Google’s John Mueller states that progressive web apps (PWAs) do not, by default, rank better in search results than traditional websites.
This topic is discussed during the Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout recorded on November 12, 2021.
Multiple questions came up throughout the livestream related to PWAs and whether they have an advantage over HTML sites in search results.
Mueller says there’s no preference given to PWAs, but converting an old website to a PWA could lead to ranking improvements for other reasons.
Read his full response in the sections below.
What Is A Progressive Web App?
First let’s briefly go over what a PWA is, as it’s a relatively new framework and you may not be familiar with it.
In the simplest terms, a PWA is like a mobile app you can use in a mobile web browser.
A PWA looks and functions like a mobile app, but you don’t have to install anything to your phone. You can access it via a URL just as you would visit any other website.
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Many top brands have adopted a PWA framework for the mobile version of their website. Starbucks and Sephora are good examples of retail sites that are PWAs.
News sites such as the Financial Times have gone the PWA route, and downloadable mobile apps like Spotify and Pinterest have web-based PWAs.
Nearly any site can be turned into a PWA—but the question is whether it’s worth the trouble.
Improved SEO could be a reason to covert your existing site into a PWA. However, as Mueller says, there’s no inherent benefit to PWAs as far as SEO is concerned.
Google’s John Mueller on Progressive Web Apps
Mueller answers questions during the latest hangout from people who’ve seen competitors’ sites rise in rankings after converting to PWAs.
They ask Mueller if their sites may see similar ranking improvements with a PWA.
In response he says Google doesn’t treat PWAs any different from HTML sites:
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“These are essentially different ways of making a website, and you can make a website with lots of different frameworks and formats. And, for the most part, we see these as normal HTML pages.
The different frameworks and CMS’s behind it—usually we basically ignore that and just say, well here’s an HTML page and we can process it.
So just the fact that one of your competitors has moved from one framework to another, and has seen an improvement in search, that framework change from my point of view wouldn’t be responsible for that.”
Mueller goes on to suggest other reasons why the competitors’ sites experienced ranking improvements.
Launching a new site has the potential to improve rankings if it’s significantly better than the old website.
It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the site being a PWA.
“But rather, maybe, they have a newer website now together with that framework change. Maybe the newer website has different internal linking, different content internally, is significantly faster or significantly slower, or users really like it, or they did an, I don’t know, marketing campaign together with the website launch.
All of these things kind of play in there and these are all things that are not limited to the framework you’re using.”
Very Old Websites Could Improve their SEO with PWAs
This subject is addressed a second time during the hangout, where Mueller says there’s so way to be certain that a PWA will improve rankings.
So, by default, saying going to a PWA will make your rankings better—I don’t think that is the case. It can improve your rankings if you make a better website, but you also have a lot of other things that you need to think about.
So it’s something where essentially, from my point of view, it’s more of: well, is going to a new website going to improve my rankings?
And my guess is if your website is really 10-15 years old and has kind of grown organically since then, probably yes. Like moving to any kind of a newer framework and a cleaner website, a faster website, one that works better for users, probably after 10-15 years you will see changes in ranking. That doesn’t have to be a PWA.”
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Then again, Mueller advises that it’s a lot of work to develop a PWA, so you have to consider whether it makes sense financially.
There are some tangible benefits to PWAs, Mueller adds, such as the ability to implement mobile app features that can’t be used on an HTML site.
“Maybe even going to PWA adds so much extra work that it’s not worthwhile for you. Maybe it is worthwhile. I think one of the advantages of a PWA is also that you have some almost like mobile app-related elements that are kind of available by default.
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But that’s something where, almost like the SEO aspect is secondary. Especially if you have a large old website that’s 10-15 years old, moving to something new I’m almost certain that you will see significant changes just because it’ll be a lot cleaner. It’ll be a lot faster, the structure will be a lot better, it’ll be better for users, it’ll be easier for search engines to understand. All of the HTML improvements that have happened since then they play in your favor.”
Hear Mueller’s responses in full in the two videos below:
Image Thumbnails, a mobile SERP favorite, are now present on far more SERPs than they had been just days ago. The proliferation of the thumbnails on the mobile SERP does not appear to be a simple across the board increase in the SERP feature. Rather, the data indicates that the uptick is heavily due to the feature now being relevant to local queries on mobile.
A Dramatic Increase in Mobile Image Thumbnails
On July 13th, our Mobile SERP Feature Tracker began showing an increase in page one SERPs showing Image Thumbnails (mobile). By the time the data leveled off, mobile Image Thumbnails had gone from appearing on 15.7% of all mobile page one SERPs to an all-time high of 44.5%. That’s an enormous increase, a 183% increase to be more specific.
