Barry Schwartz – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 21 Oct 2020 22:42:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 Google confirms it doesn’t index passages separately /google-confirms-it-doesnt-index-passages-separately-342387 Tue, 20 Oct 2020 18:09:48 +0000 /?p=342387 Google now "consider passages from pages as an additional ranking factor."

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Google has confirmed on Twitter much of what we wrote in our story: How Google indexes passages of a page and what it means for SEO. Google wrote “this change doesn’t mean we’re indexing individual passages independently of pages. We’re still indexing pages and considering info about entire pages for ranking. But now we can also consider passages from pages as an additional ranking factor…”

Here are the tweets, but most of this is just a confirmation of our original story that we wrote after speaking to a Google spokesperson. We asked that Google share this information on official channels.

Why we care. There has been confusion around this largely because Google’s initial language around the change was confusing: “now [we are] able to not just index webpages, but individual passages from those pages.” Sounds like separate indexing, right? As we clarified in our initial reporting and Google confirmed today, indexing hasn’t changed, just Google’s ability to parse out a relevant passage that may be well down a page and would not have stood a chance of ranking before. It’s somewhat sematic, but it’s important to understand how the technology works.

The good news for content creators and SEOs, is that this technology will help us create content in ways that best serve our audiences. You don’t have to be pre-occupied with thinking about breaking up content to be optimized around a single idea or keyword.

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99% of Google’s indexing issues fully resolved /99-of-googles-indexing-issues-fully-resolved-342368 Mon, 19 Oct 2020 22:31:35 +0000 /?p=342368 There are some edge cases left with the indexing bug but those should be resolved within a couple of weeks.

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Google has posted another update regarding the indexing issues with mobile-indexing and canonicalization. As of last Wednesday, October 14, 2020, the final indexing issue has been resolved, outside of minor “edge cases.”

The statement. Google said “Final update: the canonical issue was effectively resolved last Wednesday, with about 99% of the URLs restored. We expect the remaining edge cases will be restored within a week or two.”

History. The previous status update was on October 9th, where Google said the mobile-indexing bug is now 99% resolved, with almost all the URLs being restored.

At that point, the fix for the canonical issue was only 55% fixed at that point. Now it is 99% fixed.

Two more weeks. Google said there are about two more weeks until the 1% of edge cases are resolved. Google will not be issuing another status update on this issue.

Request indexing suspended. Google has not issue an update on temporarily suspending the request indexing tool in Search Console. Rumors are that these indexing bugs and the suspension of this tool are related but Google has not confirmed this.

Why we care. You should annotate your reports to document these indexing bugs during the month of September through October 14th. This way you know why some pages may have dropped out of the indexed and potentially saw a decline in Google organic traffic.

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Video: Mike Blumenthal on Google Maps spam resource issues /video-mike-blumenthal-on-google-maps-spam-resource-issues-342330 Mon, 19 Oct 2020 14:47:29 +0000 /?p=342330 Google invests a lot in Google Maps but maybe in the wrong areas?

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I recently met up with Mike Blumenthal, a long-time local SEO expert and co-founder of customer experience management platform GatherUp. We discussed Google Maps and local SEO.

In this first part of our interview, included below, we talked about Mike’s history in the SEO industry and what he did prior to that. But more interestingly, we talked about the issues with Google Maps. How Google Maps seems to invest a lot of money into user interface changes, monetization techniques but less and less resources in the quality of the results. Spam in Google Maps is still a big problem for Google and one Google doesn’t seem to stay on top of, according to Mike.

But Google Maps is of huge importance to Google, as Mike said, he believes Google Maps will be the third-largest discovery engine behind Google Search and YouTube.

Here is part one of the video:

If you’re a search professional interested in appearing on Barry’s vlog, you can fill out this form on Search Engine Roundtable; he’s currently looking to do socially distant, outside interviews in the NY/NJ tri-state area. You can also subscribe to his YouTube channel by clicking here.

