Google SEO Update

English Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout

English Webmaster Hang Out:

Streamed live on Oct 3, 2017

Without conversions, Ranking means nothing – John Mueller (Google)

Question: Does Google look at moving from https to https as a major domain move?

John Mueller’s summarized answer: It’s much easier to process because it’s the same domain. We recognize it’s just a shift and can move forward quickly. A restructure of internal linking and new domain name is a much bigger deal. That being said, it still is a change and the bigger the website, the bigger the move. It’s not just flipping a switch, but we usually switch it over within a day or two.

Question: Does Google Parse the paramaters for any context about a page via country or language or product?

John Mueller’s Summarized Answer: Yes, Google does try to pick up words form the URL if they can find something “useful”. It’s a small factor though. The content on the page is a much larger factor. Country and language codes (EN vs DE) etc. are looked at. Hreflang markup would also do that. There’s no order of presidence necessarily. If there a conflict, on the language for example, HREFlang should determine.

Question: What we can do about unintended duplicate content such as job descriptions, where employees have vacancies in multiple locations and the postings have identical descriptions.

Answer Summarlized: If you have product, you may have that situation as well. It’s fine. What will generally happen is not a penalty, but each page is indexed uniquely yet only one will appear on the search engine results page (SERP) for that user.

💡Pro Tip: Google will tell you that they don’t specifically have a duplicate content penalty, yet they do look for unique, valuable content on a website and will work to show only one piece of duplicated content. In this case, we are talking about duplicate content on the same website. If google believes multiple pages have the same content, it will index each and show one.

In the case where the duplicated content is on multiple websites, it would work the same way. Let’s say you have a new website. You’ve written a blog you would like to rank on the search engines. Your website doesn’t quite have the trust and authority yet that another website does, such as a blog site liked LinkedIn Pulse.

You post the blog on your own website yet also post part or all of it on LinkedIn with a link or multiple links back to your website to gain traffic. It is possible that Google will then rank the blog on LinkedIn over your website as it has more authority. In most cases, if you would not rank well anyway, this is a bonus.

If you have a very visible website, and don’t want to risk your post ranking on another platform higher than your own, then you may not want to syndicate that blog.

Question: According to SEMrush data, we had rich snippets for thousands of keywords and then they disappeared. We still rank for the keywords, and have retained the same domain authority. Why?

Answer: Featured snippets are driven by algorithms. They can change all the time. You can add a no snippet tag to have then NOT appear, but that’s opposite of your goal. It’s normal to see featured snippets and then not show later.

💡 Rich Snippets are enhanced snippets on the search engine results page that can benefit the website by gaining more clicks. These could include stars for reviews, lists of events or products for sale, sitelinks and so forth. There is frequently one featured rich snippet in the zero position that can also be earned in.

If you have structured data on your website such as a table of contents, recipe, steps and so forth, and mark up with schema, and your page ranks well on the SERP, then you might be awarded this position. Google provides for the customer, a rich snippet that seems to most match their intent.

Question: Does Grammar affect SEO?

Answer: It’s a matter of how it’s received from a user point of view. A banking website with terrible English could cause visitors to lose trust. User generated contact could have grammar issues. Grammar is not part of the algorithms to my (John Mueller) knowledge.

💡 Check out the app Grammarly for spell check, grammar, passive voice, readability, and even plagiarism. 

Question: What will Google index first with mobile indexing? AMP or Mobile Responsive?

Answer: Depends on how it’s set up. The canonical page should decide.

💡AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages and are stripped down webpages designed to load instantly. You can learn more about AMP here.

There was an interesting sidebar by John Mueller where he discusses the changes in Google and how they experiment frequently. If what they do doesn’t work (like Google Authorship), then it will go away. This was around the AMP discussion.


Question: On page use of H1, Page URL, Page Title, Anchor Text, alt attribute that give reference to the pages content are included in the ranking factors. If we optimize certain pages and not others can we expect higher rankings?

