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Episode 76 - March 27, 2019 - Light Version

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In this episode, we'll take a closer look at the fallout of the March 12 core quality update. We'll also discuss the surprising news from Google that it is retiring rel=next and rel=prev as an indexing signal and hasn't used it that way for years. As usual, we'll have plenty of interesting Local SEO news and tips as well.

In this episode:


Paid members also get the following:

  • How neural matching differs from RankBrain
  • Webspam report 2018
  • One year into the Google News Initiative
  • You can remove a sitemap from within GSC
  • Once again, schema is not necessary to have implemented in order for content to win a featured snippet
  • How does Google treat duplicate content like that of laws and other legal content?
  • A tip on getting an image carousel to show on mobile
  • Google has flagged a site as malware - Here’s what happened
  • John Mueller talks about how Google evaluates quality on a page
  • Use different video schema depending on whether or not your video is a live stream or a recording
  • Credit card stealing scripts found on multiple platforms
  • Twitter now supports PWA for desktop!
  • Algo changes heavily impacting Pinterest
  • Local SEO: Public event creation rolling out on Google Maps
  • Local SEO: Have you sent Google a spam complaint using their new response form? Curious about the turnaround time?
  • Local SEO: Looking to merge two Yelp pages but keep your reviews?
  • My tl;dr summary of some excellent recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates

Turbulence following the March 12 Core Update

March 12 is turning out to be a significant update. We were thrilled to see a large number of our clients seeing nice gains with this update.

While some have speculated that March 12 was a rollback of Aug 1 (Medic), we do not think that this is the case. We think that Google re-evaluated how they assess E-A-T metrics.

It does look like there is some turbulence following this update, which is common with any major update as most likely Google’s engineers are tweaking things. We are seeing a lot of movement in traffic for some sites on March 18 and also March 20-24.

Some sites that are seeing improvements with these “tremors” are businesses that had also improved with March 12. Here are some of our clients that have been working on quality issues including improving E-A-T:

(Note: We only use SEMRush traffic charts when they reflect what we are seeing in Google Analytics. Using SEMrush charts helps us to protect client confidentiality.)

We did see some sites that gained on March 12, but saw slight drops between March 18 and 24. This is an e-Commerce site. Our guess is that the changes seen March 24 are due to Google making slight adjustments to the changes they made March 12.

We also saw that some sites that had seen drops on March 12 saw further drops with these tweaks:

Previously I had reported that we had not been contacted by many sites seeing drops with the March 12 update. I’ll take those words back now as we have had quite a few sites contact us over the last week to request a site quality review. The main thing that all of these sites have in common is that they are YMYL sites. It does appear that there are more requests for help from financial sites than with other updates. In a few weeks we should have more data to share with you on what types of sites saw drops.

It’s incredibly encouraging for us to see nice improvements in sites that have been actively working on improving quality!

If you want more info on our recommendations for improving your Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, here are some resources:

  1. Our guide to E-A-T
  2. August 1 algorithm update observations
  3. September 27 algorithm update observationsPart 1 of our E-A-T webinar (We do promise to do part 2 soon!)
  4.  Here is a webinar as well that Marie did with Casey Markee on behalf of SEMRush. There were a lot of good user questions in this one:


Google Announcements

Paginated content - What Google says about rel=prev & rel=next

There has been a lot of talk this past week about Google’s announcement that they no longer use rel=prev and rel=next for paginated content as an indexing signal... apparently they haven’t for years.

This all came to light due to a question regarding rel=prev/next being asked in a Webmaster Help Hangout, during which Gary Illyes was present and realised that Google’s official documentation on this was outdated. It didn’t take long for things to be updated or removed, and people began noticing the changes Google made almost immediately:

John Mueller also explained on Twitter that Google will just “index the pages as [they] find them” and that since Google hasn’t used rel=prev/next in years, we can assume that most sites haven’t been struggling with pagination because people generally make good sites. He definitively says that rel=prev/next isn’t used by Google at all:

Further, Ilya Grigorik (also from Google) says that Googlebot doesn’t need to have an explicit signal that shows which page is the previous one and which is the next one in a series, it can figure out on its own if a page is part of a series by looking at the links already found on a page:

Unsurprisingly, this all received a lot of attention, and the Google Webmasters Twitter account tweeted the retirement message for rel=prev/next, saying that although “studies have shown that people love single-page content”, the best way to handle this change is to know what is best for your intended users:

Additionally, a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land that this was an oversight and that as Google’s systems improve over time, certain types of markup may become less critical - which is what happened with rel=prev/next.

