SNYCU Ep. 125 - March 25, 2020 - Light Version

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In this episode we dive into how the Coronavirus has continually impacted search. This includes the changes Google has made to search to provide information to users and businesses, as well as regular SEO news such as tests being done in the SERPs, information on manual actions, and more.


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In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Google is pausing upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases to adjusted work from home schedules
  • The latest regarding Chrome’s plans to block mixed content
  • A new way to appeal policy issues within Google Ads, depending on eligibility
  • Track all major changes to the Google Search developer documentation
  • Right side featured snippets have almost entirely been moved or removed
  • Clickable cards in the SERPs
  • For those of you experiencing issues indexing URLs with anchor fragments
  • Debug links clicked through the Debug Terminal
  • Chrome Dev Tools updates Long Tasks visualization UI in the Performance panel
  • How to build a ‘Buy Online and Pickup Curbside' store using Shopify
  • Bing Webmaster URL Submission API -- full documentation in one concise page
  • Suggested best practice regarding indexing product category pages on eCommerce sites
  • John answers detailed questions about how Manual Actions are handled
  • Speed metrics could be more granular of over time and may further influence rankings
  • Are strange things happening with your site-specific AMP carousels? This could be why!
  • Google has no intentions of hiding News content that is behind paywalls
  • Want an effective way to filter out internal traffic while your staff are working from home?
  • Curious to know what percentage of sites are not mobile-friendly?
  • Are we seeing a new Analytics benchmark?
  • Several examples of businesses that began during a recession
  • New review highlights on Google Maps
  • Here's three options to update your GMB hours
  • Google allows *some* modification of certain GMB business names
  • A heightened level of Google Posts are getting rejected
  • Multiple warnings available in the SERPs to signal when an event may have been cancelled
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates & Coronavirus Impact

It is quite challenging to determine whether Google has pushed out any significant updates over the last week as almost every business in the world is affected in some way by COVID-19. 

Last week, we published a Twitter poll to ask what you are seeing in terms of impact on your clients’ businesses, or your own business. Last week, 48.7% of respondents said that they were seeing declines in organic traffic. 

This week, we re-ran the poll and the numbers are, as expected, worse:

Some people did report seeing nice improvements:

  • +250% - toys - Roman Sadowski
  • I have a gardening centre client whose traffic has gone up considerably in the last week - Alex Mungo
  • I work in an industry that is considered essential. A lot of traffic looking at store hours right now. - Mike Nealis
  • I have a DIY blog - I’m up 20% at least - decor hint

Some have reported that clients are seeing more traffic with increased online ad spend:

We we encouraged though to see people who talked about businesses learning to adapt, or otherwise, starting to see some improvements after initial declines:

  • The website reach of one of my clients has significantly declined, which is not really surprising since she owns a gym (closed in the Netherlands). However, since we started offering online gym classes for free, the organic reach through social media is growing rapidly. - Jelle Postma
  • First declined, this Saturday restored - Sanju Le
  • Client makes a luxury version of a pantry staple and only sells it online, and now everyone is stuck at home, grocery shopping online and cooking at home more than ever. They even launched a coupon to make it more affordable. So it's all been good for traffic. - Becky Lehmann

What trends are we seeing at MHC?

We were encouraged to see that this week, we had more sites to report on that are seeing improvements. Still, quite a few of our clients are continuing to see significant losses in organic traffic.

Some of the sites seeing improvement are ones that are very obviously important in the wake of COVID-19. We are seeing large traffic gains for clients that sell medical supplies, bloggers who write about home remedies, and some online medical advice sites. 

There were other gains that were quite interesting:

  • Lawn care and gardening. While many of these increases could be seasonal, we expect that many people who are stuck at home now will have more time to work on their gardens.
  • Cooking sites. Last week, many cooking and recipe sites saw significant decreases in traffic. We have several recipe site clients who are now starting to see some nice gains. Again, it makes sense that as more people are at home, and not going out to restaurants, there will be more home cooking going on.

recipe sites increase

We did also see quite a few sites whose traffic continued to decline. Most businesses that rely on foot traffic are suffering. 

