Candour

Episode 80: Shipping schema, GMB messaging, ads affecting SEO

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What's in this episode?

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

Shipping schema: New options for e-commerce retailers in search

GMB messaging: Google rolls out more in-depth update messaging in GMB

Ads affecting SEO: Do ads or the type of ads impact rankings?

Show notes

Shipping details schema https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2020/09/new-schemaorg-support-for-retailer.html

US Only https://schema.org/OfferShippingDetails

Messages on GMB https://twitter.com/darcyburk/status/1308867890783936512

GMB Messaging https://support.google.com/business/answer/9114771?co=GENIE.Platform%3DAndroid&hl=en

Ads on pages https://twitter.com/glenngabe/status/1309176856336306178

Transcription

MC: Welcome to episode 80 of the Search with Candour podcast, recorded on an incredibly stormy Friday, the 25th of September, 2020. You may actually be able to hear at some points the rain smashing against the window here while I'm recording. My name is Mark Williams-Cook and today, I'm going to be talking to you about shipping details schema, that Google has recently added support for, a rollout of improved messaging within Google my Business - so extra things to do if you're managing a google my business profile, a review of what google had said they learned at unconference and comparing this actually to a new discovery around on-site ads and SEO.

Search with Candour is sponsored by Sitebulb, which is a desktop-based Windows and Mac site auditing tool. Every episode I'll tell you a little bit more about Sitebulb and some of the things I use it for. It's one of the tools we use primarily for technical SEO audits within Candour agency, it's incredibly popular. If you haven't heard of it, you can get a free trial at sitebulb.com/swc and going to /swc will get you an extended 60-day trial, and you don't need to put a credit card in or anything like that.

I've spoken a couple of times before, as I said, about different features in Sitebulb, about how it does things like prioritisation and explains problems to some of the things that make it really great to use. I wanted to tell you a very quick story, one of our competitors or another agency, local to us - kind of frenemies if you will, we help each other out but we do compete over work sometimes - they launched their new website a couple of weeks ago and me being me, the first thing I do of course is just have a little poke around. So I ran Sitebulb on their site and I just wanted to talk to you quickly about the kind of output I get from that and why it's so cool.

So with many tools that will help you in auditing websites, you just get a bunch of raw data back that's not particularly ordered. The cool thing about Sitebulb is, it will break it down, all of your SEO issues into things like internal links, indexability, redirects, on page duplicate content, even things like security and page resources as well. So I ran sightbulb on their site and the first thing I noticed that you get back was it said indexable pages 4, not indexable 129, which as you can guess, wasn't what they're hoping for. And the cool way in which Sitebulb processes and gives back to the data was, I could scroll down and immediately see a pie chart of the indexability status and I could see that around three quarters of the website it said was canonicalised, and then there was a pie chart next to that, that said pretty much all of them were canonicalised to external URLs - which basically told me what the problem was before, I'd even looked at the site. When I looked at the site I could confirm it, which was essentially, they'd left lots of their canonical tags pointing towards their development site, which is just a raw IP. So a really really powerful tool, certainly top shelf for whenever I'm doing a technical audit. You can get a free trial at sitebulb.com/swc for 60 days with no credit card, so do give it a try.

Shipping details schema is what I want to kick the podcast off about. So three days ago, on Tuesday, there was a post on the Google Webmaster Central blog - I'll give a link to it at our show notes which are at search.withcandour.co.uk, so if ever you listen to an episode, you can go check out those show notes and it will have links pretty much to everything we've talked about; whether it's links, posts, or tools, or anything like that. So the post says, starting today - this is Google - they will support shippingdetailsschema.org markup as an alternative way for retailers to be eligible for shipping details in Google search results. I'll break that down a little bit more. So essentially what it means is that currently you can provide shipping details through a Google Merchant Centre feed. So this schema support is an alternative way to do that, so if you do not have a merchant centre feed or perhaps actually, if not all your products are included in that feed for whatever reason, this might be helpful to you.

