Daily Archives: October 24, 2021

Presentation: Diagnosing Technical SEO Issues | TechnicalSEO.com

By | October 24, 2021


Engage Conference – March 8th, 2019

The post Diagnosing Technical SEO Issues appeared first on TechnicalSEO.com.



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Google throttled AMP page speeds, created format to hamper header bidding, antitrust complaint claims

By | October 24, 2021


Newly unredacted complaints against Google allege that the search giant’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which the company claimed would “dramatically improve” mobile web performance when it launched in 2015, was in fact a scheme to coerce publishers into using the format in order to limit advertising dollars not spent on its own ad exchanges.

The complaint, which is led by the State of Texas on behalf of 12 mostly Republican states, goes so far as to allege Google even throttled the load speed of pages not using AMP in order to give a “nicer comparative boost” to AMP.

“Throttling non-AMP ads slows down header bidding, which Google then uses to denigrate header bidding for being too slow,” it reads. “‘Header Bidding can often increase latency of web pages and create security flaws when executed incorrectly,’ Google falsely claimed. Internally, Google employees grappled with ‘how to [publicly] justify [Google] making something slower,’” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, which cites internal Google documents, was originally filed on Sept. 9 and was heavily redacted. However, a ruling by a Manhattan judge forced the release of the mostly unredacted version on Friday.

Google had not responded to Search Engine Land’s request for comment by the time this article was published.

Targeting header bidding. At the center of the issue is header bidding, an advertising practice where publishers can place their ad inventory on numerous ad exchanges at once. It’s a method meant to sidestep Google’s “waterfall” approach to bidding, which often favors Google’s ad servers. Publishers generally like header bidding because of its potential for higher revenue and transparency. 

However, header bidding requires publishers to place JavaScript on their pages to trigger the auction, and AMP pages do not support that JavaScript.

“To respond to the threat of header bidding, Google created Accelerated Mobile Pages (“AMP”), a framework for developing mobile web pages, and made AMP essentially incompatible with JavaScript and header bidding. Google then used its power in the search market to effectively force publishers into using AMP,” the complaint alleges.

A damning indictment of AMP. The complaint is not wrong that publishers have held a ****/hate relationship with AMP. The premise itself goes against publisher instincts. AMP requires us to create versions of our content on servers we do not own using templates we have limited control over. The tradeoff meant improved user experience on mobile and a greater likelihood of showing up in Top Stories, a placement that can yield significant traffic. Using AMP wreaks havoc on internal analytics, too,  since it makes it very difficult to track users migrating across a site’s AMP and non-AMP pages.

The complaint, however, claims the speed benefits are both exaggerated and manipulated due to Google’s alleged throttling of non-AMP pages.

“All those years, all those Googlers, devs, & SEOs defending AMP… And this is just the tip of the iceberg,” wrote SparkToro founder Rand Fishkin on Twitter, sparking a thread of outrage and disgust over the allegations.

Google earlier this year stopped requiring publishers to use AMP in order to score Top Story placements. But it also rolled out its Page Experience Update this year too, which it claimed made factors like site speed a ranking factor. The combination surely had publishers wary of ripping out their AMP architecture (it certainly does for us).

Why we care. First, these are allegations made in a highly politicized lawsuit, and without access to all of these internal documents it is difficult to tell whether some of these claims represent flawed interpretations. But Google’s lack of transparency has always worked against it in terms of public trust.

This lawsuit, one of four antitrust complaints now, highlights way more than possible manipulation around AMP. It also highlights alleged collusion with Facebook to give the social media giant unfair advantage in ad bidding. All of this supports a growing concern over the toxic relationship between Google, the only search platform that frankly matters for publishers, and the content creators and search marketers looking to compete fairly for placement on its platform. Whether it’s the favoring of Google properties in results, the ad-position takeover of the SERP, the rise of on-SERP elements that stifle clicks to actual content creators and the ham-fisted rewriting of publishers’ titles, creators are fed up.

“I’m so sick of Google. And I unfortunately make a decent part of my living working with it. That makes me sick to my stomach,” wrote SEO Sam Insalaco in response to Fiskin’s Tweet.

The AMP allegations also strike a nerve for publishers, whose businesses have seen incredible disruption in the past decade as advertising shifted to search and social and reach became so dependent on Google. AMP was heralded as a way to give publishers a chance to stand level with its competition. If these allegations are true it’s hard to believe publishers would ever trust Google again.


About The Author

Henry Powderly is vice president of content for Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than a decade in editorial leadership positions, he is responsible for content strategy and event programming for the organization.





Source link : Searchengineland.com

John Mueller’s Take on Conversing with the Search Industry: SEO Podcast

By | October 24, 2021


You can keep up with the In Search SEO Podcast by subscribing on iTunes, by following the podcast on SoundCloud, or by subscribing to the In Search Newsletter!

John Mueller’s Take on Dispensing SEO Information: Summary of Episode #82 

The great John Mueller joins the podcast to share his thoughts on interacting with the SEO industry:

  • How talking to search marketers of all levels impacts the SEO dialogue
  • Handling the problems of SEOs and the complications that come with it
  • On dealing with SEO controversy

Plus, we take a look at Google’s ability to update entities in a flash!

Segments: 

How Quickly Can Google Detect Changes to Entities? [03:19 – 13:44]

On Advancing the Great SEO Dialogue: A Conversation with John Mueller [13:55 – 48:40]


SEO News [49:23 – 55:06]

Featuring:

Mordy Oberstein (Host)

Sapir Karabello (Co-Host)

John Mueller of Google (Special Guest)

Resources:



Mordy’s Blue Jays tweet

What Content Syndication Means for SEO: In Search SEO Podcast



News:



Top Stories Testing Context Section

Web Stories Added to Google AMP Test

Google Screened Ads to Release Nationally

Google Using Click Data to Rank Site? The Controversy Is Renewed

Microsoft Launched the New Bing Webmaster Tools



How Quickly Can Google Detect Changes to Entities? [03:19 – 13:44]

 

First, a little baseball background. About two weeks ago, the Major League Baseball (MLB) started its season with some modifications to handle COVID-19. Now, just as the season was about to start, a bombshell dropped. There is a single MLB team that plays in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays. The plan was for them to travel in and out of Canada and for American teams to visit them in Canada. But when the Canadian government saw what was happening in the US they said not so fast. If the team leaves Canada they cannot come back in!

So the Blue Jays had nowhere to play. If they stayed in Canada they’d have to forfeit the season. So two days before the season they started shopping for a new stadium in the US to play in. The initial idea was for the Blue Jays to be based out of Pittsburgh and share PNC Park with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

That’s the background. Now, Mordy did a Google search for ‘Toronto Blue Jays’ and if you are familiar with queries for sports teams, they typically get a nice sized Knowledge Panel to the right of the results (on desktop). But in this case, just as this story was happening, and keep in mind this news story was just hours old, there was a section in the Blue Jay’s Knowledge Panel that read: Verify these facts to help others: Headquarters location.

What happened? Google saw the Top Stories carousel (and all of the other news coverage it indexed) with stories reporting that the Blue Jays are going to play in Pittsburgh so Google thought, “Hold on. Are the Blue Jays moving to Pittsburgh?! Let’s get info from our users!” By the way, when you clicked to help Google verify the location, it wasn’t asking, “Are the Blue Jays HQ still located at: 1 Blue Jays Way, Toronto, ON M5V 1J1, Canada?” Instead, the message read: Headquarters Location: Toronto… Is this info correct? Meaning, it knew that the Blue Jays moved to an entirely different city as opposed to just moving its address inside Toronto.

This is just fascinating. Here are some real takeaways:

  1. It appears that what happens in the news carousel (and in news content overall) can impact you as an entity on the SERP.
  2. That the impact can happen REALLY quickly.
  3. Google is good with details. It knows exactly which category of the entity is changing in real-time and not through Wikipedia. We know that Google has updated players being traded in hours, but that also gets updated to Wikipedia really quickly. Here, the story wasn’t even finished yet.
  4. It highlights how aware Google is.

For the record, the governor of Pennsylvania nixed the deal and the Jays are playing in Buffalo.

