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Episode 73 - March 6, 2019 - Light Version

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Greetings from sunny Florida! I’m currently speaking at Pubcon in Fort Lauderdale and greatly enjoying the beautiful warm weather.

In this newsletter we’ll discuss the most recent algorithmic turbulence with moderately significant updates that happened between February 27 and March 1, 2019. There are a lot of great tips in this episode for paid readers including information on whether CTR is a ranking factor, what happens when you redirect unnatural links to a site, tips for handling paginated content, and also John Mueller’s favourite SEO success story.

In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Google Domains allows for automatic verification of domain properties
  • Google’s response to the Click-through Rate chatter...and yes, it’s confusing
  • Merchant Center capabilities are now open to all online retailers
  • Google showing user interface tests including People Also Ask Icons and a different top stories layout
  • Interesting observation from Glenn Gabe about mobile SERP changes for natural supplement and ingredient searches
  • "Swipe to Next" showing up in Google's mobile Image Search
  • John Mueller’s advice on pointing unnatural links to a burner site and redirecting to your own
  • What’s best practice surrounding images hosted on a CDN?
  • Is it worth cleaning up keyword spam in CSS?
  • When is it safe to kill redirects and old web pages?
  • A reminder that if you're merging or splitting your website, it can take a long time for things to settle down
  • Further insight from Google on handling paginated content
  • John talks redirects for AMP pages
  • Simple advice on content auditing
  • John Mueller talks canonicals and AngularJS
  • Using British English vs American English vs Australian English does not matter for SEO says John Mueller
  • John Mueller reveals his favourite SEO success story
  • Surprising consequences of GeoIP redirects gone wrong. Must see!
  • Local SEO: A tip from Joy Hawkins at the LSA19 Conference
  • Local SEO: Wondering if you should you be posting on GMB?
  • My tl;dr summary of some excellent recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates

February 27 and March 1, 2019

Both of these dates seem to be moderately significant updates. I don’t think they’re on the scale of August 1 or September 27, 2018, however.

The SEMRush sensor is showing volatility especially on March 2 and again on March 5. As I write this, it’s currently March 5, so I’ll comment more on that update next month:

Mozcast is showing an increase on the 28th of February, the 1st of March and then again on March 5:

Barry Schwartz has noted some general chatter about algorithm updates, but there still isn’t a theme in regards to which sites saw changes.

Some of these changes in rankings may be due to some unusual changes in Google search results. Dr. Pete from Moz noted that on March 1 there was a dramatic increase in how many results Google was displaying on the first page. For one day, some SERPS had 19 organic results on the first page! Many of these were in depth articles.

However, this only seemed to last for a day, so it doesn’t really explain the turbulence as several of our clients saw changes starting between February 27 and March 1 that appear to be sticking.

This one particular client of ours is seeing nice increases. These are also reflected in Google Analytics.

That site had worked on improving how they demonstrate E-A-T on their site. They have also been working incredibly hard on drastically improving the value that they provide in their content. This included consolidating a lot of their overlapping content.

Another client of ours saw incredible growth starting February 28:

They also greatly improved how they display E-A-T on their site by adding a lot of information on their home page that demonstrates to people why they should be considered authorities in their space. They also filed a very thorough disavow. However, the disavow was filed about eight months ago. While it’s possible that the disavow helped improve their overall site quality, given that the ranking boosts happened so many months after the disavow, we think that there are other issues contributing to their improvements as well.

For that site, on many of their main converting pages, they added quite a few references to authoritative sites to help support the claims that they make.

As is often the case, there doesn’t seem to be one particular thing that this algorithm update has gone after. I have heard some blackhats suspecting this update was connected to links. While it’s possible, I think that this was likely a general assessment of overall quality for most sites. Remember that overall quality can also include the quality of your link profile.


Google Announcements

New wording for structured data manual actions?

Matt Lacuesta posted on Twitter about a Manual Action for a site due to a Structured Data issue, where the problem is “no mechanism for submitting a new review”. According to the issue description in GSC, if a page uses Structured Data to mark up their reviews, the page must have a place where users can either leave their review, or clearly show where the review came from.

Check out the replies to Matt’s Tweet, there’s a lot of good discussion about this. While it seems that this specific Manual Action doesn’t get issued very often (so infrequently that people weren’t sure if it was brand new!), it has been part of Google’s Manual Actions Report for several months.

