SEO News: GSC Product listings update and another way to deindex URLs

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Show notes

This week, Jack Chambers-Ward is joined once again by Mark Williams-Cook to discuss:


Jack: Coming up on this month, SISTRIX with Candour, we'll be talking about how to de-index some MUR URLs, some of the latest previews. Basically a sneak peek of Trendwatch coming up from SISTRIX. And we'll be talking about how to have a look at your product snippets and merchant listings in Google Search Console, because there has been a little update to Google Search Console recently. Welcome to the show, everybody. I am Jack Chambers Ward, I am one of your hosts for this month's SISTRIX with Candour episode. I am joined by the one and only Mark Williams Cook. Hello, Mark. How are you?

Mark: Hello. I'm very well as usual.

Jack: Good, good, good. We are here live on SISTRIX's YouTube channel. If you are joining us live, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure to do the first episode last month. We're coming up on episode two, then we're starting to get the hang of it. We're starting to get into the flow of it, and you'll see some tweaks and some tech updates coming up in the next few months as well. Me and the sister team are working on bringing new, cool things and you'll see a few new integrations coming through this month as well. If you are listening to this on the podcast, you can of course, get this through the usual search with Candour podcast stream as well. So in case you can't catch us live on YouTube, you can catch up with us on Demand on SISTRIX's YouTube channel, and of course, on the podcast feed if you go to search Nice and easy, you can find us audio or video, wherever you want to find us.

TrendWatch March 2023 Preview

And let's kick off, let's start with a dive into some trends, shall we? A little sneak peek of Trend Watch, which we enjoy even though you usually have no idea what's going on.

Mark: I think there's going to be no change this episode from having a sneak peek, but I will do my best.

Jack: So let's have a look. I will readjust the screen here and we'll show off. Like I said, this is some new little layouts I'm playing with, so let's try this, add that on there. And hey, look, we've got some trends live on the show, and like I said, this is a sneak peak for Trend Watch. So thank you to the SISTRIX team, for providing this data. A little bit early for me to include on this month’s episode. So my question to you, Mark, is when is Fat Tuesday? What is Fat Tuesday and when is it? Do you know?

Mark: I am guessing, looking at the dates there, is this something to do with Shrove Tuesday?

Jack: It is one and the same. It is Band Cake Day. It is Shrove Tuesday. It is one and the same. Yeah.

Mark: One for one.

Jack: One so far. And as you can guess there by the search volume, happens in February, funnily enough, because that's when that's happening around the world. It seems to be particularly popular this year, and I wonder if that's because there's no lockdowns, we're finally available to share with family and friends and all that kind of stuff. We did one here in the office this year that was really cool. We had people bringing in different types of pancakes and toppings and all that kind of stuff. That was a lot of fun. And I think, yeah, interesting. Fat Tuesday and Shrove Tuesday and Pancake Day and all that kind of stuff seems to be on the up, which is very cool to see.

Mark: It's a really long trend though, to be there. Yeah, I would've thought the interest would be very up and straight back down. But it seems to go on for a couple of months.

Jack: People are still interested in... Maybe they missed it and have heard that phrase lying around and be like, Ooh, when is Fat Tuesday? Maybe I missed it. Those people are missing out, because pancake eggs are great. Next up we have Pink. Any idea what this could be related to, Mark?

Mark: The obvious one for me... I feel like I'm just propped up here for my lack of cultural knowledge. I'm guessing the artist.

Jack: Yes, correct. Who in fact, shares a birthday with me. She's my birthday buddy. So shout out to Pink, if you are watching on SISTRIX's YouTube channel, however unlikely that may be. But yes, Pink has shot up in popularity. She did some live performances recently that were very, very popular, that went down very, very well. So I think, yeah, maybe it's a thing with the color as well, but I think that's a particularly interesting thing for Pink coming through. Serious, serious spike there. Serious, serious difference. There's a massive... Seemingly out of nowhere, there's quite a long trend going back all the way to 2019 as well. That's crazy, right?

Mark: So why the massive, massive spike though?

