Candour

Episode 130: Title updates, Cloudflare signed exchanges and new Google Ads transparency and ad types

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What's in this episode?

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

Title updates: Google has made some amends to title element generation in SERPs as well as details on specific use-cases.

Cloudflare signed exchanges: Cloudflare has launched one-click SXG allowing webmasters to improve performance.

Google Ads updates: New advertiser pages and attractions ads for ticket sellers.

Show Notes

Title tag update, update https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2021/09/more-info-about-titles

Cloudflare adds automated signed exchanges for Google search https://withcandour.co.uk/blog/episode-6-yoast-schema-and-amp-signed-exchanges

Google rolls out attractions tickets https://blog.google/products/ads-commerce/helping-travelers-discover-new-things-do/

Transcription

Mark Williams Cook: Welcome to episode 130 of The Search With Candour Podcast, recorded on Saturday, the 25th of September, 2021. My name is Mark Williams Cook, and in this episode, we are going to be covering an update of the title tags update, or title element as we should call it. We are going to be talking about CloudFlare launching signed exchanges, and a brief recap on what they are, if you don't know. And we've also got a little bit of PBC news today in Google ads transparency and new ad types. That's all to come up. Before we kick off, I'd love to tell you this episode is sponsored by our lovely friends at Sitebulb. Sitebulb, if you have not heard of it, is a desktop-based SEO auditing tool for Windows and Mac. It's, I would say, probably one of the most popular auditing tools in the SEO community. It has both a crawler and a very clever engine that looks at the information it gets and tries to prioritize and break down SEO issues for you.

I've been using it for several years. We've been using it at Agency for that time as well and it really, really is an excellent tool. If you are listening to this podcast, you can get an extended 60-day trial of Sitebulb by just going to sitebulb.com/SWC. It's not one of those trials where you have to put your credit card details in first. It's completely free. Try it. If you like it, you can carry on. I'm sure you will. It's sitebulb.com/SWC.

As most of you in the SEO industry will know, Google started changing how it was showing titles in their search engine result pages. So as we know for a long time, Google has tweaked titles here and there, but this was quite a significant change in how and the amount of titles they were changing, which as we've covered again with some previous examples, has caused some rather embarrassing issues. On Friday, 17th of September, there was an announcement by Google on their Google search central blog. You can find that announcement at our show notes. So everything we talk about in this show, you'll be able to find links at search.withcandour.co.uk. But Google has essentially taken on board some of the feedback, at least, about their title update. They haven't rolled it back, but they have lessened this impact and made some tweaks. What I'd like to cover is actually the post has gone into a little bit of detail about what type of title issues they are trying to fix.

So this is what the post said. Last month, we shared about our new system for generating titles for webpage results. So it is new. They kind of said it wasn't before. Thanks for your feedback, which has been much appreciated. We further refined our title system. Here's more about what we've been doing and some additional guidance for creators. So title elements are used the most. As we said in our last post, our new system uses HTML title elements, sometimes called title tags. They're the same thing, really. That's the common term for them, title tags, as the titles we show in search results for the vast majority of web results, based on your feedback, we've made changes to our system, which means that the title elements are now used around 87% of the time rather than around 80% before. So basically, they're replacing or changing eight out of 10 titles instead of almost nine out of 10 titles.

Why not use title elements 100% of the time? Well, since 2012, we've used text beyond title elements in cases where our systems determine the title element might not describe the page as well as it could. Some pages have empty titles, some use the same titles on every page, regardless of the page's actual content, some pages have no title elements at all. So this is where they give examples of the kind titles they're trying to replace. So they have half empty titles. A half empty title occurs when large sites use templates to craft titles for their webpages and something is missing. The template might put a summary of the page first in the title followed by the site name. In half empty titles, the summary is often missing, which produces results like this, and they've just got a vertical bar and it says, site name.

Our systems are designed to detect half empty titles and adjust by looking at information in the header elements or other large prominent texts on the page. This can produce a title in line with what is likely intended to happen like this, and then they have product name, vertical bar, site name. Little glimpse of interesting information there, kind of as we knew, they're picking stuff out of header tags or other large text on the page. Interestingly, again, I just think that's a reflection of how Google's processing the kind of CSS on a page, remembering that doesn't necessarily have to be a header tag to be taken with more prominence. It can just be larger text. There was a similar discussion on the Search Off the Record Podcast when they were talking about page rank flowing through more prominent links as well. So I just thought that was an interesting side note., These things come up in the details, and I think they're helpful to know.

There's three or four others, three others. So obsolete titles, obsolete titles often happen when the same page is used year after year for recurring information, but the title element didn't get updated to reflect the latest date. Consider a title element like this, and it says 2020 Admissions Criteria, University of Awesome. In this example, the title is for a page about getting admitted to a university. The page has a large visible headline that says 2021 Admissions Criteria, but for some reason, the title element wasn't updated to the current date. Our system detects this inconsistency and uses the right date from the headline in the title to say 2021 Admissions Criteria, blah, blah, blah. That's interesting. I think it's kind of a risky change. It feels like that was the kind of thing that happened with the Biden page, where it was picking up the header about him being vice president instead of president, because that was a dated page, which didn't have a 2021 day about him being president on the page.

