The hosts discussed various Google updates – from Google Home, a new robots tag, schema markups, URL changes, to subfolder URL structure. Ross & Scott finished the show by answering some questions posted by listeners on the SEO 101 Facebook Group.
Noteworthy links from this episode:
- You Can Tell Google To “Stop” Without Saying “Hey Google” First
- Google adds new robots tag indexifembedded
- Google recipe markup now requires specific times, no more time range
- URL changes are not so simple for Google Search.
Transcription of Episode 424
Ross: Hello, and welcome to SEO 101 on WMR.FM episode number 424. This is Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my co-host is my company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte.
How’s it going today, bud?
Scott: It’s going fantastic.
Well, we have a lot to talk about today so let’s just jump right into it. First, I want to say thanks to everyone for your patience. I know we’ve been a little intermittent lately, from the break on holiday break, which we always take off, plus, we tend to take off the first couple weeks of January simply because we’re catching up and we’re a little overwhelmed. Apologies that we’re late. Someone very kindly said, “Where are you guys?” in an email to me, which was really sweet, thank you. We appreciate that. It was nice to know that people noticed. We never know, right? We don’t see a lot. We just occasionally get the odd inquiry or kind words, so thank you.
I should note, our SEO 101 Facebook group has been a little quiet lately so please join and ask your questions. Not only do we answer it on the air many times, but there’s also a very helpful community there and they’re more than happy to answer questions and help out. There’s lots of great stuff.
You Can Tell Google To “Stop” Without Saying “Hey Google” First
Ross: Alright, so jumping into the news. Some great news. Personally, I think this is fantastic. I’m going to turn off my Google Home thing first because whenever I’d say something about Google, sometimes it would kick in and it would ask me, “What’s your question?” Then I’m like, “Urgh” or it would start playing. This happens in meetings all the time. Then I’d have to say the command phrase to get it to wake up and then I’d say “Stop.” Well, thankfully, according to Search Engine Roundtable, Google Assistant will now stop without you having to say the command phrase, so while it’s playing something you just say, “Stop.” I wonder if it has to be like, some power behind it, I don’t know, I haven’t tested it.
Scott: I kind of worry, when you’re doing something important or maybe you’ve got dinner in the oven, your kids come in and do something stupid and you’re like “Stop!” Then there goes your dinner timer, and now you’re gonna burn the chicken, your music’s gonna stop playing, your zoom presentation with your important meeting is going to be cut off. I don’t know.
Ross: I’m gonna have to test it. It seems a little different but I also appreciate it in some regards. I hate saying the command phrase all the time.
Scott: You’re driving along the highway in your Tesla and someone screams “Stop” and you stop in the middle of the freeway.
Ross: Oh, dear. Yeah, once Google starts running our Tesla, we’re in real trouble.
Scott: That’s true. Your Google car.
Ross: That’s a little non-SEO news but it was a good one. If you’ve used a Google Home, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that.
Google adds new robots tag indexifembedded
Ross: In SEO news, Google has added a new robots tag called indexifembedded. Now this is really obscure, I would expect no one listening was going to use it but it is newsworthy, simply because they don’t add tags very often. I mean, this is the first robots tag they’ve added as far as I can remember.
Scott: It’s been a while.
Ross: Mid 2000s, maybe they added some. Anyway, what this is, is a tag you can add to your page. So there’s robotsnoindex, if you’re a listener of the show, you’re familiar with that, it tells Google that this is not some page that you want to have in their index. If you have that plus indexifembedded, this is really unique. It’s a very unique use case. What will happen is, if let’s say another web site has embedded your content from a page in their site using a frame, let’s call it (more technically, it’s an iframe or object code.) It’s a little geeky here. I’m starting to feel silly talking about this for our 101 listeners, but if that’s there, Google will index it, it will add it to its system because it will see on the originating page where that content is from. Although it says “no index,” it does say “indexifembedded.” The use case here is for video embeds and things like that. So John Mueller commented on this, when Barry Schwartz asked why this would be useful. I’ll read off, it says, “A ‘common’ (it’s new, so there’s nothing common yet :)) use-case would be widgets or embedded content, where you have a special URL for the embed that you don’t want indexed, but you still want to allow the embedding page to use it for indexing.”
That’s kind of interesting. I was shocked. I love seeing news things happen. It’s so rare in our industry, it’s mostly just algorithmic changes and business or name changes, like Google My Business to Google Business Profile, there’s not much more else to it.
Scott: I can think of some clients back in 2004, where that would have been really, really helpful. When they had all iframes being used back in that day, you know, when that was popular, that would have worked back then.
Ross: Even worse. Frames.
