The Week In Search SEO News 07 Apr 2017

What’s happened this week?

Pickings are a little thin on the ground this week Google’s mobile-first index is some way off, fact checking is hoping to overcome fake news, Siri is bigger than Yahoo or Bing on mobile, Google Customer Reviews is replacing Trusted Stores and Ask.com left its server status open for a while and a few more bits and pieces.

#MobileSearch #TechnologyStrategy #GoogleSearch #StarRatings


Google Makes Fact Check Search Symbol Available Globally

Summary:

  • Google has announced that its little fact-check symbol is now available and displayed globally in all languages.
  • This is in response to a large swathe of “fake news” stories circulating, and the public’s propensity to believe it if it’s on the front page of Google.
  • This is a significant collaboration between Google, Fact-Checking websites and other providers of structured data.

How to get Google’s Fact Check Symbol:

  1. If your website is a fact-checking expert on a particular topic, consider using the new schema.org claim-checking markup. Google’s usage will be algorithmically determined.
  2. If regularly the subject of fake stories / fake news, then counter it with rebuttals on an authoritative source.
  3. Consider adding the relevant fact-checking websites to rebuttal sources, to request their fact-checking expertise be put to work.

Fake News & Fact Checking Discussion:

Google has a number of issues here. Google wants to be seen as a source of authority, but its search results are often viewed as the gospel truth, when they may be out-dated, inaccurate, or the result of an algorithmic SNAFU. Clearly that’s a bad experience for the user.

This initiative is however pretty impressive, involving an update to schema.org. A number of fact-checking websites have been included algorithmically and more are able to join – which is a kind of sop to make sure other sources of “truth” don’t feel excluded.

There is one glaring issue which won’t surface for a while however: the fact-checking websites are algorithmically determined. Anything driven by an algorithm can be gamed. It will only be a short while before the gamers work out how to push it and ensure that their version of the truth is given some authority. From there, it’s a short hop, skip and a jump to a curated list of authority sites and claims of bias from whichever side’s ‘fake’ news is debunked.

More info:

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Mobile First Index Delayed until Late 2017 / Early 2018

Summary:

  • Google is equivocating about the launch of its Mobile First Index.
  • Look for it towards the end of the year, more likely Q1 / Q2 2018.
  • Delays are normal in any big software project, but this is starting to drag considerably.

Actions to take:

  1. Use the small stay of impending doom to make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Google has made a number of tools available.
  2. In fact, use the time to move to a mobile-first approach.

Mobile First Discussion:

I’m very interested in some of the issues around the mobile-first index. It seems to be taking forever to deliver, mainly because Google wants to deliver a “quality-neutral” update. Considering the supposed existing interchangeability of the mobile / desktop index, this indicates that quality isn’t interchangeable and that, frankly, mobile websites really aren’t up to scratch in the real world. A good portion of users would probably agree with this.

Google may be engineering around the problem to allow poor mobile websites to still be present in SERPs, or it may just be allowing enough websites to get properly up to speed with mobile to enable it to launch without destroying the quality of its results. There is probably a cross-over point at which Google would feel comfortable launching the mobile-first index.

Google is also pushing mobile-first for a variety of other reasons such as having a mobile OS, but it is really struggling with the laggards of poorly designed websites.

More info:

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Apple’s Siri has bigger share of mobile search than Yahoo or Bing

Summary:

  • Siri identified as having 6% of mobile search on a smartphone.
  • Yahoo & Bing identified as having 2%
  • Small sample, but is reasonably indicative.
  • Google still 80%-90% of search.

How to optimise for natural language search:

  1. Prepare (if you haven’t already) to be found in what’s being termed Virtual Personal Assistant search.
  2. Optimise websites for natural language search for Bing and Google, but prepare for structured search along the way.

VPA Search Discussion:

The data is small, but indicative. VPA Search is the coming trend which will only get bigger. Google, Apple and others recognise the limitations of typing on a mobile keyboard, so are rushing to make their Virtual Personal Assistants good enough that users don’t have to type.

This means natural language search will eventually rule in terms of search queries, however in the meantime, users will either learn to repeat their searches, until the VPA understands their accent, or they will learn to use more systematic language to drive their searches.

Siri uses Bing and other sources for its primary sources of information, but this can be swayed by expressly asking it to search “google”.

More info:

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Google Trusted Stores Replaced by Google Customer Reviews

Summary:

  • New Google Customer Reviews replace Trusted Stores using post-puchase email survey.
  • Symbols will be primarily used on Adwords-related products, but can be loaded onto the shop’s website
  • Useful way to include all customers in the reviews process, and have them as verified purchasers

Actions to take:

  1. Follow the steps in the Google Adwords blog post
  2. Since this is email & verified purchaser driven, be careful not to overload users with review requests if this is already part of the transaction workflow.
  3. Take note of reviews and action any points for improvement.

Discussion:

It seems like reviews and star-ratings are really taking over the web. This is a good thing on the whole, however care needs to be taken that users are not constantly bombarded with “please review us” notifications from various sources. Also to prevent review ennui from setting in, make sure to act upon valid feedback and where possible continue the conversation with the customer.

More info:

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Ask.com Server-Status Open for a while

Summary:

  • User search queries were revealed for a while when Ask.com’s apache server-status page was left publicly accessible.
  • No personally identifiable information was available.

Actions to take:

  1. Watch out for “user-search secrets revealed” type stories.
  2. Ignore them, it was open for too short a time.
  3. Always make sure you lock up admin pages, and make sure they are checked as part of any reboot / restart / relaunch procedure.

Discussion:

This was a potential customer black-eye for Ask.com, although they did close the hole pretty quickly, and no personally identifiable information was available.

There will have been a few user search queries seen which would have been revealing, but not quite as extensive, or as interesting as the 2006 AOL Search leak.

It’s quite surprising sometimes how these little things, like server security, can be left open, or left unchecked (and get discovered on the web!)…

More info:

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Bits & Pieces

  • Google doesn’t value bounce rate as a ranking metric.
    • Of course, it doesn’t, it doesn’t have direct access to the data.
    • It does have access however to what the user does after returning to SERPs, which indicates how well the page fulfilled the user’s query: click the next link; refine the search; search something else completely; go away.
    • H/T SE Roundtable
  • Google ignores the Priority Field and Last-Modified Date in XML Sitemaps
    • I think we all knew that didn’t we? These fields are for entertainment purposes only.
    • H/T SE Roundtable
  • Local pack is responsive to user queries
    • This is actually quite interesting. If you type in “XYZ business + phone number”, the Local Pack alters to give more prominence to these details.
    • Now, what would be really handy, would be if they analysed search queries for businesses and (say) knew that 80% of searchers were looking for the phone number. If they had that data, they could vary the information given prominence to reflect the information most people are looking for. I haven’t seen this yet.
    • H/T (and pics) SE Roundtable

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