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George Nguyen – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 21 Aug 2019 18:21:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 You can’t opt into or out of mobile-first indexing /you-cant-opt-into-or-out-of-mobile-first-indexing-320932 Wed, 21 Aug 2019 18:21:41 +0000 /?p=320932 Google's John Mueller reminds us that one day, there will only be mobile-first indexing.

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Google has no plans to allow publishers to opt into or out of mobile-first indexing, explained Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller on the latest edition of #AskGoogleWebmasters.

The question. “Is there any plan to eventually let webmasters tell Google they want to be included in the mobile-first index or at least considered for inclusion? Some non-responsive sites might believe their mobile site is more SEO-friendly than the desktop site,” user @DanielM35110466 asked via Twitter.

The answer. “With the longer-term goal of moving all sites over to mobile-first indexing, we don’t plan to provide an opt-in or opt-out for this kind of indexing,” Mueller responded.

Although mobile-first indexing was originally announced in November 2016, it has not made its way to all sites. Mueller touched upon this, explaining “At the moment, we’re algorithmically testing to see when sites are ready and switching them over once that’s the case. To determine when a site is ready, we compare the mobile and the desktop versions to make sure that we’re still able to find all of the content, including structured data and images.”

“Mobile-first indexing is separate from mobile friendliness,” he also clarified. “Even sites that don’t have a mobile version at all can be indexed fine with the mobile Googlebot. Our goal is to use the mobile-first indexing for all websites in our search results.”

Why we should care. Not being able to opt into or out of mobile-first indexing means that we don’t get to dictate the conditions in which our sites are crawled and indexed, which, in turn, reflects the reality that we don’t get to choose what devices our visitors are using to access our sites.

Since Google’s goal is to use mobile-first indexing across the board, publishers should ensure that their mobile sites provide a fluid user experience and allow mobile visitors to access everything that desktop users can. This isn’t just important because Google prioritizes it — most users are now browsing via smartphones, and having a mobile-optimized site means you’re able to cater to the majority.

Learn more about mobile-first indexing. Here are some resources that can help you make the transition to mobile-first indexing as smooth as possible.

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Traffic from Image’s Swipe to Visit feature now appears in Search Console /traffic-from-images-swipe-to-visit-feature-now-appears-in-search-console-320909 Wed, 21 Aug 2019 15:16:10 +0000 /?p=320909 Data is available under the new ‘Amp on Image Results’ search appearance.

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Visitors that arrive on your pages via Google Image’s Swipe to Visit feature are now accounted for in Search Console under the new “AMP on Image Results” search appearance, Google announced Wednesday.

Swipe to Visit in action. Source: Google.

Why we should care

Image search is one way publishers can draw traffic to their websites and Swipe to Visit may make it easier for users to move from Image search results to your pages. 

Having Search Console data on how users arrive on your site can help you optimize for their journey and inform your SEO and overall business strategy.

To see the data, login to Google Search Console, click on the performance reports and select “Image” from the “Search type” filter.  Then click “+ New” and click on “Search appearance” and select “AMP on Image result” from the menu.  This will show you click and impression data for the Swipe to Visit feature in Google Image Search.

The Amp on Image result filter as it appears within Search Console.

More on the news

  • Swipe to Visit is an Image search UI feature that creates a preview of the associated website’s header. Users can swipe up on the preview to go directly to the corresponding page.
  • It is only available for AMP-enabled sites; publishers already supporting AMP do not need to take any further action to enable this feature.
  • Google teased Swipe to Visit at I/O earlier this year and launched it on July 25.

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How one in-house SEO team is taking on industry incumbents /how-one-in-house-seo-team-is-taking-on-industry-incumbents-320644 Fri, 16 Aug 2019 13:49:27 +0000 /?p=320644 A look at HomeToGo’s Search Engine Land Award-winning initiative to gain media coverage and increase organic visibility.