Is this a sign that Google is going to start cracking down on schema misuse? We definitely want to hear your opinions on this -- have you seen this Manual Action get issued before?


The Webmasters Forum platform has migrated!

As of early this week, the Webmaster Forum platform has moved here. The platform you’ve previously been using will not allow for new questions, and users are asked to participate mostly in the new platform.


More info from Google on what to do (and not to do) with ads

This past week Google released further information for those working in the publishing industry. In an effort to create a better ad experience for users, here is everything you need to know:

  • Bad ad formats can hurt you
      • More than half of all consumers said they would not revisit or share a page that had a pop-up ad.
  • Convert ‘bad ads’ into good ones
      • Saying yes to a potentially lucrative but annoying campaign can be tempting, but it is important to take stock of the potential negative effects.
  • Determine if your ad experiences are compliant

Google is banning political advertising on its platforms ahead of the Canadian federal election

The Canadian Federal election is coming up on October 21, 2019, and before campaigning begins, Google has said that they are banning all political ads on all of their platforms in Canada. For those of you familiar with Canadian politics, the Liberal Party of Canada (they're the ones currently with a majority in our Parliament) passed Bill C-76 a few months ago, which focuses on electoral reform. One piece of this bill is intended to curb the use of social media and other online platforms to spread misinformation, as well as promote increased transparency of advertisements. Google has said that this will be too challenging to comply with, so they will instead ban all election advertising as of June 30th (unless the federal election is called for sooner).

This doesn't just affect Google, either -- "online platforms" can be things such as Facebook and Twitter, newspapers, broadcasters, or apps and games. They all have to decide if they will attempt to comply with Bill C-76's regulations, or follow in Google's steps and instead outright ban all political advertising on their platforms. It's hard to know at this point what the implications of this bill will be or if similar legislation will be adopted in other countries, but it's definitely something you should keep in mind if you are in any way involved with political ads, or even just involved with the many online platforms where you'd see political ads.


SEO Tips

Once again, if something requires a backlink, it's unnatural

For example, let’s say that you create a widget that people can embed on their sites. If you make it so that they must link back to you in order to embed the widget, that’s an unnatural link.

Personally, I think that Google ignores a lot of widget links. But, if you were trying this as a link building tactic, I would do the following to try and comply with Google guidelines on linking:

  • Give the site owner the option as to whether to include a link and whether or not it is a followed link.
  • Let the site owner choose what anchor text to use when linking to you.

If you feel that most people would embed the widget and then either not include a link or make it a nofollowed link, then this means that people truly are not wanting to recommend your site and link to it, which is an issue!


Google’s Martin Splitt announces his new series: JavaScript SEO

Announced last Wednesday, Martin will be hosting a series on all things JavaScript SEO on the Google Webmasters YouTube channel. His first lesson? How Google Search indexes JavaScript sites:

  • Google crawls content and then passes it to the indexing phase, where it is parsed and indexed. When a link is detected, it returns to the crawling phase and repeats the process. If JavaScript is present, however, it requires a rendering phase where the Javascript will be executed.
  • This is expensive and can’t be done immediately, so it is run as “best effort.” If you want to ensure content and content changes are indexed quickly, look into the different rendering techniques recommended by Google. Leveraging the progressive pausing and rendering of HTML is a great way to go about it.
  • Keep in mind other crawlers and social media agents might not be able to run Javascript and there are ways to handle this as well, which Martin will cover in a future episode.

Stay tuned for more from Martin Splitt!  


Other interesting News

FTC takes action on paid third-party reviews for a supplement company

The FTC fined a supplement company for paying a third-party website to post a bunch of fake reviews on Amazon for their garcinia cambogia supplement. Apparently, they manipulated its ratings to become - and then to stay at - an average of 4.3 out of 5. The supplement company also got in trouble for blatantly lying about what that supplement could do...but that's not the noteworthy part since lots of supplement companies get in trouble from the FTC for that. This is noteworthy because it's the first time that the FTC has fined a company for posting fake online reviews.


Local SEO - Google Announcements

A new way for users to report offenders that are spamming on Google Maps/Google My Business

Big news for the local community! Google has announced a new method for users to report spammers. This form (bookmark it!) will now to be your go-to method as the Google Product Experts will no longer be able to assist in spam reports as the spam section of the forum will be retired.