Scott: Oh, yeah. Frame websites, that would have been awesome for that because you’d end up with two versions of every page. That was a nightmare, I don’t miss those days. What do we have next?
Google recipe markup now requires specific times, no more time range
Ross: Google recipe markup.
Scott: So if you have recipes on your website, there’s a bit of a change here potentially for the way you’ve got your JSON LD or other Structured Markup set up. Previously, you could set a time range for things like prep time (5-10 minutes, 15 minutes whatever) Well, that is no longer permitted and you now need a singular, precise, exact time in your markup. If you’ve got a range in there, you might want to change that. Otherwise, you might have some problems with your indexing. For the most part, it shouldn’t be a really hard change, although if you’ve got a recipe site and I’ve just thought of a client of ours, who this may definitely apply to, so we’ll have to contact him if it matters. But if you’ve got recipes on your site, you want to make sure your times are set to exact times, which I’m guessing most probably are, I haven’t really thought about this before today. If you’ve got a range, that’s not good.
URL changes are not so simple for Google Search.
Ross: Next, comes a really important notation and this was back January 17. This was noted by John Mueller, it says making URL changes to your site can take several months for Google to process. Now, we’ve got a few anecdotes to add to this in a second here. The key here is that it’s not necessarily simple when you change the URL (in other words, it’s the address of your page) to something else, it takes a while for Google to note that. Even if they note it, all the signals, all the links, all that information they have about the URL needs to be forwarded to the new URL (new location). What John recommends is to make sure that you always do the research before doing a migration, so any kind of movement like a URL change. Time it, you do this during a good time you have a dip in traffic. That’s a very important note there, dip in traffic. Again, Google is trying to figure out what’s happening. This is what happens whenever you move a website, whenever you’re updating to a new website, etc. Just think about it, Google’s trying to adapt to this new change whilst trying to determine whether or not you’re the same website, whether or not they’re being tricked, all these different things, and they need to be careful. They can’t just consistently give the same amount of traffic, they’re going to test it a bit, they’re going to drop things a bit. If this is at a high time, don’t make those changes. He also states, creating a list of the old and new URLs for mapping purposes. So before you switch it, create a list of all the URLs that you have for the original website. Then you’ll have a new website up and you can make sure that everything is mapped to the right pages and redirected.
Scott: I’ll mention that Screaming Frog is awesome for that. If you don’t use it already.
Ross: Good, yeah. Monitor the migration with analytics and Search Console. Search Console in particular, because it’s going to give you notations on any issues that Google uncovers. All in all, John says, the time can take several months to fully process all the URL changes. Now, the more important URLs will be processed faster. If you have a website that, let’s take StepForth for example, we have a page on our site that I’ve mentioned before that is about something that does not lead to business but it’s about 301 redirects. Well, that page gets a ton of traffic, probably more than 50% of our traffic. Well, that page will be updated quickly if we make a switch, way quicker than the other pages anyway, simply because Google knows it has value and it’s worth making that update.
Now, what kind of anecdotes can we add here? I’m currently, this is actually funny, I was about to lease a computer the other day and I went to this website, and I was shocked because the local company, their website went to just a form and it was a redirect from Google. Then I went and tried to type in their homepage and I got a 403 Forbidden. “Oh, dear, what’s going on here?” I ended up contacting them about the lease to ask questions then I also mentioned, “Do you realize this is broken?” Then they were like “We’re going through hell right now, we just launched this new website and it’s breaking and the lady who did it also had a problem with the transition, so she accidentally deleted the one they just built.” It was just a mess. They just rebuilt it quickly so they can put it up. Then I said, “Well, you need some help, obviously” and we’re here to help. So we did, we jumped in and helped them. It happens more often than I’d like to admit. I would hope that people know by now that this is not something you just do without forethought. It happens all the time. Before you make any switches, you’re switching to a new website, making substantial changes to the URLs in your site by moving a section or whatever, consult an SEO. It’s going to be well worth your time. It might cost you 150 bucks for their time but it is key and it’s going to save you a lot more in terms of headache and time fixing things. We could have had this entire thing switched over within a couple hours, but now we went in and fixed it. And we’re still working on a few things to fix for them, trying to recover the old sites, trying to get content out of the old site for them. It’s a pain. Scott, you had one as well, we’ve had one, but you were dealt with it recently.
