What’s the SEO News this week?


Google Update ~25th June 2017

Summary:

  • So, it looks like Google is playing the update game again, with many webmaster reporting dramatic shifts in traffic around 25th June.
  • Par for the course, Google are denying anything unusual has happened (“we update the algorithm 500 times a year”).
  • Webmasters are describing this as a tightening of the Panda / Penguin noose – content quality and backlinks, although almost all updates will revolve around these two elements in some way.

TWIS 30 June 2017 Google Update

Credit: SE Land

Actions to take:

  1. As ever with updates, check your traffic analytics, your rankings and your conversions, usually if you have been hit, it is super obvious.
  2. If hit, analyse and identify pages and rankings which were hit. Gap analysis pre- and post-update.
  3. Look for common themes across the pages hit (there’s no indication this is a site-wide update yet).
  4. Remediate the issues seen.
  5. Concentrate on producing good quality content, in tandem with natural, organic backlinks.
  6. To prevent being hit by updates, build sites which are great, meet all the guidelines, and don’t focus too heavily on “beating” any particular part of the algorithm.
  7. If you do want to test a particular part of the algorithm, run multiple strategies to remove risk from the Single Point of Failure.
  8. Contact me if you would like to discuss this Google Update further.

Discussion:

Google updates come and go. This one seems fairly well substantiated with a number of webmasters and biggish sites reporting significant impact of the update.

I do wonder when webmasters will learn that in order to prevent being impacted severely by updates, they really have to aim to be successful across a wide spectrum of the algorithm’s nuances. There is no point running a single

More info:

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O Canada!  Court Orders Global Google De-Indexation

Summary:

  • As part of an ongoing dispute between two Canadian companies, the Canadian Supreme Court has ordered Google to deindex copied pages from the losing party’s sites globally, not just in Canada.
  • Google was not originally a party to this action.
  • It’s a good story but has limited real-world effects.

TWIS 30 June 2017 Canada Orders Google Global De-Indexation

Actions to take:

  1. Although, it’s not likely to be enforceable globally, this is worth keeping an eye on.
  2. If Google accepts the court’s instructions, be prepared to follow more court events globally, especially if any products are subject to competitor restrictions in different markets.
  3. If Google ignores it (likely), then carry on as normal. Google normally takes actions on its services only within the relevant court’s jurisdiction.
  4. Contact me if you would like to discuss this further.

Discussion:

This is a bit of an interesting challenge. As Google is effectively a global business, it has (reasonably) adhered to local laws and judgements. This means that if a particular country has issued a judgement, Google has followed that judgement within that country’s jurisdiction only. For example, Google has adhered to judgements within France, Spain, Germany, China, and of course, its home country the US.

Canada is a lovely place, full of lovely people, but this is a smidge of what the Americans call “judicial overreach”. It’s just not likely that Google would pay any attention to a global order to deindex a site from a local court. If it did, Google would need to pay attention to every country’s “global” judgements. This would lead to the delightful issue of “legal tourism” where cases would be brought in jurisdictions which are most likely to be friendly to the complainant and leading to a mass of conflicting “global” orders.

If Google does anything about this, aside from in Google Canada’s results, I would be very surprised.

More info:

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Google’s Mobile Test My Site Tool Updated

Summary:

  • Google has recently updated its Mobile Test My Site tool, which simulates load times and issues on a 3G mobile connection.
  • The new update gives:
    • Total Loading Time (which may be very different from first paint).
    • Estimated Visitor Loss (due to to loading lags).
    • Comparison to similar sites in the same industry.
    • Headline fixes to speed up your site.
    • An opportunity to receive a more detailed report, and other occasional pieces of information from Google. Think of the Test My Site Tool as a Link / Email Magnet.

TWIS 30 June 2017 Google Test MY Site Update

Actions to take:

  1. Head to the Test My Site tool, enter your URL and run the tool.
  2. Wait for a minute or two for the test to run.
  3. Look at the three panels of speed test results given, share them with your webmaster.
  4. Either subscribe to get the detailed report, or get your webmaster to subscribe.
  5. If you don’t want to subscribe, use the standard Google PageSpeed Tool, which doesn’t need an email sign-up to get full results.
  6. If you’re really serious about mobile page speed, use the excellent GTMetrix speed tool, which combines Google’s version and Yahoo’s YSlow.
  7. Once you have run the tool’s on the home page, make sure you run them on your key pages, and competitor pages to see how you shape up.
  8. Contact me if you would like to discuss optimising Page Speed further.

Discussion:

Page speed is terrifically important to a good web experience and is moderately important to ranking. Unfortunately, with the rush to dynamic JavaScript there is an awful lot of bloat and inefficiency on the web – page loads can be blocked by waiting for big JS files to load, process, execute and run, and by big files. On desktop, this isn’t so much of a problem, but on mobile, using 3G connections, it definitely  is.

