TWIS SEO News & Updates w/e 6th October 2017

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

If you read the very latest SEO News and Updates for w/e 6th October 2017, you will discover the following fabulous stories, all with Key Issue Summaries, Key Actions Lists, as well as major Insights and Discussion pieces as well:

#SEO #SEONews #Google #MobileFirst #Apple #AdStrategy #SERP #ClickThroughRates


Google Ends First Click Free – Allows Cloaked Spam Instead

Key Issues Summary:

  • As we revealed in Google Ending First Click Free, Google has now ended the First Click Free program for news publishers.
  • Google has replaced First Click Free with a program called “Flexible Sampling”.
  • Flexible Sampling works in two ways: firstly, it allows publishers to restrict content access after a defined number of views in a defined time-period – eg 3 articles a day, or 10 articles a month.
  • Alternatively publishers may show lead-in or teaser content, before requiring subscription for full access.
  • Google have updated their Google webmaster guidelines to cover this and have provided new paywall structured data, which subscription sites with paywalls will need to use to avoid being treated as cloaking spammers.

Google Ends First Click Free

Key Actions List:

  1. If you are currently using First Click Free to manage user access to paywalled subscription content, you need to modify your systems to act differently.
  2. You need to review Google’s flexible sampling announcement on their webmaster blog.
  3. You need to implement their structured data markup for subscription and paywall sites.
  4. You need to test whether lead-in content works best for your site, or metering the content available.
  5. If choosing lead-in content, you need to test content length to find the best length to encourage user action.
  6. If choosing metered content, you need to test the number of articles and time-length to discern the best combination.
  7. There is no “golden rule” about these things.
  8. Click here to contact me to discuss how to migrate from First Click Free to Flexible Sampling.

Insights & Discussion:

Sigh. Google is giving in to the cloaking spammers and allowing publishers to restrict access to content after a certain number of views, or only provide an introductory snippet instead. Describing this on Google’s blog as “Enabling more high quality content for users” is laughable.

This is bad for the user, and bad for Google, which really appears to be steering away from its lofty mission to index the world’s content.  In particular, I cannot reconcile this move with their statement on the mission page that they want to “maximise access to information” by making a “commitment to a free and open web”.

If publishers truly wanted to survive in the new economy, they would already have made significant changes away from their bloated and expensive infrastructure and would have brought people on board who know how to make money on the web, rather than people in fancy hats. I have been a publisher, I know acceptable profit can be made, even when you giving a lot of product away for free.

As a result of this, it probably means there will be more cloaked spam on the web with poorer search results. Publishers will struggle to implement and more content will be blocked from Google’s search results.

This may pull more publishers back to Google, who had drifted away to Facebook before discovering that is not a solution. This may also push more users to Facebook as Google’s search results become choked with cloaked spam.

More Information:

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Danny Sullivan Joins Google In An Undefined PR Role

Key Issues Summary:

  • There was much excitement in the search engine marketing, and SEO world, when Danny Sullivan announced he was joining Google in an “undefined role”.
  • Danny Sullivan stepped down from his role as advisor to Third Door Media, owner of Search Engine Land, which Danny started and edited for many years. I covered that in the story SEO Departures: The End is Not Nigh
  • There is a perception amongst the search community that Danny Sullivan will be the new Matt Cutts. This is incorrect.
  • The role is to “serve as some sort of public liaison for search”.

Danny Sullivan Joins Google

Key Actions List:

  1. Well, if you have Danny’s number on speed dial, give him a call to start bending his ear about how Google bugs you.
  2. If you don’t, you may be able to start a conversation with Danny on one of the various social channels. I’m taking bets on Danny re-activating his Google+ channel.
  3. Until the role is defined, there isn’t much else to do to be honest.
  4. Don’t expect him to be a replacement for Matt Cutts. He’s not.
  5. Click here to contact me to discuss how to interpret Google’s missives and communications.

Insights & Discussion:

So, Danny Sullivan, erstwhile respectable spokesman of the search community, has taken the silver dollar and joined Google. This is great for him, I’m really pleased.