Jack: She did some live performances.

Mark: But doesn't she always do that?

Jack: No, but big Grammys and Emmys and all that kind of stuff. Those big performances that are coming through with a lot of... Yeah. So let's move on from Pink. Goodbye, birthday buddy. Talk about some Wet Leg. Any clues here? I'll give you a clue. There's a theme coming on from Pink.

Mark: Is it a song name?

Jack: It's a band. Close, close. And again, they've shot up in popularity recently as well. Massive spike in popularity. Let's have a look. So yeah, Wet Leg, a band that have shot up in popularity over the last couple of months or so. Again, getting good live performances, really good reviews. A breakout star of the last year or so, I think. I quite like Wet Leg. I recommend going and checking them out and search them on your music streaming software of choice, and check them out there. Next up on the Trend Watch, S Club seven tour. And I know, Mark, you're a Big S Club seven fan.

Mark: It's true.

Jack: I'll pass the mic over to you for your karaoke special. There ain't no party...

Mark: Like an S Club party.

Jack: There we go. Yes. Absolutely nailed it.

Mark: I must say that I finished that in a GPT star fashion of what I just thought sounded right.

Jack: Your citations were incorrect.

Mark: Don't think I could name a single S club seven song.

Jack: You stumbled into the answer there eventually. I think that song is called S Club Party, so you're already covered. But they've got a reunion tour, pretty much, and they are back for the first time in 15 years. Unbelievable. S Club seven are touring again and have reunited. I believe it's all the original members and stuff like that, because they've done a few reunion tours over the last few years I think have not included some key members and things like that. So this is nice to have the full S Club back and Empower once again. But yeah, there seems to be quite a lot of musical trends happening this month. A lot of people making returns, winning awards, doing big Super Bowl performances and all that kind of stuff, and really increasing their trends and their search volume and all that kind of stuff there as well.

Mark: Again, there's loads of different ways you can use this data. So if you're seeing that, already you've got digital PR ideas there around returning bands search volumes, nostalgia, there's all kinds of angles you can use this data for.

Jack: Yeah, a few that sprung to my mind already. You can have these for free, folks, if you do want a news jacket. There we go. The clue is in my name, clearly. And there's this, like you said, the theme of people doing reunion tours and stuff like that. I wonder, who had the most successful reunion tour? Who's done the most farewell tours but now they're actually retired? Because that's a big thing in rock and roll. I know the Rolling Stones have like 15 farewell tours because they're all a hundred years old. Next up, we have the Brinks matter robbery. Any idea what this could be? I had heard of this but didn't know why it was trending so strongly in 2023 until I looked this up.

Mark: I have no idea, but I'm going to guess. Is there a company called Brinks? And there was a film of a robbery that went viral?

Jack: Close. Film of a robbery is the closest bit you've got there. It is a real robbery that happened in the eighties. And there is a BBC show called The Gold, which is all about, it's basically like a fictionalization, dramatization of that era and the events around that robbery and things like that. So, thanks to the BBC show, the Gold, BBC have increased this significantly. And I believe it's coming up in November, it'll be the 40th anniversary of that robbery and it's now bringing it back to a serious kind of... Next up, we have Tesco Clubcard. And obviously, you probably know what a Tesco Clubcard is, Mark, you live in the UK. You can't walk five minutes without seeing a Tesco. Do you know why that significant spike in Tesco Clubcard interest has happened over the last month, couple of months or so?

Mark: Mate, you get double points at the minute?

Jack: Sort of. You're not a million miles off. They've really drastically changed the way Clubcard points are earned. You can no longer get it on petrol after, I think it's June or July this year. They've changed what things used to be double points and now single points and some other things are double points. And basically, everyone got very angry on whatever your local news site is.

Mark: It's an anger spike.

Jack: It's an anger spike, pretty much.

Mark: I was going to say that didn't sound, with all respect to Tesco, interesting enough to double the search volume. But if it's a good old classic anger search...