Most of our attorney clients are suffering very large drops in traffic. We have also seen drops in sites that discuss weddings, and also real estate sites. 


Additional COVID-19 reading

We found the following articles from the SEO community quite helpful. 

My thoughts on the foreseeable future of eCommerce by Luke Carthy (there will be a brief overview of this article for premium subscribers in our recommended reading section)

Early Take: How COVID-19 Is Impacting Website Performance by Nick Leroy

Covid-19: What is the impact of coronavirus to SEO? by Kevin Gibbons

7 Ways COVID-19 Is Affecting Search Traffic & How SEOs Can Respond by Kameron Jenkins

How Coronavirus Is Impacting Local Search by Greg Sterling


Using Google Trends and Google Search Console to help in this confusing time

How are your potential customers changing their search patterns? We loved this tweet in which Caroline Noades pointed out that Google trends is showing a great increase in people searching for “home gym equipment” as compared to “gyms near me”.

We would encourage each of you to spend time reviewing your GSC data to determine whether there are certain keywords for your site that are getting more attention lately.

Under Search Results, choose the Performance report and look at queries. (You can also do the same thing with pages). Set the date range to compare the current 7 day period to the previous 7 days. What you are looking for is to find queries that are suddenly getting a lot more attention. 

For example, this particular company manufactures a product that can be used either in person, or remotely. They are now getting impressions for people searching for “web based ____ company”.

web based impressions

This company is indeed a web based company that could capture some of these searches. The page that is currently ranking for this query is their home page. However, their home page does not even contain the words, “web based ____ company”. They could potentially capture a lot more search traffic. 

They could also consider creating a page specific to this query. You need to be careful doing that though as you don’t want to create individual pages unless you truly can create unique and helpful content on the subject. Still, for this company, it would make sense to create a page that is optimized for this phrase. 


MHC Announcements

Tips to help adjust during this time 

If your team has gone remote and is struggling to adjust, here is a thread that may help. The MHC team is staying connected as much as possible to help create normalcy during this trying time. If you have tips on how to help with team morale, let us know in the thread below.

Here are some of our favourite responses:

  • Testing out virtual happy hour today! Sharing playlists, board game recs, turning normal conf calls into video. Little things go a long way for sure. Sam Kessenich
  • We do a virtual "megadesk" every day for an hour on zoom. we all pretend we're at the same desk working but can ask questions or chat or whatever. Niki Mosier
  • Collaborative playlists and virtual lunches on Hangouts! Fable McDonald
  • All the cat people did a special Zoom—with our cats! Sarah Teach
  • Making sure to have a few minutes in the beginning or end to just chat about life and tv shows or anything “normal”. Scheduling more video meetings just for the heck of it opposed to slack messages. Colin Gacek
  • Have a virtual game night! With some @jackboxgames  you can have up to 8 people in a game. Set up a call in Google Hangouts, have one person present their screen for prompts and voting, and then everyone can join from their phones. Rachel Stires

Share with us the amazing things happening out there

We want to feature some great ways that business owners, digital marketers and SEOs can get help right now. If you know of someone doing something great, let us know in the thread below. We’ll compile a list of resources and steps marketers are taking to help our community. 


Google Announcements

A new experience to relay important COVID-19 info in Google Search

Remember that COVID-19 website that Google said they’d create following Trump’s speech? Well it’s arrived (kind of). The website, google.com/covid19, features public health info, safety and prevention tips, data and insights from across the globe, resources to help, along with info for those of you looking to support relief efforts. While it doesn’t mirror exactly what Trump said it would do (more on that here), their efforts have been excellent with respect to supplying key information during this time of need.  

Google touts this site as an authoritative source of information “from health authorities alongside new data and visualizations.” They’ve done a great job at making its functionality easy to navigate and they want users to know that it’ll continuously be updated as new info becomes available.  