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How Google indexes passages of a page and what it means for SEO /how-google-indexes-passages-of-a-page-and-what-it-means-for-seos-342215 Thu, 15 Oct 2020 21:48:08 +0000 /?p=342215 Google will begin passage based indexing later this year for English languages. It is a ranking change, not an indexing change.

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Among the slew of changes to search Google announced Thursday, we wanted to delve deeper into the passage-based indexing announcement.

Passage-based indexing updates. “Very specific searches can be the hardest to get right,” said Google, “since sometimes the single sentence that answers your question might be buried deep in a web page. We’ve recently made a breakthrough in ranking and are now able to not just index web pages, but individual passages from the pages. By better understanding the relevancy of specific passages, not just the overall page, we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for.”

Google said passage-based indexing will affect 7% of search queries across all languages when fully rolled out globally

What it looks like in search. Google provided these visuals to demonstrate the change:

With new passage understanding capabilities, Google can understand that the specific passage (R) is a lot more relevant to a specific query than a broader page on that topic (L).

In the video, Google said this at the 18:05 mark. “We’ve recently made another breakthrough, and are now able to not just index webpages, but individual passages from those pages. This helps us find that needle in a haystack because now the whole of that one passage is relevant. So, for example, let’s say you search for something pretty niche like ‘how can I determine if my house windows are UV glass.’ This is a pretty tricky query, and we get lots of webpages that talk about UV glass and how you need a special film, but none of this really helps the layperson take action. Our new algorithm can zoom right into this one passage on a DIY forum that answers the question. Apparently, you can use the reflection of a flame to tell and ignores the rest of the posts on the page that aren’t quite as helpful. Now, you’re not gonna do this query necessarily, but we all look for very specific things sometimes. And starting next month, this technology will improve 7% of search queries across all languages, and that’s just the beginning.”

Is Google indexing sections or parts of pages?

We asked Google if Google is now indexing passage or sections of the page. Google is not. Google is still indexing full pages but Google’s systems will consider the content and meaning of passages when determining what is most relevant versus previously we were largely looking at the page overall, a Google spokesperson told us.

It is more of a ranking change versus an indexing change

So indexing really has not changed here. It is more of a ranking change, how Google ranks content, based on what it finds on your web page. Google is not, I repeat, not, indexing individual passages on the page. It is however better at zoning into what is on the page and surfacing those passages better for ranking purposes.

What signals does Google look at here?

So previously, Google’s systems would look at some of the “stronger signals about a page– for example, page titles or headings– to understand what results were most relevant to a query. While those are still important factors, this new system is helpful for identifying pages that have one individual section that matches particularly well to your query, even if the rest of the page is about a slightly different or overall less relevant topic,” Google told us.

Will header tags be more important?

Does this mean header tags or the equivalent are more important now? Google didn’t have the answer for me on this. But I suspect while title tags are pretty important signals, headers in this case might be more important when this rolls out. Again, Google generally does not talk about specific ranking signals and Google did not comment on headers as a ranking signal.

Google told us they have “always had an understanding of keywords and phrases in documents, but often things like page title were very strong signals that helped us provide the best overall pages.” Now Google can find that “needle in a haystack” and surface the most relevant result based on information within passages. Again, which specific signals are important here, is hard to say.

Isn’t this like Featured snippets?

How does this differ from features snippets, where Google shows a passage of your content as an answer at the top of the Google Search Results. Google said its “systems determine the relevance of any web document via understanding of passages. Featured snippets, on the other hand, identifies the most relevant passage in a document we’ve overall determined to be relevant to the query.”

Where is this passages algorithm most useful?

Google said “this is helpful for queries where the specific bit of information the person is looking for is hidden in a single passage on a page that is not necessarily the main topic of that page.”

Let’s say someone searches [how does BERT work in google search], previously Google might have returned a bunch of results that seem to be relevant overall. Maybe Google would have returned a news story around BERT coming to Google Search. This news story might not actually directly answer the question.

