Links from the show:
- There is no “top three search ranking signals”
- Google Keeps Debunking 301 Redirect Dilution Myths
- Google Tests Indoor Maps in the local knowledge panel
- Chatbots don’t make your pages better
- Google doesn’t use click data directly for search rankings
- Google’s algorithms don’t look at disavow files
- Gmail now converts addresses and phone numbers to actionable links
- Responsive sites don’t need to worry about the mobile first index
- 8 major Google algorithm updates, explained
- Google Inbox: Our initial take on it | Try it yourself
People often ask “what are the top three search ranking signals to help me rank higher in Google?” Google’s answered with a definitive answer, there’s no such thing as a consistent top three.
Before we get into that, though, I’m Mickey Mellen and this is A Brighter Web, episode number 18, 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 want to thank our sponsor, ClickHOST.com. ClickHOST provides top rate web posting at prices as low as $5 a month. Visit clickhost.com/abw for exclusive 20% off discount for listeners of A Brighter Web.
Today we’ll talk more about top ranking signals in Google, 301 redirect dilution myths, more testing of indoor maps, chatbot and click data doesn’t help your rankings, Google doesn’t use disavow files in their algorithm, responsive sites don’t need to worry about the mobile-first index, details of eight major Google algorithm changes, and a great use case for Google Inbox.
Let’s dig in.
As we mentioned at the top of the show, there is no such thing as the “top three search ranking signals”. Google’s Gary Illyes and John Mueller both chimed in on Google to talk about it. They said, really there’s many different factors. John said, “We use so many factors for ranking, it really depends a lot on things. In my opinion, there’s no top three list. We use links but also lots more.” Gary Illyes followed up with a similar thing saying, “There are lots of long tail results without links,” meaning lots of really long search queries people might type in and Google gives the result and it could be to a very specific page somewhere that doesn’t use links.
Links are typically thought of as one of the top three factors, and I’d say they usually are, but there are cases where they are not. As Google said very clearly here, it varies a lot from case to case, and you can’t ever say ever definitively here are the top three things that matter. You got to keep an eye on the big picture and do everything the best you can.
For years it was known that Google diluted the link juice of 301 redirects by about 15%. This means if you changed one of your pages to have a different address and you did a proper redirect over from one to the other, the effectiveness of that page would be about 15% weaker than the old one in terms of the Google link juice that passed over. About a year ago, though, Google made it very clear they no longer do that. They actually pass 100% of the link equity from one page to another via a redirect. Some people are still not believing that for sure, so Google’s done more pushing on Twitter lately to say there’s virtually no way you can test this for yourselves. Trust us. We pass it all along. We have a link to details of that conversation in our show notes if you want to check it out for yourself.
You may have seen Google’s indoor maps from time to time inside of Google Maps where you can see the inside of a shopping mall and other various museums and things like that. Google is starting to test adding indoor maps when available to the local knowledge panel in search. If you search for a location, you may get, not only photos and information, but a quick link to their indoor map to play with it yourself. You can actually upload floor plans to Google yourself if you have indoor maps, but it gets a little trickier than that; you need to be a partner with them and do some things. It’s something to check out if you have a large facility that can benefit from indoor maps. Keep an eye out yourself for that new feature in the search results.
There’s been some talking lately about whether having a chatbot on your site would make it rank better. Google says definitively it doesn’t. It still could be a good thing for users potentially, but doesn’t automatically make you rank better. In fact, John Mueller said, “Most chatbots I see are really basic and useless, so I don’t think randomly adding chatbots to your page makes that page better.” He went on to explain that artificially keeping people on your website, even if they don’t want to actually buy or convert just isn’t a good thing. Don’t add chatbots just for the sake of being cool or trying to help your ranking. If it genuinely help your users? Sure, but otherwise, I would skip them.
A big question over the years is whether Google uses click data to affect search rankings. Barry Schwartz asked this question directly to Google saying, “To be 100% clear, Google is not using click data, behavioral data, pogo-sticking, that type of stuff directly in the search ranking algorithm for ranking websites in their search results.” John Mueller from Google said, “As far as I know, we don’t do that,” meaning the amount of people click on your search from the search results or they pogo-stick, where they click on one site, go back to the search results, click on another site, go back back to the search results, Google’s not factoring that into the rankings. It’s long been thought that’s the case that Google doesn’t look at that and they confirmed that at least for now, that’s not something they look at. Having all of your friends come and click on your link in Google, as we’ve long said, is not going to help you rank any better.
