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Google is rolling out a new addition to its “About this result” feature in search results which will explain why the search engine chose a specific result to rank.

The new section, called “Your search & this result” explains the specific factors which made Google believe a specific page may have what you’re looking for.

This can include a number of SEO factors, ranging from the keywords which matched with the page (including related but not directly matching terms), backlink details, related images, location-based information, and more. 

How Businesses Can Use This Information

For users, this feature can help understand why they are seeing specific search results and even provide tips for refining their search for better results. 

The unspoken utility of this tool for businesses is glaringly obvious, however. 

This feature essentially provides an SEO report card, showing exactly where you are doing well on ranking for important keywords. By noting what is not included, you can also get an idea of what areas could be improved to help you rank better in the future.

Taking this even further, you could explore the details for other pages ranking for your primary keywords, helping you better strategize to overtake your competition.

What It Looks Like

Below, you can see a screenshot of what the feature looks like in action:

The information box provides a quick bullet point list of several factors which caused the search engine to return the specific result.
While Google only detailed a few of the possible details the box may include, users around the web have reported seeing information about all of these factors included:

  • Included search terms: Google can show which exact search terms were matched with the content or HTML on the related page. This includes content that is not typically visible to users, such as the title tag or meta data.
  • Related search terms: Along with the keywords which were directly matched with the related page, Google can also show “related” terms. For example, Google knew to include results related to the Covid vaccine based on the keyword “shot”.
  • Other websites link to this page: The search engine may choose to highlight a page which might otherwise appear unrelated because several pages using the specific keyword linked to this specific page.
  • Related images: If the images are properly optimized, Google may be able to identify when images on a page are related to your search.
  • This result is [Language]: Obviously, users who don’t speak or read your language are unlikely to have much use for your website or content. This essentially notes that the page is in the same language you use across the rest of Google.
  • This result is relevant for searches ih [Region]: Lastly, the search engine may note if locality helped influence its search result based on other contextual details. For example, it understood that the user in Vermont, was likely looking for nearby results when searching “get the shot”.

The expanded “About this result” section is rolling out to English-language U.S. users already and is expected to be widely available across the country within a week. From there, Google says it will work to bring the feature to more countries and languages soon.

We all know that the search results you get on mobile and the ones you get on desktop devices can be very different – even for the same query, made at the same time, in the same place, logged into the same Google account. 

Have you ever found yourself asking exactly why this happens?

One site owner did and recently got the chance to ask one of Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller.

In the recent SEO Office Hours Session, Mueller explained that a wide range of factors decide what search results get returned for a search query – including what device you are using and why this happens.

Why Are Mobile Search Rankings Different From Desktop?

The question asked to Mueller specifically wanted to clarify why there is still a disparity between mobile and desktop search results after the launch of mobile-first indexing for all sites. Here’s what was asked:

“How are desktop and mobile ranking different when we’ve already switched to mobile-first indexing.”

Indexing and Ranking Are Different

In response to the question, Mueller first tried to clarify that indexing and rankings are not exactly the same thing. Instead, they are more like two parts of a larger system. 

“So, mobile-first indexing is specifically about that technical aspect of indexing the content. And we use a mobile Googlebot to index the content. But once the content is indexed, the ranking side is still (kind of) completely separate.”

Although the mobile-first index was a significant shift in how Google brought sites into their search engine and understood them, it actually had little direct effect on most search results. 

Mobile Users and Desktop Users Have Different Needs

Beyond the explanation about indexing vs. ranking, John Mueller also said that Google returns unique rankings for mobile and desktop search results because they reflect potentially different needs in-the-moment. 

“It’s normal that desktop and mobile rankings are different. Sometimes that’s with regards to things like speed. Sometimes that’s with regards to things like mobile-friendliness.

“Sometimes that’s also with regards to the different elements that are shown in the search results page.

“For example, if you’re searching on your phone then maybe you want more local information because you’re on the go. Whereas if you’re searching on a desktop maybe you want more images or more videos shown in the search results. So we tend to show …a different mix of different search results types.

“And because of that it can happen that the ranking or the visibility of individual pages differs between mobile and desktop. And that’s essentially normal. That’s a part of how we do ranking.

“It’s not something where I would say it would be tied to the technical aspect of indexing the content.”

With this in mind, there’s little need to be concerned if you aren’t showing up in the same spot for the same exact searches on different devices.

Instead, watch for big shifts in what devices people are using to access your page. If your users are overwhelmingly using phones, assess how your site can better serve the needs of desktop users. Likewise, a majority of traffic coming from desktop devices may indicate you need to assess your site’s speed and mobile friendliness.