Local expert, Joy Hawkins, was kind enough to gather some additional information for us all. Here’s what you should know:

  • You will be notified that your report has been submitted, but will not receive updates
  • You can report tons of locations at once thanks to a spreadsheet upload option
  • You can submit a spam report without notifying the business in question by simply using ‘N/A’ in the necessary fields
  • Currently you cannot use this form to report fake reviews. Instead, you can use Google’s social support for this

Check out the discussion on the Local Search Forum for more on this!


Local SEO - Tips

Google updates the GMB Guidelines

Joy noticed a minor update to the "Business Description" section of the GMB guidelines. It now specifies that content which is irrelevant or has no clear association to your business is not allowed - although as Joy says, why would anyone want to add that kind of content anyway?


Recommended Reading

8 Common Mistakes Revealed During SEO Audits – Bill Hartzer
https://www.oncrawl.com/technical-seo/common-mistakes-seo-audits/
February 26th, 2019

Ten plus years of auditing websites and Bill can easily point out the most common website and web design mistakes he sees on the regular. They may not be all SEO issues per se, but they surely have some kind of impact a site’s traffic and visibility.


How to tidy up your .htaccess redirects
– Richard Baxter
https://builtvisible.com/tidy-up-your-htaccess-redirects/
February 26th, 2019

Here is a comprehensive article for those technically gifted on server logs, Ahrefs, and .htaccess redirects. Coined by Aleyda Solis as the how to Marie Kondo your .htaccess, we hope you enjoy this one!


Stop the silo madness! Effective site architecture for SEO and Findability
Shari Thurow
https://searchengineland.com/stop-the-silo-madness-effective-site-architecture-for-seo-and-findability-313018
February 26th, 2019

Siloing has been a popular topic in the SEO industry for years now and many have claimed it better organizes the hierarchy of a site making easier for search engines to crawl and therefore index. In this article, Shari makes the case that, in most cases, siloing your content is more likely hurting your sites performance, not helping it.


How Google Uses Reviews to Understand A Business
Mike Blumenthal
https://gatherup.com/blog/how-google-uses-reviews-to-understand-a-business/
February 26th, 2019

As Mike Blumenthal points out, SEOs have known for some time that Google uses review content in showing results for long tail queries. But how else do they use review data? In this nice little article, Mike details the other places we see them using  review data in search. 


ITP 2.1 And Web Analytics
– Simo Ahava
https://www.simoahava.com/analytics/itp-2-1-and-web-analytics/
February 28th, 2019

This article from Simo Ahava caught our eye, even though we’re normally focused on changes which may impact your Google traffic, rather than Safari traffic.


Recommended Reading (Local SEO)

How To Rank In The Local Pack Outside Your Immediate Area – Brian Barwig
https://www.attorneysync.com/blog/how-to-rank-local-pack-outside-your-immediate-area/
February 2019

Ranking in the Local Pack is difficult especially if the searcher isn’t right outside your business. In this article, Brian Barwig conducts a test where he uses LocalFalcon to map out competitive city centers for legal terms in Atlanta, Chicago and Las Vegas.


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Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • Google Domains allows for automatic verification of domain properties
  • Google’s response to the Click-through Rate chatter...and yes, it’s confusing
  • Merchant Center capabilities are now open to all online retailers
  • Google showing user interface tests including People Also Ask Icons and a different top stories layout
  • Interesting observation from Glenn Gabe about mobile SERP changes for natural supplement and ingredient searches
  • "Swipe to Next" showing up in Google's mobile Image Search
  • John Mueller’s advice on pointing unnatural links to a burner site and redirecting to your own
  • What’s best practice surrounding images hosted on a CDN?
  • Is it worth cleaning up keyword spam in CSS?
  • When is it safe to kill redirects and old web pages?
  • A reminder that if you're merging or splitting your website, it can take a long time for things to settle down
  • Further insight from Google on handling paginated content
  • John talks redirects for AMP pages
  • Simple advice on content auditing
  • John Mueller talks canonicals and AngularJS
  • Using British English vs American English vs Australian English does not matter for SEO says John Mueller
  • John Mueller reveals his favourite SEO success story
  • Surprising consequences of GeoIP redirects gone wrong. Must see!
  • Local SEO: A tip from Joy Hawkins at the LSA19 Conference
  • Local SEO: Wondering if you should you be posting on GMB?
  • 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.

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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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