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Episode 75 - March 20, 2019 - Light Version

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As most of you likely already know, we had a large algorithm update last week. While Google tends to update their algorithms several times a day, every now and then we get a big change. This was one of those big changes! In this episode, we’ll look at information on Google on where to use subdomains vs subfolders, what happens when you use an iframe in the head of a document, and also a lot of great local SEO tips.

In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • Chrome Lite pages - For a faster, leaner loading experience
  • Black ads labels appear in the SERPs
  • Google is testing portrait mode for top stories in the mobile SERPs
  • John Mueller explains why Google prefers sub-folders over sub-domains
  • Interesting info on the length of your urls
  • Clarification tip: Analytics isn't used for search data (eg. what queries searched does your page show for)
  • Webmasters should aim to avoid having 5xx codes
  • More on canonicals! John is asked why a Google selected canonical is a redirect
  • John Mueller talks products pages for eCommerce sites
  • What is Google’s general frequency to crawl the robots.txt file
  • Be careful when using iframes in the head!
  • Is Google ignoring your robots.txt to reveal internal search pages?
  • Chrome quietly adds pro-privacy platforms like DuckDuckGo as a default search engine option
  • Interesting case where iframes in the head caused problems
  • Local SEO: The guidelines for seasonal businesses have been updated
  • Local SEO: Good way to find spammy listing in Google Maps
  • Local SEO: How to add Q&A to your Google My Business when it’s not offered
  • Local SEO: An easier way to add Events on Google Maps
  • What tools are SEOs using?
  • My tl;dr summary of some excellent recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates

March 12, 2019 - Core quality update

We were really happy with the results of this update. A large number of our clients saw really nice gains at this time.

We have dealt with a lot of sites that were negatively affected by updates happening on either August 1 or September 27.

Quite a few of the sites that came to us are seeing a small increase that looks like this:

That’s nice, but we’re mostly excited about the sites that saw really big increases! (Note: SEMRush traffic estimate charts are used for cases where we either don’t have access to analytics anymore, or have not explicitly asked for permission to share their GA data. We only share SEMRush traffic analytics when they are in line with what we are seeing in real life.)

So what do these sites all have in common? The main underlying theme that I can see right now is that they are all sites we would consider YMYL. Some are medical sites, some are nutrition sites, several are eCommerce sites, and some are in non-medical niches like travel, legal or financial.

For each of these sites we had given them a very large list of potential improvements, but almost all of them have been working on improving their E-A-T. We truly think that this was an update that re-assessed whether or not a site or its authors have appropriate E-A-T.

If you are looking for more information on E-A-T, here are some good resources:

Here is more information from around the web on this update

List of winners and losers from the March 12 update - by Sistrix:

https://www.sistrix.com/blog/the-first-core-algorithm-update-of-the-year-is-rolling/

Info from Search Engine Land including the following tidbits of information:

  • This update is not related to Penguin. In fact, a Google employee said that Penguin is no longer updating! (Don’t forget though, that there are other algorithms outside of Penguin that look at link quality.)
  • This was a big update, but not the biggest Google has ever done.
  • While neural matching was confirmed as important to Google’s algorithms, none of the core updates that Google has confirmed coincide with new use of neural matching.

We’ll keep monitoring the sites that we have access to in order to see what patterns we can find. At some point this week, we should have an article out on Search Engine Land with much more specific advice on what some of our clients did before they saw traffic increases with this update.


Google Announcements

Google names the recent core algo update: March 2019 Core Update

Late last week, Danny Sullivan took to Twitter to say this: “So ... we've not typically given the core updates a name, because we want to have people focus on what they're about -- *core* updates, as opposed to say the Speed Update that we did name and was about site speed…”

Due to the recent chatter about last weeks update, Google has decided to avoid confusion and move forward with a rather simple but effective name. And here you have it:


SEO Tips

John Mueller explains why Google prefers sub-folders over sub-domains in some situations


Is Google ignoring your robots.txt to reveal internal search pages? 

A Reddit user posed the following question on r/bigseo (summarized):

A site uses robots.txt to block their internal search results pages, however, they're seeing a bunch of notifications pop up in GSC where these pages are showing "Indexed, though blocked by robots.txt". What should they do?

John's reply:

Although he specifies he doesn't know the details of the site, he thinks this is probably an ok thing because 1) crawling of search results is actually blocked, so Googlebot won't just keep crawling and crawling, wasting your crawl budget, and 2) if these URLs do get indexed, they have no content on them so they shouldn't actually show up in the search results -- and if they do, then you have a much bigger problem than your search result pages being indexed.


