If you’re extremely pushed for time we’ve condensed this month’s post into the one-minute video below.
Your to do list this month!
- Check to see if you have the new Messaging and/or Product features on your Google My Business listing
- Read about why the SERPs sometime differ for the same queries. It might not be why you think.
- Check to see if your site has moved across to mobile-first indexing
- If you’re loading content to your website, read Google’s image best practices guide
Messaging feature rolled out to some UK Google My Business accounts
Filed under: Local SEO > Google My Business optimisation
Google advised us towards the end of last year that Messaging was being rolled out as a feature in some – but not all – Google My Business accounts.
We received a message last month to let us know that it had been activated for our account – but none of my clients have the same functionality as yet. I’m not sure what makes our account special and did seek clarification, but haven’t received any pointers as yet.
A Post on Mike Blumenthal’s blog suggests it’s not just our account that has been ‘upgraded’ in thr UK – and of course that’s not a huge surprise – but I’d been keen to know how many other listings now have this facility unlocked. Let us know if you do via the comments?
Messaging is a fantastic addition. Highly prominent and immediate. I can only see this being a useful facility in the ever-growing Google My Business toolkit.
Check your Google My Business listing to see if you have the Messaging feature. You can do this via the App – where you can edit your default welcome message, as below.
Clarification from Google as to why SERPs differ
Filed under: The SERPs > Algo updates
14 Tweets added in swift succession from some accounts might appear to be a rant, but not here. I tend to keep an eye on the @searchliaison Twitter account as their Posts are always of interest, although few and far between. At the start of last month they laid some Tweets out outlining the circumstances determining why Google might present different search engine results pages (SERPs), which I found extremely insightful #notarant.
Over the years, a myth has developed that Google Search personalizes so much that for the same query, different people might get significantly different results from each other. This isn’t the case. Results can differ, but usually for non-personalized reasons. Let’s explore…
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) December 4, 2018
Allow me to paraphrase them.
They start (with the embedded Tweet above) by saying that whilst results can and do differ, it’s less likely the differences are influenced by personalisation-factors e.g. the searchers history, but other factors which he goes on to highlight in turn.
The results provided for a search with no geo-modifiers – e.g. [Italian restaurants] – conducted by someone in London, are of no use to someone conducting the same search in Glasgow. he went on to say that everyone conducting the same search in London or Glasgow, are likely to get pretty much the same results (i.e. they’re unlikely to be personalised ‘much’ specifically to individuals).
The results are going to be displayed in the same language the searcher has used.
The SERPS are more likely to include Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) or mobile-friendly pages on mobile devices, than desktop.
The dynamic nature of search
New content is continually being uploaded to the web. Two SERPs may differ for the same search because new content may have been released.
Take a look at the Search Liaison account to read the Tweets.
More consideration to the bigger picture likely to provide better results
Filed under: Website optimisation > Strategy
Advice from Google representatives can come from the most unlikely places. Yes they have their blogs which we generally keep an eye on, they have spokespersons on Twitter which are generally quite active and there are of course their regular, live Webmaster Hangouts where you can ask them a question yourselves.
The good people at the Search Engine Roundtable kindly directed us to a thread on Reddit where John Mueller – all-round good-guy and Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google – decided to provide some advice to an SEO who appeared to be having something of a bad day.
Have a read yourself, but I think it’s interesting to see John advise the SEO to focus on the bigger picture, rather than get bogged down in the detail and incremental changes. He highlighted the Quality Rater Guidelines – which we summarised recently and a blog post written back in 2011 as useful sources of reference.
This is fantastic advice and one which I wholeheartedly agree with. Whilst there are most likely incremental improvements to be made on most websites, the biggest gains are earnt by addressing the website as a whole, the content and how it provides the solutions to searchers problems. Focus on all of that, and you can’t go far wrong. Simple eh?
