SNYCU Ep. 122 - March 4, 2020 - Light Version

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In this episode, we dissect the February algorithm turbulence to see what conclusions we can draw about the most recent Google updates. We have information worth checking out about affiliate disclosures as well. We're also extremely excited to introduce a new feature: Search News You Can Use is teaming up with the experts from Sterling Sky, who will provide great insights each week on the latest developments in Local SEO!

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In this episode:

Paid members also get the following:

  • Our most recent thoughts on the February algo turbulence
  • Keeping content up to date may have been re-evaluated as a ranking factor
  • The Coronavirus impact
  • More on affiliate disclosures
  • How to showcase your events on Google Search
  • Preview your How-to markup on Google Home (and other smart displays)
  • New tips from Google on best practices for News coverage
  • Google Search is (maybe) introducing public profile cards
  • Has there been an increase in manual actions for outbound unnatural links?
  • Tips from John Mueller on how large blogs should handle pagination
  • FAQ for Image License Metadata in Google Images
  • A new “find results carousel” was recently added to local SERPs in Europe
  • BrightLocal updated their Top 10 list of free tools for 2020
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO and Local SEO articles

Algorithm Updates

More February Turbulence - Especially February 24, 2020

This has been a really strange month for Google algorithm updates. While we know that Google pushes out multiple changes to their algorithms every day, we feel that they have made significant changes throughout February that can have a drastic impact on many sites.

In the next section, our premium readers will read our observations on what we have seen so far. While we don’t have an answer to exactly what is happening, it does seem that the most recent changes that many sites saw starting around February 24 may be connected to the January core update. Most likely, Google has been tweaking the changes that came about with that core update. We do not think this was a reversal of the January core update.

Google’s new nofollow changes are live - but apparently not being used?

In September of 2019, Google added two new rel attributes - rel=sponsored and rel=ugc, that we can use to indicate whether certain links are present because they are either sponsored or user-generated. If you use those attributes, Google will ignore those links in their calculations.

The blog post tells us that the rel=sponsored and rel=ugc are already being recognized by Google and used for ranking purposes. It also tells us that starting March 1, “For crawling and indexing purposes, nofollow will become a hint.”

We interpreted this to mean that Google could choose to pass link signals through a nofollowed link if they felt it truly was an authoritative vote for your site’s content. For example, if the Wall Street Journal wrote an article on SEO and recommended a resource from our site, but with a nofollowed link, Google could still count that as a link. 

John Mueller told us in a help hangout this week that he does not believe any of the Google engineers have written code that implements this change.

People are still saying they’re having problems getting their content indexed

We are seeing more cases of people complaining that new content is not getting indexed.

John has been asked about this several times and has been quite clear in stating that Google does not have an indexing issue. We believe this is by design. 

If you are struggling to get new content indexed, it could be that Google has recognized the content as sub-par. It could also be that Google has recognized that the content is YMYL content that is coming from a site that is lacking in E-A-T.

MHC Announcements

This week, one of our senior auditors, Cass Downton, was the special guest on The In Search SEO podcast. You can listen to her talk with Mordy Oberstein about how to handle a bad backlink profile, the types of links that can land you in trouble, and what to do next.

Google Announcements

Google will be switching all sites to mobile-first indexing within the next 6-12 months

Kyle Sutton shared a screenshot of this email on Twitter he received in GSC alerting him to mobile-first indexing errors. In the email, it says that “Google expects to apply mobile-first indexing to all websites within the next six to twelve months”:

So if you haven’t already been switched over to mobile-first indexing yet, you should make sure to prepare your site ASAP for this. You can see if the indexing crawler for your site is Googlebot Smartphone under “Settings” in GSC; this will also show you the date your site was switched (if its been switched). MHC’s Matt Baker wrote a really great guide to everything you need to know about the Mobile-First Index that might be able to answer some of your questions about getting your site ready to be switched over. 

As well, this is a handy tool to check whether your site is ready to be switched over, and -- of course -- there’s also Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, to see how easily a visitor can access an individual page on their mobile device.

More (and better) data available for export from GSC

Google recently announced that you’re now going to be able to download the complete information you see in almost all Search Console reports. You can export this data into Google Sheets, or directly into Excel (which is new!). Definitely check out the official announcement for examples of the data you’ll get from some of the reports available, as well as how you can use this data outside of GSC.

Free access to Google’s advanced Hangouts Meet video conferencing

Due to COVID-19, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, announced that starting this week, they would be making the advanced Hangouts Meet video conferencing capabilities free to all G-Suite customers. This will be available worldwide, and will last until July 1, 2020.

