The show was packed with controversial updates, which Ross & Scott broke down and discussed. Some of the topics were: the end date for Google’s Universal Analytics, missing business reviews on Google, a new WordPress plugin of note, and more. Bonus: they shared a couple of highly recommended tools and software.
Noteworthy links from this episode:
- WordPress Releases New Performance Plugin
- End Date for Google’s Universal Analytics
- Google Reviews Going Missing
- Image Rich Results have taken over local organic SERP
Transcription of Episode 428
Ross: Hello and welcome to SEO 101 on WMR.FM episode number 428. This is Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my co-host is my company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte.
How’s your week been?
Scott: Busy as usual, but busy is a good thing, I suppose. So no complaints there.
Ross: Excellent. Yes, same here. Happy news today, really happy news — got a message from our colleague Denis, he is now out of Russia. He managed to get away, for those of you listening, he was in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia. I guess, like many who were there, he’s probably hoping for that just to end at some point. It never did and of course, now it’s much worse so he has gotten away and I’m really, really happy for it. Who knows what’s gonna come next?
Scott: I hadn’t heard about that. We’ll have to talk more about it afterwards but it’s fantastic to hear that.
Ross: It is. His family and stuff are still in Ukraine, unfortunately, they’re in the worst of it, actually. So we’re hoping for them; this is awful. Our hearts go out to Ukrainians. If anyone out there hasn’t already, please do support and give some donations. Do whatever you can to help out. We certainly are and we don’t plan on stopping.
Alright, well, let’s continue the non-SEO news. Although, this really is very close to it. That’s about WordPress, what’s this going on?
Scott: This could almost be SEO news, but it’s kind of on the verge here. Back in November of last year, the WordPress Performance Team was created for the purpose of coordinating performance improvements within the WordPress Core. The news I saw was on March 15, I’m not sure if this plugin was released on that day or just a few days before, but WordPress has released a plugin called the Performance Lab plugin, which is designed to speed up WordPress sites. The main purpose of this plugin is to give publishers an opportunity to use and test new improvements and provide feedback before it’s rolled out into the actual core of WordPress. So ultimately, the plugin will go away and it’ll just be built into WordPress, essentially, which is fantastic. So it’s good to see WordPress being proactive there and trying to be faster and keep up with some of the competition because I know, I think Wix, (I don’t like Wix, I’ll be honest) but one of their strong points is their sites generally load pretty quick. A lot of the other content management systems do have some speed advantages over WordPress. I think WordPress has other advantages that outweigh all of those but that’s a whole other conversation. Anyway, so the plugin currently is broken down into four modules, which maybe you want to hear, maybe you don’t let’s see… there’s:
- Web P uploads – it currently converts newly uploaded JPEG files into faster web P format so your imagery will be a bit quicker there, which is pretty important.
Ross: For those that don’t know, that’s a faster graphic format. It’s a new one, not new but new to most of us that aren’t living online like we are. So the average population probably would never have heard of it. It is designed specifically for the web. I’ve never actually used it. I’ve seen it and I’ve certainly up and moved it around in client sites, but I’ve never actually created one. So I don’t know, from a nerdy perspective, what kind of stats it has, the depth of bits, dot,.. you know, all the stuff that matters when it comes to quality, but it has to be pretty high, if they’re going to be converting to it, so it’s pretty good news.
Scott: Yeah, that’s fantastic. It’s kind of the future really, especially with Google pushing speed and all that kind of stuff. Another module is:
- Web P support. This is essentially a site health monitor that checks to see if your server supports web P and shows a warning if it is not supported. It doesn’t really do a lot but helps keep you informed on what’s going on there.
- Persistent object cache health check, that sounds very wordy. Ooh, fancy. And basically, it’s a site health check module that may suggest the use of object caching. So again, it probably doesn’t do a lot but just lets you know that “Hey, you’re not caching as well as you could.” It probably throws out some improvement options to you.
Ross: How dare you, ‘not caching as well as you should.’ How dare they?
Scott: I know, come on. It’s 2022 already.
Ross: Your POC is not working well. It’s like the worst acronym, POC.
