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Episode 72 - February 27, 2019 - Light Version

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There has been some algorithmic turbulence again. We think there was a moderately significant update on February 23-24, although it was not huge. In this episode, we’ll discuss the new domain-wide data in GSC, an interesting new Chrome feature, whether or not we should use UTM tracking on internal links, and much more. We’re also happy to announce that Marie Haynes Consulting Inc is now taking on clients for link audits. (You’ll find information in this episode on why we’re putting more emphasis on disavow work now.)

In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Google is testing collection of user questions on YouTube for the webmaster office-hours
  • Is a Performance report coming to GSC for Google Discover?
  • Mobile page speed wins from Google
  • Google has implemented unlinked featured snippets
  • Are <figcaptions> treated the same as alt text for images?
  • Google says tagging internal links with UTM tracking parameters can cause confusion for Google
  • Google is pushing to shrink the window between crawling and rendering
  • Search Console sending out performance drop reports
  • You can adjust your level of interest for listings seen in Discover
  • Save a URL forever in Wayback Machine
  • Bing Ads require certification for addiction services
  • Local SEO: Google Posts are beginning to surface in 3-pack and Local Finder
  • Local SEO: Third party reviews surfacing in local listings
  • Local SEO: ‘People also search for’ surfaces in an interesting location
  • Local SEO: 'Confirm your visit on Google Maps Timeline’ notification - Here’s the latest
  • Local SEO: SEOs are pushing for tighter handling of 3rd party local listing edits
  • My tl;dr summary of some excellent recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates

February 23-24, 2019

There was some kind of a quality update on this date. We saw significant increases in Google organic traffic in a few of our clients.

This client below is a relatively new site that is trying to break into a relatively competitive niche. The results in GA are more impressive than the lift that we see in SEMRush, but we have not asked for permission to share their GA data. They are working on improving their authoritative mentions amongst other quality changes.

Another client for whom we filed a disavow in the summer saw a jump up as well:

The overall picture for this site’s traffic is just beautiful.

We did see some chatter about this date. Barry Schwartz reported a lot of discussion in search forums on sites seeing changes on what he says is February 22.

We do think that this is a minor update. We’ll keep our eye on things for now!


MHC Announcements

We are taking on clients for disavow work

We are thrilled to announce that we are actively taking on link audit clients once again. This new post discusses our thoughts on disavowing and link audits in 2019 and beyond.

If you would prefer not to read the entire article, here is a summary of our thoughts on disavowing. These are all based on statements from Google employees:

  • If you are noticing a bunch of super spammy links pointing to your site, Google is likely ignoring these. Disavowing will probably not help. However, if the links are anchored with keywords you care about, or are adult in nature, it may be a good idea to disavow these. (John Mueller hinted in a recent help hangout that an influx of negative SEO links with keyword anchors or adult anchors would be wise to disavow.)
  • If you have links that you, or an SEO company acting on your behalf, made for SEO purposes in the past, then disavow work may help improve rankings.
  • When Penguin 4.0 launched in September of 2016, Gary Illyes from Google said that Penguin no longer demoted sites, but rather, just ignored unnatural links. However, John Mueller and Gary Illyes have both recently said that there are other algorithms, outside of Penguin that look at link quality. If you have a lot of unnatural links, this can cause Google's algorithms to distrust ALL of your links.
  • As such, for a site with a lot of links made for SEO, if Google distrusts your entire link profile, you are likely not ranking to your full potential. Disavowing has the potential to help sites like this.

If you are interested in having our team do some disavow work for you, or even simply assess your site to see if a link audit is likely to help, you can find more information here on our new page describing our link audit offerings.


Google Announcements

Google announces domain-wide data in Search Console

As of today, Google is announcing domain properties, a way of verifying and seeing the data from Google Search for a whole domain. Having all of your URLs under the domain (http, https, www, and non-www) will allow you to have a complete view of your website across GSC, thereby reducing the need to manually combine data.

If you’re wondering why you may not be seeing it, please be aware that this may take a little bit of time to rollout:

The official announcement does indicate that domain properties will be automatically set up provided that you are using DNS verification. We have asked John for clarification on setting things up, as DNS verification likely represents just a small portion of users.

Interested to learn more? Check out the SER article which talks about adding properties and instructions on how to add the DNS verification method. Additionally, Dawn Anderson created a blog post that’ll help you verify DNS really quickly.


