Links from the show:
- New products from Google
- More AMP updates
- Google renaming “AMP” to “Instant”?
- Google releases “Go-To Guides” for Google My Business
- Google doubles AdWords budgets
- Bing not demoting the importance of links for search rankings
- Google will soon let anyone add to Streetview
- Multiple hreflang tags on the same URL are ok
- Grammar does not impact SEO and search rankings
- Google will still sometimes highlight algorithm changes
- Google ignores symbols for rankings
- Google is beginning to test the mobile first index in the wild
- Come check out an upcoming WordCamp: Birmingham | US | All
I knew that it was coming, but I did it anyway. A few weeks ago, I bought a Galaxy Note 8, even though I knew that Google’s new Pixel phones were coming soon. They’ve now been unveiled, along with a lot of other great products from Google; so let’s talk about those.
Before we dig in to that though, I’m Mickey Mellen and this is A Brighter Web episode number 20, brought to you from all of us at GreenMellen. Our goal of 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 strategies, 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 hosting at prices as low as $5 a month. Visit clickhost.com/abw for an exclusive 20% off discount for listeners of A Brighter Web. Today we’ll talk more about new products from Google, more AMP updates, a new guide for Google My Business, Google doubling AdWords budgets and much more. Let’s dig in.
So last week, Google unveiled a whole bunch of new products. I want to quickly talk about some of those. The first was the Google Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. I had the original Pixel last year, and it was an awesome phone. This one looks even better. As I said at the top though, I went with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 instead this time around, but either one will make you very happy. They have the same processor, a few different features on each one, but both are awesome phones. If you’re an Android user, both will make great choices.
They also brought out the Google Home mini, similar to the Google Home device, similar to Amazon Alexa. This is on the small side of it, kind of like the Echo Dot. Very well designed looking speaker, 49 bucks; could be a good way to get you into that if you wanted a Google Home device.
On the flip side, they also unveiled the Google Home Max, a giant Google Home speaker with incredible sound and a couple hundred dollar price tag.
Along with the phones, they brought out the Google Pixel Buds, very similar to the wireless headphones that Apple has. They showed off some real time language translation that was pretty slick. They could be some neat wireless ear buds to have.
They brought out a new Google Daydream Viewer; that’s their VR headset. They initially brought one out last year, and this is a new one with slight revisions to it. It’s about 100 bucks, but runs off the power of your phone. It’s really just a case for your phone to connect to.
They also brought out Google Clips. People said Google Clips are coming, but no one knew what it was. It turns out, it’s this weird camera that you set up in the corner of a room, maybe during a party, and it automatically takes photos based on what people are doing and if it smiles, and that kind of thing. It’s an interesting idea, but at $250, I’m not sure it’ll do much. It’s the kind of device that maybe could be kind of interesting in version two or version three, a couple years down the road.
Lastly, they unveiled the Google Pixelbook. This is new a Chromebook from Google, but it’s very high end. Chromebooks are known typically for being very inexpensive, like $200, sometimes less. This new Pixelbook starts at $999 and actually goes up to about 1500; but it has big specs with 8 to 16 gigs of RAM, 128 to 512 gigs of storage, i5 and i7 processors. Really going to be a very, very fast Chromebook. I really want one, but the price is a bit hard to swallow; so I’ll let you know later if I end up making that purchase.
Google’s announced a bunch more updates to their AMP Project. Part of the idea of AMP is to have simple pages that load quickly, so Google’s trying to balance speed with features. To that end, they’ve added a few new features. One is scrolling animations that enable parallax effects, subtle zoom, or fade in of images and starting or stopping animations; a responsive sidebar, which is improvements to the AMP sidebar to enable changing display format and width based on the viewport; native video analytic support in AMP, fluid ad support for publishers, enabling publishers to request ads where the size is unknown, and a few other little changes. If you’re big on AMP and you really dig into the details of it, you might want to check that out and see what’s new.
Related to that, though, Google seems to be renaming AMP. We’ve seen a few instances where AMP is being labeled as ‘instant’ in the search results, which really kind of makes sense. AMP has some good meaning behind the name, but for the average user, they don’t know what it means; whereas ‘instant’ implies that the result you click on will load instantly, which is kind of the goal of AMP. Google’s not announced anything yet, but a few people have seen that in the wild. There’s some screenshots you can find linked in our show notes, if you want to check that out yourself.
Google’s unveiled a few new guides for Google My Business. They’re called “Go-To Guides” that will provide quote, ‘Short articles that will help you and your business build a successful and high quality online presence. These guys will cover the benefits of using Google My Business, the basics of getting started, tips on keeping your online information accurate, interacting and instructing new customers.’ A lot of you I know use Google My Business, and a lot of this in this guide is probably stuff you already know; but it’s worth checking out just to see if you pick up any new information in there.
A little change to AdWords is making people kind of upset. If you run ad campaigns on AdWords, Google may now sometimes spend twice your average daily budget if you fall behind on low traffic days. You still won’t be charged more than your monthly limit, which is the number of days in a month multiplied by your average daily budget. But, some people are unhappy because this could mean that the budget would all get spent early in the month if Google thinks you’re spending a lot there and you could end up with no ads showing for the second half of the month, rather than balancing it out. We’ll see what Google does with this. Again, it kind of makes sense in one way, but you want to keep publishers happy as well. We’ll see what they end up doing down the road.