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Gaining traction over established competitors that have more resources, staff and longer online track records is a tall order for any up-and-comer. Looking to improve its organic search visibility against well-funded competitors, HomeToGo, which bills itself as the “world’s largest vacation rental search engine” with more than 17 million listings, developed a content strategy for audiences in target markets.

To make its way up the rankings, HomeToGo’s SEO team researched and created localized, data-driven content for unique markets. Also key, the team found novel ways to make the content appeal to both vacationers and journalists, increasing the likelihood that its pages received mentions and backlinks from media outlets.

In five years, the SEO team has managed to increase HomeToGo.de’s organic visibility, eclipsing that of Airbnb.de according to SISTRIX’s visibility index. HomeToGo’s SEO campaigns have earned it the Search Engine Land Award for best in-house SEO team in both 2018 and 2019.

The growth of HomeToGo’s German, Austrian and Swiss domains compared with Airbnb’s German domain. Source: SISTRIX

Research and localization

“Our Inbound Marketing Team is constantly monitoring general travel trends as well as the search behavior of our users,” Dominik Schwarz, chief inbound officer for HomeToGo, told Search Engine Land. “It is crucial to research and understand the topics that our readers and journalists are interested in.”

HomeToGo uses Google Trends in tandem with other SEO content tools to discover topics of interest. To further inform its content, the company also relies on native-level speakers to understand audiences across different markets.

“You need a team that is familiar with the specifics of a certain market to advise what works best and what to avoid. To ensure that our users get the best possible localized content, we work with native-level speakers, who have a 360° responsibility for their market,” Schwarz said, adding, “Only if you truly understand the user can your content be totally successful.”

Outreach

To get the attention of high-profile media outlets, HomeToGo’s in-house team created over 100 data-driven content stories in 2018. In particular, its Ski Price Index campaign, which ranked top European and North American ski destinations by price, drove results.

Since the campaign was aimed at both international and domestic audiences, HomeToGo created localized angles for nine different markets. The target audience was not limited to potential winter vacationers; the company also wanted to make its Ski Price Index as conducive to media coverage as possible, so it included non-commercial content that would garner press attention. However, creating useful content does not necessarily mean that backlinks will come pouring in.

“We are an international team of native level speakers who create personal networks of local journalists and travel professionals,” Schwarz prefaced, highlighting the priority that HomeToGo places on localization and outreach. “In my opinion, there is nothing better than doing highly targeted outreach to a group that is interested in our content. You need to stay in touch with your network, keep a finger on the pulse to figure out who will be interested in which topic at what time.”

The payoff

This Ski Price Index campaign earned the company coveted links in five markets, including mentions from outlets such as the New York Times and MSN.com. Rankings for relevant keywords climbed by as much as 85 positions.

Over the course of the year, HomeToGo’s strategy and techniques helped it procure more than a thousand unique referring domains, with organic traffic and revenue increasing worldwide.

Each industry operates differently and entering the fray with more experienced companies is always an uphill battle. There are countless approaches that an aspiring brand can take, but being methodical in its research, creating content aimed at consumers as well as journalists, and localizing for international markets with attention paid to native language have given HomeToGo an edge in the search results.

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Google doesn’t pass PageRank on nofollow links. Here’s why you still see them in GSC /google-doesnt-pass-pagerank-on-nofollow-links-heres-why-you-still-see-them-in-gsc-320636 Thu, 15 Aug 2019 18:41:41 +0000 /?p=320636 Nofollow links will be included in your Link Report.

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Despite showing nofollow links in Search Console, Google does not transfer PageRank to those links, explained Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller on the August 15 edition of #AskGoogleWebmasters.

The question. “Does Google count nofollow links as backlinks? I’m seeing these links in the Link Report in the GSC that I know for sure that they are nofollow,” user @adriansanityy asked via Twitter.

The answer. As mentioned above, they do not pass PageRank, even if you see them in your GSC Link Report.

“However, it’s still a link on the web, and users may be using those to reach your website,” Mueller elaborated, concluding, “And so, in Search Console, we decided to show these as links together with other links pointing to your site. Similarly, if you were to use the disavow links tool, those links would no longer be passing any signals, but would continue to appear in the Links Report in Search Console.”