To give this data some context, the most notable increase in the SERP feature, prior to the one just seen, occurred in September 2016. At that time, mobile Image Thumbnails had gone from appearing on under 1% of all mobile page one SERPs to just over 10%.
Since then, the feature has fluctuated between showing on around 7% of mobile page ones to upwards of 15%. At no time during this prolonged period had the feature ever gotten close to the levels we’re currently seeing.
Mobile Image Thumbnails Now Apply to Local Searches
Upon noticing the increase in mobile Image Thumbnails I started to look at which keywords now scored the feature relative to the recent past. It quickly became quite evident that the proliferation of mobile Image Thumbnails was largely due to local searches. That is, and as opposed to the past, Google is now showing Image thumbnails for queries that indicate a location.
To be clear, I am not referring to searches for specific locations. Keywords such as Canada and Germany or even specific locations like Bryant Park have consistently brought up SERPs that contain Image Thumbnails on mobile. Rather, Google is now showing the thumbnails for queries that reflect a local service, business, etc. At the same time, I am not referring to thumbnails within the Local Pack, that has existed for some time. I am strictly referring to Image Thumbnails in organic results.
For example, as of July 13th, the keyword toyota dealer in
denverdid not produce Image Thumbnails. As you can see below, that is no longer the case:
From what I can tell, this pattern applies across the board. Here’s the mobile SERP showing Image Thumbnails for the keyword new homes for sale spring tx which all things being equal, is not a static product (houses go onto and come off of the market constantly):
Accordingly, Google is showing the thumbnails for service-related local queries, such as restaurant linen service
Taking this to its logical end, near me searches also bring up the feature post spike:
To such an extent, when Google perceives user intent to reflect a local inquiry, as in the case of mowershop (which brings up the Local Pack), mobile Image Thumbnails may now appear:
Here is a list of 50 ‘local’ keywords that as of July 12th did not bring up mobile Image Thumbnails, but now do (just in case you were curious to see some other examples):
A Vision and a Dash of Color
Google has long used its SERP features to advance its desktop as well
as mobile search strategy. However, this practice is all the more impactful on mobile where Google has been quite creative in the development of its mobile SERP features. What exactly is behind Google using more Image Thumbnails for local searches on mobile is, of course, hard to say with exact precision. The search engine has long advocated for a more visual search experience on mobile, and as such has traditionally shown more carousels on mobile than on desktop and of course employs Rich Cards on mobile as well. It being mobile, where local search is most applicable, creating a visual SERP experience for these queries makes natural sense. It’s really a simple
equation, if mobile is the predominant force in local search, and if mobile is suited for a more visual experience, then combining these two elements via Image Thumbnails for local searches is merely the natural evolution of the mobile SERP.
About The Author
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!
Microsoft has published its list of IP addresses that Bingbot, the Microsoft Bing crawler, users when crawling your web site. Fabrice Canel from Microsoft said “to help all webmasters, we also published Bingbot IP ranges.”
Bingbot IPs. You can access the current list of Bingbot’s IP addresses over here. It is a JSON file that Microsoft can maintain.
Verify Bingbot. You can also verify Bingbot using this tool and also through the IP addresses listed above. Microsoft explained that you can check whether or not an IP address belongs to Bingbot with this too. This is useful to double check if traffic in your server logs with requests using a “Bingbot” or “MSNBOT” user agent string are in fact genuine Bingbot IP addresses and that the server making the requests is not simply hiding its true identity. The tool is available in 2 places: inside your Bing Webmaster Tools account under Diagnostics & Tools, and, if you don’t have an account yet, as a public tool at http://www.bing.com/toolbox/verify-bingbot.
Why do I need this. If you believe someone is crawling your site, pretending to be Bingbot, and you want to verify that blocking this fake Bingbot crawler is not really Microsoft Bing.
Not to be outdone by Google. Just last week, Google published its list of Googlebot IP addresses.
Why we care. Often sites can be slowed down and potentially even go offline because of fake bots crawling and spidering the site. You rarely want to block Microsoft Bing from crawling your site because that can lead to indexing and ranking issues in Microsoft Bing Search. So knowing which bot is really Microsoft Bing and which is not, can help you decide which rogue bots to block from your site.
There are also third party services, like Cloudflare and others that help you manage this.
New on Search Engine Land
About The Author
Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry’s personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here.
There is a basic topic that every SEO needs to know.
What’s more, there are many places you see search intent cropping up.
