Below you’ll find the SEO, social media research and tips that you should absolutely read and bookmark. I’ve also inlcuded what I (a marketer who has been doing SEO for 15+years) learned over the last month.
In full disclosure: last month I was recovering from a surgical procedure, so my personal digital marketing learning “to do” list didn’t move very much. Though I did very much enjoy watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, checking out Google’s Interland Games, and catching up on my personal reading list!
There was one tidbit which reinforced my understanding of Google’s ability to “lift” answers from inside digital assets, and that is the first item (related to Fraggles) below:
Google Announcements and Updates
New Chrome Features — Helping Google with Fraggles
There are more and more examples of Google being able to lift answers from inside a digital file. The industry has started calling these snippets Fraggles. Fraggles is a term coined by Mobile Moxie related to Google’s ability to understand chunks of text (or audio, video) as standalone “answers” to your query.
In order to support Google’s increasing understanding of the elements within a page, users can now link to elements inside of pages and videos. This is something people could do for a while with YouTube videos — sharing the video at a particular time stamp, for example. Chrome now has similar functionality. Chrome’s new Scroll to Text feature will let you create a link targeting a word or phrase on a page.
In the full description of the feature on GitHub, you can even see Google’s reference to surfacing fragments of text for a user’s answer:
Featured snippets from more than one publisher
As usual, Google is modifying and testing new Featured Snippet formats. This time they are presenting information from more than one publisher. This suspiciously looks like Google scraping information from publishers and presenting it as unique Google content as the links to referring websites are not prominent.
The new snippet feature understandably caused quite a bit of controversy with the SEOs who spotted it. As you can see, the “top” slot is a mix of publishers — and the images are also from different sets of publishers. Danny Sullivan chimed in on this thread with an official Google response. Click the image to read the full thread below:
As far as I know that’s exactly what publishers are already doing in Europe. And Google doesn’t like it: https://t.co/Y2X9re35cu
— Denise Strohsahl (@SSC_Marketing) February 24, 2019
Here is another example of the multi publisher featured snippet that I saw in real-time while doing research for a client:
We can hope that this is just a Google test and that they will take our feedback and make some adjustments instead of maintaining this as the new normal.
Google releasing a new streaming game product
Google is working on taking over yet another industry. Google has announced that it will be releasing streaming games, putting Google in direct competition with Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation. Called “Project Yeti”, the service is said to let users stream console-quality games on cheaper hardware, with the ultimate goal of offering a “Netflix for games” subscription service.
Google is testing ads in Google Assistant
While this is a beta experiment, it’s worth paying attention to as it was only a matter of time before Google worked to monetize its Assistant interface.
With only one ad presented for any particular answer, the CTR is expected to be high once this feature is available for you to add to your PPC strategy.
Google is now sending site owners notifications of a drop in impressions
I think Google rolled out this new notification feature in Google Search Console to be helpful, but as an SEO with clients, I have a different perspective. This new notification feature is triggered when there is a drop in impressions and site clicks which is likely going to cause more client confusion.
Google adjusts the algorithm and ranking of various keywords ALL the time. Often a site loses a particular ranking because Google has gotten smarter about what the content on the site is about and offsets that drop in impressions with an increase on another keyword or landing page.
Regardless of intention, this (image below) looks like a warning message and is sure to cause client stress.
What is RankBrain: Clarification from Google’s Gary Illyes
At a recent Reddit AMA, he provided more clarification around what RankBrain is. You can view a great summary here. The takeaway is that it uses previous search history to sort out queries it’s never seen before and present relevant results, but does not use SERP CTR or dwell time.
At least… that’s the official word from Gary.
UTM Parameter URLs getting indexed? — They might be linked internally
This is the other tidbit that solved an ongoing mystery. I work with clients who have massive sites with CMS platforms that like to kick out parameter URLs, and sometimes I notice that they are using UTM links on internal landing pages. Those often get indexed, which is not ideal as they are not the preferred URL or the canonical one.
I always encourage clients to stop using UTM tracking on internal links as it trashes their analytics.
Also, based on a recent Google Hangout, internal links to parameter URLs might be causing indexing issues.
It turns out that internally linked parameter URLs might be indexed even if you have a canonical link to the clean version because Google has to weigh which URL should be shown in the search results. Google generally puts more weight on internal links as a signal. More here.
Google uses a different user agent to find read out loud content.
I thought this was interesting as it highlights a different crawler that Google uses to find readable content on the web.
As spotted by SEO is in their log file reports, Google uses a different agent (google-speakr) when crawling looking for content to read out loud via their Google Go browser, which will read web pages out loud. More about that browser here.
Confused about HTTPS and SSL?
There’s now an online comic that will walk you through the history of SSL/TSL and HTTPS terms in general. If you’re confused about what the terms mean, I would encourage you to check out this resource. TCheck out the comic here.
Google releases case studies from in-house SEO
Did you know that Google hires SEOs for their properties?
One of them shared some great tips and SEO success charts based on some SEO elements (implementing structured data, fixing AMP errors, etc) that he was able to put in place on various Google properties. You might want to bookmark this when talking to your clients about the ROI of various SEO changes. Check out those charts here.
