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Episode 16 - Sep 14, 2017 (Light Version)

 

Once again we have another huge episode as a lot has happened in the search world. There were several algorithm changes that seemed to be significant. One of these is a big local algo change. We'll talk more about user engagement as a ranking signal and we'll look at a few interesting developments that may make you want to consider implementing AMP. There are also a few link building tips in this episode.

In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Which of your outbound links should you be nofollowing?
  • More evidence that Google is using user engagement as a ranking signal.
  • How to deal with recurring events from an SEO standpoint.
  • Will using a noarchive tag hurt your rankings?
  • How does Google figure out canonicals? And how can we use the filter=0 operator?
  • A possible reason to implement AMP - win more featured snippets.
  • What does it mean if aggregator sites are appearing above yours in the SERPS?
  • This is what you should be checking to make sure that you are ready for the mobile first index.
  • What does it mean if Google is not showing cached results for your site?
  • Do 404 pages use up your crawl budget?
  • Cool tip to allow you to answer your GMB Q&A Questions on desktop rather than mobile.
  • Something you should be doing if you post on Medium, so that your own site gets SEO benefit.
  • How to use the GSC url removal tool in bulk.
  • Is it against Google's guidelines to interlink your own websites?
  • Insight into using HARO for link building
  • How to rank well quickly with videos.
  • Something very important for anyone who uses a sitemap index file.
  • Can your host handle a spike in traffic? Important info for sites that get viral spikes of traffic.

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Recent algorithm updates

August 19-22 - Possible core algorithm update

This update wasn’t talked about a lot, but it appears to be a big one. I saw several sites that saw changes on this day.

This site is one that previously had issues with Panda, historically seeing both hits and gains. The site is dated, ad heavy and has many technical issues:

August 20th algorithm updateI have GA access to three other sites that saw almost identical drops starting sometime between August 19 and 22.

All four of these sites that dropped are sites that you would look at and say, “This is an old site.”

I don’t want to make conclusions based on seeing just four sites that dropped. However, at this point, if your site dropped in late August, I would be looking at two things:

  • Fixing technical issues.
  • Updating the look and feel of the site so that it is not one that users would consider it to be dated. This includes keeping the site updated with recent information.

I’ll let you know if I get more information as we do more site reviews.

More info on this update here:

https://www.seroundtable.com/google-algorithm-ranking-update-24341.html

September 6, 2017 algo update

This appears to be a small quality update. I have one client who saw a big boost with the initial “Fred” update on March 8 which saw further gains on September 6.

More info here:

https://www.seroundtable.com/google-search-ranking-algorithm-update-24419.html

There was possibly a related small update on September 8:

https://www.seroundtable.com/google-search-algorithm-update-24433.html

Local ranking update - The Hawk update

Joy Hawkins noticed a big change that happened on August 22, 2017 that appears to be a bit of a rollback of the Possum update. Because Hawks eat Possums, Joy coined this the Hawk update.

Joy noticed that a number of local businesses that previously were filtered out by Possum are now appearing in local packs again. The one exception is for businesses that share the same address as others in their building. Those still appear to be filtered.

Here is a client of mine who started to see a nice uptick in local visibility and traffic on August 22, 2017:

August 22 algorithm updateBy the way, if you have a business that appears to be filtered out of the local results, Joy Hawkins has discovered a possible way to fix this. She would prefer not to publish it publicly for fear that spammers will take advantage of this. If you want to connect with Joy, you can hire her here.


Google Search Console Index Coverage Report

These new reports look really helpful! They have only rolled out to a few sites right now, but should soon be available to everyone.

The report shows you which pages are indexed by Google. You can look at all known pages or at just the pages that are in your sitemap:

Google Search Console Index Coverage Report Pages

The report can tell you about a number of things such as whether or not you submitted pages to the index that have a noindex tag, whether you’ve submitted pages that are blocked by robots.txt and more:

Google Search Console Index Coverage Report Index

The most interesting part of this report for me is the “Indexed, low interest” section of the report.

One client for whom I ran a traffic drop assessment has access to this report. In our traffic drop assessment we noticed a number of thin pages that contained simply an image and nothing else. I had recommended that these pages be noindexed, but it looks like this has not been done yet. Sure enough, when I look at the “indexed, low interest” section of their report, I can see that these pages are listed.

What can we do with this information?

I don’t see a way to export this data just yet. This is unfortunate as many sites will have thousands of pages that could be considered indexed, low interest.

I do not think that we should blindly remove or noindex all of these low interest pages. I do think that everyone who has this report should spend time going through the list manually though. With each of these pages, I would ask the following questions:

  • Should this page be in the index? Will anyone ever want to click on this from search results? If the answer is no, then add a noindex tag to these pages.
  • Can I improve upon this page? If Google is saying that these pages are low interest, and you think that people really might want to land on these from search, then I would look at considering whether you could consolidate this page with others to make it more useful, or perhaps add information to the page to make it more helpful.