Lately, Google’s SERP features have bulked up and have moved from being an SEO concern to being a competitive juggernaut that every SEO needs to constantly consider. Each one exists to satisfy a specific search intent in some way.
What’s more, the search engine is going all-in with a new tactic: hybrid SERP features that combine elements from multiple features (so as to better serve a legion of different user intents). At the same time, it feels like Google is using its “traditional” features to offer a more powerful SERP feature punch these days.
Let’s understand what user search intent is and understand how Google is using SERP features to satisfy its user’s search queries.
==> Check out our SERP Feature Rank Tracking guide
But first, for those of you who don’t know…
What is User Intent in SEO?
User intent refers to what an internet user intends to find when typing a query into a search engine. Search engines are getting better at understanding the user’s search intent and categorizing it in order to accurately rank content.
The reason this is important is the primary goal of a search engine is to answer the user’s queries by presenting relevant content when they type a query into their browser. This means, the better a search engine understands the search query the better it can serve its users.
This also means as an SEO, in order to have your content ranked, you must also understand the user’s intent and then create content that is designed to be picked up by the search engine as the answer to the user’s query.
Now that that’s out of the way, here is my SERP feature search intent analysis.
Google is Using SERP Features to Satisfy User Search Intent
A few months back I started to get this sort of sixth sense that something on the SERP had changed. I was seeing all new SERP features for queries that I ran with relative frequency. It just felt like there were more SERP features on the page, that Google was taking a more aggressive approach, and that I was a bit overwhelmed with SERP features when previously I did not feel that way. Something was just off.
Google’s Answer Box and Knowledge Panel – A Powerful One-Two Keyword Intent Targeting Combination
The truth is, the last few months have been a whirlwind. There have been so many changes to Google’s SERP features in the more recent past, that it’s often left my head spinning. New elements have been added, new versions released, new patterns emerged, it’s been out of control in a way.
While this is an interesting and confusing change, I think it’s just one part of a much broader shift on the SERP.
If you read my content regularly, you’ll know I’m a sports fan (I’m one of those weird guys who likes Star Trek and smashmouth football at the same time). I was looking up a Yankees score (they’re a baseball team in case you’ve been living under a rock or at a Star Wars convention) and something hit me. Watch what you get for the query yankees(as an aside, take notice of how many SERP features show up and how many organic results you see, it’s astounding):
Who cares? Why is this anything? Because when I search yankees score, no Knowledge Panel appears:
In this case, Google knows I don’t care to learn about the entity, that I am here for a very specific reason, so there is no need to energetically seek to fulfill my needs with another SERP feature (i.e, a Knowledge Panel).
Old news, Google has been doing this for quite some time with this specific query. True, but indulge me as I use this case to highlight how Google targets search intent via its SERP features.
So let’s take this one step further. I have certain go-to searches I use to bring up certain SERP features. I like using yankeesto bring up a Knowledge Panel, because Major League Baseball teams often show Google Posts with GIFs within the panel.
For those of you who loathe baseball, the season generally starts in early April (sometimes even the last few days in March). Why does this matter, who cares? Because Google has gotten so smart and energetic in meeting specific user intents that the search engine does not show sports scores during a team’s offseason (generally speaking). In other words, while using the term yankeesfor “business” reasons during the winter months, I was accustomed to not seeing the Sports Box. April rolls in, and I execute the search, and lo and behold Google is showing me an Answer Box!
Let me show you. I’m writing this post in early July, it’s not (American) football season. So let’s do a search for an NFL team:
No Sports Box, just the Knowledge Panel. My point is, Google knows what you want and when you want it, and serves you SERP features accordingly. If my memory serves me correctly, I used to get the last score of the last game of the season even months later.
Google, in the more recent past, has gotten much better at this (I would say it started about a year or so ago, but it’s been far more noticeable as of late). Let’s take another example – the search term star wars which on February 20,
2017 looked like this (cached image from our “archives,” so sorry about the quality):
The above is what you would expect to see, except now that’s not what you get:
Google has gotten smarter. It now knows that Star Wars fans seem to very often be looking for specific movies as opposed to the franchise itself. Hence, the Disambiguation Box (i.e., ‘See results about’) listing the individual movies.
