Welcome to June’s news round-up from the world of SEO. These are some of the blog posts that have grabbed my attention this last month that offer insight or actionable content. SEO is never standing still and to keep up I enjoy reading and listening to other community members, who I respect because it helps me keep my finger on the pulse. It’s also good to revisit some of the basics from time-to-time to make sure you’re not picking up bad habits.
This month we’re going to be exploring Google penalties, estimating revenue from the featured snippet, technical SEO for mobile-first indexing and the launch of Google’s new dashboard for Local SEO agencies, to name a few. Sharing is caring so feel free to share your own opinions in the comments below.
Google Penalties: An Expert’s Guide
I remember the good ‘ole’ days. Or in this case, the bad old days. The days when if you got smacked with a Google penalty, it was pretty much game over. At the very least, it was a real battle to bring your site back to life. It was a minefield too. If you didn’t get caught out by the Panda update, you had the Penguin update to contend with, and then there were manual penalties to trip you up. If you dabbled in the grey/blackhat side of SEO it could be a nightmare.
But times have changed. Depending on the SEO “crime” you are guilty of committing, these days you can get back into Google’s good books and rescue the site, your hard work and investment is not lost. Here’s my own case study on lifting a manual penalty (watch here)
You’ll need to understand all about Google penalties, how to detect them and ultimately, how to recover from them. It might also be a good idea to protect yourself against any future penalties.
One more thing is important, and that’s how to determine the difference between a penalty and filters. When we talk about penalties we are normally speaking about a manual penalty. In other words, a Google employee has reviewed the site and determined that it fails to meet that review.
It will be clearly stated on your Google Search Console that you have a penalty, and it’s rare to have no warning from Google.
Whereas, a filter is related to the algorithm doing the checking. As Marie Haynes explains, a filter is:
” part of the main algorithm that can cause your site to be algorithmically suppressed. For example, the Panda algorithm can act as a filter. If your site is deemed lower quality by Panda, then the filter can act as an anchor that holds your site down. This anchor can make it really hard for you to rank well.
In the past, Panda and Penguin were algorithmic filters that would run periodically. Google would update the algorithm and then, if Panda or Penguin thought your site had issues, they would put something like an invisible flag on your site that would cause it to be suppressed.”
Of course, the Penguin update no longer suppresses sites as it used to, so you can’t see it as a distinct filter but the critical point is, filters are a component of the algorithm and you’re not informed about it in the same way you are with a manual penalty.
If you’re not sure if you’ve taken a hit on a filter, the best way to check is by tracking organic traffic. A sudden drop is a good signal you’ve been hit by a filter but for Penguin 4.0’s rolling upgrade it’s a little trickier. A useful tool is the Panguin Tool, which compares your Google Analytics with known algo updates.
Ahrefs, with a little help from the respected SEO – Marie Haynes, helps to unpack penalties and how you should go about recovery, my video is a great tool to understand the mental process of approaching a manual penalty.
Sudden Drop in rankings? What does it mean?
We have some community members that take the time to check Google patents and follow key players on Google hangouts, and then share what they find with the SEO community. Barry Schwartz is one such expert and he’s been following a discussion on ranking changes that made for interesting reading.
Google’s John Mueller made it clear that any sudden changes in your SERPs, barring major problems with your site, is almost definitely related to a Google algorithm update, bearing in mind that smaller updates are being rolled out all the time,
For example, if your site has it’s content quality score reviewed and the algorithm determines your site no longer has the same quality compared to competitor sites, you’ll see changes in ranking almost immediately. A day, maybe two at most. They’ll be a hit and most likely a little fluctuation as it settles into its new position, but it’s fairly immediately and painful.
On the flip side. any changes you make to your site, especially onsite or technical changes are more likely to affect the search results over a period of time. Expect some fluctuation and a gradual increase / decrease rather than something abrupt like you would if Google is punishing you.
In Google’s own words:
” So if you made changes on one day and like a week later you start seeing changes in the search results, that was also a date that other people mentioned as kind of bigger changes that they were seeing, then probably that’s not related to the changes that you made.”
This is more accentuated the larger the site is, it can take months to see some changes in the search results and to be clear, according to Google, you should expect to see gradual changes (if we’re talking about onsite SEO) rather than spikes or sudden drops.
The potential revenue for position #0
Generally speaking, SEO is a race to the top of the search rankings. That used to be the much coveted #1 position but these days there’s the competition for the snippet too. Position #0. But is it always financially worth the investment in time and money, what kind of ROI can you expect from all that extra effort?
Karen Bone from Search Engine Land does a good job at breaking it down.
Forget other factors for a minute. A recent study showed that the snippet steals around 8.6% of the search results. Of course, you need to consider other contributing factors like how well the snippet answers the searcher’s question or does the searcher need further information which leads them to click through to the page? This varies depending on the search term. But as a rule of thumb 8-9% is a good figure to know.
