Tuesday 31 January 2017

SEO in Short - Recap for January 2017

Here is a list of top 5 posts from SEO in Short

Crawl Budget is a good old concept often overlooked by the search engine optimization experts. While we all keep pondering on how good the title tags need to be or how to optimize the images; we often forget about how easy or difficult the crawler journey would be on our site?

Read here to know more about Crawl Budget and ways to optimize it…

Google has already rolled its new policy to devalue pages that use intrusive interstitials and popups. I have tried to list down some important factors that we need to know about this new policy.

Read here to know more about this…

Check the impact of Google’s Pop-up penalty on sites so far. And what does Google representatives have to say about it. Read here…

AMP is a highly trending concept in the SEO world. Webmasters are wondering whether to implement AMP or not? Is it a ranking factor?

Get your answers here…

Ad balance is a feature introduced to give more controls to publishers to provide better ads experience to site visitors.

Read here to know more about this new feature…

Tejas Thakkar

Thursday 26 January 2017

Is AMP a Ranking Factor? Should I Implement AMP?

AMP is a highly trending concept in the SEO world. Webmasters are wondering whether to implement AMP or not? Is it a ranking factor?

To be honest AMP is still in its infant stage. If AMP is here to stay, we are bound to see a lot more updates related to it. There are several sites that have already implemented AMP. Some have implemented across the whole site while some have done it just for few static pages.

I tried making a Google search on mobile for 'mobile price online'. Here is the result:-

Snapdeal.com ranks for its AMP version.

Similarly when I made a mobile search for 'cricket', the top stories were full of AMP pages:-

For those who are still new to the AMP concept:-

What is AMP?

AMP means Accelerated Mobile Pages. AMP is a stripped down form of HTML that is designed to make fast mobile pages. 

Google believes a page created with AMP HTML should load 15 to 85% faster than the non-AMP version of that page. This is possibly because the reimagined version of HTML, i.e. AMP HTML cuts down elements like JavaScript and third-party scripts that cause pages to load slower on mobiles.

Is AMP a ranking factor?

Google's representatives have repeatedly said that AMP isn't a ranking factor. While few of the SEO experts have twitted at times about ranking improvement for AMP pages, there hasn't been a strong case so far.

Recently John Mueller confirmed on Twitter, AMP isn't a ranking factor:

Should I implement AMP?

As I said before, AMP as a concept is still in its infant stage. But then there is no harm in trying it out - only if you implement it correctly with all the AMP related tags in place.

To begin with you can implement AMP on your top 10 to 20 important pages that majorly serve static content. Or why not try it on your blog?

Above all, its all about serving fast loading mobile pages to the users. Why not also try making your existing mobile pages load faster? Even that is a good idea, isn't it?

This isn't a pleasant site for any of us:-

Tejas Thakkar

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Google’s Mobile Interstitial Penalty - Recent Updates

I had written a post on Google's Mobile Interstitial Penalty and important factors you need to know about it. 

Glenn Gabe, a digital marketing veteran and columnist at Search Engine Land and Search Engine watch; is constantly monitoring the effects of Google's Mobile Interstitial policy roll out. He is taking some great efforts in tracking around 60 websites employing mobile popups and their organic rankings. After almost 15 days since the rollout, he is yet to see a widespread impact. You would love to read his article here.

Here is a Twitter discussion between Glenn Gabe and Marie Haynes on the impact:-

John Mueller from Google and Jennifer Slegg later joined the conversation:

Furthermore, Gary Illyes from Google stated a possibility of recrawl that takes time.

Even though the experts have found out that the rollout hasn't had too much of an impact so far, you need to take care of some important factors listed here on this link.

And if you are one of those rare and unfortunate people who have seen a ranking demotion due to this policy, you need to get rid of the intrusive interstitals on your mobile pages. Google has to recrawl your affected pages to lift the demotion.

In the recent webmaster office hours, John Mueller confirmed that once your site is demoted due to mobile interstitial policy, the Googlebots will have to recrawl your affected pages for the ranking demotion to be revoked. Now that completely depends on how frequently your pages get crawled.

Just as an effort to quicken the process, one can use the Fetch and Submit feature of Google Search Console to get the pages recrawled quickly.

Meanwhile have a look at couple of funny and interesting tweets related to pop-ups or notifications that hamper user experience:

Tejas Thakkar

Tuesday 17 January 2017

What is Crawl Budget and How to Optimise it?

