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Technical SEO Roundup July 2018

10 Aug 2018 24 Mins

After a rather dry round of updates in June, it could be said that the digital world has been flooded with interesting insights, updates, and features for us to discover and use in July. Take a read through our July 2018 update for some of the most important updates from Google, Bing, and Yandex.

Google News

Introducing Speakable Markup for Voice Search

Writing on the Google Webmaster Central Blog on 24 July, Google announced that it has announced a new markup for news publishers that want to get their content onto Google Assistant and Google Home Devices.

Currently in Beta, the new markup, named speakable, allows publishers to markup sections of an article that are most relevant to users so that they can be read aloud by Google Assistant and other devices.

Currently only available for English language users in the US, Google hopes to launch the capability in other languages and countries when it feels that a sufficient number of publishers have implemented the markup.

Speakable can also be found on schema.org, which states that the markup, "indicates sections of a Web page that are particularly 'speakable' in the sense of being highlighted as being especially appropriate for text-to-speech conversion."

If your site appears in Google News and you want to utilise speakable content, Google has indicated that there are a number of technical and content guidelines that must be followed.

Technical guidelines include:

  • Don't add speakable structured data to content that may sound confusing in voice-only and voice-forward situations, like datelines (location where the story was reported), photo captions, or source attributions.
  • Rather than highlighting an entire article with speakable structured data, focus on key points. This allows listeners to get an idea of the story and not have the TTS readout cut off important details.

Content guidelines include:

  • Content indicated by speakable structured data should have concise headlines and/or summaries that provide users with comprehensible and useful information.
  • If you include the top of the story in speakable structured data, we suggest that you rewrite the top of the story to break up information into individual sentences so that it reads more clearly for TTS.
  • For optimal audio user experiences, we recommend around 20-30 seconds of content per section of speakable structured data, or roughly two to three sentences.

InfoAction Points

Follow Google's guidelines on the markup to ensure that it is included for news results.

Events Rich Snippets Update

On 26 July, Google announced the latest batch of updates for events in Rich Snippet, allowing for more personal results and detailed information about events within search results.

This now means that if a user searches for an event and taps on it, they will be shown important information such as ticket cost, venue reviews, show time, and location.

This information can then be saved, shared, and revisited later, or the user can buy the tickets from approved vendors.

Searches that involve terms like "events near me" of "free concert" will return a list from a variety of sites.

A "For You" tab also delivers events based on a user's personal interests and includes categories such as running, cooking, and photography.

InfoAction Points

Google has provided the tools for organisers to markup their event listings.

AMP Stories Upgraded for Monetisation

After the release of Amp Stories back in February, Version 1.0 has now been released to all developers - forsaking the need for whitelisting.

Google has been pushing AMP for some time now, and the new updates, which includes the ability for monetisation, help to show us why.

A new beta has been made available for publishers using Doubleclick for Publishers ("DFP"), which is soon to be called Google Ad Manager, and will serve ads within AMP stories.

The ads themselves, which include "shop now" call to actions, will be served from DFP. You can read more about that on amp by example.

New metadata attributes have also been introduced for surfacing stories and allow a preview of stories across the ecosystem. Bookend capabilities have also been reworked with new options, including text boxes, and both portrait and landscape orientated cards.

The AMP team has promised a range of features that are to be added in the future, including paywalls, responsive scaling, and a greater amount of clickable elements. You can view the full roadmap.

If you are interested in testing and contributing to the open source project, check out the AMP Project Github.

InfoAction Points

In order to take advantage of the new features, you must upgrade your existing stories to v1.0 using AMP's migration guide.

Google Search Console - Row Limit Increase

For those who use Search Console Analytics API, you might have noticed that Google has recently increased the maximum rows returned from 5,000 to 25,000.

Announcing the change via Twitter on 13 July, the search engine has also put together a guide for retrieving important and extensive amounts of website data.

Search analytics data can be queried quickly without exceeding your quota by running a daily query for one day's worth of data, although it does mean an increased payload.

Ensure that you choose the right kind of information you want, which search types you want to look at, and which dimensions, as well as whether you want to group results by page or by property.

InfoAction Points

Test out and enjoy the increased rows by reading through the new guide.

Chrome Developer Tools - Set Geolocation for Regional Results

Writing on Twitter on 8 July, Aleyda Solis offered shared a new feature of Chrome Developer Tools regarding geo-location in Chrome Developer Tools. This seems to have been a feature that has missed many digital marketers, as William Koehrsen wrote about Controlling your Location in Google Chrome almost one year prior.

By using the "Sensors" function, developers have the ability to test regional based search results by inputting preset locations or use latitude/longitude for a specific point around the world. This works well for quick testing, but a Virtual Private Network should be used for geolocation when data mining at scale.

