Episode 81: Indexing issues, merchant centre metrics and Google News Showcase

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What's in this episode?

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

Indexing issues: Google still having problems with two concurrent indexing issues.

Merchant Centre metrics: New performance metrics coming for November

Google News Showcase: Google launches a completely new product for news

Show notes

Google announcement on indexing issues

TLDR Marketing on Google Merchant Centre feed performance

Google News Showcase blog

SemRush study on 'People Also Ask' SEO opportunities


MC: Welcome to episode 81 of the Search with Candour podcast, recorded on Friday the 2nd of October 2020. My name is Mark Williams-Cook and today I'm going to be talking to you about, unfortunately, some of the latest indexing issues Google is having. There's two separate indexing issues that are happening currently, we are going to talk about merchant centre feed performance and some new metrics Google has there and an entirely new Google product, called Google News Showcase.

This episode of Search with Candour is very kindly sponsored by our friends at Sitebulb. Sitebulb is a desktop based SEO auditing tool for Windows and Mac. They've sponsored, very kindly, quite a few episodes now. It's a tool I've used for a long time, we use it in the agency. If you haven't heard of it, it's an incredible bit of software to help you with your SEO auditing. I tend to, every episode, just have a chat about one specific part of Sitebulb and today I'm going to talk to you about the kind of stuff they do around duplicate content.

So duplicate content, as you know as SEOs, can be problematic, especially on larger sites and traditionally, when you use other tools to do a crawl of a site, one of the ways I've seen people very quickly spot this is they might just look at a page and sort by title and see where you've got things like duplicate titles because that's a really good guess as to where you may have duplicate content. The really cool thing about Sitebulb though is it will break it down further for you and looks a lot more in depth at things you could otherwise miss. So when it does a duplicate content report for you, it will report separately on things like pages where you have duplicate titles of course, duplicate meta descriptions, duplicate header ones. So all of those things will hint that, okay you've got two pages here and they're targeting the same thing, but what it also does independently of that is actually looks at the content and html. So it will alert you if you have two pages that are very, very similar in content, even if they have different URLs. I found this is really good at handling some edge cases with different platforms clients have been using, so maybe not common off the shelf like Wordpress or Magento stuff, where they can have pages generated with different titles, but actually the content's exactly the same. So it's almost like a little copyscape you've got built into Sitebulb.

It's a really great bit of kit, does great audits as we've said before; prioritises them, gives you feedback on all the issues. They've got a deal for Search with Candour listeners; so if you go to, you can get a special 60-day free trial of Sitebulb - no credit card required. So it's, go and check it out.

Let's start off with a positive, it's BrightonSEO week. So I imagine over the last two days a lot of you have enjoyed seeing all the great talks online. Unfortunately, not such great news for Google, we're about a year and a half into this podcast and off the top of my head, I think this is now the fifth time that we have reported on Google having fairly severe indexing issues. And by severe I mean that they haven't told us, we've told them because the webmaster SEO community has noticed. So the latest we had on this was a tweet today from Google Search Liaison, who is Danny Sullivan and he says, we are currently working to resolve two separate indexing issues that have impacted some URLs. One is with mobile indexing, the other is with canonicalisation of how we detect and handle duplicate content in either case pages might not be indexed. If a previously indexed page has gone, it might be the mobile indexing issue where we're failing to select any page at all to index. If the canonical issue is involved, the URL inspector - so that's the URL inspector in Google Search Console - may show the URL as a duplicate and the Google selected canonical will be different from it. There's no action to take with these issues on part of site owners, we apologise for the issues here and we are working rapidly to resolve them. We'll update this thread as each is corrected. And there's been no timelines given on this. From previous experience on the issues they had before with indexing, the fixes normally came within 48 hours and things were resolved within a week.

Now, if you are a website that is relying on Google for traffic, a week can be an incredibly long time and you only need to look at some of the replies in this Twitter thread, which is companies reporting that their entire website homepage has been suddenly de-indexed. Other websites have reported that all of their pages have been de-indexed, except the home page. So some big big SEO organic traffic crashes have come out the back of this.

Now there have been some reports I've seen - so Google says there's nothing that webmasters can do about this, but I have seen some people saying that they have managed to get their URLs re-indexed quickly by using Google Search Console. So, if you have noticed a big dive in organic traffic, in Google Analytics, and if you haven't checked it might be worth checking, and you can identify then - if you look at your landing pages within Google Analytics and look at organic traffic, you'll be able to see if specific pages have dropped out of Google. And again, trying to do Google searches that those pages rank for, to see if they're still indexed or coming up in the index. If they're not using Google Search Console does appear for some people, at least two have fixed this. So they've gone into Google Search Console, entered the URL or URLs that have dropped out of the index, in the top box within Google Search Console to inspect that URL and then when you inspect the URL, you can actually request indexing. So in some cases I’ve seen people saying, this got my URLs back in Google within two or three minutes.

