Candour

Episode 127: SEO resources, tools, guides and a dive into duplicate links

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What's in this episode?

In this episode, you will hear Mark Williams-Cook talking about:

SEO resources, tools, guides: Some useful tools and guides to help you with Google's title rewrites, javascript indexing and local SEO.

Duplicate links: Majestic is upping its game by introducing new duplicate link analysis.

Show notes

How to Master Local Keyword Research https://www.brightlocal.com/blog/new-academy-course-how-to-master-local-keyword-research/

Title summary gist - Fede Gomez https://gist.github.com/fedegomez/7b4601e2cc9491e004189e9a23dd35b1

Majestic Duplicate Link detection https://blog.majestic.com/company/introducing-duplicate-link-detection/

Transcription

MC: Okay, welcome to episode 127 of the Search with Candour podcast, recorded on Friday, the 3rd of September 2021. My name is Mark Williams-Cook. And today, we're going to be talking about some SEO resources in terms of courses, articles, and tools in relation to recent news that's come out about SEO, some of Google's title tag changes, all the things you need to handle these kinds of changes. We're also going to be talking about duplicate link detection and a new feature of the Majestic tool, which is looking really interesting in terms of backlink research and why it's still one of my favourite tools.

Before that, I am proud to tell you this podcast is very kindly sponsored by the lovely people at Sitebulb. Sitebulb, if you haven't heard of it, is a desktop-based SEO auditing tool for Windows and Mac, and maybe one day Linux, we never know. If you haven't heard of it, it's a tool we've used in our agency for years now. It's absolutely fantastic. It does kind of like what your traditional SEO crawlers do, but it gives you all of the issues it thinks it's found. It categorises them. It prioritises them for you. There are related help sections that Sitebulb have written, which are really in detail, like almost SEO course in the detail of the issues they cover. And they give you different ways to communicate this.

So you can export stuff to Excel. You can put it straight into Google Sheets, into PDFs. It's an absolutely brilliant tool. They've got a free trial on their website, but if you're listening to this podcast, you can go to sitebulb.com/swc, and you can get an extended 60-day trial of their software. So it's two months, no credit card is required. So you've got a totally obligation-free test to see if you like it. If you haven't tried it before, strongly recommend you do. It is an excellent tool. That all said, let's get on with this week's episode.

I promised tools and resources and that's what we're going to jump straight into. This is something I've shared with quite a few people this week and I'm surprised not as many people as I had expected had stumbled across it or been shared it before, which is a really cool JavaScript bookmarklet by fedegomez. And what it does is when you do a Google search, you can click on this bookmarklet and it will pull through the page title that was actually specified by the webmaster, by the page, and underlay it in red against the title that Google is showing in its search results.

So what is this for? As we know, we've covered it in the last couple of episodes, Google has been changing out title tags way more aggressively than they ever have done before. And what this tool allows you to do is on any search term, instantly compare the webmaster editor, the writer's specified title, versus the one Google is showing. So it's a really quick way to firstly see if Google has changed anything, but it's also really nice to start building up an idea of how Google is changing these titles. So when I shared this, I immediately got feedback from people that have been discussed in the SEO community, but these people just immediately picked up. Which was, "Oh, I noticed that Google is putting the brand name a lot in the title." And it's quite interesting just being able to learn these patterns because you're exposed to them time and time again with this kind of bookmarklet.

It's a similar thing to if you have something like Keywords Everywhere installed. Because I'm seeing search volumes for everything I type in day in, day out, I actually get pretty good at just estimating what a search volume might be, based on things I've seen before. And I think that's a good thing to kind of expose yourself to constantly, which is just how Google is trying to change these title tags. So it's on GitHub. It's a GitHub Gist. And I will post a link to it in our show notes.

So if you go to a search.withcandour.co.uk, this will take you to all of our podcast transcripts. And at the top of each transcript, you'll find a list of links to key things we've talked about in this episode. So you can just jump straight in. You don't have to dig through the transcription. You can just find the links. And the people normally that we've spoken about too will be linked up at the top there. Of course, if you do prefer reading it, we do go to the time and effort of putting transcriptions of every single episode. There's normally a few days lag between when the podcast goes live on a Monday and when the transcription's live, which is usually later in the week. But if you do prefer reading them, they will be there and live.