InfoAction Points

If you want to do this yourself, simply open the main menu in Developer Tools, find "More Tools" and then click on "Sensors". Enable the emulation by selecting the "geolocation coordinates" checkbox in the sensors pane of the emulation drawer. Remember that if your app detects sensor onload using JavaScript, you need to make sure that you reload the page after enabling sensor emulators.

Validating Markup

The issue of invalid markup sprang up early in July, after Gary Illyes tweeted about it in late June:

Of course, Google does not mind invalid HTML per se, but it can lead to negative outcomes and Google's support pages encourage the use of valid HTML and so do we! Web browsers have become extremely resilient to coding errors, however, we often come across scenarios where some of the best HTML parsers, such as libxml2 get caught out from people forgetting to close an attribute value. Most commonly like this:

<a href="https://example.com/widgets></a>

When looping through an array of items, the HTML code issue becomes compounded. In the following example, a closing </li> is missing (10 times).

<% (1..10).each do |number| %>
  <ul>
    <li><a href="https://example.com/<%= #{number} %>"><%= number %></a>
    </ul>
<% end %>

InfoAction Points

Any member of the team who is writing content or template should pass their work through a HTML validator first. Not all "warnings" are relevant, but "errors" are. Write valid HTML markup throughout pages so that you can ensure efficient crawl rates and better experience for users across devices.

Speed Update Rolls Out

On the morning of 9 July Google began rolling out its speed update, which the company first announced back in January.

Upon rollout however, there was some confusion, as in a Webmaster Hangout recorded in June, John Mueller said, "the faster you can make your pages the more we can take that into account. And it's not so much that it's like it's too slow or it's faster."

This seems to contradict Google's original post however, as the company said that the update will, "only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users."

When questioned on Twitter about the matter, John gave the following reply:

This pretty much confirms therefore, that if your site is already fast, the new rollout will not change anything for you, so making it even faster will not benefit you in the SERPs.

What is pretty interesting however, is the fact that Google PageSpeed Insights now tells you how fast your site is as a whole, showing you the aggregated page speed data.

InfoAction Points

Discover speed data across your domain name by searching using

origin:https://example.com

Or by performing a query for any domain in that format, Google will provide a link to see sitewide data. Search Engine Roundtable found the initial tweet by @DanNutter.

GMB Offers Notifications When New Listings go Live

In early July a Google representative announced that Google My Business ("GMB") will now be sending notifications when new listings go live.

Bulk verification accounts shall not receive the notifications however, and users will only receive them if their business accounts are fewer than 100 listings.

It's also worth noting that for now at least, the notifications will only be sent if a user's language preferences are set to US English.

InfoAction Points

You can confirm the real-time status of a listing by clicking the direct link on the "Your business is on Google" card if you are legible.

Google Insights Shows Queries Used to Find Businesses

Writing on his blog on 2 July, Mike Blumenthal noted that Google My Business had added a new My Business feature entitled, "Queries used to find your business".

According to Google the feature shows the "most popular queries for your business by unique users", which offers a great opportunity for local businesses to help discover how they are being sought online.

At the moment, the queries are only being shown for one month and one week, but this might change as the feature develops.

InfoAction Points

Take a look at the new feature and investigate how people are searching for your company. If possible, it might be worth developing the results into a content strategy so that other users can search for and locate your business.

Search Quality Guidelines Updated

After just over a year without change, Google's Search Quality Rater Guidelines have been once again updated in a brand new version.

Like before, Google's quality raters are unable to impact your site in the SERPs, but Google still uses the ratings to ensure that it offers users the best search results possible.

Some of the changes include:

  • The section on "Website Reputation" has been renamed to "Reputation of the website or Creator of the Main Content."
  • The subsection of this has been changed from "Reputation Research" to "Research on the Reputation of the Website or Creator of the Main Content."
  • The Low Quality section has been expanded alongside the Lowest Quality section. Additional Subsections have been added including "Reputation of the Creator of the Content."
  • The concept of "beneficial purpose" has been added so that raters consider whether a page has a beneficial purpose to a site.
  • A new emphasis on titles has been added, especially ones that might be perceived as being created for clickbait.

As you can see, the biggest change is that raters will now be tasked with investigating the reputation of the content creator, which will put more importance on author information and bias on articles, especially where bylines are not being used.

InfoAction Points

Remember that raters don't impact your site directly, but they do have input on algorithms, so the changes are still worth paying attention to.

You can read a full evaluation of the changes by Jennifer Slegg.

Google Rolls Out HTTP Not Secure

Google has been pushing for a more secure web for a long time and first started warning site owners just under two years ago that it would soon mark all HTTP sites as not secure, not just pages that collected passwords and credit cards.