Does Google use this information for assessments of site quality?

I don’t know the answer to this, but I do think that it is possible. Let’s say that Google sees that on average sites in your industry have 20% of their pages marked as “indexed, low interest”. And let’s say that for your site, 40% of your pages are marked this way.

I think that it is quite possible that this could be a sign of lower quality and it could result in lower rankings. This possibly could be done via the Panda algorithm.

John Mueller had a tweet recently that hinted that sites that had a larger proportion of useful pages could be seen as more valuable:

Once I get access to this report for my own sites I’ll be running some tests in seeing whether removing low interest pages seems to help improve rankings.


Big publishers are starting to nofollow outbound links

Forbes and Inc appear to now be adding a nofollow tag to the majority of outbound links in their articles:

This is interesting as several months ago Gary Illyes had commented a couple of times now that Google is good at ignoring links like this:

He even recently said that Google “ignores tons of links”:

In my opinion, this is what Penguin 4.0 was created to do...to only count links that are truly editorially earned.

So what does it mean now that Forbes and Inc links are nofollowed? This is likely a blow to authors who write on these publications and sell links. We all know that people who were buying these links (usually for hundreds of dollars) were doing it for the SEO value.

I am of two minds about this change. On one hand, I like the fact that it is getting harder and harder for businesses to simply buy links and see an improvement in rankings. On the other hand, if you do happen to get a mention from an authoritative site like this, it is not fair that the link will be worthless in terms of passing PageRank.

Should you nofollow outbound links on your site?

(This section is for paid members only.)


Local SEO: Question and Answer

In our last episode I wrote in great detail about the new feature that allows searchers to ask a business a question from within a business’ Knowledge Graph listing. This feature is now live on all devices, including iPhones.

The biggest concern so far with this feature is that there is no way to moderate or delete questions. Here are a couple of examples of Q&A sections that are not helpful at all:

It turns out that Google has just turned off the Q&A feature for the White House. It looks like they are recognizing the need for moderation. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see changes to this feature soon.


Local and eCommerce tip: Searching inventory from the search results

This is an interesting find by Glenn Gabe. For some stores, you will now see a search bar on their local panel right in the search results:

It’s unclear how to get this search panel. I’ll let you know if any information comes out on how to accomplish this.


Local SEO tip: You can now edit your GMB profile from the search results.

Apparently this is live now. However, this is not working for businesses which I run. Barry Schwartz wrote this post explaining that you should now be able to edit your Google My Business profile from within the SERPS.

Joy Hawkins is seeing this happen for some businesses as well:


Local SEO: Google is now notifying business owners when changes are made to their GMB listing

Colan Nielson noticed that Google is sending out an email to some businesses now if their GMB listing has been edited:

Google My Business EmailIn the example given, someone had edited the listing to remove the business’ website. Yikes. I’m glad that Google will notify us of changes like that.


Improved analytics for AMP pages

Google announced that they are providing AMP users with better analytics now. Barry Schwartz has a good summary of what needs to be done.


AMP pages soon to be available for Adwords

If you use AMP, you will soon be able to have AMP landing pages for Adwords. It will be interesting to see if this eventually becomes a factor that helps to improve a site’s Quality Score.


More info from Google on “Fred”

We have spoken a lot in the past about Google’s Fred algorithm. Really, what we called “Fred” on March 8, 2017, was a combination of several algorithm changes that Google ran at the same time. John Mueller was asked about Fred in a hangout and he said, “The name Fred was used for a whole bunch of algorithmic updates that started in the spring...People combine all of these into the name Fred which, from my point of view doesn’t make it a lot easier. Sometimes there are obvious quality issues that we can pick up that algorithms focus on. Sometimes there are obvious link issues that our algorithms can focus on. But if you put all of these together and say, ‘Well, I found five websites that are like this. Therefore Fred must be like this, that’s kind of misleading.”

Since initially writing about Fred, I have reviewed quite a few sites that have seen drops in early 2017. Here are my thoughts on this time period.

I think that “Fred” initially started in early February. There was an update on February 1 that probably was a Penguin tweak. I saw quite a few sites that had sketchy link profiles that saw a slow decline since February 1. In my opinion, this is when Penguin got better at devaluing links that were not editorially earned. Many sites that used to do well with guest posting campaigns saw drops that started on this date.

Then, on February 7 there was an update that had a lot to do with Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines. If your site dropped on February 7, there is a good chance that you are lacking E-A-T (Experience, Authority and Trust) as compared to your competitors, or that you have other issues that are specifically addressed in these guidelines.