So if you check out this GitHub link, if you don't use GitHub, it may seem a little bit frightening when you first get there. And you're kind of wondering what on earth you're meant to do with this JavaScript code. But it's actually really simple if you're using something like Chrome. All you actually have to do is drag where you see the code onto your bookmarks bar, and this will give you a new little bookmark icon. Then you can go to Google, do your search. And all you have to do is click on that bookmarklet. It will execute that JavaScript and do everything for you. So it's actually really simple.

I kind of prefer this to some of the, shall we say, less known SEO extensions, because there is always a concern that if you're giving these permissions to SEO extensions, they can essentially see everything you can see in your browser. So I sometimes have some worries about installing extensions just kind of from random people. You don't have that issue when you're using these kinds of bookmarklets. So I think it's a really nice elegant little solution for what is quite a simple thing. So, as I say, the link will be there in the show notes search.withcandour.co.uk.

The next thing I want to present to you as a resource is actually a course. And it's a free course, which is the best kind of course, in my opinion. And it's a brilliant course on local search by Claire Carlisle. So anyone in the SEO community probably will have heard of Claire before. She has built herself quite a reputation for being an expert in local search. And she has just released a new course on BrightLocal Academy called How to Master Local Keyword Research. So I'll just read you the excerpt about the course so you can see if it's for you.

And it says, "This highly practical course has been created in collaboration with local search expert, Claire Carlisle. Newcomers to local keyword research can use this course as a step-by-step guide, while industry veterans will find a wealth of new techniques and tools to take their skills to the next level." So this course does, this isn't just for brand new people. If you have been working in local search for a while, this could well be worth you looking at as well.

So there are nine sections to this course, which roughly cover how to write a seed keyword list, how to expand that keyword list using free tools, how to create a comprehensive keyword profile, and then bucket your keywords and prioritise them. This is what Claire has to say about the course. "I've always found keyword research to be a fascinating process of discovery. And I loved the opportunity to take a deep dive into the art and science of putting together a keyword list for local business." By the end of this course, you will have assembled a solid list of keywords. You'll have mapped those keywords against user intent and the marketing funnel. You'll have prioritised your list and you'll be ready to go about optimising your existing content and putting together new content to plug your content gaps.

As you can probably imagine, the link to this course will be in our show notes, search.withcandour.co.uk. And if you haven't already, if you're on Twitter, I highly recommend you connect with Claire, who's @clairecarlile, again, linked in the show notes. She's a really good, helpful person to be in contact with if you are working on local campaigns.

The last resource I want to offer you is kind of in response to an article that I found on the Search Engine Roundtable, which was entitled Google: Prerendering With GoogleBot You Don't Need All Your Site's Functionality To Work. And this was based on a question from Twitter that Martin Splitt answered. Well, it's two questions, actually. The first one was, when prerendering for GoogleBot, does all site functionality need to work as it would for a user? Does add to cart need to actually add to cart? Does the mobile menu need to open when clicked on? And Martin's answer to this, as you would expect, is not for Google search. And of course, completely agree with that. Understand it, as I'm sure you do. We don't need GoogleBot to be able to add things to the cart.

The second question was testing and the content is in the DOM, but does not "work" when you go to open the hamburger menu, for instance, on the pre-rendered version. Some things like "read more" and dropdowns do not work. Will this be an issue for indexing and/or ranking. And Martin Splitt has just answered no. Now, I'm sure, of course, that's correct. There are not going to be any issues with indexing pages if they have internal links to them. They're going to be discovered. And there's not going to be any issues stopping them from ranking.

From working with many developers over many years, I foresee that this tweet is probably going to be not taken out of context, but maybe the nuance ignored in some internal development decisions. So as we know, and I don't think any SEO would disagree with this, things like internal links are super important to letting search engines' users understand what following pages are about. So really happy when we can use internal anchor text that's great, and crosslink between articles outside of main menu structures, things like this. Now, obviously, this is kind of what this is referencing as well. So some things like read more could quite easily be read or understood or interpreted as if we need JavaScripts or the pre-rendered version to make those links appear and they don't really work otherwise. That's fine.

Now, if it's going to result in an objective loss to the fidelity of the internal linking across the site, I would argue, well, yes, it doesn't create any problems with indexing and "ranking". However, you want to define that. I would say it's definitely not optimal. And obviously, SEO is about making the site optimised for search. JavaScript and crawling, indexing, rendering is probably, I think, one of the most complicated subjects for SEO. And this is why I wanted to recommend this resource which, funnily enough, is actually by Sitebulb. And it's called How to Crawl JavaScript Websites. Again, a link will go in the show notes at search.withcandour.co.uk. And it talks about how Google handles rendering, how Sitebulb handles rendering, side effects of crawling with JavaScript, how to detect JavaScript websites, how to detect JavaScript dependence, and a whole load of other further reading links.

