Candour

Episode 71: News in GSC, Weird SEO and Google Web Stories

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What's in this episode?

In this episode, you will hear Mark Williams-Cook talking about News in GSC: The new 'News' filter being added to Google Search Console, weird SEO: A thread of the weirdest things you've been told about SEO and Google stories: An overview of the Google Stories AMP project and new open beta WordPress plugin.

Show notes

https://twitter.com/googlewmc/status/1285559587576467456

https://twitter.com/HelenPollitt1/status/1286588174903455744

https://google.github.io/web-stories-wp/beta/#

Transcription

MC: Welcome to episode 71 of the Search with Candour podcast, recorded on Friday the 24th of July 2020. My name is Mark Williams-Cook and today I'm going to be talking to you about the new news filter added to Google Search Console, the weirdest things you've been told about SEO and a little bit about Google Web Stories - what they are and how you can use them.

We'll kick off with this short, but hopefully helpful, piece of news and that is and I'm sure you do know this if you already run a news website, but very interesting anyway for those who aren't running news websites, is that Google has added a new filter to the search type filter within Google Search Console. So up until now in Google Search Console you've been able to filter performance data down to web, image and video. So Google's had this announcement and they've said, ‘We recently added new data to the performance report in Search Console. Google searches news tab data, this data shows clicks, impressions, and click-through rate for any links seen in the news tab in Google Search results. To access this data in the report, click the search type web filter on the top of the report then select News.’ So very straightforward and easy to do. So this will now let you filter all the clicks, impressions you're getting directly from the news tab and that's actually something very important to pay attention to, which is that it's only filtering for clicks when people have gone to the actual news tab and filtered to those types of results within Google search.

So you would have seen we've got universal search results now, so when you do a search in Google, the default is ‘all’ which will mean that depending on the intent of your search Google will mix in different results from news, from images, from video, from whatever they think is most relevant. So if you go to Google and search for something like Prime Minister or President, so something that's in the news a lot, what you're likely to see is the top results will be what are called ‘top stories’ and they're actually selected from the news tab, the news filter of Google. So this report filter will not show you clicks that have happened on top stories - so top stories being news stories that appear at the top of search. So I’m not really sure how that would affect the analysis at the moment because you're still then splitting that tracking of clicks over to different sets of results because you need to have a news feed to appear in those top stories, but Google's not going to count those clicks under news - I'm sure there's a way to reconcile that and I guess it does make sense if you're still trying to split the difference between people clicking on what you would class as search results, versus going into the news tab, but very important to know. It looks like this data has started to populate from June the 30th, so if you have got a news feed you can check that out now in Google Search Console.

Before I recorded this podcast I saw a really cool thread on Twitter by Helen Politt who is the MD at Arrows Up UK and she posted, ‘what's the weirdest thing a client or colleague has told you helps with SEO’ and there's some really nice suggestions in this thread so I thought it would be fun for us to pick through some of these answers people have given, so I'm just going to go through my favourites here.

So Natalie Mott has said that linking out helps SEO directly - so I've seen that one again quite a lot. So this is a client or colleague that suggested by linking to lots of other web pages you're going to make that page rank higher which of course isn't true. Carolyn Linden has submitted, in a facebook group she saw ‘make all your target keywords on a page header twos, then go in and change the CSS for each header two keyword, so it looks like paragraph text.’ So that's, I guess, coming from the fact that Google on a very basic level of search engines will apply maybe pay more attention to text that is in headers as it's probably going to be more succinctly describing the next set of text, but obviously now search engines are rendering CSS and they can see how big fonts end up and how pages are laid out. This doesn't make any sense from an accessibility point of view, from any real point of view, that's going to make sense to anyone. Raphael suggests that he has been told, a client told me that we should invest in ads because Google privileges those in SEO who spend money in ads. Well we know Google loves people that spend money on ads, but there isn't that direct correlation and that's something I've actually heard quite a lot. Obviously if you do run ads and you're very visible, it does mean people are more likely to discover you and therefore may be linked to you, certainly if you promote your content through paid channels, it might mean more people link to you, therefore you've got a better chance of ranking but there isn't that direct correlation of if you're spending x amount with Google, they're just going to bump up your rankings because of that.

Someone said that not - so Chris Lee has been told that not showing a date on a blog post helps. Well I'm not so sure about that. So there's lots of stuff around date published and date updated, I've certainly seen rankings change when content has been updated and people using schema to do that but again, this is one of those things that isn’t really not going to help the user at all and I don't think it's gonna help you in search just admitting that information.

