The Week In Search SEO News 10 Mar 2017
Google has rolled out a significant, but unconfirmed update Fred, while AMP comes to Asian search engines, Gary Illyes “Good Comments Good”, YouTube and other embeds may cause PageSpeed issues and Google starts to notify webmasters of technical issues with incorrect AMP Hostnames.

Google Update Fred

Summary:

  • There was a large, but unconfirmed, update on  March 8th / 9th, named “Fred” in lieu of any official name.
  • The update appeared to target black-hat sites with dubious quality link profiles.
  • The update also appeared to target ad-heavy, low value content sites – although these may also be the lucky recipients of low-quality link profiles.
  • Reports of the update appear to cover large swathes of sites rather than targeting individual pages or sections.

Actions to take:

  1. Review organic traffic for the middle of w/e March 10th looking for substantial drops.
  2. Review organic traffic for important pages or sections for the middle of w/e March 10th looking for substantial drops.
  3. Review organic rankings and search visibility for important keywords and topics.
  4. Investigate any substantial drops to sections, or individual pages by doing Gap Analysis to a comparable period of time.
  5. If affected, review the pages / sections hit and if ad-heavy / low-quality content, improve the quality.
  6. If affected by poor quality backlinks, review the backlink profile and disavow individual pages / domains.

Discussion:

Although this update appears to mainly target black-hat / knowingly poor-quality sites, it is still possible for a white hat site to be caught up in false positives. As Google has not officially admitted to an update, a Reconsideration Request or other appeals, will do little to benefit.

Google does review the impact of its updates and make adjustments post go-live, but it is still better to be proactive and produce good quality content, linked to by good-quality sources, with a relatively clean backlink profile.

It is also possible to think you have been hit by an update, but in actual fact, you have just been impacted by seasonal, or other natural, variations.

More info:

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AMP Comes to Asian Search Engines

Summary:

  • Baidu, Sogou and Yahoo! Japan to connect to AMP pages.
  • Enables AMP to be served to new audience of 1 billion additional people.
  • They join Bing, Pinterest, LinkedIn et al in connecting to AMP, and Tumblr, which is about to launch its implementation.

Actions to take:

  1. Use AMP if you have a strong traffic presence from any of these Asian search engines.
  2. In fact, if you’re not using AMP, then you really should strongly consider doing so.

Discussion:

AMP, launched in late 2015, is coming to fruition. Like XML Sitemaps, Schema.org, and other Google supported frameworks, it has taken time to be recognised by other players. Its march appears to be inexorable and as things stand currently, will be a required technology / standard in the very near future.

More info:

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Website Comments ~= Website Health

Summary:

  • Gary Illyes posted on Twitter that “quality comments can be a signal of a healthy website”.
  • He didn’t define “quality” unfortunately.

Actions to take:

  1. Where possible, allow and encourage commenting on website articles.
  2. Moderate the comments to remove spam / obvious trolling.
  3. Don’t over-moderate – it kills discussion, and a perfect comment profile can be just as bad as a very low quality one.
  4. Don’t try to astro-turf comments.
  5. Avoid relying on 3rd-party comment solutions which don’t tie the comments back to your content.

Discussion:

Like many things, signs of interactivity and engagement with users are taken by Google to be a positive sign of a decent quality website.

As they are not the only signal in use though, they should not be relied on in place of good quality content, so this tidbit should be filed under “Nice to have, but not essential”.

If you do get large volumes of comments on articles, find a way for Google to read them and understand them as part of the article.

More info:

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YouTube Embeds May Slow Page Speed

Summary:

  • There is the potential for YouTube (and other embeds) to slow down your page speed.
  • Google does not exempt its own services from calculating PageSpeed metrics.

Actions to take:

  1. If affected, consider using other services to host video, including your own servers.
  2. Be aware that embeds are taken into account when calculating overall PageSpeed
  3. Design pages to enable the fastest load times for content.

Discussion:

My preference is always to host video content on-site first before using YouTube as a secondary distribution channel, rather than uploading to YouTube and then embedding on-page.

This is because you can control your own loading speed (CDNs, servers, code) etc and also because any organic search equity from the content is passed to your site – a YouTube video does not pass much, if any, direct equity back to the originating site.

As a general rule, you should also try to keep embeds to a minimum. Popular ones which use super-efficient caching and CDNs are usually fine, but dynamic ones on congested services tend to drag your page speed lower than optimal.

More info:

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GSC Notifications for Incorrect Hostnames with AMP Viewer URLs

Summary:

  • Google is starting to issue notifications through Google Search Console of instances where the AMP Source URL is mismatched – usually a CDN URL.
  • Affects those who do not use Google to host the pages.

Actions to take:

  1. Use a CNAME sub-domain for your AMP source URLs if using a CDN.
  2. Make the CNAME sensible (eg amp.yourdomain.com). This is a onetime change.

Discussion:

This is one of the little twisty nuggets caused by the way AMP is set-up (similar to the AMP overstating analytics issue) conflicting with the way the web in general is set up.

In most instances CDN delivery of content is seamless: the browser deals with it and shows the content coming from xyz.com rather than randomurl.acdn.com. In this case Google’s implementation of AMP is literal and strict, so the only way round it is to CNAME the CDN.

At least it’s a one time change and makes it easier to manage if and when your CDN service changes.

More info:

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