What’s happened this week?
Google Webspam Report 2016
- It seems to be reporting season from Google releasing their overview of fighting webspam through 2016. There are many nuggets of information contained within.
- There was an increase of 32% in hacked sites (as per Google’s security overview recently).
- Google took action on over 10,000 sites than spammed structured markup
- Google took action against over 90,000 user-submitted spam reports.
- Google sent over 9 million notes to webmasters regarding webspam issues on their sites.
Actions to take:
- If you spot webspam, submit it to Google.
- Take note and act upon any webmaster notification sent via Google Search Console or Google Analytics.
- Read the various Google help pages (linked to from their article), to help protect / combat / recover from webspam issues.
Webspam is Google’s achilles heel. They would dearly like to get rid of it to make their index cleaner, so that both Google and users have more trust in their rankings, and also generally, to make the web a better and safer place to be. Some of Google’s greatest algorithmic shifts have been driven by a desire to reduce webspam
In almost all instances, Google makes a value judgement, based on what they believe should be included in their index. Some of those value judgements would be widely accepted, eg malicious software downloads, others perhaps, would cause more of a debate – what is a “deceptive” download.
Of course, from a user perspective, it would be good if Google started to take action against overly-aggressive advertising, but more on that in a minute.
50% of Ranking URLs in Mozcast now https
- The ranking data in Mozcast now shows over 50% of URLs use the https protocol.
- The rankings are taken from 10,000 keywords across 20 verticals.
- Other sources seem to generally agree with this data.
Actions to take:
- If you’re not using https, you should be.
- If you have any logins, or take any personal information, on site, you really should use https.
- Did I mention you should be using https?
There is a degree of self-fulfilling prophecy about the move to https://. Google recommends it, webmasters act…. Then hey presto +50% of ranking URLs are https. There will be a lot of commentary around the importance of using https for ranking, but it hasn’t yet got to that “penalised” state of affairs just yet.
Moving to https should not be that taxing an affair, unless parts of your website are badly coded.
One under-looked issue with https vs http, is if your site is on http and you get traffic from an https site, that traffic will be recorded as Direct rather than Referrer traffic, as the referrer is dropped when swapping over from https to http. Therefore a change to https will correctly account for traffic – although it still won’t get over the Not Provided farrago.
Google Chrome Ad Blocker on the way
- The Wall Street Journal has reported that Google Chrome is planning to add an Ad Blocker to Google Chrome.
- Thoughts are it will block annoyances such as auto-play videos, pop-ups and prestitial ads, based on the Coalition for Better Ads Better Ads Standards.
- Google has not confirmed this.
Actions to take:
- If you rely on these types of ads for revenue, then you had better start making plans for alternative revenue sources.
- Stop annoying users with overly-aggressive ads. Some users hate all ads, most don’t mind reasonable ads, pretty much everyone hates aggressive ads. Why annoy a potential customer?
- Although Google has the Ad-Heavy parts of its algorithm, it doesn’t really have an Annoying Ad Algorithm. Logic dictates that type of update would probably follow.
Ad Blocking Discussion:
Blocking horrible ads is generally a good thing. The ad world has become overly reliant on poor quality ads. Most users are okay with reasonable ads, although quite a few dislike some of the tracking employed.
Of course, most of the internet believes that AdSense ads will still be allowed through, although it has to be said that most of the ad behaviours likely to be blocked are already not allowed to AdSense advertisers.
It should be noted that the WSJ is owned by NewsCorp / Rupert Murdoch, and they have a significant interest in the rival ad network AppNexus, so it is possible this change could impact their revenues, depending on their tolerance for annoying ads. NewsCorp has a fairly long history of disliking the power of Google. Of course, visiting the WSJ gives a “subscribe now” overlay, which greys out the rest of the page, and which may or may not be targeted by this kind of update.
Google Analytics Launches New Home View
- Rolling out over the next few weeks will be a new Home view in Google Analytics.
- The Home view is the new default landing page when you first enterAnalytics
- There are snippets of data from a curated set of analytics reports preceded by helpful questions indicating what the data is about.
- Existing analytics reports, and access to them, have not changed.
Actions to take:
- Keep an eye on your analytics installation, this will be rolling out over the next few weeks.
- It’s not yet clear if this is customisable, if it is, change it so that the metrics you really care about are present.
- If it isn’t customisable, set up a dashboard to give you the data you really want to see.
- Keep an eye out for similar stylistic changes to existing reports.
This is a pleasant move from Google. The addition of questions to highlight what the data is about demonstrates a key issue with the data: namely, Google Analytics users really don’t know what they are looking at. This is indicative of a UI / information architecture problem, which can always be a problem when dealing with data, however complex.
Advanced users are likely to already have various dashboards set up with key metrics being displayed, and reported automatically. If they are also sensible they will also have set up alerts to highlight key shifts if the metrics – although the lengthy time it takes to process and send these alerts lessens their impact somewhat
The Analytics UI has been poor for a while. Too much data, not enough simple explanation and issues on desktop / mobile when dealing with screen sizes and usability. The Mobile App is good for a quick look, but deep diving takes a proper screen – that is annoying. This is symptomatic of if being a free product really.
Google Mobile First Index to affect Link Graph
- Following on from the quality neutral mobile-first discussions, Google is looking to limit the impact to the link graph, when the Mobile First Index (finally) rolls out.
- There is an expectation of some impact, but nothing major – although they are Google’s definitions of “some” and “nothing major”.
Actions to take:
- Ensure that key links are both present and visible on mobile.
- Use breadcrumbs in-line and visible on mobile.
- Keep valuable content with links in it visible on mobile.
- Reconfigure, or replace navigation modules so navigation links do not just disappear into a hamburger. Frankly, it’s a pain to tap the hamburger, tap the link (or drop-down) on mobile anyway.
The most likely change to the Link Graph for the mobile first index comes from the somewhat odd view that links, especially menus need to be hidden / removed on mobile sites. Google has frequently said that on a mobile view of a website, it always gives preference to what can be *seen* by the user, and googlebot has become pretty good at rendering a website into a “view”.
So, if your mobile site puts all navigation links into a hamburger, then those by default will be hidden from googlebot’s rendering eyes and their value to the link graph will lessen. Likewise, if your mobile site removes sections of content from an out-dated view that mobile UX dictates very limited content, then any links within those content sections will disappear and potentially will be removed from the Link Graph.
Webmasters will need to come up with smarter ways of linking navigationally that pleases UX and Design gurus, while actually working for users as well.
Clearly Google is working on workarounds for this to ease us all into a mobile-first world, probably by still counting desktop visibility of links in some way, but even so, over time there will be a shift towards the mobile-only view.
Bits & Pieces
- Moz shared an excellent study on ranking (relatively) quickly for a high-volume keyword
- It took a team of three, three months of dedicated work to do it, showing the kind of resources and application needed.
- Hats off to the guys for taking this on and publishing the case study.
- Using the “info:URL” command on Google will return the URL which Google is actually using for indexing in cases where the SERPs display URL may be different. This is handy for canonicalisation issues, or fixing incorrect linkage.
- A super long article on SE Land reminding us that images, and proper optimisation thereof will often yield the best page speed wins.
- Optimisation is a big thing, as is proper caching and CDNs for serving media content quickly and efficiently.