Now if you have a really broad page that is about, let’s say how Google Search works, and in that broad page, there is one BERT passage that actually explains how BERT works. Even though the rest of the page isn’t super relevant, and those other BERT and Google Search pages might seem more relevant, Google’s new systems can zoom in on that one bit, and rank that page higher.

Goes live later this year

Google said this will start rolling out later this year and will start in English languages in the U.S. with more languages/locations to follow. Once this is rolled out globally, this will impact about 7% of queries on Google Search.

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Google: BERT now used on almost every English query /google-bert-used-on-almost-every-english-query-342193 Thu, 15 Oct 2020 19:17:17 +0000 /?p=342193 Google announced numerous improvements made to search over the year and some new features coming soon.

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BERT powers almost every single English based query done on Google Search, the company said during its virtual Search on 2020 event Thursday. That’s up from just 10% of English queries when Google first announced the use of the BERT algorithm in Search last October.

In December 2019, Google expanded the use of BERT to over 70 languages.

Note, this wouldn’t impact a site’s ranking exactly. SEOs cannot optimize for BERT per se. Instead, BERT is designed to improve the relevancy of search results by better understanding the content on web pages.

To learn more about how the algorithm works, see our deep dive on Google BERT.

Google also explained that it has improved results on “specific searches” by 7%. Google did this through different AI and machine learning techniques. Google said it is also improving search results and answers on more “broader searches.”

More search updates. Here is a quick summary of what Google announced:

  • New advancements in language understanding with AI include a new spelling algorithm, the ability to index specific individual passages from web pages and new techniques to help people find a wider range of results.
  • Google Maps updates include an expansion of live ‘busyness’ information and details about business’ COVID-19 related health and safety precautions. In the near future, users will be able to find information about a restaurant, store or business in Live View using AR.
  • Users can use the mic icon in the Google search bar or the Assistant to ask “what’s this song?” or “search a song.” Then they can start humming for 10-15 seconds to get results for the song.
  • New Lens and AR features in Google Search to discover (and even style) products as users browse online. With augmented reality, Google is enabling users to feel experience retail showrooms virtually.
  • Finally, Duplex technology is now calling businesses to automatically update handy details like store hours and takeout options on Search and Maps. This year, Google said, Duplex has been used to make more than 3 million updates to businesses like pharmacies, restaurants and grocery stores that have been seen over 20 billion times in Maps and Search. 

Read our deeper analysis of the key updates:

How Google indexes passages of a page and what it means for SEO

Google Search gets deeper into the ‘real-world’ with Busyness, Duplex and AR in Maps

Here are some tweets explaining some of these updates.

Google also showed off the “in this video” feature and how it will be expanded:

Google also added the ability to “hum to search” so you can find that song stuck in your head. Google said people search 100 million times per month to detect a song.

Here is the full announcement and also the video to watch the event.

Why we care. Here are some things you, as SEOs and marketers, can work on to get more relevant traffic to your site. Some of these new features may drive more traffic to your site. Some you need to optimize for, and some you just might benefit from without doing anything to your site.

For the searcher, these mostly seem like big wins.

Related:

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Bing revamps Site Explorer in new Bing Webmaster Tools /bing-revamps-site-explorer-in-new-bing-webmaster-tools-342100 Thu, 15 Oct 2020 13:55:50 +0000 /?p=342100 This tool gives SEOs information on how Microsoft Bing does just that and then gives you more data on clicks, impressions, links, errors, warnings, indexing issues and much more.

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Microsoft Bing has announced the re-launch of Bing Site Explorer. Don’t be fooled, Bing Site Explorer is a complete revamp from the old version. Bing did not simply migrate the feature from the old version of Bing Webmaster Tools to the new version of Bing Webmaster Tools.

Fabrice Canel from Microsoft told us, “This is a complete new experience, cleaner and far easier to use and complete new system to support this tool.”

“We now deliver a lightning-fast experience, including on super large sites, and more actionable experience helping SEOs investigate quickly their sites,” he added.

What the new Site Explorer looks like. Here is a screen shot of the new tool:

Bing Site Explorer updated
Image: Microsoft Bing.

