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Episode 67 - January 23, 2019 - Light Version

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Greetings from NYC! I was thrilled to be invited to join John Mueller at a live Google help hangout this week. I learned so much from this meeting. We’ll be covering the hangout in great detail very soon. But, in this episode we’ll talk about some greater clarity on using the disavow tool. It turns out that unnatural links do have the potential to algorithmically hurt a site’s rankings.

We also will look at tips to succeed in Google News (although these really apply to any website, not just news sites), how long you should keep 301 redirects in place, great tips on use of pagination, and a whole bunch more.

In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • John Mueller on Direct IP indexing issues
  • Coding error causes Google to ignore noindex directive
  • Did you know that you can use the Inspect URL feature in GSC for urls you don’t own?
  • How long do you keep 301 redirects?
  • Great tips on understanding pagination
  • Is it necessary to have both Image Schema and noscript tags for lazy loading?
  • Impacted by an algo update and need a timeline for recovery?
  • Should you be disavowing from a domain with an expired SSL certificate?
  • John Mueller & Google’s opinion of geo redirection?
  • Google will stop fetching sitemap.xml files if its URL is invalid
  • How to find your unused JavaScript
  • Google will show whichever URL is used in a site: search, even if it has been redirected to a new URL
  • Free-speech concerns over language in EU copyright directive
  • Popular WordPress plugin leaves users prone to hacking
  • Google vs. government censorship in Russia
  • Domino’s Pizza and the fight for web accessibility
  • If your knowledge panel information is wrong, it’s likely not Google’s fault
  • My tl;dr summary of some excellent recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates

Barry Schwartz is reporting on a possible quality update happening on January 15, 2019. However, after going through the hundreds of Google Analytics accounts that we have access to, we are not seeing significant changes in any of the sites that we monitor.

While it’s possible that this was a mild quality update, it’s likely not a significant one.


Google Announcements

The beta test for Google Domain Property ends

The Domain Property–a feature that aimed to help property sets–help document is no longer available. So, is Google ready to release the final version or has the testing failed and the idea has been scrapped? Only time will tell!


SEO Tips

Unnatural links can hurt you algorithmically. More information from Google on the use of the disavow tool.

This is incredibly important! As mentioned previously, I had the privilege of joining John Mueller for a live Google help hangout this week. We’ll soon have our summary completed of this help hangout. But, I wanted to get this point in this week’s newsletter as it is extremely important!

In the hangout, while talking about the disavow tool, I asked John the following:

“I would love if we could have just a little bit more clarification on this [use of the disavow tool]. Let me give you an example. If there was a business owner that a few years ago hired an SEO company, and that SEO company did a bunch of guest posting just for links and something that’s kind of medium quality if you know what I mean...not ultra spammy. Can we be confident that Google is ignoring those links, or should we be going in and disavowing?”

John gave a great answer. He mentioned that one reason to disavow is to prevent a manual action in the future should you get a manual review. I asked him whether we should disavow unnatural links that were made years ago. He said that that if it was clear that the site was no longer making unnatural links, then this would be unlikely to cause a manual action.

But here is the most interesting part. I then asked the following:

“Let’s say they didn’t get a manual action. Can those links hurt them algorithmically?

Here is John’s response,

That can definitely be the case. It’s something where, our algorithms, when they look at it, if they say, ‘Oh, there are a bunch of really bad links here,’ then, maybe they’ll be a little bit more cautious in regards to links in general for the website. So if you clean that up, then the algorithms look at it and say, ‘Oh, it’s ok. It’s not bad.’

This is HUGE news. We have been filing the odd disavow here and there and we do have several clients that we feel saw nice improvements as a result. It’s often hard to say whether it was just the disavow work that is the cause though, as most site owners are working on multiple quality issues at one time.

I do hope to write a thorough article on my current thoughts on disavowing, but until then, here are my guidelines:

  • Most sites still do not need to disavow.
  • If you look at your site’s links and see a bunch of super spammy links such as links with adult anchors, negative SEO via comment spam, spammy image sites, while there is no harm in disavowing, in the vast majority of cases, Google is able to just ignore those links. They are unlikely to hurt you.
  • If you are actively creating your own links with the intention of improving rankings, you are at risk for getting a manual action should Google choose to manually review your site. You should disavow links like this.
  • If you have a history of creating links for SEO in the past, you should audit those links and disavow. In most cases, those links will be ignored by Google. But, there is a possibility that as John said, Google’s algorithms may be a little bit more cautious about ranking a site that has a large number of unnatural links.

Danny Sullivan talks Google News: How to succeed in 2019

This recent post on the Webmaster Central Blog provides some excellent tips and best practices for succeeding in Google News in 2019. This advice is really good for all sites, not just news sites.