What is Crawl Budget?

Crawl Budget is a good old concept often overlooked by the search engine optimisation experts. While we all keep pondering on how good the title tags need to be or how to optimise the images; we often forget about how easy or difficult the crawler journey would be on our site?

Search engine crawlers, spiders or bots are basically programs that visit your site continuously, collect information and create a search engine index. While we emphasise on the user friendliness of our sites, we overlook the importance to make a crawler's journey amicable on our site.

In a recent post on Google Webmaster Central Blog, Gary Illyes tried to explain What Crawl Budget Means to Googlebots. And this is how the post simply defines Crawl Budget - The number of URLs Googlebot can and wants to crawl on your site.

Understanding Crawl Budget further

Although Google hasn't mentioned how to quantify Crawl Budget, just to get a rough estimate we can assume the following:-

On an average, if Googlebot crawls 100 pages every day on my site, the monthly crawl budget should be 100*30 = 3000.

Determine Crawl Budget using Google Search Console

Sign into your Google Search Console account, visit the Crawl Stats subtab under Crawl. This is what you would see:-

In this example, the average number of pages crawled in last 90 days by Googlebot were 1,286. So monthly crawl budget comes out to be 1,286*30 = 38,580.

Who should prioritize crawl budget?

  • If your new pages are being crawled the same day, you can don't need to worry much about the crawl budget
  • If your site has fewer than a few thousand pages, ideally your site would be crawled efficiently. Crawl budget isn't a cause of concern here
  • You should certainly pay a lot of attention to crawl budget if your site is huge in size where you need to prioritize important pages. Or you own a site that auto generates pages with URL parameters that doesn't change the content.

Crawl rate limit and Crawl demand

Googlebot crawls the websites to gather information and create a search engine index. Google takes cares that the overall crawling process shouldn't hamper the experience of users that visit the site. Hence it has to set a limit on how often and how long should it crawl a site. This is called Crawl rate limit. 

Gary Illyes included couple of important factors in his post that could affect the crawl rate. They are as follows:

  • Crawl health - The crawl rate can go high if the site responds quickly. The rate may go down if the site is slow or throws server errors.
  • Crawl limit set in Search Console - The crawl rate can be affected if the site owners have modified the crawl rate in Search Console. Note new crawl rate that you set in the Search Console is valid for 90 days.
The crawl rate can also depend on the demand to crawl certain pages of your site. At times, even when the crawl limit isn't reached, Googlebot would be disinterested in crawling your pages if there is no demand from indexing. Crawl demand can be determined from the following three factors:-

  • Site/page popularity - Googlebots prefer to crawl popular pages more. This is an effort to keep those pages fresh in the Google index.
  • Staleness - Googlebots prefer to prevent pages from becoming stale in the index.
  • Site-wide events - In cases where your site undergoes a revamp or moves to another domain, bots would prefer to recrawl and reindex the site pages to keep its index fresh.

Why to optimise your Crawl Budget?

Now we understand what exactly is a crawl budget. And probably we all have a certain crawl budget assigned to our site which in turn depends on numerous factors  such as the site size, site health, authority, popularity and many more to name.

How about a scenario where Googlebots are absolutely not interested in crawling your site even if they haven't reached the crawl rate limit? Probably because your site is technically unhealthy! Loads of crawl errors, duplicate content, dynamically generated URLs and what not!

Now that's a tough situation! 

If you really want Google to discover your important content and that too quite frequently, you need to optimise the crawl budget of your site. Logically this is possible if you improve the crawl rate limit and crawl demand for your site.

To prove this point let's revisit the definition of crawl budget:- The number of URLs Googlebot can and wants to crawl on your site. 

This can very well mean - Googlebots wanted to crawl say 1000 pages but due to your unhealthy website, they could just crawl 700 live pages. Rest all lead to errors? Or they could just crawl 200 important pages and rest all were duplicate/dynamically generated versions of those 200 pages? 

You wasted a large chunk of your website's crawl budget due to those error pages or dynamically generated duplicate pages on your site.

How to optimise your Crawl Budget?

Now that you know why it is important to optimise the crawl budget, let's learn how to optimise the crawl budget.

I have tried to list down as many factors as possible that can improve your crawl budget. 