So, is there any reason to use rel=prev/next anymore? Frédéric Dubut, from Bing, said on Twitter that although Bing doesn’t use it for ranking, they still use it as a way to aid in page discovery and to better understand a site’s structure:

But other than Bing, is there any use for rel=prev/next anymore? Well, Barry Schwartz sums up John’s answer to a subsequent Help Hangout question specifically asking for new advice on the use of rel=prev/next after its retirement as an indexing signal. As well, John popped into a Reddit thread about this topic, and mentioned that rel=prev/next is beneficial for accessibility reasons, and that we shouldn’t change anything: if we have correct pagination markup in place on our sites, we should leave it that way. However, John Mueller has also pointed out that pages in a paginated series should still be able to stand on their own and contain content that is helpful to users and worthy of being indexed.

This is a lot of discussion on something that essentially seems to boil down to:

  • Google doesn’t use rel=prev/next as an indexing signal
    • Neither does Bing
  • There are other reasons for still using rel=prev/next markup that both Google and Bing use
  • If you have rel=prev/next correctly implemented on your site, you should leave it
    • Most importantly, keep in mind your UX
      • Would they prefer content on one long page?
      • Can each page in your paginated series stand alone?

Finally, if you use Yoast to handle pagination on your WordPress site and are wondering if this changes anything, it does not. While they are apparently internally discussing this, Yoast recommends that you do not change the way you handle your paginated content.


Both the Mobile Friendly and AMP Tests now support code editing


A "Google Premier Partner" refers to Google Ads only - no organic search help at all

If someone says otherwise, John advises that you can report them here.


Google SERP Changes

Expandable featured snippets in the knowledge panel

Though isn’t new per se (as users have noted that it’s been appearing in recent months), though it doesn’t appear to be incredibly common. In the example given, expandable featured snippets in the knowledge panel works for ‘allergy peanut’ but not ‘peanut allergy’. We can’t replicate the results here in Canada but it’s definitely a neat addition!


SEO Tips

Reminder: Fetch as Google feature will be going away on March 28th

John reminds users to use the feedback link if you’re saddened by this news!

Please note though that you can fetch pages using the URL inspection tool in search console.


Martin Splitt: Testing and debugging JavaScript sites for Search

The latest instalment in Martin Splitt’s JavaScript SEO series provides an overview for testing and debugging JavaScript sites and which tools can be useful for these purposes. A few quick takeaways/reminders:

  • A good first step for testing is the mobile friendliness test. Use a tool such as ngrok to generate a publicly-available URL if you are testing a staging site. The MF test will show if the page is mobile friendly, a screenshot of your page as a Googlebot smartphone crawler would see it, and the page-rendered source code. If some or all of the content is missing, or the page doesn’t render as expected, you can check for recommendations or dive into the detailed report that shows which sources have been loaded as well as find all of the JavaScript logs.
  • Google Search Console is a great way to find out how the website or web app is performing as far as its discoverability in search. GSC can show you which of your pages are indexed by Google search, and the URL Inspection feature allows you to see the status of a URL. It shows you the most recent indexed data about a page — if it’s indexed, when it was last crawled, if it is mobile friendly, and much more.
  • If you are not using performance evaluation tools like Lighthouse, you should begin doing so. As we all know, speed is a ranking factor.

Google Help Hangout Tips

John Mueller talks about how Google evaluates quality on a page


Other interesting News

Use the Chrome User Experience Report to see how real users experience your site


Guided shopping experiences in Facebook Messenger allows LEGO to see 3.4X higher returns

Fan favourite and toy giant LEGO has been taking Facebook ads to a new level. By linking their ads to Facebook Messenger instead of to their website, they’re hoping to create a guided (and personalized) shopping experience and so far it’s working! With the help of their bot Messenger, Ralph, the unique and playful voice guides customers through a series of questions crafted to finding the perfect gift(s) for shoppers.

Find out more from Facebook on how to get started.


 

Change your Facebook passwords now, there has been a breach in security


Mailchimp says goodbye to Shopify


Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

Ratings and number of reviews appear on the map

This does appear to be a test and a number of users can’t seem to replicate it. However, although the idea seems good, most agree it’s a little too cluttered for their liking!


Pricing comparisons for hotels are back

Spotted several months back, it has made its way to the SERPs once again. We’re not entirely certain, but it looks like they’re using PriceRange schema.

 


Recommended Reading

New Google Algorithm May Update Page Ranking Roger Montti
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/new-google-algorithm/298823/
March 18th, 2019

In this article, Roger Montti reports on a new research paper published by Google. As with Google patents, it needs to be asserted that just because Google has published a research paper on a topic (in this case, a new algorithm concept), this does not mean that said algorithm is in use, or ever will be. However, these papers give us a really good indication of where Google wants to be with search, and this appears to be the case with this most recent paper.

