Friday 2 November 2018

Google's Giant Shopping Ads/Knowledge Panels Seen in India - SEO to Take a Hit?

Google has been constantly experimenting with the search results layout, both in terms of ad formats or placements and organic components like top stories, people also ask, featured snippets, etc. For certain categories Google has gone ahead and completely revamped the whole search layout for the mobile devices. One such category has been the Movies! We covered an article on this earlier this year (Googled a Movie Name recently? Google testing search layout changes!)

While we aren't too familiar with the frequent changes in the Google sponsored ad formats, recently here in India we found some noticeable changes in Google Shopping ad formats. We have tried to cover a few examples here.

To begin with we will first post an example that isn't really a Sponsored ad but looks like one. Recently we started noticing Answer Box/Knowledge Graph kind of listings that seemed to have a commercial intent. But those weren't exactly ads. Just to give you an example, when we search for a query like Cotton Shirts, we see a box on the right listing a category page of Flipkart.

Moving on to our examples specific to Google Shopping Ads, if we search for a specific product say 'Note 9', we get to see a gigantic ad section on the right. Such a huge Google Shopping Ad! 

Here is another example:

We can see a lot of information for the users that includes user reviews, product details and similar products. It just looks like a Knowledge graph which is actually an advertisement!

Here is another example where we see not one but many sites listed in that sponsored section on the right. 

It provides you features such as:
  • User Reviews
  • Sellers listing with Product Price
  • Product Details
  • Filters for Product Categories (Colour and Phone Memory)
  • Similar Products

This huge ad unit is providing a lot of details to the users that would help them in making their purchase easier. One can go through the product images, user reviews, check price across various sites, check price for product variations and check similar products.

These kind of huge Google Shopping ads were seen in the US way back in 2015. Jennifer Slegg wrote a comprehensive post here

Now moving onto mobile devices. If you try to search a product on your mobile, you would see a huge Knowledge Panel (which is certainly not an advertisement as a whole, but it includes Sponsored listings in it):-

This takes a massive real estate on the Google Search results page. 

You can see tabs like Overview, Shops, Details and Reviews. If you click on either of these tabs or on the option that says 'More about Samsung Galaxy Note9' you would reach a dedicated interface for this Knowledge panel. And from there if you wish to return to the regular Web searches you have click on a button at the bottom that says 'See Web Results'.

Within this panel, users can check the images through a horizontal carousel, manufacturer information, sellers listed along with pricing in another horizontal carousel, product filters (in this particular example - colour and capacity), product details, user reviews, etc.
Search Engine Land covered this topic here in November 2017.

From an SEO perspective, this new Knowledge Panel on mobile certainly pushes down the organic results way down further! Currently such panels seem to be limited to mobile product queries here in India. But this can be further extended to various other categories in the near future.

Kiran Nair created a draft of this article which was later edited by me. Kiran is an SEO Strategist with more than six years of experience in this field.

Thursday 11 October 2018

How to Fix Google Cache 404 Error? - A Step by Step Guide

Google Cache Returns 404 Error

It's been a while that SEO experts are facing an issue to obtain Google cache pages as Google returns a 404 error! This had certainly created a panic situation where people assumed their website would be deindexed or there could be ranking drops. As confirmed by John Mueller, this is an internal issue with Google Cache server and nothing to do with site rankings (Reference:

Guide to obtain Google Cached Pages:

Recently some articles are published with a workaround to obtain cache date of the site pages. One was recently published on Search Engine Roundtable. Here is a link to that article:

Bhumika Kateliya and Sujit Shukla from Logicserve Digital tried their hands on this hack and also tried attempting few more things. Here are their observations in the form of a step by step guide to obtain Google cached pages:-

Taking a random example of

The cached version returns Google's 404 error page as shown below:-

Google Cache version returns 404 error

In order to find the last cache date, follow the steps mentioned below:-

Step 1 - Search for the site on Google. Click on 'cached' version.

google cache in search results

Step 2 - You will land on a URL mentioned here:

Replace the highlighted part above with and hit enter:-

This will provide you the cache version:-

Google cached version

Note - We replaced with or,,,,,,, etc and it worked. It seems xyz can be replaced by first or last sequence of three letters or domain names/domain extensions. But it didn't work for random letter sequences that didn't form a domain name (example x.suv, x.coin or a.lmn)

Another Option:

In case you are trying to find cache of a particular URL that ends with a trailing slash (say a homepage or an internal page), just remove the slash to obtain the cached version of that page.

