Google’s Page Experience rollout is finally underway. The hosts discuss the rollout in addition to news on a Google slander algorithm, improvements in Google Search Console reporting, changes at Google My Business (good and bad), some Mueller files, and more.
Noteworthy links from this episode:
- Google Page Experience Update Begins Rolling Out
- Google Algorithm Update Targets Slander
- Google Search Console Insights is now available to all
- Google My Business phases out short names
- Google Adds More Ways to Edit Business Profiles in Search
- Article: Why GSC Shows Crawl Errors When Page Loads Normally
Transcription of Episode 409
Ross: Hello, and welcome to SEO 101 on wmr.fm episode number 409. This is Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing, and my standing co-host is my company’s Senior SEO, Scott Van Achte. Scott, how has your week been? I know we’ve been thinking about SMX Advanced, you’ve been doing it?
Scott: That’s my week. It’s been brain overload. Certainly, I’ve been taking part in SMX Advanced and learning all kinds of stuff and also filtering out all the stuff I already knew. It’s still kind of an overload, in a lot of ways, and a good way.
Ross: We’re certainly not tooting our own horn, we do this long enough that we don’t really need to, but it is funny how you go into these expecting to learn a lot. You still learn something, but oftentimes, I actually find the benefit is reminding myself of stuff I knew, oh, yeah, I forgot about that tactic. It’s helpful in that sense.
Scott: It’s absolutely true. It’s a combination of that, and some verification of ideas that I may have had, and then they’re saying, do this, do that? Oh, good. I’ve been doing that, but sometimes you don’t always know what works. Sometimes it’s some speculation, that’s nice to get a little reassurance that you’re doing things right.
Ross: Sometimes things surface again, that maybe we tried in the past, but we’re like, yeah, this sucks. Then people say it’s working now, like, oh, well, how are they doing it? Maybe they got a better tool now, or I can’t use an example. I just know that I’ve been in that spot before, and it’s interesting to learn some. I’ve been to a few.
Scott: Well, one thing we push a lot with our clients is to create lots of good, high-quality content. It’s kind of a no-brainer, in a lot of ways. This is kind of nice, because basically, every single presentation I’ve watched, everyone is pushing super high-quality in-depth content.
I mean, it’s just being pummeled at us. It’ll be nice, I can go back to my client, I just took part in SMX Advanced, and all the presenters are pushing this to everybody. Like, it’s not just me, this is real because we have a lot of clients, and some of them, it can be hard to get good content or agreements with them for us to create content and that kind of stuff. So, give me an extra tool to fight with.
Ross: I bet you if we could go into the past and ask Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, what they would love to be hearing at an SMX Advanced or something at this time, whatever, 20 years later, and I bet it is content is everything. It’s totally in line with what they wanted us to push for. There are no easy hacks anymore, “for getting rankings”. It’s no, you got to do your hard work and make sure you’re providing great content. It’s like Google has pushed us the way they wanted us to go.
Scott: Oh, it’s such a huge part of what’s needed. Huge part.
Ross: True to form, if you want to put a label on it, white hat SEO, we’ve been doing this. This has been our mandate for a long time, a lot longer than this. It’s interesting how it’s pushing most people in this direction. Now, I’m sure there are black hat marketplaces. I know, there are black hat conferences where they talk about other ways of doing things. I bet a huge portion of that is article spinning content spinning using AI now, But just the same, it’s getting much harder for them, and I’m glad for that.
Scott: For Black Hats, that’s good.
Ross: Yes. Got to keep them on their toes. They’ve chosen that path.
Scott: That’s right.
Ross: We’ve actually both watched one of the discussions that were with Lily Ray and Barry Schwartz, I think it was the Ask the Experts Component, and they were talking about the Google page experience update, which is rolling out now. He made some great notes there, which I’ll let you get into in a second, but what I found really interesting was their answers were really in line with what you said in the past— which is what a lot of people who’ve been in the industry said, this is really not going to have a big impact on everyone. You don’t want to ignore it, but it’s not going to shake up our rankings, like a classic core algorithm update. But, with that said, let’s jump into some of the details here you’ve outlined.