On Advancing the Great SEO Dialogue: A Conversation with John Mueller [13:55 – 48:40]

 

Mordy: This is an In Search SEO podcast interview session. Today we are talking to the Big Cheese himself. He knows the secret launch codes to everything at Google. He could tell you but then he’ll have to kill you. He’s bigger than John Lennon, at least to SEOs. He’s here to hold your hand through all of your SEO questions like, “How long should my titles be?” He’s the all-knowing, far-reaching, Twitter answering, SEO King. The man, the myth, the legend. He’s John Mueller.

Welcome!

John: Hi. Good to be with you. Good morning.

M: It’s a pleasure to have you. I have to ask you off the bat. The cheese thing? Is that a hoax? I like cheese. I like cheese on pizza, eggplant Parmesan, etc. But I have never met somebody who distinctly likes just cheese.

J: I think it started a couple years back where I left my computer unlocked and went to get a coffee or something in the office. Then Gary found my computer and he thought, “What can I do that won’t get me fired?” So he went to my Twitter and posted about cheese.

M: So it’s not true? Do you even like cheese at all?

J: Oh, I like cheese. Cheese is fine.

M: Were you angry with Gary?

J: No. I think it could have gotten a lot worse.

M: That’s the life perspective for Corona times right there. It could be a lot worse.

J: It’s one of those things that you would miss now where everyone’s working from home. I think it would be very awkward if Gary snuck in my home now. I don’t think he has a key to my house. I think it would actually be pretty cool to meet people again in person. At least on our side, we kind of miss it. I think most of us haven’t been to the office since March.

M: Yeah, same here. So today we’re going to get to know John Mueller. How did you even get to becoming a Googler? Was there an ad in the newspaper classifieds for Googler?

J: I had a software company before joining Google. At some point, the company was going well, and like everyone did at the time, we decided to start doing web hosting and doing stuff on the internet, because the internet might become really big at some point. At that point, sitemaps just came out. We put together a sitemaps generator for Windows that got pretty popular. I started posting in the Webmaster Help Forum at the time and at some point, I got an email from someone from Google asking if I would like to drop by their office. The email came to a domain where I usually don’t check the email so it was a great coincidence that I even got the message. After that, it kind of got the ball rolling. And it took, I’d say at least a year from then on to get through all the interviews.

M: Wow, they really vetted you.

J: Well, on the one hand, there’s that and on the other hand, I had my own company, and I didn’t want to just leave. So it took awhile.

M: Do you miss having your own company?

J: I don’t know. Every now and then I think it would be fun to have a company of my own. When I joined Google, I passed the company on to one of the other folks that was working there and I kept my desk there just in case because I thought I might be working at this American company that won’t last. A year later, we got together again and I told him that I think we can get rid of that extra desk.

M: This is how rumors get started. Someone will say that you miss working for your own company and it’s going to blow out of proportion. Does that piss you off when things like that happen or do you just sit back and laugh?

J: It happens. Especially around search. There’re so many different things that play a role, where sometimes one thing applies to one very specific situation. For example, you might have a server error and then suddenly, all websites have server errors. Well, it could theoretically apply to other sites but there’s really one specific answer.

M: This is one of my hard questions. Is that sort of why there’s sometimes a contradictory opinion out there among the Googlers on any given topic? Is it because things get taken out of context, is the context so specific that people are applying it in the wrong way, or maybe you just don’t agree?

J: I think the context is a really big one there. There are lots of situations where things really depend on the website and what people are trying to do. Someone might go in there and answer a specific question with, “Hey, you should really mention your keywords a little bit more often if you really want to rank for it. At the moment you don’t have them at all on your pages.” And for a different website, it might be, “You should work on your internal linking.” Then people take those two statements and ask, “What is it? Make up your mind, Google.” It can be either one of them.

There are situations where things are kind of hard to distill down into one specific item. It’s really hard to say what is the number one thing you should be working on. Depending on the current state of the ecosystem and how things are happening. One person might say x, and the other person might say y. That’s something that just happens from time to time. These things can change over time too. At some point we might say that everyone should put authorship markup on their pages and then a couple of years later, it might be that you don’t really need to use authorship. These things change.

M: It probably doesn’t help that SEOs like to oversimplify things and that can be a little bit hard to deal with.

J: There are lots of really smart SEOs that understand this nuance, they understand what they should be watching out for, and are taking the feedback and applying it to those situations. But like with any other niche, there are always new people that join in and they try to find this one simple trick that they need to do.

M: We’re in 2020, and it feels like we should have moved past these bad tactics a long time ago. It’s like a bad **** that just doesn’t end and I don’t know why.

J: On the one hand, there are more people that join the SEO world which I think is critical. It’s important that you always have these beginners that jump in, but they have no idea what they’re doing. On the other hand, people like to keep their old content online. So these random old SEO blog posts from 2001 or 2005 are still out there. People can still find them.

It’s one of those things where it’s important when you get started that you realize that things can change over time. You should watch out and test things on your own. Try to understand the reason behind why people say stuff. It’s not this magic thing where if you put this symbol in your title tag you will rank. It’s to understand the word that you want to rank for and to make it obvious to search engines what your page is about.

M: One of the things you see on Twitter is, “John Mueller said this.” And, “Oh, yeah. Well, I think you’re wrong because John Mueller said this a different time.” It’s one thing where people are going to take what you say like the gospel. Is that something that’s really healthy for the SEO community? You just mentioned understanding the context around why things are happening and I feel like that’s getting lost. And not to blame you as it’s totally not your fault.

J: It happens. I think at some point, you get used to it. I think those who have a bit more experience with regards to SEO, who’ve been around maybe a little bit longer, who’ve tried more things out on their own, they realize there’s a lot of nuance in some of these simplified things. Those people I’m not so worried about. The people who take these one-sentence answers to solve all SEO problems, I think they’ll learn over time as well. And things on Twitter are always really hard because they’re so short. It’s very easy to take this one sentence answer and turn it into something else.

M: Sometimes SEOs complain. Sometimes it’s legitimate and sometimes it’s not. For example, I was talking to Alli Berry about this. She works as the SEO for the Motley Fool and they have a problem with ranking above their syndicated content. Yahoo Finance always outranks them, even though they’re the original source of the content. When that problem was brought up to the wider SEO industry or the industry in general, Danny Sullivan came and said, “Look, you have to negotiate your contracts and make sure that the canonical points back to you.” That’s great advice from somebody who probably should know better because he ran Search Engine Land but what leverage do I have, as a small publisher, over Yahoo Finance? In the end, the Motley Fool decided to stop syndicating (to Yahoo). So when you have these gripes that seem legitimate and it kind of comes off that Google’s glossing over the problem, how do you deal with those real issues that actually address the issue even though Google might not be making a change around this?

J: It is hard and it is something that we take seriously. The whole syndication thing is certainly one thing that we take seriously. It is something where we try to make sure that our algorithms are resilient against these kinds of situations. Some kinds of scenarios are just common on the web. And while there are ways that you can resolve it on your own, which if you’re a savvy SEO you can work it out, it also makes sense for us to make sure that our algorithms can handle it as ideally as possible.

It’s something where I see Danny, Gary, Martin, and everyone else who’s active in the public communication side of things. They escalate these issues to their teams all the time. It’s something where ideally we would like to improve our algorithms in this regard but that’s more of a long term prospect. We need to first run various tests to figure out how common this problem is and how visible the problem is. Is it just one very specific query that’s wrong, but the millions of other queries that people commonly do are okay? We need to analyze that. We need to come up with a plan to handle that overall situation and then test the different options and get all of that out there. And that can take a while.

That’s something we’d ideally like to improve on our side, but the short term approach to fixing it is something that you could take into your hand as well. Generally, in our messages outside, we will say, “Well, this is what you should be doing. We have it documented here. You could have been doing this all the time instead of complaining about this or eating it into yourself and getting complaints from other people about it.” It’s something where we’ll try to figure out a way to resolve, but it is generally something that we try not to promise because we don’t know. Maybe it’ll turn out that it’s a really weird use case that we don’t really have time to work on because nobody runs into it except for you. Or maybe we will be able to resolve that but it’s something like a couple months away or it’s in one of the next big core updates. Or maybe it is something that we can fix in a week but we can’t really know for sure until it’s actually live. So it’s pretty much impossible for us to make any promises in that regard.

So that’s why you’ll see these kinds of answers on Twitter where we show how you can fix it. If you fix it, it’ll be resolved fairly quickly. We do take this feedback on board and we try to improve things overall, but that’s something that takes an unknown period of time.

