Usually I start off these monthly updates with what I’ve learned this month, but I didn’t want to bury the important Google announcements, since there was quite a few.
I also spent some time this month sharing my experience around staging environments and SEO in a round-up/guide around how to protect your staging environments. Check out my mention and grab some tips to avoid losing traffic.
OK here’s a list of the big news items that I’m covering this month:
- Google Announcements and Updates
- Bing Announcements and Updates
- Technical SEO
- Local SEO
- SEO Measurement
- New Tools and Resources
Google Announcements and Updates
Google I/O Updates
There were tons of updates at this yearly Google developer conference and a few of them impacted SEO. There’s tons of great coverage about the conference including:
So I’m not going to go into tons of detail here, but the big takeaways were:
- New image heavy ad units that (particularly on mobile) are going to substantially push down organic listings. There was quite a bit of chatter from SEOs about how frustrated we are by this change.
- Googlebot is using the latest version of Chrome as its rendering engine, and will be continuously updated based on the latest Chrome version.
- 3D models are coming to image search.
- The web now has 130 trillion pages.
- There’s now a high resolution image opt-in program. You’ll get a notice via Google Search console that will let you opt in and those images will be displayed in the Google discover feed.
- There is now Q/A schema.org markup.
- New structured data reporting tools within GSC.
- Google is making mobile first indexing the default for new domains it finds.
- New updates to Lighthouse Tool as well.
- Podcast episodes will now appear and be playable in Google search.
Google’s work educating developers about search
They have 2 resources that I’ve noticed. The first is the SEO mythbusting series on the Google Webmaster YouTube channel:
I also particularly liked this session which talks about how Google crawls and how technical infrastructure on a website can impact your crawl Budget and how much Googlebot crawls:
I spend a lot of time explaining this to my clients who work with me for technical SEO audits.
The second is a great resource for developers around understanding how Google search works. If you have a friendly developer relationship, these are great resources to forward along.
Bing Announcements and Updates
Bing and vector Search
Interesting post from Bing about their machine learning model and how it uses vectors in its search algorithm. This post also has a link to its open source project on GitHub in case you want to use some of Microsoft’s AI tools.
AMP implementation case studies
A great set of case studies from Stone Temple here that illustrate that most sites who move to AMP to see an increase in traffic and conversions (and a decrease in speed) but that the implementation needs to be managed and finished completely, otherwise those benefits are not realized, especially the analytics adjustments that are needed to stitch sessions together. If you’re considering an AMP implementation, this is worth the read.
Content needs to be visible on load to be considered for snippet results.
Shared on Twitter from @johnmu: For content hidden in tabs on mobile pages (m-first indexing), Google will use that for indexing & ranking, but WILL NOT show that in the snippets in the search results. If G shows it in the snippet, the user should be able to see it on-load:
User centric optimization – A few tips
This is a great article which I personally learned a lot from. The first tidbit was a nudge for all of us to use the data around mobile devices and browsers in Google Analytics *under Behavior->Mobile) to see what our largest mobile device audience is and then run test with those configurations using webpagetest.org to see how real life users experience our sites.
It also mentions a new “network information API” that you can use to detect your users’ connection speed and present them a customized web experience based on how fast they can load your content. – brilliant really. FInally, the article mentions Guess.js which uses your Google Analytics data to learn from your site’s user sessions and journeys through your site and will then preload the *next* resource the user will most likely need as they journey through your site – speeding up their journey in the process.
Increase in ADA lawsuits against websites
Interestingly I saw this article after an SEO friend of mine pinged me about a client who got hit by an ADA lawsuit. It seems like this is an ongoing trend, and based on my personal experience auditing sites, most sites are NOT ADA compliant.
Due to the fact that I work with government website (who need to be 508 compliant), these type of adjustments are a part of what I audit for automatically, but if you’re not up to speed about what changes you might need to make to your website to ensure that it’s ADA compliant (and to avoid one of these lawsuits) I would encourage you to check out this article.
How to: Structured data
Here’s a guide for how to mark up your content correctly with schema.org markup to appear in the new “How To” results, which look like this:
Google updates search quality evaluator guidelines
There’s an increase emphasis on interstitial pages (pop ups) as a negative factor, detailed guidance regarding content creator expertise, and an inclusion of EAT guidelines within evaluating page quality. I would encourage your to read more about those updated sections.
Competitors could rank in YOUR branded featured snippets
In case you didn’t know, ecommerce retailers CAN grab featured snippets, and Glen Gabe noticed that sometimes your competitor can rank for a featured snippets that should be for you:
Yes, e-commerce retailers can win featured snippets. And they should make sure to win them for their own branded queries. Other sites can steal them, which is embarrassing (& could be risky) -> Can e-commerce Sites Win Featured Snippets? https://t.co/lseZRSWBRQ via @jillkocher pic.twitter.com/6nJ2M3SCh9
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) May 26, 2019
A heads up that you should be monitoring your brand’s featured snippets in your SEO tool of choice to ensure that your brand is the one that is showing.