Scott: Yes. As you said, the page experience update just started rolling out—I believe it was June 15. It started rolling out, a bunch of different presenters were talking about this, that they suspect it’s basically a tiebreaker change in the algorithm. It’s not going to have any dramatic effect as we thought a year ago, like the sky is falling, the world’s going to end next summer. It’s not like that.
I’ve actually been looking through this morning before the conference started, I started looking through a bunch of our clients and just kind of trying to find any signs that this page experience update is having an effect on their traffic or rankings and I found nothing. There’s been nothing that would indicate that this is having an effect, positive or negative. Of course, that’s not going to be the case across every site in the world, but it is a good indication that it’s very minor, at least at this stage. A few people have said it’s going to be largely used as a tiebreaker in a situation where you’ve got two sites that are effectively at a tie, but one has a better Core Web Vitals score or whatever. It’ll probably stay that way for a while, but we’ll see, I guess.
Ross: Yeah, let’s think of some other tiebreaker things like I would imagine SSL is a little more than tiebreaker, but it’s still close.
Scott: Definitely was at first for the first few years for sure.
Ross: It used to be that the mobile was a tiebreaker, but it’s no longer a tiebreaker now. It’s very important.
Scott: I would say, maybe a little bit more than a tiebreaker, but page speed started out as basically a tiebreaker. It’s now a stronger influencer on the rankings, for sure. I would say high-quality content will beat a fast site most of the time.
Ross: True. I guess we’re coming up with a really clear trend here that many things start as tiebreakers, but then become more important over time. That’s just another thing to consider. PageSpeed was definitely, like you said, more of a tiebreaker, but now it’s still not everything, but it certainly will help. The beauty of a lot of these too is it’s about providing a good experience for your users. Again, this is where Google stirs us, the SEO industry, everyone, that is to create a great experience plus great content straight out of their bible. We’re all going in that direction, which is good for the internet.
Scott: Absolutely. There are a couple of other things to note about page experience. First of all, the update is rolling out now to be completed by the end of August. We still have some time to see what damage it could do. Then it’s also noted at a much later date, whatever that means, that it will start to affect desktop as well, which is a bit surprising that they would even bother, but apparently, it will roll out to desktop at some point. Which is probably not a big deal for most people because that’s usually the case where you’ve got your desktop site, it ranks really well, it has good scores, and it’s the mobile that’s the issue. So most of the time, if I find checking client sites, the desktop outperforms, for things like Core Web Vitals almost every time.
I have a few tips here—I don’t remember where I got them from, maybe they just came from my brain—on how to help your page experience score. If you are seeing that you’re in a close race for number one, and you’re bouncing back and forth between one and two with somebody, you might want to give this a shot, or if you do happen to get hit, you might want to worry about some of these things. Of course, we’ve spoken a lot about this in the past, Core Web Vital score that’s near the top of the list there, make sure that your core web vital scores are looking good.
Another thing is that you don’t want any mobile usability issues, or errors, make sure your site’s ranking really are performing really well on mobile sites, you don’t have anything weird going on there. Your site must be secure, if it’s not HTTPS, you will not get a good page experience score. That’s an example of where if you don’t have a secure website by now, which I think every single one of our clients do, I’m trying to think if there’s anyone that’s lacking behind, but I don’t think there is, if you don’t have one, do it.
We’ve talked again about this a lot in the past, but it can be free, as cheap as free if you want it to be. That’s a good number. Your site must not use distracting or interrupting advertising techniques, which we all hate those anyway. Hopefully, you’re not doing any of that. Of course, any security issues on the site will disqualify all pages on a site. So if you have one site or one page on your site that is a security nightmare, has some big issues, your whole site can be taken down as a result of that. A few important things to worry about there.
Ross: Another thing I was thinking about while you were talking about the tiebreakers. Another tiebreaker I think is probably the quality of the writing, the grammar even. You don’t think about that stuff, but Google easily sees grammar. Frankly, there are discussions about AI and stuff in this conference, quite a bit about it actually. The one thing that AI doesn’t do a good job of is creating quality content. It’s better than it’s ever been, but it’s still not great.
Ensuring that you provide excellence, we talked about some content, but we’re getting down to some of the minutiae here. Ensure it’s well written, it’s being proofread, it has excellent grammar. If you both had everything the same, but one competitor has crappy grammar, you never know, it could have that much of an impact. I don’t know, but I would call it a tiebreaker.