Scott: Then the last one is just experimental at this point. I’ll tell you why it’s experimental in a second. It’s the
Ross: Yeah, I’m just looking at this. Like you said, the Audit Enqueued Assets is experimental. It says it’s tested so it should be okay on live production site. I’m not sure, I don’t see it… l was trying to see if I could find beta anywhere. It sounds like in its essence, it’s stable enough to definitely test. This serves as a follow up to that, one of our biggest frustrations is PageSpeed Insights. Anyone out there who’s done a page speed check to see whether or not their website is running quickly, or in this case, just a page. That’s usually how you have to do it, one page at a time. You may be frustrated as I have been where when you do a search one day to the next you’ll see different numbers. Part of that problem is that PageSpeed Insights doesn’t allow you to choose where that search is being done. It could be anywhere, there’s a Google server, or anything like that, it’s being run from that. Core web vitals, same thing. That is why we prefer using GTmetrix. If you use GTmetrix, and you have it properly set up so that the servers are closest to where your hosting is, this is important for local based businesses, or anyone who’s in that general area. International, of course, it shouldn’t matter where you are. But for many of our clients who are local, they don’t score well on international page speed tests. It’s very frustrating because what’s happening are crappy SEO salesmen out there, who frankly, don’t understand page speed or just leveraging it to confuse and distract clients from other businesses. They’re saying, “Hey, I don’t know who is doing your SEO, but they don’t have very good page speed stats, they’re supposed to be managing this for you. You really should consider going elsewhere. Hey, this is what we do, just by chance.” No, if you know what you’re doing, then you’re using something that’s more calculated, like GTmetrix. I’m not saying it’s impossible to get high scores. It is very possible. However, it is a lot more work than most people are willing to put in. When you say that to them, who’ve been in this position, that your website can get faster, but not with the template you’re using or the underlying infrastructure. That’s not going to go over so well. Some people are like, “Well, whatever, do the best you can.” Someone comes in and willy nilly and says, “Well, I don’t know what they’re talking about, I can do better.” That’s all it takes for some clients to get very confused. Fortunately, we have great clients who already trust us and they’re not leaving just from a simple email like that. They understand that a lot of this is garbage. But it is very common for this particular tactic to be used. So do keep that in mind.
Scott: Maybe we should add a section to the show every week called ‘Ross’s Rants’, and you can have your own little…
Ross: I would repeat myself a lot, that’s the problem.
Scott: I guess you would. There would be a lot of overlap.
Ross: I’ll be saying the same things all the time. They’d just tune me out.
Alright, so into some more SEO news, because really, that wasn’t SEO news.
Scott: Yeah, I guess it really isn’t. This first one could actually be the next Ross’s Rant, in a way, it will be eventually. How much do you love Universal Analytics, which is basically for those that don’t know, probably your current Google Analytics setup. Well, as of July 1, 2023, it will no longer work and you will be forced to use the new GA 4 – Google Analytics 4. For some people out there, that might be a good thing but it’s going to be the way it is for everybody. As of July 1, 2023, Universal Analytics will no longer process new data in standard properties and you will have approximately six months of access to that data before you even lose that. So all your historical data over the past 20 years, say goodbye to it and that’s just reality, this is happening. It’s a done deal. You can and you’re advised to export that data. It looks like you have to export it to CSV and a few other formats but you won’t have the nice, clean, easy way of navigating that historical data like you do today. You can start ranting about it now if you like, maybe go grab a drink. I don’t know, but I think it’s gonna make a lot of people unhappy. If you don’t know, let’s say you have no idea, you don’t know anything about this. You know, you’ve got Google Analytics installed, just to give you a general rule of thumb, GA 4 was launched October 14, 2020. So if you had your analytics active before October 14 of 2020, chances are you’re using Universal Analytics and you will want to get GA 4 setup. If you set up your account after that date, you could have either. It’s probably GA 4 if you aren’t really tech savvy, because to set up Universal Analytics after that point, you have to click on a hidden Advanced link and find a little tick button. It was a process to set it up. So if you’re unaware of doing that, you probably have the new version. So isn’t that fun?
Ross: We can’t stress this enough. If you don’t already have it, ask your SEO. If you don’t have Google Analytics for tracking code on your site tomorrow/today/ as soon as possible, all the data, you have to get it on there quickly because from that point forward is all the data you’re gonna have access to, from now on. I mean, other than that, historical, well not from then,, but when this is switched,.. yes, you’ll have access to your historical data in Excel document (nightmare, hello?!). That’s gonna require a painful amount of data mining to get anything out of. For all intents and purposes, Google’s saying “Screw you, you’re losing all your data.” That drives me crazy, I hate that they can even do this. But it’s free. That’s where we get screwed, right? As of this date, it’s gone and you better be using the new one or you’re not going to get any analytics. There’s gonna be a lot of people who are going to get over the next couple years. In 2023, can you imagine how many we’re going to get new clients that have zero data?
