Misc

6 Changes in Google Search

Google has made many changes over the years, other engines have followed suit, and SEO has evolved along with these changes. Consider these 6 ways Google has changed over the last several years.

1. More pages are not necessarily better
Google used to reward what would now be considered duplicate content. Endless search results pages, doorway pages, and many other techniques of the past are easily detected by the modern Googlebot. In today’s world, these techniques can be ignored, or even penalized. Where quantity ruled supreme, now quality does. Many sites are pruning, combining, or redirecting the flood of URLs of the old days. If you are tempted by these old techniques, consider that you will likely have to undo the changes.

2. CSS and JS should not be blocked
It used to be a best practice to block Google from JavaScript and CSS resources, as they could otherwise show in the index. And to have those as landing pages was just horrible. But modern Google is very smart: It wants access to everything and needs everything to fully render the page. In having to access these resources, Google analyzes mobile friendliness, speed, layout, and many other factors.

3. Get only good links
From the start, Google has always weighed links very heavily. SEOs used to be able to get websites to rank without even improving the site! And in the old days, any link helped – and was disregarded at worst. In modern Google, links should come from the best sources. Links from penalized, unimportant or even new sites are risky and can now cause a Google penalty. A typical link profile of a site might have these and ratios should be monitored – but some low-quality links are best disavowed. A high ratio of any one type can be a red flag to Google. It’s best to invest your time in getting the best links.

4. Google wants to understand you
Google wants to understand concepts better, and wants to understand you better, too! With the advent of Hummingbird and RankBrain, Google is getting smarter and smarter. Hummingbird was Google’s update to help with classifying content. RankBrain is an Artificial Intelligence update to help Google understand what sort of results a certain query would like to see. Consider that these similar queries are actually quite different:

https://www.google.com/search?q=windows+update
https://www.google.com/search?q=windows+replacement

Think about your prospects’ most important queries driving your traffic. Are you delivering what they are looking for?

5. It’s not just 10 blue links
Google has many changes over the years, and what began as a simple list of 10 blue links has evolved into a wide variety of results that could be returned. Results can now include answers, cards, carousels, images, videos, and more. And voice results are becoming increasingly valuable for some queries. Getting to “number one in Google” isn’t quite the same as it was: Number one might be a block of images or an answer ABOVE the number 1 position.

The modern approach is key to being successful in today’s Google. Images should be named, tagged and captioned appropriately. Schema should be used to help Google understand and classify your content and even your site. For those that commit to helping Google understand their content, the reward is visibility in a multitude of ways.

6. Keywords? Not provided
In the old days, it was easy to see what keywords your prospects were using to find your site. But since “(Not Provided)” has replaced keyword data in analytics, there have been some big changes. Many sites were over-optimized in the old days, anyway. The new approach isn’t spammy but instead is about being more relevant. In the old days, you could target a broad phrase by using it multiple times, and with a heavy bit of anchor-text. In modern times, it’s important to “talk around” any broad phrases. If you want to be relevant for “Blue Widgets”, you must be relevant for as many aspects of the Blue Widget as possible. Consider what questions prospects are asking, what information or media exist around Blue Widgets, etc.

In your SEO approach, always keep in mind that Google has changed quite a bit over the years. Yesterday’s approach was for yesterday’s Google. Bing and the other remaining competitors will keep changing, trying to catch-up to or outdo Google’s innovations. To ensure your success, make sure your approach is in line with Google’s ongoing changes.

4 Reasons Why Organic Traffic Can Stay the Same – Even When Rankings Go Up [Summary of Search]

The amount of organic traffic coming to a website is an important measurement of SEO success, but several factors can mean fluctuations – or even decreases – while rankings are stable.

  1. Four Ads at the Top

In the last year, Google has removed text ads from the side of their search engine results pages (SERPs) and placed up to four at the top. For many competitive queries, this means less visibility. In many cases, the #1 organic position is now below the fold! That dramatic shift in position means fewer clicks. According to a 2014 study, these are the percentage of clicks a listing can expect in each of Google’s top 5 positions:

1 – 29%

2 – 15%

3 – 11%

4 – 7%

5 – 5%

 

The dynamics change considerably when more ads push a number 2 position down to where it might receive 7% or 5% of the clicks! For many competitive keywords we are tracking, this is the most dramatic shift we’ve seen for organic traffic. It is also possible to “cannibalize” your organic traffic with PPC where your site was already at the top. So be careful out there, and check your most important SERPs.

