emailSNYCU Episode 112 - December 11, 2019 - Light Version

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In this episode, we cover the worldwide rollout of BERT and the languages it now includes, the recent changes to Google's Quality Rater's Guidelines, more on the November 8th update, our recent robots.txt experiment, a disavow case study and some neat SEO tools and tips.


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In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Interesting note for those who were affected by the November 8 update
  • BERT is also being used by Google to analyze page content
  • The QRG have updated
  • Part 2 of Google’s ‘Four Rs of Responsibility’ surrounding YouTube
  • The real problem with your 404s
  • Looking for an option to store old SERPs?
  • Google is good at remembering things about URLs
  • Pagination and the topic of crawl budget
  • If a site has been switched to MFI, why does it still get crawled with Googlebot desktop?
  • Invest in what you can control, all else should be secondary
  • Deceptive page titles won't hurt you organically per se, but not matching on-page searcher intent will
  • Does having more than one h1 on a page confuse Googlebot?
  • Bias in search and recommender systems
  • A breakdown of Martin Splitt’s talk from TechSEO Boost
  • Which SEO myths need to be buried?
  • A new resource for tracking browser protection features
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates

While there have not been any obvious and significant Google updates over the last week or two, we do have a number of clients seeing changes in their traffic patterns on November 24-25 and also between December 3-5. However, many of these changes could be explained by seasonality. While it is possible that there was a tweak to Google’s quality algorithms at this time, we think these are either seasonal changes, or just normal ranking fluctuations. 

There was a bit of chatter about local ranking changes happening December 3-5, but at this point we don’t know whether this is due to “Bedlam”, the November Local Search update, or just seasonal changes: 


Quality updates can affect subdomains in individual ways 

These tweets from Glenn Gabe and Lily Ray show us how different subdomains on Mercola.com have been affected by quality updates. 

It is interesting to see that their health and fitness content has been hit hard, but their pet sections have not. 

In our whitepaper on medical consensus that we shared with our clients with medical sites, one of the things we suggested was, if appropriate, to move any content that could be seen as contradicting traditional consensus to its own subdomain or subfolder. That way, if Google has problems trusting your health content, it is less likely to impact the ability of your other content to rank well.


BERT is now live in many more languages

When Google first announced that they are using BERT to help better understand queries, they told us that this was only released for US English searches. Now, as of December 9, 2019, BERT is being used by Google for many other languages as well. 

This affects approximately 1 in 10 searches. Danny Sullivan told us that it is currently only live in languages beyond English for only featured snippets

What does this mean? We will note this date on our Google algorithm update post. If you are a non-English site that saw significant changes in traffic around December 9, it is possible that BERT could be connected to these changes. 

Keep in mind that BERT is designed to help Google better understand queries. Our current thought is that the types of queries that are affected by BERT are generally long tail searches rather than short, commercial phrases. However, one thing we don’t know is whether Google is using BERT to understand the quality of your content on the page as well. If this is the case, this could affect short tail query rankings as well.

Update: Just before publishing, we got confirmation from John Mueller in a help hangout that BERT actually is used to help Google understand content on a page. Read the next section for more info on this.


MHC Announcements

Newsletter pause for the holidays

As the holidays approach, we are wrapping up our projects for the year. Therefore, this will be our second last newsletter of 2019. You can expect our final one of 2019 next week. 


Robots.txt experiment 

In case you missed it, we ran an experiment to see if we could get a page that was blocked by robots.txt indexed. We published our steps and the results over on our Wix SEO page. You can read it all here


Google Announcements

Package tracking early access program

Google has created a new feature that allows shipping companies to show people the tracking status of their packages within the SERPs. This is available to all countries but is still in early access, so shipping companies can now sign-up to participate and give feedback on this feature. Check out the blog post for information on the eligibility requirements, and a link to the sign-up form


Google SERP Changes

Check this out! Google is showing zero cost options in the SERPs

Here is an unfamiliar sighting, Google appears to be shifting focus away from the eComm giants, and making the SERPs a little more inclusive! We agree that this may not have a huge impact on sites such as Amazon, but the idea itself is brilliant!


SEO Tips

Disavow case study

A Twitter fan named Jesse shared this chart with us. He read our blog post on the November 8 Google update and was inspired to audit his site’s links and file a disavow. 

He ended up disavowing about 75-100 low quality blogspot domains that all linked to him from their sidebar as part of a reciprocal linking scheme that was set up by the previous owner of the website.