Scott: I would say that grammar and even spelling and things like that do play a role, especially if they’re involving an actual keyword, and you’ve got that spelled wrong. It’s not to be neglected, make sure your site is spell checked and that sort of thing. I mean, I don’t make a point of going through and spell checking and grammar checking our clients’ content, but I tell you, if I find an issue, I fix it immediately. You want it right, and forget about Google, do you really want your user seeing that you spelled your product name wrong, or whatever? You want that correct.
Ross: This piece about news content, I noticed that as well. AMP is no longer required. In fact, it’s being deprecated, which is a shock to many who’ve gone through the absolute, well, somewhat nightmarish experience of converting their business or websites to supporting AMP. It’s no longer required to be included in the Top Stories Carousel. I guess maybe I jumped against calling it deprecated, I’m not sure that they deprecated, but I don’t think they’re going to be pushing forward with AMP anymore.
What a shock, jump in the bandwagon, and Google’s crazy in the end. Not bitter at all. Anyway, Google’s also expanding the non-AMP content found in the Google News and removing the AMP batch from search results. What is this going to mean for news sites? That is a whole another discussion, I’m afraid, there’s a lot to that. I bet you can find some great content on that right now. We don’t specialize in news SEO. John Carcutt would have been a perfect person to ask about this. I would love to get his take on that. It’s been a big change for him.
Scott: That’s definitely going to be a spot where all the AMP heavy news producers are going to be hit hard, because you’re going to have all this new content flooding in the SERPs that they weren’t competing against anymore. That’s going to be interesting for them, for sure.
Ross: Yeah, that’s the key. That’s something, you bring that up, we shouldn’t undersell that. The key here is that anyone who wasn’t getting in there because they didn’t have enough content now are. It’s widened the field of competition, which is tricky for some of these bigger sites, if they haven’t really been providing the results than they need to. I have to say, I’m interested in this next one. I didn’t hear anything about this. So tell me.
Scott: Yes. Google is going to be doing an update in their algorithm that will probably not affect anybody listening to this podcast, at least I hope it doesn’t, where they are targeting sites that are slanderous. The New York Times has been posting a series of articles, but I haven’t read any of them because I don’t want to pay to get through their paywall. That number of articles talking about issues with search results on slander. The future of it will target content that makes unverified or slanderous claims about other people.
Google is said to be making this change in a direct response to recent New York Times articles documenting how websites are building businesses by preying on victims of slander. In one of the recent New York Times articles that Matt Southern had quoted in Search Engine Journal, The New York Times, it said for many years a vicious cycle has spun, websites solicit lurid, unverified complaints about supposed cheaters, sexual predators, deadbeats, and scammers, people slander their enemies.
The anonymous posts appear high in Google search results for the names of victims, and then the websites charge the victims thousands of dollars to take the posts down. I’ve certainly from time to time seen posts like this. We all know it exists, but I think the key here is that it’s good to see that Google has acknowledged that there is a problem, although it had to be pointed out to them by others by mere time, for years and years. They’re finally doing something about it, that’s good.
Ross: Looking at the article, and I’m surprised that one came immediately to mind, isn’t being shown. They do mention a site called cheaterarchives.com that’s sort of an archive of all these things, and it’s more of a place where, again, people have archives of this garbage. The one that came immediately to mind was a Ripoff Report. Remember that?
Scott: Oh, I forgot about the Ripoff Report.
Ross: It’s still there as far as I know. We had people calling us, I got people I’d been talking to, and they were just beyond overwhelmed because they were trying to have something removed that was slanderous about them. They felt slandered. Obviously, I wasn’t doing any detective work, so I don’t know if that was true or not, but they were just overwhelmed. It was because someone had posted something in Ripoff Report, and Ripoff Report had so much clout in rankings that they were able to get top rankings to that person’s name or their business name. Sometimes they would outpace their own, push down their business name. It was devastating for businesses.
It never had to be proved, as far as I know. Anyway, it was bad, and there were many people I’ve talked to in the past who had said that they had essentially worse, it was suggested very suddenly—I’m not sure if it was this site or not, I don’t want to be in trouble here—that if they put a few dollars in that they could have it removed, because that wasn’t the only site. There’s quite a few. It’s just awful. Why did it take Google this long? Again, not a surprise. It’s not exactly been a bastion of ethics over the years, but I’m glad they’re doing something about it now.
