November was a busy month for search with a major algorithm update over the Thanksgiving holiday. The industry also had the #TechSEOBoost conference in Boston with the associated live stream, which was a “Christmas is here early” type event if you’re responsible for troubleshooting technical SEO issues. In fact, it was a great month for technical SEO with new tools and documentation released by Google, and great resources from the SEO community to help you ramp yourself up on machine learning and AI. In fact, at the end of this post, I’ve combined all of those resources into your “one stop shop” to get yourself up to speed with machine learning.
Thanksgiving Google algorithm update
For most, this update was an adjustment (positively) for sites that were hit in August and September negatively. Ultimately, many of the ranking adjustments this year have been adjustments to the core algorithm and have been focused on quality signals. Keep in mind that with RankBrain, Google is user testing the search engine results and are making changes based on that data. If your site is a quality website with content that is uniquely useful to the searcher, you will most likely rank well in Google.
This was highlighted in a conversation with Googlers on a recent SEO Roundtable. Here are the bits of the exchange that I think is worth reading:
Pedro Dias, former Googler, was asked about all the obsession around EAT and around following the quality raters guidelines as a way to “fix” any algorithm based ranking changes, and here was his response:
There has been a lot of debate and discussion about this E-A-T and what’s in the quality raters guidelines and so forth. And most of people that kind of mean for these things are thinking of this kind of questions, like the one that just answered about oh do I have to have bylines and or authors in my website, do I have to it. And I think folks sometimes forget it it’s a bit more about just product quality.
John Mueller from Google confirmed with this statement:
It’s also worth looking into what search engines are trying to do in the long run. Which is trying to figure out which pages are good, which pages are relevant for individual queries. …So focusing on the short-term tweaks like how many links you should have on a page, or like how tall your author bio photo should be in pixels. Those kind of things, I think, are very short sighted and it makes more sense to really focus on like what can I do to provide a really high-quality product in a way that users look at that and say well this is really relevant this is fantastic content.
There are currently 440 million blogs and Tumbler alone has over 400 million blogs. According to the Netcraft January 2018 Web Server Survey, there are 1,805,260,010 (over 1.8 billion) websites. That’s a TON of competition. What are you creating that’s different and unique that will make you read and shared?
Google Search Console Domain Properties
Google experimenting with a domain property option in Google Search Console
If you were ever curious if Google can find all your subdomains and associates them with your main domain, here’s another hint that they can figure it out. Google is able to auto-populate search data for individual properties in one main domain by verifying just a fragment of your domain for subdomains and folders.
User comments on search results?
Google is letting users leave comments on SERPs. The industry panicked a bit with this find, but it turns out that it’s just for live sporting events at the moment. I think we all agree that this would be a nightmare for webmasters (from a management perspective) if it rolled out more broadly than that. This is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Pages with long download times reduce Googlebot’s crawl budget
John Mueller reminds us that if it takes too long for Google to download the individual URLs from your site, then Google would crawl fewer URLs from your site every day. This is to make sure the servers are not overloaded.
SEO learning resources you can share with your developers
Google developed https://web.dev/ as a learning resource for development teams so they can learn more about how to make the web faster and more accessible.
Google page speed tool updated
The tool now has updated information from Google Chrome’s Lighthouse tool. Finally! The tool that most developers are familiar with (and using) has Lighthouse Chrome data in it.
New lazy loading documentation from Google
Google released new lazy loading tips and guidelines this month. You should ensure the content is loaded within the viewport if you want Googlebot to see the content. In addition, if you want Google to support infinite scrolling or pagination loading, you must provide a unique link to each section that users can share and load directly. Google recommends using the History API to update the URL when the content is loaded dynamically. The new guides are here: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/lazy-loading
Google also recommends that developers and SEOs review their dynamic rendering documentation as well: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/dynamic-rendering#implement
Image optimization tips from Chrome Web Dev Summit
There’s a great Twitter thread here:
Chrome Dev Summit – Image optimization tips (thread) 🧐
1. Convert animated GIFs to videos – add these four attributes [autoplay loop muted playsinline] to make videos behave like GIFs while reducing file size!
— Abby Hamilton (@abbynhamilton) November 12, 2018
Google’s image optimization tool – Squoosh
Chrome might block your on-page ads
Chrome 71 will block any and all ads on sites with “abusive experiences” More here.
Insights from TechSEO Boost (and links to video below)
Need to improve your internal link building at scale?
Check out Kevin Indig, who work at Atlassian to see his process. Just look at his Results from improving internal links:
— Kevin_Indig (@Kevin_Indig) November 29, 2018
Using Cloudflare workers for SEO
This presentation from Dan Taylor at the SALT Agency won him the Technical SEO Research award. Here’s more about using Cloudflare to manage your redirects and here about how to use Cloudflare workers to manage your hreflang tags if you can’t get your dev team to help you.