1) Make your important pages accessible to Google

Even if you have loads of pages on your site, you would certainly have certain pages that you consider important. For an e-commerce sites, the important pages have to be the home page, category page, sub-category pages, product pages, etc. Just make sure none of your important pages are blocked for Googlebots. Not to forget, you should also allow Googlebots to crawl the CSS and Javascript files. This helps the bots to render your pages correctly.

2) Block pages that are not important

Your site can have pages with duplicate content, very old news articles, dynamically generated pages that add no value to the site, etc. Make sure you block such pages in robots file. Preferably add a noindex tag to such pages so that they aren't a part of the Google index.

I have seen several instances where sites are developed on test domains that aren't blocked for Google. The bots crawl and index such test sites. Once the actual site is launched, the test domain leads to duplicate content. Our motive should be to block pages that are not important so that Googlebots can assign crawl budget to the right pages!

3) Avoid redirect chains

Long redirect chains can create two issues. First, Googlebots might drop off before they reach your destination URL. This could lead to suboptimal rankings. Second, for every redirect the bot follows; it wastes a bit of your crawl budget.
So unless and until it is not very important, avoid long redirect chains on your site.

4) Broken links

Broken links lead bots and users to a page that is of no use. This is another way to waste a unit of your crawl budget. Avoid broken links. 

5) Update your sitemaps regularly

There is a high probability that you leave behind URLs in the sitemap that are no longer important or no longer exist on the site. Googlebots can use your sitemap as a medium to crawl your site pages. Make it a habit to remove the unimportant pages from your sitemap and don't forget to add the new and important pages. 

Additionally you can add your sitemap link to the robots.txt file. Since Googlebots prefer to visit the robots file first, they would come across your sitemap link and crawl all the important pages from there.

6) Manage parameters on dynamic URLs

Your site platform or CMS could be generating a lot of dynamic pages. This could potentially lead to duplicate content and harm your site performance in search engines. This could also waste more bit of your crawl budget.

If parameters added to your URLs don't influence the content of the pages; inform Googlebots about this by adding these parameters in your Webmaster Tools account (Google Search Console). You can find the subtab URL Parameters under Crawl in your search console.

If parameters added to your URLs don't influence the content of the pages; inform Googlebots about this by adding these parameters in your Webmaster Tools account (Google Search Console). You can find the subtab URL Parameters under Crawl in your search console.

7) Manage your site structure and internal links well

Plan your website structure well. Have a well set hierarchy that not only helps users freely navigate through your site but also provides an ease of navigation to the bots. Try to keep important pages not more than three clicks away from any page. Add most important pages/categories/sub-categories in your navigation menu. 

Internal links might not be a very big factor here, but it is an integral part of a good site hygiene. It can also work in favour of bots to follow the internal links and lead to important pages you wish to get crawled.

8) Pay attention to Crawl Errors section in Search Console

As mentioned in Gary's post, one should keep a constant check on the crawl errors found in the search console. Try to fix as many errors as possible (that includes server errors, soft 404, not found, etc). This would help bots avoid wasting every single bit of the crawl budget on such error pages.

9) Good and Fresh content

This is a must. Not only for a better crawl budget but also for your overall site performance. Avoid low quality and spam content. That's not going to help. Bots would love to crawl your site more frequently if you add more and more fresh and valuable content on your site. After all it's bots' duty to keep the Google index fresh!

10) Build 'good' external links

We all know content and links are the top two factors to rank our sites well. How would external links contribute to a better crawl budget? It's pretty simple. Logically more links you own from authority sites, more would be the chances of crawlers revisiting your site. Few experiments carried out by industry experts has proved that there is a strong correlation between the number of external links and number of bot visits to your site.

11) Work on your site speed

Users always prefer to visit fast loading websites. Similarly a speedy site improves the crawling rate. Make use of some important Google tools to regularly determine the speed of your site pages and recommendations on how to make them load faster. 

Once you take care of all these factors you can certainly expect a happy Googlebot. One like this:-

Tejas Thakkar 

Sunday 15 January 2017

Ad balance from Google Adsense - Know more about it

Google is constantly striving and evolving to provide better search results in the organic listings. Google is also emphasizing the importance of better content and fast loading site pages. Ultimately all these efforts lead to better user experience. Google also tries to add related features to its products. 

Google Adsense is one such product that has constantly evolved in terms of bringing updates in the direction of better user experience. Google's official blog for Adsense related information, Inside Adsense; posted an update on 13th January 2017 about Ad Balance.

