Links from the show:
- The worst passwords of 2017
- Facebook clamping down on “engagement bait”
- Chrome’s ad-blocking feature is coming on February 15, 2018
- Google doesn’t find it useful to crawl from outside of the United States
- Tips to get ready for Google’s mobile-first index
- Watch your log files to see if you moved to the mobile-first index
- Google is testing images in search ads
- Google tests favicons in search results snippets again
- Google talks more about accidental duplicate content
- Google confirms some search ranking updates in the past few weeks
- Google is now sending more traffic than Facebook to publishers again
- Progressive Web Apps have no advantage in search
- Tip of the week: Wavebox | Shift
How strong are your passwords? SplashData has compiled a list of the 25 most used passwords of 2017, and hopefully you don’t use any of them.
Before we get into that though, I’m Mickey Mellen, and this is A Brighter Web episode number 31, brought to you by 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 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 gowp.com. GoWP provides white label WordPress support for agencies and web professionals. Use code, ABW for a 15% discount on any monthly plan.
Today we’ll talk more about bad passwords, engagement bait, Chrome ad blocking, accidental duplicate content, and more. Let’s dig in.
So SplashData built a list of the worst passwords from over 5 million passwords that were leaked this year. They estimate that nearly 10% of computer users have used at least one of these. They recommend using longer, less obvious passwords, not reusing passwords, and getting a password manager. We’ve talked about that before. We use LastPass as our password manager, but there are a lot of good options out there. The top three bad passwords were: “123456”, “password”, and “12345678”. Other notable ones I noticed on the top 25 list were “monkey” at number 13, “starwars” at 16, and “whatever” at 23. You have to check out the list for yourself and hopefully not recognize anything on there, and you can find that full list in our show notes.
So Facebook’s going to be clamping down on engagement bait, and a lot of people are happy to hear that. Examples of engagement bait are things you see that say, “Tag friends in this post that look like this character,” or “Comment yes if you love rock as much I do.” Those aren’t really legitimate engagement and Facebook’s trying to crack down on that, so they’re looking to do that in the next couple weeks here. Posts that violate those kinds of rules will be demoted and so hopefully we’ll see an end to that come pretty soon.
Google Chrome’s ad blocking feature is coming on February 15th of next year. We’ve mentioned before that Google would be adding a feature to Chrome that will block intrusive advertisements. It’s said to be coming in 2018 and now we have an exact date. It will be on February 15th of 2018. Now, this ad blocker won’t filter all ads, but it will block those that don’t meet the standards created by the Coalition for Better Ads. This includes ads that are pop-ups, that take over your entire screen, that auto-play video, that kind of thing. So look for that coming out next February.
Google doesn’t find it very useful to crawl from outside of the United States. So one of the core pieces of a search engine like Google is its crawler. This is where Google sends out little bots to crawl around the internet and collect information for the search engine. Google’s crawlers used to always be in the US where most of their data centers exist, but in 2015 they started having them crawl from data centers inside of each country. Now Google’s going back on that as they didn’t really find it that useful aside from a few edge cases.
Google’s John Mueller said, “We looked into crawling from other countries in the past, but it didn’t lead to anything really useful. For the most part, except for some countries that traditionally block users. So for example in Korea I think it was a problem. South Korea had a lot of sites blocked that US users couldn’t access their pages. And if US users are blocked and Googlebot can’t index the content at all, we try to crawl locally in places like that. But within Europe we haven’t noticed that we have any additional value by crawling from different countries.” So this is one of those things that isn’t particularly useful to many of us unless you host a site outside of the US, but it’s always interesting to learn more about how Google works and this is great example of that.
So we’ve talked about Google’s mobile-first index a few times on here, where Google will eventually use the mobile version of your website as the main one to reference as opposed to the desktop version. Google’s Gary Illyes has posted some tips to help you get ready for it and here are some of them.
One is to make sure the mobile version of your site has the important high quality content, this includes text, images with alt-attributes, and videos in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.
Structured data is important for indexing and search features that users love. It should be both on the mobile and desktop versions of the site. Ensure that URLs within the structure data are updated to the mobile version on the mobile pages.
Metadata should be present on both versions of site. It provides hints about the content on a page for indexing and serving. For example, make sure that titles and meta descriptions are equivalent across both versions of all pages of a site.
His last tip is to ensure that servers hosting the site have enough capacity to handle potentially increased crawl rate. This doesn’t affect sites that use responsive web design and dynamic serving, only sites where the mobile version is on a separate host such as m.example.com. So he’s saying there, if you already have a responsive site things won’t change, but if you have a separate mobile version, as things change you may get more traffic to different areas than you’re used to. So be aware of that.
Related to that you can watch your log files to see if you’ve moved to the mobile-first index. Now, all of our sites will be in that mobile-first index eventually, but some already are, and it can be tricky to determine if yours is or not. If you really want to find out, check your server log files. Google’s John Mueller says, “I think you would probably recognize it in the log files. If you look now you probably see something like 80% of the crawling is with the Googlebot desktop and maybe 20% is mobile with the smartphone Googlebot. Probably that will shift over time, and most of the crawling will be done with the smartphone Googlebot and less crawling with the desktop Googlebot. So if you really like to watch out for your log files, you’ll probably notice that fairly obviously.” Now for me I wouldn’t worry too much about where you are right now. Just make sure your site’s ready for it. If you have a solid mobile responsive website you’ll be in pretty good shape.