One of my favorites here is from Steph Watley who says, putting mobile - that is just the word mobile - in your mobile site URL will help it rank better on mobile. Yeah I don't know what to say about that one - obviously not true. Antoine says, just using Google Analytics - so again, that's something I've heard which is that there's a belief that if you just have Google Analytics on your site, that your site will rank better. We've got Rich Voller who says, installing yoast premium guarantees you can rank for anything once you have a green light, you will rank even without links. I really wish, Rich, that it was that simple. So I mean, the yoast kind of green light system can be helpful for certain people doing content but obviously this isn't directly linked up to how Google's analysing content, so no that's not true. Sarah Marks has said she's been told, content needs to be fresh - that's the only time Google will crawl. Don't waste time with optimising content that is older than two months. Helen's replied to him saying, offt that hurts to hear, and yes it does, so completely not true.

We have SEO Bastian who has submitted and I try to quote for written content - “use keyword density at least five percent and in every h2 and h3” - yeah I'm almost at a loss as to what to say to these. So you know, keyword density I think it’s something we've talked about on the podcast before (He didnt, he was mistaken - Beckie), I don't think there's a correct percentage for keyword density. Of course, you probably need to mention the words that you want to rank for because it would be very hard to write an article about car maintenance without saying car maintenance at least once.

Jason Barnard has said someone at a co-working company told me they could rank for any keywords just using Twitter, I wanted to make sure I'd heard right so I asked “any?” they replied “any”, I asked “just Twitter?”, they replied “just Twitter.” Jason doesn't give any details as to how that works and I suspect it because it doesn't work. Tony Cannings has said a colleague back in the day cough three years ago cough once tried to tell me that if a site didn't have Google Analytics then Google wouldn't crawl it. So they've raised the stakes there from Google Analytics helps ranking to Google won't even crawl your content without having Google Analytics on.

A company, bocane designs, has said, we had a lawyer client who would “do his own SEO” by running easy macros on three of his computers at his law office overnight. The macro would search Google for his brand and click his link, over and over again. He was convinced if you got more search clicks, you'll rank higher. So that's really interesting because I have seen and read various tests and studies, I think Moz has done one and I know a few and seen various kind of black hat people do them around manipulating ranking with click-through rate, and there does seem to be some kind of temporary effect which I guess is Google trying to account for something if intent shifts because of news. But this is normally done on really big distributed efforts of getting genuine people all over to click on these results, not three computers in your office, probably all on the same IP just clicking over and over.

Mark Welfare has said he was told that using schema markup and meta keywords needs to be actively included in an authenticated account area of a website. So again obviously probably wouldn't worry about that because it's very unlikely that Google's going to access an authenticated account area of a website. Dan Wilson, this is one of my favourites, Dan Wilson was told ‘I should include keywords in emails for SEO’ so I'm not sure what the theory is there, maybe if they're using Gmail and mentioning the website that Google's scanning emails to try and relate keywords to URLs that are mentioned in email - I guess that's the nearest I can get to with thinking about how that might work. There's loads of answers in this thread as well about paying Google ads for ranking.

Just Jenny says, she was told if people bookmark your site, you will rank higher in Google. So everyone, please bookmark my site, which was a Facebook post. Facebook is a great place to get these kinds of tips. Your pal Zack has said, he was told that using the chrome browser for development gives the website you're working on a boost in SEO and like me, he says, he's got no idea how that would even work and he can't believe this person actually convinced someone to hire him. Yeah fair enough.

Praveen Sharma says that he was told, adding the main keyword in the field focus keyword - that's in the yoast plug-in that you can use in wordpress - so he's saying that the focus keyword directly tells Google which keywords the website's trying to rank for, so it helps you try and rank. Now obviously the focus keyword on yoast just gives yoast an idea for what you're trying to target, so it can analyse the content better in context. But Praveen was told that the focus keyword needs to be filled in because that directly tells Google what you're trying to rank for. Danny has said he was told to add meta keywords as it guarantees first page ranking - uh well, no. Melanie Fung has said, I had someone tell me about software that submits their site to 50 search engines every week and that this was a year ago, not 20. So yeah, that's one of the kind of myths that I don't really see anymore, which is good I guess, because that used to be a thing about people wanting to submit their site to search engines, but we're at the stage where there aren't that many search engines that really matter and they will find your sites. Jason Landry says, putting an embedded Google map on the page will guarantee top map pack placement everything must be “schemed”. Keyword stuffing URLs is the key and all this advice came from one person, so some more great advice there. Matt Collins says, not current one but being on Google plus is the first thing that springs to mind from yesteryear, so RIP Google Plus, hopefully those myths won't continue anymore. Barney was told we need to post fresh content so that your main service page keeps their top ranking - no, no Barney, we don't need to do that do we? Brandon Bedner says, smashing an iphone whilst reciting a Google worshiping chant supposedly gets you to page one instantly - that's actually, I think out of the suggestions here, one of the most sensible.