Ad balance is a feature introduced to give more controls to publishers to provide better ads experience to site visitors. If you frequently visit the new interface of your Adsense account, you might have observed a new subtab named Ad balance under My ads.

Adsense Ad Balance

It is very important to find the right balance between the user experience on your site and number of ads you show. Ad balance helps you adjust the volume of ads which can lead to a better user engagement with your content.

One need to note that this feature would help you showcase your best performing ads but that could also result in a minimal drop in earnings. But if you see the larger picture, with a better user experience, one could stay longer on your site and engage more with your content. This in turn can lead to better earnings in the long run.

Some other important factors you need to note here:

  • If you have already enabled the Show fewer ads lab, you would be automatically moved to Ad balance feature
  • When ads are removed, the ad unit will show as blank
Now let's see how the feature looks like:

If you haven't yet moved to the new Adsense interface, just click on this option that would appear on your old Adsense interface.

Google Adsense new interface

Click on My Ads under the menu of your new Adsense interface. Then click on Ad balance subtab. You would see a slider for Ad fill rate. This determines how often the ad space on your site is filled with ads.

My ads in google adsense

Ad Balance Adsense

For example, you would want to allow 80% potential ads on your site instead of 100%. Use the slider to set the Ad fill rate to 80%. This would fill your page with highest paying ads for up to 80% of the time.

Worth trying out. If it would add value to the overall user experience, it should ideally help you increase your Adsense revenue. But please note, Google doesn't guarantee any specific results. Your Adsense revenue depends on various other factors that can include your content, ad placements, site layout, etc.

Tejas Thakkar

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Google's Mobile Interstitials Penalty - What Should You Know About It?

Google has already rolled its new policy to devalue pages that use intrusive interstitials and popups. I have tried to list down some important factors that we need to know about this new policy:

Google Mobile Interstitials Penalty

  • This policy is related to mobile searches only.
  • If you have a desktop only website, you can use interstitials. But please note, your desktop site would be your mobile site in this case and hence you can expect suboptimal rankings.
  • This policy only impacts search result to page. This means, Google will only check if a mobile interstitial is served after the searcher goes from Google search result to your page. What you do after that page is something Google will not look into. This also means, if a visitor arrives to your page from a traffic source that is not Google, you can serve popups or interstitial. 
  • Google has no issue with popups that are mandatory to be served, example - cookie consent notice or a popup that needs to be served to check the visitors age, probably on an alcohol site.
  • If you are using a popup that is served after some time (once the user spends some time on the page), that can impact your rankings.
  • This policy applies to page level. If your site serves interstitials on some pages that are visited from Google search results, that won't impact the overall website. That could downrank those particular pages where you serve intrusive popups. This was confirmed by Google's Gary Illyes on Twitter.
  • Sites can use exit interstitials. These are interstitials that are served when a site visitor tries to leave the website. 
  • This policy has nothing to do with the current Mobile Friendly Test. Google has no plans of creating a mobile interstitials testing tool. Even if your site passes Google's mobile friendly test, you still need to take care of intrusive interstitials on your pages.
  • This policy doesn't apply to small popups that don't cover the whole page and prevent users from viewing the content. But we aren't sure what size is small enough. So better avoid using such popups unless and until they are very important.
  • Mobile interstitial isn't the only ranking factor in Google's search algorithm. So if you see a site using mobile interstitial and still ranking well in search results, that could be because they are faring well in other ranking signals.
  • Last but not the least, this is not a penalty. Google will just devalue pages from ranking well in search results that make use of intrusive interstitials.

Sunday 8 January 2017

Never Seen Before Google Sponsored Ad - OK Jaanu Vote

We live in an era of innovations. If you aren't innovative enough, its hard to survive. Even the movie industry has left no stone unturned to come up with ideas that grab a lot of eye balls. 

Recently Dharma Productions partnered with Google to promote it's upcoming movie OK Jaanu. We can see a never seen before sponsored listing right below the search box. It says 'What do you call your Janu?' followed by six options to select from.

Once you are logged in to your Google account and you type 'OK Jaanu vote' in the search box, you would see the following Sponsored Ad:-

If you click on the Sponsored link available at the top right corner, it says:
Google has partnered with Dharma Productions Pvt. Ltd. to be an official voting method for Ok Jaanu. Votes must be received by the end of the voting period. You have 3 votes per day per Google account.

