Search News You Can Use
Episode 27 - Mar 22, 2018
This is our biggest newsletter yet. I recently spoke at Engage Portland and SMX San Jose. Paid subscribers will get loads of really practical tips that I learned at these conferences. In this episode we’ll cover the latest algorithm turbulence and go over quite a few important changes in the search industry.
And good news...we are hopefully going to be able to produce a weekly newsletter instead of publishing every two weeks!
In this episode:
- Watch this episode on video
- Algorithm updates
- More information on how often Google does algorithm updates
- Google is showing just one result for some queries
- Update: It looks like this test failed. Results have reverted back now
- Review markup must be from aggregate reviews.
- How to add “women lead” to your knowledge panel
- Large newspapers will soon get a ranking boost, but only on the search results of paid subscribers
- Learn how to create “actions” for voice search
- Information on Google Actions for Shopping
- If you have a Google Plus page that you no longer use, it could get shut down
- There are now “aggressive limits” on how many pages you can request indexing for
- Is submitting to the index working more slowly now?
- What I learned at Engage Portland
- What I learned at SMX West in San Jose
- SEO Tests and Experiments
- Does the new GSC reflect the mobile first index?
- New filter options in GSC
- Google plans to notify us when we have been moved to mobile first indexing
- Is the frequency at which you publish content a ranking factor?
- Experiments on winning featured snippets
- SEO Tips
- An interesting idea of something to add to title tags to improve CTR
- Should duplicate content that is canonicalized also be blocked by robots.txt?
- Content generation idea
- A reminder about mobile interstitials
- Is GSC data accurate?
- Bing results are now showing snippets for sites using JSON-LD
- Did you know Google is pretty good at ignoring affiliate links?
- Why would a site not have a cached page in the search results?
- Cool tip to clean up sites using tag pages
- AMP News
- Google’s plan to make the whole web as fast as AMP
- More on Google Standardizing AMP
- Is AMP enabled by default on WordPress 4.9.3?
- Local SEO
- Local packs now have review snippets
- Descriptions are returning
- A bug in GMB reporting may cause you to see a drop in actions between March 6-12
- Notifications of new Q&A questions are still spotty
- A new GMB dashboard is rolling out
- Where to get citation links
- Google is now showing wheelchair accessible routes on Google maps
- SEO Jobs
- Recommended Reading (All)
- Recommended Reading (Local SEO)
Watch this episode on video
Don't have time to read the newsletter? Here is everything you need to know:
There have been some incredibly significant algorithm updates over the last couple of weeks.
I wrote a long post about the March 9, 2018 algorithm update. According to Nathan Johns from Google, this was a significant core quality update that actually launched March 7, 2018. Glenn Gabe started seeing some sites see changes on March 8. However, all of the sites that I saw affected were most strongly affected on March 9. Joy Hawkins confirmed this was the case for her as well.
It does look like a number of these sites saw slight changes starting March 3 or 4, 2018.
This chart from SEMRush.com shows a pattern that I saw across many sites. You’ll notice the following:
- A slight increase starting around March 3
- A big increase starting March 9
- A bit of a correction starting on March 14
Some sites were hit strongly on March 9 and saw even further losses starting March 14:
Most of the sites that saw increases or decreases were sites that had issues with quality updates in the past.
It sounds like there is some more turbulence happening even as I write this post. It wouldn’t surprise me if next month I report that March 20 was also a significant update.
What to do if you were negatively affected by a March 2018 algorithm update
I have written a lot about my thoughts on this in my post on the March 2018 algorithm updates. The general advice that I am giving is the following:
1) Do a technical site audit.
2) Thoroughly evaluate your site in the eyes of the Quality Raters’ Guidelines.
3) Have someone who is not emotionally connected to you or your site look at you and your competitors and tell you which sites they prefer and why.
If you are looking to improve site quality, you can contact me to ask about our site quality reviews.
More information on how often Google does algorithm updates
Whenever someone posts about an algorithm update happening, there is always someone who comments saying, “But Google does algorithm updates every day.”
I found these tweets by Danny Sullivan quite helpful to explain what is happening here:
We do some type of focused update nearly daily. A broad core algorithm update happens several times per year.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 12, 2018
Those would be focused, yes. We also have lots of updates focused on specific little things each day that go into the core algorithm. This is a broader general change to the core algorithm.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 12, 2018
Google is showing just one result for some queries
This is a big change that a lot of people are talking about. If you do a search for certain queries such as time related searches, calculator use and many conversions, Google will now show just one result:
A lot of people are concerned about this as it feels like this is putting us one step closer to having no organic results at all.
Jennifer Slegg has a good post describing the types of searches that are showing like this. Dr. Pete on the Moz blog has some great insight as well.