So if you are in a situation where you have lost a decent amount of traffic, and you need to do something about it, I would suggest trying that, you've got nothing to lose and if it does work it could hopefully save you a lot of money. Nothing else really to say about that. So again, it's another indexing issue - well, another two indexing issues, both of them have got a way you can test to see if you're affected. Obviously, if you haven't seen any drop off in traffic, you're probably fine. But Google again hasn't released, although they have been asked, what percentage of pages or percentage of their index we should say, has been affected and it's not something they've commented on. So check that out, if you have seen a loss, go into Google Search Console and see if you can get your pages re-indexed.

I came across something really interesting this week on the TLDR marketing newsletter, so that's the - too long, didn't read marketing newsletter. It's at, highly recommend you subscribe if you want very short, sharp bits of news. They cover SEO, PPC, social media, very broad topics, nicely summariSed for you. and there was one story on there That caught my eye about pay-per-click which was that Google Merchant Centre is adding two new performance metrics, which is return defects and delivery defects. Now, they did mention this in their documentation or their blog, but it would have been very easy to miss, so thank you very much to TLDR marketing for bringing this up, they've done a nice summary which I'll read to you now.

So Google is launching two new performance metrics, as I said, which are return defects and delivery defects by November the 1st. So pretty much just under a month's time from now. So what are return defects? Return defects, these error types apply anytime an item's return is not processed within two business days of delivery at your return facility. You'll be able to monitor performance of this defect starting on November the 1st. The first score impacted will be March the 1st 2021, and will retroactively look back to defects as early as November 24th. So what they're saying here is, you'll be able to start getting a handle and reporting on this defect from the beginning of November and basically you've got just over three weeks, free time to get that in order if you're struggling with that particular metric, and from next year they will start scoring based on that but they will take into account historical score. So despite the fact the first score won't be impacted until 2021, you need to make sure you've got your stuff in order by the end of November.

The second is delivery defects. So Google has created a new category for shipped on time delivered late defects called delivery defects. These will no longer be counted under the overarching category of shipping defects. So this means they've adjusted the threshold for shipping defects, since delivery defects will no longer be considered part of this category. This change is intended to allow for greater flexibility and monitoring of carrier performance. So the retailer standards program will now be made up of the following metrics. So return defects we just mentioned; so process all returns within two business days of delivery, scan at your facility. Delivery defects, again we just mentioned, which ensure configured transit times accurately represent carrier performance. And then we've got the two existings, which are shipping defects; so ship items on time and provide accurate tracking numbers and lastly item defects, which ensures inventory is accurately reported and available for shipment.

Now within different countries, there are different threshold values for what is acceptable and what is not. we will put a link in the show notes at, and if you go there, click on that, you'll be able to see the different thresholds for each country.

Google news showcase is a completely new feature that's coming to Google. It's really interesting because there has been quite a back and forward with news providers and Google and Google news over the last few years, especially, with lots of newspapers struggling with their business models. So obviously less people nowadays are buying print newspapers, they're moving online and a lot of that content has traditionally been free and with the launch of services like Google news it means that users have been able to essentially view content outside of newspapers as well. So the newspapers are getting the double whammy of losing their print sales and actually they're relying on advertising revenues which are also being taken away because that content is being read elsewhere, on different platforms. And as I'm sure you all understand that's why some newspapers, some news reporters have gone to this subscription model, where essentially you pay for their services as investigative journalists, as reporters curating high quality news that kind of thing. This isn't my expert area in Google news but to me, it seemed a little bit of a band-aid solution, a little bit of lip service really, Google had launched quite a while ago a Google news initiative, which essentially was regional funding, some kind of technical support where they're saying to news providers hey look, we need you guys because you're the ones writing the news, you need us because we've got the technology, the platform, the audience, let's try and work together. Because obviously it's not in Google's, it's not to their advantage at the moment if these news centres did die out because they do need to get their news from somewhere and they need that quality.

Now what Google has just announced, yesterday, is this new program called Google News Showcase and they've announced it as a one billion dollar investment in partnerships with news publishers. So I'll read out, I'll skip the first bit which is Google just saying how much they love and admire news providers and want to do anything to help them and we'll skip to more about what this new feature, this new product is. So Google says, this financial commitment, our biggest to date, will pay publishers to create and curate high quality content, which the beginning in this sentence sounds great, and it goes on to say for a different kind of online news experience Google News Showcase is a new product that will benefit both publishers and readers, it features the editorial curation of award-winning newsrooms to give readers more insight on the stories that matter and in the process, helps publishers develop deeper relations with their audiences. And then they've got an animated gif, again you can get this on the show notes at, of what Google News Showcase will look like within Android, and it's just essentially swiping through Google news and then landing on branded news pages for the different publications that have taken part.

Interestingly, Google has said they are going to roll out in Germany and Brazil as of yesterday, which is particularly interesting because almost all of these new features, without exception, start in English and they start in the US so it's really interesting that they're starting in Germany and Brazil. I'm not sure why that is, it may be because of the type of news publications and the reach and the usage of Google news maybe in those areas. I can't imagine they're doing it out the kindness of their heart, I imagine there's a business reason for that.

