Friday 21 July 2017

Google Testing New Mobile Search Layout?

Google constantly modifies its search layout to provide more relevant results to the users.

Today morning when I tried some random Google searches on iPhone, noticed few changes in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages). Thought of sharing the same.

Searched for "Good Time to Publish YouTube Video". Screenshot below is what google showed as results.

It featured answer box of However did anyone noticed that it added some elements such as the question “What is the best time to post on YouTube" & "More Results" in the answer box? 

Once you click on "More Results" it redirects to new search which is "What is the best time to post on YouTube". This is the same question featured for the search “Good Time to Publish YouTube Video" & the same answer is seen in the answer box.
(Screenshot given below for reference).

Another search that I made "New SERP changes" and narrowed down the results to past 24 hours. Below is what the search engine result showed.

Looks similar to PAA (People Also Ask) pattern. Only difference is that PAA results showed up questions from different sites whereas according to above screenshot it showed results from the same site which is

After searching the same query "new SERP changes" found a different SERP layout. Check the screenshot below. It shows URL at the beginning, followed by Title and then Description.

Found these changes in SERP layout quite interesting. Let’s wait & watch how beneficial these changes will be to users in case Google tries to make the changes permanent.

This post is specially written by Bhumika Kateliya for SEO in Short.
Bhumika has 4 years of experience in SEO and is very passionate about Digital Marketing. Besides this she loves sketching and cooking.

Saturday 3 June 2017

ICC Champions Trophy 2017 Live Score & Updates through additional carousels on Google Mobile Search!

Another interesting modification in the Google Mobile search layout to incorporate additional information for users! In the past, I wrote about HotStar's paid listing on Google mobile search for IPL 2017; that included a beautiful carousel providing updates on live score, match videos, etc. I observed something similar this time for the on-going ICC Champions Trophy.

Cricket fans are well aware of this ICC event. For those who have no clue about the Champions Trophy, it is one of the biggest International Cricket Council's event that features top eight teams from the world. England is hosting the eight edition of ICC Champions trophy and this would be played from 1st June to 18th June 2017.

Coming back to the observation, if you search for 'Champions Trophy 2017' on mobile, you would first see a regular component of Google that provides you information on Champions trophy schedule and live score. 

If you scroll down you would see some other regular components like Top Stories and knowledge snippet (here from Wikipedia).

But the most interesting part is the carousel from the Guardian. It provides live updates and appears only when a live ICC Champions Trophy match is going on. 

The components on this carousel are picked from the live feed page of the Guardian site. Above all, this listing comes with a 'Live' tag attached to it. 

This is termed as Search Live Coverage Carousel. Publishers can participate in this search live carousel pilot to notify Google when your breaking content is available. This carousel helps user find content related to live sports events, elections and breaking news. Breaking content can include videos, articles or live blogs.

For your content to be considered for the Live Coverage carousel, Google has listed down certain criteria here. They are also listed below for your reference:

  • Content needs to be published using AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
  • The AMP pages must include Structured Data Markup for the content 
  • Content needs to be pushed to Google using an Atom XML feed

If you would like to register your interest for inclusion in the live coverage carousel pilot, you would have to fill the form provided here.

Another interesting aspect we see nowadays on Google mobile search - organic listings for many sites with dedicated carousels attached. I could see as many as five carousels for the search query 'Champions Trophy 2017' on mobile!

While ESPN Cricinfo seems to have got a mini-carousel with small components, sites like Hindustan Times or NDTV have got large carousels.

Good to see some interesting changes in the mobile search layout again!

Here is a link to the video where I have shown how exactly the mobile results appear for the search query - Champions Trophy 2017.

- Tejas Thakkar

Friday 26 May 2017

Google's New Warning about Link Building from Article Syndication & Guest Posts

Google's NO to misuse of Content Marketing

Google has issued a fresh warning which comes as a reminder for spammy links being built in articles referred to as guest posts, partner posts, syndicated posts or contributor posts.

Lately Google has observed an increase in such spammy links which are built by or in the name of one website and published on a different website. Google doesn't discourage article syndication where users are benefitted by some good content and awareness about a topic or a company. But if the intent is purely to build links in a large scale, that is where the issue is.