Scott: Yeah, so we did a website redesign for a pretty big client of ours a couple years ago. His rankings have been phenomenal for years, it’s just been doing really, really well so he didn’t want to pull the plug on this new launch. He’s just been terrified, you know, a huge risk. He’s going from an old hand-coded HTML website to WordPress. Then his blog on the old site was, I don’t think it was WordPress, I can’t remember how his blog was but it was something different. So his URLs are a mess, and of course, the new site cleaned most of that up. There was a lot of paranoia there then finally he decided to flip the switch and launch the site back in October – November, which is his quiet time. Again, like John Mueller says, do it when you’re quiet. Summer is big for them so that was good. But we took some extra steps that we wouldn’t normally do because the client was so worried. In WordPress, we installed plugins to add .html to the extension so that his URLs would not change no matter what, which was a bit extreme, not something we normally do, but it works. So, it’s a WordPress site with .html extensions but the ranking stuck around and he couldn’t have been happier. Again, sometimes you have to look at those extra little things and take extra precautions that you might not want to do. His plan is to ultimately pull those HTML extensions off but everyone’s a little bit nervous about that. It should be fine but why bother if you really don’t have to and if things are going well. He’s got this new website so I think everybody’s happy. We’ll see what happens, but it’s been a few months and all is good.
Ross: Yeah, it is. My dog might be sniffing the microphone here. I got a dog in front of me. This is one of our first shows we’re gonna post a video of, so you’ll see my little beagle, Holly. Anyway, she came to visit, was pawing at me while I was trying to talk, so I had to pick her up. She’s gonna come and paw me again, she wants to sit on me.
Anyway, on that note, let’s take a quick break. When we get back, we got some more Mueller files.
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.
Country Specific Domain or Single Site
Ross: Country specific domain or single site? This is a common question for those who are dealing with international websites who want to expand into an international sector. Let’s say they have a fully entrenched US website. Well, what do they do? Do they add subfolders to their site, let’s say Germany, Belgium, France, all the different ones and use those as subfolders? Or do they get the top level domain for that country to Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). One example is ours – .ca. So it’d be WhateverTheSite’sName.ca and then the content. Of course, when you do that, that means you have to have separate websites for each country. Well, what are the pros and cons of this? I enjoyed that read, I just read it the other day. It was an interesting discussion because it is sensible to try to build those additional international locations within your existing website. When it’s really entrenched, it’s doing very well. In other words, it’s got lots of authority, it’s ranking really well. A site with authority tends to pass that along to new pages. If you have those new country areas, they’re going to do a little better right out of the gate than they would have otherwise. And Google does fully recognize it, you use proper hreflang tags. This is technical, but if you add the proper tagging, Google knows that this is meant to target a different country, you’re all good. But if you were to go with the top level domains, there are some serious benefits to that, in that one thing, it’s easier to get links to them. If you ask for links, people are more likely to do it to a top level domain like ccTLD, that’s for the country, simply because it looks more authentic. In addition, Google definitely understands already that it’s a separate website. You’re also more likely to be accepted in those countries by users because they see the top level domain is from their country. So with that, there were some really interesting discussions about it. Michael Bonfils was discussing it and saying that there are use cases or bid arguments for both. Typically, I believe he said, he typically recommends going with the ccTLDs. Simply because of that link building potential and the overall buy in by the country’s users. Did I miss anything there, Scott?
Scott: No, I think that sounds about right to me.
Ross: We’ve got an example of the hreflang code, which hopefully won’t be posted as text in our page or show notes, that could cause problems. Maybe you should put emca there. Anyway, it’s a very beneficial piece of code if you’ve got any kind of cross country information.
Google: Deep Looking Subfolders In URLs Doesn’t Matter For SEO
Ross: Deep looking subfolders, what’s all this about?
Scott: Kristine Schachinger, sent a message to John via Twitter and said, “If a site has 70% of its content under /blog/ what are your feelings on having none of that content categorized?” Instead of just /blog/ the permalink for the page, what about if you have the category name in there, or the month or the day, all that kind of stuff, does it matter? And the short answer is, John says, “I don’t think any search engine would care either way” which I largely agree with, especially if you’re considering it from a blog perspective. Having the dates and that sort of thing in the hierarchy of the URL, nobody really cares. John does go on to say that “…I can see edge cases where it makes sense to split things off, say adult content…” and I’m not sure why adult content specifically, but that’s what he said.
Ross: I think just because you’d want it in a separate category, somewhere hidden. Completely broken off.
Scott: Perhaps, yeah.