Scott: You know sometimes it takes a while, but I guess as long as they get to it eventually, I guess it’s better than never.
Ross: Just took the New York Times to write this.
Scott: If you have an issue with Google, you just have to get an in with the New York Times. Get them to write a few pieces about it, and you’re set.
Ross: Yeah, that’s easy, right?
Scott: Yeah, no problem. I have lots of contacts there, or none.
Ross: There’s actually quite a few articles. It looks like it links from The New York Times article, and the title is Google Seeks to Break the Vicious Cycle of Online Slander. Check that out, and it’s well worth the read. I always find it fascinating when they make moves like this. Though, another thing, Google Search Console insights—if you’re familiar with Google Search Console, and you should be if you have a website, if you don’t make sure you type in Google Search Console on Google and fill out the form to verify your website and get access because it is very important to have access to that. I can never say that enough.
Anyway, sort of expanded insights are available to all. It’s something that’s happened recently that they’ve expanded upon it, and it has more data from Google Analytics makes it more of a central place for you to get data. There’s nothing more in the news about it. That’s just it’s simpler to access now, and you get a little more detail, which is always a handy thing. So we do like that.
Scott: Just because anytime transparency is increased, it’s all good.
Ross: Yeah, absolutely. Well, let’s take a quick break. When we come back, we got some local SEO news, some Mueller files, and a great question.
Welcome back to SEO 101 on wmr.fm, hosted by myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my company’s Senior SEO, Scott Van Achte. Okay, local SEO news. What is this?
Scott: Google My Business has phased out something that they started a couple of years ago. All kinds of things that could be, I guess, but in this case, it is their short names for Google My Business profile. For a while there you could create, or maybe it was by default, I honestly can’t remember.
Ross: No, you had to create it.
Scott: You had to create it. That’s right. A short URL for your profile page, and it came in the form of g.page/[your business name] or [customer name]. Simple, so you can share that link with your customers. You can put it on business cards. You could ask people to leave you reviews. Give them this and they will just remember it. Piece of cake. Well, they started this in April 2019, and now they’re getting rid of them.
So if you have some in use, they will still work for now, but don’t count on that working forever. Instead, you’ll have to share the big, long string of extraneous characters and letters and randomness that nobody would ever remember. Have fun with that, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know why they would eliminate this.
Ross: What? Why? I get when they get lazy, and they’re decided something’s not making the money or whatever, but this is so stupid. Why are they removing it? It didn’t have a good explanation.
Scott: It seems like, you know, your Facebook profile and your YouTube account and all that you can have the short names for everything. Everyone has custom slugs available, why they’d go backwards on this doesn’t make any sense.
Scott: So that’s fun.
Ross: Someone who’s got this posted, who knows, maybe has this on their business cards, isn’t going to be really happy.
Scott: Well, they are saying you cannot create new short names anymore, but they are saying that the current ones will not be affected yet. I don’t know does that mean you got a week, a month, a year, a decade? Maybe they’ll never eliminate the current existing ones, although I find that hard to believe. I wouldn’t panic, but I would not print out new materials with those short names.
Ross: Oh, well, that’s new. Okay, so another bit here. Google has added more ways to edit your business profile in search. Now check this out and is working even here in Canada, which whoa, is impressive, because everything takes so long to get here. Anyway, if you’re logged into Chrome with an account that you used to manage Google My Business, and you do a search for your business name. Just search, in our case, we search StepForth Web Marketing, and what it usually appears and this has been the case for a long time, is sort of the more exposed version of our Google My Business listing that allows us to make minor edits and or at least access certain areas.
Well now they’ve expanded upon that, which I tested on and thought it was kind of quite cool. Now you can add an update, in other words, a post to your Google My Business Page, simply by clicking add update from the search results. So, you don’t have to log in anymore. It knows who you are, because you are technically logged into your account. So it gives you that access. It also shows you just other things about it, these aren’t likely new, but maybe you haven’t seen this, it shows how many views you’ve had this month allows you to edit the profile promoted. Not sure about this customer’s component. Let me see here, oh, customers just look like sort of reviews.