Warning Signals:

As mentioned in the Google announcement, below mentioned are some factors that can trigger a violation of Google guidelines:

  • Stuffing keyword-rich links to your site in your articles
  • Having the articles published across many different sites; alternatively, having a large number of articles on a few large, different sites
  • Using or hiring article writers that aren’t knowledgeable about the topics they’re writing on
  • Using the same or similar content across these articles; alternatively, duplicating the full content of articles found on your own site (in which case use of rel=”canonical”, in addition to rel=”nofollow”, is advised)
Sites need to be very careful of publishing any articles that contain spammy links. This may result in sub-optimal performance from the organic perspective. The publishing sites should check whether the content is useful for the readers and does the context match with the site. Also if the content contains links that have questionable intent, do they have rel="nofollow" tag applied?

Google clarifies that if link building is a priority, the quality of content would be compromised. To keep the web clean, Google encourages webmasters to report spam if they receive requests related to 'Post my articles' which are intented to build links. Here is the form - spam report form.

Publishers need to keep an eye on the context of the article they are posting for other sites and also keep a check on the links included. Here is what Google has to say to the distributors of articles:
"And lastly, if a link is a form of endorsement, and you’re the one creating most of the endorsements for your own site, is this putting forth the best impression of your site? Our best advice in relation to link building is to focus on improving your site’s content and everything--including links--will follow (no pun intended)."
Can we assume we would soon see an algorithm update related to links? You never know. Stay safe! Build quality content on your own site. Avoid spammy techniques to build links.

Here is an important link of Google's Quality Guidelines for your reference:

- Tejas Thakkar

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Types of Google AdSense Policy Violations & New Page Level Policy Action

This post will help you understand various types of Google AdSense Policy Violations, how to resolve them and a new Page Level Policy Action update that would certainly bring some cheer to the AdSense Publishers.

Let me begin this post with some good news for the AdSense Publishers. Google has announced couple of changes in the AdSense policies to provide greater transparency to the site owners. They are as follows:

Page Level Policy Actions

Google stopped serving ads on the whole site that violates AdSense policies. Google will now remove ads only from a particular page that violates Adsense policy guidelines. Having said so, Google will impose Site level actions if needed. And in case of repeated violations, a publisher may face Account level action.

New AdSense Policy Center for Publishers 

Google would soon launch a new AdSense Policy Center for Publishers that would provide more transparency on violations found and actions taken. This would help publishers to act on it with step by step instructions provided in the policy center.

Now let's get back to some basics.

Google AdSense is a reliable income source for many around the world. While AdSense brings a pleasure of earning substantial amount of money, at times it gives us nightmares with its Policy Violation Actions. 

We come across questions such as Why is my AdSense account disabled? Why Google stopped serving ads on my site? What are the Google AdSense Policy Guidelines? How to resolve the AdSense violation action? Let us try to find out answers to these questions.

If you visit the Policy Violations section in your AdSense Account, this is what you get to read:-
"Google monitors the sites that AdSense ads appear on, to ensure that they comply with our programme policies. We have identified the following violations on your sites. Please note that this represents only the violations that we have currently identified. You are responsible for ensuring that your properties fully comply with our policies at all times. We suggest that you regularly review all your sites for compliance. For more information regarding our policy notifications, visit our Help Centre. "
Now in case you violated any of those programme policies, you could receive a Policy Violation message in that section. Depending on the severity of the violation, you can either receive an Account level violation or a Site level violation. The difference is very well explained in the following answer that I obtained from the Adsense Help Center.