Google is testing images in search ads. They’ve done a lot of tests over the years with this, but Google is once again testing showing images inside of search ads. It’s not official yet, and a Google spokesperson said, “We’re always testing new ways to improve our experience with our advertisers and users, but I don’t have anything specific to announce right now.” Now I’m not able to see them in my testing, but you can see a screenshot link in our show notes if you want to see what those look like for yourself.
Related to Google testing images in the search ads, Google’s again testing favicons in the search results. Now, favicons are the small website icons you see in the tabs of your browser, often the logo of the website you’re visiting. Google’s toyed with showing them in the search results going back as far as 2009. It’s starting to pop up again. No official word on this yet either, but it’s something to keep an eye on, and regardless you should make sure your favicons look nice for your sites, because they are becoming more important as people leave more and more browser tabs open at once. A lot of times all they’ll see is that favicon, so make sure it looks good there and now maybe it’ll affect you in the search results as well.
Google’s talking more about accidental duplicate content. When people talk about duplicate content, they often think about other’s stealing and re-posting their content and that’s certainly one scenario. But duplicate content issues are often caused by your own site producing slightly different URLs. Google’s John Mueller walked through various scenarios on when little changes on your site can make a big difference. For example, abrighterweb.com and abrigherweb.com/ are the same. abrighterweb.com/podcast and abrighterweb.com/podcast/ are not the same. Also, http versus https sites are seen separate as well.
Now if you use WordPress that handles most of that pretty well and handles it automatically, but there are things you can do to help. For one, you can add a canonical tag to each page. If you have Yoast or other SEO plugins they do that for you automatically, but that tells Google for sure which version of the page to look at. If you move pages around or if you go from http to https you can set up 301 redirects to make sure Google knows where they are. You should always audit your URLs from time to time just to see how things look. Always be tracking down 404 errors on your site to see what’s happening with those. There’s a plugin we often use called Redirection for WordPress that will track all the 404 errors on your site. You can do things to fix those, so they point back to the right place.
Google’s confirmed a few new search ranking updates in the past couple weeks, nicknamed the Maccabees update. Google’s confirmed that there have been some algorithm updates over the past few weeks saying, “We released several minor improvements during this timeframe. Part of our regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy.” Google’s Danny Sullivan added, “In any given week there are various changes that happen with Google search algorithm. Many are unnoticed, many are minor. Last week was like that. After a few publishers reported changes we checked and didn’t see any major or single on our end. Reports that are calling this a “single update” or calling it “Fred” don’t really reflect what we actually said. There were several minor changes that happened as they routinely do in any particular week.”
So in this case the updates seemingly targeted doorway pages, like sites targeting many ke word permutations. We talked about doorway pages last week and how bad they are, so Google’s tackling that even harder. Tackled low quality content with lots of ads or affiliate links, kind of like “Fred’s” patterns, and they seemed to tackle a lot of ecommerce sites for some reason, maybe phantom related issues that weren’t really a problem but that seemed to be affected as well. But you can read more about in the link in our show notes.
Google’s now sending more traffic than Facebook to publishers again. So Google used to be the main source of referral traffic for web publishers until Facebook passed it a few years ago, but now Google’s back on top. Some reasons include Facebook’s algorithm demoting business pages, if you have a business page on Facebook you’ve probably seen that. Facebook’s instant articles are decreasing in importance, but at the same time Google’s AMP is increasing in importance, so in the end, if you look at the stats for your website you’ll probably see Google is now passing Facebook again at least in a lot of cases for driving traffic to websites.
Progressive web apps have no advantage in search. So progressive web apps have been growing in popularity and rightly so. They’re a neat alternative to standard mobile apps, and a lot of companies are starting to use them. There’s some thought that progressive web apps are better for search than normal or mobile responsive sites, but that’s not the case. Google’s John Mueller said, “Just to follow up here on this, progressive web apps currently don’t have any advantage in Google search and as far as I know there are no plans to change this. They can be fantastic ways to quickly create websites, and they are fast and interactive. They can provide cool functionality like offline access and notifications, but they don’t have any inherent advantage in search.” So progressive web apps are something you maybe should be looking at, probably as an alternative to normal apps rather than as an alternative to a mobile site, but either way Google’s not going to give you any special benefit for doing that.
Lastly for our tip of the week is to try a tool like Wavebox or Shift. These are both desktop applications to help organize some of your tabs such as email and Slack into one application. What I really like about them is it gives me a unified notification badge. If it lights up with a number, I know I have something to be dealt with. Between two email accounts, and a variety of Slack teams and other things, it can be hard to keep up with all of them and these tools help. They put them all in one place, give you one badge, so you know there’s something going on that needs your attention. They’re both very similar and do essentially the same thing. They actually started from the same code base. I’ve been using Wavebox for a while now. I may switch back over to Shift due to their tighter integration with Asana, but we’ll see. But either way you can learn more about those at wavebox.io or tryshift.com and see if either of them might be worth giving a shot.
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 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 twice 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.