Remove trailing slash (highlighted in red) from the URL and hit enter:

You will obtain the cached version.

Another example - Remove the trailing slash highlighted in red and hit enter:

You will obtain the cached version.

Hope this is helpful!

Bhumika Kateliya created a draft of this article which was later edited by me. Sujit Shukla also helped us with his valuable inputs here.

- Tejas Thakkar

Friday 15 June 2018

Clearing up some Confusion around Mobile-First Indexing

Most of the Google searches now happen on mobile but Google always had a desktop-only indexing. It was somewhere in 2015 when Gary Illyes from Google made it clear that Google was experimenting a separate indexing for mobile. 

Later in November 2016, Google made it official, that they have begun experiments to make their index mobile-first. Since then there had been a lot of speculations and confusion around mobile-first indexing.

While the whole SEO community kept waiting for one more confirmation from Google on the roll out of mobile-first indexing, the speculations grew. In June 2017 at the SMX Advanced Session, Gary Illyes confirmed that mobile-first indexing won't be rolled out before 2018. 

It was on 26th March 2018 when Google officially rolled out mobile-first indexing and approximately a month after that Google started sending out mobile-first indexing notifications to webmasters through Google Search Console.

Later, as reported on Search Engine Roundtable - Google also started moving non-mobile friendly sites to Google's mobile-first indexing. This further confused people about how exactly this new indexing works and why Google is moving non-mobile friendly sites to the new method of indexing.

There were several queries around mobile-first indexing, few of them listed below:
  • Will my site be penalised if it isn't mobile friendly?
  • How would mobile-first indexing affect my website rankings?
  • I serve slightly different content on mobile version of my website, is that fine?

Let's put an end to all these speculations and confusions. Here are some important facts about Google's Mobile-First indexing that we all need to know:-

a) Google's mobile-first gives priority to mobile version of a page for indexing and ranking.

b) In one of our SEO sessions at Logicserve Digital, I explained my teammates about the importance of same content on desktop and mobile version of a page. I can see a lot of big brands that have non-mobile friendly sites and Google would still move them to mobile-first indexing. Most important point to keep in mind is mobile-first indexing is all about how Google gathers content and not how content is ranked. There are several sites that have a desktop only version. If you try to access those sites on a mobile screen you would see the desktop version. Even these sites are bound to move on the new indexing method. In their case, since they have just one version of the site, there is no question of content mismatch and hence they could be one of the early contenders to move onto the new indexing.

c) For a site that has a separate mobile version (m dot) with proper set up of alternate tags and equivalent content on both mobile and desktop version of site pages, Google will prefer the mobile pages for indexing but will continue to show the most appropriate URL (desktop or m dot) in search results. 

And now here comes Google Webmasters's official Twitter handle clearing up some more doubts around Mobile-first indexing:-

And finally, set of some useful links:-

- Tejas Thakkar

Tuesday 22 May 2018

SEO Tips - You Need to Know!

SEO Tips - Compiled List

I have been sharing SEO tips regularly on Twitter and LinkedIn. This time I thought of listing them down here. I will update this post as and when I add more tips on my social accounts.

SEO Tip 1 - Google has to crawl duplicate pages to determine if they are duplicate. So using canonical tags won't help you save crawl budget.

SEO Tip 2 - Google will move a lot of sites to mobile first indexing in next couple of months. How to tell if your site is already on mobile first indexing? Check your server logs to see if mobile Googlebot is crawling you the most.

Here is an official link to Google's Best Practices for Mobile-First Indexing.

SEO Tip 3 - Migrating from http to https? Good idea! Avoid making too many other changes before migrating. Google would face tough time understanding them. Would suggest first move to HTTPS as it is and then make other changes like design revamp or URL restructuring.

SEO Tip 4 - Disallow directive in robots.txt file tells Google not to crawl the disallowed pages or folders. This doesn't mean those pages/folders won't be indexed.

SEO Tip 5 - If Googlebot can't access your robots.txt file due to a 5xx server error, it won't crawl your site.

SEO Tip 6 - 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.

Read more:

SEO Tip 7 - In this AI powered era of SEO, topic clusters are the new keywords!
What are topic clusters? They are a collection of sub topics that are centred around a core content piece and all linked together.

SEO Tip 8 - If you don't indicate a canonical URL, Google will identify what they think is the best version or URL. But I would suggest - make life easier for Google crawlers. Anyways they are doing a tough job crawling the entire web! 