Anyway, they have a couple more. So inaccurate titles, sometimes titles aren't accurately reflecting what a page is about. For example, the page could have dynamic content with a title element like, Giant Stuffed Animals, Teddy Bears, Polar Bears, hyphen sight name. It's reasonable that people would expect to find these named products appearing on the page. But this is a static title for a page with content that dynamically changes. Sometimes these products might not appear, sometimes they do. Our system tries to understand if a title isn't accurately showing what a page is about. If so, it might modify a title so that the user better knows what to expect like this, and it changed it to Stuffed Animals dash site name. And this is interesting as well because I've had an e-commerce site that had a category page changed to a single... The title element on a category page changed to a single product name that was on that page, which I found interesting.

And lastly, they cover micro boiler plate titles. Boiler plate titles are fairly easy to detect. We see the same title on all or nearly all pages within a site. Micro boiler plate titles are where we see boiler plate title elements within a subset of pages within a site. Our system detects and helps with these cases just as we do with boiler plate title elements overall. Consider an online discussion forum about television shows. It might have an area for different shows and then for each show, it may have areas for threads for individual seasons. The micro boiler plate title elements appear on the season pages. The titles emit the season numbers, so it's not clear which page is for that season. That produces duplicate titles like this. It just says, My So-Called Amazing TV Show three times. Our system can detect season number used in large prominent headline text and inserts those into the title so the titles are more helpful.

Then it just says, Season One, My So-Called Amazing TV Show, Season Two, etc. So they round this up with some guidance for site owners, which is our main advice to site owners about titles remains generally the same as our help page for the topic, focus on creating great HTML title elements. Those are by far what we use the most. Beyond this, consider the examples in this post to understand if you might have similar patterns that would cause our systems to look beyond your title elements. The changes we've made are largely designed to help compensate for issues that creators might not realize their titles are having. Making changes may help you ensure your title element is used again. That's really our preference as well.

So I thought this post was useful to go through because I think having that granular or more granular understanding of the types of problems and specific scenarios they're trying to solve, you could fix what's happening with your site and by fix, I don't mean fix your site. I mean fix the outcome that Google's generating. I don't think Google appreciates myself in here that sometimes is very helpful to have a more pragmatic title element and a more user in context header to what they're seeing on the page. That's obviously not what they're trying to do at the moment, but if you are getting something come out not as you expect and not as you'd like, it might be worth checking out this guide and you'll be able to see it or at least get more control over what Google is using as a title.

CloudFlare has added automatic signed exchanges for Google search. What does that mean? Well, if you are a very, very long-time listener to this podcast and I mean, pretty much the second month we were going, back in April, 2019 on episode six, we covered Google's announcement for starting to support signed exchanges with AMP web results. So in 2019, Google said, "Today, we're rolling out support in Google's searches AMP web results, known as blue links, to link to signed exchanges, an emerging new feature of the web enabled by the IETF web packaging specification. Signed exchanges enable displaying the publisher's domain when content is instantly loaded via Google search." So basically, signed exchanges, if you haven't heard of them before, is an open web standard created by Google that allows trusted third parties to cache and serve webpages.

You probably haven't heard that much about it. I certainly haven't over the last couple of years. The adoption's been fairly slow. It can be quite complicated to set up, which is why I think this is quite an interesting and big announcement because so many sites are using the CloudFlare platform. On Tuesday, the 14th of September, during Cloudflare's speed week as they call it, they announced this one click support for signed exchanges on Google search. So once you switch this on within CloudFlare, Google can start indexing, caching, and serving pages to the browser directly with attribution to your original URL.

At the moment, signed exchanges are supported by Chrome, Edge, and Opera, and they're currently not supported by Firefox and Safari, meaning in those cases, the content will be delivered by Cloudflare's Edge and not Google's cache. The result of this is basically you can get an immediate and most likely very noticeable boost in performance metrics such as your core web vitals largest content for paint . It is part of Cloudflare's pay plan. So if you're on free, you will need to upgrade. It's $20 a month, so it's really not a huge amount, but I think it's a really exciting thing. If you've got even your own blog or something on CloudFlare, I'd give it a try and just see how easy it is to set up. So sign exchange is now live on CloudFlare. You need the pro account, big improvements in performance, go and check it out.

We're at the midpoint in the show, so I want to give you an update from our podcast sponsor, Wix. You can now customize 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 favorite 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 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 product, event, forum posts, and more.

