TWIS SEO News & Updates w/e 08 Sept 2017

What’s the latest SEO News & Updates this week?

Wow, what an exciting bunch of stories for this week’s SEO News & Updates.

Google gave us the skinny on critical factors for the Mobile First Index.

I was relieved to find that I could edit Google My Business listings directly in search.

Google is now using AMP URLs for Featured Snippets.

The Google Search Console Beta program expanded – were you included?

Google Local rolled back its Possum Update at the end of August. To the releif of some local business owners.

The SEO Bits and Pieces really delivered with a a couple of cracking nuggets on social media and links. Good reading if you ask me!

#SEO #SEONews #MobileFirst #GoogleMyBusiness #FeaturedSnippets #GoogleSearchConsole #GoogleLocal


Google: 4 Things to Get Right for Mobile First Index

Summary:

  • In a bit of a cry for help over the transition to Google’s looming Mobile First Index, Google’s Gary Illyes, tweeted about the need for SEO tool makers to build a Desktop to Mobile Comparison tool to check if a page is Mobile First ready.
  • He listed four areas to focus these comparisons on: critical content, metadata, images and videos, structured data.
  • He would also have included links, but apparently that’s too complicated for SEOs. Hmmm.

Google Critical Things For Mobile First Index

Actions to take:

  1. If you are using a responsive site, you have very little to check, aside from if you are hiding critical elements during the device shift (this is going to cause some issues during the mobile first shift).
  2. Realistically, using a responsive site with the same content available is the least risky way to ensure SEO rankings remain the same after the transition to mobile first indexing.
  3. If you are using separate URLs for your mobile site and your desktop site, then you are really up against it, you need to be very accurate in the way you align elements.
  4. Metadata includes things like href.lang tags, canonical URLs, rel=prev / next, as well as titles, descriptions etc. These should be consistent across desktop and mobile.
  5. Images and videos will be a fun element. Ideally the same images and videos will be available on the mobile experience as the desktop experience. However, in some instances it may make sense to not show some content on mobile, although it should be referenced. Google is making all sorts of re-assuring noises re content and devices: don’t believe them.
  6.  If the same content is surfaced on desktop and mobile then the structured data should be the same across both sets of pages.
  7. “Critical content” is undefined, but it comes down to having the same content available on both – or at least the content surfaced on desktop, which is used for ranking, should be available on mobile.
  8. Links are a bit of a  quagmire. Keep them visible and close to content on all formats.
  9. Click here to contact me to discuss ways to check and make sure your site is ready for Mobile First Indexing..

Discussion:

This should be a matter of some simplicity for the SEO  tool makers. Unfortunately, they do not have a strong record of delivering tools which actually make a difference to your SEO.  They are good at numbers, good at showing data, but not always very good at interpreting this data for insights.

Luckily, this in a number of respects is fairly binary. If “a” is on desktop, is it the same on mobile?, and vice versa. It should be easy to pull together a list of pages where things are not as they should be between mobile and desktop page variants.

The significant challenge will be in the sphere of “critical content”. Google is saying it is accepting of the need to place content into tabs, or accordions on mobile, but on desktop, it is a different matter. So,  it is likely to play out like this: if you have visible content on desktop, and the same content is visible or hidden on mobile, that should be okay. If you think you can stuff tons of spam content into hidden tabs, which don’t show on desktop, you are in for the same world of non-ranking pain.

I’m intrigued by Gary Illyes comment on links. I think this and the content visibility issue are the areas where Google are really struggling to build a link graph that has the same quality as the current methodology. This is likely down to visibility and placement. It gets much harder on a responsive layout for Google to decide which links are important and which should be ignored. There’s a few blog articles just in that subject.

More info:

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New: Edit Google My Business Listings In Search

Summary:

  • If you own a business and have a Google My Business listing, you can now edit certain details directly in the search results.
  • This is triggered when you search for your business and / or your business listing appears.
  • The functionality appears on desktop, or on mobile.
  • Things you can do include modifying business hours, or other business information, add photos, videos, posts, modify other important listing elements.

Google Update GMB Directly From Search

Actions to take:

  1. Log into Google using the same account as manages your Google My Business listing.
  2. Search for your business.
  3. You should get a panel surfacing which allows you to edit your business details.
  4. Google may still check the accuracy verify the information before showing the modifications to other users.
  5. You should make sure you have an accurate and up=to-date Google My Business listing regularly, especially if changes are crowd-sourced..
  6. Click here to contact me to discuss howe to optimise your Google My Business listing.

Discussion:

I’ve long known that if you want people to edit information to keep it up to date, you have to make it ridiculously easy for them to do so. If they face any barriers there will be a steep drop-off much like a conversion rate graphed against funnel steps.

This is a good thing from Google. It ensures it is easy for you to keep your Google My Business listing up to date and ensures Google’s listings are up to date as well.

There are a huge number of issues with Google local listings. Google has scraped them from a number of sources which has led to tremendous inaccuracies and errors. At least if Google manages to keep the verified listings accurate, we’re in with a shot of slightly more accurate results.

More info:

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Google Featured Snippets Link to AMP URLs

Summary:

  • In a small, but interesting update over the last week, Google has changed the Featured Snippet on mobile to link to the AMP variant URL where available.
  • This doesn’t mean that AMP is a ranking factor for the Featured Snippet.
  • At the moment, at least.