 

  1. Search Volume has Decreased

Another reason organic traffic can decrease is due to trends or seasonal fluctuations. Many businesses do have seasons, and Year-over-Year traffic is the better measurement. And don’t forget to check https://trends.google.com/ for trends in the queries your visitors might be using.

 

  1. Organic Traffic Counted as Direct Traffic

There are a few ways that organic traffic can show up as direct traffic. If it’s a mystery as to why organic traffic is decreasing, check direct traffic in Google Analytics. Where direct traffic is soaring, Google Analytics may not be seeing the true source (aka referrer) of the traffic. There may be a couple of reasons:

 

– Redirects

We’ve seen many strange redirects over the years, enough that this is worth mentioning. Referrer information can be removed when redirects are done via programming languages, or even in a chain of redirects that cross to HTTPS and back.

 

– Certain browsers block information

There have been periods in which Safari blocked referrer information. On sites with heavy IOS traffic, the effect is easier to spot. But for many sites, this can be a difficult blip to locate.

 

  1. Decreased Number of Pages or Products

For eCommerce sites that have dropped product lines for business reasons, eventually, a loss of organic traffic for those keywords will be seen. Pages that are redirecting or missing will eventually drop from Google’s index – and organic traffic can suffer. However, if you are trimming low-quality pages, that is certainly worth the short-term decrease in your traffic! Quality is still king, and Google can see if a page is being visited, shared or linked to. So don’t stop pruning your site.
These four situations explain the cases we’ve found where rankings might stay the same (or even improve) with no commensurate increase in organic traffic numbers. Be sure to check this list next time you find yourself wondering,”Where did all of the Organic traffic go?”

Speed is Everything [Summary of Search]

Page loading speed has great importance with Google these days. From mobile visitors to Googlebots, every visitor will appreciate a speedy experience. Here are some ideas to keep in mind:

1. Rise of mobile

The importance of mobile can be seen in Google’s announcements the last few years. Mobile users are more impatient than ever, and Google provided stats last week regarding just how impatient mobile users are:

– The average mobile page takes 22 seconds to load, but 53% of users leave after 3 seconds!

– Even mobile landing pages in AdWords were found to take 10 seconds loading time.

There are many easy changes available for sites to make, as the answer isn’t always in purchasing a faster web server. Google’s own analysis found that simply compressing images and text can be a “game changer”—30% of pages could save more than 250KB that way.

2. Ranking factor

A few years back, Google made page speed a small ranking factor – or at least they were finally explicit about it being a ranking factor. Since page speed issues aren’t given the exposure of crawl errors and other items in Google Search Console, it can be easy to put them on the “long list” of items to fix. Its addition as a ranking factor is a great signal that this needs to be prioritized.

3. Bounce rate

Nice try, loading up your site with images that take forever to load. Unfortunately, that doesn’t increase the duration of site visits. It just makes people angry. According to Google’s analysis, every second of loading time, from 1 to 7 seconds, increases the chance of a bounce by 113%! Many SEOs believe that “engagement metrics” such as bounce rate could also be a ranking factor. And it makes sense: When Google sees a rise in organic bounce rate, they know human visitors are judging the content. How could Google not take this data into account?

4. Crawl rate

In one recent test, increasing page speed across a site dramatically increased the site’s crawl budget. Slower sites can be overwhelmed by crawl activity. But if you ever feel the need to put a crawl delay in your robots.txt, take that as a warning sign. After all, even reasonably fast sites can often need more crawl budget.

Tools and Fixes

Luckily there are remedies. Some can be quite easy, such as adding compression to your web server. Others might require a trip to Photoshop for your site’s images. However, some items will not be worth fixing. Try to concentrate on the easiest tasks first. Run an analysis of your site through these two tools and see what you need to fix:

Google’s newest tool:

Test how mobile-friendly your site is.

GTmetrix.com features include a “waterfall” showing which page items load at which stage, history, monitoring, and more.

Good luck and enjoy optimizing the speed of your site!