SNYCU Ep. 124 - March 18, 2020 - Light Version

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In this episode we dive into the global pandemic COVID-19 and how it is affecting the digital marketing sphere. We discuss what Google has done in light of this event, how you can help your site in this time of need, and major changes in the industry.


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In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Bing may be more active in pushing out algorithm updates lately
  • Google My Business and Google Ads support may be unavailable or delayed for some time
  • An increase to the AMP CSS limit
  • Report sensational or misleading content in Google Discover
  • Plenty of SERP snippets tests in action right now as seen on desktop
  • Google’s new default predicted search bar results
  • New test centred around ‘Popular Products’
  • John’s comments relating to site’s trying to hide affiliate links
  • Did you know you can compare two days’ SERPs with this tool?
  • Is it bad for SEO to have many pages on-site that users don’t search for?
  • How to craft excellent meta descriptions
  • Did you know you can use Chrome Dev Tools to view live JavaScript VM instances
  • Ask Google Webmasters discusses JavaScript SEO
  • Reddit has changed their post links to "nofollow ugc"
  • Google says they do not have an API for Discover performance data in Google Search Console
  • Events removed from Google Maps
  • WordPress users can now track CTR on their PDF search results using Google Analytics
  • How to automate your Knowledge Panel and GMB image change detection
  • Scroll to text fragment generator and bookmarklet
  • Resourceful guide for developers
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates

Given the state of the world right now, it is quite challenging to determine whether there was a significant Google update recently. Almost every site that we monitor is seeing unusual traffic patterns due to Coronavirus fears and quarantines. 

There is some speculation that Google pushed out something around March 10, 2020. In our analysis, we had many clients seeing improvements, or more commonly, declines in traffic around that time. However, for most of our clients, rankings have not changed. 

We feel that most of the turbulence that is being seen right now can be explained by the world’s changing search patterns while we fight to protect ourselves from this virus. 

For a full discussion on how the SEO industry is handling this difficult time, you can read our article, published today on the impact that Coronavirus is having on SEO and businesses. In this article, we have shared many quotes from SEOs who are describing the situation from their perspective. We also share some tips on how to look at your analytics and search console data to not only gauge the impact of the virus on your business, but also figure out where you should be focusing your on-page optimization efforts.


How COVID-19 is affecting the SEO community

Here are some good articles if you would like to do more reading on how online marketing is changing in the era of Coronavirus fears.

We had over 1500 people respond to this Twitter poll. The results are quite dire.

We have written a thorough article that summarizes many of the responses to this poll and discusses our thoughts on what we can do right now to help businesses who are struggling due to closures and financial hardship.

Here are some additional articles that we thought were helpful.

Coronavirus disrupts search, digital ad budgets

  • Google and Facebook are expected to experience revenue declines as many marketers re-evaluate their online marketing strategies.
  • Supply and demand chains will be disrupted causing great uncertainty

COVID-19 and corporate social responsibility in search engine marketing

  • This article gives good info on what should and shouldn’t be used in your PPC efforts surrounding Coronavirus.

Corona: 30+ Second Order Consequences of Covid-19

  • This is a good list of potential trends that could emerge in these strange times. 

MHC Announcements

MHC has gone remote 

With the recent Coronavirus outbreak, we have decided to work remotely to minimize any outbreak and stay productive and safe as a team. We hope all of our readers are taking precautions and wish them the best.  

If you’ve also gone remote, or have plans to, this guide may help you. 

As is likely obvious, Marie will not be speaking at SMX Munich this week as previously planned. 


Google Announcements

Google's response to providing helpful data about COVID-19 

As an information giant, Google has a big responsibility when it comes to keeping the public informed. They have released a blog statement with all of the measures they are taking to help this go over smoothly, and fight misinformation. This includes curating information from the CDC, WHO, government, and other authorities to ensure the public is getting accurate information across their platforms. Additionally, they are donating $50 million to the COVID-19 relief fund. Google also mentioned their sensitive events policy which prevents people from capitalizing on events such as this thru advertisements. 