Google launches their new Test My Site for analyzing site speed

This tool from Google also provides customized reports which is very neat. Give it a go if you haven’t already tried it!


Google puts greater focus on product visibility for merchants

There is a new feature in GSC for sites with product markup. It can be found in the toolbar on the left-hand side of your GSC, under the "Enhancements" section. For all the product markup you have on your site, this report shows which URLs have markup that's valid, as well as which ones have warnings or errors.

In addition to the above, over on the Webmaster Central Blog they note that up-to-date product information will be available in real-time on Google Merchant Centre and also that Manufacturer Center will see new rollouts to improve brand visibility. These solutions support Google’s efforts of allowing merchants to better reach and inform potential customers of their products as they shop across Google.


Chrome’s new Scroll to Text feature. We’re excited!

You know how you can share a YouTube video so that the link will start the video in a specific timestamp? That, but for text. It's called "Scroll to Text", and is a new feature coming (presumably) to Chrome that will allow users to create a link that leads directly to a specific word or phrase on a page. Very cool!


Now on iOS: Follow your favourite places on Google Maps

This was available on Android starting back in October 2018, but has now been added to iOS as of this past Monday. The Follow button in the ‘For You’ tab gives users the ability to stay up to date with their favourite businesses.

For local businesses, here is your opportunity to really focus your attention on GMB Posts and making sure that you’re making yourself stand out from the rest of the pack.


SEO Tips

Google Help Hangout Tips

As always we have our own notes and transcripts of the recent hangouts. For your convenience, we’ve attached the February 19th Help Hangout and February 22nd Help Hangout. Otherwise, here are some notable items from the past week:


Does Google adjust its algorithms for specific industries?

In the most recent Hangout, John Mueller was asked if the algorithm was changed for specific industries (for example Medical, Law, Finance etc). John’s answer was that the algorithm is based on the query not the industry. He said:

"So from our point of view it's usually not the case that we would say we need to do something specific to make the search results better for one particular industry but rather we look at it the other way around and try to think about ways that we can improve search results with regards to relevance for users with specific types of queries... If we see for example that people are getting confusing information for medical queries [then] maybe we need to improve how we recognize the relevance of search results for medical queries"

So it always boils back down to user intent and what’s relevant for users. Google doesn’t push out updates that target specific industries but rather tries and understand the queries that users are making and provide the best quality and most relevant results.


Other interesting News

Vote for Your Favorite Local SEO Blogs!

Where do you get your regular news, industry insights, and top tips? BrightLocal is asking you to vote for your favourite SEO blogs. Go ahead, reward all your favourites here.


Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

Unified hotel reviews are here (kinda)!

Google has updated Hotel reviews. Drawing reviews from eligible third party review sources such as TrustYou, as well as Google users, there will now be a consolidated list of user reviews shown on the desktop version of Google Maps.


Local SEO - Other Interesting News

Google re-opting in local businesses who have manually opted out of Google Assistant calls

Google has - by default - opted in all GMB listings to receive calls via Google Assistant. With people realizing this over the past few weeks, many SEOs and businesses owners have taken the initiative to opt out.  

However, a Local SEO has noted in the Local Search Forum that even though they have manually gone into their GMB Info page to deselect Google Assistant calls, Google went back and opted back in again. We're hoping it's just a bug.


Google My Business messaging problems continue

We’ve discussed this issue in recent weeks but it appears to still be lingering. As it stands, GMB listings that belong to a location group in the dashboard are not having their messaging feature work properly. Those impacted are the ones who have set up the messaging feature within the GMB app, but not listings that set it up via SMS prior to Google removing that option.

As Joy Hawkins has been covering this topic, she has indicated that Google is pushing the messaging feature more and more on merchants despite the fact that Google is aware of the issue.


SEO Tools

ThriveHive’s new Q&A tool for sourcing top customer questions

David Mihm and the team at ThriveHive have released a new tool that allows you to see the most popular questions on a listing based on your pre-selected business category. So far they only included questions they saw three or more times across 40,000+ listings. For example, under the Arena category, top FAQs would include questions about near by eating facilities and on-site parking.

There are some businesses categories without a list of top questions, but we’re definitely excited to see how this progresses!


Whitespark creates a hub to monitor your online reviews

A simple and free tool has arrived which allows businesses to check their ratings and reviews from across the web all in one place. Review Checker gives you the opportunity to quickly see your strong areas as well as your weak points. Stay on top of your online review profile and see how you compare to local competition. Check it out.