Programming basics for SEO
The video starts here:
Python for SEOs tutorial, video starts here.
Also, there are great free resources on this YouTube channel. If you’re interested in being able to use Python to perform daily tasks you would look for patterns in your data in Excel. Then, create better graphs to help you find and verify your insights via statistical modeling so that you can effectively modify your campaigns based on data insights.
TechSEOBoost folks also shared their favorite python libraries for data analysis including:
Spacy – http://bit.ly/2E1kHbe
Pandas – http://bit.ly/2E6V8G3
NLTK – http://bit.ly/2E4zi5M
Matplotlib – http://bit.ly/2E1kGnG
GGplot – http://ggplot.yhathq.com/
Extreme full contact Google APIs
New tools and Resources:
Need to ramp up on how to use Chrome Developer Tools?
This course (while not free) came highly recommended: Chrome Dev tools course: https://www.pluralsight.com/courses/chrome-developer-tools
Ramping up on UX
If you read my blog regularly, you’re aware that UX impacts SEO success. If usability research is new to you, I’ve stumbled on to this amazing list of books and resources to bring you up to speed.
Are you exposing customer data?
Are you exposing customer data via Google Search? SEER Interactive has created a tool to help you evaluate: https://www.seerinteractive.com/exposed-customers-tool/
Google Data Studio: News consumer insight tool
Google has developed a new PR tool that layers on top of Google Data Studio. It provides clear insights on how to view the consumption of your articles and find insights that can really impact news publishers.
On WordPress and working to improve your page speed?
I discovered a great checklist for how to speed up WordPress: https://kinsta.com/learn/speed-up-wordpress/ Enjoy!
How much do you know about digital marketing?
Curious to see how your digital market stacks up? General Assembly has created a 15 min quiz to test your knowledge: https://generalassemb.ly/corporate-digital-training/digital-marketing-assessment
Teaching Yourself Machine Learning and AI
Especially after watching TechSEOBoost this month, this is on my personal learning list and I wanted to share these resources with my readers and clients. With Google using machine learning in its search algorithms, it’s more essential that SEOs learn the basics of AI and machine learning and there’s no reason not with these type of free resources:
Amazon’s in-house AI training
Amazon opens up its inhouse AI training to all. You can check it out here.
Google’s AI training resources
Google wants to educate developers and business decision-makers about the technologies’ capabilities. The courses that make the most sense for marketers are:
- Introduction to Machine Learning Problem Framing (course)
- Data Preparation and Feature Engineering in ML (course)
- The 7 Steps of Machine Learning (AI Adventures) (video)
There is also a Finnish business consultancy Reaktor, which collaborated with the University of Helsinki to put together an in-depth online course series, which begins with “What is AI” and continues to explore both the applications and implications of the technologies.
The curriculum is designed, according to the site, with the student needing no pre-existing knowledge beyond basic math. Going through the entire series is expected to take 6 weeks or more.
It’s a more general course and you can even get credit for taking the course through the University of Helsinki’s Open University program.
Additional AI learning resources
Britney Muller at the TechSEO Boost conference also had a great presentation on Machine Learning for SEOs – TechSEO Boost 2018 slides from Britney Muller
SEO Research Worth Reading
Ranking “factors” change for head terms
This is a great article and Search Love London presentation where Tom Capper works through the insights he’s seen with clients that are trying to rank for head terms. The key takeaway is that it seems like Google is evaluating time to SERP and pogo sticking (bounce back to SERP) more than traditional ranking factors for terms with high volume. I’ve actually seen this with some of the clients that I work with – while diagnosing ranking challenges for some of their head terms, it seems as though on-site UX, focus on searcher’s intent and page load speed seems to matter more than other factors. You can read his write up here.
2018 Local SEO ranking factors research released
This is a bookmarkable resource for local SEOs every year that it comes out. One big change this year is the increased importance for views and behavior. It also highlights that as a local business you need to be using Google posts, Q/A, and uploading videos and photos to your Google My Business account. Check it out here: https://moz.com/blog/2018-local-search-ranking-factors-survey
Google patent: Associating a website with a location
Here’s a great analysis from Bill Slawski: Look at a recent patent from Google about how they may associate a particular website with a specific location. which is interesting if you’re a business with local offices. Determining Search Authority Pages and Propagating Authority to Related Pages http://www.seobythesea.com/2007/10/google-determining-search-authority-pages-and-propagating-authority-to-related-pages/
That’s it for this month. There will be more updates will come in the new year but for now, enjoy the holiday season!
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