Danny Sullivan from Google has stressed that this is just a test. In speaking with him personally, he said that people really shouldn’t be worried that this is a slippery slope into getting rid of most organic results. He said that for the queries for which they are testing this, very few people clicked on organic results at all.
On a related, and kind of funny note, if you’d like to freak out a client and show them what it would look like if their SERP was reduced to one result, you can do this:
Want to create your own SEO doomsday screenshot today? You can append the parameter &num=1 (or any number) to the Google search result URL to adjust the # of organic results. 🔥🔥🔥
— Stephanie Briggs (@stephbeadell) March 14, 2018
Update: It looks like this test failed. Results have reverted back now
Update! We have enough data and feedback -- which is appreciated -- to conclude that the condensed view experiment should stop for now. The team will look at improving when and how it appears.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 20, 2018
Review markup must be from aggregate reviews.
You can’t just take the best reviews and add schema to them:
Via @johnmu: Using review markup to gain rich snippets? AggregateReview markup should reflect *aggregate reviews*. You shouldn't be cherry picking reviews from other places. That violates Google's guidelines: https://t.co/2gXzfL0Ocw pic.twitter.com/9EMEiowYh5
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) March 8, 2018
How to add “women lead” to your knowledge panel
Here is how to add the “women-led” business attribute icon to your local business listing https://t.co/JZ6xkjmQ19 pic.twitter.com/dUrFHR5o4e
— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) March 12, 2018
Large newspapers will soon get a ranking boost, but only on the search results of paid subscribers
I’m not sure how Google will pull this off, but they are apparently going to prioritize the search results for newspapers’ paid subscribers. In other words, if I subscribe to the New York Times, then I will be more likely to see their articles rank well.
David Mihm had an interesting comment regarding this change:
Proof of Google’s intention for engagement to affect rankings for publishers. Only a matter of time before this comes to local businesses also. https://t.co/SFOuahC4HF
— 😷 David Mihm (@davidmihm) March 14, 2018
I can certainly see this happening soon, especially for Android users. It’s possible that Google may start to rank businesses higher for people who have actually visited that business. For example, let’s say that I regularly go to Starbucks. Now let’s say I’m visiting another city. When I search for “coffee near me”, it’s possible that Google will prioritize the Starbucks listings in my search results.
Learn how to create “actions” for voice search
Join developer-organized events around the world to learn how to #BuildActions for the #GoogleAssistant that are useful for your community!
Learn more here ↓ https://t.co/VuQCyFCsr2
— Actions on Google (@ActionsOnGoogle) March 15, 2018
Information on Google Actions for Shopping
News broke earlier this week that Google has struck a deal with some major U.S. retailers – Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Costco – and introduced a new program that allows retailers to list their products in Google’s sponsored shopping results, Google Express shopping and Google Assistant.
There was initially some confusion stemming from the report in Reuters that retailers were buying “Google Search” listings, suggesting this could impact Google’s organic results. Danny Sullivan has since clarified that this is inaccurate and that shopping actions only appear within the sponsored shopping area in the Google search pages.
If you have a Google Plus page that you no longer use, it could get shut down
Yep, I got an email too for one of my old "dead" G+ pages. Glad to see the purge. https://t.co/LQi7LG6Nlg
— Local Search Forum (@LocalSearchLink) March 20, 2018
There are now “aggressive limits” on how many pages you can request indexing for
yeah, we have some pretty aggressive limits there at the moment. I suspect that'll settle down again over time, but in general, I'd recommend focusing on non-manual methods for normal crawling & indexing (like sitemap files :)).
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) March 13, 2018
There is some confusion in this matter as Google does not tell you that you have met your limit. Rather, they are just showing an error:
Anyone else having issues with 'crawl this url and it's direct links' when submitting to index via Fetch and Render - I can only submit single url. #seo @Marie_Haynes @JohnMu @dannysullivan @dr_pete #searchconsole @glenngabe (this is after captcha) something changed? pic.twitter.com/yGrOiIo9nq
— Donna 'SnowWrite' Snow #techseo (@SnowWrite) March 13, 2018
Is submitting to the index working more slowly now?
In the past, I noticed that pages that I submitted to the index would be indexed extremely quickly. In some cases, I could make a change to a page, then submit it to the index (by searching for “submit url to google”) and then within a minute Google had indexed those changes.
However, this does not seem to be working anymore. When we submit pages, we seem to have to wait until the next scheduled crawl for Google to revisit which usually takes a couple of days. This is happening across multiple clients.
I’m suspicious that this is related to the entry above and that Google has turned something off temporarily. Would love to hear your comments below if you have thoughts on this.
What I learned at Engage Portland
I had a really great time speaking at Engage (formerly known as SearchFest). I gave a talk along with Kristine Schachinger about Penguin and link quality. Kristine gave a really good talk about what has changed with Penguin over the years. Then I gave an interactive quiz where we looked at some real life links and discussed whether or not they would be good links to have. It really was a lot of fun.