What Site Explorer shows you. Bing Site Explorer shows you how Microsoft Bing sees your site. It will show you how most URLs Bing has seen on the web while indexing. This includes redirects, broken links, URLs blocked by robots.txt.

Bing organizes all this information “in a file explorer-like fashion,” Microsoft said. This lets you break down your view in a navigation folder like interface, so you can understand and debug your site based on your site’s own internal structure.

You are able to see clicks, impressions, backlink counts and more. You can also request indexing within the tool and test any URL with its robots.txt tester tool.

  1. Indexed – Number of URLs which have been successfully indexed inside that folder.
  2. Error – Critical crawl errors which have led to not indexing of URLs.
  3. Warning – These may include URLs with guidelines issues, temporary crawl issues or robots.txt disallowed, etc. Webmasters should periodically check for an increase/decrease in these numbers.
  4. Excluded – URLs with spam violations, low rank etc.

Why we care. SEOs and webmasters should care how search engines crawl, index and categorize their web sites. This tool gives SEOs information on how Microsoft Bing does just that and then gives you more data on clicks, impressions, links, errors, warnings, indexing issues and much more.

It is worth exploring this revamped Bing Site Explorer tool. You can access it at bing.com/webmasters/siteexplorer.

Related: The Essential Guide to SEO: Master the science of SEO

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Google search quality guidelines update breaks down dictionary and encyclopedia results and more /google-search-quality-guidelines-update-breaks-down-dictionary-and-encyclopedia-results-and-more-342166 Thu, 15 Oct 2020 13:41:09 +0000 /?p=342166 Google added a new section for rating dictionary and encyclopedia results for different queries, emphasizes the importance of understanding the user intent and query.

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After 10 months since the last update to the Search Quality Raters guidelines (PDF), Google has pushed out another update. The update came out Wednesday night. The Search Quality Raters guidelines document is now 175 pages, up from 168 at the last update on December 5, 2019.

What is new? Here is a change log of what is new in this document:

  • Added note to clarify that ratings do not directly impact order of search results.
  • Emphasized ‘The Role of Examples in these Guidelines‘ as an independent section in the introduction.
  • Added clarification that Special Content Result Blocks may have links to landing pages; added illustrative example.
  • Updated guidance on how to rate pages with malware warnings and when to assign the Did Not Load flag; added illustrative examples.
  • Changed the order of Rating Flags section and Relationship between Page Quality and Needs Met section for clarity.
  • Added ‘Rating Dictionary and Encyclopedia Results for Different Queries‘: Emphasizes the importance of understanding the user intent and query for Needs Met rating; added illustrative examples.
  • Minor changes throughout such as updated examples and explanations for consistency; simplified language regarding raters representing people in their locale; fixed typos; etc.

Rating Dictionary and Encyclopedia Results for Different Queries section. There is a new section for dictionary and encyclopedia results. It says, “When assigning Needs Met ratings for dictionary and encyclopedia results, careful attention must be paid to the user intent. Like all results, the helpfulness of dictionary and encyclopedia results depend on the query and user intent. Dictionary and encyclopedia results may be topically relevant for many searches, but often these results are not helpful for common words that most people in your rating locale already understand. Reserve high Needs Met ratings for dictionary and encyclopedia results when the user intent for the query is likely ‘what is it’ or ‘what does it mean’ and the result is helpful for users seeking that type of information.”

Here is an example from the document:

Click to enlarge.

Why we care. Although search quality evaluators’ ratings do not directly impact rankings (as Google clarified in the document), they do provide feedback that helps Google improve its algorithms. Google made updates to the guidelines ten months ago, adding more information on diverse background and then before that, adding more detailed directions regarding interstitial pages and content creator expertise, and bucketing “E-A-T” (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) within “Page Quality” in certain sections.

Here we learn more about how Google handles dictionary-like results.

