This Week in SEO – Volume 1
The content below is taken from our March 15th newsletter. We’re going to start publicly publishing at least half of our newsletters here. If you’d like to get them all, please make sure and sign up to our list.
I know I’ve been a little quiet lately. My team and I have been super duper busy on so many awesome new projects that it’s been difficult to keep up. Worry not though, we’ve got a bunch of great info for you here to help your SEO journey. Below are some of the best articles from around the web over the last couple of weeks that I recommend reading.
One last note before we hop into the goods below. Most of you know about the big Google announcement of the upcoming algorithm changes directed to ensuring that websites are mobile friendly. I really recommend not ignoring this one. Check and see if your site is mobile friendly, and if not get it fixed before April 21st. It might be a very bad day for you otherwise. This is one update that I’m paying close attention to.
Here’s what you need to know in SEO from the last two weeks:
How Do You Google? New Eye Tracking Study Reveals Huge Changes
Digital marketing firm Mediative tracked eye movements of 53 people as they performed Google searches on desktop computers and analyzed the results. They concluded that the “golden triangle” first identified in 2005 – which showed the majority of people solely scan the upper left side of the page – no longer exists. People still search the left side of the page, but now they scan more vertically than horizontally, mainly because Google’s search results have changed to show maps, image carousels and other local information based on the search query. The article concludes that now websites can benefit if they’re not the #1 organic result, since people are more familiar with Google’s search results showing more information down the page. This might make the click through rate distribution chart no longer as relevant.
From the article: “the eye tracking shows we do an initial scan of the entire page very quickly–a quick vertical scan down the left side. This is to look at the various sections shown by category headings Google has gradually added–local, maps, news, and the like. There’s less horizontal scanning than there used to be–possibly a transference of mobile scrolling behavior back to the computer browser–so people are more quickly finding the chunk of information that’s most relevant to them and spending more time there”
Google Wants to Rank Websites Based on Facts not Links
Google is seeking to rank websites based on factual information, rather than skewed towards sites with the higher number of incoming links, as it has in the past. They are working on having their Knowledge-Based Trust score assess the number of incorrect facts on a page, and deem websites with the least amount of incorrect facts as most trustworthy. Apps currently exist today that perform similar assessments, like weeding out spam e-mails from your inbox or pulling rumors from gossip websites to verify or denounce them.
From the article: “A Google research team is adapting that model to measure the trustworthiness of a page, rather than its reputation across the web. Instead of counting incoming links, the system – which is not yet live – counts the number of incorrect facts within a page. “A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy,” says the team. The score they compute for each page is its Knowledge-Based Trust score.”
Manual Penalty Removal: An Ahrefs Case Study
Ahrefs successfully performed a manual penalty removal using their site explorer tool, and documented the process as a tutorial. They worked with a site that already had a manual penalty, and found spam links using their search tool while analyzing the site’s backlink profile. They sorted sites by domain authority and looked at websites with a score of 40 or less. Along with that, they sorted the anchor-text data and noted sites with a high percentage of the same text. The process was subjective, and sites they deemed as spam were marked down on a list. The list was then used to perform outreach, requesting the links in question be removed. Along with reaching out to site owners, they used Google’s disavow tool and submitted a reconsideration request. The whole process took 3 months, and in the end they successfully removed the manual penalty.
From the article: “In many cases, we had to send multiple outreach messages (up to 6 per/domain) in order to get a website owner’s attention. In other cases, there were no responses at all. Sometimes site owners requested a bounty for removing links. This is simply a request for payment and in this case study, no bounty ever exceeded 20 dollars. For our case study, the outreach lasted for about 2 months. We sent 6 emails and/or contact form messages per violating domain.”
New SEO Myths and Lies in 2015
Michael Martinez gives his take on SEO lies and myths prevalent in 2015. He says lies are claims that have been disproven by evidence, while myths have no evidence the claim is untrue. One lie, he says, is that subfolders rank better than subdomains. He points out sites like Wikipedia, ABC News and Yahoo News as sites that rank well with content hosted on a subdomain. He also denounces that readable URLs are better for SEO than unreadable URLs, and points out pages on Google+ that rank well with unreadable URL structures. Myths he points out are that you have to use keywords in your URLs, that low bounce rates are good for rankings, and that social signals are distinct from web page signals.
From the article: “Human-readable URLs” (whatever they may be) have no special advantage in search results. You should use them so that people can type them in, recognize them when they see them, and help create value around them.”
Reddit Manipulates Google’s Results For Fun
This article highlights a thread on Reddit that took advantage of Google’s inclusion of the website in their news results. A redditor posted a picture of a potato and used “Gaming Console” as the first words in the beginning of the thread title. The user asked other redditors to upvote the post, which would result in the page ranking for the term “gaming console.” Sure enough, the post received enough upvotes to be served as the top news result in Google, albeit for only a short time. The article concludes that exposure to this flaw in Google’s algorithm could lead to people manipulating search results for companies they dislike, like Comcast.
An interesting look at some ways Google’s search results can be manipulated. There’ll always be a way. Now, as to how long this particular hack will work…
Responsive Design for Mobile SEO
(we already covered this above, this is just more info)
Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming implementation of Google’s new algorithm that will penalize sites (in mobile search) that are not mobile friendly. You’ve got just over a month, kids. Don’t mess around. There are some good suggestions in this article on how to start changing your site.
Summary: Google uncharacteristically announced a change in their algorithm before its implemented on April 21. The change, they say, will make mobile-friendliness an important ranking factor for searches on mobile devices. The article compares two common ways to make your website mobile-friendly; by either creating separate mobile pages and serving them to mobile users, or by designing a responsive website that modifies its design based on the user device.
Responsive sites are better to implement than separate, mobile pages for a number of reasons; one being that desktop users might accidentally be served mobile pages as search engines could misread the mobile redirecting script. For sites looking to quickly convert to responsive design they suggest updating to a new theme/design that’s already responsive, creating a child theme or using services that offer responsive design conversion of existing HTML sites.