Hats off to Google for helping people stay connected and safe.

There is now a YouTube Liaison

Google recently announced that there is now a liaison for YouTube. His name is name is Matt Koval and the purpose of this role is to help people better understand YouTube:

You can find Matt on Twitter both for his personal account (@MattKoval) or at the official YouTube Liaison account (@YouTubeLiaison).

Google SERP Changes

Google Images will start showing new icons on desktop

This week, Google Images is going to start showing icons on desktop which indicate if that images leads to a product page, recipe, or video. Hovering your mouse over the icon will cause it to expand and show text or the length of the video, replacing image dimension data, which was there previously when you moused-over an image. Licensable icons, which Google recently began beta testing, may also be seen. 

SEO Tips

Stick to one currency when you use Product structured data if you want it to show in the SERPs

You probably shouldn't add multiple currencies to your Product structured data. John responded to a Reddit thread recently and said that, as far as he knows, Google only tracks 1 price per URL for search.

Google has updated their FAQ guidelines

Google recently updated their FAQ guidelines to say that if you have the same question and answer appearing multiple times throughout your website, that FAQ should only be marked up once on your entire website. It doesn’t matter if that FAQ is relevant for multiple pages, it should only be marked up once:

What do you think is the most under-rated SEO tactic?

We thought this question from Russ Jones on Twitter sparked some really great responses. Maybe you’ll see something in that thread that will spark joy, or that you haven’t even realised you’ve been overlooking.

Our favourite tip from it was this one, which we thought was a great way to find experts in your niche who may be willing to contribute to your content:

Don’t use target=”_blank” when linking to other sites

This isn’t a new tip, just a reminder. Using target=_”blank” on external links without also using rel=”noopener” or rel=”noreferrer” can open you up to security and performance issues.

You can run a Lighthouse audit to see if this is something that pertains to your site:

Something to keep in mind is that, by default, Chrome will soon start stripping the referrer to the origin with any cross-origin requests (if there was no specified referrer policy):

This could impact your data in Google Analytics if you are monitoring and tracking social logins:

And Peter Nikolow points out that you may also see this impact other data:

Search for Beginners episode #9

This latest edition for Google’s Search for Beginners series is all about how to hire an SEO specialist in order to find the best one for you. It’s a good watch for anyone on either side of this -- whether or not you’re on the lookout for an SEO, or you are an SEO, this is a nice guide on what site owners should be expecting from their SEO specialist:

Google Help Hangout Tips

Googlebot won’t click a “load more” button

Because of the cost, Googlebot won’t trigger any “load more” buttons. Instead, Googlebot will use frame expansion to render the page on a long viewport to see what loads; that’s what will get indexed:

Think of hreflang as a connection between multiple pages

If one of the pages you are trying to connect with hreflang tags doesn’t work -- for example, because it has a noindex tag, there’s a redirect in place, or there’s no return tag indicated -- then Google will ignore the hreflang on just that one page:

Other interesting News

Google’s new course on technical writing

This new course from Google is primarily aimed at software engineers and software engineering students, although people with “engineer-adjacent” roles, like product managers, will also likely benefit. You’ll be able to learn how to plan and author technical documents, as well as access various resources and learn about the role of developer technical writers at Google. These are the same courses that Google engineers take, and consist of “pre-class” lessons, as well as “in-class” lessons done with a facilitator. 

Did you know you can contact Bing through Bing Webmaster Tools?

If you’re having organic issues, you can contact Bing directly through BWT? Here’s an anecdote that may inspire you to keep an eye out on what’s going on there:

Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

Google Maps App showing a green “offer” button

Sydney Marchuk spotted these recent changes that can be seen on the Maps App: “Offers” posts now are showing a green “offer” button (or maybe a badge?), and any recent photos added get a highlight reel:

Local SEO - Search News from SterlingSky 

You may remember our announcement last week about partnering with the SterlingSky team to provide you with the latest information in local search. Not familiar with SterlingSky? Joy Hawkins’ team of local experts have been around since 2017, and Joy has been a prominent member of the SEO industry since 2006. The team are GMB Product experts, owners of the Local Search Forum and contributors to several well known search publications. 