M: Yeah, I know personally from firsthand experience that there’s been problems that I’ve seen on the SERP that I showed to Danny and he passed it along and it was fixed. You guys are really good about that stuff. It’s a hard position that you’re in because people think that Google has unlimited resources and they get to do whatever they want. I know you might be answering me, but you’re really speaking to everybody at the same time. That’s a really good perspective to keep in mind because it is hard to speak to one person and everybody at the same time. Is it ever uncomfortable where someone has a legitimate problem and you don’t know if Google can fix it?

J: That happens from time to time. I think with regards to it being uncomfortable, overall, that’s something you kind of get used to over the years. You learn what you need to watch out for with regards to how you phrase things so that it doesn’t come across as this one-shot answer to solve everything around SEO. Sometimes there are situations where we don’t really have a great answer. Where you can’t really do anything about it and on our side, we can’t quickly just solve that for you. That can be an awkward discussion to have. But I think those are important as well because if people understand that we don’t have a magic answer to this, then they’ll know that they don’t need to wait for an answer. Maybe they find some other workaround.

M: I mean, yeah, that’s life, right? There’s not always an answer to the problem.

You do an incredible job with your language on Twitter. How long did it take you to get good at that? Because that is a real skill.

J: I don’t know. It’s hard to say.

I started on the Webmaster Help forums where we had a lot of these cases come up. There, it’s sometimes a little bit easier because you can experiment and get a little bit more background information. You get a little bit more details on what to watch out for. That’s something where you learn to interact with people of different mindsets. I think the hard part is, especially back then in the Webmaster Help forums, there were regularly people who were really in a bad situation because of the way that their website was performing. That’s something you still see on Twitter every now and then. It is sometimes really hard to engage with people like that, when you look at their website and you see this is really not great content. I’m sorry that it worked so well for them all these years and you rely on this as your main source of income, but I don’t see a simple solution.

Those are pretty hard discussions where even if you would look at the site and you see it’s a terrible site, maybe it was our fault that we ranked them so highly for such a long time. As someone who’s active on the internet, if you’re doing something that works really well and you make a lot of money from it, then you start to rely on that. It’s very easy to fall into a situation where you depend on this thing working even though you might realize it’s not really the best thing at all.

M: Yeah, that’s an emotionally charged situation. That’s people’s livelihood. That definitely sucks. Not to make light of that, but have you ever been out with your friends where you could answer a question the regular way or you can answer it the SEO way with very nuanced and thought out language? Has that ever slipped out by accident?

J: It is something that we watch out for because it is very easy to give an internal answer or a confidential answer to a question where you don’t really know if everyone understands that this is actually something internal or confidential. That’s something that we at Google learned fairly early on that the confidential things that you work on should be kept confidential and make sure that you don’t talk about them with friends and with buddies because it’s very easy for something like that to accidentally get leaked. If friends asked me about ranking and the things that we do in search, then I do watch out for it to make sure to say that I can’t talk about the internal stuff.

M: What is your security clearance? Do you have the keys to the codes?

J: I don’t think there are any security clearance levels. In general, a lot of the kind of confidential codes are siloed away for those people that explicitly work on it. I don’t work on the code. I don’t need access to that. I have access to a lot of the leads on the quality side on the ranking side so if there are questions, then I can contact them. They also need to watch out what they tell me because you’re telling someone who’s not directly involved. It is something where the leads take the information that we bring back to them very seriously and they do try to find ways to improve things overall. Sometimes, when having SEOs complain about something whereas a user, when you look at it, you’d be like, “Well, that seems fine,” you realize for publishers and SEOs that maybe it’s not so great. That is something that the leads very much care about, that they do try to make sure that it doesn’t cause any problem, and that they can fix whatever issues come up.

M: Speaking of security access and transparency. One of the things that inevitably comes up is how Google’s very tight-lipped about algorithm updates. It’s gotten a little bit different now the core updates are getting pre-announced. And good job naming them. Thank you for doing that. It comes up every once in a while people asking why is Google not more transparent about what they want or what they’re looking for? I understand in the past that will lead to a lot of gaming the system, but as the algorithm has gotten more complex, what would be the harm in being a little bit more transparent? There’s even one statement I saw which I don’t know is right or not that Google themselves doesn’t understand the algorithm because it’s so complex and based on so much machine learning.

J: I don’t think it’s impossible. There is a lot of abuse and spam happening so people do try to find all of those loopholes. The other thing that I sometimes see is that it’s very easy for people to kind of fall into the trap of working on one specific element of the algorithm. If we were to say keywords and titles have extra weight (I don’t know if that’s the case. This is just an example.) then people would focus very much on that one specific aspect. For us, in search overall, the idea is not that we want to show keywords and titles, but rather we want to show relevant results. And if people instead of working on relevant content they focus on keywords then, at some point, our algorithms will be updated and, actually, the keyword meta tag is the one that we give more weight to (which is not the case) then suddenly, everyone will think they have to move again.

Whereas if we say that the primary aspect for us is really the relevance, quality, and uniqueness of the content, then that’s something you can work on in lots of different ways. You can make sure that your titles match, you can make sure that headings are clear, you can put the content on the page, or you can build an internal site structure that matches that. There are lots of different things that you can focus on. So it kind of takes away from focusing on that one tiny part of the algorithm and encourages people to think about where search is headed and what you can do to remain relevant rather than what you can do to be relevant at this one specific time.

M: That’s a really good point. High-quality content is rarer than I think people think it actually is because creating unique quality content is very, very hard. But it’s also hard to understand what quality content is. Is that something that Google sits down and thinks about? It can be hard to pinpoint that and define that. It looks very different from one piece to another piece, from one site to another site. Is that the reason why you’ve shied away from talking about that?

J: I don’t know if that’s the reason why we shied away from talking about that. I think one of the difficulties is that more and more content is being produced online. That just means that the competition is always a lot stronger. So if we try to improve the relevance of the search results and we pick a slightly different approach to understanding relevance, quality, and all of these factors, then that can have a pretty strong effect on the sites that are out there. When you look at the sites, it’s not a bad sign, it’s not that they’re doing something wrong, it’s just that this other one is just slightly better for this specific query. Overall, it’s not that there’s something specific that you need to be doing differently, it’s just that in the bigger picture, things have shifted slightly.

M: One of my talking points is that content is probably the most malleable thing on the planet. My classic example is the 1960 presidential election. It was the first televised election. The first time people were consuming a television debate between Richard Nixon and JFK and just by the way JFK looked like he clearly won the debate. Nixon had a five o’clock shadow, he looked grumpy, and it just came off that way. Content is changing and what people are looking for out of their content is constantly changing. How we create content, how we read content, and how we find content is all constantly changing. So that must make your job really fun.

J: Yeah, I don’t have to come up with all of the reasons why things are different so I don’t have to figure all of that out all the time. On the one hand, that makes it a little bit easier, but it does mean that things change. Every time we talk about something externally, we need to watch out for where we are headed with this thing and how we can make sure that we don’t paint ourselves into a corner by saying, “You should be doing this.” We need to ask, “Does that limit us in the future if things change?”

M: I have one last serious question for you. I’ve always wondered about this. So you have the Googlers and then you have Danny Sullivan. You have the search liaison and you have the Googlers. What’s the difference?

J: Well, Googlers are, essentially, anyone who is employed at Google so Danny is a Googler too. But in general, our role is more around interacting with websites directly around search and Danny’s role is a lot more around interacting with the general public around search. That also includes various policymakers and all of those people who don’t specifically have a website of their own. So if someone has a specific question how do I do this in search or how do I get these specific results, then that’s something we’ll try to help answer. Whereas if someone has a question around, “Why am I getting these weird results in search?” or, “Why is Google doing this evil thing with search?” then that’s something more for Danny.

M: Good for you that you don’t have to answer that.

Optimize it or disavow it



M: My scenario to you is you’re on the Titanic, you just hit the iceberg, the boat is going vertical, everybody’s falling off, you get into a lifeboat, and there’s only one more seat left. Martin and Gary are holding on to the railings with their puppy eyes. Who do you let onto the boat? There’s only one seat left.

J: I would swap out and let them get on.

M: That was a good answer. Wow. That’s very noble of you, sir.