In fact, that’s pretty much the storyline here, Google has gotten smarter and can now be more assertive with its SERP features. True, Google has been showing a Knowledge Panel and Answer Box for the keyword yankeesfor a while, but not so for best actors as of February 20, 2017:
Since then, Google has gotten smarter. It now (as of May 2017) knows that the search term can refer to ‘who is the best actor?’ as well as to the title of the Academy Award. As such, it shows both a Featured Snippet listing some of the best actors ever along with a Knowledge Panel showing you who has won the Best Actor award:
This newfound ability to better understand user intent (newfound being relative, it’s been a progressive journey), has indeed led Google to throw more SERP features your way for a given query in order to meet the most keyword search intents they possibly can. Oddly enough, I don’t see a huge shift in the number of keywords coming back with multiple features now relative to the past. That said, we use a very normalized dataset. What I do notice is that Google is not casting a wide net, but targeting more prominent and higher volume keywords. In other words, looking up some obscure entity that scores a Knowledge Panel is not going to get a second feature to meet a sub-intent. But the very popular, very used, very basic keyword of allergist gets an Answer Box thrown on:
No, this was not always the case. Here’s what the keyword brought back on October 11, 2016:
If you’ll notice there was no Local Pack either back in 2016. This is exactly what I mean by ‘more energetic.’ In fact, this is a great example in that it points very strongly to machine learning driving SERP feature scorings.
Just to offer another example of this, here is the SERP for education attorney:
In this instance, the Knowledge Panel and Answer Box only started to appear as of May 2018. Previously, only a Local Pack registered.
Not Formulaic but Query Dependent
I want to point something out. There’s no formula here. That is, when and how Google decides to be more aggressive with its SERP features, and energetically pursue meeting multiple intents with them is not dependent on the features per se. That is, there is no rule that says that when a query is more specific Google will not pursue meeting multiple intents with its SERP features. As I mentioned, I don’t see a major increase in certain combinations of SERP features, with one or two exceptions (such as the increase in Featured Snippets showing on the same SERP as Local Packs). This shift to taking a more dominant approach with its SERP features seems to be a query dependent issue.
Take the query cydni laupersongs. If we follow the logic Google exhibited when searching for a sports score, only the top carousel showing the musician’s songs should appear, and not a Knowledge Panel. However, the opposite is true:
Conversely, a search for cyndi lauperalone does not bring up the song carousel (as opposed to yankees, which does bring up the Sports Box):
In other words, Google’s energetic use of SERP features is query dependent. There is no formulaic expression. Rather, either the nature of the entity or the nature of the query are the determining factor.
This is perhaps the strongest case for asserting that machine learning is increasingly involved in the SERP feature bidding process and is what drives and indeed gives Google the ability to pursue a more energetic SERP feature program.
(Did you notice
by the way, the video carousel for the two cyndi lauperqueries was not an exact match… fascinating.)
Round II – Multiple Related Search Boxes
Towards the end of May, I (and others in the industry) started noticing that Google altered its Related Search Box (desktop). Some people
saw that the box started to appear at the top of the SERP and so forth. What I picked up was that multiple boxes started to display on the SERP. OK, interesting.
It wasn’t until the end of June that it all clicked for me. Let’s go back to that yankees score SERP, but to the bottom of the page:
Why are there two Related Search Boxes? To cater to two different intents. Google thinks that perhaps I might have wanted to learn more about who is on the team. At the same time, the search engine thought I may want to learn more about other New York sports
teams, since that’s what the Yankees are. So what did they do… they energetically targeted me with two sets of related search results.
As an aside, fast-forward a few weeks and Google thinks that I no longer want to learn about other sports teams. Rather, Google is focused on the overall “baseball” aspect of the Yankees and wants to show me a list of the leagues that make up major league baseball in the second box:
Numerous Answer Boxes for the Knockout
Still want yet another example of Google energetically pursuing the attention of its users by offering multiple SERP feature options?
When doing research for another post (quite recently), I noticed this beauty:
You are not seeing things, there are two Direct Answers on the SERP!
However, the oddest thing is that the Dictionary Box appears with the Knowledge Panel (as they both offer the same essential content in this particular instance). This is not Google’s most efficient showing, though it is indicative of the search engine’s desire to greet users with an array of SERP features so as to preclude the possibility of a user walking away unsatisfied.
I see this as the equivalent of Google throwing out a giant net, and hoping to catch as many users as they can.
Machine Learning’s Role in SERP Feature Scorings – The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Room
I wouldn’t say the major change is that Google is trying to be smart about targeting users via its SERP properties and using multiple and varied features in the process. Rather, my perception is that Google has gotten far better at this, particularly as of late. It’s not that Google is merely tag-teaming users with a Direct Answer and Knowledge Panel, but that they’ve gotten far smarter in how and when they do that.