“…I can see edge cases where it makes sense to split things off (say, adult content, or country-specific content), but for the most part URLs are identifiers, and it would be rare that a search engine would try to map entities to URL fragments…” The exception to that, I think at least, would be things like Ecommerce websites, or when you have the structure of a website where having something in a subfolder makes perfectly natural sense. We have a meat client, for example, they sell meat. If you’ve got all your bacon products under a /bacon subfolder and your turkey products under a /turkey subfolder. If you’re a car company, you’ve got a Ford and a BMW and a Toyota. I feel like that’s largely a usability thing, but I feel like there is still just the slightest bit of SEO help there. Depending on who you ask, some people are gonna agree with me and some won’t, but I think if it makes sense, go for it. If you’re a blog, I don’t think you really need the date structure in your URL path. I don’t see any value to that and I wouldn’t change it. Like we were talking about before with URL changes, if it’s working, don’t change it. But if you’re setting up something new from scratch, I’d keep it as is.
SEO 101 Podcast is looking for advertisers – email Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ross: Awesome. Now one thing I wanted to note on a completely different topic is that, our podcast is actually sponsored generally, by ads as you are all aware. We are looking for new advertisers. If you’re interested in getting a little bit of exposure on our very popular show, it’s apparently got lots of great listeners. We certainly know the ones that we’ve connected with are amazing and they’re an extremely exclusive group. Please let me know email@example.com. If I don’t get back to you, it’s possibly because it got filtered wrong, but I’ll do my best to catch everything. I have an assistant helping me with that now because I get so much email but I would love to talk with you and see if we can work something out and get you some exposure. With the new system we have now, we can actually pre-roll you into some of our older shows so you get exposure across all of them. There are a lot of listeners, people who are just starting out sometimes from our earliest show and working their way up, which is wild to me, but thank you. It’s amazing. You guys listened so much. Anyway, if you want to let us know that would be great. I think it’s an amazing opportunity and it’s gonna be very cost-effective too, I bet, depending on your perspective, I suppose. I’d look forward to speaking with you about it.
Question and Answer Portion
Ross: Let’s jump into some questions. Lee-Anne Ekland has a question about Roblox experiences. This is a good, unique one. “I have a question about SEO marketing as it relates to Roblox experiences. I’ve got a lead on a big brand client who, like Nike, has created an ‘experience’ in Roblox…” I assume that means that there’s a place within Roblox that’s branded Nike where you can go there and experience Nike or something, it’s just a brand thing. “…Roblox is a closed environment so marketing from within isn’t possible but there must be a way to optimize search for a particular game in Roblox. I know that to play the game you need to download the app so it’s not in the browser? Is the only answer to get people talking about it on social, guest posting, articles written, pages dedicated to the game from the brand itself, and backlinks? Any help would be so appreciated!” Well, thanks, Lee-Anne. It’s a very good question and I don’t have an immediate answer from experience, neither does Scott. I would say that I would look at how Nike did it. Nike’s a pretty big brand, this other one’s a pretty big brand. That’s a good indicator. I’ve said this a million times on the show, don’t reinvent the wheel, find out what they did right, how they did it. Typically, that’s possible with a little creative searching. Ask Roblox too. I mean these guys want you to market it and they want it to be something worthwhile so people will pay to do this. I bet you they have some great tips. Otherwise, because the game is for such young kids, they’d often don’t have all of the capabilities to search Google. I don’t know how you would get in front of them, off the top of my head, it’s not our market. Anything they want to add there, Scott?
Scott: Yeah. I don’t know a lot about Roblox and unfortunately, my 10-year old son is in school right now, or else I could bring him in on the conversation to school Ross and I a little bit. But my understanding of how Roblox works is, you go to open the app but it actually opens a web browser. You can find the game you want to play, you click on the game, and then it opens the app back up and loads the game. So there is an html website page for each of these games. My thoughts are, you could promote that with off site SEO. I mean, this is a bit extreme maybe, but you can work on building links, social media presence of your own and link into the page to try to boost its individual rankings within the Roblox website. On the flip side, is there anything stopping you from creating your own web presence around that Roblox game that then links into Roblox itself? Like create your own website to promote that game, and then you own it, you can do whatever you want with it (unless it’s against Roblox terms or something that I don’t know about there) and work on that socially. My son’s always trying to look up videos on YouTube about how to play certain games on Roblox, that sort of thing. I’m sure you can build a big YouTube following ultimately, for the game you’re trying to promote and work on it that way. Maybe interact with all the YouTube gamer channels and try to get them to play your game. Maybe you have to pay them, you probably do. I’m kind of speaking off the cuff here because I don’t know a lot about Roblox so it’s a bit tough. So these are just off the top of my head.
Ross: Twitch is a place to get some advertising in there.
Scott: Yeah, absolutely. There’s got to be people on Twitch that are doing Roblox games. I would assume.