Google Featured Snippets AMP URLs

Actions to take:

  1. AMP is not just for your news content any more.
  2. You should also be including your standard article content as AMP pages.
  3. If you are targeting Featured Snippets, in particular, you should be including AMP URLs.
  4. Note that the AMP URL will show if your Featured Snippet was chosen anyway. Having an AMP URL will not change your chances of being a Featured Snippet.
  5. If publishing via AMP URLs be aware of Google Analytics & AMP issues with double-counting and other challengess if AMP content is served from Google’s cache.
  6. Click here to contact me to discuss implementing AMP and incorporating Featured Snippets as part of your content strategy..

Discussion:

Google really is all about speed. AMP is supposed to be about speed on mobile, before we all transition to Progressive Web Apps, but it is also more about the issues caused by so much advertising, some much JavaScript and just so much rubbish loaded onto pages.

I’m not a particular fan of Featured Snippets. I think they steal traffic from the publisher for Google’s benefit with little to nothing in return. I also think half the time they answer only half the question, so their utility is somewhat lacking.

Fortunately, if you have an AMP variant of your Featured Snippet page, you can now have that surface in SERPs and answer half the question in half the time.

I don’t think we’re a million miles away from AMP URLs receiving a small boost in SERPs, but there still needs to be a groundswell towards it from some very big publishers and other results pages.

More info:

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Google Search Console Expands Beta Testers

Summary:

Google Search Console Expands Beta Testers

Actions to take:

  1. Check your email (the one you have verified with Google Search Console) to see if you have access to the beta search console.
  2. Log in, have a look around, tweet a few pics.
  3. Make sure you feedback to Google your thoughts on the new Search Console.
  4. Bearing in mind the rate of development for Google Search Console, if you miss the opportunity to raise some long-dreamed of feature now, you will find it’s another five years before it’s implemented.
  5. Make sure you check out the Index Coverage report. It looks smashing, but may flatter to deceive.
  6. Click here to contact me to discuss using Google Search Console data to improve your SEO.

Discussion:

Google is going for it with the Beta Search Console. I have a few question marks over whether this is designed to win over the webmaster community before release, or whether it is seeking genuine feedback.

The index coverage report looks great. I really hope it lives up to expectation, but like a lot of things, I feel the report is likely to give you 50%-60% of the information you need and frustratingly leave the rest out.

Still, when it comes to Google, SEO and surfacing in the rankings, the more information from Google, the better, frankly.

More info:

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Google Local Possum Update Rolled Back

Summary:

  • Joy Hawkins reported discovering that the Google Local Possum update from August 2016 had been rolled back around 22nd August 2017.
  • The Possum update filtered businesses which shared, or appeared to share multiple businesses out of a single location / entity. EG those from virtual office suites.
  • As with all updates, there was plenty of collateral damage, which appears to have been reversed in a number of instances.

Google Local Possum Update Reversed

Actions to take:

  1. Check your Google Local 3-pack / 5-pack rankings if you were filtered by the Possum update.
  2. If you were, and you are back, cheer from the rooftops.
  3. If you were and are not back, your options are as they were before:
  4. Clearly disambiguate yourself from the item which is causing you to be filtered: address, phone number, or business name.
  5. Submit the changes and wait for the Google Local team to update. It may be some while.
  6. Click here to contact me to discuss getting your business listed in Google Local.

Discussion:

Google has issues with similarity and duplication. We know that from the main organic search results. Unfortunately addresses, phone numbers, locations are (or can be) a little harder to deduplicate and disambiguate for the Local team, and there are plenty of businesses out there who are busy taking advantage of Google by claiming virtual offices as staffed offices, or opening hours that don’t exist, or keywords in the business name – all sorts of things.

Usually a rollback of a filter from Google means that it has developed some new technique or technology which allows it much finer granularity on things it should / shouldn’t filter. A while ago, Google issued a reminder re virtual offices, and there is a reasonable chance that was a business’s chance to get itself cleaned up before this change came into effect. There is also a chance is was a standard Google mumbling about playing by the rules.

More info:

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Bits & Pieces

SEO Bits & Pieces w/e 08 Sept 2017

  • Well. There was a tremendous stink this week, when a one-time Forbes reporter (they apparently have them) claimed that Google reps had specifically told them in 2011 that adding Google’s +1s to their pages would increase their rankings. Not likely. More likely: non-tech reporter and sales people get slightly confused and add 2+2 to make 15. Correlation and causation strike again.
  • Google ignore tones of links, but it’s impossible for mere mortal webmasters and SEOs to figure out which ones we do. Apparently only people who’ve worked on Search Quality might have a chance. (He may be right about knowing exactly, but it still doesn’t mean others aren’t in the right area).
  • Up to 30% of Google’s results don’t get clicked on. There we have it. Nearly 1 in 3 searches result in no click. Either the information fulfils the query, as in Featured Snippets, business phone numbers and the like, or the results are just not what the user wanted, or they remembered their toast was on fire. The other reason is all the scrapers querying which don’t generate a click either.
  • Google Adwords is now rolling out AMP Landing Pages to all Adwords users, as we discussed at the end of May, or thereabouts. Hooray! Quick Ads.
  • Click here to contact me to discuss any of these SEO Bits and Pieces and what they could mean for your business further.

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TL;DR

  • There are four (or five) areas you really want to get right for mobile first indexing. Luckily, they’re only technical, finicky and exacting,
  • You can now edit your Google My Business listing directly in search.
  • Google Featured Snippets have started to link to AMP URLs, but no boost for rankings, yet.
  • Google Search Console is widening the net of beta testers for its upcoming update.
  • The Google Local Possum update has been rolled back for some who were possibly caught up in it unreasonably. Maybe.

Thanks for reading. If you would like to discuss what these changes mean for your web property, or would like to know how to implement them, please feel free to contact me.

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