Links from the show:
- Google Assistant coming to screens and cars
- Amazon Alexa will be on headphones, watches and more in 2018
- Smart speaker sales grew 103% last year
- Google is asking publishers to optimize their content for Google Assistant
- The new Google Search Console is here
- Google PageSpeed Insights now measures real world speed
- AMP URLs will soon show full publisher addresses
- Google never indexes all known URLs
- Google image search does not index images from CSS
- URLs in sitemap used to determine the canonical URL
- SEO trends and Google changes to expect in 2018
- Start learning Gutenberg: Blog post | Meetup
My favorite fight just keeps getting better. Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, Google put on a massive display of everything they’re doing with the Google Assistant, and Amazon unveiled some new directions for Alexa.
Before we get into that though, I’m Mickey Mellen and this is A Brighter Web, Episode Number 34 brought to you by all of us at GreenMellen. Our goal with this podcast is to give you quick weekly insights and tips 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 voice assistants, the new Google Search Console, better speed measurements, proper AMP URLs, Google indexing details, Project Gutenberg and much more. Let’s dig in.
As I mentioned at the top of the show, Google put on quite a show at CES last week, and voice assistants are going to be everywhere. Google announced that Google Assistant will be coming to screens and cars. They have some new devices with screens coming, somewhat like the Echo Show. They have new speakers coming from 13 other companies. Really, their focus last week was on all the other companies building stuff with the Google assistant baked in.
Android Auto, which has had, I don’t want to say the Google assistant, but it’s had Google help in the car for a while, now will have proper Google Assistant support. They also launched a directory, to help you more easily find things you can integrate with Google Assistant. As I mentioned last week, I discovered I could start my car with Google Assistant, which is really cool, but I’ve been able to do it for months and didn’t realize it. It’s kind of hard to surface that sort of information, so the new directory is pretty awesome and should help with that.
Amazon announced that Alexa will be on headphones, watches, and more coming this year. Now, this is kind of where they’re catching up to Google. Google’s doing the opposite, trying to catch up to them in some ways, but not to be outdone, Amazon now announced that Alexa will be available on headphones, watches and other devices in 2018. Coming later this year, they haven’t said for sure when that’s coming.
Smart speaker sales grew 103% last year. No big surprise there, but really, I expected it to be a higher number than 103%. Still, doubling your growth end of the year is big and I expect it will grow quite a bit more this year.
Related to this, Google is asking publishers to optimize their content for the Google Assistant. With all the smart speaker news, and many of you in the web building world, Google has some news about getting your content into the Google Assistant. Check your Google Search Console for a message from Google about how to proceed. If you don’t have a message in there from them or if you don’t use Google Console, shame on you. I’ll have the link in our show notes, we’ll give you some more info on how you can dig into that.
Related to that, the new version of the Google Search Console is finally here. If you’ve not used it before, now is a great time to start. The main reason people use Search Console is to give that avenue for Google to contact them when there’s issues, but there’s a lot of data you can dig into as well. The big thing Google Search Console added is that now instead of three months worth of data, you now have 16 months. It was looking like you’d have about a year, and they’ve actually gone further than that. It also includes much more data on how Google’s indexing your site, improvements to AMP and job postings, and much more.
The new Search Console is much easier to use, but it’s still missing some features that you found in the old version. You’ll be able to run them side by side until the new version includes all the necessary features probably later this year.
Google Pagespeed Inights now measures real world speed. We use Google Pagespeed Insights quite a bit to measure the speed of sites, but now along with a normal list of best practices that you may or may not need to fix on your site, Google page speed insights now shows real world loading times for your site. It pulls that data from the Chrome user experience report, giving you pretty accurate results. The existing data in page speed insights is more valuable and actionable, but this is a nice enhancement.
AMP URLs will soon show the full publisher addresses, so speaking of speed, Google has a nice change coming to AMP later this year. If you’re not familiar with AMP, it’s short for Accelerated Mobile Pages, and it’s the system Google and a bunch of publishers have put together to make mobile websites load faster if they add this AMP functionality to their pages. What happens right now in many cases if you land on an AMP powered page, the address of it is prepended with a Google URL, since they’re the ones caching it.
Google has the solution for that which will allow publisher URLs to remain intact while still taking advantage of the speed of Google servers. It’ll be kind of a win-win for everybody there. This will be rolling out in the second half of 2018, and while this won’t directly impact most of you, it again shows the continued support that Google is showing for AMP, and you really should be using that on your site if at all possible.