J: Luckily, we’re not on the Titanic. But it is something where I think that at some point, it’s good to have some new faces out there. So if it came to a situation where we needed to downsize or we need to change something specifically then I think it would be good to have some new faces working on these things. Martin is really new and Gary is kind of newish. He’s been around a really long time now but I think that would be good.

M: This is why you’re the master of this. That was amazing, John. I just want to tell you that we all really appreciate everything you do. It takes a ton of time, tons of effort, and by God a ton of patience to deal with all of us and I just want to tell you personally that I really do appreciate it. So thank you.

J: Thank you.

SEO News [49:23 – 55:06]

Top Stories Testing Context Section: Google is testing a new Top Stories carousel format. The format has the main story at the top of the card, but a link to another story towards the bottom under a header that reads ‘For Context’.

Web Stories Added to Google AMP Test: Google’s AMP test will now pick up the presence of a Web Story letting you know if the story is eligible for an appearance on the SERP.

Google Screened Ads to Release Nationally: After being in testing for a year, Google Screened Ads have started to roll out. These ads are similar to Google’s Local Service Ads but cater to professions such as lawyers and retailers.

Google Using Click Data to Rank Sites? The Controversy Is Renewed: Did Google imply they use clicks to rank sites? A document found as part of Congress’s investigation seems to maybe imply they do… but doesn’t specifically say so.

Microsoft Launched the New Bing Webmaster Tools: The new Bing Webmaster tools is here. The launch of the new platform comes with a slew of new tools with more coming!

Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.

About The Author

The In Search SEO Podcast

In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.

Tune in to hear pure SEO insights with a ton of personality!

New episodes are released each Tuesday!





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Search Engine Marketing (SEM/PPC) | Search Engine Marketing Consultant & Search Engine Optimization Services

By | October 24, 2021


Back to Premium Services Home

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What’s New With Structured Data | TechnicalSEO.com

By | October 24, 2021


SMX Advanced – June 4th, 2019

The post What’s New With Structured Data appeared first on TechnicalSEO.com.



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Big Changes to GMB Guarantee & Google Shopping Fees: SERP News

By | October 24, 2021


Cosmic balance. It exists in reality (perhaps) and it exists on the SERP (evidently). Just as Google announced a new verification badge that could set businesses back 50 bucks the search engine forwent its commission on sales made via Buy on Google! How’s that for bringing balance to the SERP?    

Plus, has COVID-19 become the norm on the SERP? With less COVID related updates to features and more consistent COVID rankings, that seems to be the case (for better or worse). 

Of course, there were like a gazillion other tests, changes, and updates to the SERP. So let’s have at it…

Here’s the SERP News for August 2020! 

Google Expands ‘Guarantee Program’ – Badges For All For a Fee! 

 

Over the past 2+ years, Google has been offering little green badges to select local businesses in a bid to earn a bit of revenue while “despamming” certain local niches. These badges were showcased in a box of ads called “Google Guaranteed Ads.” Originally applicable to businesses that operated in niches that tended to fill the SERP with spam (i.e., locksmiths), the program expanded to all sorts of local service area businesses eventually being renamed Local Service Ads.

Local Service Ads

Google’s Local Service Ads sporting the green guaranteed badge

Towards the end of July, Google confirmed a test that has the guarantee program moving past local service businesses. For $50 any business can go through Google’s verification process and get themselves a shiny green badge that will appear in their business profile (i.e., Local Panel, etc.). 

Well, that’s not really a big deal, is it? Well, it does sort of represent the culmination (or the beginning of the culmination) of Google’s efforts to monetize Google My Business (GMB). For the past few years, Google has energetically created an ecosystem that “encourages” SMBs to intricately rely on their GMB listing. A good example would be the Reserve with Google program. 

To this, it’s quite interesting to me that just at the very moment when businesses are relying on their online presence more than they ever have and probably ever will, Google starts testing pay to play GMB options. 

More than that, the inclusion of the green badge within the Local Pack turns pay to play GMB listings into more than just a “bonus.” By placing the badge in the 3-Pack, Google introduces peer pressure into the equation. That is, if your competitor might have or does have the green badge, you’ll want to make sure you have one as well. After all, which listing is the user more likely to click on, the listing with the shiny green badge that says all is safe, have no fear, or the listing without any guarantee backed by one of the most powerful companies on the planet? (It’s a rhetorical question, obviously.) 

Bottom-line, give it a few months and everybody and their mother will have a green badge…. which ultimately won’t help the user discern a good or bad business (because if everybody has it, does it really help the cream rise to the top?) but will put a lot of $50 notes into Google’s bank account. 

On this note, Google has also started to roll-out Google Screened Ads. This is an alternative to the Local Service Ads that are meant for service industries (i.e., lawyers, retailers, etc.). The format was in testing for the past year and differs from Local Service Ads in that there is no green badge utilized. However, the format features a place for a headshot of the provider. 

 

Google Does Away with Buy on Google Commissions… For Now 

 

Back in April, Google started letting retailers list their products on Google Shopping for free. Now the search engine is giving up its commission on those listings. When a consumer buys the product directly through Google, via Buy on Google, the seller will no longer be charged any commission. That’s an amazing deal considering everyone and their mothers, from Amazon to Shopify, takes a cut of the action like any good wiseguy would. 

The goal here is kind of obvious, or maybe it’s not. I think this has way less to do with keeping people in the Google ecosystem and serving more ads and so forth. Rather, to me at least, this seems like Google trying to build up its reputation as being a source of retail goods via the sellers themselves. That is, more sellers selling more goods in turn makes Google Shopping more attractive to shoppers. With 0% commissions, it is likely that retailers will list more goods on Google Shopping, which may make the platform more attractive to shoppers. And, without the commission, retailers could list the product for a bit less, making Google Shopping even more attractive (in theory). 

 

Buy on Google Products

Google Shopping showing only those products that participate in the Buy on Google program 

Sounds great except, retailers might list more products on Google Shopping and even promote their listing, but they won’t delete their Amazon listings, nor will they stop adding new listings to Amazon. Did free Google Shopping listings stop folks from continuing with Amazon? No. And while 0% commissions means the seller could post the item for less on Google Shopping, will they? Also, for moderately priced items how much of savings would it really come to anyway? I’m not sure if I see the paradigm being as powerful as Google seems to.   

Further, I don’t think 0% commissions will last. To me, it feels like a marketing tactic. Reel ’em in and once you got ’em… charge ’em (not that there’s anything wrong with that necessarily). I mean let’s play this out:

1) Google obtains a dominant role in the eCommerce world… So they’ll continue to go with 0% commissions? Unlikely.

2) The campaign doesn’t take off, Google remains where it is, and they continue to offer 0% commissions. Also unlikely. 

I don’t see the long-term incentive to keep a 0% commission. That’s not to say it won’t last for a long time, years even, but ultimately, it doesn’t add up to me. 

The COVID-19 SERP Stabilizes 

 

Towards the end of June, Google ran an unconfirmed update that seems to have given many government sites a ranking boost. One of the outcomes of this update is that after four months of incredibly volatile behavior, the “COVID-19” SERP has very much stabilized (for now, who knows what will happen as the pandemic continues to evolve). 

Take the keyword coronavirus test, the boost to .gov sites clearly seems to have stabilized the SERP here. 

Coronavirus Test Ranking Trends



After a long period of volatility, ranking for ‘coronavirust test’ has become incredibly stable

Interestingly, topics that are still “up in the air” tend to be a bit more volatile. Meaning, the stability we’re seeing appears to be a combination of both Google boosting .gov sites on the SERP and the pandemic becoming the new norm (God, that sucks, doesn’t it?). Take the keyword corona virus airborne

Coronavirus Airborne Ranking Trends

Here, while there is a “strain of stability” the SERP is noticeably more volatile than what I showed above. That makes good sense as the topic (at the time of this writing) is still unfolding and is subject to debate. 

Where I think boosting .gov sites may have helped “the COVID SERP” the most, is not for queries directly related to the virus per se (keywords like covid-19 vaccine or coronavirus symptoms). That is, I don’t think Google was so upset that WedMD ranked a little too high while some government site was ranked a little too low… at least not upset enough to roll an update to boost .gov sites. 