AdSense Policy violations can be due to the following reasons:-

Common reasons AdSense accounts are disabled for invalid traffic
  • Clicking ads on your own site
  • Manipulating how ads are served
  • Ads embedded in applications
  • Deceptive Ad placement that would generate accidental clicks
  • Generating automated bot traffic
  • Use of incentivized traffic source

Common reasons AdSense accounts are disabled for policy reasons
  • User generated content
  • Violation of webmaster guidelines
  • Deceptive Ad placement
  • Copyright Infrigement
  • Illegal content
  • Pornographic, adult or mature content

Here is a screenshot for your reference that shows some examples of Site level violations:

Here are explanations from Google Adsense for few of the site level violations listed above:

Deceptive Site Navigation:

Sites displaying Google ads should provide substantial and useful information to the user. Users should be able to easily navigate through the site to find what products, goods, or services are promised. Examples of misguided navigation include, but are not limited to:

  • False claims of downloadable or streaming content
  • Linking to content that does not exist
  • Redirecting users to irrelevant and/or misleading webpages
  • Text on a page unrelated to the topic and/or business model of the website.

Large Ads above the fold on mobile

Publishers may not implement Google ads in a manner that disguises the ads in any way. In order to maintain a good user experience, it is important for publishers to clearly distinguish Google ads from site content. This includes, but is not limited to: site layouts in which the ads push content below the fold on mobile devices; placing 300x250 or larger ad units above the fold on a mobile optimized site.

Update - Google now allows placement of 300x250 ad unit above the fold on a mobile site.
"After careful review, we've determined that when 300x250 ads are implemented above the fold in a user-friendly way, the ads do not annoy, distract, or result in ad performance issues."


Publishers may not implement Google ads in a manner that disguises the ads in any way. For instance, publishers may not place ads under misleading headers or titles as this may confuse users into thinking the ads are actually site links related to that header. To avoid this issue, we ask that publishers use only "sponsored links" or "advertisements" to label ads

Scraped Content

As stated in our program policies, we may not show Google ads on pages with little or no value and/or excessive advertising to the user. This includes pages that are scraping or rewriting of content from other sources without adding value.

How to resolve an Adsense Policy Violation?

You would receive a notification in your Google Adsense account in case your site violates Adsense policy guidelines. You should also receive an email with additional details for the same. Here is an example:

Google allows you three days to fix the issue before they may take a strict action and disable the ads permanently. 

Steps to resolve the Adsense Violation Action:

  • If one of the sites under your Adsense account is affected, remove the ads from that particular site.
  • Now either you can keep the affected site without ads and keep running ads on your other sites, or you can take necessary steps to make the affected site compliant with the Adsense policies.
  • Once you have made necessary modifications to the site, mark the action as resolved in your Adsense account. So for example if you received a warning for Deceptive Site Navigation, probably you have too many broken links on your site that lead user nowhere. Or maybe you are leading users to irrelevant pages. Try to fix such issues within the given time frame (generally three days) and mark the issue as resolved in the account.

  • In case you have received an account level violation or if your account is already disabled, you may have to make necessary changes as per the guidelines and write to AdSense explaining the substantial efforts you took to be compliant with the AdSense policies. 

Most important question...

How should I avoid AdSense Policy Violation Warning?

Well, it isn't that hard. Create a site for users and not for ads. Not only users but even Google would appreciate it. Here is a video that would certainly help you grow your understanding of AdSense policies. This video includes:
  • Nine tips to stay compliant with AdSense
  • Eight most common reasons for AdSense policy warnings
  • Four steps to resolving a policy notification

And some very useful links for your reference:

- Tejas Thakkar

Monday 22 May 2017

Google Image Search adds New Filters for GIFs, Clip Art, Latest & Colours

Google has added another feature to its image search. Now users can filter images based on latest results, clip art, GIF and colour. This feature is currently available on mobile search through browsers like Chrome. It doesn't work on desktop searches.

Here are few screen shots for your reference:

Search query - Flowers

Filtered by - Latest

Filtered by - GIF

Filtered by - Clip Art

Filtered by - Yellow Colour

So next time when you use Google image search on mobile, filter the results to obtain the best result.

- Tejas Thakkar

Thursday 6 April 2017

Interesting! Google Carousel Ads for HotStar, IPL 2017 Live Streaming Official Partner

As I have mentioned quite a few times in my earlier posts, Google has constantly modified its search layout to incorporate various components that could be of great benefit to the users. Talking about the non-paid listings, we have seen things like Knowledge graphs, featured snippets, reviews and ratings, live score snippets, top stories, AMP pages, map listing, local listing, Twitter snippet, Google Plus snippet and what not. 