In the not too distant past, I posted about how Featured Snippets have gotten smarter, pointing to machine learning exerting greater influence over them. I would venture to say this applies pretty much across the board, as Google is using a variety of SERP features to specifically target multiple types of users, each searching for a given term for a different reason. Simply, there’s a whole lot of intent parsing going on here and that usually means machine learning is in the room.
Hybrid SERP Features Targeting Multiple User Intents = Havoc
There’s another side to this equation that I’ve noticed sprout up. Aside from using multiple features more energetically and with the help of the always improving machine learning, more effectively, Google has taken a more aggressive approach in how it displays its properties. I am not referring to the layout of the features on the SERP, but rather, their very appearance. Over the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more hybrid SERP features appear on the page. By the term hybrid I mean, Google has taken multiple SERP features and merged them into one entity.
These hybrids are exceedingly significant as they represent Google more powerfully using its SERP features to target multiple intents simultaneously. I’m going to survey the examples I am aware of and point out how these features target users more vigorously (which subsequently creates “organic” problems).
Featured Snippet + Knowledge Panel
Enough theoretical chitchat, here is a Featured Snippet and Knowledge Panel together (should we perhaps call it a Knowledge Snippet?):
A couple of things to point out here.
1) The Featured Snippet section includes a title/header that looks much like that shown in a Direct Answer. In terms of “functionality,” this is a Direct Answer. Google is giving you the “answer” to the query in a straightforward and direct manner. In this case, a user who simply wants to know the name of the person who created the microphone need not read on nor click anything.
2) Google got a bit confused here. There happens to be a music artist named Emile Berliner. Google did not distinguish between these two gentlemen. The access to “his” music (via YouTube, Spotify, etc.) is a result of this misunderstanding. But that does not really matter. What matters is that Google thought that a user may have wanted to hear “this person’s” music, so they connected a Knowledge Panel to the Featured Snippet, so that no user would go untargeted.
To sum it up, Google is using this SERP feature to target anyone looking
Know who invented the microphone
Learn about the person who invented the microphone
Hear the music of he who invented the microphone (working from Google’s perspective, not the actual reality)
Anyone not satisfied with the above, could, of course, continue their quest by engaging the People Also Ask feature directly below the Knowledge Panel section.
Knowledge Panel + Direct Answer
Like Featured Snippets, Direct Answers are now also paired with Knowledge Panels in this crazy topsy-turvy world of hybrid SERP features:
Again satisfying users who both want a quick answer and those who want to get a more in-depth understanding of the “entity,” this hybrid moves in on those sites who would have otherwise been sought after so as to learn more about the inventor of Morse Code.
Besides being followed by the People Also Ask feature, the “panel section” also includes “carousels” (I call them that since that’s precisely what they are on mobile, where this element originated from). With these two carousels, users can continue on their way without the need of clicking an actual result. Consider this in context of the fact that this type of query would normally just produce the Answer Box but a few months ago.
Mobile presents the same hybrid for the query as well:
In this instance, There is a Direct Answer that includes multiple images followed by the People Also Search For carousel. On mobile, however, the Knowledge Panel is accessed when you tap on the More about Samuel Morse button under the carousel:
That is not to say that a Direct Answer and Knowledge Panel are not perfectly joined in
harmonious union on mobile, as can be seen here:
Direct Answer + Featured Snippet + Knowledge Panel
Taking things to their logical conclusion, Google offers a legitimate feature that is a combination of a Direct Answer, Featured Snippet, and Knowledge Panel:
In offering this doozy, Google targets a plethora of users in one fell swoop. For a general query (like the one that brought the above about, i.e., bb king guitar), Google has drastically reduced the likelihood of multiple users, who are of course searching for multiple reasons, from ever needing the organic results.
In other words, here, Google is energetically, targeting users who want to know:
The name of BB King’s guitar
What the guitar looks like
A bit of history behind the guitar
Who manufactured BB King’s guitar
Meaning, any user whose search meets the above-listed intents has no reason to look at an organic result, let alone click on one (and in some instances that includes the URL inside the Featured Snippet).
SERP Feature Hybrids Unique to Mobile
Google has some fascinating SERP feature hybrids that it employs on mobile to assertively fulfill a user’s need without having to rely on organic listings. While these formats are unique to mobile, Google does target users the same way on
desktop by using multiple features. That said, merging multiple SERP features into one mega-feature is something else entirely as it hones in the user towards seeing and utilizing its contents.
The two examples I’m going to present are not as new as what I’ve surveyed above, they’ve been on the SERP for a bit of time now. That said, I’m including them so as to paint a more complete picture since you could argue this is where the hybrid SERP feature was born.
