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Episode 13 - July 24, 2017

This episode has loads of Google Announcements. Google has made significant changes to Google Search Console, has announced Google Hire and is soon about to make a home page change that could change how we do SEO for many websites. In this episode I'll also share quite a few actionable tips that I learned at Mozcon last week.

Also, wait until you see how much I improved my Google Page Speed Insights score in our ongoing series on improving page speed.

In this episode:



Recent algorithm updates

July 9, 2017 - There was a big change in most of the online SERP trackers on this day. While we know that Google mades algorithmic changes every day, this seemed to be a bigger one.

There were no obvious patterns as to which sites were hit. However, the comments section of Barry Schwartz's post on this change has a few people commenting that they saw a reversal of changes seen on June 24. That change appeared to be a core quality update.

Others are saying that they saw a nice increase on June 24 and no further change on July 9. As such, the July 9 change is probably some kind of a quality tweak rather than a reversal.

There really isn't much specific advice that I can give if you were hit on this date other than the usual, "improve your overall site quality" advice.

Here is a full list of significant algorithm updates.


Big changes in Google Search Console

If you are on my email list, you received an email from me this week explaining that there was a bug in Google Search Console's Search Analytics which was causing it to look like rankings were down and impressions were up. If you look in Search Analytics right now, you'll likely see something like this, where the green line represents average rankings:

Ouch!

It turns out that this is not a bug. Rather, Google Search Console is now showing us more accurate ranking data for low ranking keywords.

If you click on that "Note" line, you get to this page which says the following:

July 14 - onward
An incremental improvement in Google's logging system now provides better accounting for results in lower positions. This change might cause increase in impressions, but also a decrease in average positions. This change only affects Search Console reporting, not your actual performance on Google Search.  

So, if you are seeing a reduction in average rankings in Search Analytics, this is just a difference in reporting. It doesn't mean that your rankings have dropped.


The Google homepage is soon going to look very different

This is an upcoming change that is potentially terrifying to SEOs. But, I look at it as an opportunity. The BBC has reported that the Google homepage is soon going to start displaying a news feed, similar to what we see on Facebook. A Google spokesperson said, "Google has a long term project of anticipating user needs. It's a move to make sure people aren't going elsewhere for information".

This change is not just for the Google news app, which recently saw some similar changes, but also for the desktop page you see on Google.com and the mobile Google app.

This is potentially scary news for SEOs as it means that fewer people will be searching for things on Google. Rather, they'll find what they need from Google's home page and get their information that way. This information will be customized based on user's preferences and search history.

Why is this potentially terrifying to SEO's?

Here is a card that is currently showing for me on my Google now app.
Google card

There are a few things to note about this card. First, it is personalized to my tastes. Second, I'm searching on mobile and this is an amp result.

If I open up my browser looking for things to do this weekend, this is going to save me a search. I won't see any of the sites that have invested heavily in content that answers this query.

On one hand that is scary, as this change means that unless your site is picked for this card, your site won't even get seen by searchers.

On the other hand though, this is an opportunity for amazing SEOs to shine. There will be a real demand for people who can figure out how to get onto other people's news feeds. A good SEO in the future is going to have to have a good handle on Amp, Google News, Personalization and much more.

I see this change as an opportunity for new industry leaders to emerge. Many of you know my history. I was a veterinarian with an interest in SEO. When Google came out with the Penguin algorithm, this was a change that very few understood. I made it my mandate to understand everything I could about the Penguin algorithm. I wrote about it in articles. I participated in every Penguin related forum thread that I could find. Eventually I also spoke at conferences on the subject. My desire to know everything I could about Penguin caused me to become known as a leader in Google penalties and algorithm changes.

If you have been watching my career and thinking, "I wish that I could be known as an industry leader", this may be your chance to become the Google news feed expert. I anticipate that in the future, someone who thoroughly understands how to get clients onto people's news feeds will be in high demand.


Tip: How to determine what industry Google thinks you are in

I discovered a neat little trick the other day. I was doing a traffic drop assessment for a site that was mostly legal in nature. This site dropped on February 7, 2017. In my opinion, sites that dropped on this date are often ones that are lacking in E-A-T (experience, authority and trust) as laid out in the Quality Rater's Guidelines. As such, if you are a legal site, it is important that Google has you classified as such.