Scott: All of them.
Ross: It’s gonna be tragic. That data is gold, I can’t put enough emphasis on this. They could have literally 20 years of data that could define our whole marketing strategy and set them up for success. If we met with them, and they had that access, but it’s gonna evaporate, poof, and they’re gonna have nothing. It’s not right. I don’t understand why they had to create a platform, GA 4, that couldn’t be…what do you call it?
Scott: Backwards compatible?
Ross: Backwards compatible! Thanks. I’m sure there’s a very good reason for it.
Scott: I feel like there has to be a technical way. I know the data is recorded differently and everything is different, the whole system is different the way it works, but there’s got to be a way to take that historical data and somehow import it on some level into GA 4 so you at least have access to view the data, maybe you can’t manipulate it, like the way you’d be able to with GA 4. Maybe you won’t be able to run custom reports or whatever, but just to be able to see it. I think one thing that would actually be really smart for Google to do and they won’t do it, of course, because… for a lot of reasons. But is they should almost have a way to export the data, like they say to do and then have an app that they create that’s client side, it’s not on the web, it’s not something they have to maintain or support, but just have an app that people can get to help visualize your data similar to how you do it online now, and then at least there’s something.
Ross: Of course, that app has to be maintained.
Scott: I mean, there’s got to be a way they could do it, where they say “Here’s a disclaimer that we’re not going to maintain this, but it’ll work.” You know, as long as Windows or your Mac support it, I don’t know, there’s got to be some way of doing it because like you said, an Excel file is going to be useless for most people, and even people that really know how to manipulate Excel, it’s gonna be a challenge.
Ross: Here’s a great business move for someone. If this hasn’t already been done, I’ll be surprised. Someone needs to enhance their current app to allow importing of all that data.
Ross: Because this is gonna be the biggest boom, it’s gonna be amazing for analytics platforms, because they’re gonna go “Do you really want to stick with Google? Look what they just did to you. Yeah, sure, we’re 50 bucks a month but how much is that data worth to you?” They can make a fortune. Even if we say 15 bucks a month, it doesn’t matter. It adds up over time.
Scott: Even if it’s not one that records new data, just like I said, Google should create an app. Well, why don’t we do it? Let’s do it right now, Ross. Let’s create an app or a website, clients log in, they pay the 15 bucks a month or whatever, import all their Google data, and they have a visual representation of it from this point forward and pay us forever. Sounds pretty good.
Ross: Honestly, I think this is the way that they should, the companies can, if it was me anyway, I would just grab people away from Google Analytics. Google Analytics was the death knell for many companies, such as Click Tracks, remember Click Tracks?
Scott: I do.
Ross: I love that platform. I even did their training and everything. But as soon as Google Analytics came out and it was free, and it was powerful, it just killed these companies. I mean, they stood for a while, but it was devastating. So I think this is going to be great for those businesses. If they can integrate that data, they are going to make money hand over fist. They can even have a free, kind of like HubSpot CRM, thing where it’s free to use, but it’s got extra add ons that you have to pay for, where you could import that data. Then if you want to further track information or you want to dig into it more, go deeper, you pay more. I mean, just so many different ways to do this. At any rate, I’m seriously going to consider paying for one now. I don’t trust Google. I lost a lot of my trust over the years, but after all the programs they put out there that we get used to and they just have to drop. Now, I no longer rely on them. They put something out like “Yeah, that sounds good but I’m not going to risk it.” They’ve burned those bridges too many times. Apparently Google Analytics 4 is a headache, a momentous headache, too. You can have the code, that’s easy. But to actually set up the appropriate goals, attribution and all that stuff. I haven’t dug into this so I don’t exactly know why it’s such a headache but I know our Pay Per Click Analyst is swearing. I can’t even use the words. He’s pretty pissed.
Scott: And you know, I played with it a little bit, and I get kind of lost in it. Obviously, I’m not going to stay like that forever, we’re all going to be forced to learn it. Who knows, maybe in a year and a half from now we’ll look back and go “Oh, man, this is way better. I’m so glad they made us do this.” I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I’m hoping it happens, but not holding my breath.
Ross: I’ve heard from fairly reputable people saying that “Google should be paying me to learn this crap.” Because it’s such a mess to work with. Like you said, it’s easy to get lost in and how are we ever going to train clients to use it. It goes on and on and on. Then also, all the data we use in our dashboards from Google Analytics is vital. It shows all the history.
Scott: It’s all gonna change.
