SNYCU Ep. 126 - April 1, 2020 - Light Version

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In this episode we discuss algorithm fluctuations towards the end of March, this week's look at traffic effects from Coronavirus, information from Google on how to prepare your site in wake of the pandemic, how Google may be looking at author vectors, and more.


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In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Updates to the Chrome release timeline
  • Brand new GSC features appear to be available
  • A variety of colours are being tested for the "More" drop down buttons
  • Google Podcasts redesign
  • How to fix three not so obvious crawl errors
  • SEO report template for Google Data Studio
  • Another way to remove employee traffic from your site
  • Robots.txt caused this large site to stop being crawled or indexed
  • Google may be using author vectors to determine who wrote your content
  • In what timeframe will your site be negatively impacted by rankings once the site is down?
  • For those planning on not renewing a domain name
  • List of SEO women available for consulting or freelance work
  • If you’re sharing an IP address, do you run the risk of being associated with a potential ‘bad neighbourhood’?
  • Here’s what to know about the same image on multiple pages of your site
  • Has Amazon Associates asked affiliates to stop sending them traffic?
  • Apple beats Google with respect to full third-party cookie tracking
  • Ever wondered about the sources that the Knowledge Panel extracts info from?
  • What the temporarily closed label means your for GMB presence (+Google’s announcement)
  • Discover More Places feature ‘takeout’ and ‘delivery’ options as the primary cards
  • Tool for examining JavaScript modifications on-page
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates 

March 23, 2020 - Possible Google update?

Quite a few of our clients started to see some improvement in Google search traffic starting on March 23, 2020. Initially, we suspected that this was a Google update. However, on closer investigation, we think the pattern we are seeing is related to the world’s changing search patterns in this unprecedented time. March 23 was a Monday, and the start of a very unusual week as the world learns to cope with social distancing, closed businesses and so much tragedy. 

Several of our clients are seeing significant gains in organic traffic starting on March 23, 2020. In some cases, we can clearly see that traffic is up due to how the world is searching due to the Coronavirus. For example, this site is a health information site. They started to see a big boost in Google organic traffic on March 23.

health information site 1

However, they also saw a similar increase in Bing traffic, which makes this increase much less likely to be due to a Google update:

Here is another client of ours that is seeing some very nice improvements. Some of this is seasonal. We had again wondered whether the dramatic increase starting on March 23 was due to a Google update.

Again though, Bing traffic is up dramatically as well.

Both Mozcast and the SEMRush sensor are showing possible increases in turbulence starting March 23, but nothing major. We do think that the majority of the changes we are seeing are due to the worldwide pandemic affecting search patterns. For more information on this, you may be interested in reading this SEL article: Winners and losers: How COVID-19 is affecting search behavior. 

We will keep an eye on this date and if it does appear that Google made some significant changes, we’ll do a deeper analysis.

We should also mention that several sites we monitor are seeing improvements starting on March 27/28. While the algo weather tools do show some increased turbulence on this date, not enough time has passed for us to fully assess whether this was a Google update or not.


Twitter poll: Is Coronavirus affecting your search traffic this week?

It was encouraging to see that 23% of you were reporting some type of improvement this week. Last week that number was 15.9% and the week before it was 13.5%.

Here are some of the interesting responses we received:

  • Clients in the house improvement niche including gardening and security are attracting a lot more traffic. - Alex Mungo
  • Ranges from 40% down to 120% up. Revenue roughly matching organic traffic in same way it did before COVID-19, though I'd expect more online revenue for clients who've closed physical stores - not always the case. DIY(ish) client went from down YoY to 60% up over the weekend. - Alex Harford
  • Online higher education is seeing some recovery. Friday-Sunday up about 25% WoW in session volume. - Stephanie Snider

We were thrilled to see that this week we had quite a few clients who, after suffering large losses in traffic, are now seeing improvements in search traffic as compared to the week before. Hopefully this trend will continue!

We also found this article on SEO Clarity’s website interesting:


Are you seeing a drop in leads due to COVID-19?

You are not alone. The majority of SEO’s are seeing fewer leads lately as many businesses are struggling to cope in this time of crisis.


MHC Announcements

Marie leaving MHC 

Marie is happy to announce that she will be leaving the SEO industry and following her passion of becoming a professional gamer. Joining the ranks of Ninja, SypherPK and MELT we are both happy and sad to announce that Marie will be joining Luminosity Gaming Fortnite Division. Below is a letter from LG themselves.