Jack: From what I've seen, I spoke to my mother-in-law about this the other day in my new local Tesco, because I've just moved house, and she was furious that she got fewer points for this particular purchase than she did a previous time. And I was like, ah, yes. And yeah, there's even things like changing... I know Luke, one of our Senior Search Specialists here at Candour, we're talking about his addiction to meal deals. He is the king of meal deals here at Candour. And as Azeem is saying in the chat there, meal deals are incredibly expensive if you don't have a Clubcard. Clubcard is basically essential for shopping in a Tesco now. It used to be three pounds for a meal deal. Easy, nice, no problem. Now, if you don't have a Clubcard, it's like four pounds, and then with a Clubcard, it's still like £3.50. So much more expensive than it was previously.

Mark: You actually get a discount with a Clubcard or that's because of the points later?

Jack: So that's also been the change that's happened over the last few years. I don't know if you've ever seen the little... I don't know why I'm doing so much advertising for Tesco, but other supermarkets are available to do the little BBC thing. Yeah, you get a little yellow sticker on the shelves on the products themselves sometimes as well. And it'll say, Clubcard price, on it, and it will literally discount you the price.

Mark: I had no idea.

Jack: And you get a little savings total like, you saved six pounds and 36p at the end of this purchase or whatever.

Mark: I need to Google Tesco Clubcard later.

Jack: You need to get on a Tesco Clubcard, apparently. So yeah, a wide mix of trends there. Quite a few musical ones diving into Tesco and all other bits and pieces. But yeah, interesting stuff. And I'm very impressed with your complete guesses of, have the points doubled?

Mark: How I get through life.

Jack: You are the king of winging it and just getting it right, Mark. I appreciate that. Right. Moving on, should we talk about some Google Search Console? Should we dive into the latest update from the Google search team? And I'll pass over to you since I've done a lot of talking around the trends, and I need a drink of water.

Update to product listings on Google Search Console

Mark: So in Google Search Console, we had a tweet come out from teams saying, this was the 27th of March, "Today we are adding the ability to measure the impact of merchant listings by splitting the product results search appearance into two. Merchant listings and product snippets. These appearances let you see how many impressions and clicks you get from those experiences." Which I appreciate, even if you are quite experienced in SEO and BBC, that may not be immediately obvious what's changing there. So to give you a little bit of context and a reminder, I think we covered this as well in the show back in September, Google expanded the amount of websites that got into their shopping rich experiences. So previously, you had to have a merchant feed to be eligible to appear within their shopping rich experience in search. And actually, that was new as well because historically, the merchant feed was only for paid advertising.

And then Google said, "Okay, well if you've got to feed sometimes, if we really like you, we'll include your products in that rich experience. And at the time, we spoke about this being maybe a way Google was trying to level the playing field a little bit with Amazon. So again, when we're talking about SEO strategy on the show, a lot of the time, we're talking about trying to get clients or your in-house company you're working for aligned with Google's long-term objectives and understanding strategically what Google's doing. And that's a really good way to steer your SEO. And one of the things that came up a few times was Google losing some market share around pure e-com, because people were just starting their search experience at Amazon. And it made sense from a user experience point of view, whereby if you go onto Amazon and do a search for a product category or even a specific type of product, you essentially get a nice, uniform list of everywhere you can buy it from with prices from all different brands and retailers.

Whereas if you do the same on search, on Google search, historically, you essentially have to go and visit all of the individual websites to get that same experience, because in Google's, at the time, shopping results, the product listing ads, all we had was paid ads. So it made that quite a, certainly more friction experience than what Amazon was offering. So, by Google broadening the amount of people and brands and websites they could display in this one, nice vertical, it made it a more attractive place for people to start their purchase journeys. So that's the history that happened in September.