If you want to hear Mueller’s full explanation and even more discussion about search engine optimization, check out the SEO Office Hours video below:

Despite the difference in how the pages are used created and generally thought about, Google’s John Mueller says the search engine sees no difference between “blog posts” and “web pages.”

In a recent SEO hangout, Mueller was asked by site owner Navin Adhikari about why the blog section of his site wasn’t getting the same amount of traffic as the rest of his site. This, combined with the way Google emphasizes content within its guidelines, has made Adhikari suspect that the search engine may be ranking blog content differently. This would explain why the rest of his site would be performing consistently well, while the blog was underperforming.

However, Mueller says this isn’t the case. In fact, Mueller explained that while the distinction between blog content and other areas of a site is something the search engine does not have access to, it is also not something the company would heavily factor into results if it could.

Google’s John Mueller Says Google Sees All Pages Similarly

In most cases, Mueller says the distinction between “blog posts” and “web pages” is entirely artificial. It is something provided for convenience on a website’s content management system (CMS) to help creatives generate content without the need for code skill and to help keep pages organized. 

So, while the blog part of your site may seem entirely separate to you while you are creating posts, it is just another subsection of your site in Google’s perspective.

“I don’t think Googlebot would recognize that there’s a difference. So usually that difference between posts and pages is something that is more within your backend within the CMS that you’re using, within WordPress in that case. And it wouldn’t be something that would be visible to us.

“So we would look at these as if it’s an HTML page and there’s lots of content here and it’s linked within your website in this way, and based on that we would rank this HTML page.

“We would not say oh it’s a blog post, or it’s a page, or it’s an informational article. We would essentially say it’s an HTML page and there’s this content here and it’s interlinked within your website in this specific way.”

Why A Blog May Underperform

If Google wasn’t ranking Adhikari’s blog differently, why would his blog specifically underperform? Mueller has some ideas.

Without access to in-depth data about the site, Mueller speculated that the most likely issue in this case would be how the blog is linked to from other pages on the site.

“I think, I mean, I don’t know your website so it’s hard to say. But what might be happening is that the internal linking of your website is different for the blog section as for the services section or the other parts of your website.

“And if the internal linking is very different then it’s possible that we would not be able to understand that this is an important part of the website.

“It’s not tied to the URLs, it’s not tied to the type of page. It’s really like we don’t understand how important this part of the website is.”

One way to do this is to generate a feed of links to new content on the homepage of your site. This helps to quickly establish that your blog content is important to your audience.

To hear the Mueller’s full response and more discussion on the best search engine optimization practices for Google, check out the full SEO Office Hours video below:

A representative from Google announced the search engine began rolling out a broad core update (appropriately titled the June 2021 Core Update) this week. Surprisingly, the announcement also revealed a second update is expected to roll out next month. 

Note that this is not the Page Experience Update which Google is planning to launch in mid-June.

Typically, Google rolls out a broad core update every few months. For example, the last update before this came nearly six months ago, in December 2020. The gap between updates before that was even longer, with the previous update arriving in May 2020. 

Obviously, this raises some questions about why the company felt the need to start releasing a two-part algorithm now, rather than waiting to roll it all out at once next month. 

Google being Google, details about what the broad core updates will change are relatively scant. Still, here’s what we do know:

Why Two Core Updates?

Based on statements from Google liaison Danny Sullivan and others, it seems the search engine simply didn’t want to sit on some of the completed updates while it waited for the rest to be finalized. 

Sullivan did note that some effects from the first part of the update may be temporary, however, as the second part rolls out. 

“Of course, any core update can produce drops or gains for some content. Because of the two-part nature of this release, it’s possible a very small slice of content might see changes in June that reverse in July.”

What You Should Expect

As with most broad core updates, Google is giving somewhat mixed signals about how big the impact will be. 

On one hand, the company says most sites won’t notice any changes to their presence in search results. At the same time, Google says the update will produce “some widely noticeable effects.”

From past experience, we can predict that sites producing quality content and keeping up with overall Google guidelines will be largely unaffected. Those within more controversial or less reputable industries (online gambling, some medical niches, law, etc.), may be more likely to see some fallout even if they have been doing everything “right”. 

Those using tactics which can be seen as more “spammy” such as republishing content, using user-generated content in overbearing or spammy ways, or using questionable guest-blogging practices may also be likely to see some negative results as the update rolls out.

Ultimately, we will all have to wait and see as the update finishes, which Google says should take about two weeks. 

What To Do If You Are Affected

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things about broad core updates is that you can be impacted even if you aren’t doing anything ostensibly “wrong”. Some pages may see negative ranking shifts despite following all of Google’s guidance. 