When Google’s Penguin update came out a few years ago, it attacked sites that had bad links pointing to them. Most of these were the fault of the site owners themselves that fell for those silly 10,000 backlinks for $9.99 kinds of deals and suddenly they were getting hurt from it. Google’s algorithm caught up to enforce the rules they’ve long said. One thing Google did to try to help those people recover was allow you to submit a disavow file. This file would just be full of links saying any of these sites in this file that link to us, please don’t count them toward or against our rankings in the search engine. Please just disavow them completely. It’s helped a lot of people recover from the mistakes they made in the past.
Someone asked if Google’s trained some of their algorithms to use disavow links sent to search console. Google’s confirmed that no, nothing they know of takes those into account. In addition, they said, “I’m sure black hats would love if we used it,” meaning that spammers would love if they took disavow links into account for SEO, because then you just list all of your competitors in the disavow file. Google would look at that and think they were bad and rank them worse. Google does use disavow for you saying please don’t count these links, but they don’t look at it for the bigger picture just because of the easy manipulation people could have with that.
A minor update from Google is one that’s been a long time coming. Gmail now automatically converts addresses and phone numbers to actionable links inside their Gmail. Someone has an address or phone number in there, it will automatically make it clickable to be useful for you. As Ali said in our GreenMellen Slack team, “It’s about time.” Nothing major here, but it’s something Google should’ve done a while ago and make Gmail that much better for you to use.
A lot has been made about Google’s mobile-first index, which is coming soon. This is where the mobile version of your site will become the primary source for Google, whereas the desktop version traditionally has been the primary source. Google needs to have one index that says, “Hey, this is what the site’s about,” and then they can splinter off from there. It’s going to go from being a desktop to the mobile. People are a little concerned about how that is going to affect their site if they have separate mobile and desktop sites. Google has said if you have a mobile responsive website where one website that bends and flexes to fit all devices, which most of you probably have whether you know it or not, that’s perfect. Then you simply don’t need to worry about this mobile-first index. You have the same content in both places, so you’ll be just fine when Google starts to roll this out soon, which has been coming soon for a while. I expect we’ll see that over the next few months.
We often say that Google doesn’t change the rules, but they simply get better at enforcing them. Marketingland.com has a great overview of eight major algorithm updates over the years that were all targeted at better enforcement of shady or lazy websites. If you’ve heard some of these names before, I’ll just give you a quick overview what’s in that article so you can have a better understanding what some of the updates have been in the past.
In 2011, Google came out with the Panda update that targeted thin content. If you had just weak pages without a lot on it. This attacked those.
In 2012 was the Penguin update we mentioned a few minutes ago. They had spammy links pointing back to them.
In 2013, was the Hummingbird update, which had better intent results for people when they didn’t use the exact keywords, but Google kind of know what they were saying and used their user intent to affect the search results.
In 2014 was Pigeon, which took local SEO and had more traditional SEO stuff applied to it, so instead of being two separate things, it started bringing them a little closer together.
The mobile update in 2015, this was a big one. This actually was kind of a rule change, where mobile sites will start ranking better than sites that were not mobile friendly at all. Hopefully, you’re onboard with that by now. Again, with the mobile responsive site, will put you in pretty good shape.
RankBrain also came out in 2015. This is where Google started using machine learning to help understand more meaning behind the queries, trying to figure out exactly what you were saying.
2016 was the Possum update to make local results vary more based on user location. Wherever a user was, the local results would be more accurate to where they are.
Then, in 2017, earlier this year, the Fred update targeted thin, affiliate heavier ad-centered content, so sites that had a ton of ads on it, not a lot of real content, was full of affiliate links, that kind of thing got buffed down a bit more.
All these updates helped users do better. Most of them really helped legitimate website owners do better, because it got spammers knocked out of the way.
Lastly, for our tip of the week, consider using Google Inbox. While I’m back to using the normal Gmail client full time again, I go back and forth between Inbox and Gmail. I’m actually going to switch my phone over to Google Inbox this week while I’m at Disney World. If you’re not familiar with Google Inbox, it’s an email client from Google that works with your Gmail account but gives it a completely different look and feel. In particular helps you to quickly deal with large swaths of email and has features built in such as “snooze” to allow you kick emails to a future date.
For me, while I have some downtime in the park, Inbox will make it really easy for me to quickly deal with emails, probably snoozing a lot of them until next week when I get back. When I get back home, then I’ll switch to good old Gmail with more powerful tools to help me work on it, but Inbox will be great while I’m on the go to quickly process email, respond to any emergencies and really push most of it off until I get back next week.
That’s all we have for this week. You can find me on Twitter @mickmel, M-I-C-K-M-E-L, or learn lots more on greenmellenmedia.com. 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 Meetup. Either way, you can learn more about that at abrighterweb.com/meetup.
Thanks for listening.