Encrypting your website is important so that people are not able to view information between the user and your site. With HTTPS, eavesdroppers are locked out and any security or financial information cannot be viewed.

Google reports that 72% of Chrome traffic on Android is now protected, alongside 85% of traffic on ChromeOS.

InfoAction Points

Google has been making it easy for site owners to encrypt their sites, and if you haven't already done so, you can use Let&#39;s Encrypt, which is a free Certificate Authority.

Image Referral Update

On 17 July Google stated on the Webmaster Blog that it will soon be rolling out an image referral URL that is specific to Google Images.

The referral URL will be part of the HTTP header and will indicate the last page a user was on and where they clicked to visit the destination webpage.

If you create tracking software, it's important that you are aware and prepared for the change so that you can attribute the traffic to Google images.

The new referral URL is: https://images.google.com

For those that tack site data using Google Analytics, the new referral URL will be automatically ingested.

Google has made the point that the change will not affect Search Console and it's important to note that the new referral URL will have the same ccTLD as the URL used for searching Google Images.

InfoAction Points

Optimise your images appropriately so that you can reap the rewards from image traffic and analyse the new information to see if you can make changes to better utilise your site's images.

Search Console Updates Revealed

Tweeting on 4 July, JR Oakes noted that he had found a list of upcoming updates for Google Search Console within JavaScript code.

The resulting spreadsheet gives us a really good insight into the upcoming roadmap, and it is well worth a look inside.

InfoAction Points

An insight to the roadmap is available on Google Sheets. No action required.

Broad Update Released

Google Search Liaison tweeted on 1 August, stating that Google had released a broad core algorithm update just a week earlier.

The search engine also reminded site owners that there was no "fix" if their site happened to be hit by the update, so it's worth remembering that Google releases broad core updates multiple times a year, which means that extensive and constant improvement should be the objective.

It also said that sites that lost rankings did not lose them because of apparent poor quality, but that the search engine was improving how it matches search results to relevant queries.

InfoAction Points

Read Google Search Liaison's series of tweets in March to fully understand what happens in a broad core update.

Work at improving site speed and basic attributes such as great content. Danny Sullivan went into some detail in this thread.

Hotel Price Insights Tested

Reshav Singh reported on Twitter that Google has been testing a new card design and layout for hotel search results, with the new look being much more compact and modular.

Sergey Alakov posted on his block that Google is also testing a new price insights feature with hotel search results by showing users whether or not a particular hotel is offering them a good deal.

It seems that Google looks at the price for a specific hotel on particular dates or when the booking was made, and compares this information to hotels nearby.

When a person clicks on a hotel with the feature, they can see where they could get better deals, and information on what's nearby for a cheaper price.

A user can also see the hotel they're looking at compared to similar hotels by date so that price comparisons can be viewed throughout the seasons.

The best time to book a room is also shown, alongside a price evaluation based on prices per night.

InfoAction Points

If your business is within the travel sector, make sure your prices and information are fully up to date so that Google is able to offer accurate information to users. This is yet another effort by Google to almost own the full end-to-end user experience for travelling.

Bing News

New Code Sampling Feature

Midway through July Bing announced that it was offering developers sample code snippets.

The feature, named Code Sample Answer, aims to make things both quicker and easier for those writing code, but is it wise to be either in this case?

Bing's blog suggests trying the sample query "convert case using a function in R" to see the new feature.

If you were to do so, the first non-sponsored result you will find would be from Stackoverflow, which links to an appropriate question and answer.

The is also a code sample provided underneath the search result:

According to the blog: "The natural language processing pipeline of Bing accomplishes this by converting the query to equivalent 'coding query key-phrase'. Bing’s language agnostic code understanding engine then ensures the results correctly reflect the intent based on holistic query understanding rather than on simple, individual keyword matches."

But it is important to ask just where Bing pulls the code from. According to the search engine it gets it only from trusted sites, such as the aforementioned Stackoverflow.

Furthermore, Bing reminds us that the feature is still in development, so if you want to offer some input, you can do so.

InfoAction Points

It's definitely an interesting experiment, but we advise waiting on this and only using code that you trust and understand.

It's worth remembering that developers shouldn't aimlessly copy and paste code without understanding what they're doing so that they do not introduce bugs.

This may be useful for common patterns, but very dangerous for more complex scenarios. The code snippet might miss out key information too when supplied out of context. It's important to always read the necessary programming language documentation.

Ads Given Security Badge Annotations

Advertisers on Bing now have the ability to add a new type of security annotation to identify to users that their site is secure.

If you are in the US, and your site happens to be secured by a third-party ant-ivirus provider, your ads might be offered the new feature, as no action is required from advertisers in order for them to appear.

