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Barry Schwartz – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 19 Jun 2019 13:57:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 Moz: Google’s diversity update was pretty minor /moz-googles-diversity-update-was-pretty-minor-318455 Wed, 19 Jun 2019 13:48:42 +0000 /?p=318455 According to Moz, Google has some more work to do to make the Google search results more diverse.

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Google’s June 6 diversity update to limit SERPs from showing multiple results from the same websites had a fairly minimal impact of results, according to a new Moz report analyzing their dataset.

Moz’s findings. “While Google technically improved site diversity, the update was narrowly targeted and we had to dig to find evidence of improvement,” wrote Moz’s Pete Meyers. “The impact of the site diversity update doesn’t feel on par with a pre-announcement and the PR it received. Regarding the state of site diversity in SERPs, Google has made minor improvements but still has work to do,” he said.

Just to be clear, this looked at the company’s 10,000 keyword data set, it did not look at the infinite number of queries this may have impacted. Also, brand or navigational queries were probably the exceptions to the rule when Google said they may indeed show more than two results from the same query. Someone searching for a specific brand likely wants to see more results from the official site and Google likely will show that company’s domain more than two times.

But there was improvement. Moz dug into its data and said, “between June 6th and 7th, average diversity did improve marginally, from 90.23 percent to 90.72 percent (a 0.49 percent improvement).” The chart below is zoomed into the data at 10 times and he said “improvement hardly seems impressive.” Here is that chart zoomed in:

Moz then showed results that had two or more listings and looked to see if those overall had a larger change than all the results Moz tracks. It was more noticeable, “On June 6th, 84.58 percent of sites in our data set had a diversity of 80 percent or better. On June 7th, that increased to 86.68 percent — a 2.1 percent improvement,” Moz wrote.

Here is that chart:

Why we should care. Ultimately, if this update was really not that substantial, then you probably won’t see much of an impact from this update in your analytics. Since this update overlapped with the June 2019 core update, knowing the limited impact of the diversity update is useful to understand if your site was impacted by the Core update, the diversity update or something else. Overall, I believe most people want to see a more diverse set of Google search results and Google has made changes towards this and can make additional changes towards this in the future.

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Google to add attribution to licensed lyrics providers /google-to-add-attribution-to-licensed-lyrics-providers-318402 Tue, 18 Jun 2019 18:42:36 +0000 /?p=318402 Google responds to the allegations that it scraped Genius lyrics without paying for that content.

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Earlier this week, Genius, a song lyrics web site, accused Google of stealing its lyrics without a proper licensing agreement. Google responded to those accusations in a blog post Tuesday, saying, again, that it “licenses the lyrics text from third parties” and does “not crawl or scrape websites to source these lyrics.” However, it is going to begin attributing licensed content to its partners.

Why we should care. Google said it will “soon include attribution to the third party providing the digital lyrics text.” This is something Google does not often do when it comes to content it licenses to show in search results. It does show the source of information for featured snippets and other forms of content but typically not for licensed content. Now users and site owners will know for certain where licensed content was sourced from.

Payment for content. Because “music publishers often don’t have digital copies of the lyrics text,” Google said, “In these cases, we—like music streaming services and other companies—license the lyrics text from third parties.”

Google said it licenses this content to “ensure that the songwriters are paid for their creative work.” Google wrote, “To do that, we pay music publishers for the right to display lyrics, since they manage the rights to these lyrics on behalf of the songwriters.”

LyricFind. LyricFind is a Google licensing partner, and may be the source of the Genius content appearing in Google’s search results. LyricFind published an explanation on its web site Monday, saying, “Some time ago, Ben Gross from Genius notified LyricFind that they believed they were seeing Genius lyrics in LyricFind’s database. As a courtesy to Genius, our content team was instructed not to consult Genius as a source. Recently, Genius raised the issue again and provided a few examples. All of those examples were also available on many other lyric sites and services, raising the possibility that our team unknowingly sourced Genius lyrics from another location. As a result, LyricFind offered to remove any lyrics Genius felt had originated from them, even though we did not source them from Genius’ site. Genius declined to respond to that offer. Despite that, our team is currently investigating the content in our database and removing any lyrics that seem to have originated from Genius.”

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Google Search Console drops preferred domain setting /google-search-console-drops-preferred-domain-setting-318356 Tue, 18 Jun 2019 14:33:04 +0000 /?p=318356 Make sure to watch your Google search results to see if this impacts the canonical URL Google shows in its search results.

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Google announced it is no longer supporting the preferred domain setting in Google Search Console. In short, this feature is not moving from the old Google Search Console to the new version.