Rather, where that boost really seems to help are for keywords that very much deal with COVID-19 but in connection to another topic. Take the keyword coronavirus mortgage which saw the same increase in rank stability via the June update: 

Coronavirus Mortgage Ranking Trends

What’s interesting here is a government site now outranks Investopedia as a result of the update. That government page discusses some of the options and resources available to mortgage holders having trouble as a result of the pandemic. This page is certainly both more relevant and more necessary to have ranking higher on the SERP and above a site like Investopedia. (I talked more in-depth about this on the In Search SEO Podcast.) 

The moral of the story, you can’t go wrong upping the rankings of super-authoritative .gov sites… can you? 

The SERP Roundup Covering July 2020 

Pay to play GMB options and no commission check-out were not the only changes to hit the local and shopping scenes. In fact, there was a myriad of changes made to the SERP in July 2020. Interestingly, and aligned with the rank stability discussed earlier, there were not a voluminous amount of changes around COVID-19 further indicating, it’s just the new normal on the SERP. 

More Local SERP and GMB Updates in July

There were a series of changes and tests that hit the local SEO world in July other than Google asking SMBs to fork over $50 for a badge. In fact, there were two pretty big changes that made their way to GMB! 

GMB Increases Notification 

July saw Google make two big changes to its notifications: 

  1. GMB will start sending out emails to a business when said business has had their listing suspended. This comes in light of EU transparency laws. As such, all businesses will be notified when their listing has been suspended. However, only European businesses will receive notification when their entire account has been suspended. 
  2. Similar to the above, Google will also be sending out email alerts when a listing has been deemed to be a duplication

Google Promises to Stop Over-Relying on Business Names 

 

Local SEOs have long been complaining that Google weighs the business name too heavily when ranking listings within elements like the Local Pack, Local Finder, etc. It appears that all of the hard work of the good folks in the local SEO community has finally paid off. In response to the community, Google’s Danny Sullivan says he expects this problem to be resolved in the near future

Multiple Phone Numbers In the Local Panel 

A Local Panel sporting two phone numbers for the business was spotted on the SERP. Then some more people spotted it… and then some more. Thus, what was thought to be a test now appears to be a slow roll-out! 

New Carousel Spotted on Maps

 

Normally, when you click on a listing from the Local Finder, a Business Panel appears over the most left section of the map while the other listings maintain their position to the left of the panel. In this test, Google seems to have removed the other listings from the most left side of the page. Instead, the other listings were shown as a carousel at the map’s bottom. It’s a pretty interesting format. Not sure it has much impact one way or the other, but it’s pretty interesting. 

Local Panel Shows When Hours Were Updated

 

It appears that Google is listing when you last updated your hours in GMB within the Local Panel. This is especially pertinent as the COVID-19 world evolves and businesses start to open, then close, then open again, etc. Truth is, this is probably why Google introduced the element to the panel. It’s definitely a helpful feature these days. 

Hours Updates in Local Panel

Google showing when the hours of a listing were last updated 

Google Feature Points to Impact of COVID-19 on Travel 

 

Google has been testing a feature that points to the state of local travel. In the instances found, Google was showing the percentage of hotels with occupancy as well as the percentage of flights operating in that location. 

COVID-19 Travel Trends on the SERP



Google showing travel trends related to COVID-19 as part of a new test (Image Source: SERoundtable.com via Ramesh Singh)

Other than just reflecting on a sad state of affairs, the feature could help marketers assess and survey the local travel market/situation. (Here’s a spoiler… it’s not good.)

Google Adds New GMB Attribute for Black-Owned Businesses 

Towards the end of July, Google added a new business listing attribute for blacked-owned businesses. The attribute appears within the Local Panel under the ‘Highlights’ header. Google has previously set-up attributes for businesses owned by women, veterans, etc. The search engine says it has added the attribute now as they have seen “a surge in online searches for Black-owned businesses.” 

GMB Black-Owned Business Attribute

Google’s new Black-owned attribute shown inside the Local Panel (Image Source: Google) 

More Shopping Changes to the SERP In July 

Just like Google selling more badges was not the only local change to the SERP, the search engine forgoing its commission was not the only product-related update seen during July. In specific:

Product Carousels Showing More Attributes: Shopping ads were spotted sporting more attributes! Sponsored product carousels were found showing the material the product was made from within each carousel card. It definitely pays to make use of the attributes available to you!

Sponsored Product Carousel with Attributes

A sponsored product carousel showing an attribute that represents the product’s material (Image Source: SearchEngineLand.com) 

Google Shopping Stops Downloadable DVD/CD Sales: As of August 1st, Google Shopping has included downloaded DVDs/CDs as part of “digital goods and subscriptions.” This means sellers will not be able to push the aforementioned products on Google Shopping or on Google’s other platforms. 

Twitter Exits and Reenters the SERP 

Just in case you did not know, some very prominent Twitter profiles were hacked in July. In swift response, Google removed the Twitter Box SERP feature from the results page on July 16th only to return it on July 20th once Twitter got a handle on things. 

Twitter Box Being Removed and Returning to SERP

The Rank Ranger SERP Feature Tracker showing the Twitter Boxe’s removal and return to the SERP

The Twitter Box, though less prevalent than you might think, is an important part of the branded SERP. More important than that, in this instance, we got a look at just how quickly Google can act and how aware of how outside elements impact its properties the search engine is. 

Google Showing Fewer FAQ Boxes and Fewer Rich Results Overall

In mid-July SEOs started to notice Google showing fewer results that contained FAQ questions produced by… FAQ markup. Not only that, but per our SERP Feature Tracker, Google has been showing fewer rich results overall, about 25% fewer rich results. 

As time has gone on, Google has started to increase the number of rich results (including those that implement the FAQ markup). However, their return appears to be gradual and is still nowhere near the display levels shown prior to the reduction (at the time of this writing). 

FAQ & Rich Result SERP Trends Data

The SERP Feature Tracker showing that FAQ and Rich Results on the SERP took a sharp loss but started to slowly rebound towards the end of July

Of course, sites not showing as a rich result make their organic showing as plain and ordinary as the rest of the results appearing on the SERP. 

Google Adds Major SERP Feature to Some Mortgage Queries 

Here’s a monster of a SERP feature for you… Google has partnered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to offer a new Knowledge Panel-esque SERP feature that dives deep into procuring a mortgage. The feature, which appears on mobile in the US, offers the user an in-depth look at how to shop for a mortgage, the various loan options that exist, and host of other information related to the top questions loan seekers would have. All of the information comes from the CFPB. 

Mortgage SERP Feature

Google’s newly upgraded mortgage SERP feature 




While Google has had a mortgage calculator tool from some time now, this is a totally different beast and reflects Google trying to take Search as a Journey a bit deeper. Doing as such is something I’ve been advocating for recently. And while having deeper content accessible on the SERP is a great thing, it would be nice to have more diverse content sources presented. Although, here I can understand why Google went with a government source that provides hyper-authoritative information. 

Google Shows Videos as List on Desktop 

 

On desktop, Google shows its videos as a carousel. Hence, we refer to it as the Video Carousel. However, that is no longer the case, or only the case. In my quest to both find new jeans and do research for my podcast I found that Google is now showing videos as a list (as it does on mobile at times). 

 

The practical implication of all this is that a list takes up a lot more space on the SERP than a carousel. I could go into what that means for your site in theory, but do I really need to? 

Scroll Up Refinement Bubbles Spotted on the SERP 

Here’s a nifty test spotted by Brodie Clark… query suggestions that appear as you scroll back up the SERP. It is like it sounds… you scroll down the SERP…. scroll back up and are welcome to a series of bubble filters to help refine/extend your query. 

Google employs all sorts of filters of a similar nature. Each impacts the “natural path of the user” in their own way. In seeing the user not click on a result, I would imagine this filter, if implemented, would present new topics and new areas to the user in so far as they are related to the query. 

Google Goes With Boxed ‘People Also Search For’ 

All throughout the month of July folks were sending in reports of Google using a boxed format for People Also Search For. Some tests had multiple options in one row others one search option per row and so forth. Personally, I’ve been stuck with a boxed format placing one result in each box for every query I run for almost a month now. 

Related Search Boxed Results

Google showing what were “Searches Related to” under the ‘People Also Search For” header and within individual boxes

Context Added to the News Carousel In Latest Test

I **** this one! How many times have you Googled a news topic, clicked on an article from the SERP and were like, “What? What’s going on here? How did I miss this? How did we get here? What’s the context of all this?” 

That literally happens to me all the time! 