Mobile Local Packs + Knowledge Panels
In the world of energetically capturing user satisfaction, Google offers a version of the Local Pack that also includes a Knowledge Panel on mobile:
While this format is not as new as some of the others I’ve mentioned, it’s very logical and because of that, very powerful. When a user searches for a company by name, it’s possible that at the same time, they would like to know more about the entity as well. It makes good sense, and that’s why it’s so powerful.
This is one of the most clear-cut cases, where you can easily see how Google is trying to target two birds with one stone sort to speak. Why
have the user
do another search to find out more about the entity? Why
have the user
move past the Local Pack to do so? Just make the end of the user’s overall journey be the SERP feature itself. Energetic.
Knowledge Panel + Travel Guide
I’m going to close out this survey with a mobile Knowledge Panel that doubles as a Travel Guide:
Here, if a user is either searching for a specific country in order to help their kids with their geography
homework, or if they’re looking to plan a vacation, Google has made sure there is a SERP feature to greet them both at the door.
This is again, a perfect example of how Google is energetically trying to meet the needs of different users simultaneously. This is a great way to try to help users and is a shining example of creativity, but it’s also a sore point for sites. Without this hybrid, if the user is trying to plan a vacation to China, the Knowledge Panel is irrelevant. Either they will find an organic result on the page, or they will refine their query. And yes, if the user, in this case, refines their query, they may encounter Google’s Travel Guide, but now they definitely will no matter how general the search term is.
My goal here was not to write some sort of definitive guide to the modern SERP. All I wanted to do was provide a little order to the chaos that has been the new norm over the past 6 months or so (probably a little bit longer than that really). What I’ve shown here is by no means the full extent of what Google is offering and how it is targeting users in ways never seen before. This is merely a way of concretizing some things that I’ve noticed during my time on the SERP (and I most definitely spend a disproportionate amount of time on it). What I’ve presented here is just my growing perception of how things have changed. I’ve tried to pass on this perception in the most concrete manner that I could. Some of the items I’ve presented may be older, some newer, some may be well-known, others still obscure. Either way, hopefully, I’ve been successful in shedding a bit of light!
Please let me know if you’ve also noticed things changing on the SERP. I would **** your help in creating a more comprehensive understanding of what’s going on ‘out there’!
About The Author
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!
It’s a topic that remains up for discussion: SEO-friendly URLs. Should you include the category? Do you want to keep the URL as short as possible or is there room for extras? Is it smart to stuff your URL with keywords? First of all, it’s good to know that the best practices for SEO-friendly URLs can differ per website type. There are, however, a few ground rules that you can keep in mind when setting up your URLs. In this post, we’ll explain our take on URLs and elaborate on why we think that this is the best option for your links.
URL is an acronym for Uniform Resource Locator, but you won’t have to remember that. It’s simply the address of a unique resource on the web that you can also use to navigate to that resource right away. A simple example is the URL https://www.google.com/ that takes you to Google’s search page. URLs are not exactly the same as slugs. The slug is actually the part of a URL that identifies a particular page on a website. An example is the URL https://yoast.com/keyword-research/ where the slug is ‘keyword-research’.
A few ground rules for SEO-friendly URLs
Although best practices can depend on the kind of website you have, there are a few ground rules when it comes to creating SEO-friendly URLs:
Make sure that your URLs are focused. They shouldn’t contain function words like ‘a’, ‘of’, ‘the’ etc. In 99% of the cases, these words add nothing of value to your URL. If possible, strip your URLs of verbs as well. Words like ‘are’ or ‘have’ are not needed in your URL to make clear what the page is about.
Although you want to keep your URL focused, try to keep it readable enough to give people an idea of what they can expect when they click on your link.
Use hyphens to separate words in your slug. Don’t use spaces, underscores or other characters of your choice to do this.
There isn’t really an ideal length for your URL, but we do recommend to keep your URLs as short as possible. It’s not that Google doesn’t like lengthy URLs, but shorter URLs are more focused and easier to recall. In addition, they will be less likely to be cut off when shown in Google. It’s also good to keep in mind that if you use breadcrumbs on your site, as we do, these could appear in Google’s results instead of the full URL:
Now that you’re aware of the ground rules, let’s look into the best practices per type of website. Because there are different factors to consider, depending on your website. We’ll discuss how to create SEO-friendly URLs for:
SEO-friendly URLs for company websites
If you have a static website that provides people with information on your company and services (without an online shop or blog page on it), we would recommend going with the shortest URL possible. For all of your pages. This makes it easy for people to revisit these pages and keeps your URLs clean and clear. When you have a company website, it’s best to keep it simple and not create unnecessary long URLs.