I was running the site through Google's new "Test My Site with Google" test and noticed this:

Woh. Google had this legal site classified as a health site.

We're now working on making it more obvious to Google that this site has the legal E-A-T to rank in legal spaces.

In most cases, if you test your site, you'll likely see that it is categorized correctly. But, if it not, then it likely means that you have work to do in order to improve E-A-T.


 

Google announced Google Hire

We spoke before about job listings appearing in the search results. Google Hire is a system to help you communicate with job prospects via email, schedule interviews via Calendar, and analyze and visualize hiring data via sheets.

This looks like exactly something that I could use. I currently am reviewing over 100 resumes and working in between Gmail, Slack, and spreadsheets to organize everything. Google Hire can be used by companies with under 1000 employees. However, it's not cheap. You're looking at between $2400 to $12000 per year to use it. I was hoping that there was a free version for small fries like me, but that doesn't appear to be the case.


Local SEO Tip: You can now enable customers to text you from the SERPS

This is super important to pay attention to for anyone that does local SEO. If you enable this, Google will now allow customers to text you directly from the search results.

I have not been able to test this as it is currently only available for US businesses (and I am in Canada). Barry Schwartz has a good writeup on this here and the comments section on Mike Blumenthal's post on this is good as well.


Ask a question, get an answer in Google Analytics

This looks interesting. Google Analytics will now allow you to ask certain questions in order to get information. You can see more here:

I don't have this feature rolled out to me yet, so I couldn't test it. It does look interesting, but I feel that it would be more than a novelty than something I use regularly. We'll see though!


 

How long does it take for a new GSC profile to have data?

According to John Mueller, if you set up a new website in Google Search Console, it will take 4-6 days before you can see the full complement of data:

 

What I'm not 100% sure about though is whether the timeframe is the same to see the full complement of links that Google will show us. I usually like to wait 7-10 days before deciding that I have all of the links I am going to get.


A Gmail bug is causing many newsletters to end up in spam

This is not really SEO news, but, if you do online marketing at all, you really should be using email marketing. Glen Allsopp from detailed.com tweeted about this problem and was able to get the attention of the Gmail team. The team confirmed the bug, saying that, "...some of your devoted subscribers saw the emails go to spam. This was due to a one-off bug that was subsequently fixed."

Thank you Glen for being vocal on this matter!


 

It doesn't matter what country your server is in

Quite a few years ago, Google used to take into account the location of your server when trying to figure out your rankings. In other words, if you had a business in Canada, and your server was in Canada, then this could help your rankings for people searching from Canada.

John Mueller confirmed that this is no longer the case:

Now, this doesn't mean that you have to have a TLD that represents your country. If you have a .com website and you operate in Canada, that's fine. But, if most of your business comes from Canada, it's a good idea to make sure that you have this country as your target in Google Search Console.

You can do that by going to Google Search Console --> Search Traffic --> International Targeting --> Country.


Is it ok to publish a huge number of pages all at once?

This was an interesting article by Barry Schwartz. In a Google help hangout, John Mueller said that it would not cause problems from an SEO standpoint to release hundreds of thousands of new pages into the index at one time provided that your server can handle Googlebot crawling all of those.

He said, "artificially introducing a kind of a trickle into the index is something that often causes more problems than it solves anything."

This only applies, of course, to sites that legitimately have loads of good content to publish. If you're suddenly publishing hundreds of thousands of spam pages, that's not going to be good for your site.


Make more money by removing ads?

Gary Illyes from Google tweeted about this article on the WSJ in which they discussed how large publishers are experimenting with removing ads and making more ad revenue.

It seems counterintuitive, but some big publishers are finding that if they can reduce the number of ads on a page, the resulting ads are worth more.

One site, LittleThings made a challenge for themselves to remove one form of advertising per quarter without sacrificing revenue. So far, what they are seeing is an increase in user engagement, saying "There are now fewer ads on each page, and the website generates less revenue from each individual page that users view. But overall ad revenue has increased."

This is a good article to read for anyone who makes money off of ads on their site.


Should you be using nofollow on your links to your About us, TOC and Privacy pages?

I see a lot of sites that nofollow links to pages like this. According to John Mueller, as reported on TheSEMPost, most sites really do not need to worry about nofollowing this type of link.

