What’s happened this week?
In The Week In Search SEO Update for 26th May 2017 we have Google Warning About Spammy Article Links; An Update to the Google Update of 17th May; A study showing Yelp Converts Better than Google or Facebook; AMP seriously speeding up pages and ads; information about SEO Over Optimisation; and some exceptionally interesting Bits and Pieces.
#SEO #LinkBuilding #GoogleUpdates #Conversions #AMP
Google Warns About Spammy Article Links
- Google published a “reminder” about spammy links contained in articles on their webmaster blog.
- It has seen an increase in these types of activities conducted at scale, either the same, or similar, articles published across many different websites, or multiple articles published on the same host.
- The articles and links in question are those where the sole intent of publishing is to create large-scale links back to the author’s site.
- There is no algorithm change related to spammy article links: yet.
How to avoid Spammy Article Links:
- If you are not publishing articles at-scale, there is little to worry about. Keep on publishing.
- Avoid stuffing keyword-laden links into articles. Link naturally.
- Avoid re-publishing the same articles across many different sites – vary them, or use rel=canonical / rel=nofollow.
- Avoid writing exclusively for a small number of sites / traffic hubs.
- Write articles which add value to the user by informing or educating.
- Don’t write articles purely for the sake of garnering links.
- Contact me if you would like assistance creating a long-term article strategy.
Spammy Links Discussion:
Links are the bane of Google’s existence. They still play a primary role in algorithmically ranking Google’s index of webpages, but they are still way too easily gamed. Google, aside from knowing about high-profile names and systems, doesn’t really yet have an answer to this thorny issue. It prefers to err on the side of “not really spam” and in doing so allows the spammers a wedge to drive into the gap.
We’ve been through devaluations of Paid Links, Sitewide Links, PR & Directory Links and now we’re onto articles – which have been hijacked in the name of Content Marketing.
Article content should be just that. Expertly written articles which would get published, shared or linked to on their own merits, rather than as part of an artificial link-building process. Google says: Google: Most Sites Rank Without Link Building
The worrying thing when Google publishes an article like this is that it has a chilling effect on the creation and distribution of knowledge – people become too scared to write, share and publish their content, leaving a vacuum for the spammers to fill. The web is already filled with enough spam, and Google, as yet, doesn’t have an algorithmic answer to it.
Expect some sort of algorithm update in the future, which will devalue the content of the link-builders and the link-givers. It may take 12-18 months for them to have it ready for prime-time, or it may be three months away, but it will come.
Google Update 17th May
- The algorithm shift reported by various sources and discussed in last week’s SEO Update, appears to be a core algorithm update.
- There has still been no official confirmation from Google. This may have been a “tweak” with fairly large-scale impact.
- The update appears to focus on content quality and ads obscuring content.
Actions to take:
- Check your analytics, if you saw a sudden drop in traffic around 17th May, you were likely impacted by this.
- If impacted, review whether it was site-wide, section-wide, or an impact at page-level.
- Review search impressions / search clicks in Google Search Console to discover if impacted at the level of an individual keyword, groups of keywords, or across the board.
- Once the pages / content has been identified, review for poor User Experience / Content Quality. Look for thin articles, repeated content, and overly-aggressive ads.
- Either rework the ads so they are not so aggressive and rework the content so it is better quality, or noindex the pages, so they are removed from the index.
- Ensure any updated pages are included in an XML Sitemap submitted to Google Search Console with a correct Last-Modified Date. If the site is particularly large, consider creating an individual XML Sitemap listing the affected pages.
- Contact me if you would like assistance in assessing the impact of and / or recovering from this Google update.
Google Updates like this are always hard to pin down. The whole ranking algorithm hasn’t changed, but parts of it are likely to have. Google often just describes these kinds of updates as run-of-the-mill, which usually means that an element of the algorithm was tweaked and the effects of that change were fairly wide and large-scale. The scale of the changes may be unintended.
There is an element of confirmation bias in analysing the sites that drop – we see the issues that we want to see. The sites that drop and require assistance may also be doing SEO in a fairly aggressive manner, which again causes the perceived issues to stick out like a sore thumb.
In the absence of any contravening data though, you have to go on what’s in front of you. If the sites / pages affected all have low-quality content and overly-aggressive ads, then the likelihood is that is what Google was targeting in this instance.
Regardless of any updates, the best way to rank in Google is always to build good quality content which does not rely on overly-aggressive advertising strategies.
Yelp Converts Better Than Google or Facebook
- New Nielsen survey finds that 92% of consumers purchase after visiting Yelp, 42% within a day, 79% within a week.
- The survey was commissioned by Yelp, so a pinch of salt is advised.
