google Going Old School with Local SEO, But In A New Way – Dave Davies
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/patent-google-local-seo/334667/
Nov 19, 2019

This article takes a look into of Google’s newly granted patents, Automatic Delivery Of Customer Assistance At A Physical Location. It bears some commonalities to other patents and makes Dave Davies think that this one will be used by Google. Overall this is a pretty interesting read and this patent could certainly help shift the tide of people opting for online retail giant purchases despite having brick-and-mortar interactions with physical products.

 

Should I Take Ranking Advice From Google My Business (GMB) Support? – Colan Nielson
https://www.sterlingsky.ca/gmb-support-ranking-advice/
Nov 26, 2019

There are a lot of mixed feelings towards the GMB Support team and Colan decided to compile a list of common advice they dish out to webmasters. Some may hold merit (though they appear untested) while many others are flat out disastrous or wrong advice. If you’re operating in the local space, we encourage you to see Colan debunk some of these!


Jobs


Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • Recipe sites may be experiencing the effects a rich results preview test
  • How to get Google to crawl your updated noindex tag faster
  • Advice from Google on how to take care of spammy links
  • John Mueller shares some insight on the ‘Indexed, though blocked by robots.txt’ item within GSC
  • Google says there’s no limit to how many pages you can index
  • Advice for sites which syndicate content
  • How do ads and visits impact a site SEO-wise or organically?
  • Are AMP page speeds shown in the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX) when you look at page speed, or is it only the speed of the canonical URL that gets used?
  • In HTML, does order attribution matter?
  • How to diagnose and fix a drop in mobile app visits
  • Renew your .org domains asap!
  • Clarification on the URL removal tool
  • Some tweets can count in GSC
  • Further back and forth with sex-related legal queries
  • This recent local update has triggered the removal of product category descriptions
  • The Ahrefs toolbar on-page SEO report
  • Find the unused JavaScript and CSS on a page
  • Updates to the tools on TechnicalSEO.com
  • 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.

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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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