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Episode 7 - April 20, 2017

This is a massive episode of my newsletter. A lot of interesting things have happened recently. We had a couple of significant algorithm changes in April. I have written my thoughts on those. There is some new information on reavowing links that I found quite interesting as it contradicts something that Matt Cutts said two years ago. This episode has a couple of great tips for local SEOs and also for eCommerce stores.
My favorite part of this episode is the challenge in which I'm going to walk you through some steps that I took to try and increase conversions for one page of one of my sites. I'm going to challenge you to do the same! Note: This challenge is available to paid subscribers only.

In this episode:

Recent significant algorithm update: April 4 and April 17/18, 2017

Google makes many changes to their algorithm on a regular basis. However, every now and then there is one that is worth recognizing. It does look like there was a significant core algorithm update on April 4, 2017 and another around April 17/18. With that said, I did not notice any obvious ranking or traffic changes among the sites that I monitor.
Barry Schwartz has a good post about the change on April 4th and another for the second change on April 17/18 in which he mentions that most of the rank trackers showed spikes on those days. Also, there are several comments from site owners whose sites saw significant drops. Here are two of those sites:
SEMRush is reporting a drop April 10, 2017 for this site, but the site owner said on Barry's post that it happened the night of April 4th:
reading sanctuary semrush
From what I can see from looking at this site, it appears to have a lot of thin pages like this one with very little original content.
Another site that saw drops that started on April 4, and then got worse on April 17 is This site is in French, so it's hard to assess, but overall it looks like a decent site:
semrush traffic
I can't say this with certainty, but I wonder if this site was affected because it is a site offering health advice. Google's most recent Quality Rater Guidelines spoke a lot about making sure that health articles come from authoritative sources and have authors with a significant amount of Expertise, Authority and Trust. I could not find any articles that were written by someone with medical credentials.
Again, I can't guarantee that this is the site's problem, as it usually takes me a few days to do a thorough traffic drop assessment. But, I have noticed that a good number of the sites that have approached me for help with rankings over the last month or so fit this pattern: They have articles that cover YMYL (Your Money and Your Life) issues such as medical, legal or financial articles, but the articles are not written by someone who has legitimate credentials in this area.
These were the only two sites from the comments section of Barry's post that I was able to analyze, so we don't have enough to make any conclusions. What I think is happening though is that every time Google does a core algorithm update they are getting better and better at detecting true quality.
If you were affected, either positively or negatively on April 4th, I'd love for you to share that with me.

You can now submit urls to Google right from the Google search interface

Rather than logging in to Google Search Console and running a Googlebot fetch, you can now submit new pages by searching for "submit url to Google". Bill Hartzer and I ran a little test to see how quickly this worked.
He wrote a post, and I submitted it to Google's index:
submit url to google
Within minutes, it was in the index:
Bill hartzer post
It may possibly have been indexed instantly. For some reason the url only showed up if I searched for it with no quotes. For the first few minutes I was searching for the url in quotes.
It's also really strange that Google thinks that Bill wrote that post 9 hours ago. That's weird.

There is no longer a time lag present when re-avowing.

Two years ago I wrote this article on Search Engine Watch about reavowing links. You can reavow a link by removing it from your disavow file. I mentioned in my article that Matt Cutts from Google had said that if you remove a link from your disavow, there is a lag built in, so that it could take a long time for that link to start counting again. Also, Matt said that the link may not count for as much as it did previously.
On Twitter this week, there was a discussion about disavowing and the following question was asked:

This is interesting because it contradicts what Matt Cutts previously said. So, does this mean that things have changed, or that Matt was not telling the truth? My guess is that things have changed since the introduction of real time Penguin in September of 2016.
Note: I am currently taking some clients at a discount to do some reavowing work. It can be a good idea to reavow links if you have been overly aggressive in your disavow efforts in the past. To see if your site is a good candidate, contact me and I can give you a quote.

Does Google plan to increase the https ranking boost?

A while back, Google made a big deal of telling us that sites that were https were going to have a ranking boost. It turns out that that boost is miniscule. I have yet to see a site that saw a significant gain because of switching to https. Now, I 'm not saying you should avoid switching to https...but don't do it for a potential ranking boost.
Dr. Pete from Moz asked Google's Gary Illyes if they planned on increasing this ranking benefit and Gary said that it was not going to happen any time soon.


The Mobile First index probably won't launch until 2018

If you are not familiar with the Mobile First index, it is definitely something worth reading about. (See the recommended reading at the end of this episode for some good articles to catch you up.) Google's plan is to eventually make the mobile version of your site the one which they crawl in order to understand your site and make ranking decisions.
Gary Illyes recently said that it looks unlikely that the mobile first algorithm will launch in 2017.

eCommerce tip: Do you have markup on your product pages?

Google recently made it so that for some searches, they will show "similar products". I could not get this to work for me on any of my searches, but Barry Schwartz wrote a post on Search Engine Land in which he noted that sites with appropriate schema markup on their products may start appearing in the similar products section.
If you sell products, it's worthwhile to review Google's guidelines on implementing markup for products.