Well, Google was seen testing a Top Stories carousel where the bottom portion of each card contained a heading that read For context. Here, Google inserted a second link into the card that helps provide, you guessed it, context to the story reflected by the card. 

Personally, I think this kind of thing really helps the user and helps advance Search as a Journey into what it really could be. 

Product Infusion On the SERP: Resistance Is Futile 

 

Google has clearly taken a hard pivot towards pushing products harder than ever. Whether this has always been the strategy or whether the acceleration is due to COVID-19 and the focus on online shopping that’s come with it, doesn’t really matter (I mean it does matter, but you get my point). Whatever the backdrop, the SERP, as well as the wider Google world is going to be infused with products in all-new ways and to far greater extends than currently exist. How that will look and what it will impact, I do not know (What do I look like a magic eight ball?). All I’m saying is that this is a space to keep a close eye on. 

About The Author

Mordy Oberstein

Mordy is the official liaison to the SEO community for Wix. Despite his numerous and far-reaching duties, Mordy still considers himself an SEO educator first and foremost. That’s why you’ll find him regularly releasing all sorts of original SEO research and analysis!





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Site Security | Search Engine Marketing Consultant & Search Engine Optimization Services

By | October 24, 2021


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eCommerce Done Blog Right: SEO Podcast

By | October 24, 2021


You can keep up with the In Search SEO Podcast by subscribing on iTunes, by following the podcast on SoundCloud, or by subscribing to the In Search Newsletter!

Developing the Right eCommerce Blog Strategy: A Summary of Episode #83 

The wonderful Orit Mutznik joins the podcast to share her thoughts on what makes an eCommerce blog effective (and what doesn’t): 

  • Aim to sell or aim to inform, what are you really trying to do with a commerce blog? 
  • How hard do you push your commerce content on your commerce blog?
  • What works, what doesn’t, and why so many commerce blogs are ineffective!

Plus, what makes a good SEO study good? 

Segments:

What Goes Into a Good SEO Study? [04:31 – 19:02]

Getting an eCommerce Blog Right: A Conversation with Orit Mutznik [19:02 – 48:12]

SEO News [48:42 – 51:45]

Featuring:



Mordy Oberstein (Host)

Sapir Karabello (Co-Host)

Orit Mutznik (Special Guest)

Resources:



Mastering In-house SEO Book

Google’s Top Search Result? Surprise! It’s Google

SERP Feature Tracking Tool



News:



Lots of Negative Reviews May Hurt Your Site

Google Automating Manual Actions

Lead Forms Added to YouTube



What Goes Into a Good SEO Study? [04:31 – 19:02]

Recently, The Markup did a study called “Google’s Top Search Result? Surprise! It’s Google” where they show that Google likes to push its own product. While the study might be interesting, Mordy didn’t feel it was substantial enough. Before Mordy gets into this, he clears up that he’s not about picking apart people’s work. He just wants to point out a lack of the right perspective and how that translates into not so great SEO information without you even realizing it!

The Markup examined what it calls “15K recent popular queries.” The problem here is that we’re dealing with a data-set that has not been normalized. That’s fine by itself but it should have been said more outright and while they say the keywords are “popular,” unless you catch that you wouldn’t realize it! Limitations like that, says Mordy, should be made very clear.

The article continues and says that 41% of page-one mobile results contain a direct answer which, based on our SERP Feature Tracker, is not true as our tracker has it around 8-9% on mobile. The probable reason they got 41% is that they call every SERP feature, even the ones that have URLs, Direct Answers. For example, they call the People Also Ask Box a Direct Answer.

So they got confused with the terms. That’s fine. Then they offer just one query as an example. It was a query for ‘myocardial infarction’ that brought up a Dictionary Box and a Medical Panel, etc. Where are the organic results they asked? But Mordy says who cares, it’s not like Joe Schmo is going to rank there anyways. For these kinds of queries Google only ranks government sites, major health sites (i.e., WedMD), university sites (i.e., Harvard Health), and the like. Your average site can’t rank here, so the point about SERP features is pretty much moot. That is, Mordy believes you have to consider the intent of the query and how Google actually treats the SERP for a given keyword type.

Here’s Mordy’s take on SEO studies and why he believes The Markup’s study failed. First, SEO studies are messy (which this one was not according to Mordy). There are always going to be tons of limitations. Why? Because the way Google treats queries is vastly different from one case to the next. Even if you analyze a billion local queries, not all local queries are the same.

Here’s an example of a study Mordy was working on last week. He saw a ton of hotel queries in his data-set but it turns out Google treated them differently than the other local queries that he was looking at. So in his study, Mordy had to mention this difference and limitation as the data is going to be a little bit different. A good SEO study is not about analyzing a billion keywords and just plopping all the data into a post. Mordy actually sometimes prefers studies where he analyzes just 300 keywords.

Now you could say that in Statistics 101 you learn that the bigger the sample size, the smaller the variance is. Mordy sees the point but when you do so many keywords you don’t notice the details about each keyword and how Google is treating each keyword and then you miss a lot of the nuance. Whereas if you go through 300 keywords you can really dig in with each type of study having its own place and time. Yes, you need a big enough sample size, but generally speaking, a sample size between 250-400 is decent enough where you’re able to dive into those SERP queries which you don’t get when looking at a million keywords. Again, the point is, there’s a place for quantitative analysis but there is also a place for qualitative research as well.

A good SEO study is about nuance. That means you need to consider how well-rounded or not your data-set is (and it’s okay if it’s not), what the implications of that data-set are on the SERP in reality, what does it mean, why is it this way, why is it not that way, what does that mean, etc. It’s like a mystery and you’re trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and that means analyzing the pieces, discovering why they are the way they are, if they’re the right pieces, why some pieces differ from other pieces, and what that implies.

All of that means there is nuance and with nuance comes limitations. You’ll never be able to fully break something down. If you’re working with keywords, there will be all sorts of intents, intents within the intents, and intents within those intents that could all have implications on how Google treats those keywords, and that can alter things. But you’ll never be able to break it all down to its smallest parts.

A good SEO study will point out those limitations and that’s not a bad thing because 1) It is what it is, and 2) Admitting your own limitations will force you to go deeper and explore other aspects of whatever you’re studying. When Mordy saw he had too many hotel keywords, he looked at the data, and he segmented out those keywords to get a better understanding. And it’s okay to leave that incomplete and say that more research is needed as that helps move the great SEO dialogue along.

Put it this way. The more limitations you point to, the more it shows you’ve thought into things, the more it shows you went into the nitty-gritty details, and the more it shows you’re aware of the reality of that data and how Google treats things in the real world.

Lastly, a good SEO study is not about the data per se, but how its author is able to interpret that data in order to show what picture the data paints. What does the data mean, what does it point to, the analysis, that’s what makes the study.

And that’s where the study went wrong. It pulled a ton of keywords, it picked up a ton of SERP features, but it never analyzed what those keywords mean. It never parsed the various kinds of SERP features and it never bothered to ask, “What does all of this say outside of the obvious?”

Getting an eCommerce Blog Right: A Conversation with Orit Mutznik [19:02 – 48:42]

Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO podcast interview. Today we have with us someone who is the most in-vogue SEO you could possibly imagine. She’s a Brighton SEO speaker with pizzazz. She’s a fashion eCommerce expert and SEO all in one. She’s SilkFred’s head of SEO. She’s Orit Mutznik.

Welcome!

Orit: Thanks for having me. That’s definitely the most pizzazz intro I’ve had.

M: Everybody says that about the intros and I always tell them that this is the height of the interview. It’s all downhill after that.
So what is SilkFred? What do you guys do?

O: At the moment, I am the head of SEO at SilkFred. It’s a woman fashion e-commerce site that brings small independent designers to showcase their collection. It’s a marketplace for women’s clothing. As far as for me, I specialize in technical SEO, international SEO, but mostly blog content strategy. And as you mentioned, I’m also speaking in Brighton SEO in October about pagination. It’s going to be called “Thank You REL Next.” I’m also a co-author of Mastering In-house SEO, a best selling SEO book on Amazon. I’m promoting it now because all proceeds go to the Samaritan charity so be sure to get that.

M: We’ll definitely link to that.

O: Yeah, it has 26 other SEO experts, each collaborating in a chapter about what they’re doing. I talked about how to nail your SEO dream job which is what I did when I got this job at SilkFred. I’ve been in London for the last one and a half years with my husband and two kids. My journey to London came after I was born in Argentina and lived most of my life in Israel. It was a dream to live in London and now I’m here.

