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Episode 14 - August 9, 2017
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This is the largest newsletter update I have written so far. There have been a lot of significant changes in the Search Industry recently. In this episode, we discuss some significant algorithm changes and Google announcements. Paid subscribers get some thorough insight into a recent Panda patent and how we could take advantage of this information to help improve our rankings.

In this episode:


Paid members also receive the following:

  • Detailed information on a Google Panda patent that uses dwell time. I give my thoughts on how we can use this information to help improve the overall quality of our sites.
  • How to get more direct visitors to your site. And big news on why this is super important.
  • A summary on what was recently updated in Google's Quality Rater Guidelines
  • Information on redirecting users based on the type of device they are using (i.e. Android/iPhone).
  • Detailed information on Google's new Home Services program for local businesses.
  • Best practices when you have information that resides on more than one domain.
  • Page Speed Improvement tip #4: A simple tip for WordPress sites.
  • A fantastic idea for finding new content ideas for articles that are guaranteed to get you more readers.

 

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Recent algorithm updates

A big local algorithm change went mostly unnoticed

There appear to have been some big changes in Google's local algorithm in late June that not many people were talking about. However, I'm seeing more and more sites now that have lost their maps rankings. I connected with Joy Hawkins who is someone who thoroughly understands local search to ask her thoughts on this.

The change seems to have happened around June 13, 2017.

Joy contributed the following:

Joy HawkinsThere were a lot of changes that I spotted around June 13th that specifically impacted the local results, not organic.  The change could be the same update that people reported on the 14th.  I use Bright Local to track ranking results and since they are based in the UK, there is a pretty big time difference between when their report runs and what time it is over here in the US/Canada.

What happened?

The change only impacted a small percentage of SERPs that I track, unlike Possum which pretty much impacted everything. Here is an example of before and after which had a pretty major change (totally different 3-pack).

 

local SERPS

 

This specific example is one of the most extreme cases because you’ll notice that all 3 listings that were in the 3-pack after the update do not have websites attached to them. Historically, it has always been possible, but very difficult, to rank locally without some type of organic SEO effort.

Here is another, less extreme example that shows the changes in the Local Finder before and after:

Local SERP changes

 

What Changed?

I have already eliminated tons of options that I thought could have been causing some of these changes.  All the examples I’ve collected are indicating that the ranking factors changed slightly. Here are the possible factors that changed based on my findings.

  • Google reviews aren’t weighted as much.
    • Based on all the negative press Google has got recently for fake reviews, I think this is the most likely thing that changed.  In all the cases I looked at, major players with an above-average number of reviews saw a ranking drop.  I believe it’s possible Google made reviews less of a ranking factor to help combat the issue with fake reviews.
  • Proximity to searcher increased
    • A lot of the new listings that surfaced after the update were ones that didn’t have a lot going for them other than that they were really close to the searcher’s location.
  • If a listing doesn’t have a website, those factors aren’t included
    • This would explain the # of search results we saw that included listings without websites.

These are some great insights from Joy. I should mention that if you are looking for help with local search rankings, I would highly recommend Joy's company, Sterling Sky. Also, if you are an SEO who is focusing on local search, I would highly recommend her Local SEO Training. It may seem a little pricey, but it has already saved me quite a few hours of work and I consider it well worth the money!

What I'm noticing with local rankings

I have noticed more and more lately that proximity is a huge ranking factor. Previously, if your business was located near the centroid of a city, you would tend to rank well in the local (maps) listings for anyone who was searching for that type of business in that city. But now, if someone who is on the outskirts of the city is searching for a local business, it appears that Google will show that searcher businesses that are close to them rather than businesses that are in the centroid.

This has been happening to some degree for a while now. But, it seems to me like Google made proximity an even stronger ranking factor with this change in June.

This totally makes sense to me. But, it's really going to make it difficult to track rankings.