Then you’ll need to collect some data, such as KW search volumes, the CTR for the position you’re ranking for, in this case, #0, and finally, your landing page’s conversion rates (if relevant). If you can include your average order value into the mix it will help too.
Featured snippets are different from other positions on the page. Searchers who click on the snippet have different user intent/search behaviour, it’s not always going to make financial sense to invest in SEO to steal the snippet.
If you’re looking for more information on how you can go about stealing the feature snippet, here are my 3 sneaky tips (read).
91% of content gets no traffic! Guess what content does…
The web is massive and growing by the millions every day. But which pages get the views? Tim Soulo from Ahrefs (who will be speaking at this year’s Chiang Mai SEO Conference 2018) has used the full force of Ahrefs’ Content Explorer tool to run some testing, and the results are definitely worth a read.
For the impatient reader, here are the broad strokes.
Unsurprisingly, a large portion of the pages gets none of the traffic at all. A whopping 94.3% in fact. It’s a reasonable sample size so there’s some credibility in that number.
But Tim wasn’t content with the sample size, so he increased the scale of the data. He took 1 billion pages and analyzed organic traffic.
He then broke down the data in terms of backlinks and search context. For example, with onsite SEO and content becoming more and more important, the data makes it very clear how important backlinks still are.
It’s pretty simple. Over 50% of the sites getting no love from Google don’t have backlinks, a further 30% have less than 3 backlinks. Only 20% of pages that aren’t getting views have a reasonable amount of backlinks so Backlinks have to matter.
The other biggie coming from the article is targeting the right keywords. You’ll be amazed how many pages are targeting keywords with no traffic and how many pages out there are being penalized thanks to some excessive past link building strategy.
So, backlinks matter so does picking the right user intent/keywords. Good to know that the data still supports common sense.
Outreach: increasing reply rates
With outreach, there are a dozen ways to skin the proverbial cat. However you run your outreach, it all boils down to the same thing. ROI. You’ll want to spend as little money as possible acquiring each link, and you’ll want the maximum impact.
With outreach, it’s always good to remind yourself that time is probably the biggest investment you make so streamlining your outreach to be as effective as possible is going to bring about the biggest ROI by saving time. The better the reply rate the more effective your time is.
So, some strategies to increase reply rate include using a signature block and using a branded email account.
The theory being that the branded email address adds instant authority to the email as it sits in the inbox with the other unsolicited emails asking for guest posts. Especially if the email address instant signifies that it’s niche relevant to the blog owner/manager.
With signature blocks, they also instantly give a signal of trust and authority. It’s a real business that’s contacting them, someone worth listening to.
That’s the theory. But does the data support including these strategies? Are they worth it? The answer is in the case study here.
Too lazy to check? Well, they both do. Significantly. Together they more than doubled reply rates on the case study, check out how that’s broken down.
Mobile SEO Checklist
The Mobile-first indexing era is upon us. We’ve recently covered how Google was transferring simpler sites (like client and affiliate sites) to mobile first indexing so if you haven’ received a message in your search console yet, most likely you will sooner rather than later.
Excited or nervous? One SEOs downfall is another SEO’s opportunity to steal some rankings from their competitors. Either way, I hope you’re not ignoring it because it’s happening right now, you can’t stop it.
There’s been plenty of noise about the subject in general, but recently I came across this article on how to adjust mobile-first indexing from a technical perspective. It’s not easy, it’s for more experienced SEOs but it’s an increasingly important component of SEO.
What would be handy is a checklist written by someone who knows what they’re talking about. Enter Barry Adams from Search Engine Land.
He covers the basics including responsive design, dynamic serving but also goes on to talk about data structuring, Hreflang tags, Pagination (when necessary) and internal link structuring specifically for mobile-first.
For example, whether to use responsive design or dynamic serving.
Responsive design: Google recommends responsive design as its preferred design pattern, as it requires the least effort from their end; there is no extra code to index and no additional URLs to crawl.
Dynamic serving: This is called a dynamic serving. It is the same URL, different HTML code, one for desktop users and another for mobile users.
If you’re comfortable with the technical side of SEO, and you want to be prepared or you’re already playing catch up, it’s definitely worth a read, loads of actionable information.
Local SEO: A new Google dashboard for agencies
If you offer a local SEO service then you’ll be interested in Google’s new dashboard, built just for you. The Google: My Business Agency Dashboard was first mentioned just a little bit over a month ago and has just gone live. The goal of the dashboard is to help local SEOs and digital agencies manage multiple accounts much more effectively and from the one dashboard.
You can register for the dashboard here .
Some of the new features include:
- Managing all locations all under the one account/dashboard. There is no longer a limit of 100.
- You can send and receive different invitations to manage and see status data on all those listings.