So it goes on to say, the news showcase is made up of story panels that will appear initially in Google news on Android. the product will soon launch on Google news on iOS and will come to Google Discover and search in the future. So initial launch is on Android, then it's coming basically to iPhones, then it's going to start appearing universally, wherever we have Google Discover, which is in the Google app and search, which I guess will be the wild web, on your browser, and it will be within the Google search apps as well. These panels give participating publishers the ability to package the stories that appear within Google's news products, providing deeper storytelling and more context through features like timelines, bullets, and related articles. Other components like video, audio, and daily briefings, will come out next.

This appears to me to essentially be an extension of Google news in terms of, at the moment, Google news is offering a window into different news websites and this seems to be Google basically owning that news platform, and they are essentially going to just pay these publications on a branded basis to provide them that content - that's how I understand this so far. So the cynic in me says this isn't necessarily a good thing, at least for the publications, in that it's still going to be a Google owned platform. Yes, they're getting paid for it but that payment is going to be very much in Google's favour I would imagine, it's not going to I doubt scale very well, as it could do if you had a very successful newspaper. But it looks like we're staying inside certainly within Android and iOS within this Google environment and I imagine that will come out across the web as well.

So Google goes on saying in the blog post, this approach is distinct from our other news products because it leans on the editorial choices individual publishers make about which stories to show readers and how to present them. It will start rolling out today to readers in Brazil and Germany, and will expand to other countries in the coming months where local frameworks support these partnerships. So not a huge amount, I’d love to hear if we've got any listeners from Germany to see your feedback, get more information, see screenshots of this Google news service running, but certainly I think it's going to be something that many publishers are going to have to roll with because more people are using services like these; using Google for their news. But again, I don't know if it's quite as good for publications as Google does make out.

Lastly before we finish, I wanted to talk a little bit about People Also Ask boxes. So the People Also Ask feature, I'm sure everyone's seen it, when you do a Google search you normally get three or four People Also Ask suggestions for questions that other people have searched around the same search term. It's something - hopefully you all know, that we released a free tool, currently, which is So you can go to, you can put your search term in and it will immediately build a tree of questions around that topic, and it will also then go on to build subtrees of each of those nodes. So the idea is, apart from just getting the questions that other people are asking about a topic, you get a good overview of how that topic as a whole is grouped and because you're getting that feedback directly from Google's systems i think it's particularly good to try and understand the intent behind those terms. Then you can export that into CSVs or images, whatever it is you need to do. So obviously I have an interest in PAAs, I think they're really useful when you're down to the topic level of what article it is you want to write. People Also Ask is always where I will steer content writers or my own research around what I think I need to cover in this. The reason I'm bringing this up is that at the end of last month, three days ago Semrush published a study on People Also Ask, over a 1 million keyword set, which is pretty cool. Again we'll link to the study on the show notes at but I wanted to just share with you some of the key findings because I thought it was really interesting.

So from their one million keyword data set, they found that almost half of all the searches will trigger one of these People Also Ask boxes, and that's essentially worked steadily up since the feature was launched. It did actually get higher than that at one point and then it looks like Google really turned, adjusted it back down but it's been climbing again since then.

So that's immediately interesting to me in terms of thinking about optimising, maybe getting real estate there, because the other interesting thing was it's possible to rank on the first page and have your questions and answers within that People Also Ask box. And that's different from other features like featured snippets where we know now, if you have the featured snippet, you're not also going to rank on the first page for that query within the normal results. Interestingly, the data shows it looks like the People Also Ask is, at least in part for query refinement, and what this means if you read through the study is where there's a very clear answer to a question Google does lean heavily on these featured snippets. Where the intent maybe is not quite so clear you will see people also ask appearing a lot more of the time. Interestingly, People Also Ask is also appearing for larger brands, so there's a brand protection thing around there if you're working for a larger brand, looking at what questions people are asking about your brand and trying to make content so you get your answer in there, rather than someone else as well.

The other interesting numbers that stood out for me was question terms so, who, what, why, when, where, on average will generate people also ask 86% of the time. So eight or nine times out of ten, we're going to get People Also Ask, and obviously they're great to double up with a faq schema, if you are answering questions. And as an addition to that, 75% of the time you have a PAA result, it's within the top three results of Google. So this is another doorway for me to allow a site high visibility on otherwise maybe two broader terms. So if you're targeting or if you'd like to target, maybe a broad search term but you know well I'm probably never going to rank for that because it's very competitive and it's very broad, if you look at the type of questions that are coming up and the people also ask, you could optimise to answer those questions and that way leapfrog your way into that search result. Maybe that's got high search volume as well. It's a really interesting study and there's more details there on things like content length, and types of content as well that get into PAA results, but we'll link to that as I say in the show notes at

That's all we've got time for this week, I'll be back, of course, in one week's time and in one week's time we'll be on the 9th of - no we won't be on the 9th, that's a complete lie, we will be on the 12th of October. So Monday the 12th of October will be our next episode. I hope you've all had a great week. I hope you enjoyed BrightonSEO if you did watch the talks and have a great time and if you do enjoy the podcast, please subscribe, tell a friend and all that great stuff. Thank you very much.

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