My contribution to this thread was that I had some developers tell me that site changes which were causing errors on the site as they're being done, were better to do during the day because Googlebot mainly crawls at night. I was fortunate enough for someone at Google to back me up to say that that wasn't true and help me out. So these are some of the brilliant myths that have come up in this thread by Helen, I'll put a link to the thread if you want to contribute your own or have a read through. If you're working in an SEO, some of these will make you smile and maybe some will make you facepalm because we've heard a lot of these before and it's still almost upsetting that they still come up nowadays in 2020, but it's a cool thread so check it out.

I wanted to finish this episode talking about Google Web Stories and specifically a new WordPress plugin that's caught my eye. I don't really hear many people talking about Google Web Stories or amp stories, I think they're kind of cool and I thought it would be good just to give an introduction maybe to those that haven't heard of them, and even if you're not particularly kind of deep into doing SEO and stuff like that, if you've got a wordpress site this is now something that you'll be able to take advantage of and and do quite easily. So the Google Web Stories, if we kind of rewind - they're an offshoot of AMP - AMP standing for, accelerated mobile pages - which as a thing have been met with mixed reactions from the web and SEO community since they were launched in, I think about 2016. So AMP pages, accelerated mobile pages, are basically super lightweight pages that were putting mobile performance ahead of everything and one of the offshoots of this AMP project was AMP stories, which we're now calling Google Web Stories. If you use Instagram, if you're aware of Instagram, of Instagram stories, that's the easiest way to think of Google Web Stories is that they're a bit like Instagram stories, or I think Facebook has stories now.

So you can find out a little bit more about the AMP project and about the stories at amp.dev and again, as always, I'll put a link in the show notes to this. So the kind of fluffy intro to web stories on app.dev is this, ‘Web stories immerse your readers in fast loading full screen experiences, easily create visual narratives with engaging animations and tappable interactions. The web story format, formerly known as amp stories, is free and part of the open web and is available for anyone to try on their websites. They can be shared and embedded across the web, without being confined to a closed ecosystem or platform. Web stories provide content publishers with a mobile focused format for delivering news and information as visually rich tap through stories. Web stories offer a robust set of advertising options for advertisers and publishers to reach a unique audience on the web with immersive experiences.’ Doesn't that sound great?

There's a bit more of a specific description in the developer documentation, so again I'll give you a link to amp.dev and to the developer documentation. So, the developer docs say, a web story is a visual storytelling format in Google search results that immerses the user in a tap through full screen experience. web stories can also appear in Google images, Google discover, and the Google app, and then they've got a little guide about how to prepare and enable web stories for Google. So if you're in the UK and you're thinking, mmm I haven't really seen these before that's because a lot of the ways in which web stories are delivered is still only available in the US at the moment, in US english, I’m absolutely sure it is something that will be rolling out to the UK. So these web stories can appear in search, but I think the interesting thing is that it gives you a much easier way to then maybe get into google images, get into google discover, and get into the app because all of these things still have an audience of millions and it's a way for you, sometimes, to sidestep your competition instead of just butting heads and competing in search results; this is a way that you can maybe um get into easier, softer territory and get some exposure without quite so much time, effort, and money.

So the reason I wanted to talk about this today is that I know a lot of SMEs and a lot of the web, obviously runs WordPress and there is an official WordPress plugin now for web stories which is made by Google and it's just gone into public beta. So beta, you know public beta, basically means that look it's not quite finished, all of the features are there that we think are going to be there, but there may be some tweaks, there may be some bugs. But you can get this from google.github.io - again, if you go and look at our podcast notes the show notes at search.withcandour.co.uk, you'll have a link here to the WordPress plugin. It's super easy to install, just like any other wordpress plugin, but what it will allow you to actually do is they've built a wizzy wig - so what you see is what you get editor, to build these web stories and they provided you with some really cool looking templates. So this means that with a very low kind of technical bar, you can just install this plug-in on WordPress, like any other WordPress plugin, you've got a visual editor you can use to build web stories which are going to be compliant with the spec that they need to be, and then if you're in the US, you can already appear across all of these verticals - so web search, images, discover, and Google app - if you're in the uk and you can appear in web search and then as these things appear, obviously you'll be placed to potentially be shown there. So if you're running a WordPress site, if you think web stories, that instagram style kind of visual storytelling thing might be something you can do - I can think of uses for pretty much every company for this, whether it's recruitment or trying to show off a new product or service, there's always going to be, I think, a use for this, but you can check it out, nice and easy to install on WordPress.

So that's everything I've got for you today, I will be back on Monday the 3rd of August, so please tune in then and have a great week!

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