SEO News Roundup May 2017

  • 2
  • May 31, 2017
Mathew McCorry

Mathew McCorry

Search Strategist

It’s been a busy month for the search industries, as it always is. This month we’ve seen more emphasis on quality, some changes to the Google Analytics platform, a hit for Amazon and an Owl…

Google News

Google have been up to some of their usual tricks recently, tweaking and testing a variety of different search results and confirming a few unanswered questions on Twitter. Here is a roundup of some of the significant changes the search giant have made this month.

New Google Analytics dashboard and intelligence

This month Google are testing a new look dashboard for Google Analytics, which doesn’t offer much more insight than the current platform, however it does give you a quick snapshot and presents the data in a nice, visually friendly way. Only some users can see this at the moment and those that can will be able to offer feedback.

It gives an overview of users over a week period and a simplified Real Time tab. Below that are a few more categories all over a week date period with the headings:

  • How do you acquire users? (Acquisition)
  • How are your active users trending over time? (Active User Report)
  • How well do you retain users? (Cohort Analysis Report)
  • When do your users visit?
  • Where are your users? (Location Overview)
  • What are your top devices? (Mobile Overview)
  • What pages do users visit? (Landing Pages Report)

As well as this, Google Analytics has also added in an “Analytics Intelligence” function, which is essentially a better search for the platform. It allows you to combine requests like:

It’s good for general requests and is somewhat useful for getting a quick answer. Both updates seem to be a bid to make Google Analytics friendlier for those with less experience on the platform.

Link building by widgets? Your time may be limited

On a Google Webmaster hangout, John Mueller mentioned that Google may automatically nofollow widget links for you, which comes after Google previously announced that you could be penalised for building links this way.

Reading between the lines, essentially what he is saying is Google may not punish you directly for the follow widget links like it would have in the past, but it will discount them with the new Penguin algorithm updates.

Featured snippets – no longer such a good idea?

In recent months across the search community, there has been numerous articles and talks about how to get clients into “position 0”, the answer box, but is it such a clever idea?

Originally noticed by Jennifer Slegg on the TheSEMPost, Google were testing the removal of organic results if the URL was featured in the answer box, which removes the original benefit of getting in the answer box and having two listings.

It’s general knowledge that the answer box usually doesn’t have as good click through rate as the first few organic results, so if this was to be implemented by Google then I imagine some may be looking to reverse engineer the work they did to get in the box in favour of getting a SERP result outside the answer box. This is currently only happening in the US at the moment, and not the UK by the looks of it.

Google Crawl 404s after other pages

Discussion around crawl budget is recently the new big thing, and on the topic there were a series of questions put forward to John Mueller about an influx of 404 error pages periodically on Search Console.

John stated that Google periodically re-crawl older URLs or 404s that it’s found in the past, but these come after the “important pages” so it doesn’t take up any crawl budget.

Personally, I’m not sure where I stand on this. 404s should be fixed for usability reasons, but I also believe that it must use crawl budget. If what John says is true, and 404s are crawled towards the end of the budget then surely it still uses some and could be preventing some deeper less important pages from being crawled regularly.

A slow release for mobile index

In another Google Webmaster hangout with, you guessed it, John Mueller, it was stated that Google may decide to release the Mobile First Index periodically. The exact quote is “possible that we’ll say, well this batch of sites works perfectly fine on mobile first indexing, so we’ll just switch that over.”

At the moment, it’s quite up in the air as to what he actually means by this and the impact that it will have. He mentions that it is going to be on a site by site basis, and doesn’t look to be as granular as the mobile friendly update, so webmasters will be able to see any changes easier as it will likely affect the site’s mobile rankings on a whole.

This is nothing to get yourself overly worried about yet, but it brings discussions back to Google’s emphasis on mobile. Make sure your site is as mobile friendly as it possibly can be and I’m sure that you will be fine during the transition.

Credit to Barry Schwartz at the Search Engine Round Table for doing a write up on the topic.

The big retail fight

On the 17th / 18th May, it was widely reported by the community and forecasting tools that there was some activity in fluctuating search results, although this hasn’t been confirmed by Google as usual.

It appears that the main impact of this tweak was towards the retail sector, which Rank Ranger blogged about. According to their data, Amazon were hit significantly and saw around a 7% decrease in rankings.

Which seems to be to eBay’s benefit…

There’s not too much known about the update but what it does show is that even if you’re one of the biggest companies on the web, you still might not be safe.

Project OWL

Google announced their latest quality improvements for search, dubbed “Project Owl” in a recent blog, which was actually right at the end of April, but we didn’t cover it in last month’s post. Essentially, it was announcing Google’s project to remove problematic web content like fake news, and details some of the struggles of trying to do so.

It focuses on three primary areas, one of which is related to autocomplete suggestions. Google have long struggled with autocomplete, because it’s purely based on the volume of search, so you can get an autocomplete option which could be offensive. This is something people have taken issue with for quite some time, but it took The Guardian to get involved in order for Google to make any changes. The first action they have taken is being able to report any inappropriate predictions.

The second thing they’ve implemented is that you can now give feedback on featured snippets to say whether they were useful, offering any comments and suggestions. Despite the changes there are still improvements to be made around featured snippet,s as it doesn’t seem like they’ve fixed Barry Adams’ problem yet.

Just in case you didn’t know, that isn’t Barry Adams….

Swiftly moving back to Project Owl, the final focus area they mentioned was again to Featured Snippets, in which they said they would be trying to show more authoritative content. In my opinion, what this translates to is brand, and they are going to try and use more reputable and trusted brands for the Featured Snippets. So, you can expect it to be a lot harder to get position 0 if you’re a lesser known company; what a hoot! I couldn’t resist…

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