Last night I noticed a beautiful carousel of ads related to HotStar and tweeted about it.

IPL 2017 has already embarked on in India. This T20 cricketing extravanganza has been a huge success and extremely popular amongst the cricket fans around the world. The official live streaming of IPL 2017 is available on HotStar in India. It seems HotStar has entered into a tie up with Google to showcase such a beautiful ad carousel for certain search terms related to HotStar and IPL. Here are few screenshots. Note - this is available only on Mobile Search.

Just have a look at the following screenshot. All the additional features in a Google Search Layout are marked using an arrow. Live score, schedule, twitter updates, Google plus updates, Knowledge graph, team roster, etc. Everything to make a searcher's life easier!

In January, I wrote about an ad listing with a format that was never seen before. It was related to a movie promotion where Google showed a contest right above the organic listings. 

Google also did a great job by covering the Olympic Games Rio 2016. The feature added for Rio Olympics 2016 in search results was one of the best by Google you would ever see.

Image Source:
Google comprehensively covered the following pointers related to Rio Olympics through various products:
  • Event schedule, medal counts and athlete information
  • Results and TV schedules in 30 plus countries
  • Official broadcasters' event highlights on Youtube in 60 plus countries
  • Venues in Google Maps
  • Latest search trend from around the world
Image Source:
Certainly, many more such features to come!

- Tejas Thakkar

Thursday 30 March 2017

Must Read! Updates You Can't Miss from SMX West 2017

Search Marketing Expo is an ultimate search marketing conference experience for SEO and SEM experts. SMX West was held at San Jose, California from 21st to 23rd March 2017. 

I have tried to list down certain important updates from the conference. Hope that would be of great use to you all:-

Google Assistant:

Technology doesn't stand still. Computing has changed. World is slowly moving on from a well organised web content accessible via a simple text box, we all call it 'search engine'. We need a tool which could look complex now but can evolve in stages. Something like Google Assistant. A conversational experience that helps you with whatever you want to know. Things like how far is my office from here? Which is the best route to reach the national park? When is my next appointment? 

While this looks simple, more than words it is important to understand the context. This is an exciting prospect and also the right time to develop such a tool. With important developments such as speech recognition and machine learning, gradually such tools would evolve. Google believes Assistant should be everywhere. At every single place where we need help. At home, in cars, everywhere! And this is the reason Google wants to invest in a robust developer platform. 

Google Assistant is still evolving. Search is a part of Assistant. It's more than search. It's also about knowing your personal calendar and various other stuffs. It would also be about asking for a movie review and later buying a ticket!

If you are wondering, what runs in the background for Google Assistant to provide certain results, I mean how does it deal with which service to be surfaced to the user; it's different from how a web document is ranked. In the end it has to be about what is the easiest way to help users get things done. And Google is still figuring that out.

Many of us might have privacy concerns while using Google Assistant. Google says they take privacy very seriously. Assistant will work on the trust factor. It will share information only on consent and for that, Google wants to give the users full control on privacy.

It's a bit early to talk about Ads on Assistant. Current focus is to better user experience.

Google has made a lot of investment on language recognition and machine learning. So slowly Assistant will deal with slang!

International SEO

Map it out what exactly you want and you can manage - ccTLD, sub-directories or sub-domains. Also analyse what structure is working well in your targeted country search results. 

When you are using hreflang, make sure the URLs resolve with 200 status code. Don't include URLs that return 301, 404, etc status codes.

Here is a link to a great presentation from SMX West on International SEO by Aleyda Solis:

Mobile First Index

Approximately 56% traffic comes from mobile devices. Derived from a study made on nearly 584 Billion pageviews.

Mobile First Index is in the pipeline. Don't freak out. It is still months away!

Avoid using interstitial ads on mobile. Instead, use banners at the top.

Allow both portrait and landscape orientations for the mobile device. Gestures such as tap or pinch to zoom work really well on mobile. 

Keep font size easy to read. Base font should be kept 16 pixels.

Tag targets need to be easy to use. Space tap targets atleast 32 pixels apart.

Site search has to be easy to find and easy to use.

