Links from the show:
- Google: No information is available for this page
- It doesn’t hurt if your site ranks with it’s IP address
- Sites can rank well without any link building
- Google says URL folder structure doesn’t need to match content folder structure
- Google adds “watch movie” tab to knowledge card
- New design and features for Google Flight Search
- Google Home now supports multiple calendars
- Private blog networks are a great way to get your site penalized
- Google now encouraging you to “create ad” from your Google My Business website dashboard
- Waze and the city of Toronto begin sharing traffic data
- Tip of the week: Ewww and WP Smush
In WordPress, buried deep in the settings menu, is a tiny option that will literally remove your site from Google. People mistakenly leave it turned on more often than you’d think. And now Google’s adjusting the subsequent messages that show up when someone searches for your site. Before we get into that, though, I’m Mickey Mellen, and this is a A Brighter Web, episode number 27, brought to you by GreenMellen. Our goal with this podcast is to give you quick weekly insights from 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 or 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 five dollars a month. Visit clickhost.com/abw for an exclusive 20% off discount for listeners of A Brighter Web. Today we’ll talk more about mistakenly blocking Google, sites ranking with just their IP address, sites ranking without link building, how Google treats folder structures and much more. Let’s dig in.
As I mentioned at the top of the show, thousands of sites out there are mistakenly blocking Google from indexing their site, thus killing their ability to rank for anything out there. You can find the setting in your WordPress under the settings, reading, and the “discourage search engines from indexing this site” option.
Now, there’s good reasons to use that. If you have a site under development, you’ll want to have that box checked so Google’s not indexing the development site and your live site. The problem is, if you have that set while you’re developing your site, and then you push that development site live, you need to make sure to go in and uncheck that box. We have that on our checklist a few times when we’re going through to launch a site just to make sure, because it can be devastating for your traffic if you leave it on there.
Now Google used to say, if you search for that site, it would still have the site show up, but just not show anything other than the homepage. And for the homepage it would say, “A description of this site is not available because of this site’s robots.txt.” And now it simply says, “No information is available for this page.” In both cases, there’s a link to learn more, and they get into some of the technical details of why. But if you have a WordPress site, it’s that settings – reading checkbox that you’ve probably left checked. So when you’re launching a site, whether for yourself or for a client, be sure to double check that you haven’t left that box checked.
Another indexing issue that could come up is sometimes in development if you make a small mistake, Google might start indexing your site based on its IP address instead of domain name. So a user asked Google, “A few months ago, I made mistake switching servers, and Google accidentally indexed my URLs with the IP address. It has been five months since I corrected the redirection, but the IP version still is indexed. Can that hurt my rankings? How can I de-index these duplicated URLs?”
So Google’s John Mueller replied, “If you’re checking the site with a site: query, you’re probably seeing URLs that are already switched back. Either way, this doesn’t hurt rankings.” So in the end, it doesn’t matter. If you happen to have made that mistake, it won’t affect your rankings, and Google will eventually get it squared away. Certainly, try to be careful of things like that, but not a big deal if somehow it happens to you.
We’ve talked on this podcast before about link building, and how important it is to get links back to your site, but it’s possible to rank well without ever doing any link building. A user named Saroj Kumar asked, “Can a website rank in top search results without building a single backlink?” John Mueller of Google replied, “Sure. Most do.” While many of you that listen to this podcast have probably done some intentional link building at some point, the vast majority of websites haven’t. They simply don’t know to do it. And yet, still many of them rank well for various phrases. So don’t stop building links, but it is indeed possible to rank well without them.
Google has said that URL folder structure doesn’t need to match your content folder structure. So a user named Adam asked Google, “What are the consequences for URL folder structure not matching content folder structure? For example, the content is linked vegetable page to recipe page, while the URL structure is vegetable, recipes, recipe1. Standalone recipe pages at veg/recipes will not exist.” John Mueller replied, “For Google, it doesn’t really matter. URLs are primarily identifiers. Clean URL structure is generally a good practice regardless.”
So Google’s just saying URLs mainly just so Google can match the content to a page based on URL, and they don’t really look that much at how the folder structure’s set up. In the end, just keep your URLs short and specific to each page, and you should be fine.
Google’s added a short “watch movie” tab to the knowledge card for movies. So if you search for a movie in Google, you’ll often get their knowledge card that shows info about the movie, such as rating, date release, duration, etc. Now they’ve added an option to, “Watch movie” with links and prices to watch it now, for sites including YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu, whatever that one is. I suspect they’ll add others over time, but just another nice little update to that Google movie tab.
Another little section Google’s just updated is the flight search. So if you go to Google.com/flights, you’ll see a big overhaul to the look and feel of that section. And Google says they’re trying to do a lot more on there to offer more ways for you to find cheaper flights and find your information more quickly. So if you have a flight coming up, go to Google.com/flights, and see if you can use some of the tools there to help you find a better price on your upcoming trip.