Luminosity Gaming is thrilled to announce that Marie "Muahahahahaaaaaa" Haynes has joined our Fortnite division. Marie started gaming at the young age of 8 when she was gifted an Atari 2600. As she grew her online presence she was a staple in Pong and Space Invaders communities. She is completely obsessed with understanding Google’s algorithm changes as well as Google Penalties. For the last 10 years, she has been helping businesses learn how to improve their Google presence in ways that comply with Google’s Guidelines.

Muahahahahaaaaaa has shown incredible growth over the past few months and has a vibrant community of loyal followers. We couldn't be happier to be welcoming her into our family and believe she is the perfect fit. She will be competing in solo competitions and streaming for Luminosity. We can't wait to get started! 

“Muahahahahaaaaaa embodies what it means to be a member of Luminosity. She is humble, hard working, talented and passionate. We are so thrilled for her and all her success. We look forward to supporting her on her amazing journey. It's only the beginning for her!”

 ~ Steve Maida, founder Luminosity Gaming. 

Happy April Fools day from the MHC team. 


Google Announcements

Pause your business online in Google Search

If you need to pause your business as several business owners have done, Google has released a dos and don’t list to help you. In essence, update your website to reflect these changes, limit site functionality and keep your users informed. Google does not recommend disabling your whole site. There are FAQs and other considerations in the blog post, so read it before making this big change. 

There is much more information in Google’s article including detailed information on what is likely to happen to your search presence if you disable your site. There are also some good FAQs answered. We would recommend reading this entire article if this applies to you.


New info from Google for health sites re COVID-19 content

Google released a new blog post yesterday to help medical sites who have content related to the Coronavirus. They also have a new document that outlines best practices for health websites.


Google Ads posted tips on how to navigate your Google Ads search ads campaigns through the COVID-19 outbreak

Google has come out with a lot of ideas to help you adapt to the dynamic market. Barry has done a great job at summarizing them all into this post, but here are some that stood out to us. 

Thoroughly review your assets. You need to consider the relevance and frankly the appropriateness of your assets given the current market situation. Consider your text and tone during this time. 

Communicate business changes. We’ve mentioned this before, but if you have reduced or changed hours, let your customers know. If your delivery or shipping has changed, communicate this. 

Be prepared to adapt. You may need to adjust, pause or stop your ad practices. Make adjustments to your targets if necessary, consider using new tools, and pay attention to the local market and your customer’s mindsets. 


Stay updated with all travel advisories and airlines policies during COVID-19

Google has created a regularly-updated blog page regarding important travel updates regarding COVID-19 compiled all in one place. May as well add this one to your bookmarks bar.


Google SERP Changes

Left panel tabs appear and what this could mean for the future

A left panel tab is showing on desktop for COVID-19 related queries. Kyle Faber notes that this started showing up about a week and a half ago and agrees that this could certainly change the future of entity-related searches. 


SEO Tips

Here’s what you should do if you’re reducing your website’s functionality during COVID-19

Before this Reddit post got the attention of Gary Illyes (which sparked the dos and don’ts blog post which was released just days later), the same OP from Reddit posed the question on Twitter to ask some SEOs for their expertise on whether a site should be maintained or not. Glenn Gabe was quick to respond saying that the domain in this example was smart to keep their site up and running and flash a COVID-19 message on-site. By keeping the site online and generally undisturbed, it helps to preserve a lot of the SEO that has been done over the years. 

This is of course great advice from Glenn and one that was shared by Google as seen in their blog post which contained further recommendations. 


Tips from Casey Markee on how COVID-19 has impacted travel, recipe, and lifestyle niches

There are some niches which have been more significantly impacted by COVID-19 and the need for self-isolation. When you add the shift in searcher behaviour into the mix, it can make it really challenging to understand changes in your traffic and what to do next. We found this podcast by Casey Markee really helpful for anyone who runs or works with sites within the travel, recipe, and lifestyle niches. So if you’re looking for a new podcast to check out, we definitely recommend you start with this one!


Good example of Google using ScrollToText feature from Chrome

Google rolled out the ScrollToText feature in Chrome 80, and here is a great example of it being used to highlight text for searches related to COVID-19, spotted by Glenn Gabe:


This awesome SEO is offering 1-on-1 Skype calls -- don’t miss out!

Andy Drinkwater is dedicating some time in the coming week(s) to help businesses who are struggling to get their questions answered amid COVID-19. Keep an eye on his socials as you’ll soon get a golden opportunity to pick his brain on a very broad range of topics.