M: What’s the best thing about London? I found London to be a less intense version of New York.

O: Yeah, I would agree with you. It would come to people as a surprise, but I **** the weather. People think I’m nuts but after living in Israel all these years with close to 40 degrees Celsius weather starting from April, that’s too much for me. I’m enjoying now 25 degree summers. I **** the cold. I **** the snow. I’m quite a strange person.
So I mentioned that I focus mostly on technical SEO but I got into SEO in 2008 from the content side of things, which was a natural transition for me because I was a freelance content writer and translator, from my early teens, using my three languages.

M: So you’re the perfect person to talk about blogging with.

O: Well, you said it. I hope I’ll do well in this podcast.

M: I have full confidence in your abilities. By the way, you come from so many different backgrounds and so many different industries. Do you find that blogging is the same from vertical to vertical (like e-commerce and informational sites) or is it very unique?

O: It’s absolutely not one size fits all, which is one of the most important things that I want to talk about today. When I started, I thought it was all the same. I got into SEO, I started learning about the different Google algorithms and one of the things that drove my knowledge in this career was to constantly be very tuned to the ranking factor studies. I gave it much more importance than what I should have given it.

M: I think everybody made that mistake.

O: Yeah. I switched companies over the years and even though the main industries I worked in were gaming, FinTech, and e-commerce, they’re still very different industries with different goals and focuses. I’ve always been involved in content strategies for these companies and I did adapt my goals and focuses over the years. But I realized I wasn’t really adapting. I was an SEO content marketer so I did what everybody would do like keyword research, keyword frequency, etc. I had to evolve when the algorithms got smarter. So with my one size fits all solution, I was mainly doing things sort of in a robot type way. Essentially, what I realized was that it’s correlation and not causation.

M: Right and it’s very specific about what you’re doing as opposed to the general factors out there. I have a whole theory that the ranking factor itself is much less important than it used to be in general, because Google’s looking at content and saying, “Hey, you know what, we can actually understand what you’re saying here intrinsically. So we don’t need indirect signals the way that we used to anymore.”
Because you work in the fashion industry do you get to go to Paris?

O: Not really.

M: Do you get discounts on clothes?

O: I do get a discount.

M: That’s awesome.
When you’re working on an e-commerce blog, what are you considering now versus working on a highly informational health blog?

O: Yeah, I think that is entirely different. You have the things that are important across niches, like looking at top search volume, long-form content, and links. Those are the things that I’ve been looking at for years. But actually, I think that a critical thing that was missing here was looking at revenue because I come from an SEO standpoint and my top KPI is sometimes rankings. So I’ll do my keyword research and I just want to rank and if I rank then it’s over. I’ve done it, I’m the best, and it’s great, but sometimes if you look at those sites that are used for the rankings research it’s not necessarily that long-form content is what ranks them there and it’s not necessarily that it’s bringing them the revenue that they’re looking for. So you don’t know what’s behind that. Essentially, I realized that they don’t apply to all industries and they’re not one solution fits all.

M: That’s a good point because I think we get stuck in the SEO mindset of where we should be about a growth mindset. One of the things I did when preparing for this interview was to research the top commerce blogs. Shopify gave me a whole list and the list sucked. Every single one of those blogs sucked. I’m wondering, is that just me or are these blogs pushing their products and I don’t really care?

O: In the e-commerce economy, you do push products but you have to be smart about it. The reason why you thought those sucked is that they most likely didn’t adapt to their target audiences. It’s different per niche. For example, long-form content in blogs could work for a FinTech company that’s trying to educate people on how to invest but on the other hand, it won’t help someone who just wants to buy something. In that respect, you might want to go short and snappy. You want to give stuff that people actually want and consider user intent which in most cases is very much underrated and is something that people don’t take into account.

M: How do you balance all of that? When I saw these blogs, it looked like they were just trying to peddle a product. They weren’t really giving me any helpful information. If I really wanted to learn about the product, I would just go to the product page. So on the one hand, you have to be a bit more creative about how you do this, but you do have to drive the sale. That’s the whole point. So how do you do that?

O: I think the most important tool that we have about this is looking at keyword search volumes, but the problem is that we’re taking it as a given and we’re all guilty of that. We know it’s far from accurate.

M: I was just going to say that’s a big problem. There was Jumpshot and Keyword Planner before that. As a tool provider. search volume data is very tricky. I think Kevin Indig had a recent interview on how we move beyond search volume. We’re at the point where search volume is not the metric we once thought it was and we need to figure out a way to get around that. In terms of driving a conversion, do you do a soft sale? Do you mention the product or do you try to get them with really good information the first time out and hope to get them to come back again and then we’ll get them when they come back?

O: Yeah, I think that people don’t just search for the product to buy it. People search for other stuff as well. In that case, it’s important that the blog is a space where you are able to tackle all of those additional questions that people won’t find necessarily on the site. So when you think about search volume, obviously, I will not rely on the actual amount of people so if I see 100,000 people searching a month, that’s not really 100,000 people. But what it does give me is the big, medium, and small terms for me to prioritize. The big ones, the money terms, will mostly go to the site and the small ones are actually quite surprising. Because even though you might ignore them, they have a lot of gems inside of people actually looking for things related to your brand. You are the experts because it is your brand, you can provide that content, and that works much much better than I will anticipate. Whereas in the past I would totally ignore two-digit or three-digit search volumes, now I found those to be the best-performing ones because they have lots of intent behind it. I think today that intent is absolutely everything and if you nail that then that goes far beyond search volume.

M: Quality over quantity. That makes a lot of sense.
How far down the wormhole do you go? How far into the future are you thinking about this? Would you build a blog? Would you write about topics that build your brand identity? For example, if I’m a health site I might write about how broccoli is good for you even though I don’t sell broccoli, but I will write about it because that helps build my identity as a source of health information. You may not actually convert with that as it is purely for brand identity. Do you blog about that if you’re a commerce site or does that sound way too far down the line?

O: I think you have to have a combination of both. I think that writing branded content or trust-building content is very critical to all niches because you’re not just the site that’s been put up there to bring sales. You have to build your reputation which is true to every site. So not every single blog or not every single piece of content that I do is about bringing sales. Obviously, it’s one of the most important goals of the blog or the site, but if you don’t build that trust around it, then that’s probably not going to happen. That’s why in some cases, it’s important to connect to the trends information so you see what’s being searched as far as questions and as far as things that are important to people in your niche. In most cases, you would go to trends and see if you can answer people’s questions in a good and trusted way to get people, maybe not convert to that post directly, but to convert through other things and from there you will build and gain that trust from the user.

M: Let me put you on the spot for a second. I was looking at your site’s blog and the access of the blogs at the bottom of the page is not very prominent. I’ve seen a bunch of commerce sites do something like that. I’m wondering, is that strategic, is there something behind that, or is it just how you have your page setup?

O: Well, you know, everything about in-house SEO is like little battles.

M: Sorry, I don’t want you to step on a landmine here. I was just asking because I’ve seen a bunch of other commerce sites do the same thing. I was wondering if it was because you didn’t want to come off as too informational or you want people to come to the blog content via search and not through the homepage. For example, you may not want current shoppers to see the blog content but rather just the product content. But if you’re searching and then you find the blog then that’s awesome.

O: I can just say that it’s a combination of both. As an in-house SEO, you have to pick your battles. Obviously, as much as I’d like much more visibility in the blog, on the other hand, I do understand that it is about the money. As far as the eyes going towards the top of the site, yes, they should be focused around buying products and getting what people want.
By the way, it still goes pretty well. Because if you focus on other stuff like writing in relation to trends and focusing on things that people are actually interested in, then you’ll get that traffic from search. I wouldn’t worry too much about it. They’re much more important battles to fight.
Something that’s particularly hard is to get resources for the blog like writers and technical elements. I’m an SEO and I manage all aspects of SEO, so what do I prefer? To have a money page ranking or performing better or having the blog being faster and nicer?

M: That’s a great question. That’s a legit case of keyword cannibalization. Not that one keyword is actually eating another keyword’s rankings, that makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever based on what Google themselves said about this. That’s the case where you’re really eating away at your own page. I don’t want to rank my blog here, I’d rather rank my product page. So yeah, you really have to be careful.