Google Home has finally added support for multiple calendars. It took them way too long to support this, and actually, Alexa has supported it for a while. But Google Home now supports multiple calendars. Before, if you told it, “Tell me about my day,” it would only select for your one main calendar, and that’s all you had. Now you can choose multiple calendars be included. More than just two, you check as many as you want. However, with one strange caveat that any G Suite calendars, those of you that use Google Apps, the G Suite, like we do at GreenMellen, those calendars still cannot be included, which is amazing that they still can’t.
However, I found a workaround for it, that could work. Hopefully they’ll fix it properly soon. But in my case, I made a new calendar on my personal account called “Work Copy”, added that to have access to Google Home. Then set up a tool in Zapier to copy any new events from G Suite calendar over to that Work Copy Calendar. So anytime I add one to my work calendar, or anyone adds something to my work calendar, Zapier will make a copy of that event on the Work Copy calendar. Totally an unnecessary hack, and I’m frustrated that Google has it doing that. But it does make life much better. I haven’t used Google Home a lot for the tell me about my day or what’s coming up stuff, because it would omit all of my work stuff. And now at least I can get it in there, so. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, and they’re doing a lot to make it better. I suspect they’ll fix that shortcoming fairly soon.
Related to that too is the Google Home Mini is now on sale for 29 bucks, which is an insane price. You can get that from Google’s online store, Best Buy, or Target, or pretty much anywhere that you can buy Google products. They’ve got that for 29 bucks. So you should look into that if you’ve been thinking about getting one.
Private blog networks are a great way to get your site penalized. So if you’re not familiar with the term, a private blog network is a network of sites used to build links to a single website for the purpose of manipulating search engines. Kevin Rowe wrote a great article in Search Engine Land to explain why they’re so dangerous, and what some of the issues could be. But in the end, just follow best practices, and private blog networks are certainly not a best practice. And really be careful of outsourcing your link building, because sometimes people that build links for you will use private blog networks to do that. And certainly never agree to trade links with someone. If someone says, “Hey, let’s trade links with each other,” which was super popular like a decade ago, that’s not good these days, and I strongly discourage you from doing that.
Google’s pushing their ads a bit more. They now have a “create ad” from the Google My Business website dashboard. So if you search for your business, and you get that little dashboard that pops up in the search results, you’ll now see a small little change in there where it encourages you to create an ad, and clicking that will take you to the Google AdWords Express local ad system. I haven’t seen it come up myself, but you can see some screen shots from the link in our show notes.
Waze and the city of Toronto are going to begin sharing traffic data. Toronto’s going to start sharing traffic data with Waze and be able to push updates to users for planned closures and events. And Waze will be sharing their realtime traffic info and road conditions back to the city. So it’ll make it better for both entities and ultimately better for all of us. Some other Canadian cities, such as Winnipeg and Montreal are already doing similar things with Waze. Now Waze is Google-owned, but none of the reports I read said that any of this would be shared with Google Maps as well. And really, the kind of things they’re sharing, the planned closures and events and those sorts of things feel more Waze-ish than Google Maps anyhow, so perhaps it won’t make sense. But I’m sure Google will do all they can to get that data between them shared just to make life better for all of us.
And lastly, for our tip of the week, look at optimizing the images on your website to help with speed. We’ve often discussed speed on here, because it’s very important, both for users and for how Google sees your site and how well you rank. And there’s really two big pieces to optimizing images for speed.
The first one is to make sure they’re sized properly. If an area of your site is looking for an image that’s 200 by 200, make sure it’s only loading a 200 by 200 image. You can cram a much bigger image in there, and it’ll work just fine. But it’ll be a whole lot slower loading. And that can be a little tricky to get optimized, depending on your theme and what plugins and if you have WooCommerce and stuff. So that can take some work, but it’s worth the effort to try to get those tightened up.
But them also make sure the image themselves are optimized. So a 200 by 200 image could be very different depending how compressed you have it. Tools as Ewww, E-W-W-W, and WP Smush can help them get compressed pretty well without looking too bad. We use Ewww on a lot of sites just to, it compresses them maybe 10 to 15% more, which over the course of a page is a couple hundred K, and can make a difference in speed. And it certainly helps.
Really, before you do any of that, if you think your stuff’s in bad shape, go over to tools.pingdom.com, and run a test on your site. They’ll give you a score, which I don’t take too much weight in. But it’ll tell you how big your page is in megabytes. So take a look at that. If it says 3.3 megs, then work on your images for a while. Get them tightened up. Run Ewww or WP Smush or whatever. And then run Pingdom again and see what happens. See what kind of difference it made for you. It may be worth taking your time to do that on some of the other sites you manage as well.
So that’s all I have 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 showing up some 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. And 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.