The post goes on to say, since June 2020 retailers have been able to list their products across different Google services for free including Google search. We are committed to supporting ways for the ecosystem to better connect with users that come to Google to look for the best products brands and retailers by investing it both in a more robust tool set for Google Merchant Centre, as well as with new kinds of schema.org options. Shipping details including cost and expected delivery times are often a key consideration for users making purchase decisions. In our own studies, we've heard that users abandon shopping checkouts because of unforeseen or uncertain shipping costs. I'm pretty sure that's probably something everybody listening can relate to when you are buying something online. It does suck when suddenly you've got shipping costs that's like 20% the cost of the product or you just can't find what it's going to cost to ship.

So Google said, this is why we'll often show shipping cost information in certain result types including on free listings on Google search. So they're saying, in the actual search result they are including, for instance, if it's free shipping or if there's a cost of shipping that's going to be included with the product listing and the price. It's important to note that that type of search result is currently US only and US English only - like many, many features we've seen historically with Google, this does mean it's very likely to next roll out in other English-speaking territories, and then other languages. And the post wraps up saying, retailers have always been able to configure shipping settings in Google Merchant Centre, in order to display this information in listings. Starting today, we now also support the shipping details schema.org markup type for retailers who don't have active merchant centre accounts with product feeds.

So there's not a huge amount of reasons, to be honest, that you shouldn't have a merchant feed now. The only ones I can think of, off the top of my head, are if you have a content management system that basically doesn't let you generate them, and maybe your product products change quite often. But most modern cms will support it. So this is a way to just inject it now onto the page, so you could potentially do that with Google Tag Manager without having to really get into the code of your site or make any big changes there. I'll put a link in the show notes to the schema.org markup details. Basically the shipping details are a subset, you add them to when you have a schema for offer. So when you have your product schema, you'll have an offer which is the sales details and part of that can now include shipping details.

it looks like there's been an update to the messaging within Google My Business. So Google My Business does seem to be an area, recently, that Google is focusing on. Quite possibly, my cynical guess would be we're going to see over the next year, maybe two years, some more aggressive monetisation of Google My Business. But for now, just like we were led into other avenues, it's mostly free at the moment. So there has, for a while, been a messaging option in Google My Business, I'll just give you a bit more information about that first if you haven't heard of it. So if you do log in to Google My Business, it's an option that you can turn on messaging. Once you've turned it on, customers will find a message button on your business profile and they can send you their messages at any time. Those messages will appear in the Google My Business app, so there is actually an Android and iPhone app to manage your Google My Business profile, and that means you can get notifications when you do have incoming messages. It's got some other cool features, you can customise an automated welcome message that customers get when they first message you. So it just buys you some time, maybe because they can message you anytime, whether it's four in the morning or when you're done at work or whenever - hopefully you are done by four in the morning. You can actually send photos as well or share photos through messages as well, and if you've got multiple people that own or manage your business profile, each one of them can then message their customers. So it's a really cool way, if you don't have live chat on your site or anything, to start actually conversing with your customers.

This was spotted on, I actually saw this on Twitter - like a few things I discover every week on about SEO, which was from an account from a chap called Darcy Burk he's @darcyburk and he says, I'm seeing a message button in Google My Business post role - it links to the messaging window with the content from the post as the subject. Is this new?

So we know one of the main things you can do with Google My Business is you can actually do posts in Google My Business. And what this means is, you literally have a tiny blog, if you like, within Google My Business. So you can post updates or events or anything like that about your business, and then whenever your Google My Business box is activated or triggered by a search, such as, when someone searches for your brand name, you'll see the last set of posts - I think it's up to seven days will display and then you can actually link directly into different web pages if you like. So whenever we do this podcast and we do the transcript every week as well, we will do a Google My Business post. So when someone Googles ‘Candour agency’, they'll be able to see as opposed to the last podcast we did, click on that and actually go to the page with the transcription and this audio as well.