The venue for Engage was really cool:
(photo credit: Matt Siltala)
Here are some things that I learned at the conference:
Great local tips from Dana DiTomaso
Not seeing a graphic on times your business is busy?
According to Dana DiTomaso, this can happen when your pin is not in the right place. A neighbouring business may be getting credit for your customer visits! The fix is to adjust the pin on the map so it is pointing in the right place.
Here are some other tips from Dana:
- Get Five Stars has a service where they will monitor your Q&A’s on your GMB profile for you.
- Dana feels that there is a slight ranking boost, or at least an increase in impressions for sites that regularly produce Google posts.
- When you do post Google posts, be sure to use UTM tracking on them so that you can track whether visitors are coming from these.
- If you lost your Knowledge Panel a few months ago, check and see if you have yourself listed in multiple categories. Sometimes reducing this to one category can make the listing reappear.
- This cool tool from ZipSprout can help you find local events that you can sponsor.
- If you are a local business, see if you can make a connection with a local journalist and become their go-to source of information on topics even loosely related to yours.
- A great content idea: Find issues in your area for which there is no great content and then produce that content. (My note: We did this for a client of ours recently. Their city held an annual Hallowe’en zombie walk. But, there was very little information online beyond a Facebook page for this topic. We helped them create a guide to the walk and not only did it rank well, it improved brand awareness and attracted good links.)
What I learned at SMX West in San Jose
This really was a great conference. I made some great new connections with awesome industry folks and learned a lot too. Jennifer Slegg and I had a lot of fun watching the San Jose Sharks play the Detroit Red Wings.
Here is some of the information that I learned at SMX:
- Chanelle Harbin shared that a great way to do keyword research if you are trying to optimize for voice search is to search on Answer The Public for “ok google” + your keyword. Here is a chunk of the page when I searched for “ok google can dogs”. These are all voice queries that people are performing and great ideas for content:
- Chanelle also gave a great link building tip. She talked about how Disney did link outreach. They contacted people who had blogged about Disney shows but didn’t link to Disney and then asked for a link. She also showed how this really helped improve their rankings.
- Once again I got some great tips from Dana DiTomaso. She shared that if you are finding that Google keeps changing your hours of operation incorrectly, it may be that you have a citation on an authoritative source that is incorrect.
- Nathan Johns from Google shared a few things with us as well:
- He confirmed that the big recent algo update was released on March 7, 2018.
- Adding voice search queries to GSC is on Google’s radar.
- Social media sites are not given any sort of priority in terms of rankings. He said that they are just regular websites. (My note: I think that this is actually a significant statement. We commonly say that links from social media don’t help with rankings. But, I do think that mentions on social media can greatly help improve your E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness and trust). If Twitter is abuzz with people talking about your brand, that’s a good thing!)
- Nothing has changed with “nofollow” since it was initially implemented.
- Regarding low quality links: “In the vast majority of cases you can ignore that. We're really really good at taking care of the link side of things. There's always the disavow tool if you feel you need to use that.”
I had the honour of sharing the stage with Glenn Gabe at SMX. We both spoke on significant algorithm updates, including the March 7-9 changes. I spoke a lot about E-A-T. I hope to be publishing quite a bit more information on E-A-T soon.
SEO Tests and Experiments
Does the new GSC reflect the mobile first index?
There was a bit of a stir created when Cindy Krum stated in a Q&A session at SMX that Gary Illyes said that this was true:
o.O @Suzzicks says that @methode confirms that the index report in the new GSC reflects the mobile first index, while the old GSC is desktop index.
— Jennifer Slegg (@jenstar) March 13, 2018
It looks like this was just some miscommunication, however. Gary cleared up that there is only one index:
I think we misunderstood each other, most likely I misunderstood you: both reports are fed from one index, there's no differences between the reports in that sense
— Gary 鯨理／경리 Illyes (@methode) March 14, 2018
As did Danny Sullivan:
There is only one index. There's no "new" vs "old" index. One single index, where mobile-first indexed pages and desktop-first indexed pages both reside happily.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 15, 2018
It is important to note the difference between “mobile first indexing” and a “mobile first index”. Mobile first indexing means that Google will crawl your mobile version of your site and gather its information that way. But, Google still only has one index.