Jack: You can view this in the web performance report in Search Console. You can also have a look at it directly from your dashboard as well. On the left hand side, you'll see product listings and you'll see snippets and you'll see merchant listings on there as well. And I think, yeah, you're right. There's an interesting thing. I often find really obvious things that you would want to have a look at organically are maybe not as intuitive to find in things like analytics and search console. So I do appreciate Google being able to give us these little updates of, oh no, this is what is pulling through. This is how many clicks, impressions, this is actually the data for those specific product pages. And if you're working in e-commerce, that's a brilliant statistic to be reporting. And now, we can easily, through our reporting systems and APIs and whatever you guys are using out there, being able to pull through this data for your sites and your clients, I think can be really, really useful to get an idea on specific products on what they're driving in terms of clicks and impressions and stuff. I think that's going to be really, really helpful.

Mark: Absolutely. Why I care about this is essentially, when we get more granular data like this, it's more actionable.

Jack: Yes, definitely.

Mark: Google's very good at being somewhat elusive with the detail of certain types of data it's given us. It's very strategic about what it gives us detail for. This is a case where, now we can feed back directly to website developers to clients internally on, okay, we saw a decrease in visibility on this specific type of product snippet. And then you've got the technical data as to maybe why that is such as missing fields is a really, really common thing. So it's another way to get buy-in, to actually have a data point and say, "Look, this is down, we need to do this to make it go up." So yeah, big fan of that. And it's a small tweak, I think, again, where only maybe a certain percentage of people are going to notice that. So if you haven't got on that and you are in E-com, I'd definitely take time to have a look at that.

Jack: Definitely, definitely. I think it's really useful to have that, like I said, to have that data, have that access to it. So much more actionable. When you're dealing with these vague bits of data, having actionable stuff that you can report to, whoever you're reporting to, whether internally or externally, can be really, really key and really, really helpful.

Another way to deindex URLs

Next up, let's talk about some de-indexing of URLs, and probably all the SEOs listening out there and watching us on YouTube are thinking, "Yeah, no index. Yeah, I know how to index your URLs, obviously." But it's not quite as straightforward as that. And Oliver Mason, OHGM, you may know them on Twitter. We're going to dive into, and another post all about de-indexing URLs.

Mark: This is actually one of my favorite SEO blogs and it's not normally something we would cover on the show or the podcast, because to quote Oliver himself, he says he's dealing here with technical SEO minutiae. And that's the theme in a lot of his posts, is really specific edge cases and weird stuff. But that's why I love it. And actually, that's why I think there's a lot of value there for SEOs, because Oliver specialises in, I'd say, going off the kind of beaten track.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: Because there is an echo chamber with an SEO when a thing is announced or a new thing’s released, and then essentially, you see the same story repeated on different news sites and everyone's talking about the same thing. And this is another example where Oliver has brought something up that, even in my 20 odd years, I'd never actually come across and shows the value of actually reading the manual. Which is something I think, again, we're guilty of not doing because there's so much change and so much information to take in, it's very appealing to just rely on overviews and not do these deep dives and actually test yourself as well.

Jack: Yeah, I think, as I teased earlier, we know how to apply a noindex. Most SEOs, especially if you're a technical SEO, you know your way around that kind of stuff. You know to apply a no index tag, you know how to get your URLs de-indexed, but I know you and I were talking about this beforehand, Mark. I have never seen or never paid attention to who said it's been there for a long time, but never paid to this unavailable after tag that you can actually do. And yeah, I think it's really interesting. It would never even occur to me that that would be an option because, I think you often get blinkers of, oh yeah, I know how to de-index something. But actually, if you have a specific use case, and I think again, Oliver is a perfect example here of, the reason he is able to dive into these specific cases, it's going to crop up for somebody else. We're all working essentially with similar tools and in similar places. And yeah, this is a really, really cool little trick, little interesting sideway of doing it.

Mark: So Oliver stumbled upon this, he said when he was having a chat with Chris Johnson, who is a very smart SEO. Again, on Twitter, he's @defaced, if you want to follow him. And he was talking to him about, how do you make sure as a crawler, whether a page should be indexable or not. Which is why Oliver actually started reviewing this bit of Google documentation, which is called Robots Meta Tag, Data No Snippet and X Robots Tag Specifications. Doesn't exactly sound like when people talk about clickbait and stuff you want to read and write a great headline. It's pretty dry. But Oliver duck into this, and this is where he stumbled across this unavailable after, which says, "Do not show this page in search results after specified time and date." And Oliver says in his blog post, and I love this, he said, "So I set this HGV header site wide to Jan the first 1970," which is the technical SEO equivalent of, so I started blasting.