Preferred domain setting. The preferred domain setting is an old Google Search Console feature that has been part of the toolset since it was named Google Webmaster Tools. It let you communicate to Google the preferred domain is the one that you would liked used to index your site’s pages, which is also referred to as the canonical domain.

What it looked like. Here is a screen shot of that feature in the old version of Google Search Console:

No longer needed. Google is removing this feature because it is now able to pick the preferred domain for you based on various signals Google ingests.

Current setting won’t be respected. Google said with this feature going away, it will not look at the current configuration and setting. Google said “that with the deprecation we will no longer use any existing Search Console preferred domain configuration.”

What do I do now? You can now communicate to Google your preferred domain through good site architecture. Google said you can use these four methods or read this help document to help Google determine your canonical domain.

(1) Use rel=”canonical” link tag on HTML pages
(2) Use rel=”canonical” HTTP header
(3) Use a sitemap
(4) Use 301 redirects for retired URLs

Why it matters. If you are currently depending on Google to select your preferred domain through this setting, you can no longer depend on that. You will need to ensure that your canonical URL listed in Google has not changed with this announcement. Google did not say if it will communicate in any way to webmasters, publishers or developers through Search Console if this resulted in your site switching its canonical URL in Google’s index. Instead, you need to audit your Google results to ensure no changes were made.

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Google Search Console image search reporting bug June 5-7 /google-search-console-image-search-reporting-bug-june-5-7-318331 Mon, 17 Jun 2019 19:17:15 +0000 /?p=318331 Google Search Console had yet another data bug, this one impacted your image search traffic.

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Google posted a notice that between the dates of June 5 through June 7, it was unable to capture data around image search traffic. This is just a reporting bug and did not impact actual search traffic, but the Search Console performance report may show drops in image search traffic in that date range.

The notice. The notice read, “June 5-7: Some image search statistics were not captured during this period due to an internal issue. Because of this, you may see a drop in your image search statistics during this period. The change did not affect user Search results, only the data reporting.”

How do I see this? If you login to Google Search Console, click into your performance report and then filter by clicking on the “search type” filter. You can then select image from the filters.

Here is a screen shot of this filter:

How To Filter By Image Traffic in Google Search Console

Why we should care. If your site gets a lot of Google Image search traffic, you may notice a dip in your traffic reporting within Google Search Console. You may have not noticed a similar dip in your other analytics tools. That being said, Google said this is only a reporting glitch within Google Search Console and did not impact your actual traffic to your web site.

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Google launches new search menu with icons /google-launches-new-search-menu-with-icons-318248 Fri, 14 Jun 2019 01:39:37 +0000 /?p=318248 After a few months of testing, Google is finally rolling out the new Google search bar interface.

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After a few months of testing it now appears Google has started rolling out the new search bar with icons. Instead of just using text to show the various search categories or verticals for news, video, images, maps, shopping and so on – Google is showing icons that represent those categories as well.

Screen shot. Here is a screen shot from Chrome on a Mac. Note, I tested this on numerous browsers and operating systems, both signed in and signed out of Google. I was able to replicate this in every single test I’ve tried.

Before screen shot: Here is what search bar looked like before:

Rolling out. Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that this is now rolling out to searchers today. Throughout the day we have seen numerous reports from readers that they are seeing the new Google search bar. Now we are able to see this consistently on all browsers we are testing it on.

Going back in time. Google had icons next to these search filters back in 2010 on desktop and 2011 on mobile. But in 2011 Google removed the icons from the desktop version. Google has made many changes to their top bar over the years, much of which you can find in our user interfaces archives.

Why we care. Any change to the user interface of one of the most used web sites in the world will be noticed. Will it impact search marketers or SEOs? As we said before, this change will probably not impact us much but it does give a new fresh look to the Google search results page.

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Google Maps displaying redirect notice alerts when users click on business website URLs /google-maps-displaying-redirect-notice-alerts-when-users-click-on-business-website-urls-318188 Thu, 13 Jun 2019 15:27:10 +0000 /?p=318188 A bug within Google Maps may be resulting in traffic loss to company websites and locations.

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For approximately five days now, if a searcher tries to click your website URL within your Google Maps listing, they will receive a “redirect notice” from Google. The notice reads: “The previous page is sending you to [the URL you clicked on],” and then adds, “If you do not want to visit that page, you can return to the previous page.”

This is likely causing a drop in traffic from Google Maps and may be impacting local businesses in terms of foot traffic and website traffic.

The issue. If you go to Google Maps and search for a business, and then click on the URL within their local panel, it won’t send you to the site immediately.