Google are half way there with mobile-first indexing
Filed under: category > sub-category
Google took the opportunity to update us via their blog that over half the pages returned on their search results – across the globe – are taken from websites that have been moved across to mobile-first indexing.
They started the process two years ago. What does it mean? Google decided that since more people were using their mobile devices to search, they’d provide a better experience for users to return results based on how the pages have been created for mobile, rather than desktop devices.
They kindly inform us in this article that they prioritized the movement of sites they deemed as being ready for the move – which includes those created with “responsive design techniques”. To use their words, if you’ve got one of those, “you should be all set!”
But how do you know if your site or sites has been moved across? You would have received a message via your Search Console, so that would be the first place to check. If you can’t see a message, then you can check using the URL Inspection tool in the ‘new’ Search Console. Enter a url for a page on your site, click on the down arrow icon to the right of the Coverage section, and check the ‘Crawled as’ result in the Crawl section of the page. If the result returned is Googlebot smartphone as it is below, this page on your site – and most likely your whole site – has been moved across.
Check to see if you’re site has moved across to mobile-first indexing, via your Search Console property, as described above. Then check to see if this has impacted on your rankingas at all.
Have you added products to your Google My Business listing?
Filed under: Local SEO > Google My Business optimisation
I’m pretty sure we’ve mentioned this feature in a previous issue of SEO you need to know, but I can’t lay my hand on it. Google advised us last month that they’d given the feature a refresh and that it had been opened up to more retailers with Google My Business listings. We can see it for a few of our clients, including the one below.
Confusingly, at the time of writing products can only be uploaded via your listing on desktop devices – i.e. not via the recently updated App – they are only displayed on mobile devices – although I’m sure you’ll agree, they are quite prominent (as below).
Check your Google My Business listing to see if the feature is available to you. Then give some consideration as to whether to upload any products.
Sticky header rolled out on desktop search results
Filed under: The SERPs > Design/Features
At the start of last month Google rolled out their sticky header design to desktop search result pages. You’ll most likely be familiar with the curved query box from mobile searches. They’d been testing it on desktop for a while, but it finally dropped.
What hasn’t carried across from mobile (yet) is the ‘More results’ button at the bottom of the page, so you still have the trademark Google pagination for SERPs on desktop for the timebeing – and I can’t think why they’d lose this innovative branding opportunity.
I don’t feel particularly strongly about this change to the design. If anything I’m for it, and it’s extremely useful for anyone with short term memory issues as they’ll no longer be in the awkward position where they’ve forgetten what they searched by the time they’ve scrolled down the page!
Google have updated their image best practices guide, apparently
Filed under: The SERPs > Image search
Google told us early last month that they’d updated their Google Image best practices guide. Whilst there’s some debate about how these have been updated, and I’m afraid we don’t have a before and after to be able to comment on that, I thought this would be a useful opportunity to highlight that this guide exists! My guess is it would be the sections about ‘sitemaps, supported formats, and responsive images’ that have updated, as they are referred to in the Twitter thread that announced this.
So this is all about creating visual content in such a way that it stands a chance of ranking in Google Image search. Image search – for the uninitiated is, for most queries at least – the first tab (sometimes known as ‘vertical’) you see to the right of the default catch-all SERP, called ‘All’.
To briefly summarise the guidelines, we are told to focus on creating a great user experience (think relevant, unique images that add to the story) and give careful consideration to the page title and meta description for the page where the images have been placed, as they are displayed underneath the image on the SERP, as below.
We’re also told to consider adding structured data to any images that are related to specific products, videos or recipes – and to consider the size of the images we upload. Finally we are reminded to ensure the images are good quality – i.e. not blurry, and to include descriptive titles – i.e. explain what’s in the image. We should use captions, alt text (for screen readers) and filenames (here’s your opportunity to add a focus keyword is applicable).
The guidelines go on to advise how to help Google find the images you load to your site, which all makes for very interesting reading should you spend anytime loading content yourself.
Take a look at the guidelines for yourself and apply!
Main image by keithjj