Here’s what that report looks like in Ahrefs:
Reddit comments considered as EAT signals
I noticed this on Twitter. It seems as though Reddit comments not created by the owner can result in penalties – if it’s part of a pattern of unnatural link building:
So apparently now Reddit comments, that were not created by the site owner can get you penalized.@Marie_Haynes Ever seen this before?
Credit to Rick Lomas from my Facebook group for original thread discussion. pic.twitter.com/gTEpBFpKSr
— Charles Floate (@Charles_SEO) May 3, 2019
Do poor quality pages drag down the rankings of the entire site?
In a recent Google Webmaster Hangout, John Meuller responded by saying:
“In general when it comes to quality of a website we try to be as fine grained as possible to figure out which specific pages or parts of the website are seen as being really good and which parts are kind of maybe not so good. And depending on the website, sometimes that’s possible. Sometimes that’s not possible. We just have to look at everything overall.”
“So it might be that we found a part of your website where we say we’re not so sure about the quality of this part of the website because there’s some really good stuff here. But there’s also some really shady or iffy stuff here as well… and we don’t know like how we should treat things over all. That might be the case.”
Does having my content scraped and republished hurt my site?
No. it does not affect your rankings. John’s response during a recent Google Webmaster Tools Hangout:
“So from our point of view, other sites copying your content wouldn’t be something that would negatively affect your website. So that’s a very common situation, that sites copy content.
…if you’re not seeing those copies showing up in search for the queries that you care about then it might not be the highest priority to focus on.”
Tips for ranking beyond your physical location
It’s so hard to get a client to rank beyond their physical location, and while I don’t do a ton of local SEO, I thought that this was the best local SEO guide that I’ve seen in a long time related to how to tackle building out an online presence for a local business if they also offer services at the city, regional or state level.
Tracking your dark traffic
I discovered a great tip from @Kevin_Indig to see how much dark traffic you have to your site. Dark traffic is traffic that is being measured as “direct” but really it means that Google Analytics has no freakin’ clue where the traffic comes from. Sometimes it’s traffic that you could recapture and re-assign. Sometimes it’s SOE traffic that has been dumped into “Direct”.
Here’s his tip:
Google Analytics pro tip: select the segment "direct traffic' and look at the "all pages" report in GA to uncover "dark traffic (traffic attributed to "direct", even though the source is unclear). Ignore the homepage and product landing pages. pic.twitter.com/jPd7DxhKbt
— Kevin_Indig (@Kevin_Indig) May 19, 2019
Tracking image search in GA
So ten months ago, Google told webmasters that we would be getting a new image referral URL (images.google.com) in our GA reports allowing us to see if we were getting traffic from image search.
They have changed their mind and the only way we can get data on our image search performance is via Google Search Console, so we can’t directly tie an image search referral to website conversions. I’m beyond disappointed.
Be careful about date ranges with troubleshooting ranking
A great reminder from @JoeHall about how GSC measures average rankings. You can view his tweet here:
SEO Tip: If comparing two time periods in GSC, you see an increase in impressions at the same time you see a drop in avg ranking, its likely you haven't lost any ranking positions, rather that you are now ranking for new terms who's position is reported as 0 in the first period.
— Joe Hall ? (@joehall) May 28, 2019
New Tools and Resources
A Chrome browser plugin to easily measure how often a link has been shared, who shared it and what they said. I shows you aggregate share counts across Twitter, Facebook and Reddit. Super helpful.
PPC performance grader
Looking to easily grade your PPC performance? I found a new tool to do that, offered by Wordstream. Check it out.
“New to me” digital marketing podcasts
I’ve started to add podcast listening to my weekly diet of digital marketing learning and I wanted to share the ones that I’ve discovered here.This month I’ve checked out this podcast from Merkle SEO in the Lab (which has a female host, Alexis Sanders, which is a nice change). There are great tips from the interviews on Context Clouds, Co-occurrence, Relatedness and BERT
#SEOisAEO with Dawn Anderson at #BrightonSEO, where I’ve learned a ton.
Mobile SERP test from Mobile Moxie
Mobile results are SO wildly different than desktop and most of us are mobile searchers. It’s critical that you know how you’re appearing in mobile search and this tool lets you see that by geo location. Check it out.
Sheets for marketers
A great collection of free Google Sheet templates to automate your life. Here are some gems:
- A Featured Snippet Opportunity Tracker that works with Ahrefs
- An SEO Forecasting sheet
- A sheet that lets you schedule and auto-post your Tweets from Google Sheets
Yandex webmaster tools
A great tip from Aleyda Solis as this tool can use even if you don’t optimize for Yandex. It has a great internal link report that can show you which pages are blocked or are generating URL errors, and an external links report with a site quality indicator. It also has a feature that Ahrefs has (that I love) where you can see the pages by site architecture that shows crawled vis indexed by level. File this into my “using for my technical SEO audit” file.
That’s it for this month. Stay tuned for next month’s updates, or follow me on Twitter (@KWatier) where I share noteworthy updates in real time.
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