Page Speed and load times are not a direct ranking factor currently, unless the page really struggles to load. Speed is applied after relevancy considerations are taken into account. This is unlikely to change, otherwise hosts which provide the quickest returns to Googlebot will be in for an uptick in business. Page Speed will affect bounce rates and hang-time on site, which means that, although not direct ranking factors, if users go back to Google and use other results to fulfil their search needs, then your site is likely to subside in rankings.

Aside from the looming Mobile First Index, Google, as the maker of mobile devices and the owner of the world’s biggest mobile operating system (Android), has a vested interest in ensuring that mobile experiences are good, quick and not frustrating to the user.

What is really important for Page Speed is that you are faster than your competitors, and your key landing pages and key conversion pages load superfast.

More info:

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Google News Spruced Up After a Mere 7 Years

Summary:

  • 7 years after the last update, Google News has had a spruce up.
  • This is partially to improve the UX / design side of things with improved readability and  improved navigation.
  • With the addition of “different perspectives” to related coverage boxes, this is also and attempt to break out of those bubbly echo chambers.
  • The final part is a step to reduce the impact of fake news with an additional Fact Check box listing information from avowed reliable news sites and myth-debunking sites.
  • As with all change, this has brought all sorts of “put it back to the way it was” complaints out of the woodwork.

TWIS 30 June 2017 Google News Facelift

Actions to take:

  1. Review the new Google News layout.
  2. If publishing news, ensure your stories are well-sourced and accurate.
  3. Providing alternative commentary is now an opportunity for enhanced visibility in the related coverage area.
  4. Try to avoid re-publishing fake news…
  5. Contact me if you would like to discuss ways to rank in Google News further.

Discussion:

Google News is now rather venerable, being 15 years old. Like all oldies, it needs a make-over at certain points in its life.

The UX & design changes are obviously a result of shifts to mobile, and consumption outside of the Google News app. Unsurprisingly, these changes bring loud squeals of complaints from users, but they are unlikely to go elsewhere for their news.

The big change is increasing the rounded perspective / alternative viewpoints side of things, so that Google News is not viewed as a mouthpiece for a singular, mainstream, point of view. The Fact Check box is also a good addition to try to overcome issues surrounding Fake News.

It’s important to realise that the Google News algorithm is relatively gameable – Google really likes fresh content in this area, and the big news organisations exploit this as much as the smaller ones. It’s a simplistic algorithm, akin to the old algos in use by Yahoo! and other prior to Google’s rise in the late 1990s.

More info:

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Google Gives Incorrect 301 Redirect Advice

Summary:

  • On Twitter, John Mu gave incorrect advice on using 301 redirects.
  • Effectively, he said that if you have a 404 you should leave it rather than 301 it.
  • His advice only speaks from a pure Google crawling perspective,
  • It does not speak from a webmaster / user perspective for incorrect links / broken links / modified links.

TWIS 30 June 2017 Google Incorrect 301 Redirect Advice

Actions to take:

  1. Keep on 301 redirecting URLs which result in a 404.
  2. If linked incorrectly externally, 301 redirect the incorrect URL to the correct one and contact that link-giving website asking them to correct their link.
  3. If de-listing pages / content, always 301 redirect to the next most relevant page.
  4. Don’t, however, imagine that you can hoover up all link juice by simply 301 redirecting from old content to new irrelevant link content. Google worked that little tweak out a number of years ago.
  5. Contact me if you would like to discuss how and when to implement 301 redirects.

Discussion:

Sometimes, Google’s utterances are misleading or correct only when viewed through the particular prism of a Google employee. This is one such case.

The implication is that unless you have a 1:1 replacement for a page, you should just let it 404 or continue to 404. This is beyond silly. It is likely that an old page either has some internal links, or some external ones – anyone following those links would be disappointed to find a 404. It is a better user experience to redirect to a relevant page where at all possible.

If a webmaster links to a page incorrectly, then it make absolute sense to redirect that 404 to the correct URL (and contact that webmaster to update the incorrect link).

John is correct that every site has infinite 404s, but the implication that ignoring 404s is the right way to go is just wrong. Where possible always 301 redirect 404s to relevant content – let the random 404s stay.

More info:

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Bits & Pieces

  • With a sense of impending SNAFU, Google Posts apparently hasn’t been rolled out to all Google My Business users, who have to fill in a form, and wait 2-3 business days for a response. Aside from the response lag in this day and age, this has the smell of something bad.
  • Google My Business’s Website Builder has kind of gone under the radar. This is a good little option for the 60% of small businesses who don’t even have a website
  • Google to remove personal medical records from search results on request. This is a good thing, and shows the risks of having some data on publicly available web servers – you never know where Googlebot will end up!

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TL;DR

  • There was a Google Update on 25th June. Google hasn’t confirmed it yet.
  • Canada has ruled Google should globally de-index a site.
  • Google has updated its Test My Site email magnet tool.
  • Google News has had a facelift after 7 years,
  • John Mu has given incorrect 301 redirect advice.
  • You still need to read about the Mobile First Index.

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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