You can see what’s there and see if there’s any Q&A’s that have been asked, you can keep customers up to date with answering a few questions and update your business details on Google. That said, you can add photos, complete your profile, even turn on messaging, and it gives you more information about how to get more reviews. The key thing here, though, is being able to post to your Google posts section directly from search results. I think that’s cool. You can add the photo, even all that stuff in the same place. I’m impressed. That is a nice update. So yay, Google.
Scott: It’s nice when they streamline things for a couple of years before they take it away. Sorry, I’m not bitter.
Ross: No, it will, they’ll take it away. I guarantee at this point, they’ll be like, oh, this wasn’t being used and using it at that point. They talk to you. Alright, so sign for the Mueller files. Going to get John on the show again soon, not too long, but actually been, I guess only nine episodes, but it’s always good to have him on. So much has happened in just nine episodes. What is this?
Scott: This is kind of interesting. Somebody had posted a question—honestly, I can’t remember where they posted it or who they were but the issue they were having was so informative—they had posted an issue where server errors are showing up for their pages in Search Console, but yet when checking the pages, they are fine on the live site. The exact question or post was, I had a server error on some pages on my site, when I checked a few pages shown in the example they work just fine. I also use the validate option a few times, but Google keeps marking the pages with an error. It’s been a month since then, I’ve waited for Googlebot to index these pages with no success. This has affected my organic impressions and clicks. Is there anything I can do here?
Then there’s a rather lengthy, and I’ll go through it real quick, response from John Mueller discussing this. He says we do not invent errors on pages when Googlebot checks the page and there’s a server error, then we really see a server error there, which is no surprise. He goes on and says, and it might be that this is something that is temporary on your website. If it’s temporary, then with one of the future crawls, we will try that again. If the error is gone, then we will index the page normally. He went on to suggest that the issue could be server related saying, so that’s something where if you see these kinds of issues come up regularly, and in particular, use the validate feature in Search Console, and the validation comes back and says there’s still server errors, then that’s something I would take up with your host.
He goes on and describes a few more things. Really, the gist of it is if Google is reporting it as an error, it’s an error in Google’s eyes. If it’s an error for an important page on your site, you definitely want to investigate why that page is having that error. There are a few ways you can of course go to try to troubleshoot this and find out what’s causing the error.
The first thing I would do is I would run Screaming Frog or another crawler on your site and see if the error appears there. If it does, well, then you got to get started, but maybe it’s a bot issue. Who knows? If you have a shared hosting account, you can do a reverse IP check and find other websites shared on your server hosted on your same server, and then use something like say Google’s rich results checker and see if those sites are having similar errors. If they are, you know it’s a hosting issue.
Likewise, you can check your error logs in your hosting account, probably, depending on your host, most accounts will allow you to do that, but some might not. If you really can’t track it down, contact your hosting tech support for help because if you’re serving up 500 errors, and you can’t replicate that, but only Google seeing it, there’s something going on somewhere. Perhaps it could be a hack happening in the backend of your site. I suppose that’s possible, but something is amiss, and don’t assume that Google is wrong by reporting a 500 error.
Ross: All right.
Scott: That’s a mouthful.
Ross: No, it is good, though. Sometimes I get a little annoyed when they don’t express, they’ll tell you there’s an error, but they won’t tell you what it is. They’re a little lacking in details. Like when they say there’s a problem with your website, your site has this problem, or you’ve broken this rule. Well, wow, what did I do? How do I fix this?
Scott: Search Console. Well, Morris more so, when it was still Webmaster Tools, was really bad for that. It’s just an error. Okay, great. Awesome. What kind of error? Who knows, but at least now within Search Console, they’ve been expanded. There’s a lot more information about what your errors may be. They had unspecified errors and things like that in the past. I think Google’s doing a good job and trying to clarify a lot of these issues that they’re finding. It’s not perfect. It might never be, but it’s night and day over what it was even a year or two ago. So that’s good.
Ross: Yeah. Cool. Well, I promised a question, and I realized we didn’t have one there. So I looked one up. It’s actually a good one. What does search engine friendly mean? When a website is search engine friendly, what does it mean? It’s funny, I actually certainly know what elements of a website are that we need to be more search engine friendly, but these days, there aren’t so many blocks to search engine friendliness. There was a time when people could design a site in Flash. That would totally be search engine unfriendly. In other words, can a website or can a search engine look at the website, understand what it’s about, rank each page, and have absolute clarity about each page and its topic kind of backtracked on that.