So changed or what appears to have changed is now, in these posts which are updates - so this is whether someone's done a post or even something like in this screenshot example that Darcy’s has given - it's a law firm, that's changed their hours on Google My Business, so there's a an example here, 8th of July, hours are updated and at the bottom of each of these post boxes, there is now a little button that says message and when you click on this button it will open up the Google My Business messaging window and this subject will be for instance in this example hours were updated. So it's giving customers another way to directly interact with you about specific topics that you're posting or information about your business. So if, for instance, your hours changed because of Christmas or more likely at the moment because of something like COVID, not only is it a way to communicate that to your customers, it's allowing them to directly talk to you about that and lower friction about that as well.

The replies I've seen to this asking if it's new; the summary seems to be, yes it's new, the oldest kind of sighting we've had of this has been a couple of weeks ago. So this does look like it's new, it doesn't look like it's been globally rolled out yet. The example given in the screenshot was Google.ca, I haven't been able to trigger this yet on google.co.uk, so like the earlier change as well, it may be that this is a US rollout first, but very interesting nonetheless. Certainly does make me think it's worth small businesses especially, continuing using Google My Business to its full potential.

On August the 26th, Google had their first ever virtual webmaster, Unconference, and I wanted to just share with you what they said they learned from this because it relates to the next item I want to talk about. If you haven't heard about Unconference, they said what's different about this event? In this event you decide what sessions will happen and actively shape the content in them by taking part in discussions, feedback sessions, and similar formats that need your input. It's your chance to collaborate with other webmasters, SEOs, developers, digital marketers, publishers, and Google product teams, such as Search Console and Google search and help us deliver more value to you in the community. So that happened on August the 26th and Google did a write-up a few weeks later, on September the 15th saying, what we learned on the first virtual webmaster, Unconference.

So I'm just going to skip down to “what did we learn” in the sessions, and they ran 17 sessions, divided them into two blocks, half of them ran simultaneously on block 1 and the other half on block 2. They said, there's lots of good discussions had, while some teams took on a few suggestions from the community to improve their products and features, others use the sessions to bounce ideas off for knowledge and sharing.

“What were the biggest realisations for our internal teams?” Core web vitals came up several times during the sessions. That's something we've spoken about, we've actually had two episodes dedicated to that and we've mentioned it a few times since then. The teams realised that they still feel rather new to users and that people are still getting used to them, Also, although Google has provided resources on them, many users still find them hard to understand and would like additional Google help docs for non-tech savvy users.

I’m going to skip down a couple of bits here because one particular bit of the write-up interested me which was, “some myths were also busted” - there were sessions that busted some popular beliefs. For example, there is no inherent ranking advantage from mobile first indexing and making a site technically better doesn't mean that it's actually better, since the content is key. So I think that's pretty basic, everyone should agree with that. When I talk to people about technical SEO, a really good way, if you're looking to describe this to clients or if you're working in-house, is that technical SEO gives you the opportunity, the ability to rank well. Unless you've got certain situations where it's technical SEO that is holding otherwise a great site with great content and links back. Generally, especially if it's a new project, making sure your technical stuff is sorted is just a way to make sure search engines are understanding what you're doing. So no big surprises there.

They also had said, the ads and SEO myth busting session was able to bust the following false statements. One, ads that run on Google Ads rank higher and sites that run Google Ads rank better - false. I think, again, we covered that in our top myths post and it is definitely one I still hear a lot, unfortunately in 2020. I can't even think of a reason why that would be true. Number two was, ads from other companies causing low dwell time/ high bounce lower your ranking - false. And that's interesting because again, we just have to be really careful with how these things are worded, so this is worded saying that low dwell time/ high bounce rate is what's causing lower ranking, which we know, it says here is false. So the ads are neither here nor there, in my opinion, in that statement. And this is where it gets interesting for me so it says, ads versus no ads on site affects SEO and this is labeled as false. So they're saying whether or not you have adverts on your site, it will not affect SEO.