Other Interesting News

Foursquare and Yelp release their own individual studies surrounding the effects of COVID-19

Foursquare published a study showing foot traffic to a variety of different places that people have been going during the COVID-19 pandemic. It's collected from Foursquare users who have the "always on" feature enabled. 

Foursquare found that banks and financial services have experienced an increase in foot traffic because people are naturally concerned and are looking to make financial arrangements. While gym traffic is declining, online searches for new fitness routines are spiking. Home improvement stores are up by 26% as people are utilizing this isolation period to put work into their homes in efforts to stay away from the public. Obviously, liquor store foot traffic is up as well.

As mentioned, Yelp released a similar one. Interestingly, Gun & Ammo stores in the U.S. have experienced a significant spike in foot traffic… maybe because many are preparing for “doomsday”. Yelp also reported that local agriculture shops are up by 430% which is very encouraging in general. Hopefully, this trend continues when this pandemic is over!


SEO4Life live stream -- here are the details

One of our readers brought this to our attention and we think this may be of interest to many of you! The conference will be on April 2nd at 10am EST and will be livestreamed via Twitch over the course of four hours.

As many conferences have been placed on hold, there’s no better moment to educate yourself with a group of talented speakers! For more info and to register (it’s completely free), check out the details below:


VirtuaCon Live conference 

VirtuaCon’s first event focuses on online marketing and SEO and kicks off with a series of talent including John Mueller (who is hosting a Q&A by the way). It happens this Friday at 9:30am EST and runs for three hours. For more information, check out the event on Eventbrite.


Apply for free CRO advice for eligible business owners impacted by COVID-19

If you need help with conversions, online strategist Arnout Hellemans is offering an hour a week to help! See more details here. 


Local SEO - News from SterlingSky 

We're moving along through our new normal in the local search world - that being that things change with Google My Business very quickly!  Luckily we're still seeing minimal flux in local rankings on the BrightLocal Local RankFlux tool.

I drilled down deeper into the data and the flux on Saturday seems to be exclusive to restaurants & bars, hotels, and bed & breakfasts.  One nice thing about the tool is it lets you see aggregate trends - or you can pick individual categories. This is a great place to start investigating if ranking blips are category-wide or if it was exclusive to the domain you're looking at.

Google My Business has been all over the place with changes in the last 7 days.  Understandably, there's a lot of volatility and changes in how the GMB product can serve business owners.  There is also a very limited support team so most issues outside of COVID-19 related issues are not being addressed.  As with last week, patience is advised. Here are the most recent changes/updates as they happened:

  • March 25 – Google adds the temporarily closed button to the GMB dashboardThis allows business owners/managers to easily toggle the temporarily closed label on and off via their Google My Business dashboard. Indicators are that it does not go into review when it's added or removed.
  • March 26 – The temporarily closed button no longer impacts ranking. Prior to this change, if you added the temporarily closed button, it was likely your listing would disappear from maps. This was an unfair filter as the label is temporary and implies they'll be back in business, just like everyone else, when the safety measures are lifted.
  • March 26 – Google adds takeout and delivery options to several categories. This is a great addition we're seeing in two different spots. Within SERPs, we're seeing a carousel of results for delivery or takeout-related keywords that allow the user to first choose from "delivery" or "takeout" - it then delivers more granular results based on that self-selection. The other new feature appears directly on the Local Knowledge Panel.

  • March 27Google Posts have been temporarily permitted for chains. Until this change - we could only bulk post to a maximum of 10 locations. This allows multi-location businesses to take advantage of the special COVID-19 post type and other post features to keep consumers informed.  
  • March 30 – Google adds warning messages regarding hours and services being impacted by COVID-19 on search results. These are being seen in local knowledge panels and in search results for most searches.

  • March 31 - Google releases info that indicates reviews are being queued up and will be released once the pandemic-focused changes are over. Crystal Horton shared an image on 3/30 where Google indicated that contributions were delayed, implying that they will be published at some point in time. On the 31st, Mike Blumenthal, A GMB Product Expert, shared an update indicating that reviews would be moderated and published when they removed the moratorium on new reviews.

MHC note: We covered Joy’s Google My Business Changes Due to COVID-19 resource in last week’s episode but we wanted to remind our readers that this continues to be updated as new information becomes available. We encourage you to check it out if you have not already!


SEO Tools

Content marketing course available online via Siege Media

Here are some free SEO courses for people who have lost their jobs or otherwise had their careers impacted due to COVID-19. Brilliant stuff here from Ross Hudgens and the entire Siege Media team!


Free Access to Blue Array Academy SEO training

Blue Array Academy is kindly offering free access to their SEO Manager Certification course to those who have lost their positions during the pandemic. Fill out the application form and you’ll find a discount code to access their course.