Please note that the new search experience has been rolling out across the US in English over the last few days and Google says that added luggages and countries will be available soon. 


Additional/expanded access for free in G Suite

We’re seeing a lot of businesses extend free services to help out during this time. Google has made the top features in Google Meet free. Check the tweet below to see how to set this up. 


Google SERP Changes

Knowledge panels on desktop displaying large videos

The SERPs are always changing! Large-sized videos have now been spotted in knowledge panels. While videos have made appearances before in Google’s knowledge panels, they haven’t appeared quite this large and we’re not too sure why. 


SEO Tips

Is your website running slower than usual lately? This may be why!

If your website has been running on the slow end lately, it may be because there are fewer people keeping things running at your hosting company. 


Search Console Training: how to use the Index Coverage report to preview statuses and identify issues

This is a great introduction video from Google Daniel Waisberg about how to use Search Console to see how Google has crawled and indexed your site. 

Daniel talks us through the basics of using this very useful tool and provides explanations of all the aspects of the coverage report. 


YouTube has a new guide centred around hosting virtual events

With everyone going remote right now, events are mainly being run online. If you are thinking of hosting an online event, YouTube has a guide to help you run yours smoothly. We definitely recommend reading it to ensure your event is a success.


Other Interesting News

Bing introduces new schema.org markups surrounding announcements related to the pandemic 

Just like Google’s recent rollout, Bing has also added new schema markups to help sites better communicate special announcements. Here is a brief overview of the new SpecialAnnouncement schema markup additions:

  • For government health agencies
  • For COVID-19 related business updates 
  • For risk assessment and testing centers
  • For travel restrictions

Be sure to read through the Bing post for the requirements needed to utilize these options.


Lily Ray’s initiative to help businesses and marketers connect during the Coronavirus outbreak

Kudos to Lily Ray who is helping those affected due to COVID-19. She is connecting digital marketers who are offering free services to businesses in need right now. Keep in mind, she is running this on her own so responses may take longer to get to. Thanks so much for doing this Lily! 


Experts say that the internet will remain online throughout the pandemic

A concern I’m sure has crossed all of our minds as we have begun working from home, will the internet hold out? It looks like internet providers have considered this, and hopefully we will go unaffected. 


Local SEO - News from SterlingSky 

There was some bobbing and weaving in search results - but it's not really reflected in the Local RankFlux score at BrightLocal. I suspect some of what we were seeing are just listings and results moving a bit due to closures and changes around the constant COVID-19 updates.

Rankflux 3.24.20

Google made a lot of changes to GMB this week in an attempt to help consumers find up-to-date information on businesses that are closing, or changing offerings due to COVID-19 mandates. Businesses have experienced a bit of frustration over slow or broken features as well.

covid post

There is speculation that adding the new COVID-19 post type is what caused some of the other snags. It's pretty common knowledge that right before they roll out a new feature, some existing features break. The Google My Business team is doing a lot of heavy lifting, so patience is definitely going to pay off - but many businesses that are skirting the line between in business and out of business can't wait too long for some of these features to be functional again.


Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

Google inserting a COVID-19 alert message in local searches

This happens to fall between Ads and the Map Pack results in most cases, but others have suggested that the messages are appearing before the ads in some instances. We’re a little unsure if this is for all SERPs or just those with local intent, but it certainly seems to be primarily in the local space.


Local SEO - Tips

Free resource for business owners all about keeping your GMB updated during the COVID-19 pandemic

It’s important during this time to have your GMB profile reflect any changes on your business. If you’re not sure where to begin, this guide will help you. Some changes you should make include store hours, contact information, updating your business description, update q&a and more. 


Local SEO - Other Interesting News

Google removes the ability to post local reviews amid COVID-19

This is rather important news for local search. Reviews are a really great way to show Google a glimpse of your reputation. It appears that they have stopped allowing businesses to accept and post reviews and Q&A. Joy chimed in and said she recommends asking users to not leave reviews until it is resolved. 