 


User Click Through Rates and Search Result Rankings at Google
– Bill Slawski
https://gofishdigital.com/user-click-through-rates-and-search-result-rankings-at-google/
March 18th, 2019

For those of you who can’t get enough of the use of Click Through Rates (CTR), Bill delivers an action packed article outlining patents and identifying what Google may be measuring as users interact with the SERPs. 


Ecommerce SEO: The Definitive Guide
Brian Dean
https://backlinko.com/ecommerce-seo

This is quite the guide to e-commerce SEO that takes you through the keyword research, architecture, on-page optimization, technical SEO, and content marketing and link building stages.


Google's Shift from Answers to Journeys: What Does It Mean for SEO?
Jason Hennessey
https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-search-journeys-seo/299033/
March 21st, 2019

This article details how Google is shifting away from just providing answers to users queries and focusing increasingly on helping them along their ‘Search Journey’. 


Adding additional site speed metrics to Google Analytics: measuring First Input Delay (FID)
– Martijn Scheijbeler
https://martijnscheijbeler.com/adding-additional-site-speed-metrics-to-google-analytics-measuring-first-input-delay-fid/
March 20th, 2019

This article has been endorsed by Google Analytics so you know it’s good! After digging into a large travel site’s source code looking for ways to optimize speed, Martijn spotted some unfamiliar territory in the form of ‘interaction delays’. If you’re technically-oriented, this article gives you some excellent information surrounding First Input Delays, including how to measure them, as well as how to create custom reporting on speed metrics.


Recommended Reading (Local SEO)

Waze conquers “digital dark zone” with in-car, out-of-home ad coordination Greg Sterling
https://searchengineland.com/waze-conquers-digital-dark-zone-with-in-car-out-of-home-ad-coordination-314111
March 18th, 2019

This is an interesting twist on traditional out-of-home (OOH) billboard advertising in order to capture people in their car or commuting -- also referred to as the “digital dark zone”.


5 Google Business Profile Tweaks To Improve Foot Traffic
– Miriam Ellis
https://moz.com/blog/5-google-business-profile-tweak
March 19th, 2019

All kinds of marketing strategies are out there but how many of these are you truly utilizing? This was a really great piece by Miriam Ellis which she ranked from easiest to hardest -- though not are terribly challenging!


What do the symbols mean in Google’s Map Pack and Local Finder?
– Brodie Clark
https://searchengineland.com/what-do-the-symbols-mean-in-googles-map-pack-and-local-finder-314295
March 21st, 2019

SEL talks about four prominent features and how they operate in your local listings.


How Does Population Density Affect Local Rankings? –
Amanda Peterson
https://www.brightlocal.com/2019/03/21/how-does-population-density-affect-local-rankings/
March 20th, 2019

There are many factors when it comes to Local Rankings. Many of which is completely out of our control. One such thing is Population Density. Amanda Peterson in this article looks at what role Population Density plays when it comes to the local SERPs. 


The rise (and further rise) of Google My Business spam
– Jamie Pitman
https://searchengineland.com/the-rise-and-further-rise-of-google-my-business-spam-314462
March 22nd, 2019

Google My Business is the backbone of local businesses. Increasingly it has also become more and more valuable over the last few years. Like anything with real benefit, spam across GMB is on the rise. Check out the article to learn about the impact of GMB spam, where you seek help in dealing with spam, along with a few helpful tips to keep the momentum on GMB.


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 Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • How neural matching differs from RankBrain
  • Webspam report 2018
  • One year into the Google News Initiative
  • You can remove a sitemap from within GSC
  • Once again, schema is not necessary to have implemented in order for content to win a featured snippet
  • How does Google treat duplicate content like that of laws and other legal content?
  • A tip on getting an image carousel to show on mobile
  • Google has flagged a site as malware - Here’s what happened
  • John Mueller talks about how Google evaluates quality on a page
  • Use different video schema depending on whether or not your video is a live stream or a recording
  • Credit card stealing scripts found on multiple platforms
  • Twitter now supports PWA for desktop!
  • Algo changes heavily impacting Pinterest
  • Local SEO: Public event creation rolling out on Google Maps
  • Local SEO: Have you sent Google a spam complaint using their new response form? Curious about the turnaround time?
  • Local SEO: Looking to merge two Yelp pages but keep your reviews?
  • My tl;dr summary of some excellent recent SEO and Local SEO articles

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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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