Essential JavaScript SEO tips from Martin Splitt

This week’s episode in the ongoing JavaScript SEO series focuses on how to improve the discoverability of your content if you are working with a Javascript site or web app. Here are the main takeaways:

  • All pages should have a descriptive, helpful title describing what the page is about in short terms. Avoid using generic titles.
  • Using meta tags, provide a description of what the page will contain so searchers have something to identify the best page to serve their intended goal.
  • Allow Googlebot to crawl pages to the website by linking between the pages properly. Include useful link anchor text and use the HTML anchor tag with the destination URL of the link in the href attribute. Do not rely on other HTML elements such as div or span or use JavaScript event handlers for this. Crawlers will have trouble finding and following those “pseudo links.”
  • If you are using Javascript to enhance the transition between pages, use the history API with normal URLs instead of the hash-based routing technique. Using hashes to distinguish between pages is a hack that crawlers ignore. Using the JavaScript history API with normal URLs provides a clean solution for the same purpose.
  • Remember to test your pages and server configuration when using JavaScript to do routing on the client side. Test what a user would see by opening URLs in a new incognito window. The page should load with an http 200 status code and all of the content should be visible.
  • Using semantic HTML markup properly will help users better understand your content and navigate it quicker. Assistive technologies like screen readers and crawlers also rely on the semantics of the content, so use headings, sections and paragraphs to outline the structure of your content. Using HTML image and video tags with captions and alt tags help crawlers and assistive technologies find this content and surface it for users.
  • If you use JavaScript to markup your content dynamically, make sure you are not accidentally blocking Googlebot in your initial markup. A no-index meta tag in the initial payload can prevent Googlebot from running the second stage of indexing required for JavaScript.

Google Help Hangout Tips


Other Interesting News

Google’s push for a safer digital advertising ecosystem

Nearly 20 years in and Google is continuing its fight of cleaning up the web. Last year saw Google create new policies to eliminate ads such which were designed to take advantage of vulnerable communities (ie. ticket resellers, addiction treatment facilities, bail bonds, and more). With 31 new policies introduced last year, Google managed to bring down 2.3 billion bad ads for violating new and existing policies. To break that down, that’s equal to six million bad ads every single day. With improved technologies, Google is maintaining a strong fight against bad ads and has launched 330 detection classifiers to help determine the level of ‘badness’ at the page level. This has allowed them to remove ads and accounts that are in violation of their policies. 2019 is no different, as the safety of users will continue to be a top priority.


Amazing


A Google Product Manager wants to hear your thoughts!

Mariya wants to know what kind of Search API you want. A few short questions is all it takes to have your voice heard.


Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

Google Maps on desktop is now showing the option to search reviews

One thing that we really try to encourage is to find ways to get customers to leave reviews containing keywords. Let’s say you are soliciting reviews for a hotel chain. People are likely to search reviews for keywords like, “comfortable bed” or “noisy”. You can ask people to leave reviews and encourage keyword use by asking specific questions:

Did you find our beds comfortable? Let others know by leaving a review!

We pride ourselves in having quiet rooms! Was your room quiet? Let others know by leaving a review!


Local SEO - Other Interesting News

Andy Simpson tests out the Google Assistant reservation service


GMB offering personalized plans for your defined goals! 

A new feature from Google My Business has arrived that has gained the approval of some local SEOs. Go ahead and unlock your plan with Google!


Recommended Reading

How Google Dishes Out Content by Search Intent – TheMozTeam
https://moz.com/blog/google-search-intent-content
March 12th, 2019

Interesting study here looking at how SERP features change with a searcher's intent. Using the four top companies in each of the following categories: Informational, Commercial, Transactional, and Local, the study compares notes and leaves us with some surprising findings.


More Mobile SERPs with Image Thumbnails for Product Keywords –
Mordy Oberstein
https://www.rankranger.com/blog/product-image-thumbnails
March 11th, 2019

Mobile Image Thumbnails have shown up in the SERPS for a while now. But on March 7th Google had increased the feature to cover 67% of the mobile page one SERPS.


How to Set Up GTM Cookie Tracking (and Better Understand Content Engagement)
– Joel Mesherghi
https://moz.com/blog/gtm-cookie-setup
March 11th, 2019

Advanced Analytics post ahead! Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a powerful tool to help you measure the engagement and success of your content like a pro! Joel shows you how to set up GTM Cookie Tracking and how to better understand content engagement.


How to Disable WordPress Plugins From Loading on Specific Pages and Posts - Brian Jackson
https://kinsta.com/blog/disable-wordpress-plugins-loading/
March 19th, 2019

If you are using a simple plugin like Contact Form 7 on your WordPress site, you may have notice this plugin loads on pages even where there isn’t a contact form embedded. This can be the case for many plugins in the WordPress ecosystem. Brian Jackson provides a great guide here on how to disable plugins on specific pages and posts where they aren’t needed. 