Google never indexes is all known URLs, so a user asked Google’s John Mueller why some of his pages never get indexed even though they’re in the sitemap, so Google knows about them. John replied, “We never index all known URLs, that’s pretty normal. I would focus on making the site awesome and inspiring, then things usually work out better.” Barry Schwartz summarized that by saying, “So no need to worry if all your pages aren’t indexed by Google. Focus on your important pages, and if some of those pages are not indexed, working on getting more links and views on those pages.”
Google image search does not index images from CSS, so this one surprised me a little bit. John Mueller said specifically that Google does not index or rank images which are from CSS background images. He said, “Which image placement is better? Using the image tag or using CSS kind of background image?” He also added, “So for normal web search, it doesn’t matter. You can use whatever works best for you. If you wanna have those images indexed in image search, then I would definitely use a normal image tag for that.” It doesn’t matter too much, I would think most of the images that you’d want in image search would be the ones in your page using the image tag, but if you have a beautiful background image that you think could be of value in there, make sure you have it as a normal image and not as a background, or at least maybe have it as both.
URLs and sitemaps are often used to determine the canonical URL. If you have multiple URLs for the same piece of content, it’s always wise to set up a signal so Google knows which of is the canonical URL, or they one they should use as the main URL. There are different ways to do it such as with 301 redirects, rel=, sitemaps, etc, but Google says the sitemap is the one that they think is strongest. If you change the page URL, certainly set up the proper redirects and things of that nature, but make sure your sitemap is updated as well.
This is the time of year when we tend to see a lot of posts predicting what we’ll see in 2018, and there’s a great list from Search Engine Land, who we reference on here quite often, with a look at SEO trends and Google changes you can expect in 2018. I’ll have a link to the full post in our show notes, but I’ll give you a quick rundown of what they have on there.
The first one is they say prepare for fake news algorithm updates. Google’s working hard to eliminate fake news and bogus stories that bubble up on Twitter from showing up in the search results, and continue to work on that.
Voice search and featured snippets will go hand in hand. A lot of the voice search answered and the featured snippets that show up in Google are the same thing, so they’ll continue to develop and hopefully you can get some of your content into those.
Artificial intelligence will power many more aspects of search. AI is already doing quite a lot behind the scenes for Google, and it’s gonna do even more coming up.
Manipulative guest posting is likely to take a hit. This is something Google’s been cracking down on for years with manipulative guest posting, where people guest post simply to try to get the links and the ranking, and they’ll crack down further on that.
Linkless mentions, this is when a site mentions another site but doesn’t actually link to them. Google already sees that and factors it in a bit, and the thought is they’ll start factoring it more and more. See it mentioned a lot on other sites, that you’ll get some love for that even if they don’t directly link to you, although getting those links is certainly a good thing.
An interstitial crackdown may be on the way. We’ve talked before about how Google’s really cracked down on interstitial ads on mobile, where those ads that take over the screen, but there’s been some complaints that really Google hasn’t done enough. They cracked down a little bit, but were kind of soft on it, and it’s expected they’ll crack down even harder this year.
The last one is mobile first index, and we’ve talked about that quite a bit too. If you have a full desktop site and a mobile site, or ideally a mobile responsive site, that mobile version is gonna be the one that Google has as their primary one in the index. They’re starting to roll that out, and I suspect they’re going to continue to do that, and it’s gonna be a pretty big deal as the year goes on.
Lastly, for our tip of the week, start learning Gutenberg. If you use WordPress in any capacity, whether a designer, developer, blogger, or just a user, you wanna become well educated on the upcoming Gutenberg editor for WordPress. Gutenberg drastically changes how you build content inside of WordPress, and while the editor itself is looking amazing, it could be a bumpy ride to get there as themes and plugins get caught up. There are a lot of great ways to get started, if you’re not familiar at all I would suggest you do a search for the blog post titled, “Gutenberg, or the Ship of Theseus.” as it will give you a great overview, we’ll have that linked in our show notes.
If you live near Atlanta, our Meetup this Thursday, January 18th will be all about Gutenberg. You should really try to attend to learn, as well as share what you already know. There’s gonna be a lot of discussion in there, I certainly have some slides on what it is and how it works, but I wanna hear from all of you on what you think is gonna matter and how it’s gonna effect hiring and development and all those kind of pieces. It’ll be very interesting. Whatever you do, I encourage you to dig in and start learning about Gutenberg so you can be ready when it’s released in the next few months.
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. Thanks for listening.