O: That’s true, but you also have to segment in your head that the blog is meant for long tails and questions and the site is for the big money terms. That’s the separation that happens in reality. As far as I’m concerned, from an e-commerce point of view, don’t bother with writing a blog post that you tend to rank for a huge term, that won’t work. But If you do write a blog post covering a certain angle of that big term, then that would definitely help with the overall trust of your site and conversion itself.

M: So you wouldn’t do a top 10 dresses of the month blog post?

O: Actually, that’s something that I would do because that’s something that people actually are interested in.

M: But are you taking away from your products in that particular instance?

O: Absolutely, always. That’s the importance of connecting to the business you’re in because you have to step beyond the SEO metrics which is something that I mentioned previously. Go beyond search volume and pure SEO metrics. Connect to the business. That’s one of the most important tips that I can give.

M: So you would write a post that features the products for May and that would segue naturally into a product page.

O: Absolutely. Always look at the trends. That’s going beyond looking at the search volume because that’s what people are actually searching for right now. And even though the search term has a two-digit search volume, if it’s really trending right now you might as well jump on that.
Actually, the Kevin Indig podcast you mentioned I listened to and I think it was awesome because one of the great recommendations that I got was the new tool by the Majestic founder, Dixon Jones, called Endlinks. It’s actually really great because it gives you not only an estimate but an actual number of people interested and more precise trends. One of the things that I do is look at trends beyond search volume. I start with that but that’s still in the SEO realm so in addition to trends I look at the questions and try to answer them.
So beyond FAQ schema and things that you can do, if you don’t have FAQ schema, for example, don’t worry about that too much but worry more about jumping on that and giving a fast answer to what your users are looking for. In the fashion industry, tie-dye, for example, that’s coming back.

M: Is it really? I still wear tie-dye.

O: Yeah, it’s in fashion.

M: Cool, because the best shirt I ever bought was from a Who concert outside of Madison Square Garden. I still have the shirt. It was a bootleg. I bought it for five bucks on the street from some homeless guy in a wheelchair. So it was in style, it was out of style, and now it’s back in style. That’s official. I am officially old.

O: So I care about what’s trending as far as fashion is concerned. I need to know what the terms are. What I would do is connect those trends. So if I found from a purely SEO perspective what are the trends in my industry, I’ll then go to the numbers inside the business to see what are the best selling products, in tie-dye for example, and then I would have a blog post like the top-selling tie-dye products.
Essentially, you should always connect to metrics from your business. You should connect to your own site searches when you build a content strategy for the blog. See what your users are searching for right now. Then you can leverage that to do ad hoc content. The money site as you would call it is not as dynamic because you have set categories and set products. The only way that you can cross-stitch that is to do a blog post which jumps you on user intent right there. Then if you do that, you can successfully get people to convert.

M: That’s a nice way to segue that. You have your immediate versus your not immediate. I can use my blog to be adaptive, but I can’t use my feature pages to be adaptive because it is what we have.

O: Absolutely. I can make the connections that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do on the website. If people search for a certain trend on the site, then I can give them the best of that trend they were looking for. People find it very good because I give them shortcuts in the blog. That also connects to branded searches on the blog. You, for example, mentioned discounts. People **** discounts. As a brand, we don’t really give that many discounts. We prefer sales a few times a year. But you can still jump on the discount bandwagon if you give some hacks on how to find discounted products on your site. That’s actually a great way to get that traffic and that intent.

Optimize It or Disavow It



M: Speaking of discounts, you could do one or the other. It’s a commerce blog, where every single post is either about a giveaway, a promo code, or a discount. Or you could write substantial blog posts about the most horrible products you have. Which one do you do?

O: I would agree those are both horrible options. I would definitely go with a discount option. I’m 100% against doing that but that’s definitely going to get me more sales then writing about our worst products. It would be funny and viral but I do want sales.

M: Thank you so much for coming on. This is awesome. And best of luck to you.

O: Thanks for having me.

SEO News [48:12 – 51:45]

Lots of Negative Reviews May Hurt Your Site: Google says that negative reviews don’t impact rankings but if you have a ton of them the algorithm could pick that up.

Google Automating Manual Actions: Did you know that Google has automated many manual actions? Which ones? We don’t know.

Lead Forms Added to YouTube: Lead form ads have come to YouTube. The ad type mirrors the lead form ad used on the SERP.

Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.

About The Author

The In Search SEO Podcast

In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.

Tune in to hear pure SEO insights with a ton of personality!

New episodes are released each Tuesday!





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SEO Horizons, SMX Keynote 1/3 | TechnicalSEO.com

By | October 24, 2021


Alexis covers what it means to be in an agency, things we’re thinking about, shifts we’ve seen within our client-base, the future of marketing and SEO.

SMX Advanced – June 4th, 2019

SEO has never been one-size-fits-all. Strategies, tactics and priorities differ depending on whether you work in-house or at an agency, on-page or with the code.

Regardless of the description that fits you, this keynote has you covered.

Search Engine Land’s in-house SEO expert, Jessica Bowman, and technical SEO pro, Detlev Johnson, will join with agency rockstar Alexis Sanders for a one-of-a-kind, panoramic view of SEO. Join them for a dive deep into emerging advanced tactics, changes in the ecosystem, and what makes an SEO successful.

Topics will include…

  • Pitching and building an in-house SEO army.
  • Optimizing the SEO/developer relationship.
  • Agency SEO is different. What it takes to win.
  • …and loads more.

You’ll walk away with proven strategies and actionable tactics that empower you to meet today’s SEO challenges with confidence.



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Deep Link Ratio: Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

By | October 24, 2021


Building a diverse portfolio of links, including deep links, is part of a successful link building strategy.

But can your deep link ratio affect your organic search rankings?

Read on to learn whether there is any connection between the deep link ratio and improved Google rankings.

The Claim: Deep Link Ratio Is A Ranking Factor

Deep links are any inbound links that point to pages on your website that aren’t your homepage.

(To be clear: this article does not discuss the other type of deep link, which is when a link points to content within an app. Because that type of deep linking is specific to mobile apps, it has no impact on the organic search results and is definitely not a Google ranking factor.)

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What then is a deep link ratio?

The deep link ratio is a measurement of the total number of inbound links to every page on your website vs. the total number of inbound links to only your homepage.

Calculating Deep Link Ratio

Let’s say you have a total of 1,584 inbound links to your website. Of those links, 698 are to your homepage.

The remaining 886 are to specific pages on your website.

To calculate your deep link ratio, take your number of deep links divided by the total number of inbound links.

886 / 1,584 = 55.9% deep link ratio

The claim is that this percentage would suggest a more natural link profile as compared to a site with 90% of their links to their homepage.

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The Evidence For Deep Link Ratio As A Ranking Factor

In the Advanced SEO documentation in Google Search Central, there is a page on link building tactics to avoid.

You won’t find a mention of deep links here, however.

Here’s what Google suggests:

“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community.

Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”

This approach could lead to deep links, but doesn’t specifically mention deep links or a ratio.

Not much is officially said by Google or Googlers about deep link ratio as a ranking factor.

In 2004, you’ll find one of the first mentions of a deep link ratio from a link building agency. It includes an example of how to calculate your deep link ratio, but no evidence for it being a ranking factor.

In 2006, SEOBook.com published a question about deep link ratio. Similar to the article in 2004, it offers a calculation method to determine your ratio of deep links but no further evidence that it affects your rankings.

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In 2006, a study on the Link-Based Characterization and Detection of Web Spam correlated a high number of homepage links with “spammier” websites.

Deep Link Ratio As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Deep Link Ratio: Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

It’s important to build a diverse link portfolio for your website, which includes a mix of homepage and deep links.

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But there is no magic ratio of deep links to homepage links.

While links are a confirmed ranking factor, an exact deep link ratio is highly unlikely to be a direct Google ranking factor.

If anything, we could see Google using a deep link ratio as a webspam check – perhaps for the purposes of identifying spammy link building footprints.

However, unless Google or a spokesperson is on record saying deep links aren’t a ranking factor, then we can’t definitively rule it out.

One thing we know for sure, via Google’s John Mueller, is that the total number of inbound links doesn’t matter.

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So if a raw number of links doesn’t matter to Google, would a deep link ratio of those inbound links really help Google rank webpages in any meaningful way?

It’s unlikely.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Shutterstock





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