Why we should care. Misunderstanding the nature of the links that appear in your GSC Link Report can lead to a skewed interpretation of your PageRank, which may also lead to an inaccurate assessment of your site’s overall SEO.

Learn more about linking best practices. Here are some additional resources to help you master both outbound and backlinks.

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Google is aware of sites hosted on another’s subdomain /google-is-aware-of-sites-hosted-on-anothers-subdomain-320621 Wed, 14 Aug 2019 20:52:38 +0000 /?p=320621 It’s improving its systems to recognize such content and treat it accordingly.

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Google has stated that hosting content in a subdomain or subfolder of another entity’s site is not against its guidelines, but that it is improving its systems to recognize that content and treat it accordingly. The statement was delivered via the Google Webmasters Twitter account on August 14.

The tweet. “We’ve been asked if third-parties can host content in subdomains or subfolders of another’s domain. It’s not against our guidelines. But as the practice has grown, our systems are being improved to better know when such content is independent of the main site & treat accordingly. Overall, we’d recommend against letting others use subdomains or subfolders with content presented as if it is part of the main site, without close supervision or the involvement of the primary site. Our guidance is if you want the best success with Search, provide value-added content from your own efforts that reflect your own brand.” Google stated in a three-part tweet.

Why would anyone do that? Third parties are interested in renting out another brand’s subdomain to get a leg up on the competition in terms of search rankings, which may help them get more traffic and conversions.

Google’s figuring out how to handle it. Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller touched on this subject during a Google Webmaster Central office hours session on June 28. During the session, Mueller said, “I know the search leads at Google have been talking about this exact topic for a while now to try to find ways to handle these appropriately. By ‘handling them appropriately,’ I don’t mean we should treat them as spam and just delete all of these subdomains, because they’re not really spam. They’re just kind of sales pages, affiliate pages that are hosted within another website. Maybe the right approach is to find a way to figure out what is the primary topic of this website and focus more on that, and then kind of leave these other things on the side.”

Mueller then went on to say, “When it comes to quality, we try to look at the quality of a website overall. So, if there are particular parts of a website that are really low quality …. then overall, that could be degrading the quality of that site a little bit.”

Why we should care. For brands that are considering using another entity’s subdomain to host their content, Google is aware of such tactics. Although this strategy does not currently violate its guidelines, the company might as well have said “proceed at your own risk.”
 
For brands that are looking to rent out their subdomains to third parties, Mueller’s statement suggests that, if the third party is hosting low quality content on your domain, then your entire domain’s search rankings may be affected.

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Now, more than 50% of Google searches end without a click to other content, study finds /now-more-50-of-google-searches-end-without-a-click-to-other-content-study-finds-320574 Wed, 14 Aug 2019 15:41:39 +0000 /?p=320574 Zero-click searches hit an all-time high in June.

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“Zero-click searches …. have been on a steady rise for years, and I don’t expect that to reverse or plateau anytime soon,” Rand Fishkin, founder of SparkToro, commented on the updated findings of his Google clickstream data study, released Tuesday. The updated data provided by Jumpshot found that in June, for the first time, the majority of Google searches (50.33%) ended without a click on an organic or paid search result.

Image source: SparkToro.

A steady, upward trend. In a look at how much of Google’s search traffic is left for anyone other than Google itself, Fishkin’s initial study, published earlier this summer, found that 49% of searches in the first quarter of 2019 were zero-click, up from 43.9% in the first quarter of 2016. He noted that the majority of zero-click and paid search growth happened on mobile, where overall search volume is highest.

The update includes data from the second quarter of 2019, in which 49.76% of Google searches ended without a click. In June, that figure surpassed 50%, meaning that the majority of Google searches ended right on the search results page, without the user clicking through to any results.