- Businesses are able to manage by location groups and invite agencies to manage their listings.
- Having location groups allow you to allocate team members to limited information.
- You have the ability to search multiple listing within your account for easy reference.
If you manage multiple accounts, for local SEO, it could be a tool worth exploring.
Should You Noindex Category & Archive Pages?
A common question coming from the SEO community is whether or not you should be no-indexing your category or archive pages. My personal opinion would be that it depends.
The article explores the subject well. As a general rule of thumb, Google is pretty smart and if you’ve spent time on your content Google should see the value of your money pages and ignore your category or archive pages. However, with e-commerce, it’s not so clear-cut.
For a start, there are so many more product pages, and those pages are most likely to have limited and very similar content, we make it more difficult for Google to differentiate between what should and shouldn’t be ranking.
How you go about diverting Google to the pages you want indexing depends on your strategy. There are Robots.txt blocking, the Meta Robots NoIndex Tag, and 404s. This article will walk you through those options and should help you make the right decision for your own sites.
There is no right answer, it’s a case-by-case basis and how you block Google also differs. Here’s an article I created with Rowan Collins from The Search Initiative. The article talks about site crawling and you can read it here
How Long Does It Take a Link to Affect Rankings?
These days, you have to be patient when looking for SEO impact. When running Diggity links, we did a lot of testing on our PBNs, as we do with Authority Builders, so I have my own opinions on how quickly different links impact search results but I’m always interested in hearing the opinion of other SEOs.
This article looks at the myth that it takes 3 months to see the effects of a link and how that might differ now with Penguin’s real-time updating, especially now as it’s become part of the core algorithm. They argue that in many cases, it can take 10-14 days, the average time it takes Google to re-crawl a site and update the ranking accordingly.
To complicate the matter, there’s also the time-delay of crawling and reindexing pages, which slows things down.
So now we have two processes that introduce an element of a time delay. The crawling and re-indexing plus the subsequent recalculations of link relationships.
Google has let us know, via their patent submissions, that they split up how they crawl web resources:
“Systems and methods for finding multiple shortest paths. A directed graph representing web resources and links are divided into shards, each shard comprising a portion of the graph representing multiple web resources. Each of the shards is assigned to a server, and a distance table is calculated in parallel for each of the web resources in each shard using the nearest seed computation in the server to which the shard was assigned.”
One interpretation is that it would depend on the niche your link resides in, this could impact how quickly your links are going to affect the search results. In other words, less competitive niches, with less content, could be crawled and re-indexed quicker than more competitive niches on other servers.
Interesting reading, if you’re an SEO nerd who gets excited about such things. This article suggests there is an argument for 10-14 days, but it’s depending on the niche the site is in.
The definitive guide to Google’s Search Console
For beginners who are looking to take advantage of all the functions Google’s Search Console has to offer, Brian Dean has put together a useful guide that walks you through the Search Console step-by-step.
There’s a load of actionable information here. For example, you can’t get ranked if you’re not indexed. There’s a quick “how to” on how to use the Index Coverage Report to find crawling errors. How to use the URL removal tool, the HTML Improvement reports and how to maximize the data from the performance report.
Lots of good stuff and the Search Console is definitely one of those tools every SEO should utilize properly to get loads of great data that can help shape your SEO strategies.
How damaging are typos?
We all know that typo-free, grammatically correct content matters to the user. At the end of the day, if you’re selling a service or product you want to look professional in every sense. It builds trust.
But what’s Google’s view on typos?
The common opinion amongst SEOs is that it matters but recently, someone asked one of Google’s Webmasters directly and it appears it doesn’t affect content quality scoring.
Do you think he intentionally mistyped “typos”?
Common sense says it matters to the integrity of the content, to the user’s experience and the trust and authority of the site, but apparently, it doesn’t to Google. Does it change anything?
Do you want Ahrefs and SEMRush for free
No, I’m not giving away free SEO tools, but Neil Patel is planning to.
Recently he bought Ubersuggest and having it helped him to double traffic to his site. Neil’s site generates plenty of traffic so doubling it is pretty impressive. So Neil made the decision to build on Ubersuggest and create a tool to rival Ahrefs and SEMRush.
According to his blog post, his marketing plan is to offer his tool completely free. The details haven’t been confirmed yet but looking at images similar to the above, we can see the tool is planning to include:
- Keyword analysis
- SERP analysis
- Competitor analysis
- Content analysis
- Traffic analysis
I think we all agree, it’s OK having all these features available for free but the key will be accuracy. As SEOs, we make data-driven SEO decisions so having accurate data matters, even if we have to pay for those tools. Regardless, it’s interesting to see what gets launched.
So these are the posts and articles I’ve found of value this month. Plenty to chew over. Let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below and feel free to ask any questions you might have, I’ll be happy to help if I can.