How to Build Your Own Search Ranking Algorithm with Machine Learning
Frédéric Dubut
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/build-search-ranking-algorithm-machine-learning/297047/
March 13th, 2019

This is some really essential reading from Frédéric Dubut, a Web Ranking & Quality PM at Bing. The article sets out to explain the process through which Machine Learning is used in search engine ranking (and has been since 2005).


How To Find All Your Branded Keywords In Seconds (plus 9 ways to Optimize for them)
– Andy Crestodina
https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/branded-keywords-seo/
August 2018

10% of all keyphrases fall into category of Branded / Navigational Queries. These queries often account for high CTR as people are trying to get to a specific page of a site with their query. So, how do you find your branded keyphrases to bring these qualified searchers to your doorstep?


Study: Brands are failing voice search optimization in 3 key areas
– Greg Sterling
https://searchengineland.com/study-brands-are-failing-voice-search-optimization-in-3-key-areas-314021
March 15th, 2019

A recent report by Chatmeter has scored 12 leading retail and restaurant brands (North American) to assess voice-search readiness.


Demystifying JavaScript: Tips & Tools for Testing Rendering
Rachel Costello
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/javascript-tips-tools-testing-rendering/
March 15th, 2019

This is a really helpful guide that goes through not only what kinds of JavaScript issues you need to look for but also how to test for them to ensure that your page renders your content properly.


What is a Server Log File?
– Ian Lurie
https://www.portent.com/blog/design-dev/log-file.htm
March 14th, 2019

Log files contain a raw, unfiltered look at the traffic to your site. Whenever a user agent, including Google, requests any resource from one of your pages, a line is added to the log file. As an SEO, knowing how to analyze these files can be extremely useful. Ian from Portent has also written a great guide for that as well.


Excel Fuzzy Lookup for SEO: Effortless 404 and site migration redirects
– Marco Bonomo
https://searchenginewatch.com/2019/03/15/excel-fuzzy-lookup-for-seo-effortless-404-site-migration-redirects/
March 15, 2019

In the wave of data-driven SEO, some savvy SEOs are taking advantage of everyday tools like Google Sheets or Excel to improve efficiency through automation. This post focuses on setup instructions and hands-on applications on Excel to allow you to handle 404s and web migrations with ease. 


The Complete Guide to Screaming Frog Custom Extraction with XPath & Regex
– Griffin Roer
https://uproer.com/articles/screaming-frog-custom-extraction-xpath-regex/
March 5th, 2019

Griffin delivers a thorough guide to using Screaming Frog’s Custom Extraction feature for a number of different items. 


Recommended Reading (Local SEO)

How to Use Schema for Local SEO: A Complete Guide – Brian Harnish
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/how-to-use-schema-for-local-seo-a-complete-guide/294973/
March 12th, 2019

Google has said that schema is something we should all be paying attention to in 2019. Proven as a legitimate optimization strategy, this is an excellent piece that should not go unnoticed.


Expert Local Business Link Building Survey
– BrightLocal
https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/expert-local-business-link-building/
March 15, 2019

Link building for local businesses is an effective way to boost rankings -- we can all agree. Those surveyed provide some excellent sources for links along with strategies to building good backlinks. 


Jobs

Postali is looking for 1-2 SEOs in Columbus, OH

For more information:


 Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • Chrome Lite pages - For a faster, leaner loading experience
  • Black ads labels appear in the SERPs
  • Google is testing portrait mode for top stories in the mobile SERPs
  • John Mueller explains why Google prefers sub-folders over sub-domains
  • Interesting info on the length of your urls
  • Clarification tip: Analytics isn't used for search data (eg. what queries searched does your page show for)
  • Webmasters should aim to avoid having 5xx codes
  • More on canonicals! John is asked why a Google selected canonical is a redirect
  • John Mueller talks products pages for eCommerce sites
  • What is Google’s general frequency to crawl the robots.txt file
  • Be careful when using iframes in the head!
  • Is Google ignoring your robots.txt to reveal internal search pages?
  • Chrome quietly adds pro-privacy platforms like DuckDuckGo as a default search engine option
  • Interesting case where iframes in the head caused problems
  • Local SEO: The guidelines for seasonal businesses have been updated
  • Local SEO: Good way to find spammy listing in Google Maps
  • Local SEO: How to add Q&A to your Google My Business when it’s not offered
  • Local SEO: An easier way to add Events on Google Maps
  • What tools are SEOs using?
  • 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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