Anti-competitive behavior? The study estimates that 94% of all U.S. searches occur on a Google property (including Images, YouTube and Maps). “That makes them a clear monopoly in search,” wrote Fishkin, who will be discussing these trends in a keynote address at SMX East on November 13 in New York City.

While more Google searches than ever end without a click, Google has continued to send a relatively consistent portion of searchers to other Alphabet-owned properties.

Image source: SparkToro.

What about paid search? “I think paid search CTR will probably decline over the next few months,” Fishkin told Search Engine Land Wednesday. “That’s because historically, each time Google changes how paid ads appear in the search results (like the late May shift to the black ‘Ad’ labels in mobile SERPs), ad CTR rises, then slowly declines as more searchers get familiar with the ad format and develop ad blindness.”

As searchers get wise to paid ads, we may see more clicks to organic results, said Fishkin. Then again, Google may also create new ways to get searchers to click on ads.

Zero-click searches don’t necessarily mean zero opportunity. “The big goals of advertising have always been to create awareness, increase exposure, and share information,” Fishkin said, pointing out the opportunities that are still available for SEOs.

“Rich information appearing in Google’s results may be, like billboard ads or press mentions, harder to track than website traffic, but it’s still exposing your brand name to an audience, building familiarity, and sharing information. In my opinion, the brands that find ways to benefit from that type of SERP exposure, even without a click, will be the ones who win at this new form of on-SERP SEO.”

Why we should care. The proportion of zero-click searches has increased over the years, and the more searches that end without users clicking through to a page, the less traffic and fewer marketing opportunities brands and publishers are likely to have to develop their own audiences.

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Reservations, AR navigation coming to Google Maps /reservations-ar-navigation-coming-to-google-maps-320406 Thu, 08 Aug 2019 20:26:59 +0000 /?p=320406 The new features are aimed at making Maps a hub for travelers.

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Google Maps users will soon be able to view their flight and hotel reservations directly from the mobile app and use augmented reality to direct them as they travel on foot. These new features are part of Google’s expanded Maps offerings aimed at travelers.

Reservations have a dedicated section in the Google Maps app. Image: Google.

Flight and hotel reservations. Viewable from the Your Places section of the Maps sidebar, the Reservations tab will display a user’s upcoming trips. Selecting a trip will display the associated reservations. This information will also be available offline for travelers without a data connection and will be arriving on Android and iOS devices over the coming weeks. 

Live View. Google’s augmented reality (AR) walking navigation feature, called “Live View,” works with a phone’s camera to overlay arrows and labels for travelers on foot. It is also rolling out as a beta over the next few weeks in countries where Street View is available.

An example of Google’s Live View walking navigation. Image: Google.

Google demonstrated its AR technology on stage at I/O in May. Live View was previously released earlier this year as a closed beta for Local Guides and Pixel phone owners.

Updated Timeline and food features. Users can now sort the places they’ve visited by criteria such as date and location, compile a list of those places and share that list with other users in the Timeline feature — on Android only.

Why we should care. Maps was once mainly a navigation application. Google has been adding more features to make it a hub where users can leave reviews, message local businesses, order food, view the places they have visited and, now, view the destinations they will visit, receive recommendations based on past searches or location history and save locations to reference later.

For local businesses, Maps’ expanded functionality makes their GMB listings — for better or worse — a crucial part of their online presence.

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Yes, Googlebot can detect JavaScript redirects /yes-googlebot-can-detect-javascript-redirects-320422 Thu, 08 Aug 2019 18:04:45 +0000 /?p=320422 JavaScript redirects are followed similarly to server-side redirects, Google explained.

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At its I/O developer conference in May, Google announced that its web crawler, Googlebot, will be “evergreen,” meaning that it will always be up-to-date with the latest version of Chromium. This update enables Googlebot to crawl most modern websites and access features that modern browsers can access, such as those based on JavaScript.

Although this update was a long time coming, there is still some uncertainty about what the evergreen Googlebot is capable of. In the third episode of #AskGoogleWebmasters, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller responded to whether Googlebot can detect client-side JavaScript redirects. Mueller explained, “We support JavaScript redirects of different types and follow them similar to how we’d follow server-side redirects.”

