Google has been busy this year with their usual tricks, Tweets and blog posts. They have undoubtedly kept the SEOs and digital marketers on their toes with their new updates. From releasing new updates for the Answer Box feature to discounting widget link building, you will have a lot to wrap your head around this season.
What’s the talk about link building by widgets?
If you have a blog, you may have already noticed how easy it is to build links automatically using widgets. Many marketers have used this easy SEO trick for months now. As of September 2016, Google announced their retake on their policy on low-grade keyword rich hidden links widgets generate and distribute across multiple sites.
Right now, SEOs are whispering about a possible penalty for sites that are still using links by widgets. As per Google’s blog, these are unnatural and are in violation of Google Webmaster Guidelines. The company’s webspam team may even take manual actions upon finding such links in websites and blogs. Bloggers are to use the rel=”nofollow” tag to the widget links or delete these links.
The new Penguin algorithms are currently not punishing websites using these links. Research from Saint Louis Services says Penguin is discounting these links. They are not contributing to site SEO as they used to.
Is featured snippets still a good idea?
Jennifer Slegg mentioned on TheSEMPost about a new update where Google was testing for the removal of organic results in case the Answer Box had the same URL. We have seen that the answer box generates about 8% CTR. It is “Rank 0” for most SEO teams. The organic first rank still garners about 19% CTR in the presence of the Answer Box.
Once Google removes the original URL, the “Rank 0” can only garner so many visitors. There is no advantage of dual listing in the SERP. Therefore, if you have your eyes set on the featured snippets section only, you may want to rethink your strategy. Improving your overall website SEO for higher page rankings is a much better option. SEO teams should be concerned since it is happening only in the US and not in the UK as of now.
The order of crawling
If you are maintaining a blog or a website for a long time, you should worry about your 404s. They may be taking up a part of your Google “crawl budget.” Studies show that Google initially skips the 404s as we assume. However, Google re-crawls the older 404s periodically. This comes after Google completes crawling the more recent and more relevant pages on the domain.
You should be able to fix your 404s. The recent results are showing that they do end up using a significant part of your crawl budget. Even if the bots are crawling the 404 pages last, they might be missing out on some of the good stuff that demands more attention. You should remove your 404s or manage them better to make sure your website is utilizing the crawl budget optimally. A significant number of 404s are deleterious for your SEO even now, although in an entirely different manner.
Release of mobile first index by Google
John Mueller said that Google has decided to release its mobile first index periodically. This will be on a site-by-site basis. It is more concrete as compared to the mobile-friendly update. Therefore, you will be able to see the more prominent changes if you are in touch with your website metrics.
To be safe, make sure your site is mobile-friendly. This means, stay responsive and stay on AMP. AMP is not as widespread as the responsive revolution. However, it is necessary for nascent blogs and websites to remain on Google’s good side. AMP is a sure way to stay on top of SRLs and garner higher CTRs as of now.
What is Project OWL?
Google announced their most recent quality improvements for global search. They called it “Project Owl.” This aims at removing fake news, unscrupulous websites, and websites with low-quality backlinks and sites without HTTPS. So make sure, your website has good link juice flowing. Try to publish and republish your content without the same canonical tags. Ensure that you have all your SEO edits ready before Google implements this update globally.
It is also going to address Google’s forever after a struggle with autocomplete. This is a volume-based struggle. Finally, Google is taking the initiative to remove all possible offensive suggestions from the prediction and autocomplete options in Google Search.
Users can now give their feedback on the featured snippets Google algorithm generates against their query. This is quite useful since it was in its beta version. Users can also add their comments and suggestions to improve the answer box contents.
In the same blog, they also mentioned about their intentions of featuring more authoritative content in these answer boxes. Project Owl is going to be more user oriented. Google is famous for prioritizing the users rather than the marketers, and notoriously so.
You may be a giant, but you are not safe
Very recently, the retail giant, Amazon had to face about 7% loss in rankings. This meant a drastic loss in inbound traffic a lost millions worth in sales. During this time, eBay had a gala time. Although it is unknown, if this was a result of a Project Owl test run or the implementation of another new secret update.It was blatantly apparent that you might be the biggest company on the web, you are still not safe from Google’s whimsies.
Search engine optimization is solely dependent on the eccentricities of the search engine your target users prefer. If your users are among the 65% of the market who are still in love with Google, you need to stay in touch with the small yet significant updates Google rolls out that can change the sales graph of your website and company.