SNYCU Episode 114 - Jan. 8, 2020 - Light Version

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In our first episode of 2020 we discuss the volatility in the SERPs from the end of December up until yesterday, our concluding thoughts on winning the Wix SEO Competition, great tips and news from over the holidays, and more.


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In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • January 7, 2020 update?
  • There’s a glitch with the URL parameter tool at the moment
  • Reminder: The diversity update doesn’t mean you’ll never see more than two results from a single domain in the SERPs
  • YouTube begins rolling out limiting features on content made for kids
  • Interactive SERPs!?
  • For any professionals looking to speak at conferences
  • eComms -- Informative content on-site can boost the rankings of your sales pages
  • Does linking out to high authority sites help improve your own rankings?
  • Advanced tips for bettering your page speed
  • Google Posts glitch just before the holidays plus some feedback from other SEO's
  • You always need textual content on-page says Google
  • What persistent 5xx errors mean when crawling
  • Reminder: you can mute individual Google Search Console messages
  • John Mueller discusses ranking product pages
  • New variations surfacing in local ‘related to your search’
  • New 'choose area' feature appears in the local pack, plus what it may signal
  • Google clarified their guidelines for virtual offices
  • This fetch and render tool has been enhanced to render iframe content
  • Google Sheets formulas and more
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates

December 26, 2019 - Possible update? Or just seasonal changes?

It is common for us to see sites with significant changes in the amount of traffic that they receive around Christmas time. However, we have a large number of sites that we monitor that are seeing big increases starting on December 26 that we feel are possibly not seasonal changes.

It’s debatable at this point whether this was actually a quality update, or whether sites that normally see increases at this time of year due to seasonality are seeing bigger increases now that they have improved their overall site quality.

Below is a common pattern that we are seeing amongst many clients who have been working on improving overall site quality. This is a website in the travel niche which normally sees a bit of an increase after Christmas. You can see that this year, the increase is more than usual:

dec 26 increaseHere is another similar site. While they normally see increases in the new year, they are seeing more than usual:

similar dec 26 increaseIs this due to an update? It’s hard to say. It’s certainly possible that these upticks we are seeing are just a continuing trend for websites that started to see improvements at some point in 2019. We do not feel that this is an update worthy of its own article, but we may come back to this if we see more sites with significant changes at this time. 

It is also worth considering that Google’s algorithms likely shift after Christmas based on searcher intent. We do feel that at some point prior to Christmas the algorithms change to heavily favor authoritative transactional websites. In many cases, we will see a site that ranks extremely well for product pages, and then, in early December, sites like Amazon or Walmart will start to outrank them. We feel that this happens as the algorithms determine that more searchers at this time are searching with their credit cards out as opposed to just looking for information. It makes sense that if this happens, that the opposite happens once Christmas is done.

What we don’t know is whether Google manually pushes a switch to determine this or whether these changes happen in response to changes in patterns in how people search. We think the latter is the case.

Barry Schwartz reported that there was a lot of chatter about a possible update starting on either December 31 or January 1, 2020 as well. We’ll keep an eye on this.


MHC Announcements

Conclusion of the Wix SEO Competition

In case you missed it, we are the official winners of the 2019 Wix SEO Battle. We are grateful to Wix for hosting the competition, the readers, and our competitors, Liquid Interactive. As there was a lot of volatility in the final few days, we have written a post summarizing what we did as a final push. Thanks again to everyone who has followed along with us the past few months! 


Are you following us on Twitter? 

We have made a MHC Twitter account (@mhc_inc) so you can keep up to date with us, and the latest SEO news, tips and trends. We also promise some great gifs, so definitely give us a follow.


Google Announcements

New Google Data Studio has been officially released

Nearly 3 weeks ago Google Data Studio released an updated version which has made many SEOs very happy. Here are the new additions:


From Dec 15, the Index Coverage report can more accurately report on indexed pages

You may see a drop in your “Crawled - currently not indexed” pages because of this. Nothing changed other than Google’s reporting of indexed pages became more accurate.


Reconsideration requests are taking ages to get responses to lately

We generally tell our clients that it can take anywhere from a few hours to up to six weeks to get a response after you file a reconsideration request. For a while, we were often able to get a response from Google within 1-2 weeks. However, we have several cases now that are taking much longer. 