Bing just released a very brief clarification that they are not demoting the importance of links for search rankings. We’ve mentioned in a few episodes that Bing is looking at reducing the importance of links in their search results, which I’m sure they are. Google has said they’re trying to as well, but neither one is very close to that. They’re not going anywhere any time soon. Bing confirmed that, ‘Links are still an important signal and will remain to be so for the foreseeable futures.’ Yes, links are not going to go anywhere any time soon. The search engines will keep working on ways to demote the value of them, but they’re still going to be very important for as far as we can see into the future for now.
Google’s made a small little tweak to Street View that’s going to allow anyone to add their own Street View imagery. There’s already been ways to add three 360 images into Google maps, but you’re going to be able to add actual Street View imagery soon. The catch is, it requires the Insta360 Pro camera, which is about $4,000; so I don’t see any of us probably doing that any time soon. It could be an interesting way for Google to get more Street View imagery onto the map for those remote locations where their cars and backpacks, and snowmobiles, and other little vehicles don’t typically go.
We mentioned Google’s John Mueller on here from time to time, because he sometimes releases useful information. This past week, he had quite a lot to say, so let’s look at some of what he released to us.
One thing he said is if you have multiple hreflang tags on the same URL, that’s okay. Now, there’s a tag called hreflang that helps with understanding the language used on pages. If you have a multilingual site or even a site that just reaches different countries in a single language, it can be useful to have this tag on there to help Google understand what’s going on. A question was asked if you could use multiple hreflang tags on a single page; for example, to target 10 European countries in English. John’s reply was, quote, “No limit. For a large amount of hreflang entries, you would probably want to use a site map, though.” If you do happen to need to use a lot of those, that’s how you do it.
Another thing John talked about this week was grammar and how that relates to SEO and search rankings. A simple question was asked of John, does grammar affect SEO? His response was, “Not really.”
He went on to say, “It’s more a matter of how it’s received from a user point of view. If you’re a banking website and you have terrible English on it, then I assume users will lose trust in your website. For other things, it’s just the way the web comes, especially user generated content. You can’t fix their grammar. You probably could, but it’s just impractical. We could find better ways of lower quality content than just checking the grammar, because we find something like grammar’s really hard to do across the internet where there’s so many different languages and so many variations of languages. We can’t possibly check Swiss German websites for grammar.” There you go. Keep your grammar good for usability and trust with users, but Google’s not going to affect your rankings based on that.
Another question asked was whether Google’s going to keep announcing algorithm changes in the future. They’ve kind of come and gone over the years with that. Sometimes announcing them a lot, in the days of Matt Cutts, sometimes not as much. They’re doing more of it lately and people asked what are you going to be doing going forward?
John said, “Especially when it comes to algorithmic changes where there’s something where the webmaster can do to help their site, that’s something we definitely want to highlight.” So, if something new comes out that could be of value for people to make changes to their site, something like AMP or secure sites, SSL, that kind of thing, I suspect they’ll continue to make those announcements.
A few more things from John. One is he mentioned that Google ignores symbols for rankings. Someone asked John, “how does Google handle the register symbol, like the R in a circle and the trademark symbol in search listings. Are they ignored, like most punctuations?”
John said, “As far as I know, yes. They’re essentially ignored. We treat them as a symbol. It might be that you can search for them in the meantime. I know we’ve been able to search for some emoji characters, so maybe you can search specifically for them, but I don’t think you’d get any kind of useful content just by searching for symbols alone. It might be kind of a curious thing to search for. In general, we treat them like any other symbol in the search results. We don’t apply any semantic meaning to them. So just because you’re using some word and the trademark symbol next to it, doesn’t mean we should treat that word in any special way.”
Lastly, people have noticed that Google’s beginning to test the mobile first search index in the wild. Now, the mobile first search index is where the mobile version of your site will become the main version that Google indexes and looks at content at, as we’ve talked about before. As with other things you hear, John Mueller had some things to say.
He said, “It is one of those things that we need to make sure that the changes we make actually work out. We are creating some classifiers internally to make sure that the mobile pages are actually equivalent to the desktop pages, and that sites don’t see any negative effects from that switch. Those are the kind of things we need to test with real content. We can’t just make up pages and say, ‘Well, this is kind of like a normal webpage.’ We really have to see what happens when you run it with real content. At some point, there may be aspects of the mobile first index rollout that are more visible; but like with a lot of search experiments, these are things that most people don’t notice because in an ideal world things should just work the same.”
Lastly, for our tip of the week, I encourage you to come check out an upcoming WordCamp. If you’ve not attended one before, WordCamps are WordPress-focused conferences held in various cities around the world. They cater to all skill levels, so don’t feel nervous about being under-prepared. They’re very affordable, usually 40 bucks for the weekend, which includes at least a couple lunches, t-shirts, snacks, sessions. Everything’s in there for 40 bucks. It’s pretty awesome.
WordCamps happen frequently. Just looking at the remainder of October, there’ll be WordCamps in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in Baltimore, Las Vegas, Dublin, Ireland, New York City, Austin, Texas, Columbus, Ohio, Cape Town, South Africa, Singapore, Phoenix, Manchester, and many more. A lot of us will be going to the WordCamp in Birmingham, Alabama on October 21 through 22, so I encourage you to maybe register for that, if that’s something you’re interested in. Then, WordCamp US, held in Nashville, Tennessee, this year and next year, will be December 1st to 3rd. I encourage you to check that out. You can head over to WordCamp.org to see all those listings and details about all those events coming up.
That’s all we have for this week. You can find me on Twitter at MickMel, M-I-C-K-M-E-L, or learn lots more at 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.