Answer: These are all on page SEO strategies. Sure, these can make sense for usability, ranking, and how people see your site in the search results, such as your title. That title may not help your ranking, yet may increase clicks.

💡Pro Tip: Standard on page seo include

Earning Links

Question: In my niche earning natural links is really hard. How can we do that?

Answer: There are many factors in crawling and ranking. You can do well without links. Some websites rank very well for competitive terms with few to no links. Getting listed in directories such as your chamber of commerce can be beneficial. Also, if your niche has this issue, then everyone in your niche should have this challenge. You aren’t competiting then.

Having great content can make a big difference.

Trademark Symbols

Question: How does Google handle trademarks like the copyright symbol, ® symbol etc. ? Are they ignored like other punctionation?

Answer: Yes. They would be treated as a symbol and ignored although they may be specifically searchable. This wouldn’t be useful content alone. Like any other sybols, there is no semantic meaning assigned to them.

English Webmaster Hang Out: September 19th, 2017

Here’s my notes and takeways from this weeks English Google Webmaster Central Office House Hang Out. I’ve included the question asked, a summary of John Mueller’s answer, and my own notes and links to learn more.  If you need help ranking on the search engines, and would like to consult with an SEO company, check out Ballen Brands.

HTTPS and Certificates

❓Does the cost or source of the https:// certificate affect the ranking power?

John Mueller‘s Answer Summarized:

Any valid certificate will do the job as long as it’s accepted by a modern browser. You don’t want to redirect an http:// to an https:// without a valid certificate or they will see the “warning” anyway.

When you see a URL or webpage using the protocol https (note the “s” for security) rather than http it means that information and data exchanged between user and server will have a higher level of security because there is a protocol encrypting the data plus a protocol preventing corruption or modification during transmission of data.

https is sometimes referred to as “http over SSL” because https works in conjunction with the protocol SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) to transport data securely. https also works with the protocol TSL (Transport Layer Security) to prevent corruption of the data during transport.

If you want to get even more technical, check out what Google is telling webmasters in their Best Practices regarding the three levels of protection offered by enabling https.

2:46 Mark on Video


Why does is the paramater added to the end of the URL?

John Mueller‘s Answer Summarized:

This is what hreflang is supposed to do. It’s clear that it’s all the same domain. They are equilevant domains. It’s not specific to Twitter.

Click Data and the Algorithm

Question: What’s going on with Google Brain using Pogosticking, Click Data as part of the search rankings?

John’s Answer: Yes. In general, this information is used as part of algorithm experiments. It’s not new.  We uses this data to determine if the algorithm is performing as intended.

John said as far as he knows, click data is not part of the current algorithm. 

We know that Google has one purpose and that’s to remain the search engine of choice. How does it do that? By making sure it’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) return the best quality and most relevant responses.

It’s fair to assume that Google would measure the user interaction as a quality signal and this would include someone performing a search, viewing the SERP, clicking through to a website and then immediately bouncing back to change their query (known as pogosticking).

In a recent talk by Google, an attendee captured an audio of the speaker (rumored to be the head of Google Brain) which said “But Google is now integrating machine learning into that process. So then training models on when someone clicks on a page and stays on that page, when they go back or when they and trying to figure out exactly on that relationship.”

Metrics showing user interaction on a website by Clicky Software

My interpretation is that he was saying it’s used in training models, not that it’s currently part of the algorithm.

It makes sense that would be or will be.

What’s most important to note for those who desire to rank well on the search engines, is that your website must be quality.

However Google is measuring it, it is. Pay attention to how well your pages on your website perform.

  • Are you getting more clicks once they enter?
  • Is the visitor spending a few minutes or more on your website?
  • Is the user playing your videos, scrolling through images, downloading your offers, or commenting and sharing?

Google Adwords and the Local Pack

Question: Does paying for Google AdWords Help your Local Pack business listing rank higher?

Answer: “I doubt that”, says John Mueller.  He continues to day that a lot of things are said online that are “kind of weird”.

People also ask: How do get my webpages to rank higher up on the search engines

image alt attributes

Question: How descriptive should the alt TAG image be? Is there an optimal character length?