Why we should care

Prior to the evergreen Googlebot, using JavaScript might’ve forced brands to compromise functionality or user experience so that Googlebot’s dated version of Chromium could actually render the content. This also left loopholes for malicious actors to use tactics, such as sneaky redirects, to send viewers to pages that are hidden from Google.

Now that Googlebot is capable of rendering most modern JavaScript features, brands are free to make use of it without having to worry about whether it’ll negatively impact their SEO.

Learn more about the evergreen Googlebot and JavaScript

Here are some more resources to expand your knowledge of Googlebot and JavaScript.

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Google discontinues Trips mobile app /google-discontinues-trips-mobile-app-320376 Wed, 07 Aug 2019 18:41:53 +0000 /?p=320376 Users will be directed to use Search and Maps for their travel planning.

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The notice that appears when users open the Google Trips mobile app. The “Learn More” button leads to the company’s Travel Help support site.

After three years, Google has phased out the Trips mobile app and integrated its “Things to do in a destination,” “Trip reservations” and “Saved places” features into Search and Maps. This follows the launch of Google’s browser-based travel planning tool announced at the company’s Marketing Live event in May.

Why we should care

Did you even remember Trips existed? The impact of shutting it down will be minimal, but moving the users it did have from the Trips mobile app to Search and Maps for their travel planning may yield more opportunities to show ads to potential customers that have expressed interest in businesses like yours or have already booked travel to the area you service.

Google.com/travel’s browser-based interface offers the same trip planning features on desktop and mobile, which may allow advertisers to target travelers that are logged in as they plan their itineraries at home and when they’ve arrived at their travel destinations.

More about the announcement

  • The Trips mobile app was launched in 2016.
  • Google has detailed how users can access their trip reservations, saved places and browse things to do on their Travel Help support site.
  • Google started its foray into the travel sector by acquiring ITA Software in 2010, launching its Flight and Hotel Search services shortly after.
  • In March, the company added vacation rentals to its Hotel Search.

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Google Search Console doesn’t show data for featured snippets read by Google Assistant /google-search-console-doesnt-show-data-for-featured-snippets-read-by-google-assistant-320196 Thu, 01 Aug 2019 19:04:52 +0000 /?p=320196 In the second episode of #AskGoogleWebmasters, John Mueller explained some voice search nuances in GSC.

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You might already know that there’s no way to discern in Google Search Console which queries came in via voice search and which were typed, but were you aware that some data from voice search isn’t captured at all?

In the second episode of #AskGoogleWebmasters, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller explained that voice searches conducted through Google Assistant and answered verbally do not show as an impression in Google Search Console.  

Using voice to search vs. voice search on Google Assistant. At the beginning of the episode, Mueller pointed out that there are multiple ways to search by voice. You can use voice as a keyboard by tapping the microphone icon, which is equivalent to a regular web search. “These queries are already logged in Search Console in the same way as all other queries are logged, just like you’d see queries that are entered by swiping on a mobile keyboard,” Mueller said. 

“It’s slightly different when you use Google Assistant to ask a question that’s answered through a snippet of text from the page,” Mueller explained, as an image of a Google Home unit appeared on-screen. “In cases like this, we’ll send a URL of the page to the user’s mobile phone to make it easier for users to go to those pages. However . . . the impressions of snippets for those queries . . . currently isn’t logged in Search Console.”

Why we should care. A user viewing a featured snippet on their mobile or desktop browser will result in an impression within the publisher’s Search Console. On the other hand, snippets read aloud by Google Assistant are not counted as impressions.

Although a URL is sent to a user’s mobile device when they search via Assistant, the user may not be inclined to click through because the answer they were looking for was already provided.

This may mean that you miss queries, query volume and visibility into the terms that potential customers and clients are using to find your content. If voice becomes a more common way to conduct searches, this may impact more site owners.

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