I’m also saddened that the expectation on Danny to be the new Matt Cutts will be vastly over-indexed. Danny is nowhere near as technical as Matt (who effectively wrote the safe content search filter, a masterful piece of linguistic & other signals sorting and engineering) . What is also clear is that Google expects Danny to perform a more PR role.

As you can see from various recent announcements, Google has adopted more of a “for your convenience” PR puff stance, which rarely works. Employing a respected industry spokesman to do the puffing is a well-worn tactic which may or may not work, depending on how long the heroic glow lasts.

I really am trying not to be cynical about this, but Google has been such a disappointment recently that I’m finding it hard not to take the view that Google is trying to schmooze all over webmasters yet again.

Of course, the guys who currently provide webmaster support and contact may not be feeling a million dollars either.

More Information:

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Google Starts Testing Mobile First Index

Key Issues Summary:

  • News leaked this week that Google is already testing its mobile first index live on unsuspecting search users.
  • Google also stated that it may message webmasters who have issues with developing their websites for mobile first. This would likely be through Google Search Console.
  • Google is using this live search results deployment to build classifiers for their algorithms around the similarity of desktop and mobile page versions.

Google Starts Testing Mobile First Index

Key Actions List:

  1. If your website is not mobile-first, now is the time to make it so.
  2. The most straight-forward and safest way to do that is to use responsive web design and ensure that all content on the desktop site is available on the mobile site.
  3. If you use separate mobile and desktop websites, life is about to get tricky as you need to maintain a high degree of similarity between the content bases and meta tag information.
  4. (See Google: Four Things to Get Right for Mobile First Index for more information)
  5. If you do not have a mobile website, and do not have a responsive website, you should prepare for much reduced search visibility.
  6. Click here to contact me to discuss how to check your site for mobile-first readiness.

Insights & Discussion:

This is big news which seems innocuous. It also gives a good insight into how Google now constructs its algorithms.

The number of live search results based on mobile first indexing are not that significant, but it is still a step-change.

What is interesting is that Google is using the results as a test-bed to build their algorithms, trying to identify on the fly if mobile content is the same as desktop content. You would imagine that Google is pulling information from different indices to make this work in the search results.

This means that there isn’t a single index serving results. They are a composite of more than one index and can be interpreted, ranked and displayed on-load. Whatever way you look at it, that is a pretty cool bit of software engineering.

I do have an issue with Google using Google Search Console to communicate to webmasters. I don’t think they achieve their desired results by doing that, and they could do a lot better. I’ll blog about that.

More Information:

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Apple Kills Online Advertising (Nearly)

Key Issues Summary:

  • Apple rolled out iOS 11 and Safari v11 recently with changes in the way the browser stores cookies.
  • This change impacts the way advertising information is handled and stored by browsers, reducing the time held and the way off-domain cookies are held.
  • If you listened to the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the digital spamming advertising industry, you would be convinced the world had ended.
  • It hasn’t. Google has already implemented change on Adwords, and the advertising companies should be able to come up with a whizzy solution shortly.

Apple Kills Online Advertising (Nearly)

Key Actions List:

  1. If you are a publisher, you need to monitor revenue from advertising. It may be impacted by this change from Apple – especially if you have a lot of iOS / Safari users from the US.
  2. If you are an advertiser, you need to review Google’s Adwords changes including modifying your Google analytics tracking scripts.
  3. As an advertiser, you also need to assess impact for retargeting campaigns which may be running and set with ++30 day time boundaries.
  4. You also need to be aware of “digital fingerprinting” which reduces the need for cookies.
  5. Click here to contact me to discuss the ways this change might impact your website and how to deal with it.

Insights & Discussion:

Some advertising is a scourge. Retargeting when you’ve already bought something. Following you round the internet. Or using cross-domain cookies to build detailed profiles on you for bigger, better advertising.