Answer: It’s an Alt Attribute, not a tag.  It’s simple really. If the picture were not to load visually, the alt attribute what would describe what should have loaded.

There’s no minimum or maximum limit. You might have 2 words, or a sentence.

Focus on describing the image, not on ranking. It is used for image search, so yes, be descriptive. It is also used as part of a page for web search, although we don’t need to rely on the alt attribute as we can determine the content on the page without it.

You want to add an alt attribute every time you use a pictures on a web page. We know that this will be important to be part of the Google Image Search database, as well as providing a quality experience for someone that can’t visually see the image.

Learn more on optimizing images for search.

No Indexing Low Quality Pages

Question: Should I no index low quality pages on my website?

Answer: Google’s goal is to offer quality pages. You could improve a low quality page altogether. If you can’t improve the quality, than using a no index is an option.

This way, you can keep the page on your website and in some sort of navigation, yet it won’t appear on the search engines.

A noindex value of an html robots meta tag tells the search engines not to index that page.

This might be useful for archives you no longer want found on the search engines, yet want to reference on your website for a particular reason, or for former authors contributing to your website, or for pages that would be otherwise of no use to a new visitor.

  <meta name="robots" content="noindex">
  <title>Don't index this page</title>

Learn More

Link Placement

Where is the best place to place links to a page we want to give a boost, in the menu, header or footers?

Answer: Based on the fact that we determine which is actual content and which is boiler plate content, navigation would be treated the same. If you want to place more importance via a link, you want to put it in the content itself.

Internal linking is a powerful strategy for creating a quality user experience and for helping Google understand your page flow.

When you have a set of words that relate to another page on your website, you can highlight those words and attach a link that will take them to that page. 

It is true that a page has a certain level of ranking power and every link you include then flows out some of this “power” to the receiving page.

It’s important then to consider carefully which pages you want to flow some of this “power to”.

Yoast has a great feature involving Cornerstone Content. If you are using WordPress an have this plugin, you can select your most important pages as “cornerstone content”. Then, when you create a new piece of content, Yoast will remind you to link out to these pages.

AMP and Mobile Friendly Index

Is it true that if you have a website designed for desktop, but not for mobile, that AMP will allow you to BE INDEXED when the mobile index rolls out?

Answer: It’s tricky and probably theoretical. If you are implementing AMP, it would be responsive. It could make sense for the AMP version to rank if that’s what mobile users prefer.

You can link your AMP as your mobile version of your page as a separate URL making it the mobile version. This is not specifically defined as of yet.

AMP is a service by Google whereby pages of your website are hosted in minimal form to load as fast as possible. This is a paid service offered by Google. Learn More.

The mobile first index, expected to change the search engine results pages (SERP) in the near future, intends to rank mobile friendly websites first. 

Spammy Backlinks

Question: My main competitor ranks #1 on the search engines yet has a pile of spammy backlinks and is participating in black hat SEO techniques. Aren’t these links supposed to hurt rankings now?

Answer: You are welcome to submit a SPAM report. If you have already done so, then we have probably looked into it or have collected it. Our algorithms are designed to catch these things.

It is probable that this website has already disavowed the links and is ranking in spite of the links, not because of them.

Google has a disavow tool that allows you to remove the negative SEO from spammy backlinks. Visit your Search Console (formally Google Webmaster Tools) and upload a text file of the links you want to remove.

A great tool for discovering spammy backlinks is SEMrush. spammy backlinks is SEMrush. Here’s a quick how to video.

Ranking for Multiple Keywords on a Page

Question: I WANT To rank for different keywords on the same page. what is the best way to do this?

Answer: It is completely normal for one page to rank for multiple keywords. Your information would be relative to many keywords if it’s great content. Write naturally. Focus on the text and the customer, not on the keywords.

💡Remember to make it clear for the user. Use links to other pages with good descriptions of where you are linking. Don’t link the text “you can find more information here” to another page.