There's just so much more you can do with Wix, from understanding how bots are crawling your site with built-in bot log reports, to customized URL prefixes and flat URL structures on all product and blog pages. You can also get instant indexing of your homepage on Google while a direct partnership with Google My Business lets you manage new and existing business listings right from the Wix dashboard. Visit wix.com/seo to learn more.

There's a few things in PBC World that I'd like to check in on in this section of the podcast, specifically Google ads. We want to talk about ads transparency as well as some new search features that are being packaged with a new type of Google ad. If you are running Google ads for your own company or as an agency on behalf of other people, you've probably noticed Google, a while ago, introduced an advertiser identity verification program that requires Google advertisers essentially to verify information about their business, where they operate from, and what they're selling or promoting. You would've got these emails essentially saying that you have to do this and that information helps users learn more about the company behind a specific ad. It's more one of several steps Google are taking to stop the fly by night advertisers that are jumping onto the ads platform and doing naughty things, misrepresenting themselves, et cetera.

So Google is introducing now advertiser pages. They've popped a blog post up about this. Again, we'll link to it at search.withcandour.co.uk. I'm just going to read out a couple of paragraphs from this post to give you an overview. So it says about halfway through, introducing Advertiser Pages. To give users of our products even more transparency, we are enhancing ad disclosures with new Advertiser Pages. Users can access these disclosures in our new About This Ad menu to see the ad's specific verified advertiser has run over the last 30 days. For example, imagine you're seeing an ad for a coach you're interested in, but you don't recognize the brand. With Advertiser pages, you can learn more about that advertiser before visiting their site or making a purchase. In addition to learning about the ads in Advertiser, users can more easily report an ad if they believe it violates one of our policies. When an ad is reported, a member of our team reviews it for compliance with our policies and will take it down if appropriate.

Creating a safe experience is a top priority for us and user feedback is an important part of how we do that. Advertiser Pages will launch in the coming months in the United States and will roll out in phases to more countries in 2022. We'll also continue to explore how to share additional data within Advertiser Pages over time. So you've probably seen these type of pages as well if you've used Facebook. You can view advertisers' ads that they're running. I found it interesting mainly because as an agency that runs Google ads, it might be interesting to look at competitors or client competitors just to keep tabs on what they're doing and what they're running. But generally, I think it's a positive thing and that's coming outside the US next year. The other thing I wanted to cover is to do with a new type of Google result in one part and I think the more interesting part is a new type of Google ad. Of course, there's a blog post about it, which I'll link to in the show notes. I'm not going to read the blog post because even by Google standards, there's a lot of Google speak in the blog post. So I think I'll just try and summarize what they are doing, which is basically there is a new type of search result around things to do, or basically points of interest you can buy tickets for. So the example they give is if people are searching for attractions like Tokyo Tower or Statue of Liberty, rather than just seeing general information about the point of interest, you are going to essentially get what looks like the hotel or flight comparison box that gives you a little knowledge graph looking title review of the attraction, and then some sub menus around an overview of it, directory reviews, but most importantly tickets.

So Google is going to list the places where you can directly buy tickets for this attraction and how much they cost. At them moment, there's not a huge amount of details here, but it looks like it's quote unquote free at the moment. So they're just going to act as an aggregator of this information, although as with a few things Google has got involved in, I would not be surprised in the future if this gets rolled into a Google payment system and/or Google just kind of doing it. So that's a new type of search result that's coming. Along with this, there is a new ad format for things to do, which means if you have a search such as ‘things to do in London’, you can now have a tickets and tours type ad, which look a little bit like PLAs, the product listing ads for e-com. There's a little screenshot of them. Again, we'll put it on the blog post.

Where the ads are coming in at the top, you've got a little square or mobile at least photo of the attraction, the title of the attraction, how much it costs, who's selling the ticket, and then a five star review rating. So how do you get these new types of ads? They're not something you can just immediately set up with your Google ads account. You need to be someone that does products that include tours, activities, tickets, or something like that for local attractions that is aimed primarily at travelers and you will need essentially to complete a partner interest form with Google. The ads will appear in Google search only and all bidding strategies are available for this type of campaign, except target impression share.

Google recommends using bid strategies based on conversions. Interestingly, there isn't actually any need to create ads for this type of campaign. Google is going from the information that's actually on your page about this. So they'll automatically use data from an inventory feed and on the ad group label. With the things to do campaigns, you set the budget you want to each and the travelers based on their country of residence and the device they're using. So it's a little bit different to standard search ads and you need to go through this application process. Again, we'll put a link, search.withcandour.co.uk if you want to register for that partnership.

That's everything I have for you in this episode of Search With Candour. I'll be back, of course, as usual every Monday. So the next one is Monday, the 4th of October. If you are enjoying this part podcast, do like tell someone else about it, I guess. It's really nice to see the subscribers slowly growing over time. So if it is helpful to you, maybe share it with someone else. Apart from that, as usual, I hope you'll have a really lovely week.

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