I'm going to just jump immediately leapfrog into the next section of this podcast which is actually about ads and SEO, because earlier in this week I saw a really interesting tweet by Glenn Gabe who said, great example of Google trying to better understand how badly the ads on a page are impacting the user experience. I was prompted with this quick survey after returning to the serps - search engine result pages. That news publisher might want to take a hard look at their ad situation. And what Glenn has actually provided a screenshot here of a Google SERP and when he's gone back, it looks like he's on mobile it said, how are the ads on this page and there is a multi-choice here - bothered me a lot, bothered me a little, or didn't bother me.

Now interestingly, there was a post again which I will link to in our show notes at search.withcandour.co.uk, which was posted in August 2019 and the post is called ‘what webmasters should know about Google's core updates’ and this post is very commonly cited by likes of Danny Sullivan, search liaison. Anytime there's a Google Core Update they will tweet something like, our advice remains the same, have a look at this.

Very quickly, the summary of this post is basically, there's nothing normally to “fix” if you lose rankings on a core update because what's happening is actually Google's just realising that it should have been ranking those other sites better than yours, so it's not centric around your site, there isn't maybe something you've just done wrong with your site. But they give a broad list of questions that you should be focusing on.

So I'm just going to select a couple of bits of this to read to you. So it says in this post about core updates and there's a section called ‘focus on content’ which says, as explained, pages that drop after a core update don't have anything wrong to fix. This said, we understand those who do less well after a core update change may still feel they need to do something. we suggest focusing on ensuring you're offering the best content you can, that's what our algorithms seek to reward. A starting point is to revisit the advice we've offered in the past on how to self-assess if you believe you're offering quality content. We've updated that advice with a fresh set of questions to ask yourself about your content. And there is a list here of maybe 20 or 30 different questions that you want to ask, that they said you should ask yourself, and they're broken down into categories of content and quality questions, expertise questions, presentation and production questions, and comparative questions.

So I'm just going to read through the just the presentation and product production questions because there's only five of them, which is one, is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues? Two, was the content produced well or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? Three, is the content mass produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators or spread across a large network of sites so that individual pages or sites don't get as much attention or care? Four, does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? And lastly, five, does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?

So this is just the two points I wanted to compare which is, Google directly saying as a write-up of this Unconference myths that were busted which is, ads versus no ads on-site has no effect on SEO and then they're saying with this core update, you should look at does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? And this is where I think we just need to be very careful in our interpretation of wording of things Google are telling us, because you very often see SEOs saying, oh Google lied to us about this or they're not right about something, and normally in my experience, it's not the case. But I will, as I always say, agree they're very carefully worded.

So if we just take literally what we've been told which is that - I would read this as what Google's saying is there's no specific algorithm or consideration saying whether a site has ads or whether a site does not have ads, that it should or should not rank better. What we are saying is, it does matter how you implement those ads. So an excessive amount of ads, and by excessive, I think they can define that here by it's distracting from or interfering with the content could then potentially have issues. So I feel that part of this feedback that we're seeing, that Glenn has highlighted here, this little quick survey, is possibly going to help Google train itself in understanding what it's rendered. So if Google is rendering a page, as we know it does, and it thinks, hmm there's ads here maybe they're causing a problem, if they can find a way to validate that with users, they can start improving their algorithm for guessing whether the ads are intrusive or not.

I don't think this feedback on how the ads were on this page, it bothered me a lot, it didn't bother me etc, will have any impact whatsoever on that specific page or that specific site. I believe what will be happening here is that Google will be taking that data back in comparison to how they're rendering and judging what they can algorithmically class as an intrusive ad or not. So it'd be very strange, because you just don't see it happening, Google giving this direct feedback loop to change how a site is ranking. So like a lot of things have been doing, I think they're going to be using this to try and train an algorithm to better detect what might be considered intrusive or not. And that falls alongside everything we've previously discussed about good user experience, about core web vitals, and in fairness what Google has been telling us for a long time.

And that's everything we have time for in this episode. We'll be back next week, which will be next month now, on Monday the 5th of October. So do tune in, in a week's time and listen to what we have to say then. If you are enjoying the podcast, please take the time to subscribe or tell someone about it, we really appreciate it and it's really lovely just to see when people are sharing things we're talking about. Apart from that, I hope you all have a brilliant week.

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