Make use of user friendly keyboard and typing options. Don't show an alphabet keyboard when user has to input numbers (example while entering credit card information). Also when you ask for email address, make @ easily accessible on the keyboard. 

Copy over your content that you want to rank from desktop to the mobile version.

Implement structured data on the mobile version of your site.

Provide an easy way for mobile users to navigate to the desktop site. That also works well for the crawlers.

If you don't have a mobile version of a page, send visitors to the desktop version instead of serving a 404 page.

If you have a mobile responsive site, you don't have much to do. You should be good to go. All three setups can work with mobile first index, but responsive is the easiest to manage.

Number of pages on desktop and mobile version shouldn't differ too much. 3000 pages on desktop and 2000 pages on mobile can be a concern.

Take care of the click depth. If a desktop version takes three clicks for a user to reach a desired page and mobile version takes 35 click for the same, that's an issue!

If you are dynamically serving the sites for desktop and mobile, make sure you use vary http header.

Don't block resources in robots.txt file. Use fetch and render to test.

Ensure the images and videos are responsive.

People don't generally link the mobile versions of a site. That's problematic on the mobile web. Google is figuring this out.

No wonder if we have to implement tags like hreflang on mobile pages.

Google currently considers Desktop page speed as an important factor. Google will have to rethink about Mobile page speed as a ranking factor with mobile first index. Google will communicate about this later.

Wondering how will mobile first index work with mobile versions, AMP, Progressive Web Apps, etc? Google clarifies they are just focusing on mobile and desktop right now.

Mobile web reach is 2.5 times the app reach. Nobody is searching for your app. Most of them have the apps they need - that includes big apps like Facebook, Youtube, etc and some niche apps depending on their needs.

82% of the consumers will consult their phone while in a store. Mobile influences even if the purchase happens offline!

Searches containing 'near me' have doubled in the last year.

Structured Data Markup:

Here is a presentation on successful SEO with Structured Data Markup:

And here is the structured data capabilities by data consumer:

Some takeaways for Structured Data:

Structured Data allows you to say stuffs about things whereas html tells search engines about the page. is the vocabulary of choice developed by search engines. It is reliable and extensible. It is community driven. One can suggest changes to

The Open Graph Protocol is Facebook's structured data vocabulary. It is based on RDFa. Twitter Cards is plain old HTML.

Microdata and RDFa are inline syntaxes. Declared in the HTML. It is error prone, hence JSON-LD is preferred version by Google and developers.

You can combine microdata and JSON-LD but ideally you shouldn't do that. Google sees them as two entities.

All search engines support Pinterest supports it from the social point of view.

Bing doesn't support JSON-LD!

Rich results not available for courses, books, jobs, datasets like CSVs, etc. These could be coming soon.

Some other important inputs from the SMX West 2017:

How app indexing is going to benefit publishers?

Google strongly suggests to move onto https.

47% of the page one results are https says MozCast.

When you move from http to https, don't remove http pages using the remove URL tool in Google Search Console.

Make your mobile pages render under one second!

Google doesn't have a domain authority score. Google prefers standalone signals related to specific pages or documents. Most of the signals are not sitewide.

If your competition is ranking better with an exact match domain, look at what other things they are doing to rank well in search results.

If the sites that provide you links have been devalued, you can lose your rankings if you don't replace those links.  

If content is further down in a directory structure, it won't matter for its ability to rank.

Manual spam review at Google looks for pattern, not individual sites.

There is no duplicate content penalty, but you are diluting your signals by having duplicate content on your site.

Bounce rate and CTR are only used for quality assurances!

Authorship is no more a ranking factor.

Page length doesn't matter. Stick to the context and keep it as long as needed.

AMP might not give you ranking boost at this moment, but you may see a CTR lift.

Google search algorithms can't be complete AI based. It is difficult to debug the decisions made by AI. With traditional algorithm, you can understand why a ranking decision was made.

Nothing to worry if you missed the SMX 'Ask Google Anything' panel. Here is an infographic with the takeaways:-

Here is a link to view all the presentations from SMX West 2017:

And time for some interesting tweets from Google Dance!

- Tejas Thakkar