Ross: At least let us import the last two years or something, give us something. That was a big rant there. But in case y’all don’t understand, this is big news and it’s going to impact you if you’ve got any of this information on your website. You need to add the new bug on the site now. So you can get data, you can have both of them at the same time, the old and the new. So you can have that data accruing from as soon as possible. Okay. So make sure to do that.
Alright, Local SEO. Oh, yes, I heard about this. So Google reviews have been going missing. Apparently, it’s on the way back. So what’s this about?
Scott: Reviews are disappearing over the last week or so, second week of March till mid March, a number of reviews are just either not being posted when they’ve been submitted, or they’re just going missing. In one example over at Search Engine Roundtable, the brand name was withheld so we don’t know who it was. But a specific brand with over 700 locations went from having 200 reviews, down to only 16. So the reviews just disappeared. Well, my first question is, how did a 700-location business only have 200 reviews? So you might want to work on that. But to lose all of them, I don’t know, man, there’s something going on there. And apparently, this is also not the first time it’s happened. This happened back on July 9, 2019 and on my birthday last year, happy birthday to me, April 13, 2021 this happened. So now everyone knows what my birthday is so send me presents next month. Anyway, a statement from a Google spokesperson said that our team is aware of this issue and is actively working to fix it. New reviews that are not in violation of our policies should now be appearing on Google business profiles as normal. Reviews submitted over the last week that were not appearing on Google business profiles, due to this issue should be posted by the end of the week. So hopefully that one business gets their 200 reviews back and everything goes back to normal. I guess this is less local news and more the weekly Google bug report again, but uh good times.
Ross: Google’s lucky they don’t charge people for service because people are losing a lot of money from this mistake.
Scott: For sure they would. That’s a direct impact, having your reviews disappear.
Ross: Yeah, in millions, I’m sure all together.
Ross: In other local news, image rich results have been taking over the local organic search results.
So when you look at local on your desktop, you typically see a couple ads, maybe the map pack, and then perhaps some additional searches and then what people are searching for examples, and then below that, classic organic results. Those organic results look very much similar to what they had 10 years ago, there’s very little difference. But there’s been a change. Now, if you were using mobile, you would have seen this already. It’s been like this for a while. Next to classic search results for local, you would have seen a photo from the site and sometimes these photos were just garbage clipart, sometimes they were blurry. There’s obviously no intention around them. Well, nowadays, it’s actually showing up on desktop. So these images next to your search ranking, are going to help you get that click. Now there’s a great article, it’s going to be in our show notes, how to influence which photos show up in your mobile SERPs, which of course now applies to desktop as well. It’s around using schema, setting a featured image, let’s say for a particular page within WordPress. If you’re using WordPress, the type of photo you use is important. There’s a lot of great detail there. One of the things I thought was a good idea was putting awards, making it an award. You can’t get multiple images. So pick something that says your name and says you won this award, make it your featured image for that page. When Google does pick up that page, it’s likely or more likely that they’re going to use that image. Another example in the tutorial. It’s a Sterling Sky tutorial by Joy Hawkins. It shows how she just reordered some of the images and was able to influence which image showed up. So it isn’t very difficult to do, it just takes a little intention. Keep that in mind and hopefully you can win out. Because I can totally see these images playing a role on whether or not you get a click or not.
Ross: Alright, the Mueller files, page experience metrics can be split into sections. I have not seen this.
Scott: Yeah, so it wouldn’t be an SEO 101 without talking about the page experience update in core web vitals. But this was kind of interesting. In a recent video hangout, John Mueller noted that a website can be broken into sections for evaluation purposes on Google’s end. For example, category pages might be treated as their own grouping of pages, product pages, blog posts, pages that utilize a specific template in your CMS, so WordPress template or Shopify or whatever. So then if your website is slow, or part of your website is slow, or has poor page experience, those scores can be segmented into that section of your website and only that part of the site will be affected by core web files and PageSpeed experience updates, which is actually really good because you know, maybe you’ve got a blog that’s loading slowly, for whatever reason, but your product pages load really fast and have a good experience. So your product pages or your key money pages can still do well, and aren’t brought down by other areas of your site that are performing poorly, which is really good. Like I would have thought it would be on a page by page basis, which would probably be better, but being segmented like this as certain sections of your site makes sense. I have to wonder if it might be more broad than that. Like, for example, if they find that blog post category pages in general, I’m not saying they are, but just as an example, if they are loading slowly, maybe they’ll see on all these other websites as the same issue. So generally speaking, a category page for a blog will be less effective for all sites just because of the nature of the type of page. I don’t know if they’ll apply. I’m kind of speculating here that they could do that like why wouldn’t they. Maybe product pages are going to have a different standard than category pages, they’ll have a different standard than, you know, whatever. So it’s interesting to see them segmenting like that, and good to know. I feel like you could develop some strategies there. Blog posts are less important. Really focus your energy on your product pages, or maybe your blog is more important, or maybe your top level category pages or products are more important. So you want those to rank so focus your efforts on improving those scores on those pages first, perhaps. A few ways you could use that.