In short, here’s how it breaks down:

Headlines and dates

  • Present clear headlines
  • Provide accurate times and dates
    • Show one clear date and time
    • Use structured data
  • Avoid artificially freshening stories

Duplicate content

  • Block scraped content
  • Block rewritten content
  • Block or consider canonical for republished content
  • Avoid duplicate content

Transparency

  • Be transparent
  • Don't be deceptive

Additional

  • Avoid taking part in link schemes
  • Use structured data for rich presentation
  • Protect your users and their data

Interestingly enough, a post like this is often followed by some reminders from Google to take notice. It’s also not uncommon for Google to emphasize the specific guidelines such as this and then roll out algorithms which correspond to these guidelines. In fact, they did post about it, check it out:

So, are violators soon going to feel the impact? One thing is for sure, the guidelines have been set, there’s no reason to not be in compliance!


Featured snippets from where!?

SEOs are fascinated by this discovery! We wonder if webmasters are now going to focus more on optimizing PDFs.


Google Help Hangout Tips

We covered this hangout in our last newsletter, but in case you missed it, here is a summary of the most recent Google help hangout.


Other interesting News

Google hit with £44m GDPR fine over ads

Complaints were filed back in May 2018 by two privacy rights groups Noyb and La Quadrature du Net (LQDN). The complaints were for a "lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding ads personalization". In a statement, Google said: "People expect high standards of transparency and control from us. We're deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR."


Bing Ads will be the exclusive search advertising platform for Yahoo, AOL, and more

How does this impact you? Well for search ad buyers, the new agreement with Verizon Media allows them to reach audiences across Yahoo though one platform. Some of the properties include: Aol.com, Yahoo.com, AOL Mail, Yahoo Mail, Huffington Post, TechCrunch and others. Jumping from 51% share to a revamped partnership outlining 100% share could lead to an increase in clicks of 10-15% across the US, as estimated by Microsoft.


Local SEO

GMB: ‘Opening Date’ negative SEO hack has been fixed

This past week, some local businesses experienced ‘GMB vandalism’. Essentially, people were able to wipe out anyone’s listing at will thanks to a flaw from Google. Using the business opening date feature found on a listing, people could suggest an edit to the date (ie. pushing it years in the future) and as a result, make it disappear without notifying the business owner.


We spoke too soon, local listings still allow unicode

A couple of weeks ago, we provided an update on the use of unicode in local listings. The update noted that Google had dropped the unicode hack, just one short week after it was spotted. Well, we’ve since been notified by local experts that you can in fact still use unicode for your Google My Business listings.


Apple Maps will now power local searches for DuckDuckGo

Apple Maps has been selected to be the default provider for address and local searches, as well as the map you seen when you click for more results. The selected tool, MapKit JS, is technically still a beta at this point but is similar to other similar to other products they have on the market. In a statement by DuckDuckGo, they said that they will now have “improved address searches, additional visual features, enhanced satellite imagery, and continually updated maps.”

On the topic of privacy, a DuckDuckGo spokesperson said the following:

“We do not store or share personal information — period. This Apple Maps integration is no different. As with other partners and providers, we anonymize all requests to Apple so search results remain private.”


Help an SEO out

John Doherty, CEO of Credo, is asking for your help! Give it a go, it’s only 11 questions in length!


Recommended Reading

Demystifying Google’s guide to clicks, impressions and position in Google Search Console Glenn Gabe
https://searchengineland.com/demystifying-googles-guide-to-clicks-impressions-and-position-in-google-search-console-310546
January 16th, 2019

Google Search Console is an amazing tool for SEO’s but for the uninitiated it can be quite confusing. In this great article written by Glenn Gabe, he goes into 19 of the most important metrics in the Performance reporting in Google Search Console.


Links as a Ranking Factor – Still Going Strong –
Eric Enge
https://www.stonetemple.com/link-as-a-ranking-factor/
January 17th, 2019

This is a very in-depth study that the folks at Stone Temple have put together.


The explosion of PAA: Answering questions is the new way to dominate search
– Ryan Johnson
https://searchengineland.com/the-explosion-of-paa-answering-questions-is-the-new-way-to-dominate-search-310409
January 14th, 2019

A few years back, the first position in the SERPs had a CTR of about 31%. With the addition of new features over the years, that number now sits at approximately 19%.


Tracking Embedded YouTube Videos with Google Tag Manager –
Tim Jensen
http://www.clixmarketing.com/blog/2019/01/15/tracking-embedded-youtube-videos-with-google-tag-manager/
January 15th, 2019

We should all likely know that we can track people’s engagement with a page using Google Analytics.


Application of SEO Metrics to Determine the Quality of Wikipedia Articles and Their Sources –
Włodzimierz Lewoniewski, Ralf-Christian Härting, Krzysztof Węcel, Christopher Reichstein, Witold Abramowicz
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327265925
August 2018

Academic research about SEO and Wikipedia? Yes please!


25 Ways to Perform Link Building without Guest Posting
– Stuart McHenry
https://www.mckremie.com/blog/2019/01/link-building-techniques/
January 16th, 2019

Looking to help increase your link profile? Fortunately, Stuart McHenry has compiled a list of 25 ways to do link building – without having to guest post!


