Links from the show:
- Google now has 50M local guides adding content to Google Maps and Search
- T-Mobile and Sprint could merge by the end of October
- WooCommerce 3.2 has been released
- Oculus “Dash” replaces your computer monitor with VR
- Amazon Alexa can finally tell voices apart
- Date bylines are important for search, but don’t fake them
- Pruning content is not safe; instead make it better
- Comments on your site are better than social networks
- Google Penguin is only tweaked occasionally
- Danny Sullivan has joined Google
- Inbox Zero:
Google Maps is great, and one reason for that is the vast number of people that help make it better. Google has 72,000 employees, but there are more than 50 million that work on Google Maps. Before we get into that though, I’m Mickey Mellen and this is A Brighter Web episode number 21, brought to you by all of us at GreenMellen. Our goal with this podcast is to give you quick weekly insights for news, products, and ideas so we can all make the web a brighter place to be. These might be actual web tips talking about strategy, search engines, WordPress plugins and UX. Or, it might be productivity ideas to help you get more done, and free up your time to do great things.
We also wanna thank your sponsor clickhost.com. ClickHOST provides top rate web hosting at prices as low as $5 a month. Visit clickhost.com/abw for an exclusive 20 percent off discount for listeners of A Brighter Web. Today, we’ll talk more about the 50 million local guides helping with Google Maps, T-Mobile and Sprint may be merging soon, WooCommerce 3.2 has been released, Oculus Dash could replace your computer monitor, Alexa can now distinguish voices, and lots of news from Google. Let’s dig in.
As I mentioned a moment ago, Google now has 50 million local guides adding content to Google Maps and Search. Local guides help update Google Maps with new business info, correcting data, answering questions, et cetera. Last year, there were 5 million local guides and now it’s ten times higher. This is really a big reason why Apple Maps is gonna have a long battle ahead. Google already has the lead, and now they have 50 million people working to make Maps even better. The system’s gamified too, if you wanna join. You earn points for doing things to increase your level. In fact, their recent Local Guides Summit they had in San Francisco was only for those that were level five or higher.
They also offer perks. Right now, for me, I can get three months of Google Play Music for free, as well as 75 percent off a movie rental through Google Play Movies. Certainly more work than it’s worth for those bonuses, but it’s nice to be able to contribute, help make Maps more accurate in your area, and get a few little goodies on the side.
T-Mobile and Sprint could be merging by the end of October. It could be announced when the quarterly earnings are presented at the end of the month. It really seems fairly likely. The only step remaining is to determine a final valuation for Sprint, currently around $29 billion. This would be quite a shake up in the industry as T-Mobile’s already making it’s way toward the top of the heap. This would help get them there even more quickly, so we’ll see what happens.
WooCommerce version 3.2 has just been released. Not a lot of stuff going on in this one, but a few neat things. One, it allows admins to apply coupons for existing orders in the back end of the store. So, if someone makes an order on your site, later finds a coupon and emails you about it, you can go in and apply that coupon to their order, and retroactively adjust the pricing, and that sort of thing. And then, also, with this release and going forward, prior to doing the update, WooCommerce will check all of your other WooCommerce extensions, things for payment and shipping, and all the other pieces you install, to check for compatibility before you do the update rather than you doing the update, then seeing things breaking, then having to revert to a backup and things like that. So, it should make updating future versions of WooCommerce much better. So, you can go download that today, and check it out for yourself.
Oculus, the VR folks, have Oculus Core 2.0 coming out in beta form in December. And it has one really neat thing in it called Dash. Dash gives you a virtual reality set of monitors on your dashboard, which can handle most of your favorite tools, including Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, even Chrome. Looks really cool. Looks kind of like Minority Report where you have lots of monitors in front of you with a lot going on. Could be very, very cool. Could be marginally useful. We’ll kind of see how it works when it actually comes out. If you’re an Oculus user, look for that in the coming months and try it out, and let us know what you think.
Amazon Alexa can finally tell voices apart. Alexa’s awesome, but one major shortcoming it’s had is that it couldn’t tell who was speaking to it, unlike Google Home can. Now, that’s finally been solved so multiple users can now have their own shopping lists, their own music selections, et cetera. Just by talking to it, it knows who you are, which list you’re referring to. The update is rolling out now so you probably already have it, but if not you should have it in the next few days.
Lots of stuff from Google this week, so let’s take a look. First is, date bylines are important for search but don’t fake them. So, when you see news or blog content in the organic search results, you’ll often see dates next to the link showing when it was published. Two thoughts here … One, it’s confirmed that date bylines are better for search, they tend to get more clicks and do better in search. But hiding or artificially updating them can hurt you. Google, perhaps, could penalize you for it. Some think Google should penalize sites that don’t have dates on them when they should. For example, blogs that hide dates just so you can’t tell how out of date they are, Google does not penalize for that yet. But there is some thought that maybe they should. Maybe they will eventually. But, if nothing else, don’t do anything artificial and try to fake the dates to make it look newer than it is.