Local SEO tip: You can add attributes like a link to your menu to your Google My Business listing

I haven't heard many people talking about this other than a brief post by Barry Schwartz. If you have a business with a local presence you should pay attention to this!
Google allows you to define certain attributes to your business. You can do this by downloading a spreadsheet, changing the attributes and then reuploading the spreadsheet. The spreadsheet has 179 attributes on it that you can modify if they apply to your business. Here is a look at some of them:
Attributes are not new. In fact, some people are able to access and change attributes from within their Google My Business dashboard. (I don't see this in any of the sites I manage, yet.)
But, what is new is line 180 above. If you are a restaurant, you can download the spreadsheet above, insert a url with a link to your menu and then this will appear in your local listing. You can also do this via API if you manage several locations.
There is more detailed info on this here:

Featured snippets are now pulling in images from other websites

A few people noticed recently that their images were being used for a featured snippet, where another site had the snippet! Here is an example posted by Glenn Gabe:

This has a lot of people upset as there really is no benefit to the site whose image is being used, other than, perhaps, branding.
I think that if you see that your image is being used in a featured snippet that is not yours, then this means that you really have a good chance of being able to win the snippet. I could be wrong though. If you want to test this out, I wrote a good tutorial on what you can do to win featured snippets.

Local SEO: Did you know you can see which categories your competitors are using in Google maps?

This is an awesome post which is a preview of Joy Hawkin's Local SEO course. (I'm soon going to write a review of the full course.) She shows you how you can find out which categories your competitors are using and then judge whether you should add those categories to your Google My Business listing.

Chrome may soon come with an ad-blocker

That sounds ridiculous doesn't it? Why would Google put out a product that blocks their main revenue source? It's really not as crazy as it sounds though. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about these potential upcoming changes. I think that some people read this article and assumed that Google is going to start blocking all ads, including Adsense. However, it sounds like what Chrome may do is block the really bad kind of ads that do things like trick users into clicking on an ad rather than a download link and things like that.
I really think that this will have no effect on Adsense revenue for sites that are following the rules.

How to know whether that phone call is really from Google or a scammer

If you run a small business, or if you do SEO for small businesses, then you probably know the feeling that comes with getting a robo-call that tells you that your Google My Business listing is not ranking well. In some cases, these calls will even say that your listing is at risk for being deindexed.
This is a good link to share with your clients.
Here is how you know that these calls are fake:

  • If Google calls you, your call display will say that the call comes from Mountainview, California
  • If Google calls you, it will be a real live human who calls.

Google sometimes will call your business to verify your hours or location. But, if you get a call that is threatening delisting from Google, that is a scam.

More Google Carousels are appearing

More people are noticing carousel results for searches. For example, look at what happens if you search for "SEO Blog":
seo blogs
I'm trying to figure out how Google makes the decision as who to include in these carousels. Some have speculated that it could be due to overall traffic, but I don't think that this is it. The reason why I don't think this is the case is because I have a client who was previously penalized and ranked nowhere organically, and as a result had very little traffic. Yet, if you searched for "best [their product]" they were listed in the carousel. (As a note of interest, they are no longer penalized, and now getting lots of traffic and they're still in the carousel.)
Others have speculated that being cited in Wikipedia can get you in there. However, "Get Elastic" in the example above is not listed in Wikipedia.
If you have theories as to how Google is choosing these, and how we could possibly win a spot there, let me know by leaving a comment below. I'm going to run some experiments soon to see if I can get a site in there.
In the meantime, here are some good posts to read on this subject: 

Local SEO: Do you leave fake reviews?

There were two cases lately where businesses have received serious fines for leaving fake reviews.
Car dealers fined $3.6 million for fake reviews and deceptive practices.
In this case, the FTC levied the fine on the Sage Automotive Group after finding fake reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp.
Jewelry Store Worker Ordered To Pay $34.5K For Posting Fake Yelp Review Of Rival.
Yikes. In this case, a man who worked for his father's jewelry business posted a fake negative review for a competitor. A jury ordered him to pay $34.5K.

You can now add fact checking schema

In an effort to combat fake news, Google has announced that you can now add schema to your site to show whether claims on your pages are fact checked. Here is the example given by Google:
Fact check schema
Not everyone can get this markup. You have to be recognized as having a certain level of authority by Google. The weird thing though, is that once you are recognized as authoritative, it seems you can essentially claim that anything is fact checked even if it is not. I'm not sure how Google will police this.
Here are instructions on adding the markup along with an example.
I have just added fact checking markup to a site which I run which I believe Google treats as authoritative. So far, I haven't seen the markup appear in the SERPS, but it's only been a few minutes. 🙂 I'll keep you updated.