5 Real Examples of Advanced Content Promotion Strategies –
Brad Smith
https://moz.com/blog/advanced-content-promotion-strategies
January 16th, 2019

Many people may think that content promotion is posting on social media. In this article, Brad teaches us that it’s so much more!


How to make your content more accessible to the visually impaired
– Christi Olson
https://searchengineland.com/how-to-make-your-content-more-accessible-to-the-visually-impaired-310660
January 18th, 2019

Approximately 1.3 billion people worldwide live with some form of visual impairment. Inclusive marketing and increasing accessibility to your online efforts are two solid reasons to jump on board.


Understanding JavaScript Fundamentals: Your Cheat Sheet
Rachel Costello
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/javascript-fundamentals-cheat-sheet/
January 18th, 2019

This is a good JavaScript 101 guide from Rachel Costello at SEJ. John Mueller said it best: JavaScript is here to stay, so SEOs better familiarize themselves with it rather than fight the tide.


Demystifying discoverable web apps / FRONTEND CON 2018
Martin Splitt
January 14th, 2019

Here is Martin Splitt’s talk at FrontEnd Con 2018. There is great information and tips about JavaScript and how Google discovers these types of sites and webapps. He also goes in and busts some of the most common myths about search.


Looking Back at Google’s Research Efforts in 2018
– Jeff Dean
https://ai.googleblog.com/2019/01/looking-back-at-googles-research.html
January 15th, 2019

Google had a great year in 2018 in terms of AI research. They’ve contributed so much in the name of social goodness and assistive technology. One of their major steps forward were improvements to Algorithms and Theory.


Louisiana eye doctor offering free exams to NFL refs after Saints loss
– WFLA 8 News
https://www.wfla.com/national/louisiana-eye-doctor-offering-free-exams-to-nfl-refs-after-saints-loss/1713490694
January 21st, 2019

Can we talk about that blatant Pass Interference missed call that robbed the New Orleans Saints of a chance to play in the Superbowl? That’ll be a play that haunts Saints fans for many years to come.

For one eyecare practice in Louisiana, they decided to offer up free exams to, you guessed it, NFL officials following the loss. It may be a loss for New Orleans, but this business has demonstrated creativity and will likely gain links from this. It could also help improve their E-A-T as they are getting mentioned in a lot of authoritative places. We’re going to monitor their progress and see if this publicity helps their rankings.


Recommended Reading (Local SEO)

How to Choose the Best Google My Business Category for Any Local Business Carrie Hill
https://www.brightlocal.com/2019/01/14/how-to-choose-the-best-google-my-business-category-for-any-local-business/

January 14th, 2019

There is no question that ranking a local business can be extremely challenging, especially if you are in a larger city with competitive niches. This is one of the reasons why it is extremely important that you pick the proper primary and secondary categories for your business. Carrie does a great job breaking this down for us.


What Reviews In 2018 Taught Us To Maximize In 2019
– Aaron Weiche
https://gatherup.com/blog/what-reviews-in-2018-taught-us-to-maximize-in-2019/
January 10th, 2019

Aaron Weiche, CEO of GatherUp, encourages us all to zoom out and take inventory of what’s transpired at a high-level view. He outlines the takeaways from online reviews, and how GatherUp will be incorporating them into their 2019 plans.


New Study Reveals What People Are Buying Through Voice Assistants
– Matt Southern
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/new-study-reveals-what-people-are-buying-through-voice-assistants/287277/
January 17th, 2019

A study has come out recently that surveyed Americans about how they use their voice assistants. The data is enlightening and is informative for businesses who want to optimize for the platforms.


WordPress Google Maps Guide: Embed With or Without a Plugin
Brian Jackson
https://kinsta.com/blog/wordpress-google-maps/
January 14th, 2019

For many businesses, having Google Maps embedded on their site is a must have feature. There are also many ways to approach it!


Jobs


Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • John Mueller on Direct IP indexing issues
  • Coding error causes Google to ignore noindex directive
  • Did you know that you can use the Inspect URL feature in GSC for urls you don’t own?
  • How long do you keep 301 redirects?
  • Great tips on understanding pagination
  • Is it necessary to have both Image Schema and noscript tags for lazy loading?
  • Impacted by an algo update and need a timeline for recovery?
  • Should you be disavowing from a domain with an expired SSL certificate?
  • John Mueller & Google’s opinion of geo redirection?
  • Google will stop fetching sitemap.xml files if its URL is invalid
  • How to find your unused JavaScript
  • Google will show whichever URL is used in a site: search, even if it has been redirected to a new URL
  • Free-speech concerns over language in EU copyright directive
  • Popular WordPress plugin leaves users prone to hacking
  • Google vs. government censorship in Russia
  • Domino’s Pizza and the fight for web accessibility
  • If your knowledge panel information is wrong, it’s likely not Google’s fault
  • My tl;dr summary of some excellent recent SEO and Local SEO articles

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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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