This week’s insight comes from SterlingSky local specialist, Carrie Hill:

Local SEO algorithm update? Probably nothing major

While we're seeing rumblings of a ranking shakeup in the SEO world, Local, in our view, is largely unaffected. We've been seeing the normal flux, but nothing alarming. The BrightLocal Local Rank Flux tool is showing "mild weather" over the last week as well:

Some notable news from the world that might affect local search

We saw a report that Google Search is creating Public Profile Cards in the near future. This is meant to be a replacement for the long-gone Google+ product - as a way to tie a person to their online identity (read: entity?). Colan and Carrie were discussing this feature and speculated that this could make a local business eligible for 3 knowledge panels in some cases. 1 branded knowledge panel, 1 practitioner knowledge panel (in the case of a lawyer, doctor, or other practitioner-eligible categories) and the personal knowledge panel. Does this mean that they'd show all 3? What might that look like?  

Are there other implications with this feature? Could this replace the unwieldy "authorship" signal that Google+ failed at? Time will tell.

Interestingly - after AndroidPolice published their article - Google took down the informational pages they had initially linked to - so likely it was mistakenly published - something coming in the future? 

"After we published this report, Google removed the three support pages where we first got our information. (They're still linked below for future documentation.) It's likely that these were mistakenly published and let the cat out of the bag earlier than intended."

Map Spam has real consequences

Map Spam is something that we fight on a daily basis, and map spam that preys on vulnerable populations is especially heinous. A recent article at Vox shares the story of Brianna Jaynes who was desperately searching for help with drug addiction and started by calling a phone number she found while searching in Google. It was the beginning of an ordeal that found her more addicted and hopeless than when she started. This is a real-life story of someone preyed upon and negatively impacted by Google's lack of action on map spam. It's a harrowing story worth a read to give you insight into why this is such a terrible problem.

The GMB Insights “views” metric gives untrustworthy data

Previously, Joy wrote about how much she dislikes Google My Business Insights "views" metric.  Brodie Clark, an SEO from Australia, recently tweeted a scenario where he created and verified a brand new listing and it came primed with a 10-day history and 163 views. 

Just another example of the hot mess that is Insights and an indicator of where Google could do some clean-up reporting work.

SEO Tools

Using Jumprope to create How-to’s

Glenn Gable spotted a how-to AMP Story in Google Discover. The how-to was powered by Jumprope, an app which helps you easily create and export how-to content. The one Glenn saw was from The Practical Kitchen and may be a great way for recipe sites to capture more real estate using AMP Stories:

Recommended Reading

Unpacking the CausalImpact of Google’s Double-Dipping Featured Snippet Update - John Caiozzo
February 24, 2020

This recent SEJ post by John Caiozzo, does a fantastic job at digging into the effects on rankings after Google featured snippet change.


How Low Can #1 Go? (2020 Edition) - Dr. Peter J. Meyers
February 26, 2020

Dr. Pete writes another great post on Moz regarding Position 1 rankings.


Google Featured Snippets: A 2020 SEO Guide - Lily Ray
February 27, 2020

This is a great overview of the recent Google changes in the featured snippet space. We were most intrigued by the research Lily and her team performed on the E-A-T side of featured snippets.

It’s Time to Reconsider Rank Tracking -
Mike King
February 28, 2020

We highly recommend investing the time to read this offering from Mike King on the limitations of rank tracking tools in the era of widespread Google SERP features. Even better, he proposes a solution for what an effective modern rank tracking tool — one that accounts for these new and always-shifting realities — might actually look like.

2020 Google Search Survey: How Much Do Users Trust Their Search Results? -
Lily Ray
March 2, 2020

Lily Ray, a good friend here at MHC, conducted a large survey about the results in SERP Features. Lily surveyed 1,100 people across the globe between 18-64 years of age to find out if people trusted the SERPs specifically for YMYL queries. 

Excessively Deep Pagination Can Impact Search Traffic -
Roger Montti
February 29, 2020

This article from Roger Montti is a good reminder to site owners that heavy uses of pagination can impact your site’s indexing and ranking.


Want More?

Paid members also get the following:

  • Our most recent thoughts on the February algo turbulence
  • Keeping content up to date may have been re-evaluated as a ranking factor
  • The Coronavirus impact
  • More on affiliate disclosures
  • How to showcase your events on Google Search
  • Preview your How-to markup on Google Home (and other smart displays)
  • New tips from Google on best practices for News coverage
  • Google Search is (maybe) introducing public profile cards
  • Has there been an increase in manual actions for outbound unnatural links?
  • Tips from John Mueller on how large blogs should handle pagination
  • FAQ for Image License Metadata in Google Images
  • A new “find results carousel” was recently added to local SERPs in Europe
  • BrightLocal updated their Top 10 list of free tools for 2020
  • My tl;dr summary of some awesome 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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