Challenge: Some tips on improving conversions

What is your biggest money making page on your site? If you run an affiliate site, what article makes you the most affiliate sales? If you are an Adsense driven site, which article do you think makes the most ad revenue for you? If you are a lead generation site, which page on your website drives the most traffic?
This challenge is inspired by this great post by PotPie Girl:
New Amazon Commissions Got Ya Down? Here’s What To DO About It
In the post she talks about a page on her website that makes money from Amazon affiliate commissions. For those who aren't familiar with affiliate marketing, what is happening here is that every time someone reads her article, clicks on a link in that article that goes to Amazon, and then buys a product, she makes an affiliate commission.
In the article she talks about what she did to try and increase conversions. I would love to challenge you to do the same. Read, the article, and then, if you're up for the challenge, follow these steps which are the same that PotPie Girl took.
Note: I am running this experiment for a page of mine on a non-SEO site which I run. I'm going to share with you what I did and in a future episode of Search New You Can Use I'll share what the results are. I didn't follow all of the steps she took, but did make some significant changes.
1. Remove distractions
If your main source of revenue on this page is from people clicking on your affiliate link, then consider removing all other ads and things that just clutter up the page. You could even consider making this a page with less "stuff" in the sidebar, or even removing your sidebar completely.
For my site, the page in question has both Amazon affiliate revenue and Adsense revenue. In the past 90 days, this page has made $171.22 in Amazon affiliate revenue. In the same time, it has made only a tiny Adsense revenue. What I did was remove the left sidebar in my article as this contained a big ad. I also removed Adsense from within the post. 
2. Make sure that your page answers every question users could have on the subject. There are several ways to do this. AnswerThePublic is a great way to find out what questions people are asking about this subject. You can also do searches on Yahoo answers or see what Google suggests in "people also ask" searches. In our last episode, I also wrote about a way to use SEMRush and Quora to do keyword research like this.
In my case, I plugged my topic into AnswerThePublic and found several questions on the subject that I had not answered in my post. I added some headings to my post and covered those topics. Then, I did a search for this product and explored the "People Also Ask" Box. After a few more paragraphs of writing my article is extremely thorough.
3. Make sure your page looks good on mobile.
4. Use GSC Search Analytics data to find opportunities for better rankings. Go to Google Search Console --> Search Traffic --> Search Analytics and take a look at the queries that are ranking for this page. Are there any keywords for which you are ranking on the first page but aren't well optimized for? Can you make some on-page changes?
For my site, I found that I was ranking around #4-6 for several variations of my keyword plus the word "reviews". And these searches had a lot of impressions. However, I didn't have the word reviews in my title tag and I didn't have a clear section in my article about reviews. I made some more changes here.
5. Look for opportunities to improve your CTR (Click Through Rate). Do a search for some of your main keywords for this page and take a look at the snippet that Google is showing for you and for your competitors. Do any of the snippets stand out as really enticing? Are there changes you can make to your meta description (which is often used by Google for the snippet) that would make your snippet on Google more enticing?
I didn't make any specific changes here on my site.
6. Can you win any featured snippets? I wrote a thorough post on ways that you can win featured snippets.
For my site, I was already winning some featured snippets. However, I looked for opportunities to win more by searching for questions that related to my article (i.e. How, Who, What, Where, Why, Is, Can). I did find a couple of places in which I could possibly gain a featured snippet by writing a better, more concise answer than what already exists. I've done this and have submitted my page to Google's index again. Hopefully I'll get a few more featured snippets.
These steps are really just good, basic SEO put into practice. I would love for you to try to increase conversions on one of your pages and let me know how things went by leaving a comment. In a future episode I'll share my results with you.

Recommended Reading

The 3 most important steps in a website https migration 
This is a good post for anyone who is considering migrating to https - from GoFish Digital.
Monitor when Google updates their cache of a webpage
This is a really great idea. I haven't tried it yet, but likely will soon. Tom Blackshire writes about how he used a tool called Visual Ping to get an alert when Google updated the cache of a particular page.
SEO Proposals: Pain, Progress and Starting Completely Over in 2017
This is an interesting read written by Dan Sure in which he talks about the process he goes through to get clients. It sounds like Dan really goes above and beyond by offering a certain amount of free consulting in order to prove his worth. I think that this can work in some cases, but I can really see people taking advantage of this as well. Still, if you are an SEO consultant, this is an interesting article to read.
What you need to know about ads in the 3-pack
If your business has a local presence, then it may be worthwhile taking a look at the new Adwords placements in the local pack. I have one client who is doing this and has seen a nice increase in conversions as a result. Joy Hawkins does a good writeup here.
How we fought webspam - webspam report 2016
This post by Google gives some statistics on how they fought webspam last year. Some interesting points:

  • Google sent over 9 million messages to webmasters about webspam last year. Wow.
  • They sent out over 10,000 manual actions for spammy structured markup.
  • Out of 180,000 spam reports submitted, 52% were acted upon.

Facebook for local business - Creative ways to grow.  If you do any Facebook marketing at all, this post will help you. It explains in great detail how a dentist used Facebook marketing to grow her business incredibly.

I would love for you to leave a comment on any of the topics I have written today. Also, if there is something you would like to see more (or less) of in this newsletter, please let me know.
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