I don’t always think that web advertising is a bad thing. It is if people do not do it well, and just spray. The most annoying thing I think is wasted budget when I get re-advertised on a product I have already bought (from that supplier, or elsewhere), or already decided not to purchase. It is a waste of the advertiser’s time and a waste of the user’s bandwidth and screen real estate. The only beneficiary is the advertising company, who may already know that user has purchased, or made a decision. That is poor practice in my book and in my perfect world it would not exist.

Quite a few years ago the death of the cookie was widely forecast. It still hasn’t happened, but it needs to. The data companies at the time trumpeted about “browser fingerprinting”, but it seems that has not yet come to pass. I wonder what happened to it.

More Information:

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Organic Clicks Going to Paid

Key Issues Summary:

  • This is a decent piece of research and analysis from Moz contributed by Brian Key Wood.
  • According to their stats, since 2015, Organic click-through rates have dropped by 25% on desktop and 55% on mobile.
  • Their assumption is that the disappearing clicks are going to paid search.
  • This is across their set of non-branded e-commerce keywords.
  • This data set is not the complete picture, but it is an interesting set of data.

Organic Clicks Going to Paid Search

Key Actions List:

  1. It is getting more important to be in the Top 3 for organic SERP.
  2. If you cannot make it for high volume queries, you should do it for longer tail queries.
  3. Get ready for the day when there is no organic search result. It is coming.
  4. In the meantime, focus on the volume of traffic from organic search. Do your best to maximise it and do your best to do something with it.
  5. Click here to contact me to discuss how to surface your website in the Top 3 organic search results.

Insights & Discussion:

Really, for the ecommerce category, Product Listing Ads (PLAs) have taken over a large portion of search, especially on mobile. This is the main driver of the drop in organic click-through rates for this market.

It is interesting to compare to other recent reports, such as New Study Shows 20% of Google Clicks Go To Number 1, and Google Adwords CTRs Up But Paid Search Down which talk about how there are fewer click on paid search result, although CTRs are up.

Really the whole business of click through rates is a bit of a mess. There is so much other gubbins published on the SERP that it is almost impossible to aggregate properly. Really the most important metric to keep an eye on is not Organic CTR but how much traffic you actually receive from that listing and what you do with it are the really, really, important things.

More Information:

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SEO Bits & Pieces w/e 6th October 2017

SEO Bits & Pieces w/e 6th October 2017

  • YouTube is changing the rules for external links at the end of videos. You now need to be a member of the YouTube partner program and you must have a minimum of 10,000 total public views. Basically, you need to be popular and have good videos if you want to add links to the end of videos. Booo.
  • Apparently good grammar does not matter too much to Google when ranking search results. This is a good example of Google speaking with forked tongue. If your page is machine generated gibberish (a very poor example of grammar), you will not rank. If you have forgotten to dot an i, or cross a t, you will be fine. The jury is out on whether it’s okay to amusingly split an infinitive.
  • AMP got a bit of a blitz of updates this week. Scrolling animations, video analytics and fluid-ad support, which sounds interesting. So begins the slow decline into bloat, slow, web-congesting bloat. Much like JavaScript. They also tested a blue Instant label in search, as opposed to the dull grey AMP.
  • There is no limit on the number of href.lang attributes that can be used in headers. Well there wouldn’t be. The people who ask some of these questions do not understand how the web works and should not be allowed to use websites.
  • Google is not done announcing future algorithms apparently. Following the amusing frippery around Gary Illyes wanting to call all future Google algorithm updates Fred. This is especially pertinent as there have been a bunch of reports of Google updates in the last month, but Google is remaining tight-lipped about it. I’m very much with Barry Schwartz on this. Google should be much more open about updates that occur.
  • Click here to contact me to discuss these SEO Bits & Pieces and how they might affect your website.

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TL;DR

  • Google has dumped first click free allowing cloaking spammers to rule.
  • Danny Sullivan has joined Google’s Puff PR effort.
  • The Mobile First Index is being tested in Google’s search results.
  • Apple has very nearly killed online advertising.
  • A lot of organic clicks are going to paid now.
  • And some brilliant SEO Bits & Pieces. Fun stuff.

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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