If you have a very large site (i.e. tens of thousands of pages or more), there are strategies to control crawling that can involve internally nofollowed links. But, in most cases, you really shouldn't be nofollowing your internal links. We really do want Google to crawl a site fully.


 

Several big names are leaving the search industry

I don't usually include news about individuals in my newsletter, but I wanted to honour these people as they have all contributed so much to search. In the last few weeks, it was announced that Danny Sullivan is leaving Search Engine Land and stepping away from search. Also, Matt McGee is leaving Search Engine Land as well. I was shocked to hear of Rand Fishkin stepping away from Moz.  I have learned so much from Rand over the years and will be sad to see him part ways with Moz.

Jim Boykin from Internet Marketing Ninjas also announced that he will be stepping away from speaking which is a shame as he always brings so much value to any conference he attends.


I'm hiring!

Did you hear the news? I have just signed a new office lease and will be hiring very soon.

I will be hiring two people right now...no experience necessary. Click here for more information on what the job entails and how to apply.


Should you be disavowing porn links?

If you checked your backlinks today and saw a link from pornhub.com, would you want that link? It's incredible how many people say no. I'd take a link from pornhub any day.

It's important to remember that a link is not unnatural because it comes from a bad neighbourhood. What makes a link an unnatural link is the fact that it was made solely for SEO purposes so that you can manipulate Google.

Now, if I saw that I had hundreds of porn links then I'd start wondering if perhaps my site had been hacked. But, otherwise, if you get a few links from unsavoury sites, it's usually nothing to worry about.


Tip for ahrefs users

I use ahrefs a lot. I recently noticed this interesting feature that allows you to see just the links to the http or perhaps the https version of a site:

I noticed this when I was reviewing a site that had improperly switched to https. They were not redirecting their http pages to https pages. I was able to use this chart from ahrefs to show them that, in their case, the majority of their site's links were to their http pages and needed to be redirected to the https version.

What I wanted to point out though is that it doesn't seem to always default to http + https. I think this may happen if you were previously looking at, say, the http only links for a site. Then, the next site that you view will show you just the http links. If this is an https site, the numbers will be quite off. As such, be sure to select http + https unless for some reason you specifically want to see just one variant.


You can no longer run Adsense on pages that display pop-under ads

Techcrunch reported this change to Google's Ad policy.


Page Speed Improvement Tip #3 - Optimizing Images

If you have been following along, you'll know that I have already improved my page speed significantly. I've had David Attard create some easy to implement tips for me. Again, if you want help improving your page speed and don't want to do it yourself, contact David for help.

We'll look at implementing these tips on my home page. After implementing the first two tips, here are my current Google PageSpeed Insights scores. My desktop score is not horrendous:

But my mobile speed needs a whole lot of improvement:

I'll share with you David's next tip and then I'll do my best to implement the changes he suggests. Here we go...

 

If you’ve been following our website optimization tips, you might have seen that most times, what we are doing is optimizing the delivery of files which exist on our website.

The formula is quite simple usually - the “smaller” the size of your website, the faster it will arrive from your web server to the visitor.

Therefore, we take all possible steps to make our content as small as possible.

Last time, we discussed compressing the content of our website using GZip compression - this mostly applies to text files such as CSS and JS files used by our website’s themes and plugins.

Today, we’re going to make another attempt at reducing the size of our website, but this time we’re going for something which is bound to make a more drastic difference.

Most websites today make heavy use of images - rightly so - an image speaks a thousand words.

Yet images have one drawback, they are typically heavy in terms of size.

Most times, images which we use have not been optimized for a website being fast. Images typically have an amount of extra weight, which can be trimmed without resulting in any loss in image quality.

Let’s try this out on mariehaynes.com

From the above image, we can see that it is possible to trim up to 340KiB from the site if we optimize ALL the images correctly.

There are a few ways you can optimize images:

  1. Run your site through gtmetrix.com - it will automatically create an optimized version of images which are not optimized
  2. Run images through TingPNG: https://tinypng.com/ to optimize its size

 

You probably already know this - but if you’re like me, you keep forgetting to optimize your images, it just isn’t part of your “process” for updating the website.

 

So of course, we’ll need something which does this automatically.

 

If you’re using WordPress, I’d recommend WP Smush - which essentially optimizes each image you upload on your website automatically.

 

There are others of course, but this is my preferred option.