The idea is it’s totally visible to a search engine and can be accessed at all levels where you want it to. In some places, there simply isn’t like there used to be, again flashed where it wouldn’t work, people, people designing websites in images, like they had a lot of images. You can still see that occasionally, very unlikely these days. Google doesn’t typically read content in images. You can search for something and images will show up, and the text will be there, but they’re not using that in their search results, as far as anyone knows. It would just be too unwieldy, I think too machine intensive. When I was looking at this, I’m like well, with Flash gone and most content management systems, being at least a search engine possible?
Scott: They may or may not be optimized, but I would say there may be all of them are search engine friendly from a spidering perspective.
Ross: Yeah, I think the days of having a truly miserable website that blocks search engines are gone, unless you’ve got a robots.txt file or something that’s blocking, literally blocking the search engine. It’s just a matter of the level of search engine fullness. So, let’s jump in quickly into that. Then we could do a whole show on this. What comes first to your mind, Scott, on how to make a site more search-friendly?
Scott: Well, one thing we used to look at a lot that we’d look at less nowadays is looking for these weird, long, ugly, extraneous URLs, and cleaning those up sometimes. Once I had weird characters that didn’t make any sense and tried to clean that stuff up. We still see that sometimes, even though there may be bad redirects, you don’t always want to do that, but cleaning them up is good. The navigation, of course, is where we still see sites with image-based navigation.
Ross: You know what, you brought something up, I remembered, and that was session IDs. Remember those?
Scott: Oh, yeah, session IDs, good times.
Ross: That was a major mess. Essentially, what was happening was your session, your visit to the website was being added as a code to the end of all URLs, and Google was indexing that. The duplicate content was a nightmare, became huge spider traps where Google could just index forever on a website and would just lose interest. It’s just a mess. I think that’s still possible to see around these days, but it’s extremely rare. Thankfully. God, that was awful.
Yes, navigation, you’re right, sometimes they do appear in images. I would say that’s more often the case for people, again, who haven’t had a site professionally designed, though.
Scott: You know what else I see? I actually see this not with sites that are built by us, but with clients that come to us with new websites, often I’ll find that the internal navigation is pointing to development server URLs. The URLs haven’t been upgraded to the top-level domain when the site launches. That’s bad. Same with things like XML sitemaps that point to an insecure version of the site or a completely different top-level domain entirely, which is rare, but I’ve actually seen that happen. There are lots of that sort of thing. We used to look for things like IFrames, and like you said, Flash, but it’s not really something that comes up anymore these days. Every now and then I suppose.
Ross: Yeah, and I guess these days because mobile-first is so key. Anything that doesn’t show up on mobile, or do a good job of showing on mobile would be search engine unfriendly. That’s more of an optimization aspect versus a search engine not being able to see it. I noticed when I was doing a quick search, that there were articles about search engine friendly does not mean search engine optimized. That’s so true.
Scott: There’s a big difference for sure.
Ross: You can get a WordPress site right out of the box with no optimization in place, you’ve just added content, and yeah, it’s search engine friendly. Let’s see, you’re blocking into search engines by mistake. That aside, it’s readable. It’s just that it’s not optimized for the maximum visibility and clarity of each page.
Scott: The main takeaway there is if you’re one of our clients, make sure your site is Google friendly, and if you’re one of our clients competitors, embed your Flash site using an IFrame, and you’ll be great.
Ross: There you go. Listen to Scott.
Scott: Yeah, listen to me.
Ross: Well, on behalf of myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my company Senior SEO Scott Van Achte. Thank you for joining us today. Remember, we have an SEO 101 show notes newsletter you can sign up for at seo101radio.com where you won’t miss a single link, and you can refresh your memory of past shows at any time. If you have any questions you’d like to share with us, please feel free to post them on our SEO 101 Podcast Facebook group easily found by searching SEO 101 Podcast on Facebook. Have a great week and remember to tune into future episodes which air every week on wmr.fm.
Scott: Thanks for listening everyone!