If you have filed a reconsideration request, there is not much you can do to speed up the process. John Mueller has told us in the past that filing another request will not change anything in terms of response time.

We believe that this increase in response time is due to Google handing out more manual actions recently. In the last couple of years, we saw a drastic decrease in the number of requests for help with manual actions that we receive. We assumed that Google was happy with how their algorithms are handling attempts at manipulating rankings and that manual actions were now less necessary. 

Whenever Google starts giving out more manual actions, we need to pay close attention. If your site gets a manual action, it can mean that Google has detected that you are doing something that is against their guidelines that they are not currently able to deal with with their algorithms. In many cases, they eventually are able to algorithmically measure these issues.

For example, we are working with a client right now that has a manual action for unnatural links. If you looked at any of these links in isolation you would think that they are great links - mentions on authoritative websites, great distribution of anchor text, with no obvious signs of being paid. However, after spending some time going through these links, patterns start to emerge. It turns out that the vast majority of these nice mentions were gained via link exchange, guest posting, or other methods of being “self made”. 

But wait! What’s wrong with guest posting? What’s wrong with link exchange? Done on a small scale, both of these methods have the potential to help improve rankings. However, if you are guest posting on a large scale, or if you have relationships with hundreds of websites where you can publish an article and get a link in return, these are not only links that Google would like to ignore in terms of rankings, but they can also hurt your ability to rank if Google determines that you are overdoing it. 

Although this is a few years old, you can read these articles for more of our thoughts on guest posting:

Is Guest Posting against Google’s Guidelines?

Yes, High quality guest posts can get you penalized!

Here is more information if you are interested in having the MHC team help you remove a manual action.

Update: Just before publishing, we read this article by Barry Schwartz in which he quotes John Mueller being asked about whether Google is dealing with a backlog in responding to reconsideration requests:

I mean if it takes longer than usually that's a sign of a backlog. But I mean it's not it's not the case that we kind of like artificially delay things with regard to reconsideration requests. Sometimes what just happens is that the team works on this in batches and they'll go through like one set of reconsiderations and then go through the next set. And depending on how they batch things it might be by country or might be by kind of type of issue, those kind of things. So that's something that sometimes happens and sometimes you see that with regards to the backlog or kind of the time that it takes to process things. Where suddenly a whole bunch of things will get reprocessed fairly quickly and then it takes a while again”.

Interesting!


Google SERP Changes

Big news for publishers, Google soon to be testing new feature in the Discover feed

The Google News app has added a couple of new features that should be released sometime  “soon” (no exact date has been provided), one of which is a simple dark theme, the other is the more talked about voting buttons. While these are intended to help users manually curate their feed, Lily Ray brings up a great point on Twitter, saying that a lack of clarity on the buttons may allow some users to view these as a like/dislike of the article itself rather than their opinion on the source of the content. 


SEO Tips

Here’s what you should know about returning 404 pages

Make sure your internal links aren't pointing to a page that 404s (or 410s). It's fine to remove pages and return a 404 error code, but do your due diligence and make sure that any internal links to those removed pages have either been removed, or redirected to a page that still exists.


John covers a series of bite-sized tidbits in this #AskGoogleWebmasters episode (Dec 23rd)

In this holiday themed episode, John answers common SEO questions such as whether there’s any benefit in using keywords in URLs, the difference between common redirects as well as 4xx codes, and more. 


#AskGoogleWebmasters final episode of 2019

This episode looks into the URL inspection tool and rendering. Some of the most frequently asked questions about the tool are answered. 


Search for beginners ep 5 discusses indexing

Some SEO basics are covered such as site: search, and how to ensure your site gets crawled. If you need help with these, it’s a great introductory lesson! 


Other Interesting News

You may be seeing a delay in Search Console data

Barry says it is currently as long as a 10-day delay, however it does not appear the case for all users. So if you’re seeing this, many complaints have been made and you are not alone. 

Update: it appears to be sorted!


Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

Review language changed in local Knowledge Panel  

Interesting find! When looking at businesses you manage in the KP, the wording has changed to “get more reviews” from “write a review”. This is a great change according to Local SEO Guru Joy Hawkins, as the previous language made it seem like businesses should review themselves when they shouldn’t. 