Ross: Currently, this is not 100% new, I didn’t know that. But it’s only if Google has an update on your site. I gather that’s from, I don’t know, sort of a combination of other people’s page experiences on there. I don’t know. It seems to me like it’s kind of a way to assist you with the debugging of pages. But I don’t know, it’s interesting.
Scott: Well, I hope it’s newer than I thought it was because I hadn’t heard this before so I hope it’s not like,.. Well it can’t be that old because core web vitals hasn’t been around for that long. So it’s not like it’s 1998, I guess.
Ross: I’ve never heard of it so it can’t be that old. Either that or it’s not that useful. Maybe it just hasn’t really come to the top. I mean, if they give you the data about the page, you can easily figure it out yourself too. But this just might help break it down a bit, just good to hear.
Are your internal links in your header and footer treated differently? This is a question we’re going to answer when we get back from a quick break.
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.
Ross: Are internal links in the header and footer treated differently? Is this a Mueller file, I guess it is. It says they don’t really differentiate,… I’m taking all the wind out of your sails. You made all these nice notes, you go for it.
Scott: Oh boy, it’s a Scott show.
Ross: Well, I can just cut you off, then.
Ross: I’ve heard of this quite a bit. I swear I heard it recently and I couldn’t find it immediately in this moment when I searched but I did find the opposite content from Google. Now, granted, it was 2016. But I know I’ve seen it recently. Someone is talking about this. In any case, it was actually Mueller. They did talk about it and they said that Zeineb person from Google, said that the sitewide header and footer links are not a very great weight in general. The person’s French so that’s the translation. Yeah, it was answered in French. So I think there are two aspects here. On the one hand, this is the area of the page where you have your primary content, the content that is the page is actually about not the menu, the sidebar, the footer, the header, he was talking about the body of the page, then that is something that we do take into account. We do try to use those links. The other thing to keep in mind is you still need to make sure that within your site you have a clear linking structure. Actually, as I read this, he really doesn’t answer. When it comes down to it, as I’ve understood, because people tend to put a lot of stuff down, they’re hoping that they’re going to get some extra weight at it. Well, you know, how many times we’ve seen keywords added down there just to add keywords, that stuff is pretty easily ignored by Google. They definitely,…okay, I can’t use the word ‘definitely,’ because I’m not Google, trying to be careful these days. But it does seem as though what is in the footer is treated differently. It doesn’t mean that they don’t use that information to understand the website, which is kind of what he’s saying here. Even in the new one, the latest description, it is. It’s used to determine the site structures and a lot of stuff, but the weight that’s put on that content in terms of overall optimization and whether or not how well it ranks, I would expect, does have a little more, there’s a little more reluctance and skepticism about what content is down there. So I certainly don’t ever suggest clients consider heavily putting any weight on optimization down there. It should be in the body. That’s where that’s the bulk of the page, right. Perhaps I’m overthinking it, but that’s how I would look at it. Do you have anything to add there, Scott?
Scott: No, I agree completely.
Ross: Alright. Great. Well, we had a little late add there but I’m glad that we got something in because we’ve got to make our sponsors happy. By the way, we do accept sponsorship. It’s pretty cool. The sponsorship we have right now will allow you to get exposure within all of our older shows, so all 428. It goes back, you can actually be added into those. We have a lot of people who do go back and listen to our shows so thank you. I go back just to listen to John once in a while but other than that, it’s kind of dated content, but there’s certainly a lot there. Anyway, if you want to get some exposure for your business, it’s a great way to do it and if you do, reach out to me [email protected] and we can talk about some rates and make it worth your while. Thank you.
Well, on behalf of myself Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte, thank you for joining us today. Remember, we have a show notes newsletter you can sign up for at seo101radio.com where you don’t have to miss a single link and you can refresh your memory of a past episode at any time. Have a great weekend. Remember to tune in to future episodes, which air every week at WMR.FM.
Scott: Great thanks for listening, everyone.
- Page Experience Metrics Can be Split Into Sections
- Are Internal Links In Header and Footer Treated Differently?