There are actually a few content management systems (like Magento) that automatically create both URLs when you create a product page. If that’s the case on your website, you can use rel=canonical to point Google to the one you want to appear in their search results.
However, the question still remains what URL structure you should use. When it comes to an online shop, you can use your URLs to tell visitors more about your product range. For example, if your shop contains categories that make your visitor’s life easier, by all means, include these categories in your URL as well. That way your URL, breadcrumbs, and menu will tell the visitor where they are on your website and what else they can expect to find:
As you can see from the example above, the categories included in the URL give an idea of the other products that someone can find on that particular website. Of course, you need to decide for yourself whether you feel that your categories add that value to the URL. If so, it’s also better for SEO to include the category, as category and product are very much related and this will help Google understand your pages even more.
SEO-friendly URLs for blogs or news sites
When your website is a blog or news website, there are a number of ways to construct your URLs. Let’s go over them one by one:
http://example.com/post-title/ If your site as a whole has one central and strong theme, you could consider focusing on the post title alone to create an SEO-friendly URL. The coherence of your content will indicate the main topic of your website to Google, so there will be no need to add that to the URL.
http://example.com/category-name/post-title/ When your website is a news website on which you’re writing about different topics, adding the topic (for instance as a category name) is a good idea. This will help site visitors and Google understand what the page is about. The logic behind that is similar to the logic behind product page URLs (as explained above). The category name gives people more context and an idea of other news that they can expect on your website.
http://example.com/mm/dd/yyyy/post-title/ If your website features daily news and the news is related to a ****, you can choose to include that **** in the URL as well. If someone is looking for the latest news on Apple’s products, the **** in the URL will show someone if the page is about this year’s iPhone or not. However, it is good to note that the URL is often not shown in the search results and that Google can sometimes show a original publish **** (regardless of when you’ve done the last update). So, although a **** in your URL will likely not impact your SEO, you should consider whether it serves your site visitors.
Although there are a few ground rules, there is not one correct way to create the best SEO-friendly URL. It depends on your website and content. Especially with a blog or news site, there are multiple options to consider. The main takeaway is to keep your URLs focused and to keep your audience in mind. Besides that, make sure to include all the information that’s important to make clear what the page is about.
If you’d like to learn more about best practices in SEO, our all-around SEO training course can help you with that. In this course, you’ll get practical tips on how to rank higher and get more visitors to your website!
Read more: What is a slug and how to optimize it? »
Camille is content manager at Yoast. She writes and optimizes blog posts and enjoys creating content that helps people master SEO.
Google My Business (GMB) has been rebranded as your Google Business Profile. With the announcement of this change came the release of new features and enhancements to Google’s local search profiles for businesses.
What does this mean for multi-location and enterprise brands?
In this guide, you’ll learn what’s new and find a complete breakdown of your Google Business Profile, with tips and resources for optimizing each area.
What is A Google Business Profile?
Google Business Profile is the new name for the Google My Business program and your local business profile.
Google’s local search presence offering has gone through several iterations over the years. First came Google Places in 2004, the search engine’s alternative to the traditional print yellow pages. The Google Local Business Center launched not long after in May 2005, giving businesses a way to control their listings in Search and Maps.
Even back then, business attributes were an important part of the search experience that helped businesses stand out and assisted local consumers in finding just the right location to meet their needs. Google said at the time,
“Google Local now also offers reviews of businesses and additional information about establishments such as hours of operation, payment types accepted, WiFi availability, restaurant menus, hotel amenities and more.”
Google Maps and Google Local merged later in 2005, then along came Google+ in 2011. For a while, Google+ Business Pages and Google+ Local Pages had to be managed separately. Thankfully, that was remedied in 2012. Although Google+ failed as a social network, it did provide the foundation of the single sign-on that enables us to control many Google products from one email account, a functionality we still use today.
In 2013, Google Places for Business launched with a much more user-friendly interface. And in 2014, Google combined both the Google Places for Business and Google+ Local experiences into a single UI called Google My Business.
In the years that followed, the Google My Business team tested and added new features and capabilities constantly, and the platform matured into the indispensable marketing and local SEO tool it is today.
We’re going to dig into why that is and which areas you really need to focus on to make the most of it. But first, what’s changed?
GMB Becomes Google Business Profile
On November 4, 2021, Matt Madrigal announced on behalf of Google, “To keep things simple, ‘Google My Business’ is being renamed ‘Google Business Profile. And in 2022, we’ll retire the Google My Business app so more merchants can take advantage of the upgraded experience on Search and Maps.”