Jack: Right.

Mark: It's just like, okay, I'll just put this site wide. And essentially, what he said happened was, pages just started dropping out of the index. When they were crawled, they were appearing in Search Console as not indexed anymore, and then within a few hours, they were no longer appearing in search. Now, why this is particularly interesting, and Oliver pointed this out, is, when they appear in Search Console as noindexed, they still list themselves as indexable, yes. And the same applied to the SEO tools that many of us use. So I believe you did did a test with Screaming Frog, crawled the page, and Screaming Frog as well, listed the page as indexable. It's just, again, all of these edge cases where you can't become too reliant on tools, and even in some cases, the feedback you're getting from Google, because those pages will not be indexed, apparently, because they're being actively dropped. However, if you just ran any crawling or audit tool, it says, yeah, they're indexable, so it could leave you as head scratching “Why isn't it being indexed?”

Jack: Currently, indexed and indexable are two different things. And like you said, I think you get focused on one thing of, yeah, well I'll just use Screaming Frog, do a quick call, just double check. And then yeah, turns out it's not as simple as that and there are other factors in there. It's why it's always worth checking your search console, why it's always worth having a look at, literally going into your HTTP and having a look at the response there and seeing what's happening. Because like I said, something I'd never even thought about, which I thought was interesting.

Mark: At the same time I saw this, I saw another headline, and I'll just read out the first paragraph of this. This is on Search Engine Round Table. They said, "Brandon Mercer, who works for Hearst Newspapers, posted in the Google Search Console help forums that people are using the remove outdated content tool from Google to remove competitor pages, and he said it works."

Jack: Oh, interesting.

Mark: Google has obviously come and been like, "No, no, no, that doesn't work."

Jack: Of course.

Mark: However, we've seen it a few times now where there has been ways to affect competitor pages that you don't have direct control over, and it's experiments like this that Oliver's done, that shows there are still lots of things maybe that happening with crawling and indexing and rendering that aren't fully known. And it wouldn't surprise me if that is the case. So it's certainly something I'm going to experiment with as well. But really recommend, if you are into technical SEO, especially, check out Oliver's blog at It's fantastic. And even as a thought inspiration place, it's a really cool place to look.


Jack: Awesome. Well, that is pretty much our episode of SISTRIX with Candour this week. Hope you enjoyed it, folks. Apologies for the technical issues at the beginning. Like I said, we are looking into doing some upgrades and fixing all that kind of stuff at the moment. And by the time next month comes around, we'll be hopefully using a new platform. We'll all be upgraded, it'll be looking good, sounding good, and all that shiny stuff as well. Like I said, if you want to check out the audio version of this podcast, go and find it. Search for Search with Candour on your podcast app of choice. Of course, please subscribe to SISTRIX on YouTube. If you're not viewing us live, you're catching up later on, you can go and view it later on as well. Of course, that will be shared on all the usual social media stuff later on as well.

And we'll be back later on, in a couple of weeks, with a live episode from Brighton, just before Brighton SEO, sponsored by SISTRIX, no less. So thank you again to SISTRIX for helping us do amazing events and do cool podcasts and live streams. That will also be live-streamed on YouTube. I will get the details for that later on, but in a couple of weeks, on Wednesday the 19th of April, I will be doing a live podcast crossover event with the fantastic SEO mindset duo of Tasman and Sarah. So stay tuned for all that stuff. Like I said, we'll be back in a couple of weeks of that. In the meantime, the podcast will carry on every single week coming out on a Monday morning. And we'll be back at a similar time next month at the start of May with another edition of SISTRIX of Candour, here on the SISTRIX YouTube channel as well. Thank you so much for joining us if you joined us live. Thank you so much for listening, if you're listening on the podcast, and we will see you again and very, very soon.