From a search perspective, we have seen their SOS alerts, top stories, knowledge panels from the WHO, and new functions to help local businesses, and users during this changing time. 

If your business is being closed, or hours are changing due to the virus, as many are, G is using AI to contact businesses to ensure real hours are reflected in their GMB profiles. 

If you do own a business and are being affected by this, please update your hours online as well so users and search engines are aware of the changes. There is more on this from a local perspective in our Local News by SterlingSky section below. 


New markup available to support COVID-19 info sharing

Dan Brickley, a Google employee who runs Schema.org, has announced that version 7.0 of Schema.org has been published in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. In it, you can find new schema types to help support local organizations that are already updating their site to reflect Coronavirus-related info. Some of the schema types include, ‘SpecialAnnouncement’, ‘CovidTestingFacility’ and ‘eventAttendanceMode’. For more, Dan has additional info in his tweet below:

Even more, with many events around the world being cancelled, postponed, or rescheduled, Google announced they have added some new optional schema properties to their Event developer documentation. This should allow business owners to show searchers the latest information available. These new properties apply to all regions and languages, and Google has provided some tips on implementation in this blog post.


Google postpones all upcoming Webmaster Conferences

In light of the pandemic COVID-19 virus, Google Webmaster and several other major conferences are being cancelled. This decision was prompted by travel guidelines made by WHO and the CDC. Google says they are exploring other ways to reach their audiences. 


YouTube warned there is an increased risk right now of videos being removed

This is because there has been a temporary increase in automation of content review due to the Coronavirus pandemic requiring all full-time Google employees to work from home. Normally, videos would be flagged by machine learning to go to human review before any action is taken, but this second step is being skipped for now.


SEO Tips

Sound advice related to launching a new website

When creating a new website, John Mueller recommends erring on the side of having fewer pages. He’s mentioned this before, but each page should have a purpose that is different from each other. Unless they’re all different and hold a unique value, less pages is often better when creating a new website. 


Why your h-tags are important

And more on the importance of h-tags! We’ve discussed this in several episodes now, but it still remains true, h-tags are important for search engines and users, especially for accessibility reasons. Make your headings relevant to the content, and able to provide as much context as possible so it is clear as to what the user is diving into. 


Search for Beginners discusses snippets (ep 10)

As the first interaction between users and your website, snippets are hugely important when it comes to trying to earn a click via search. In this short video you’ll learn about: crafting the perfect page title, writing an effective meta description (bonus: premium members will get more on this to follow), prioritizing your efforts, along with how to make these changes.

Keep in mind that these tips will help you influence the snippets, but Google often tries to pick a useful and relevant title (which may be alternative to what you’ve suggested) to help you earn a click.


Google Sheets now has Filter and Sort by colour available

New feature was released at SheetCon, yes that is a real thing, that allows you to filter and sort your sheets by colour. This could be a fun test to play around with if you’re a frequent Sheets user. 


Other Interesting News

Ten reasons why SEO is the best marketing channel during this pandemic

With the pandemic putting spending budgets in question, SEO should not be forgotten. This article is a good example of why SEO matters, especially in times like these. When we have global events like COVID-19, people are using search engines more than ever. They are working from home, focusing on how their business will be impacted and making adjustments to account for that. Create content that caters to people working from home or who are looking for help with their declining sites. SEO is a long-term market, and efforts made proactively can help. 


Reddit sees a surge in traffic in recent weeks

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing several fluctuations in traffic. It appears Reddit is seeing increases in traffic, especially on mobile. The surges are coming from education, finance and sports channels. Definitely interesting to see this change. Keep in mind, the article is blocked by a paywall. 


Trump misinforms the public about Google’s ‘nationwide coronavirus testing website’ and rejigs Google’s plans

Last week US president Donald Trump announced that Google will soon be assisting the US government’s Coronavirus testing apparatus (which has been said to be lagging behind many other developed countries) by providing a website that helps you determine if you need to be tested and where the closest testing facilities are located. The problem? This came as a surprise to Google as they had no intention of doing this!