Google constantly makes several changes to its search result page layout. Knowledge graph, Top stories, local listings, featured snippets and what not. And now we have a vote snippet in form of a Sponsored listing that captures the complete first fold of our screen. 

We can definitely expect many such layout changes in Google search result page. But this one was really interesting.

You can see a similar listing on Google Mobile search also. 

I have tweeted about this here:

Thanks to my friend Vibhas Sen who first shared this update on one of our Whatsapp groups. He tweets at https://twitter.com/vibhassen

Tejas Thakkar

Friday 6 January 2017

Do Google Spreadsheets Rank in Search Results?

Do Google Spreadsheets Rank in Search Results? Answer is yes, they can!

This was also confirmed on Twitter by John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst - Switzerland. Here is the link to the conversation: Twitter.

Google Spreadsheets rank on Search Results

This implies, Google Sheets might rank in search results. Following this confirmation from John Mueller, I asked him a way to avoid crawlers from reading the sheets. Probably by keeping the sheets private? To this he replied that Google Docs are set to private by default. Hence they remain unindexed unless and until we make them public. 

Google Spreadsheets Private

One of my friends informed me that he read an article on how links on Google Sheets are counted as backlinks. This made me ask John the same question to which he gave a witty reply:-

Well this conversation ended on a rather funny note. But things we learnt here:-
  • Google Spreadsheets can rank in Google Search Results
  • Links on the Spreadsheets don't count as backlinks
Tejas Thakkar

How to add AddThis to Blogger

Once you write a post, you would love to get it shared on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest or even through email. Your posts can earn more visibility once your content is shared as much as possible. Well, I don't think I have to tell you that your website's social visibility can help to gain better organic rankings (to an extent, yes!).

To serve this purpose, we have umpteen number of options available. The one I prefer the most is AddThis.com

AddThis is a social bookmarking service that can be integrated into a website with the use of a web widget. I will try to provide some help here on How to add Addthis to Blogger. Hope this would be a good assistance to those who have started posting on Blogger.com

Please make a note of the following steps on how to add Addthis widget/tool to Blogger

1) Create an account on AddThis (https://www.addthis.com/register). Options availble to register: Google account, Facebook, Twitter or any of your email accounts

2) Once you complete the sign up process, log into your AddThis account

3) Click on Explore the Tools. Once you scroll down you would see a wide range of options - Sidebar, Image Sharing, Expanding and Inline

4) Let's learn how to add Sidebar option to Blogger. Click on Activate under Sidebar option

5) Select the Position drop-down based on your preferences for Desktop and Mobile. Example, let's select Left for Desktop and Bottom for Mobile.

6) Later you can see options for Share Counters that includes - None, Individual, Total, Individual & Total. Let's select the last one.

7) You have an option to select the Social Networks of your choice. Either you can opt for Automatic or you can select the networks of your choice. If you select say Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Whatsapp; you can drag them in an order of your priority. 

8) Under Design, you can select Style of your choice and Mobile Button Size of your choice. You can also customise Icon Color and Background Color.

9) Under Advanced Options, you can hide the widget/tool on certain pages of your choice. Under Extra Appearance Settings you can set a minimum threshold value required to show the Share numbers. I would prefer that to be zero. Under Responsive Width, I prefer keeping it Zero so that it's shown on all devices. Other important aspect here is you can customise the Follow Up message for someone who shares your post.

10) Once you have completed all the above posts, you need to Save and Continue.

11) Click on Get the Code at the top of your screen. Under HTML Website, just copy the code available. 

12) Now log into your Blogger account. Click on Layout and then on Add a Gadget. Add the gadget for HTML/Javascript. Name it as AddThis and paste the Add.this code there. Save the gadget.

13) Now visit Template, click on Edit HTML, search for Addthis. You would find the following code:

<b:widget id='HTML2' locked='false' title='Addthis' type='HTML' visible='true'>

Modify it as mentioned below (Just add mobile= 'yes'):-

<b:widget id='HTML2' locked='false' mobile='yes' title='Addthis' type='HTML' visible='true'>

This is an important step for the widget to be visible on a mobile device.
Save template and click on Back. Now click on the settings for Mobile template, select Custom and Save.

That's it!

You would be able to see the AddThis tool/widget on your mobile and desktop.

How to add AddThis on Blogger

Tejas Thakkar