 

If you want to see a few others, this is a great article:

 

The 6 Best WordPress Image Optimization Plugins Compared

Of course, this requires some commitment, in terms that you’ll actually need to install a plugin.

Other CMSes would have image compression extensions available too. It’s quite likely that these will be paid plugins, due to the resource intensive and recurrent nature of using such a service.

OK, so now, it's Marie writing again. I have to admit that when I look at information on compressing images, my eyes sort of gloss over a little. I do now have WP Smush installed so that I can compress images as I upload them. But, optimizing old images can be tough for WordPress sites as there is no easy way (that I can see) to quickly do this.

Here are the steps that I took:

I ran my page through gtmetrix.com.

I clicked on "Optimize Images". For each image, I clicked on "see optimized image" and then downloaded this image to my computer.

I opened up my FTP program and navigated to where that image exists on my server. I then uploaded the optimized image and replaced the one that was currently there. I was a bit frightened to do this at first in case it broke my site. But, I tested it on my first image and the page loaded fine.

So, I did the same for all of these images. This took me about 25 minutes to complete.

When I ran the PageSpeed Insights tool again, they still recommended that I compress the following two images:

I double checked that I had used the optimized image from GTMetrix and I had. I also cleared my cache just in case Google was seeing cached images, but that wasn't the case.

So, I looked for additional ways to compress these two images. What worked for me was to open the image in Photoshop Elements and "Save for web". I used the low quality settings. This seems to have done the trick.

If you recall, my home page prior to these changes had a desktop page speed insights score of 66 and a mobile score of 57. I was quite pleased with the results!

Desktop is now in the green!

And mobile is getting there...

I was so thrilled with these results, that I did the same for my inner page that we tested previously as well. My page on Google Algorithm Update History had a mobile GPSI score of 54 and desktop of 74 at the end of our last episode. I was able to get the score up to 56 on mobile and 82 on desktop. I had some issues with this page where I could not convince Google that some of these images were compressed. I eventually stopped trying to figure this out due to time constraints. But, if I can figure it out I'll get a much higher score.

If you want a recap on earlier page speed tips here they are:

Lesson #1 - Browser Caching

Lesson #2 - Compression


 

Mozcon Recap

Mozcon, the conference put on by Moz, was once again, incredible. It has been two years since I have been to Mozcon. I felt that the information from speakers this time was greatly improved. In the past, I have treated Mozcon as more of a networking conference. But this year, I felt that I learned a lot of really awesome actionable stuff. Here are some of the things that I found helpful:

Joel Klettke on Copywriting

Joel is brilliant and I find that everything he teaches on is super actionable. He gave some great templates for writing sales pages such as this one:

The entire slide deck is worth a look if you do any sales copy at all:

Joel also gave another great tip and that was to spend time reading your competitors' reviews. You can learn a lot about what the pain points in an industry are and then work towards making it so that your company addresses those needs.

Ian Lurie

I really enjoyed Ian Lurie's presentation. Here are some things which I learned:

  • If you are looking for content ideas, go to Stack Overflow and see what kind of questions people are asking. Then, write a blog post to answer those. (This would work well for Quora, Yahoo Answers, etc. as well.)
  • If you have slides on Slideshare, take a look at which ones get clipped. Those would be good subjects to write a blog post on. I checked this out on my own Slideshare presentation from SMX on Traffic Drop Assessments. One of the slides which has been clipped is one called "Is the drop present across all pages." Now that I see that this is interesting to people, I could take this idea and write a blog post about how to determine if a traffic drop is present across all pages of a site.
  • Ian spoke of something called, "Markdown" that allows you to take a post and neatly convert it to HTML.
  • Check out Canva Color Palette. It allows you to upload an image and then it will create a color palette out of the dominant colors in that image.
  • Ian shared a story of how he took information from a popular slideshare presentation of his and made it into a free eBook. He then used the eBook as a lead generation tool and to date it has given them 350 leads. I'm likely going to take this tip and make an eBook out of my Traffic Drop Assessment slideshare.

Wil Reynolds

As always, Wil Reynolds gave an inspiring presentation and spoke about how the most important thing we can do for our customers is generate more business for them. This doesn't always necessarily come from having higher rankings.

Wil spoke about a situation where he was looking for pricing information for a particular product. None of the sites advertising the product had actual pricing. The one that did ranked first. This is because this page didn't disappoint the searcher. The site that ranked first wasn't even the product themselves, but rather, a comparison site. Google is getting better at figuring out what a searcher's question is and which site answers that question.