Indeed they can't have anything to do with each other because there is no mobile first index, so the headline makes no sense. There is mobile first indexING into one unified single index that also has desktop first indexING.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 15, 2018
Think of it like a library that can have one copy of every book. Initially, it was all print books. As ebooks became popular, it starts to replace the print versions with ebooks. Still one library, mix of both types but over time, it'll be mostly ebooks.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 15, 2018
New filter options in GSC
Google Search Console has rolled out a couple of new visual features:
Check out some visual updates in the New Search Console:
📈Filter/compare have a new look & pre-populated values
📅Improvements to date picker & comparison view
Tell us what you think about these updates by using "Send Feedback" button! pic.twitter.com/dErqMkbPSx
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) March 19, 2018
Google plans to notify us when we have been moved to mobile first indexing
This is great news!
In most cases, Google has said that we should not see a change in traffic once our site has been moved to mobile first indexing. Also, they said that they are currently only moving sites that appear to be ready. However, it is great to know when this change happens just in case there are traffic drops.
If you do start seeing a traffic drop that coincides with mobile first indexing, then we would know what types of things to look for such as whether all desktop content can be reached via mobile, whether mobile navigation is complete, whether there are mobile speed issues and much more.
Is the frequency at which you publish content a ranking factor?
The answer is surprisingly no:
Nope. A site isn't a machine that pumps out content at a fixed rate. Well, it shouldn't be :-).
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) March 6, 2018
However, I feel that keeping content fresh is important if you are a YMYL (your money or your life) site. The Quality Raters’ Guidelines talk about how it is important for these sites or pages to be regularly updated:
I also feel that this factored in to the August 20, 2017 algorithm update. I saw many sites that were hit at this time and all of them had a dated feel to them. I’m realizing now that the issue here may be that many of these sites had not been updated in a long time.
Here is a site that is a YMYL medical site that has not been updated in a while. It was definitely hit on August 20, 2017 and continues to see a decline:
Experiments on winning featured snippets
Hubspot has a good post on featured snippets. The beginning of the post is a good refresher on the different types of featured snippets. What we found interesting though were the experiments. Here are the important parts:
- Hubspot saw a significant increase in featured snippet wins -- and by extension increased clicks from the SERPs as well as improved click through rate -- just by adding some clean, simple HTML for queries (in this case, <li> elements for a list snippet) where Hubspot did not own the featured snippet but was ranking in the top 1-3 in the organic results.
- Knowing Google often will pull a series of headers into a list, Hubspot saw a nice increase in featured snippet wins by ensuring there was a clear hierarchy of h tags in place and that they changed their numbered h tag headers to read “1.” instead of “1)”.
- In testing whether a header list with h tags or a list with <li> elements was best for winning list snippets, Hubspot discovered that Google switched over to a <li> list from a header list when <li> elements were made available within 24 hours of submitting the URL. While more experimentation is needed, this suggests Google prefers <li> elements for list snippets.
An interesting idea of something to add to title tags to improve CTR
I found this tweet interesting:
A very clever PPC ad copy idea.
Straight away drew my attention: https://t.co/L4IoqKsVe5
— Pritesh Patel (@priteshpatel9) March 9, 2018
Pritesh was commenting on this title tag addition on an Adwords ad:
I am betting that this would help improve CTR when used organically as well.
Should duplicate content that is canonicalized also be blocked by robots.txt?
The answer is no:
No, blocking via robots.txt makes it so that we can't tell they're duplicates. It's better to let search engines see the copy & the rel=canonical link element. Also, duplicate content isn't really a problem in that regard 🙂
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) March 12, 2018
I found it interesting that John said that “duplicate content isn’t really a problem in that regard.”
My interpretation of this phrase is that if you have duplicate content that arises because of multiple parameters (i.e. similar pages for size, model and color variations), that this is not going to hurt Google’s assessment of quality for the site, provided everything is canonicalized correctly.
I still do think that this type of duplicate content needs to be properly addressed though. Even though Google has stated that crawl budget optimization is only important for large sites, I always want to make it so that Google spends most of their time crawling my highest quality pages.
Content generation idea
This next tip comes from a talk from Ian Lurie at Engage Portland.
Have your call center people ask "What were you unable to find on the site?". Give that to your marketing team and update your site content.@portentint #EngagePDX
— Caleb the Ecosocialist (@CosperClick) March 9, 2018
A reminder about mobile interstitials
will a full page interstitial on mobile harm our rankings more than before?@JohnMu says yes - ESPECIALLY if the interstitial blocks Google from seeing the content on your site#smx #smxmunich #SMXmuenchen
— Greg Gifford (@GregGifford) March 20, 2018
I am still seeing sites that use a mobile interstitial (i.e. a popup that immediately covers most of the page) and appear to be getting away with it. However, it is not recommended to do this as it could cause you a ranking demotion.
Is GSC data accurate?
Search Console stats:
last week my RIP Google post had 8,000 clicks from organic (GA) on publication day. SC tells me the number was actually 65. Huh....?
— 🌴 Martin MacDonald 🌴 (@searchmartin) March 19, 2018
My team and I do still rely heavily on GSC data. I agree that the volumes are often off. However, I find that in most cases the ranking position data is pretty good.