So I would have this in my arsenal for if I was working with and trying to maybe educate developers that haven't dealt maybe with Google and JavaScript issues before because it's a really great resource. And it will hopefully open up some helpful discussions that it's not as simple as just saying these bits of the site don't need to work. Because, in my experience, the sites that do work harder making all this JavaScript stuff not be a reliance do tend to rank better and just has fewer issues. We know Google is improving every single year on the execution rendering and how long it takes to get the JavaScript done. But especially if you're serving up content, especially for GoogleBot, it can cause issues if you are missing bits of your site, in my experience. Either way, it's a good idea to have a look at this resource. They've spent a lot of time on it. And in my opinion, it's one of the best articles on crawling and JavaScript. So check it out. Links in the show notes, search.withcandour.co.uk.

We're at the midpoint in the show. So I want to give you an update from our podcast sponsor, Wix. You can now customise your structured data markup on Wix sites even more than before. Here are some of the new features brought to you by the Wix SEO team. Add multiple markups to pages. Create the perfect dynamic, structured data markup and apply it to all pages of the same type by adding custom markups from your favourite schema generator tools, or modify templates by choosing from an extensive list of variables. Easily switch between article subtype presets in blog posts, and add a quick link for structured data validation in Google's Rich Results Test tool. Plus, all this is on top of the default settings Wix automatically adds to dynamic pages like a product, event, forum posts, and more.

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Let's talk about duplicate link detection because there is a specific update to one of my favourite link tools, which is Majestic. Majestic, to me, is kind of, I guess, one of the original link tools and I think is maybe not as popular as it used to be, now there are some big competitors like Ahrefs and I know Semrush has just revamped their backlink database. So the competition's hot. But I've always kept my subscription to Majestic because I particularly like the trust metrics they use. I find they are one of the better metrics in terms of correlation to how important links are. Their index has always been brilliant in terms of size and the types of links they're returning. And they really are quietly working away on some really interesting things with their tool and their data. They're not sitting on their hands.

So this latest feature they've added is around duplicate link detection. And this is part of a bigger project Majestic is undergoing, which is looking at the fidelity of their backlink data. So the web has grown massively over the last decade and there's a lot more noise in backlink data. And that's certainly visible now in terms of you can't just look at the number of links a site has and expect this to really be in any particular way correlated to how well it's ranking. And especially when we come onto this duplicate link subject. And trying to pick out what are the important bits of link data and which are the good links and trying to sift through that noise is quite time-consuming. So I'm just going to read you a little bit of the announcement to make sense of what this new feature is and why it's important, which starts on what is duplicate link detection.

So this is from the Majestic blog again, which we'll link to in our show notes. "This release marks the next stage of our 2021 Backlinks Fidelity Project, which aims to provide better clarity and focus our index on providing high fidelity backlinks data. We've added labels to backlink data from the Fresh Index in Site Explorer, which shows if a link is similar to others on the same site. Duplicate link detection works at the source domain level. The algorithm behind this is complex but can be summarised as follows. It analyses all the backlinks from that source domain to a given URL on a different domain. This analysis assigns a duplicate status at the link level to backlink data." And then there's six different labels they can apply, which are distinct. And that's defined as either a unique backlink or the most notable link from a set of duplicates on a site.

There is a notable duplicate, which is a link that appears to be a copy of another link from the same site but is on a page that transfers Trust Flow and Citation Flow. Trust Flow and Citation Flow are Majestic's own compound metrics for measuring link importance. Then there's a redirect. The link has been redirected by an intermediary and hence the duplicate nature is uncertain. Pending classification. The link analysis process takes longer than the Fresh Index takes to build so there may be a number of links that are yet to be classified. Cannot be Classified, which is the algorithms haven't been able to classify the link, of course. And non-notable duplicate, which is this link appears to be the same as a higher-ranked link on the same site in a different location. It carries insufficient link equity to be considered notable.

And then they go on to say, "We've spent time tuning duplicate analysis, and now feel the results are ready to share with you. The link analysis appears to spot distinct and notable links effectively over various sizes of websites. The link-level analysis is so sharp it can identify the difference between a distinct link and a notable duplicate link on the same webpage. The complete breakdown of how many external inbound links have been placed in each category can be found in the Backlinks Breakdown section of Site Explorer summary for any domain, URL or subdomain search."