This makes recovering a tricky proposition, but Google has provided some advice for brands negatively impacted. 

Specifically, the company suggests asking yourself the following questions about your brand:

Content and Quality Questions

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

Expertise Questions

  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic?
  • Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

Presentation and Production Questions

  • Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
  • Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • 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?
  • Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?

Comparative Questions

  • Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

While not hard and fast guidance, these questions can help you evaluate your site and find areas to improve upon before the next broad core update. 

Thankfully, in this case we know the next update is coming quite soon – July 2021 – so there is a chance any negative effects from the ongoing update will be short-lived. 

Have you gotten your brand’s website ready for the upcoming Google Page Experience ranking signal update? 

If not, Google Developer Martin Splitt says there’s no need to panic. 

In an interview on the Search Engine Journal Show on YouTube, host Loren Baker asks Splitt what advice he would give to anyone worried their site isn’t prepared for the update set to launch in mid-June. 

Giving a rare peek at the expected impact of the impending update, Splitt reveals the Page Experience signal update isn’t going to be a massive gamechanger. Instead, it is more of a “tiebreaker.”

As a “lightweight ranking signal”, just optimizing your site’s Page Experience metrics isn’t going to launch you from the back of the pack to the front. If you are competing with a site with exactly the same performance in every other area, however, this will give you the leg up to receive the better position in the search results. 

Don’t Ignore The Update

While the Page Experience update isn’t set to radically change up the search results, Splitt says brands and site owners should still work to optimize their site with the new signals in mind. 

Ultimately, making your page faster, more accessible on a variety of devices, and easier to use is always a worthwhile effort – even if it’s not a major ranking signal. 

As Splitt says:

“First things first, don’t panic. Don’t completely freak out, because as I said it’s a tiebreaker. For some it will be quite substantial, for some it will not be very substantial, so you don’t know which bucket you’ll be in because that depends a lot on context and industry and niche. So I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

I think generally making your website faster for users should be an important goal, and it should not just be like completely ignored. Which is the situation in many companies today that they’re just like ‘yeah, whatever.’”

As for how he thinks brands should approach the update, Splitt recommended focusing on new projects and content rather than prioritizing revamping your entire site upfront. 

… For new projects, definitely advise them to look into Core Web Vitals from the get-go. For projects that are already in maintenance mode, or are already actively being deployed, I would look into making some sort of plan for the mid-term future — like the next six months, eight months, twelve months — to actually work on the Core Web Vitals and to improve performance. Not just from an SEO perspective, but also literally for your users.”

Much of the discussion focuses on the perspective of SEO professionals, but it includes several bits of relevant information for anyone who owns or manages a website for their business. 

To hear the full conversation, check out the video below from Search Engine Journal:

Google’s upcoming Page Experience ranking update – initially believed to be exclusive to mobile search – will also be coming to desktop search results in the future. 

The reveal came during part of Google’s annual big I/O event this week, by Google Search product manager Jeffrey Jose. 

Since the announcement of the Page Experience update, which will implement new ranking signals based on “Core Web Vitals” which assess the user friendliness of a site, was going to be rolled out to only Google’s mobile search results. 

As Jose explained, however, the update will also be coming to desktop search – at a later date.

“Today I am happy to announce that we are bringing Page Experience ranking to desktop. While we’re launching Page Experience on mobile soon, we believe page experience is critical no matter the surface the user is browsing the web. This is why we’re working hard on bringing page experience ranking to desktop. As always we’ll be providing updated guidance, documentation, and tools along the way to help your pages perform at its best. Stay tuned for more details on this.”

The specific wording of the announcement suggests the desktop update may use its own set of unique or modified ranking signals or criteria. This is reasonable considering users are likely to have different usability expectations depending on which platform they are using. 

While the launch of the desktop Page Experience update is unknown, the mobile version is still scheduled to begin rolling out in June and be completely implemented by August.

To learn more about the Page Experience update and to see the announcement for yourself, check out the video below:

Blog comments are a tricky issue for many business websites. 

On one hand, everyone dreams of building a community of loyal customers that follow every post and regularly have a healthy discussion in the comments. Not only can it be helpful for other potential customers, but comments tend to help Google rankings and help inspire future content for your site. 

On the other hand, most business-based websites receive significantly more spam than genuine comments. Even the best anti-spam measures can’t prevent every sketchy link or comment on every post. For the most part, these are more annoying than being an actual problem. However, if left completely unmonitored, spam could build up and potentially hurt your rankings.

This can make it tempting to just remove comments from your blog entirely. If you do, you don’t have to worry about monitoring comments, responding to trolls, or weeding out spam. After all, your most loyal fans can still talk about your posts on your Facebook page, right?