Ross: I’m gonna share my screen for a second here because I found something funny. I wanted to know if Roblox is viewable by Google. I was trying different phrases to see if there’s anything on that. I didn’t think it would be but I was curious to see if anything was in the books or on the way. I’m using my dark stream that’s why Google is black here. Anyway, one of the people also asked says “Is Roblox connected to Google?” I thought, “What the heck” but look at this. “Internet search giant Google announces acquisition of startup game studio, Roblox, for a purchase price of $380 million, blah, blah, blah.” Then I was like “Where’s the date? Aha, first, April 1.”
Scott: Oh, April 1.
Ross: But it actually got into the People Also Asked this April Fool’s joke. That is funny. I’ve never seen an April Fool’s joke drop in there like that.
Scott: You know, it’s funny. Roblox is huge right now, Google should have bought it back then. That would have been a smart move.
Ross: Slightly out of their market but yeah, who cares for them? They seem to pick up everything. Alright, so I hope that helps, Lee-Anne. It’s a really interesting question so thank you for posting it. I really appreciate it.
Next one is from Kamran Rahman. He says, “Hope everyone is great. This group has been super helpful. I wanted to get this group’s thoughts on next steps for monetizing my team’s website. So far this is what we have:
- Sales of digital products, specifically Wedding hashtags (google wedding hashtags if you’re not sure what they are about).
- Google Adsense, which is bringing in a small amount of revenue (covers most of our costs). I am thinking of drafting up a media kit for me to go out and try to sell. It would essentially involve selling banner space for a fixed monthly fee.
Any thoughts ? I feel like I’m mostly pursuing pretty standard avenues of monetization, and would love to explore more innovative ideas.”
Unfortunately, Kamran, you didn’t post your website here, which would have been a great opportunity to first check it out and others to check it out. So I can’t say I know what you do. I mean, I assume it’s something to do with weddings. Something about your site has Google Adsense working for you so you must have a lot of content. Hmm. There are some networks, of course, it’s not on the tip of my tongue here, that are fairly exclusive that you can join, where you can create data for people to see what kind of viewers you have. Then that determines whether or not you’re an appealing marketing or advertising subject, or… I can’t speak today. Anyway, a place that they go on and advertise. Obviously, there’s some really popular ones too like, Quantive or something like that. Obviously, not our market here, we do some pay per click but not a lot of this kind of work. If you look up this phrase… what do you think, Scott? Like ad networks, private ad networks, something like that, look for anything along the lines of that kind of thing. Anyway, look them up, there might be some opportunity there, then you just put a bug on your site, it gets an idea of who your audience is, and then you can potentially be asked to put advertising on your site, which would be a nice bonus as you’re doing this work. I don’t know. Any other thoughts, Scott?
Scott: I don’t have a lot of… I don’t have anything, that’s less than a lot. I don’t know that I have any contributions to this question here. My first would have been trying things like Google Adsense and trying to tap into the relevant market. Again, it’s tough not knowing what his website is.
Ross: I would think actually, a no brainer to me would be affiliate sales of products that have to do with weddings.
Scott: You could get into Amazon links and things.
Ross: Now, I know Amazon’s become quite unpopular because they dramatically cut the commissions which is stupid, but anyway, they did. That may be why you’re not doing that but that is one option. Money is money, even if it’s a small amount, you weren’t getting it before. There’s probably more lucrative places to do that as well. Including maybe packages for weddings…I don’t know, again, not our market.
Scott: If he’s wedding oriented, which it sounds like he probably is, does Etsy have an affiliate program? I feel like Etsy, don’t they sell a lot of the type of stuff that might be… I don’t use that, maybe I should, I don’t know, but I feel like there might be something there for affiliate based.
Ross: Absolutely. From an SEO perspective, you’re just gonna want to make sure that you’re continually improving or maintaining (if you’ve already got the top rankings) your exposure within search results, and maybe looking at a comparative site, something that’s a competitor and finding gaps in their keywords. Semrush has a cool little keyword gap tool that will compare the sites and compare what kind of visibility they’re getting, and the visibility you’re getting and look for areas that you don’t show up but seem to have a lot of traffic, and that’s something that might be a good way to bring in business. Again, is there going to be more business, more Google AdSense revenue, etc, etc. So, you know, I felt like it should tie back into SEO a bit, I think that’ll be helpful for you. Anyway, Scott, anything else to add?
Scott: Not really, I wish I did. I wish I had more to say to that but..
Ross: Well, on behalf of myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte, thanks for joining us today. Remember, we have a show notes newsletter, you can sign up for it at seo101radio.com. Don’t miss a single link and refresh your memory of a past show at any time. Have a great week and remember to tune in to future episodes, which air every week on WMR.FM.
Scott: Thanks for listening everybody and I’m sorry I have nothing clever to say so that’s it. Cheers!