Here is a screen shot of my local business listing in Google Maps:

When you click on that URL, this is the notice that displays:

First reports. First reports of the issue came in approximately five days ago in this Google support thread. Since then, dozens of complaints have been posted in this same thread, as well as other threads in that support forum. Google has yet to respond to the complaints. @JoyanneHawkins tipped off Search Engine Land to the issue.

Is this a feature or bug? The big question I have: Is this a feature or a bug? Did Google intentionally make this change or was this change made by mistake? One would have to assume this is a mistake because it does not work this way with other links within the local panel or other search results.

Since Google has not responded yet, we don’t know how long it will take for the issue to be resolved.

Why we should care. As mentioned above, if people are getting these notices when trying to click over to your website, it might surprise them, concern them, or possibly scare them not to click through to your website. This may result in less traffic to your web site, potentially less visits from customers to your physical location, and ultimately less revenue for your company.

Fixed. Google changed it to no longer serve a redirect.  Google did not explain if this was a bug or feature or something else.  All we know is the redirect warning is no longer there.

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Here’s the content Google aims to keep out of featured snippets /heres-the-content-google-aims-to-keep-out-of-featured-snippets-318146 Wed, 12 Jun 2019 21:56:23 +0000 /?p=318146 If you want to show in Google's featured snippets, be sure you're clear on the content policies for them.

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Recently, Google’s practices around which sites and types of content it may include in featured snippets have raised censorship concerns and talk of blacklists in some circles. We asked Google to clarify its policies around the types of content eligible for featured snippets and how it finds and removes content deemed inappropriate for those placements.

What are featured snippets? Featured snippets are generally blocks of content sourced from pages across the web. Google shows them at the top of search results pages for some search queries. They can show up in paragraph form, with images, they can include bulleted lists, tables and more. They aim to give searchers a concise answer to a query that can be scanned by the user or read aloud Google Assistant.

Over a year ago, Google published a comprehensive guide to featured snippets.

What types of content does Google aim to keep out of featured snippets? Google does not intend to show featured snippets for content that falls within several categories:

  • Sexually explicit content.
  • Hateful content.
  • Violent content.
  • Dangerous and harmful content.
  • Lack consensus on public interest topics content such as categories like civic, medical, scientific and historical issues.

In the context of that last category, Google specifically designed systems to generally prevent Op-Ed content from showing up as featured snippets. That means sites and pages that include highly polarized content that’s unlikely to represent consensus viewpoints on a range of sensitive topics would also be excluded from being shown as featured snippets.

“Featured snippets are a feature within Search that highlights web sources that are likely to contain what you’re looking for. Due to the special formatting they receive, we have policies that prevent us from showing a featured snippet for topics like civics or medical information where the content lacks broad consensus,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land. “Our systems are designed to not show featured snippets that would violate our policies, and we take action if violating snippets still appear. These policies and actions have no impact on how a page ranks in organic search listings.”

How does Google keep content out of featured snippets? Primarily Google designs algorithms to detect  and automatically remove the types of content that don’t conform with its content policies for featured snippets. Google handles way too many searches per day and finds way too much new content per day to rely on humans to manually remove all these types of content. So, Google says, “our systems automatically strive not to show featured snippets that would violate our policies. However, the scale of search is so large that no system can be perfect. This is why we provide a public reporting system.”

Google can generate lists algorithmically to identify a large number of sites likely to contain highly polarized content that would be unlikely to represent consensus viewpoints on a range of sensitive topics, and would thus be likely to violate the policies listed above. Google says the vast majority of sites on this list are not political. Furthermore, Google told us it does not encode any notion of political leaning or preference into Google’s products, including Google Search.

When the algorithmic lists and detection systems fail, Google will take action manually. You can report featured snippets by clicking on the “feedback” link under the featured snippet after a query to notify Google of an issue.

Not penalized in core search. Just because a site is not eligible to show in Google’s featured snippets section does not mean it won’t rank in core web search. Google told us these sites still rank as they normally would in organic search results, there is no impact on ranking and no penalty applied to these sites in normal web rankings.

Why we should care. Featured snippets can be a great source of traffic to a web site from Google search. It can also be the only source of traffic from Google Assistant and Google Home device voice queries. Typically publishers and webmasters want content shown in the featured snippet box for a given query, but if your content falls within these categories, the chances of your content being featured is unlikely.

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Bing now supports batch mode for submitting URLs to Bing /bing-now-supports-batch-mode-for-submitting-urls-to-bing-318133 Wed, 12 Jun 2019 17:39:54 +0000 /?p=318133 You can now use a single Bing API request to submit up to 500 URLs, instead of making 500 individual API requests.