Alphabet’s sister company Verily (which focuses on life sciences) was planning to create a tool aimed at assisting high-risk populations and health care professionals triage patients being screened for COVID-19. However Following Trump’s unexpected announcement of Google’s efforts, a shift in plans was devised which will see Google maneuver more in line with Trump’s remarks. In all, over 1700 engineers are working on the effort which will eventually be open to the public, but for the time being, the tool is still in its early stages and testing remains focused only on the San Francisco area. Kudos to Google for stepping up and accepting a role they didn’t create for themselves!


Bing has created an interactive COVID-19 map

To help track the widespread COVID-19 virus, Bing has stepped up. They made an interactive map that displays where the virus is by geographic location. This includes the amount of affected, recovered and fatal cases. If you want to stay on top of the virus without sifting through hundreds of news stories, this may help. 


Online initiative setup by digital professions to help businesses get online during this pandemic

An initiative being started in the UK (not gov, just people) of digital professionals giving free time to small businesses in need of help -- specifically, assisting by giving these businesses guidance on setting up themselves an online presence. If you are in the UK and want to help, or know of a small business who needs help, contact them.


Digital freelancers or those open to freelance work, this is for you!

If you’ve been impacted by everything going on in the world lately and are looking to freelance, Michael King is compiling a list of persons so that agencies can get in touch with you! He really went out of his way on this one so send him a thank you on Twitter (@iPullRank) once you submit!


Local SEO - News from SterlingSky 

ranking flux
Looking at BrightLocal's Local Rank Flux activity for the last week sees some spikes but the last 3 days are showing a bit of leveling below 3.0, this means we're not seeing as much bouncing as we were last week. There has been some speculation in general SEO that Google was rolling out some kind of update - if anything since more COVID-19 related impacts are seen, local search rankings seem to be leveling off a bit. Now would be a terrible time to push an update, so hopefully, we see smooth sailing for a few more weeks.

Temporarily Closed Option in GMB

Google has added a "Temporarily Closed" option to most Google My Business dashboards so businesses can let their customers know special circumstances around the COVID-19 closures/restrictions. BUT - our recommendation right now is to not use it. Once you "reopen" your business - you can face a lag in getting back online if you choose this option.  Instead set your hours to match what's going on, vote up a question you ask and answer, post a Google post about your hours, and update your business description to define what's going on for your audience. One caveat is that too many edits at once can cause a suspension - so we recommend doing ONE edit, saving it, and waiting a few minutes before you edit the next. Don't do all edits at once. 

Please note - "it looks like the "temporarily closed" label doesn't always have to be implemented by the business itself - so keep an eye on your listing

Health Conditions Link to Local Search

For Health Condition knowledge panels, Google is now showing a "specialists" tab on mobile that links to local business listings for practitioners that are nearby and work in that segment.  It's a great way to tie in an expert to a discovery search. The health care knowledge graph has evolved a lot since 2015 - this new iteration is a step towards connecting informational search to transactional results.health and local search

Google is using Duplex to Call Business Owners for Updates

Google is using its Duplex AI program to call local business owners to confirm the open status and store hours in light of the new mandates around COVID-19. This seems like a great idea, although they're not clear on what triggers the call - as it doesn't seem feasible that they're calling ALL businesses to confirm hours. Likely if you've received a call randomly asking if you're open and what your hours are - it could have been Duplex calling. In most cases, you cannot tell the difference between a live person and the Duplex AI-generated voice - complete with pauses, "ums" and "ahs."


Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

GMB closes all messaging to businesses within Italy

Get a look at this! Amid everything going on the world, Google has taken the initiative to help out Italian businesses who are facing a country-wide lockdown at the moment.