Using single hop 301 redirects via site migrations
I conduct SEO audits for quite a few clients who unfortunately didn’t have SEO on board when they migrated. I usually end up working with them to clean up redirect chains, moving redirects to 301s and fixing broken redirects.
Here’s a great chart from SMX where one SEO was on board during a site migration and was able to QA and make sure that they only had in place one hop 301 redirects during a site migration:
Again, a great chart to bookmark and use when trying to convince developers.
Google is testing stack-specific speed recommendations in Chrome Lighthouse audits
They are rolling out with specific recommendations for WordPress first as you can see by this demo screenshot:
But you can suggest that Google provide specific feedback for your favorite CMS platform. More here.
Google Analytics and SEO Measurement
MOZ’s domain authority is changing
MOZ Domain Authority is used as the industry standard for most SEOs, and they are updating it to be more accurate. See the MOZ video below:
If you’re looking for the summary of what is happening, Rand’s Twitter thread is a great cheat sheet:
Let's talk about Domain Authority (DA) and the big change Moz is making in a few days. Not just b/c it's my old company & I still care (personally & financially) about them, but b/c it reveals a lot of interesting realities in the SEO+web marketing worlds /1
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) February 22, 2019
Note: if you’re using AHREFs data or SEMRush, they have their own “domain authority” model.
Untraceable clicks from Google sources
This post from Glen Gabe is a must read. He’s walked through the various Google elements that appear in search and link to your content which you can not track in Google Search Console or Google Analytics.
Here’s the list:
- Google Search App
- Discover Feed
- More like This
- Interesting Finds
- Video results
- Video carousels
- New video packs
- Featured Snippets
- Featured Snippets
- Faceted navigation
- People Also Ask
Add Google algorithm updates to your Google Analytics
This Chrome plugin will automatically add global holidays and Google algorithm updates to your Google Analytics reports — helping you more quickly diagnose organic traffic drops and seasonal changes. Check it out.
Google Search Console is consolidating URLs — local SEOs beware
A heads up as you move forward with your monthly SEO reporting if you suddenly see URLs that don’t make sense. Google recently announced they are consolidating URLs in Google Search Console — removing reporting on URLs with tracking in them independently.
This creates some issues for Local SEOs that regularly add UTM tracking to those URLs, so they can see clicks from places like Google my Business.
The announcement also mentions they are using the Google preferred canonical URL. Based on the SEO audits I work on, that may or may not be the URL that would consider YOUR canonical URL. So, just a heads up as you move forward with your monthly SEO reporting — you might see URLs in that report that don’t make sense to you.
New Tools and Resources
Google updated the Test My Site tool
It’s now way more useful. As highlighted in their announcement, it now provides the following:
- Speed results for both your entire site and individual pages
- Measurement around whether those results were slower or faster than the previous month
- How you site benchmarks against other sites in general and against your industry competitors
- The impact your site speed might have on revenue
- Detailed list of recommended fixes to increase speed on (now) up to 5 pages on your site
You can also bundle all of that into a formatted report that you can send to your client or team. Here’s a sample result:
New WP plugin to aid in page speed
Google released server rendering resources
Aimed for developers, this post also has great graphics to help developers understand the impact of using various server rendering frameworks can have on their site optimization.
Google has been doing quite a bit of outreach in this arena recently and even provided direct rendering feedback to SEO and developers via a listserv monitored by Google reps.
If you have a site using a JS framework and you’re noticing SEO issues, we can help with an SEO audit and recommendations. Just drop us a note!
Ramp up your UX recommendations
Google really cares about usable sites for its searchers. It’s released various UX guides by industry (which it turns out were from the ads team, not the SEO team but are great resources anyway). It also surfaces UX issues when you use the Chrome Lighthouse Tool. So if you want to up your UX game when providing SEO recommendations, I recommend that you add this tool to your list as well.
Social Media News
Social media engagement is at an all-time low
This data highlights why I’ve been moving clients away from most time-intensive social media campaigns (except for YouTube due to its impact on videos surfacing in Google search) and toward SEO with a goal of email capture and management.
Before diving into the results from Rival IQ, it’s important to give some background on the sample size as it’s quite relevant to this data. From the report:
…We provide a representative sample of national and international companies in each industry by selecting 150 companies at random from each industry from our database of over 150,000 companies. Companies selected had active presences on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as of January 2018, and had Facebook fan counts between 25,000 and 1 million as of the same date.
With that context, I want you to now look at the results. Engagement on average was .09%. Email engagement rate averages are 17.85%. Average conversion rate from PPC 2.7%.
What a no brainer.
You should really check out the rest of the data. Twitter engagement is even worse. So why are those team resources dedicated to social media still working on that channel?
That manpower would be better utilized supporting your SEO or paid search team.
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.
PS: Thanks for taking the time to read my post and geek out about SEO with me! I get my inspiration for post topics from other SEOs and in-house marketers struggling with SEO strategy and implementation questions, so if you like this post, please…
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