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Bing announced it has added support to submit URLs to the search engine in batch mode. That means instead of making an API request for each URL you submit to Bing, you can batch multiple URLs into a single API request. Bing said it supports up to 500 URLs per batch submission.

How it works. Bing said, this is “very similar to the individual URL Submission API (Blogpost) and hence integrating the Batch API is very easy and follows the same steps.” Here is a screen shot of code examples, but you can review the API docs over here.

Some history. Earlier this year, Bing announced it expanded support for the Bing webmaster tools URL submission tool from 10 URLs per day to 10,000 URLs per day. Then a few weeks later, Bing introduced its indexing API and requested that sites begin using it to notify Bing of new URLs and content for it to index.

The new batch mode does not increase the number of URLs you can submit per day, but it does let you maintain a lower API request limit. Bing wrote, “Do note that the maximum supported batch size in this API is 500 URLs per request. Total limit on numbers of URLs submitted per day still applies.”

Why you should care. If you launch a brand new site and that site is large, it can be useful to batch the URL submissions for efficiency. This also comes into play when you restructure your web site or maybe even start using the Bing indexing API for the first time.

As we said before, Bing has taken a turn when it comes to discovery. It wants webmasters and publishers to push it content versus crawling and indexing content in the traditional manner.

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Google AMP URLs not letting searchers click through to main site /google-amp-urls-not-letting-searchers-click-through-to-main-site-318037 Tue, 11 Jun 2019 16:44:37 +0000 /?p=318037 Yet another Google bug may be impacting your traffic - this one is with Google AMP.

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There seems to be a bug where when you go to the Google AMP cache version of a page through Google search, clicking on the link to go to the main URL will not work. We tried it ourselves in both Chrome and Safari on an iPhone and clicking on the link does not give you a quick way to visit the non-Google AMP cache URL.

This appears to be a bug and Google will hopefully fix it soon.

What happens. Open your mobile device, launch Chrome and search for [Google update]. From there, try clicking on our story or any story that is an AMP URL from search. Then from there, try clicking on the link icon at the top right of Chrome. The screen will turn gray, when you click, and do nothing.

What it looks like. Here is what it looks like as an animated GIF when I tap on that link icon at the top right:

When did this bug start? It seems there are reports as early as around midnight this morning:

Google is aware. Danny Sullivan from Google is now aware of the issue and has said this bug has been “passed on and looked at.” So it seems Google is looking to fix this bug.

Why we care. This bug may be causing you to notice less traffic from your AMP URLs to your main site. So keep that in mind when reviewing your analytics and metrics for June 11th.

Fixed. At around 7pm EDT this seems to have been resolved.

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Google June 2019 core update finished rolling out on June 8 /google-june-2019-core-update-finished-rolling-out-on-june-8-318028 Tue, 11 Jun 2019 14:54:10 +0000 /?p=318028 It took five days for Google to roll out the June 2019 core update and about three-days for the diversity update.

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Danny Sullivan from Google confirmed that the June 2019 core update that began rolling out on June 3rd finished rolling out on June 8th.

Five-day roll out. It took Google about five-days to fully roll out this Google core update, starting on Monday, June 3rd and finishing on Saturday, June 8th. It takes time for these updates to roll out because Google has many servers and data centers around the world, and it takes time for them all to get this update. Five-days for a roll out like this does not seem long. Previous updates have seemed to take weeks or longer.

The announcement. Here is Danny Sullivan of Google responding to my question about this on June 8:

How big was it? We saw some early data around this, while it was still rolling out. Heck, even large publications like the Daily Mail and now CCN, among others are publicly saying how badly this update hit them.

We are working on compiling more data around this update and will share the fresh data in the upcoming days. Just keep in mind, most of these data snapshots give you insight into a limited fraction of the Google index and do not represent the full impact of these updates. Google has not given us data on how large of an impact these updates are, like it used to with some Panda and Penguin updates, but did say it announces these core updates because they are “noticeable.”

Update overlapped with another update. This June 2019 core update did overlap with the diversity update. The Google Core Update started on June 3 through June 8, and the Google diversity update started on June 4 through June 6.

Why we should care. When Google releases larger updates, knowing when the update began and ended is useful for tracking traffic increases and decreases in our analytics. The timestamps help us understand if a site got hit by a specific algorithm update, technical issue, or other issue that might be unrelated. When updates overlap, it makes it a lot harder to analyze and understand. But good SEOs should be able to dig into these updates and see how much of an impact each had on a specific site and at a given time.

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