And I just want to read you this last bit on their blog, which is entitled Better than Sitewide, because this really gets into the, or gives you an overview of how they've got into the long grass about this subject and why it's maybe not as simple as it appears on the surface. And they say, "One of the most familiar forms of duplicate links in SEO are sitewide external links. Many SEOs will recognise and understand the term sitewide link without a second thought. However, like so many challenges in link analysis, the nature of a sitewide link becomes complex when subjected to scrutiny. The typical definition of a sitewide link is one that appears all over a website, normally in the navigation elements of web pages; sidebar, header or footer. Some may go further and suggest that a sitewide link appears on all pages of a website. Let's think about that a little bit.

If a site has 10,000 pages, 9,999 of which have a sitewide link and one page omits it, is it still a sitewide link? Of course, it is. If the same site has a few pages added, so rather than one page, there are now 100 pages without a sitewide link, is the link still sitewide? Most would probably err on the side of agreement that a site with 10,099 pages of which 9,999 had the same link is a sitewide link. You can probably see where we're going.

If you subject the concept of a sitewide link to scrutiny, then there is an implied threshold. Some level at which you can potentially have lots and lots of links from a site pointing somewhere but all these duplicates don't qualify as sitewide. This then begs the question. How many links must link out from a site to qualify them as sitewide? 100? 1000? Or 50%? 51%? 99%? We weren't happy assuming we knew the right threshold for sitewide detection needed to be. Our conclusion was," can you guess it? "It depends. We believe duplicate link detection leapfrogs sitewide analysis. Regardless of whether a duplicate link is detected on 20 pages or 200 pages, we feel it is worth flagging as such."

And I think it's a really important thing they've brought up here and applying this to their kind of link indexes is a really quick way at actually reviewing the distinct important links that your sites, that competitor sites have. They've also got a little section at the end, which is Things to be aware of. The blog post goes into detail about how you can find and export this data, which I won't go through. Obviously, if you're using the tool, that's where you want to read.

So things to be aware of. "We've tried to cover the key takeaways. However, in the interests of completeness, here are a few more details. We plan to add filtering options to the backlink and link context reports for duplicate link types in due course." Number two. "Initially the duplicate classification will only be available via the interface and new style full export." Number three. "We are not planning to offer the link duplication analysis in the API in the near future." Number four. "Noise reduction will be a link-level operation. Referring domain counts and Flow Metric scores are highly unlikely to be impacted as a direct result."

Number five. "Eventually reducing the number of data rows in our index provides the opportunity for us to store more data. We want to then use that to expand the window of the Fresh Index beyond the current four-month window. Doing huge volumes of calculations is hard. Duplicate link analysis is performed by algorithms with little or no human involvement. We're delighted with the results of this project, but please do ensure you perform your own checks prior to placing reliance on heuristically generated data."

So that duplicate link analysis is available in Majestic's Site Explorer as of now. So if you've got the tool, you haven't looked at it, go do that. You can find it. I really like it because one of the things I do when we're, for instance, onboarding a new client, we're doing competitor research, and we're trying to work out on the kind of link side where we sit, that immediate ratio I look at is how many links do these competitor sites have and how many domains are they from?

So even if you've got sites where they've got 200,000 links, but then that's only coming from 200 domains, that, to me, is a lot less worrying than a site maybe with 50,000 links, but they come from 15,000 different domains. So that's something that SEOs hopefully already look at in terms of trying to work out how competitive an area is and what kind of output you're going to need, what kind of coverage, what kind of links you're going to need to bring yourself on an equal footing. And I think this tool is going to give a competitive advantage to people trying to do that. So do check it out. If you haven't used Majestic before, I definitely recommend it as a tool to add to your tool set, as I said, whether you're using something like Semrush or SISTRIX, we've talked about Before, or Ahrefs. Majestic, to me, does sit on equal footing and in some places stronger than these other tools.

And that is the end of episode number 127. I was actually thinking this week, every time I record a new episode, I have to put in which season we're on and we're still kind of on season one, even though we're on episode 127. I never really planned for seasons. However, there is something coming in terms of I'm going to change the format of this podcast soon, hopefully for the better, and that will mark, I guess, where our season two starts. So we might have a short break while we just test that out and run it. But I will class that at whatever random hundred number we're at as a nice point to break into season two. So I hope you enjoyed this episode. Do subscribe if you haven't already, tell a friend, all that lovely stuff. And I hope that you'll join me in a week's time, which will be Monday the 13th of September. Have a great week.

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