Additional marketing training offered

People have really gathered together and helped provide services to digital marketers. Cyrus has put together a list of businesses offering free marketing training below:

This thread is also great if you want to give thanks to those helping, or see what else is being offered: 


Recommended Reading

No one’s buying your product now: what should your growth team do? – Barbara Galiza
https://medium.com/@galiza/no-ones-buying-your-product-now-what-should-your-growth-team-do-54e8527599f5
March 26, 2020

If no one is trying out or purchasing what you’re selling, where should your focus go? Barbara outlines key activities surrounding acquisitions that you can get started on today. We encourage you to read the article for more details.

 

How Often Does Google Rewrite Meta Descriptions? (New Data Study) – Michal Pecánek
https://ahrefs.com/blog/meta-description-study/
March 24, 2020

A new study by Ahrefs compared hardcode meta descriptions and actual desktop search snippets for 20k keywords and in the process surfaced some other interesting findings.

 

How to Handle Temporarily Out-of-Stock Product Pages – Dr. Peter J. Meyers
https://moz.com/blog/how-to-handle-temporarily-out-of-stock-product-pages
March 25, 2020

Always keep in mind that even though a product is out of stock, you still want that page to continue ranking. There are many tactics site owners tend to use when they’re in out-of-stock situations that are oftentimes not very SEO-friendly. Moz wrote an excellent article on the dos and don'ts of dealing with out-of-stock pages on ecommerce sites. This is especially relevant now in volatile times like these where certain products are flying on and off the shelves and maintaining solid stock is impossible.

 

A 10-Point Ecommerce SEO Checklist for 2020 – Kristopher Jones
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/ecommerce-seo-checklist/347078/
March 27, 2020

If you’re an Ecommerce site, here is a checklist to help you get started on improving your SEO. It is broken down into a technical checklist, ecomm keyword checklist, and ecomm content checklist, so all of your bases are covered. 

 

Optimizing for Google Discover: Key Areas to Focus On – Dan Taylor
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/optimizing-for-google-discover/356112/
March 25, 2020

If you are looking for ways to optimize for Google Discover, Dan Taylor shares some really insightful tips that can majorly improve how your site appears on Google Discover. 

 

Marketing Right Now Is #$%*ing Hard – Rand Fishkin
https://sparktoro.com/blog/marketing-right-now-is-hard/
March 24, 2020

If you are having issues making sense of marketing strategies amidst this COVID-19 pandemic, here is a great article to help you navigate through it. Rand Fishkin breaks down the waves this situation is bringing and how they - might- affect your business. He also talks about how, although anxiety is high and everything seems to be all over the place, there is room for marketing and helping people. 


Recommended Reading (Local SEO)

Do GMB Products Impact Ranking and Drive Website Traffic and Conversions? [Case Study] – Colan Nielsen
https://www.sterlingsky.ca/gmb-products/
March 25, 2020

Spanning 22 locations across 12 verticals, Colan Nielsen from Sterling Sky examined whether GMB Products have a noticeable impact on your site. So, the big question is do GMB Products still hold value? Read the full article to find out!


Jobs


Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • Updates to the Chrome release timeline
  • Brand new GSC features appear to be available
  • A variety of colours are being tested for the "More" drop down buttons
  • Google Podcasts redesign
  • How to fix three not so obvious crawl errors
  • SEO report template for Google Data Studio
  • Another way to remove employee traffic from your site
  • Robots.txt caused this large site to stop being crawled or indexed
  • Google may be using author vectors to determine who wrote your content
  • In what timeframe will your site be negatively impacted by rankings once the site is down?
  • For those planning on not renewing a domain name
  • List of SEO women available for consulting or freelance work
  • If you’re sharing an IP address, do you run the risk of being associated with a potential ‘bad neighbourhood’?
  • Here’s what to know about the same image on multiple pages of your site
  • Has Amazon Associates asked affiliates to stop sending them traffic?
  • Apple beats Google with respect to full third-party cookie tracking
  • Ever wondered about the sources that the Knowledge Panel extracts info from?
  • What the temporarily closed label means your for GMB presence (+Google’s announcement)
  • Discover More Places feature ‘takeout’ and ‘delivery’ options as the primary cards
  • Tool for examining JavaScript modifications on-page
  • 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.

 Marie's newsletter is a game changer because it manages to cut through the fluff and deliver high-quality information that is not only really important for those that do SEO, but it is presented in a format that is really easy to absorb.
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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