There might be delays once you’ve implemented “EventCancelled” schema

John says that your EventCancelled schema may not be recognized by GMB at the moment which unfortunately could explain why the event is still being shown to the public.


SEO Tools

Moz’s amazing contributions

All premium SEO courses at Moz are currently free! According to Cyrus, there are over 15 courses to choose from, *with the exception* of the SEO Essentials Certificate. With plenty of options to choose from, this would be a great time to brush up on your skills or learn something new given you have some free time to spare.


Recommended Reading

How does a browser create a web page? – Koray Tuğberk GÜBÜR
https://www.oncrawl.com/technical-seo/how-does-a-browser-create-a-web-page/
March 17, 2020

There are some great tips here on how the DOM and CSSOM (CSS Object Model) are processed by the browser and how to approach optimization strategies for both. Different DOM types can be leveraged for better user experience, page speed performance, and crawl budget. Koray Tuğberk does a great job of explaining why a decent basis of understanding in DOM, CSSOM, and how they are processed by the browser is an important tool in a technical SEO’s arsenal.

 

How to Query the Google Search Console API – Brian Gorman
https://moz.com/blog/how-to-query-google-search-console-api
March 18, 2020

You can use Google Search Console’s (GSC) “Performance” report for a number of different things, including the focus of this article: data for “Queries” and data for “Pages”. The issue is that query and page data is separated, so if you want to see which queries that a specific page is ranking for, there’s not a straight path to do so, and any data needs to be exported separately. Brian looks to solve this by using the GSC API, which should allow for more customized data requests and outputs.

 

Google Discover: An Image Could Be Worth 1,000 Clicks [Case Study] – Brodie Clark
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-discover-case-study/355124/
March 19, 2020

This is great insight into the importance of images for Google Discover. Brodie Clark does a great job at explaining the relevancy of images if you wish to get a better CTR through Google Discover. For example, a high quality image that strongly connects to the content could grant you a much better number of clicks. 

 

My thoughts on the foreseeable future of eCommerce – Luke Carthy
https://lukecarthy.com/blog/my-thoughts-on-the-foreseeable-future-of-ecommerce/
March 17, 2020

Luke Carthy shares his thoughts on the future of eCommerce and SEO amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In his article, he talks about how internet traffic has increased up to 40% in some niches and some things you should consider when addressing Coronavirus. 


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Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • Google is pausing upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases to adjusted work from home schedules
  • The latest regarding Chrome’s plans to block mixed content
  • A new way to appeal policy issues within Google Ads, depending on eligibility
  • Track all major changes to the Google Search developer documentation
  • Right side featured snippets have almost entirely been moved or removed
  • Clickable cards in the SERPs
  • For those of you experiencing issues indexing URLs with anchor fragments
  • Debug links clicked through the Debug Terminal
  • Chrome Dev Tools updates Long Tasks visualization UI in the Performance panel
  • How to build a ‘Buy Online and Pickup Curbside' store using Shopify
  • Bing Webmaster URL Submission API -- full documentation in one concise page
  • Suggested best practice regarding indexing product category pages on eCommerce sites
  • John answers detailed questions about how Manual Actions are handled
  • Speed metrics could be more granular of over time and may further influence rankings
  • Are strange things happening with your site-specific AMP carousels? This could be why!
  • Google has no intentions of hiding News content that is behind paywalls
  • Want an effective way to filter out internal traffic while your staff are working from home?
  • Curious to know what percentage of sites are not mobile-friendly?
  • Are we seeing a new Analytics benchmark?
  • Several examples of businesses that began during a recession
  • New review highlights on Google Maps
  • Here's three options to update your GMB hours
  • Google allows *some* modification of certain GMB business names
  • A heightened level of Google Posts are getting rejected
  • Multiple warnings available in the SERPs to signal when an event may have been cancelled
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

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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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