This site does get a seasonal boost in December, but according to the site owner, this type of sudden increase in rankings and subsequently traffic, is not normal. 

The disavow was filed December 2, 2019.

 

While we can’t say for certain that this increase is due to the disavow, it sure looks like it!

Here is a previous article we have written on how disavowing could help a site even if it does not have a manual action.


This just in: create quality content

No surprises here, Google Webmasters says that Google cares more about the quality of the pages you want to have indexed rather than the type of page you want indexed. No matter the page you put forward for indexing, consider the quality of it first and foremost!


Brodie Clark continuing to test thumbnail images on mobile

This test involved embedding a hidden hyperlink. Brody emphasizes the impact these images can have and how schema doesn’t appear to help. 


JavaScript rendering -- from Martin Splitt at TechSEO Boost


Are you asking users to login or create an account to see pricing?

Take it from Ryan who speaks on behalf of most people here, people would rather seek out a more expensive and worse fitting option that to give a site their email address. Ask yourself, is the loss of potential leads worth the emails you receive? 


Episode 4 of Search for Beginners

This episode introduces learners to how search works. Specifically they cover crawling, indexing and ranking. It’s a nice breakdown if you’re wanting to learn this from Google’s perspective. 


Other Interesting News

How do you pronounce JSON?

When we last checked the results were pretty close. Go ahead, have your say! 


Global search stats from Google Search

Google revealed this past week some interesting stats related to Google Search. Check it out:


Update to Google Assistant based on your diet

There's a new section within your Google Assistant settings, which allows users to limit the type of recipes that your Assistant will recommend to you, based on your dietary restrictions. Currently the restrictions are for gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan and will be taken into account immediately when you look up recipes on your smart display. 

If this search feature is widely adopted, it may have a positive or negative impact on rankings for some recipe sites. We’ve noted the date of this change on our Google algorithm update post.


You might have noticed that your YouTube account lost a number of subscribers this week

It might not be your fault -- YouTube is doing a big purge of closed accounts from their metrics. YouTube says that this kind of thing is routine and that’s all part of their ongoing efforts to reduce spam and abuse on the platform. For more info, be sure to read the article over on TechCrunch.


Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

Google changed how the "Ad" label looks on Desktop for the local 3-pack

Some people are saying they're still seeing the green "ad" label, so who knows, maybe this is just a test?


‘Rated highly for' review tags appear

First spotted about 2 weeks ago, more SEOs are beginning to spot this new addition. It’s believed that this could be from Google’s review mining ability, but even more likely this is probably some kind of combination of Google’s insight coupled with the user-selected tags from when they go ahead and leave a review.


Local SEO - Other Interesting News

GMB creating posts with uploaded images 

Interesting case of G using a user’s GMB photos and turning them into a post. 


SEO Tools

Internal linking tool to help you find links at scale 

This is a really great tool to help you find internal linking opportunities. He lays it out so if you use Power BI, it is nice and easy, otherwise you can use Google Sheets or Excel. Definitely worth checking out! 


Visualize your top internal pages with ScreamingFrog

Great tip on how to do more with ScreamingFrog and optimize your links! 


Recommended Reading

Matt Cutts on the US Digital Service and Working at Google for 17 Years – Y Combinator
https://blog.ycombinator.com/matt-cutts-on-the-us-digital-service-and-working-at-google-for-17-years/
Dec 4, 2019 

This podcast is one not to miss as it features previous Google employee Matt Cutts in a one-hour segment. He discusses what it was like to be the 71st employee at Google, product development, being one of the first Adwords advertisers, SafeSearch and so much more. 

 

Link Reclamation for SEO: Strategies, Tips, and Best Practices – Stella Murphy
https://www.portent.com/blog/internet-marketing/link-reclamation-for-seo-strategies-tips-and-best-practices.htm
Dec 3, 2019

A solid reclamation strategy is one of the easiest and high ROI link building strategies in SEO. If a site no longer has working links to your site, this is negative for both parties involved and most site owners would be happy to fix the issue. The first step in this process is to find the broken links. There are a number of great tools to help with this including MOZ, Ahrefs and Majestic. Next is to reach out to the site owner, included in this article is a straightforward yet effective email template. This strategy won’t be 100% successful and it may require reaching out several times but having a process for link reclamation in place is an important strategy for any SEO campaign because it can often result in easy wins.