Unfortunately, as Google’s John Mueller recently explained, removing comments from your blog is likely to hurt more than it helps. 

John Mueller Addresses Removing Blog Comments

In a Google Search Central SEO hangout on February 5, Google’s John Mueller explored a question from a site owner about how Google factors blog comments into search rankings. Specifically, they wanted to remove comments from their site but worried about potentially dropping in the search results if they did. 

While the answer was significantly more complicated, the short version is this:

Google does factor blog comments into where they decide to rank web pages. Because of this, it is unlikely that you could remove comments entirely without affecting your rankings. 

How Blog Comments Impact Search Rankings

Google sees comments as a separate but significant part of your content. So, while they recognize that comments may not be directly reflective of your content, it does reflect things like engagement and occasionally provide helpful extra information. 

This also means that removing blog comments is essentially removing a chunk of information, keywords, and context from every blog post on your site in the search engine’s eyes. 

However, John Mueller didn’t go as far as recommending to keep blog comments over removing them. This depends on several issues including how many comments you’ve received, what type of comments you’ve gotten, and how much they have added to your SEO.

As Mueller answered:

“I think it’s ultimately up to you. From our point of view we do see comments as a part of the content. We do also, in many cases, recognize that this is actually the comment section so we need to treat it slightly differently. But ultimately if people are finding your pages based on the comments there then, if you delete those comments, then obviously we wouldn’t be able to find your pages based on that.

So, that’s something where, depending on the type of comments that you have there, the amount of comments that you have, it can be the case that they provide significant value to your pages, and they can be a source of additional information about your pages, but it’s not always the case.

So, that’s something where I think you need to look at the contents of your pages overall, the queries that are leading to your pages, and think about which of these queries might go away if comments were not on those pages anymore. And based on that you can try to figure out what to do there.

It’s certainly not the case that we completely ignore all of the comments on a site. So just blindly going off and deleting all of your comments in the hope that nothing will change – I don’t think that will happen.”

It is clear that removing blog comments entirely from your site is all but certain to affect your search rankings on some level. Whether this means a huge drop in rankings or potentially a small gain, though, depends entirely on what type of comments your site is actually losing. 

To watch Mueller’s full answer, check out the video below:

Google has always had a love-hate relationship with pop-ups or ‘interstitials’. 

Since 2016, the search engine has reportedly used a ranking penalty to punish sites using aggressive or intrusive pop-ups on their pages. Of course, if you’ve been to many sites recently, you know these disruptive pop-ups are still common across the web.

In a recent stream, Google’s John Mueller clarified exactly how the interstitial “penalty” works, and why so many sites get away with using disruptive pop-ups.

John Mueller on Website Pop-Ups

During a recent Google Search Central office hours stream, Mueller was asked about the possibility of using mobile pop-ups on their site for a short period of time.

Specifically, the individual wanted to know if they would be devalued for using interstitials to ask visitors to take a survey when visiting the site.

Perhaps surprisingly, Mueller didn’t see much issue with temporarily running pop ups on their mobile site. 

Going even further, he explained that even if the site was hit with a penalty for the pop-ups, it could potentially continue to rank well in search results. 

This is because the so-called “interstitials penalty” is quite a minor ranking factor in the grand scheme. While it can affect your rankings, it is unlikely to have a significant impact unless other issues are present.

Still, Mueller says if you are going to use pop-ups on your mobile sites, the best course is to only use them temporarily and not to show them to every visitor coming to your site.

Here’s his full response:

“I don’t think we would penalize a website for anything like this. The web spam team has other things to do than to penalize a website for having a pop-up.

There are two aspects that could come into play. On one hand we have, on mobile, the policy of the intrusive interstitials, so that might be something to watch out for that you don’t keep it too long or show it to everyone all the time.

With that policy it’s more of a subtle ranking factor that we use to adjust the ranking slightly if we see that there’s no useful content on the page when we load it. That’s something that could come into play, but it’s more something that would be a temporary thing.

If you have this survey on your site for a week or so, then during that time we might pick up on that signal, we might respond to that signal, and then if you have removed it we can essentially move on as well. So it’s not that there’s going to be a lasting effect there.

Another aspect that you want to watch out for is if you’re showing the pop-up instead of your normal content then we will index the content of the pop-up. If you’re showing the pop-up in addition to the existing content, which sounds like the case, then we would still have the existing content to index and that would kind of be okay.”

Ultimately, the take-away is to not overly fixate on being penalized specifically for using an interstitial pop-up on your site. Rather, put your attention on doing what is right for your website and what provides the best experience for visitors.