Recommended Reading

Case Study: How UGC increased organic traffic 228% – Abby Reimer
https://searchengineland.com/case-study-how-ugc-increased-organic-blog-traffic-228-330351
March 9, 2020

If you are interested to know how UGC can improve your organic traffic, Abby Reimer’s case study is a must read. Abby details the process that her and her team took to create content from users, for users. She also suggests multiple other ways to gather UGC such as reviews, social media content and comments.  

 

Crawled — Currently Not Indexed: A Coverage Status Guide – Christopher Long
https://moz.com/blog/crawled-currently-not-indexed-coverage-status
March 9, 2020

If you want expert insight into GSC’s Coverage report item ‘Crawled -- currently not indexed’, look no further! Leveraging Christopher’s experience, learn about false positives, RSS feed URLs, paginated content, expired products, 301 redirects, thin content, duplicate content, and private-facing content. Best of all, the article covers info related to the level of priority you should place on these above URLs, along with possible solutions.

 

How my Content Audit Process Secured a 6-Figure Sale of my Website – Curt Storring
https://trafficthinktank.com/content-audit-process/
March 10, 2020

This is a cool case study from Curt Storring regarding how he managed to increase considerable growth for a site he recently sold through two separate site/content audits. Curt’s article is great, and indicates he is part of the slowly growing movement in SEO (which we are very happy to see!) that is realizing ensuring you have the best content, across the board on your site, is one of the most important aspects of ranking.

 

Google’s ‘Interesting finds’ SERP feature: The ‘interesting’ reason why mobile organic search traffic remained strong while desktop dropped – Glenn Gabe
https://searchengineland.com/googles-interesting-finds-serp-feature-the-interesting-reason-why-mobile-organic-search-traffic-remained-strong-while-desktop-dropped-330438
March 11, 2020

This article from Glenn Gabe is a great reminder of the importance of reviewing the SERP features for your own website. Glenn’s article has a great dive into more details about this “interesting finds” SERP feature, as well as how it can impact your site’s mobile traffic, how to use Google Search Console (GSC) to track the data from it, and also some general tips for understanding this feature.

 

The Ultimate Guide to JavaScript SEO (2020 Edition) – Tomek Rudzki
https://www.onely.com/blog/ultimate-guide-javascript-seo/
March 11, 2020

Here is an updated guide to JavaScript SEO in 2020 courtesy of Tomek Rudzki at Onely. Tomek makes a good point that traditional SEO and JavaScript SEO need to work as one layer on top of the other; you’re unlikely to be successful at SEO if you’re ignoring the fundamentals even if you’re taking care of your JavaScript SEO perfectly.

 

How Google May Choose Answers to How-to Queries – Bill Slawski
https://gofishdigital.com/google-how-to-queries/
March 11, 2020

With so many of us moving into self-isolation today and in the coming weeks, you may find yourself with more time on your hands than normal. At MHC, we think there is literally no better way to fill this alone time both productively, and enjoyably, than by reading this latest article from Bill Slawski on how Google may be choosing answers for “how-to” queries. 


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Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • Bing may be more active in pushing out algorithm updates lately
  • Google My Business and Google Ads support may be unavailable or delayed for some time
  • An increase to the AMP CSS limit
  • Report sensational or misleading content in Google Discover
  • Plenty of SERP snippets tests in action right now as seen on desktop
  • Google’s new default predicted search bar results
  • New test centred around ‘Popular Products’
  • John’s comments relating to site’s trying to hide affiliate links
  • Did you know you can compare two days’ SERPs with this tool?
  • Is it bad for SEO to have many pages on-site that users don’t search for?
  • How to craft excellent meta descriptions
  • Did you know you can use Chrome Dev Tools to view live JavaScript VM instances
  • Ask Google Webmasters discusses JavaScript SEO
  • Reddit has changed their post links to "nofollow ugc"
  • Google says they do not have an API for Discover performance data in Google Search Console
  • Events removed from Google Maps
  • WordPress users can now track CTR on their PDF search results using Google Analytics
  • How to automate your Knowledge Panel and GMB image change detection
  • Scroll to text fragment generator and bookmarklet
  • Resourceful guide for developers
  • 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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