Bing results are now showing snippets for sites using JSON-LD
Bing just recently started recognizing JSON-LD as schema. Barry Schwartz has reported that these results are now showing snippets in the Bing search results.
Did you know Google is pretty good at ignoring affiliate links?
We don't pass signals through a lot of different kinds of links, so I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case here.
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) March 13, 2018
This is not new. Years ago I recall Matt Cutts saying the same thing. Also, in the many years that I reviewed link profiles to help remove penalties, I rarely recommended removing links that came as a result of affiliate schemes...and in most cases Google removed the site’s penalty even though affiliate link schemes were live.
I’d still recommend nofollowing outbound affiliate links. However, if affiliates of yours happen to link to you with the odd followed link, this is likely not going to help or hurt you in terms of passing PageRank.
Why would a site not have a cached page in the search results?
Most of you likely know that you can click on this link to see the cached result of a page:
But why would a site not have a cached page? Danny Sullivan shared the most common reason:
Probably because they've blocked caching using <meta name="robots" content="noarchive">
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 13, 2018
Other suggestions on that tweet included the following:
- Andrew Shotland saw that a client lost their cached pages when they appeared to be moved to mobile first indexing. The problem resolved a few days later.
- Google engineer Paul Haar suggested that the problem could be a glitch on Google’s side.
Cool tip to clean up sites using tag pages
This is a great tip:
Manage a high traffic WordPress blog that uses tags?
1. Go to GA > Landing Pages, segment down to organic traffic only, and confirm that /tag/ pages make up 0.001% of all inbound organic traffic.
2. Delete the tag code from content-single.php:
3. Noindex tag pages in Yoast. pic.twitter.com/ICL0PkzUXF
— Kane Jamison 🍍 (@KaneJamison) March 15, 2018
Here are my thoughts on each of these steps:
1) It is important first to see if the site is actually getting good use out of tag pages. In some cases, tag pages can drive visits. But, in most cases we’ll see that tag pages are rarely visited.
2) This line of code may differ from theme to theme. The idea here is to remove the code that displays the tags on your site. Why would you want to remove this rather than just noindexing these pages? By having the tags present, you are giving Google a large amount of unhelpful content to crawl. By removing these links, you’ve greatly cut down on the number of thin pages Google is crawling.
3) A plugin like Yoast will allow you to quickly add a noindex tag to tag pages.
Google’s plan to make the whole web as fast as AMP
This was an interesting article. Here are the main points:
- Google announced that they have plans to convince the group in charge of web standards to adopt AMP technology.
- If this happens it means that any page on the internet could load as quickly as AMP.
- This would mean that Google could start displaying non-AMP pages in things like the top stories carousel.
- Google’s intent is not to turn the entire web into AMP, but rather, to take some of the clever hacks that make AMP work, clean them up and make them a universal web standard.
- This process will likely take years.
More on Google Standardizing AMP
Google announced some AMP changes. They will soon make it so that you do not necessarily need to be AMP in order to be in features like the top stories carousel. Rather, any site that is fast enough will soon be able to be displayed.
Yesterday’s @AMPhtml announcement is huge, working on allowing instant loading of Non-AMP pages as well as not requiring it for the extra SERP visibility, answering the biggest existing concerns about it. Well done! 🙌👌https://t.co/OeaSci0NHv pic.twitter.com/5a4fzFf8ru
— Aleyda Solis (@aleyda) March 9, 2018
Seems G listened to me and others. Carousel position now available to all fast sites, regardless of AMP usage! Good news for devs.
— Jenny Halasz #BlackLivesMatter #MasksForAll (@jennyhalasz) March 10, 2018
Is AMP enabled by default on WordPress 4.9.3?
I have not heard much talk about this and could not find any supporting documents, but Joe Youngblood is reporting that AMP is now enabled by default on WordPress.
Ummmm hey @WordPress Why is AMP enabled by default in 9.4.3??? How do I get ride of this assault on the open web? I don't want anything to do with AMP on my websites.
— Joe Youngblood (@YoungbloodJoe) March 8, 2018
If you have any additional details on this, I’d love for you to comment below.
Local packs now have review snippets
Sergey Alakov reported that Google is now showing review snippets in the local pack. I am seeing this on both desktop and mobile.
This is another good reason to continually work on getting your clients to review your business!
Descriptions are returning
This is interesting:
Anyone else seeing the "From The Business" section in GMB? You can post a business description right to the knowledge panel.https://t.co/4ZFcJHsVk6
cc: @JoyanneHawkins @mblumenthal @ndyjsimpson pic.twitter.com/sViPl2c2tv
— Dave DiGregorio (@deegs20) March 14, 2018
Here is text from Google’s guidelines on creating your GMB profile:
There is concern amongst the SEO industry that this will lead to more local SEO spam.