If you want to hear the question and full answer for yourself, check out the video below:

Google confirmed this week that its most recent broad core update, which began rolling out on December 3, 2020, is now completely rolled out to all search users.

Google’s SearchLiason account announced “the December 2020 Core Update rollout is complete,” yesterday following almost two weeks of anxious waiting from webmasters and SEOs.

What We Know

Google is notoriously tight-lipped about its “secret recipe” used to rank websites around the world. Still, this update was big enough that the search engine felt it necessary to alert the public when the December core update started rolling out. 

This may simply be because the update rollout is global, affecting all users in all countries, across all languages, and across all website categories. 

However, early signs suggest the algorithm update was uncommonly big, with many reporting huge gains or losses in organic traffic from search engines. 

What Is a Broad Core Update?

Google’s “broad core updates” are essentially a tuneup of the search engine’s systems. Rather than adding a specific feature, targeting a singular widespread issue like linkspam, or prioritizing a ranking signal, a core update more subtly tweaks Google’s existing systems. This can be rebalancing the impact of some search signals, refining Google’s indexing tools, or any other combination of changes. 

What To Do If You Are Affected

The first thing any webmaster should do is thoroughly check their analytics to ensure they haven’t experienced a significant change in search traffic. 

If you have, you will be disappointed to hear that Google has not provided any specific guidance for how to recover from this update. In fact, the company suggests a negative impact from a core update may not even reflect any actual problems with your website.

What the search engine does offer is a series of questions to consider if you have been affected by a recent core update. Though not as useful as actual suggestions for fixing lost rankings, these questions can help you assess your site and identify areas for improvement before the next broad core update.

With the announcement that Google will begin including the “Core Web Vitals”  (CWV) metrics in its search engine algorithm starting next year, many are scrambling to make sense of what exactly these metrics measure and how they work.

Unlike metrics such as “loading speed” or “dwell time” which are direct and simple to understand, Core Web Vitals combine a number of factors which can get very technical.

To help you prepare for the introduction of Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal next year, Google is sharing a comprehensive guide to what CWV measures, and how they can affect your website. 

What Are Core Web Vitals

The first thing to understand is what exactly Core Web Vitals are. Simply put, CWV are a combination of three specific metrics assessing your page’s loading speed, usability, and stability. These three metrics appear very technical at first, but the gist is that your site needs to load quickly and provide a secure and easy to use experience. As for the specifics, Core Web Vitals include:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have LCP occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.
  • First Input Delay (FID): Measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, sites should strive to have a CLS score of less than 0.1.

Importantly, in the new guide, Google reaffirmed its intention to start using Core Web Vitals as a ranking signal in 2021. 

“Starting May 2021, Core Web vitals will be included in page experience signals together with existing search signals including mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.”

Does Every Page Need To Meet CWV Standards?

In the help document, Google explains that the Core Web Vitals standards it set out should be seen as a mark to aim for, but not necessarily a requirement for good ranking. 

Q: Is Google recommending that all my pages hit these thresholds? What’s the benefit?

A: We recommend that websites use these three thresholds as a guidepost for optimal user experience across all pages. Core Web Vitals thresholds are assessed at the per-page level, and you might find that some pages are above and others below these thresholds. The immediate benefit will be a better experience for users that visit your site, but in the long-term we believe that working towards a shared set of user experience metrics and thresholds across all websites, will be critical in order to sustain a healthy web ecosystem.

Will Core Web Vitals Make or Break Your Site?

It is unclear exactly how strongly Core Web Vitals metrics will be able to affect your site when they are implemented, but Google’s current stance suggests they will be a significant part of your ranking.

Q: How does Google determine which pages are affected by the assessment of Page Experience and usage as a ranking signal?

A: Page experience is just one of many signals that are used to rank pages. Keep in mind that intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page with a subpar page experience may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

Other Details

Among the Q&A, Google also gives a few important details on the scope and impact of Core Web Vitals.

Q: Is there a difference between desktop and mobile ranking? 

A: At this time, using page experience as a signal for ranking will apply only to mobile Search.

Q: What can site owners expect to happen to their traffic if they don’t hit Core Web Vitals performance metrics?

A: It’s difficult to make any kind of general prediction. We may have more to share in the future when we formally announce the changes are coming into effect. Keep in mind that the content itself and its match to the kind of information a user is seeking remains a very strong signal as well.

The full document covers a wide range of technical issues which will be relevant for any web designer or site manager, but the big picture remains the same. Google has been prioritizing sites with the best user experience for years, and the introduction of Core Web Vitals only advances that effort. 

Find out more about Core Web Vitals here.