July 26, 2017 algorithm update

There was a significant shift in rankings that happened on July 26, 2017. The SERP trackers are showing volatility on this day as well. Here is a screenshot from Serpwoo:

There was only a little bit of chatter on Twitter about this change:

I did notice some changes in some of my clients however. Here is a site that had a nice Penguin recovery, then saw a nice increase with a core quality update on February 7, 2017. They jumped up on July 26 as well:

July 26 update

 

Most of the changes that we see these days in Google's algorithm tend to be core quality changes. However, I am suspicious that this change has a link component to it. I will be keeping my eye out for sites that were affected on this day.


Google instant is discontinued

Google recently turned off the Google instant service that would make results appear as you typed your search query. Here is a statement from Google explaining why:

"We launched Google Instant back in 2010 with the goal to provide users with the information they need as quickly as possible, even as they typed their searches on desktop devices. Since then, many more of our searches happen on mobile, with very different input and interaction and screen constraints. With this in mind, we have decided to remove Google Instant, so we can focus on ways to make Search even faster and more fluid on all devices.

Important: This does not mean that Google autosuggest is going

Some people reading about this story have thought that this change means that autosuggest is gone. This is not true. If you start typing in your search query, you'll still see autosuggestions:

autosuggest


New Google feature: Badges for Images

Google announced this new feature recently. At this point, image badges are most important for recipe sites, sites using video, and eCommerce sites.

In the example that Google gave, if you do an image search for "cupcakes" you'll see some images labelled as "recipe", others as "video", and you may even see some labelled as gifs as well:

image badges

You can get these badges by implementing schema. For example, if you are an eCommerce site, you should be marking up your product pages with product schema. When Google sees this, then your images should get a "product" badge on image searches.

I am not yet seeing these badges on searches from my phone, however, so this may still be rolling out.


Google is using a new form of sitelinks for some sites

Sergey Alakov noticed an interesting change recently. Some sites now have sitelinks that appear in the form of a carousel on mobile. From what I have seen though, this only seems to be affecting some results. I've seen it for Wikipedia and also for Search Engine Land:

Note the card style sitelinks here:

mobile card sitelinks

If you swipe those sitelinks to the left, you'll see more of them too.

I would imagine that this will soon roll out to additional sites as well.

 


New features coming to Google Search Console

This is exciting news. Google announced some changes that will be coming to Google Search Console. Here is a summary of what is coming:

  • More actionable insights, along with notification as to whether or not Google has detected that you have fixed issues.
  • Sharing. I'm hoping for more info on this soon. This sounds like something that might be important to consultants who work on other people's sites.
  • On the spot feedback. Once you have fixed an item such as schema issues, it sounds like you can just press a button and get instant feedback from Google as to whether or not the issue is truly fixed.

Index Coverage Report

Google mentioned that GSC will soon include info including the count of indexed pages, information about why some pages could not be indexed, along with example pages and tips on how to fix indexing issues. It also enables a simple sitemap submission flow, and the capability to filter all Index Coverage data to any of the submitted sitemaps.

More on Amp

GSC will soon give us more information on our Amp pages such as errors. You'll be able to drill down and see example pages with those errors. Also, once errors are fixed, you'll be able to ask Google to recrawl them quickly. After the crawl, Google will notify you if the errors are fixed.

Mobile App?

Some people have noticed that the screenshots that Google is showing for the new GSC are taken on a mobile device. I found this discussion humorous:

Some people will get these Google Search Console changes in the next few weeks. It may be a while before it rolls out to everyone.


Google Search Console possibly getting more data soon?

John Mueller mentioned in a hangout that it is possible that we may get more data in GSC soon. He said,

"I guess a bit of both. I mean I don't want to pre-announce anything but I know they've been looking into like slightly different data, the amount of data something that has been commonly requested so."

As of now, we can see 90 days of data in GSC. Ideally site owners should be downloading their data regularly, but most site owners do not do that. It would be super helpful if Google gave us a year (or even more!) of data in GSC.


Local businesses can now edit their GMB data right from the SERPS

Mike Blumenthal has been noticing this come up a few times as a test. For some people, if you are logged in to your Google My Business profile, and search for your business, you'll possibly see something like this:

GMD Dashboard in SERPS

I'm not seeing this yet for any of the businesses for which I am either an owner, or a consultant. It's possible that this is a US-only feature at this point.