What?! I'm also floored. Brace yourselves for the onslaught of spammy keyword stuffed descriptions!
— Darren Shaw (@DarrenShaw_) March 14, 2018
It looks like this is just rolling out now and not yet available to all businesses. We don’t know whether keywords in the description will help towards rankings.
A bug in GMB reporting may cause you to see a drop in actions between March 6-12
Another instance why Google My Business Insights are *only* reliable for trends. From Google: "Due to a logging bug, you may see a drop for customer actions and direction requests for March 6-12th. The bug has been fixed but will not be able to backfill this data." #SmallBiz pic.twitter.com/S4KjLxNEXW
— Margaret Ornsby (@MCMSagency) March 16, 2018
Notifications of new Q&A questions are still spotty
For the first time ever, I just received an alert email from Google that someone posted a question on a listing I managed via GMB.
— Joy Hawkins (@JoyanneHawkins) March 18, 2018
A new GMB dashboard is rolling out
There is more information on this here. The new dashboard is apparently easier to navigate and has a better view of Google Posts and insights.
Where to get citation links
Brightlocal just published this list of great places to get citations. While I haven’t checked out every site on the list, this does look like a great resource for those who are building citations.
Google is now showing wheelchair accessible routes on Google maps
Google recently announced this. The reason why I am mentioning this in my newsletter is that I think that businesses likely should pay attention to this if you do have wheelchair accessibility to your business.
Google learns this information from Google guides. If you are a Google guide, Google will ask you things like, “Is this place good for children?”, “Are there good coffee options here” and “Is this place wheelchair accessible?”.
As such, it’s important to make sure that visitors to your business know as much about the business as possible so that they can answer “yes” to the wheelchair question.
I’m betting this would be a great job!
MEC is hiring an SEO Specialist. It's a great opportunity to work for one of the top Canadian brands. Did I mention that the group of people there is amazing?
Feel free to reach out for more info.https://t.co/EK1o0GcenR
— Robin Rozhon (@RobinRozhon) March 15, 2018
Here is another that is likely a great job:
#Jobs #Austin https://t.co/TYBf15rZne
— Melissa Fach 😷 (@SEOAware) March 9, 2018
And of course, we are hiring! You can apply to work with my team and I here.
Recommended Reading (All)
(Scroll down below for recommended reading that is specific to local SEO.)
The Website Migration Guide: SEO Strategy, Process, & Checklist
This guide on site migration by Modestos Siotos is fantastic and should be consulted if you’re planning on doing any kind of migration. There is too much in this post for me to summarize completely, but here are some great points:
- It’s a common belief that a site migration will cause a temporary drop in traffic/revenue. But if properly prepared this doesn’t have to be the case.
- In some examples given of sites that migrated to HTTPS, overall all site visibility can be greatly affected both negatively or positively depending on whether or not important technical issues have been addressed.
- Main site migration types:
- Site location changes: Domain change/rebranding, Http to Https, changing mobile set-up.
- Platform changes: Upgrading platform, moving platform, introducing new platform features.
- Content changes: adding/removing pages, consolidating pages, new languages/locales.
- Structural changes: Site hierarchy, navigation changes, internal linking changes.
- Design & UX changes: UX-driven changes across devices, media changes, site performance changes.
- Site migrations can take several months to do correctly and most site migrations end up causing the site damage because of a few main issues: Poor initial strategy, poor planning, lack of resources, lack of SEO/UX consultation, professional help begins their assistance too late in the process, lack of testing, slow response to bug fixing and underestimating the total scale of the migration.
- Site migration process should generally follow these steps:
- Scope & Planning: Outline objectives, risks, growth opportunities and forecast scenarios.
- Pre-launch Preparation: Wireframe review (new site’s prototype), online the technical SEO specifications, identify priority pages, contingency plan.
- Pre-launch Testing: Content review, technical review, redirect testing, risk assessment check, and benchmarking.
- Launch Day Support: Site launch actions, live site testing, paid media support, search console actions.
- Post-launch Review: Checks and actions, bug fixing review, performance monitoring.
- Performance Review: Activity prioritization and site migration performance report.
- The posts appendix also has a comprehensive list of tools that would be extremely useful in helping with any site migration.
How to Discover Featured Snippet Opportunities - Whiteboard Friday
Britney Muller’s Whiteboard Friday provides some good background information on how to go about identifying featured snippet opportunities and developing a system for tracking and winning them! This first part of a three-part series focused on discovering FS opportunities.