According to Bing: "When your website is secured by a third-party anti-virus provider, like Norton or McAfee, it increases customers' confidence in your website. This added level of trust will also help to increase clicks and higher reliability for customers."

It's worth noting however, that although all advertisers are eligible for ad annotations, the annotations themselves are not always guaranteed to show in ads.

InfoAction Points

Gaining user trust is always great for business, and Bing is offering a very easy way for advertisers to gain more leverage in the search engine.

JSON-LD Now Supported in Bing Webmaster Tools

After much anticipation, on 30 July Bing announced that it had launched JSON-LD support in Bing Webmaster Tools.

Users now have the ability to validate their JSON-LD implementation found in the Markup Validator Tool within the Diagnostics and Tools section.

The Markup Validator now supports no less than six markup languages, including Schema.org, HTML Microdata, Microformats, Open Graph and RDFa.

Google has supported JSON-LD for a long time and this marks the first official tool Bing has launched to verify it.

InfoAction Points

Double check for important markup on your most important pages in Bing; if your JSON-LD verifies in Google's validator then it should also validate in Bing, but it is always worth checking.

Bing Webmaster Tools API Issues resolved

Late in July the Bing team noted that they had been receiving reports that Bing's Webmaster Tools' APIs were failing on an intermittent basis.

The team stated that it carried out an investigation and was able to discover a glitch that led to an unfortunate API call failure.

InfoAction Points

None, although it would be helpful if the team were to give more information, such as some sort of post mortem.

Yandex News

Roadmap for redevelopment

On the second week of July Yandex publicly revealed its plans for Turbo Pages until the end of the summer, continuing its already impressive campaign for the format.

Writing in its blog, the search engine said that it will add a range of new content formats, including:

  • A gallery of media content with a slider.
  • The ability to view a larger image by clicking.
  • Block rating.
  • Support for embedded content from Yandex.Maps and Yandex.Music.
  • Cards of goods for online music stores.

What's more, it wants Turbo Pages to be easier to navigate and plans to add:

  • Content blocks and anchor links.
  • A sidebar, which will take the form of a new content block.
  • A form of search, whether onsite or with transfer of inquiry from search engines.
  • Additional types of content block designs.
  • Displays for new pages in the Turbo format when a user clicks on links from another Turbo Page.

Yandex will also be adding even more statistics to the metric, alongside the ability to use goals and urges users to notify the team if there is something missing.

InfoAction Points

Keep an eye for the new developments over the next two months or so and use them to your advantage once they are in place.

Adding Your Business to Yandex

Towards the end of July Yandex uploaded a video offering help for webmasters who still haven't added their organisation to the Yandex.help directory.

The video is of course in Russian, but if you turn on the subtitles, and then set them to English in "settings" just below the video, YouTube does a fairly good job at translating it.

InfoAction Points

Businesses that operate in Russian territories should add their brick and mortar businesses to the Yandex directory. This will allow geographical based services, such as maps, transportation to use your official store address(es) for start and end destinations.

Image Answers Added to Alice

Yandex has been adding a lot of functionality to Alice over the past few months. On the 23 July, Yandex announced the personal assistant can reply to answers with image cards or a list of small images, as seen below:

Yandex Alice - Image Answers

InfoAction Points

Read the Yandex documentation for more details on uploading images to the Skills Response.

Yandex Adds Guidelines for Building Skills

Throughout July Yandex launched certifications for agencies and web studios for the Yandex.Dialog platform and also offered a series of basic recommendations for creating skills.

In order to help webmasters make the best use of both, the search engine also published a series of guidelines for building skills, which you can find, here.

InfoAction Points

Read the skills list and implement skills that are relevant to your business.

Additional Reads

New Features in Chrome Beta 69

Chrome 69 went beta on August 2 and the Chromium Blog offers a good insight into changes and upgrades, including CSS tricks, scroll snap positions, and display cutouts.

Is The Link Disavow Effective?

Dejan Marketing published an interesting study on whether the link disavow tool is as effective as it is made out, with some interesting results.

Thin Content

We constantly hear about "thin content" and long-read articles, but Google has reaffirmed that a long word count doesn't necessarily indicate a high quality piece of content. As always, relevancy matters. Read more here.

Using Redirects Affects Quality Score (PPC)

If you have recently undergone a URL structure change, or have made the move to HTTPS, it's worth remembering to fix the destination URLs in your Google AdWords ads. This is because using redirects can impact your quality score, as discussed, here.

Press Releases Hold No Link Value

For those with outreach teams, it's worth noting that in a Google Hangout John Mueller said that Google's algorithms ignore links within press releases. He also confirms that although press release links won't hurt you, neither will they damage you.

No More Public URL Submission

Google has stated that it is to stop supporting public URL submissions to its search index. Take a look in Search Console Support for more details.

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