- Yelp (and other review sites) are lower in the sales funnel than Google or Facebook.
Actions to take:
- Ensure your site is listed on Yelp and other business review sites with accurate and up-to-date information.
- Ensure someone in the business with a vested interest in the outcome is tasked with responding to user reviews and resolving customer issues.
- At a minimum, aim to maintain ratings and quality at a level similar to, or slightly better than your local or direct competitors.
- Don’t post fake reviews, on your site or your competitors.
- If you would like help in understanding the consumer journey for your customers, or improving listings and reviews, contact me.
There is a slight element of teaching Grandma to suck eggs with this not-so-startling revelation. Clearly the survey being commissioned by Yelp may have issues with independence, but it still a useful reminder. It is likely that Yelp will use this information in ad sales pitches to relevant brands.
The fact that users use review sites in their purchase decision should not come as a surprise to anyone, but this survey lacks clarity around the final movements of the user – whether they search Google, hop to Yelp, check on Facebook and then buy, or whether they go to Yelp and purchase directly from there. You would have thought that if Yelp was the last-click provider they would be shouting about it long and loud.
Regardless of this, using Yelp and other local business information / review sites are clearly important to a user’s final purchase decision, whether it is part of tipping the balance in favour of one product, or a sense-check for a decision that has already been made.
AMP Ramps Up Speed and Ads
- AMP is clearly getting to the point of critical mass.
- Google has recently halved the time it takes to render content from a year ago – the median load time is under half a second. This is mainly from backend technology improvements.
- Adwords is rolling out AMP landing pages for search ads, and integrating backend technology across the Display Network.
- AMP implementation is clearly beneficial to publishers and users.
Actions to take:
- Implement AMP. Run, don’t walk.
- Be aware of analytics over-stating issues surrounding AMP.
- In Adwords, sign up for the AMP beta, create AMP Landing Pages and identify them as mobile landing pages in the Adwords interface.
- If you would like assistance assessing and understanding the best way to implement AMP, contact me.
A while ago, I noted that AMP was getting to the point where it was irresistible. It is now inching very close to that point. There are numerous studies stating that organic search visibility, SEO traffic, and conversions increase relative to a speed increase.
SEO Over-Optimisation Can Hurt Rankings
- Another reminder from Google (Gary Illyes on Twitter), that over-optimisation can hurt rankings.
- He didn’t, unfortunately, define over-optimisation.
Actions to take:
- Always optimise in line with metrics derived from your competitive set (ranking and business competitors).
- Use SEO Tools and analysis to define “normal”.
- Aim for a “slightly better than normal” level of optimisation, but not so far beyond “normal” that it borders on spam.
- Avoid keyword stuffing, or repetition, overly-targeted linking, and other key signs of overly aggressive optimisation.
- Contact me if you would like help in ensuring your sites are optimised to the right level, rather than over-optimised.
Over-optimisation has been a “thing” ever since the days of -30, -50 and -90 penalties. How hard you got hit depended on how aggressive you were with the optimisation. Google never really defines it, but essentially, it boils down to being too perfect, and going a long way beyond the level of optimisation on a normal distribution curve.
For different markets and keywords there are different levels of “normal” for each SEO element. In some markets, links are more important, in others on-page elements play a bigger part – there is no one size fits all answer. This is why in order to optimise well, you need to analyse the ranking competition, and business competition, to determine what is normal in your set or sets) and tweak optimisation activities from that point.
Bits & Pieces
- Dr Pete Myers from Moz ran a very interesting test on Google Voice Search, running over 1000 queries. The result? Different queries produce different results, sometimes with publisher attribution, but often not. Google is using your content to answer search queries without sending any traffic.
- As part of its steps to bring Google Attribution to the masses, Google is now using machine learning to divine user intent and understand where users are in their purchase funnel.
- Google: “there no hard limit on the number of times a site can appear on a search results page”. Of course, it does highlight a potential duplicate content issues, a lack of disambiguation on Google’s part for understanding the user’s query, and a need to fill 10 Blue Links.
- Google: “noindex is an index directive. It doesn’t control crawling”. This is more of a PSA, as people regularly get confused over whether noindex will stop something being crawled. Just so we are clear, if a page is blocked from crawling in robots.txt, Google will not crawl the page to see the noindex tag, so it may still index it.
- Google seems to be playing fast and loose with its ads above the fold policies / directives / wishes. Some ads above the fold are okay, even on mobile, but the question in this thread is really about whether the Adwords ads in Google SERPs which dominate the mobile screen effectively break this policy. Consistency from Google would be good.
- Thanks for reading. If you would like to discuss any of these points, or start implementing them, please feel free to contact me.