Some things to remember:
- Over 40% of search queries with a featured snippet are queries containing a question
- It is far easier to win featured snippets for keywords you’re already ranking on page #1 for
- SEMRush’s featured snippets filter is extremely handy for identifying FS opportunities
- Create a spreadsheet and note the query, the URL of the current FS holder, your URL and current ranking, as well as any other information that might be of interest, including whether the image is pulled from the same page the snippet text is pulled from, the size and type of image, where the snippet is located on the page, and so on. The goal is to try to find any identifiable trends that could help you tweak your content to match what Google prefers for each individual query or type of queries.
At MHC, we undergo a very similar process to what Britney has outlined here when it comes to winning featured snippets for our clients, including a very similar looking spreadsheet! We’re looking forward to parts 2 & 3 of this series.
How to effectively report competitor spam by Kaspar Szymanski
In highly competitive niches you can often find sites that are perfectly willing to ignore Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. In some cases there might be no other option than to submit a spam report to Google, he’s the important things to include:
- Make it actionable - These reports are read by Google employees so provide details of the violations with references and only give information that will assist with the search teams decision making.
- Providing details - All violations must be supported by examples with URLs. The most supporting documentation the better.
- Get to the point - Aside from a greeting the only information given within the report should be directly related to how the site is breaking the guidelines.
- Which violations to report: Methods the relate to PageRank sculpting are the most common and tend to result in an in-depth investigation. Other common violations include low-quality landing pages and false or deceptive structured data mark-ups.
Once the report is submitted it’s important to know what to expect. In some cases, nothing will happen but if a manual action is applied, keep in mind that this is a temporary penalty. If the violator is willing to put in the effort to remedy the problems or they have other ongoing strategies the site may continue to succeed. Unfortunately, Google does not provide any feedback regarding any particular spam report so a continued focus should be on your own sites SEO. But keeping a close eye on your competitors can prove to be helpful if they are in a competitive niche and constantly breaking Google's guidelines.
How to get awesome customer testimonials fast
This is a fantastic read with suggestions from Business Casual Copywriting on how to garner more high-quality customer testimonials. While we believe that off-site reviews and testimonials are more important when it comes to establishing E-A-T for SEO purposes, compelling testimonial copy on your site can really help drive conversions and establish credibility with your audience or potential customers.
Joel at Business Casual Copywriting suggests not simply outright asking for a testimonial but asking for feedback while providing a list of questions tailored to the customer’s experience. This makes the customer far more likely to not only respond but also to respond in a manner in which the feedback is specific, authentic, and tells a story other potential customers can relate to.
Joel suggests creating a Google Form and submitting a list of questions for specific feedback that you can then shape into a polished testimonial. Before publishing, he recommends sending it back to the customer for final sign-off.
I think this is a great strategy for garnering more high-quality testimonials.
How to use hreflang correctly
Implementing hreflang correctly can get very convoluted very fast, with lots of potential missteps along the way. There is too much to summarize here, but this is a good breakdown from Gianluca Fiorelli for how to implement it correctly and what pitfalls to avoid.
Audience first link building
This is a good look at some natural link building strategies that can work in 2018, including an interesting example detailing how a very small investment into boosting a Facebook post in front of the right targeted audience initiated a snowball of organic sharing. The ‘social proof’ then made it easier to ‘sell’ the content when it came to reach out for links. There are also some good tips in here on how to reach out for links effectively and appeal to influencers. Worthwhile read!
8 Common Website mistakes revealed via Content Audits by Alli Berry
- No clear calls-to-action - This should be a main focus for all websites. Once a visitor loads your homepage, it should be obvious what they should do next.
- Lack of content for all stages of the customer journey - There should be an appropriate amount of content for each part of the sales funnel the customer is on. Often times there will be lots of information aimed at the purchase portion but not enough focussing on awareness, consideration, or retention.
- Testimonials not used to their fullest - Testimonials are too often just thrown on a dedicated page and that's it. The best way to use them is to couple the comments with appropriate copy, if the customer is praising you for how fast your shipping was, include that on your shipping information page.
- Not making content locally relevant (if it matters) - Many sites often have the exact same content as their competitors especially if in a crowded niche. Adding content to your site that is relevant to your local customers will help you stand out versus all of the other options.
- Not talking about price - In many cases not mentioning price can be a huge missed opportunity as customers would rather know a price range before having to inquire further. In general the more information you provide the more trustworthy your business looks.
- Getting lost in jargon - Often times the people writing the copy for a site are very close to the products/services being offered which can lead to technical language dominating the conversation.
- Page duplication from migrating to HTTPS - More and more sites are migrating to HTTPS and if done incorrectly it can lead to a lot of duplication issues which in turn impacts search rankings.
- Poor internal linking and site architecture - Not having a clear site hierarchy can lead to problems from both a user experience aspect as well as Google’s crawl-ability. The same goes for internal linking, as it should be easy for anyone to get back to your main pages from any one post.