“The existing Google My Business web experience will transition to primarily support larger businesses with multiple locations, and will be renamed ‘Business Profile Manager,’ he added.
This update gives brands the ability to request verification and resolve other types of issues directly from the Search experience, as opposed to in a separate UI.
Now, if you search for the location on Google while signed in to an account connected with it, any issues with verification, suspensions, or other critical issues will appear. You’ll also see cards representing areas of the profile that can be edited directly from Search.
Image courtesy of Google
Once these updates are fully rolled out, from Google Search and Maps you will be able to:
Complete account setup
Respond to reviews
Make changes to key business information such as hours and address
Now, if all of this sounds like a manually intensive process, that’s because it is. Whether via a dedicated interface or through Search and Maps, managing hundreds or even thousands of local business profiles this way just isn’t feasible.
Multi-location brands have long used enterprise local SEO software as a single source for managing multiple Google profiles and local listings, tracking rankings and conversions across the local ecosystem, monitoring and responding to reviews, and more.
Now, let’s take a look at the important parts of your Google Business Profile that you can use to show local customers – and search engines – that you’re the best answer for relevant queries.
Optimizing Your Google Business Profile
Make sure you’re maximizing the visibility of each location by fully optimizing your profiles. Verification is an important first step; see Bulk Verification for Enterprise & Multi-Location Brands for help.
Business Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP)
There are many reasons a large brand might use different name variations. However, it’s important that each location’s name is in keeping in line with these Guidelines for representing your business on Google. Failing to do so can result in issues with verification or even a profile suspension.
Decide whether you want to use call tracking from your profiles, and make sure you have the correct address and map pin.
Your primary business category is essential, too. You can choose up to 9 more relevant categories. However, different attributes and features will be available to you based on the primary category you’ve selected. See this resource on selecting your primary business category for more.
Proper Business Categorization
Is your location a physical place customers can visit, or do you serve customers off-site within a specific region? It’s essential that you get this right, as Google can suspend a service area business for improperly using its Google Business Profile.
If you own a plumbing business out of your home, for example, you do not want customers showing up at your door. Properly setting up as a service area business will help you avoid issues with verification and provide a better searcher experience.
Key Location Information
Your business information will impact both your online visibility and the actions visitors can take upon seeing your listing. Pay close attention to these areas:
URL: Link to an optimized local landing page, not the brand homepage.
Make use of any Menu, Appointment, Order Ahead, or other vertical-specific specialty attributes available.
Hours: Keep hours of operation up to **** and use Special Hours and/or More Hours as needed.
Attributes: Use attributes to proactively provide information that answers consumers’ most common questions about the location and its amenities. See restaurant attributes here, for example, as opposed to the attributes available to financial services brands.
Brief description: Make good use of this limited space with local content, rather than a generic brand statement. Help people understand exactly why this particular location is the best choice.
These fields require ongoing monitoring and occasional updating, as Google may make changes to key business information based on user suggestions, inaccurate listings elsewhere online, and other factors.
The Q&A section of your listing is an important place to monitor customer interactions. It’s also a great place to see frequently asked questions so that information is front and center on your profile when customers are looking to learn more about that location.
This feature is similar to Facebook Messenger in that it enables the customer to communicate directly with the business through their listing in Search. Google Messaging is an opt-in feature, so you can leave it turned off if you choose. If you do turn it on, make sure it’s monitored closely so anyone who sends a message gets a reply within 24 hours.
Local reviews are an integral part of the search experience. They not only serve as social proof that can help improve conversions but are factored into your local search rankings, too. Make sure you have permissions-based monitoring and triage in place, and that each review gets a response. Learn more in 5 Key Local Reviews Opportunities for Enterprise Brands.
In addition to your logo and cover photo, brands can add local images that are not only eye-catching but also provide important information about each location to help searchers decide. High-quality photos of the location’s interior, exterior, team, products/services, and surrounding streetscape help set the stage for the searcher’s conversion to real-world customers.
From The Business
This 750-character description is another opportunity to share what makes this location unique and help it stand out in search. Use this space to call attention to features that weren’t covered in attributes and other fields.
Posts are a great way to share offers and deals, promote upcoming events, and regularly engage searchers with richer, detailed information. Consider this a Facebook post that shows up in search results and on your local listing. Google Posts are such a great tool for brands that we put together a free e-book on how to make the most of them – get a copy here.
Executing Successful Local SEO Strategy At Scale
Google Business Profiles are an integral part of your local search strategy, and managing this at the enterprise level comes with unique challenges of scale. Learn more in these helpful resources:
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