Recommended Reading

Why Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines Matter to Content Marketers – Here’s Why #203 – Mark Traphagen
https://www.stonetemple.com/googles-search-quality-raters-guidelines-matter-to-content-marketers-heres-why/
February 25th, 2019

This is a fantastic video/article from Stone Temple that very clearly lays out why (in our opinion) you should be paying attention to E-A-T if you have a YMYL site.


Research: What content actually performed in 2018?
– Kirsty Hulse
https://manyminds.digital/blog/research-what-content-actually-performed-in-201
February 18th, 2019

We all know that great content is the key to get links back to your site. But what kind of content do you create that is original, effective and consistent at linking back to you? Kirsty Hulse collects and analyses some of her content from 2018 to identify what kind of content that was linked the most in the past year.


What the Heck are Fraggles in SEO?
– Cindy Krum
https://mobilemoxie.com/blog/what-the-heck-are-fraggles
February 18th, 2019

We discussed what “Fraggles” are briefly in the last episode of the newsletter. Cindy Krum, released a detailed write-up about why these intricate jump-to links and why they are likely to become more and more relevant in SEO.


How to Write a Great Product Description Page
Ian Lurie
https://www.portent.com/blog/copywriting/great-product-descriptions.htm
February 15th, 2019

When we do our site audits at MHC, one thing that is almost certain for an e-Commerce site is that we will flag their product pages for improvement. A bad or boring product page can turn off potential customers and be big a source for thin content, but how to you make a good product page at an extremely large scale? We found this article by Ian was a really great guide on how, what, and why you should improve your product pages both from an SEO and a UX standpoint.


We Analyzed 912 Million Blog Posts. Here’s What We Learned About Content Marketing
– Brian Dean
https://backlinko.com/content-study
February 19th, 2019

After analyzing 912 million blog posts, Backlinko had some interesting findings with regards to how content format, word count, and headlines correlate to social media shares and backlinks.


What is the Market Share of Featured Snippet URLs? (Study)
Mordy Oberstein
https://www.rankranger.com/blog/featured-snippet-market-share
February 21st, 2019

This study looks at the extent to which URLs will share ownership of a featured snippet, and how much visibility each URL may get.


Nearly half of users have a bad reaction to ‘not secure’ browser warning, survey finds
– Greg Sterling
https://searchengineland.com/nearly-half-of-users-have-a-bad-reaction-to-not-secure-browser-warning-survey-finds-31293
February 25th, 2019

More than 1300 users were surveyed in the UK, with 46% saying that they would not enter any private information into a site that is not secure.


Content structure and structured data: Will they impact featured snippets?
– Brodie Clark
https://searchengineland.com/content-structure-and-structured-data-will-they-impact-featured-snippets-312810
February 25th, 2018

Courtesy of Brodie Clark comes this case study of how he successfully snatched a featured snippet away from Amazon with an emphasis on “content structure.”


What Is Dwell Time & Why It Matters for SEO
– Duane Forrester
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/dwell-time-seo/294471/
February 21st, 2019

Generally quite misunderstood in the SEO community, Duane sets the record straight on dwell time.


Jobs

Turing Fest is looking for a creative and entrepreneurial B2B Growth Marketing

Important to know: The team primarily works out of Edinburgh, Scotland but you can work from anywhere in the UTC-3 to UTC+1 time zones. They offer a competitive compensation package, flexible working arrangements, and a long-term role with growth opportunity. Check it out:


Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • Google is testing collection of user questions on YouTube for the webmaster office-hours
  • Is a Performance report coming to GSC for Google Discover?
  • Mobile page speed wins from Google
  • Google has implemented unlinked featured snippets
  • Are <figcaptions> treated the same as alt text for images?
  • Google says tagging internal links with UTM tracking parameters can cause confusion for Google
  • Google is pushing to shrink the window between crawling and rendering
  • Search Console sending out performance drop reports
  • You can adjust your level of interest for listings seen in Discover
  • Save a URL forever in Wayback Machine
  • Bing Ads require certification for addiction services
  • Local SEO: Google Posts are beginning to surface in 3-pack and Local Finder
  • Local SEO: Third party reviews surfacing in local listings
  • Local SEO: ‘People also search for’ surfaces in an interesting location
  • Local SEO: 'Confirm your visit on Google Maps Timeline’ notification - Here’s the latest
  • Local SEO: SEOs are pushing for tighter handling of 3rd party local listing edits
  • My tl;dr summary of some excellent 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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