Another tip that Wil gave was to watch people do searches. For example, you could put a focus group together and ask them to find information on your product. Now, you can see what they Google and even better, what kind of results they click on. In this example, Wil showed that their test searcher was prone to click on results that had dates in the title:

loved this piece of content  that Wil's team built for a client. Instead of writing a long article about how to choose a screen, they created an interactive quiz to help people decide what product to buy. This type of content results in more conversions.

Also, as I was listening to Wil talk about this, I was thinking about how, in 2014, Google asked site owners not to hide their CSS and javascript. I am betting that Google can see, via Chrome and Android use, that people are engaging with this quiz. And, I am betting that this helped to improve rankings.

Another great tip that Wil gave was to scrape your competitors' reviews and analyze them in an ngram analyzer. If certain phrases keep coming up, then this can give you clues as to where the pain points are. You can then brainstorm on ways in which your company can do a better job at addressing these points.

This information from Wil looked amazing. He spoke of creating a custom cookie and generating a user score based on what people do:

I felt like there was a lot more to be learned about this subject. Hopefully Wil is able to give us more details on this soon.

Britney Muller

Britney is Moz's head SEO and she is a really smart cookie. I learned a lot from her presentation. Here are some key points:

  • Moz trimmed thin content by noindexing user profile pages for users with a low number of Moz points. They cut over 60,000 pages from the index. After this, they saw a significant traffic increase.
  • Britney talked about something called importance optimization. She recommended finding low traffic pages in Google Analytics and culling them. Now, in my opinion, this is something that can't be done carte blanche. If a page used to bring high traffic and now no longer does, it still might be great content. But, if you have loads of content in the index that no one ever reads or engages with, then, you really should either improve that content, or, if that's not possible, either noindex it or remove it completely.
  • Moz saw a nice improvement in user engagement metrics after improving their recommended posts. At the end of each article now, they have recommended posts. In the past, those recommendations were based on certain tags that may not necessarily make them relevant. Britney said that improving these suggestions resulted in an 11% YOY increase in pageviews per session.
  • I loved Britney's idea of messing around with featured snippets. Her idea was to take a featured snippet which you currently own and see what it takes to lose that snippet. For example, let's say that I had a featured snippet with a list that has an h3 tag saying, "Here are the steps." I could see if I still win the featured snippet if I took out the words, "Here are the steps." Let's say that in taking out those words, I lost the featured snippet. Then, this tells me that "Here are the steps" is a phrase that Google values when choosing featured snippets in my vertical. I would then add those words back in, and try adding them to other potential featured snippets to win those.

Additional Mozcon Goodies

Here are a few other things which I tweeted about from Mozcon:

It turns out that the chatbot function in Bing is currently only available for restaurants:

 

Recommended reading

Here are some of the best articles in search this month, along with my thoughts in case you don't have time to read the whole thing:

Ignoring Link Spam Isn't Working - by A.J. Kohn

  • Google is getting better at identifying link spam, and ignoring it, but they're not perfect.
  • Many people are still seeing link spam be effective in increasing rankings.
  • But, some sites that appear to be ranking well based on the power of unnatural links may be ranking well for other reasons.

 

How the Founder of Moz Went From Severe Debt to Over $40 Million in Revenue - video on Entrepreneur.com

  • Fantastic story of how Rand Fishkin went from being a struggling web designer to creating what we know as Moz today.

 

12 Reasons Why Your Rich Snippets Aren't Showing - on Search Engine Journal

Reasons include the following (plus more):

  • Breaking Google's Quality Guidelines
  • Profanity
  • Incorrect markup
  • Using multiple markup languages
  • Marking up invisible content

 

The best marketing articles of all time

This is a good post on the Ahrefs blog with a lot of excellent reading.

 

12 things you need to know to succeed with Google Posts - by Joy Hawkins

If you do any local SEO at all, then you should read this entire post right now. Here are the highlights:

  • Make sure you track activity with UTM codes.
  • Images smaller than 250x250 will not be used. 750x750 seems to be the optimal size.
  • Google will scroll up to 10 posts in a carousel.

Fighting Review Spam - By Miriam Ellis on the Moz Blog

Everyone who does any kind of local SEO should read this.

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