 

How to Map 404 URLs at Scale with Sentence Embeddings – Hamlet Batista
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/map-404-urls-at-scale-sentence-embeddings/338555/
Dec 6, 2019

It is always recommended that you map 404 URLs with a redirect to a relevant live (canonical) page where possible as opposed to bulk redirecting to the homepage or a singular location — Google has informed us many times that bulk redirecting often results in the redirected pages being treated as soft 404s (as opposed to a clean redirect that passes signals). However, mapping this at a large scale can be difficult if there are a large number of 404 pages. Courtesy of Hamlet Batista, this is a technical but brilliant way of utilizing neural matching and universal sentence encoding to accurately match 404 pages with their live page equivalent where one exists. 

 

How SEO for News can help all websites – Barry Adams
https://www.polemicdigital.com/how-seo-for-news-helps-all-websites/
Dec 4, 2019

Barry Adams works within the niche of SEO services for news publishers. As Barry notes, news sites occupy a very unique vertical on the web, and for SEO you are primarily working with Google News rankings instead of the organic SERPs. Google News has its own set of ranking factors and is a separate algorithm from organic search. This is well worth a read for anyone who publishes news content or is starting out trying to rank a news site.  

 

How to Track Video Views in Google Analytics Using Google Tag Manager in 4 Steps – Andy Crestodina
https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/tracking-video-views-google-analytics-tag-manager/
Dec 4, 2019

This is going to be a great resource for anyone who has videos on their websites (so, most of us). You would think that you can just use Google Analytics to track and report visitor interactions, but did you know there are a whole bunch of different types of “clicks” that are not recorded in Analytics unless you have event tracking setup? So this means you need to be using Google Tag Manager to track these events. Andy created this really great video guide that shows you how to set this up for your YouTube videos.

 

What is the actual impact of ITP 2.1 and 2.2 on your Google Analytics data? (+ free tool) – Marieke Pots
https://towardsdatascience.com/what-is-the-actual-impact-of-itp-2-1-and-2-2-on-your-google-analytics-data-free-tool-99e42c5978a6
Sept 19, 2019

With the release of ITP 2.1 this past March, there’s been plenty of speculation concerning how this will impact your GA data. There’s a very interesting theory broken down in this article which basically outlines that the expiration of your GA cookie after 7 days of inactivity (ie. a non returnee in the first week) will in all likelihood result in returning visitors skewing your data to reflect more sessions by new users, shorter journeys per user, and less channels to attribute their revenue to. To get a glimpse of this theory being tested or for some takeaway lessons for those of you handling GA for important decisions, check out the article for more!


Recommended Reading (Local SEO)

Results of Removing My Google My Business Listing – Bill Hartzer
https://www.billhartzer.com/google/results-removing-google-my-business-listing/
Dec 2, 2019 

Bill has a theory that a national or international business does more harm than good for their website if they have a GMB listing. He decides to test this theory not once, but twice and noticed that each time he did so, his organic traffic improved. These tests may reflect an accurate theory, or they may very well be a total fluke. But beware, Bill’s asks that you don’t take his word for it, instead he’s provided plenty of data for you to make that decision for yourself. 

 

The Local Algorithm: Relevance, Proximity, and Prominence – Mary Bowling
https://moz.com/blog/local-algorithm-relevance-proximity-and-prominence
Dec 6, 2019

Local expert Mary Bowling breaks down the three factors that drive the local algo and local rankings in a simple and easy way…

They are as follows:

  1. Relevance -- the algo asks, “Does this business do or sell or have the attributes that the searcher is looking for?”
  2. Prominence -- the algo asks, “Which businesses are the most popular and well-regarded in their local market area?”
  3. Proximity -- the algo asks, “Is the business close enough to the searcher to be considered to be a good answer for this query?”  Important note: this is the factor that really defines the local algorithm says Mary. 

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Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • Interesting note for those who were affected by the November 8 update
  • BERT is also being used by Google to analyze page content
  • The QRG have updated
  • Part 2 of Google’s ‘Four Rs of Responsibility’ surrounding YouTube
  • The real problem with your 404s
  • Disavow case study
  • Looking for an option to store old SERPs?
  • Google is good at remembering things about URLs
  • Pagination and the topic of crawl budget
  • If a site has been switched to MFI, why does it still get crawled with Googlebot desktop?
  • Invest in what you can control, all else should be secondary
  • Deceptive page titles won't hurt you organically per se, but not matching on-page searcher intent will
  • Does having more than one h1 on a page confuse Googlebot?
  • Bias in search and recommender systems
  • A breakdown of Martin Splitt’s talk from TechSEO Boost
  • Which SEO myths need to be buried?
  • A new resource for tracking browser protection features
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

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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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