Instead, something like “Find information on X” is a better anchor and better explains the content of the page you are linking to.

Structured Data

Question: I’ve used schema to markup my reviews and am not seeing results on the SERP’s. I don’t see Rich Snippets.

Answer: Post this in the webmaster tools forum and have someone cross check your work. There might be some simple corrections to be made.

For example, some people will mark up their company review on their product pages.

This would not be a correct method. Instead, you only want a review marked up on that page if it specifically pertains to the product or service on that page.

💡 Schema is a coding language that allows you to specifically express through code what a page or section of a page is about. Structured data is highlighted and includes things like books, authors, recipes, articles, websites, lists, tables, “steps” in a process and so much more.

While it’s quite advanced, it doesn’t have to be complicated to add to your website. 

The goal is thave Google recognize your data and create a rich snippet in the search results adding things to your listing like stars and site links.

Rich Snippet shows the answer to how often should you feed your dog.

If your website isn’t trusted, you may not earn the snippets at all. In this case, improving the quality of the website is a must. 

A top ranking webpage might also be awarded the knowledge box (with an informational segment) or zero position with a highlighted table or list.

Learn more about implementing Schema Markup on your website.

38 Minute Mark


What is the best way to USE a Sitemap and should it be noindexed?

Answer. HTML sitemaps really aren’t very usable. A small website should have navigation done well enough that it’s clear which pages it has.

And it doesn’t make sense anymore that one page with a list of all pages of your website would be usable. That’s really quite limited.

It’s a better idea to watch your analytics and watch how your users are navigating your website.

💡 Google doesn’t need a submitted sitemap to know which pages are on your website. I will crawl your website and pick up pages that it’s permitted to. This does not mean it will rank them.

Having a page in the Google Index is not the same as seeing it on a search engine results page in match to a query (when someone does a search).

Many still suggest having a sitemap as a best practice. If you are using WordPress and the plugin Yoast for example, a sitemap is already set up and submitted for you. You can also use Google Search Console to submit your own sitemap.

💡 Have you created a new post or page that you want Google to index?  Simply go to Google and type in Submit URL. Use the provided field to add the url of your new page. That’s it! Watch!

Ranking Factors

Is there a one size fits all algorithm for ranking in a top 3 position on page one?

Answer: Absolutely not. There are 200 ranking factors. Two competitors could use completely different strategies to rank and both can.

One might strategically target obtaining quality backlinks, and another might focus on a quality content solution.

Each type of search query has it’s own set of changing factors to who should rank in the top positions.

These change. For example, if you type in hurricane, you’ll see the latest horrific news and website relating to the devasation from Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria.

Google SERP shows results after typing in the word hurricane


💡 He who executes can win over he who spends too much time in strategy.

46 Minute Mark.

Noindexing Non Profit Pages

Question: I have a classified ads site. Only some of my cities are profitable. Would it help the quality of my website to noindex those cities?

Answer: Not necessarily. It might be smart to do a rel=canonical to a more “national” page that include these cities sending the signal up from the individual pages up to the stronger national page.

Hiding the non profitable pages would not suddenly make the remaining pages stronger. 

💡rel=canonical is an attribute you can apply to a page that indicates to Google that you prefer the SEO from this page go to another page. This is usually done where you would have duplicate content. In this case, the national page may include the same content that is on each of those city pages. The city pages then include the rel=canonical attribute indicating to Google that you prefer the national page rank. There’s no guarantee this will gain ranking for the national page, yet it could.

→ Real Estate Example. You have have a “new homes for sale” page on your website. You are ranking for the longtail version “new homes for sale under 200K”.

You could add a canonical tag indicating to Google that you prefer to rank the parent page “new homes for sale” for all terms relating. You have a directory or table that can send them to the individual prices.

The challenge is, Google may accept your canonical, and now you lose your ranking for the small longtail page and don’t earn in rankings for the parent page because it’s too competitive of a term.

This must be tested for results. In some cases, adding a canonical makes sense. In others, it could result in a lesser result.



Learn How to Get More Real Estate Leads

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