How to Diagnose Decline in Rankings (Craziest SEO Issue We’ve Seen)
This article takes you through the process Kinsta went through to get an unwarranted manual action removed as well as a good outline on what to do if you notice a sudden drop in rankings – as well as who in the SEO community you can reach out to for help.
The article starts with a wild story about a manual action that Kinsta had to deal with recently. Kinsta noticed their new articles past a certain date were not ranking for any keywords whatsoever. It turns out they were hit with a manual action for hacked pages on a subdomain that was long since removed. They needed to check in Google Search Console themselves to find this out -- they were not notified via email. They then submitted a reconsideration request only to have the reconsideration request rejected because the domains didn’t exist. Finally, a second reconsideration request was accepted and they got the manual action lifted, several weeks later. What a nightmare!
This is a good reminder that mistakes can happen on Google’s end. Even if you have done nothing untoward, it is worth checking to see if a manual action has been issued if you notice a sudden drop in search traffic/keyword rankings.
Are you wasting budget on “content marketing”? By John Doherty
While the idea of content marketing has continued to grow in popularity, John makes a great case that if you are a small to medium sized business, it may not always be worth the cost. There's so much advice online recommending to get content out on a regular basis but in reality just publishing something for the sake of putting content online is not always worth the effort. Content marketing can be a fantastic way to drive traffic and business your way but it's only going to act as a good marketing tool if it is helpful to searchers. Throughout the article John helps you see the current content marketing landscape and decide if you should be writing content, hiring someone to write for you or whether or not it’s needed at all.
I wanted to also add my thoughts on Content Marketing. While some SEO companies do this well, I feel that quite a few are offering "Content Marketing", but really it is wide scale guest posting. This is a risky path to follow as Google has warned against this type of link building.
Recommended Reading (Local SEO)
How Can Review Snippet Keywords Help My Business Visibility By Andrew McDermott
Looking at research on how readers regularly scan content online, the Nielsen Norman Group found that on average only 20% of the words written are actually read. By recognizing this along with the fact that 60% of our brain is for visual processing, Andrew makes a great case for optimizing his review snippet keywords. Huge benefits can be seen by identifying your businesses keywords, placing them into buckets and then systematically re-writing questions posed to your customers so they naturally use them. Once your clients are using theses keywords in their feedback you can then syndicate those reviews through AdWords, testimonials, case studies and customer retargeting campaigns.
What’s the best way to ask for a review?
Here is a great guide from Darren Shaw at WhiteSpark on how to successfully garner more reviews for your business. Some key takeaways:
- Using questions in the subject line of an email improves the percentage of recipients who will open it. Personalizing it with the name of the person helps even more. Darren recommends, “Hey [name], a quick favour?” for a subject line.
- In the email itself, Darren believes being transparent about how much a review helps the business – provided the customer had a good experience with you – and providing a link to submit a review is the best approach. There is more than one way to go about this though.
- If you are conducting business via the phone, Darren has found that a verbal ask at the end of the call and then following up via email is an effective approach.
- Darren recommends asking for a review shortly after the sale or work has been completed versus waiting and trying down the road. The exception is if the customer needs to spend some time with the product or service first before being able to recommend it.
- A handout with a how-to guide for leaving Google reviews can help. WhiteSpark offers a Review Handout Generator. (https://whitespark.ca/review-handout-generator/)
- Google listings don’t have direct URLs you can send out, so WhiteSpark also offers a review link generator (https://whitespark.ca/google-review-link-generator/) where you simply enter your location data. You can also make these traceable very easily so you can track how often it’s working.
- Incentivizing reviews is against Google and Yelp’s guidelines. However, as Darren points out, incentivizing your employees to enlist more reviews from customers is not.
How to get keywords in your reviews
This is another great article from Darren Shaw at WhiteSpark taking the next step with his advice for developing a review template. Keywords in reviews, as Darren shows from an empirical study as well as a poll of prominent local SEOs, can really improve rankings! Darren suggests, in your email template asking for the review, to add questions such as what services were completed and at which location in order to encourage keyword usage in the review.
Is Google Stupid or Do They Choose Not to Solve The Local Spam Problem? By Mike Blumenthal
Throughout his post, Mike makes the case that the incentive structures within Google’s organization are misaligned for making drastic improvements to parts of their business that don’t drive revenue. Members of the local search community have recognized the issues with spam and fake reviews for years but these problems have gone relatively unaddressed due to several reasons. These issues aren’t going to drive top line growth, this coupled with Google’s culture of moving team members from project to project means that if some employees did have a vision to fix these issues they will soon move on to new areas. As outsiders, all we can do is to continue to bring attention to these problems in hopes that someone at Google will eventually pay attention.
That's it for this episode! It was a big one! Stay tuned for our Youtube video (my channel is here. If you want to follow me on Facebook, here is my page.