I would imagine that this change will help more small business owners to keep their GMB profiles up to date. I wonder if this has the potential to result in less demand for local SEO work? Or who knows...perhaps more SMB owners will see this and be motivated to hire SEO help.


Is it risky to file a disavow?

Having done a lot of disavow work in the past, I can tell you that this is a common concern. I have seen quite a few site owners who did not want to file a disavow for fear that it would somehow alert Google to the fact that you have been building unnatural links.

Gary Illyes was asked about this:

Filing a disavow will not cause Google to take a closer look at your site.

With this said, however, I think that these days, in the era of Penguin 4.0, there are very few sites that should be filing a disavow.


 

Google may start autoplaying video in the SERPS

This is just a test, so let's hope it never gets fully implemented! Google recently ran a test where they autoplayed a video in the sidebar for certain searches about movies or tv shows.


A Facebook change may push more sites into using Amp

I don't usually cover changes in Facebook's algorithm, however, this one feels significant. Facebook recently announced a new change to their algorithm whereby pages that load quickly will be given a higher chance of appearing in people's News Feed.

Here are some quotes from the article:

"With this update, we’ll soon take into account the estimated load time of a webpage that someone clicks to from any link in News Feed on the mobile app. Factors such as the person’s current network connection and the general speed of the corresponding webpage will be considered. If signals indicate the webpage will load quickly, the link to that webpage might appear higher in your feed."

The change will roll out over the next few months.

If you have been on the edge about deciding whether or not to implement Amp, and if you get a lot of traffic from Facebook, this might just be enough incentive to convince you to switch.

 

 


Web developer chrome extension is free of malware now

I sent an email last week to tell people that the web developer chrome extension had been compromised. Spammers obtained access via a phishing email sent to the developer and managed to upload a version that would cause unusual ads to start appearing.

It's worth checking to see if you have version 0.4.9. If so, you need to update to version 0.5 immediately. You can check this by going to Chrome --> Window --> Extensions.


How to remove Amp pages from Google

If you have Amp pages and you'd like to remove them from Google, Google has published a guide explaining how to do this.


Chrome will stop supporting flash in 2020

If you use Flash for your website, it will no longer work in Chrome at some point in 2020. Here are more details.

 


Recommended Reading

When Marketo went offline, self-described ‘geek’ rescued domain after their own failure to renew 

This article is a good reminder for us to stay on top of when our domain names expire. Marketo, an Inc 500 company, accidentally let their domain name expire. A good samaritan, Travis Prebble, paid the renewal fee for Marketo to get back online and then informed them that they had made a big mistake.

Does Google Use Analytics Data to Discover new URLs for Crawling?

In this study, they inserted a Google Analytics snippet on pages that Google had not yet recognized and then had users access that page via Chrome. The question was whether Google would "see" this and add these urls to their index. The result was that Googlebot never visited any of the test pages which likely means that Google cannot find new pages to index via Google Analytics data.

P&G Cuts More Than $100 Million in ‘Largely Ineffective’ Digital Ads

Proctor and Gamble cut more than $100 Million in digital ads and saw no obvious difference as a result. There are not a lot of details as to what type of ads they were buying. However, this article could be a little concerning for those who make revenue from Adsense or other types of digital ads.

Understanding Google Posts & How to Use Them to Drive Traffic

This post on the SEMRush blog has great information for using Google posts for small business owners.


Want More?

Paid members also receive the following:

  • Detailed information on a Google Panda patent that uses dwell time. I give my thoughts on how we can use this information to help improve the overall quality of our sites.
  • How to get more direct visitors to your site. And big news on why this is super important.
  • A summary on what was recently updated in Google's Quality Rater Guidelines
  • Information on redirecting users based on the type of device they are using (i.e. Android/iPhone).
  • Detailed information on Google's new Home Services program for local businesses.
  • Best practices when you have information that resides on more than one domain.
  • Page Speed Improvement tip #4: A simple tip for WordPress sites.
  • A fantastic idea for finding new content ideas for articles that are guaranteed to get you more readers.

 


Note: If you are seeing the light version and you are a paid member, be sure to log in (in the sidebar on desktop or below the post on mobile) and read the full article here.

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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

 

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