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Google Search Console temporarily drops request indexing feature /google-search-console-temporarily-drops-request-indexing-feature-342126 Wed, 14 Oct 2020 20:06:16 +0000 /?p=342126 This feature should be back in the upcoming weeks while Google makes infrastructure changes.

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Google said it has disabled the “Request Indexing” feature of the URL Inspection Tool within Google Search Console. The feature has been disabled “in order to make some infrastructure changes.” Google said the feature should return in the coming weeks.

The announcement. Google posted this announcement on Twitter:

Normal indexing unaffected. Google said it will continue to index sites through normal crawling and indexing. It linked to this developer document on how Google crawls and indexes the web.

But you currently cannot use the Request Indexing feature in Search Console to push content to Google Search.

John Mueller of Google clarified this on Twitter:

Recent complaints. There has been a lot of complaints recently, mostly stemming from the ongoing indexing bugs, around Google not indexing content quickly enough.

Why we care. A lot of SEOs have been using the request indexing button during the past few weeks while Google has been having indexing issues. It is their way of pushing content that Google is having a hard time indexing, into Google’s index. Maybe we are over doing it and Google cannot handle the load? Maybe there are other bugs with indexing where Google had to shut this down? We are not sure.

It will come back — until then, you cannot push content to Google using the Request Indexing feature in Google Search Console.

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Google Podcasts Manager shows you search impressions and clicks from Google Search /google-podcasts-manager-shows-you-search-impressions-and-clicks-from-google-search-342023 Tue, 13 Oct 2020 15:12:44 +0000 /?p=342023 You can see impressions and clicks for Google Podcasts results that appear in Search, as well as top discovered episodes and search terms that led to your podcast.

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Google announced a new feature for Podcasters named Google Podcast Manager. Podcast Manager allows podcasters to see how well their podcasts are performing in Google Search.

What Podcast Manager does. Google Podcast Manager enables “podcasters can see impressions and clicks for Google Podcasts results that appear in Search, as well as top discovered episodes and search terms that led to their podcast,” the company said.

Related: Google adds playable podcasts directly in the search results

It looks like this is a version of the search performance report in Google Search Console for podcasts.

Here is what Google says this provides:

  • See what works, by the second: Dive deep into each episode to see when your listeners tune in—and when they drop off.
  • Understand new listening habits: See how your audience listens across devices like smart speakers, smartphones and desktops.
  • Reach listeners across Google: Claim your podcast and ensure it’s available to millions of podcast listeners across Google Search, Google Assistant, the Google Podcasts app and more.

What it looks like. I added my weekly video podcast to the Google Podcast Manager. It currently does not have any data but this is what I see right now:

How to Optimize Podcasts for Google. Google posted these details on how to optimize for Podcasts on Google. You can learn more about this over here.

Where to sign up. You can sign up for Google Podcast Manager at https://podcastsmanager.google.com/about

Why we care. Podcasts are super popular now and show up often in Google Search. If you are running a podcast, you will probably want to uncover how it performs directly in Google Search and this tool does that for you.

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Video: Ed Bernstein on in-house SEO challenges and mapping SEO competition /video-ed-bernstein-on-in-house-seo-challenges-and-mapping-seo-competition-341959 Mon, 12 Oct 2020 13:04:00 +0000 /?p=341959 Not only does he love SEO, he is also a musician.

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In my next interview with SEOs and SEMs, I spoke with an in-house SEO who works in the space of roof vents. Ed Bernstein is the in-house SEO and IT Director at RoofVents.com. He has been doing IT related jobs almost his whole professional career and has a true passion for SEO.

In our conversation we spoke about two primary topics:

(1) The challenges of doing in-house SEO and working around company resource limitations and company goals.

(2) How to map the competitive search landscape in your industry.

I hope you enjoy this interview despite how I awkwardly angled the two camera views.

If you’re a search professional interested in appearing on Barry’s vlog, you can fill out this form on Search Engine Roundtable; he’s currently looking to do socially distant, outside interviews in the NY/NJ tri-state area. You can also subscribe to his YouTube channel by clicking here.

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