Google looks for legitimacy on that, and they know when they first see content. So if they content come out today, and then three months from now you update the date to that date, they’ll know you’re faking and probably hide those bylines completely, which will hurt you a little bit.
Pruning content on your site may not be safe. Google instead suggests just to make it better. So a typical tactic, after being hit by a quality update or panda update, is to remove excess pages from your site for Google to crawl. So, you hide that thinner low quality content so that Google will rank the other pages on the site higher.
People will show it with a 404 not found, or a noindex, or just block the content completely, again, so Google will remove that thin content and only show the good stuff. Google says that’s not really a safe tactic. They encourage you to improve those pages instead of noindexing them, ’cause otherwise it can look a little bit suspicious. So, if you have some pages on your site you’re worried are not high enough quality for Google. You don’t have enough content on ’em. Go work on the content on ’em rather than trying to get around it that way.
Over the past few years, I’ve seen a disappointing trend where a lot of websites are getting rid of the comments section on their site, in lieu of social media, often under somewhat false pretenses where they say they’re trying to encourage conversation by getting you off their site and onto Facebook. And techdirt.com has a lot of good articles about that. Google’s Gary Illyes has come out and said that comments are better on site for engagement signals for SEO than moving to social. And Google’s said this before. Google can’t track social comments as well as they can comments on your site. If they see you have a blog post, it has a lot of comments on your site, they’ll know it’s getting good engagement versus trying to consolidate your site URL with what they see on Facebook and Twitter and other places. So, getting comments on your site’s a good thing.
And, in fact, in our Facebook group … if you go to our Facebook group called “A Brighter Web,” we have a “share your blog Tuesdays”, where we encourage people to post their blogs and then go back into that thread and leave comments on each other’s sites. So, trying to get that conversation going, which is good for all of us, but again, Google likes that as well. So, it’s a good thing.
Google’s announced that Google Penguin is only tweaked occasionally anymore. So, Google unveiled the Penguin update back in 2012 to help detect and kind of nerf sites that used to use shady link tactics. Those things that said like, “Get 1,000 back links for $99.” They were not good. Google always said they were bad, but in 2012 they started really fighting back against it. They’ve made adjustments to that algorithm over the years but say they’re very happy with the one they made in late 2016. And really, they’re only making minor adjustments to it since then. Penguin is an update that I loved to see, since it knocked so many spammers out of the way, and helped us and all of our clients rank higher. And I’m sure Google will make bigger changes to it in the future, if spammers find a way around the current algorithm, but for now it looks quite stable.
Danny Sullivan has joined Google. So, Danny used to be at Search Engine Land, which we still reference quite frequently on this podcast. Now, he’s with Google in a bit of an unknown role, but presumably in a similar role as John Mueller and Gary Illyes, helping to bridge the gap between webmasters and Google. This is awesome news, as we’ll likely have many stories in the future that start with me saying something like, “Google’s Danny Sullivan has confirmed a new change in Google’s algorithm” and trail off into what that story is, like we do a lot with John and Gary. So, Danny’s an awesome guy. He’s been in the search engine world for years and years. We still, again, still use his Search Engine Land site quite often on here. So having him, presumably, as a public face for Google to help share information about algorithm updates and changes will be a great thing in the coming weeks.
And lastly, for our tip of the week, work to get to inbox zero. I’ve talked a lot about inbox zero on my blog over the years, but never really on here. For those not familiar with the term, inbox zero simply means getting your email inbox down to zero, having every email dealt with. It sounds really daunting, but needn’t be. This simply means your email’s been dealt with, not that the work has necessarily been done. Merlin Mann said it best years ago, when he explained that your goal with email should be to “make empty husks of each message”. In other words, extract what you need from it, put it somewhere else. For example, if you get a calendar invitation, put it on your calendar. If somebody asks you a question, answer it. If they give you a task, put it in your task system like Asana, and then get rid of the message. You can archive it in Google and keep it, just get it out of your inbox and keep that cleaned out, so you have a better handle on what’s going on in your world.
In our case, inbox zero means we have more in Asana to deal with, ’cause we take emails, tasks, and put them in Asana. But it means we’re fully in control of our priorities. If you go back to your inbox with 500 emails in it, you’re constantly spending brain power on re-prioritizing what’s in there. Just deal with the emails. Get the tasks into a system made for tasks, and move on. Now, getting from hundreds or thousands of emails in your inbox down to zero certainly can take some work, but the payoffs worth it. And I’ll post some resources in the show notes with tips and ideas on how to make that happen.
And that’s all we have for this week. You can find me on Twitter @mickmel, or learn lots more at greenmellenmedia.com. And you can find out more about the podcast, including show notes and links, as well as video tutorials, and many other resources over at abrighterweb.com. If you’re in the Atlanta area, come check out our meetup held three times each month. If you’re not in the Atlanta area, we post recaps on the site soon after each meet up. Either way, you can learn more about that at abrighterweb.com/meetup. Thanks for listening.