Now available: Request quotes from multiple businesses on Google

This isn’t major news, but users can now request quotes from up to 7 businesses in the local pack. You’ll of course need messaging enabled on your GMB listing, but act quick as the competition may have become more stiff! For more on this topic, check out Tom Waddington’s article


Local SEO - Tips

Trying to become verified on GMB? Don’t make this mistake!

Excellent tip here from Jason Brown.


Local SEO - Other Interesting News

Does a GMB suspension affect ranking? 

Well, it depends on the type of suspension you have. Joy breaks them down into hard and soft suspensions. Soft suspensions do not affect ranking, while hard lose rankings but regain them afterwards. 


Did you know that BrightLocal tracks Knowledge Panels?

Useful information here if you’re looking to track them!


Recommended Reading

3 Ethical Link Building Strategies for 2020 – Jeremy Moser
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/ethical-link-building-strategies/340777/
Dec 20, 2019

Quite often we’re hesitant to include link building articles in our newsletter as most are not up to snuff with Google’s Guidelines. However, this one is truly a good article and for that, hats off to Jeremy! Even more, he gives you recommendations for tools to leverage to help you on your quest. 

 

Entity Clustering in Google Search Results – Bill Slawski
https://gofishdigital.com/entity-clustering/
Dec 30, 2019

We enjoy almost everything that Bill Slawski puts out from the GoFishDigital team, and this last post to round out 2019 is no different! This article is very much worth a read for our more advanced readers, especially if you would like to learn more about how Google would potentially develop these ontologies, and how they would determine which cluster is the most relevant to the search, and why this specific form of entity clustering would be preferential.

 

Google Has Updated Quote Searching to Focus on Videos – Bill Slawski
http://www.seobythesea.com/2020/01/quote-searching/
Jan 6, 2020

Bill Slawski is known often for his knowledge and analysis of Google patents. In this article he compares the changes to the updated quote searching patent. Bill finds it important to analyze the changes or updates in the patents as it is often an indicator of their new focus. 

 

IRS Reforms Free File Program, Drops Agreement Not to Compete With TurboTax –  Justin Elliott and Paul Kiel
https://www.propublica.org/article/irs-reforms-free-file-program-drops-agreement-not-to-compete-with-turbotax
Dec 31, 2019 

Last April there was an interesting story about how TurboTax was using their Robots.txt file. Intuit, the Turbotax parent company intentionally blocked their free tax filing service from Google’s search engine, making it much harder for searchers to find a free alternative. It’s an interesting story and not everyday that you hear SEO terms making the news.


Recommended Reading (Local SEO)

Local Consumer Review Survey 2019 – Rosie Murphy
https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/
Dec 11, 2019

Online reviews are a growing part of the digital landscape and this annual study from BrightLocal shows just how important they are. There’s plenty of insight in this article, which also contains a highlight reel. 

 

A wishlist of improvements for Google My Business in 2020 – Joy Hawkins
https://searchengineland.com/a-wishlist-of-improvements-for-google-my-business-in-2020-327142
Jan 3, 2020

It’s the new year and local expert Joy Hawkins has given us her wishlist for 2020. It contains a handful of top items that she thinks either need to be updated or changed, some of which are long overdue! Overall this is a light read and we hope that if enough people share their thoughts on this piece, it may help build momentum on improving things.


Jobs


Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • January 7, 2020 update?
  • There’s a glitch with the URL parameter tool at the moment
  • Reminder: The diversity update doesn’t mean you’ll never see more than two results from a single domain in the SERPs
  • YouTube begins rolling out limiting features on content made for kids
  • Interactive SERPs!?
  • For any professionals looking to speak at conferences
  • eComms -- Informative content on-site can boost the rankings of your sales pages
  • Does linking out to high authority sites help improve your own rankings?
  • Advanced tips for bettering your page speed
  • Google Posts glitch just before the holidays plus some feedback from other SEO's
  • You always need textual content on-page says Google
  • What persistent 5xx errors mean when crawling
  • Reminder: you can mute individual Google Search Console messages
  • John Mueller discusses ranking product pages
  • New variations surfacing in local ‘related to your search’
  • New 'choose area' feature appears in the local pack, plus what it may signal
  • Google clarified their guidelines for virtual offices
  • This fetch and render tool has been enhanced to render iframe content
  • Google Sheets formulas and more
  • 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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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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