The March 8 update which is the one that we called Fred, seems to be a tweak of the February 7 update. While people made a big deal about this date, I have seen far more sites that were affected on February 7 than on March 8.

Ultimately though, the answer to any ranking drop is to do the following:

  • Find and fix technical issues with the site.
  • Remove user frustration issues (such as annoying ads).
  • Remove or improve upon low quality content.
  • Objectively review your site (or better yet, have a non-biased third party do this review) to see why users might consider your competitors’ sites to be better than yours.
    (Note: If you would like to have my team do a third party review of your site compared to your competitors, contact me.)

I have found that sites that were negatively affected at this time usually have to make significant changes in order to see improvements.


Google doesn’t use the Ad Experience Report for rankings...yet…

Have you checked your ad experience report in Google Search Console recently? (You can check this by going to Web Tools → Ad Experience Report and then clicking on either Desktop or Mobile. Most sites that I have access to still have not been reviewed and have no useful information in this report.

John Mueller mentioned in a recent hangout that Google does not yet use this information in determining rankings but that it is important to look at because if there are issues then these are probably frustrating your users.


Local SEO: Did you know that Google can send people to verify business data in person?

Joe Youngblood recently had someone visit his office claiming to be a Google representative. He wondered if it was perhaps a scam. It turns out that this can actually happen. I wonder if this is a way that Google uses to help cut down on the people who are using fake or virtual office addresses to have a more central location:


 Local SEO: Did you notice a significant increase in views of your GMB listing in August?

Mike Blumenthal wrote an interesting article about how he had noticed that several of his clients had a big increase in views on their GMB profiles.

It turns out that Google is somehow counting impressions differently:

My local clients do not seem to have this increase. If I get more information on what is being measured differently, I’ll let you know.


 

Recommended Reading

What is Google Stamp and What Will it Mean for Marketers?

This article is worth a look. Google is apparently developing a SnapChat competitor that integrates stories and AMP (hence the name Stamp). According to the article, Time Inc and CNN were approached to be involved with this. If it takes off, it’s something that all publishers might be able to take advantage of.

New study from Stone Temple Consulting shows that links are still important for ranking

Links still matter. However, I like the conclusion of this study that says, “we don’t find that links can rescue poor quality content, or cause low relevance content to rank.”

Nested Structured Data Can Influence Whether Google Shows Rich Snippets

If you’re having trouble getting your rich snippets to show, then this is a possible reason why.

Is Google Going to Remove the 3 Packs? What You Need to Know About Home Service Ads

When Joy Hawkins writes about Local Search, I listen. This is a good read.

How I Achieved a 48% Success Rate Using Twitter for Link Building

I enjoyed this article on link building by Wordstream.

How To Rank #1 in YouTube Search in 30 Days (Case Study)

If you publish to YouTube this is a must read on Search Engine Land.

GMB Messenger: What Businesses Need to Know Before Using It

This is a great read, discovered by Mary Bowling. It goes into great depth on some of the issues that surround Google My Business’ messenger feature.

20 Limits You May Not Know Exist

Did you know that you get capped at 1000 properties in Google Search Console? Or that Google only counts 16 words of your alt text? This is a fun read written by Patrick Stox.

6 things you need to know about Google’s Q&A feature on Google Maps

Another important read for anyone involved in local SEO, written by Joy Hawkins.

The 3 Easiest Link Building Tactics Any Website Can Use to Acquire Their First 50 Links - Whiteboard Friday

While I’m not convinced that every business will get 50 links this way, these are all great ways to get good natural links to your site, and things that every business should be doing at a minimum to get good links.


Want More?

Paid members also receive the following:

  • Which of your outbound links should you be nofollowing?
  • More evidence that Google is using user engagement as a ranking signal.
  • How to deal with recurring events from an SEO standpoint.
  • Will using a noarchive tag hurt your rankings?
  • How does Google figure out canonicals? And how can we use the filter=0 operator?
  • A possible reason to implement AMP - win more featured snippets.
  • What does it mean if aggregator sites are appearing above yours in the SERPS?
  • This is what you should be checking to make sure that you are ready for the mobile first index.
  • What does it mean if Google is not showing cached results for your site?
  • Do 404 pages use up your crawl budget?
  • Cool tip to allow you to answer your GMB Q&A Questions on desktop rather than mobile.
  • Something you should be doing if you post on Medium, so that your own site gets SEO benefit.
  • How to use the GSC url removal tool in bulk.
  • Is it against Google's guidelines to interlink your own websites?
  • Insight into using HARO for link building
  • How to rank well quickly with videos.
  • Something very important for anyone who uses a sitemap index file.
  • Can your host handle a spike in traffic? Important info for sites that get viral spikes of traffic.

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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