Learn various methods to specify the canonical page among a duplicate set, depending on your usage:

SEO Tip 9 - URLs ending with trailing slash or without a trailing slash - Google treats them separately. In case your URL returns a 200 status code with both the scenarios mentioned above, it can lead to duplicate content issue. While you can leave them as it and Google will take care of indexing the right one, this isn't an optimal solution.

Choose a preferred version and 301 redirect it to the preferred version. If that's not possible, make use of canonical tags.

SEO Tip 10 - According to a study by Backlinko, the average word count of a voice search result page is 2,312 words. Therefore, Google tends to source voice search answers from long form content.

If you are optimising your content for voice searches, write comprehensive content and keep it simple.

More tips from the Backlinko voice search SEO study:

SEO Tip 11 - If you noticed some important pages slipping down the rankings, try to address content depth. It’s also very likely that someone else has done a better job of addressing the topic since you wrote it.

SEO Tip 12 - Plan your redirects carefully. It's fine to lead a page to 404 rather than redirecting it to an irrelevant page. The reason being, Google may treat irrelevant redirects as soft 404. And yes, never do a bulk redirect pointing to your home page!

SEO Tip 13 - I have seen a lot of sites still on m-dot for their mobile version [m(dot)example(dot)com]. With a lot of buzz around Mobile-First Indexing, sites have started moving onto responsive designs. Make sure the same page/section shouldn't coexist in the form of m-dot and responsive. That would certainly confuse Google in terms of which page to rank and how to consolidate signals. Before you move onto responsive, map the m-dot pages and 301 redirect them to responsive pages/sections.

Read more:

SEO Tip 14 - Set up your rel alternate tags correctly and Google will be able to find mobile pages through their desktop equivalents. No need to submit such mobile page URLs separately in a sitemap.

SEO Tip 15 - Googlebot doesn't have any issue with two separate sets of navigation coded in the HTML for desktop and mobile on responsive sites. That's logical. At times we can't have a comprehensive desktop navigation replicated on mobile. Just make sure you don't exclude any important page from the mobile navigation.

SEO Tip 16 - Make sure you add canonical tags to your AMP pages. An AMP page without a canonical tag could be considered invalid by Google or can also create duplicate content issue.

SEO Tip 17 - More searches happen on mobile than on desktop. Following this trend, I have seen certain brands have moved on to over-simplified mobile versions of their websites or planning to do so. If organic performance is important to those, they should try to retain relevant content, descriptive elements and alt texts on the mobile version. Google would require content to understand what is the website all about. And not to forget - to move onto mobile first indexing, there should be content parity across mobile and desktop versions of your website.

- Tejas Thakkar

Saturday 31 March 2018

Googled a Movie Name recently? Google testing search layout changes!

Google testing Search Layout changes for Movie names

Every other day I see something new on the Google search result page. While I try my best to cover only the prominent ones, I am still failing to keep pace with it. Google is beating me easily. Somehow I feel Google is not only trying to give you answers for close ended questions but it is also trying to improve its own user engagement by providing sections like People also ask, Carousels, etc on the search layout. Searchers are definitely spending more time on the search layout with such engaging elements.

A couple of days ago I was searching for some random Hindi movie names on Google. I saw two to three elements at the bottom of the search page. While elements like Knowledge graph, trailer from the official Youtube channel (at the top of search listings), critic and audience reviews, movie cast, movie songs, etc were already present; I noticed these new elements on the search result page for the first time.

Few examples here:

Search Query (Movie Name) - Judwaa 2

This search query returns three new elements at the bottom of the search page:-
  • Actor's movies
  • Director's movies
  • Movies from the same genre

Search Query (Movie Name) - Baazigar

This search query returns two elements:
  • Actor's movies
  • Movies from the same genre
(no idea what 'Chori Chori Chupke Chupke' is doing out there in the Thriller Genre)

I noticed couple of interesting things here:-

a) Movies released very recently (especially the ones that are still running in theatres now) didn't return these search elements on Google

b) On mobile, these elements are titled as 'Similar Movies' as shown below:-

Also these kind of searches on mobile provide a beautiful categorisation (overview, soundtrack, trailers & clips, etc) that is horizontally scrollable and sticks to the top of your screen when you scroll down. Now this could be something I didn't notice earlier. But the other elements mentioned in this post seem to be new.

Some really good layout modifications being tested by Google! 

- Tejas Thakkar

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Google now shows "More Results" on Mobile Search Result Page

Changes in search results page layout were never so frequent. Every other day we see something or the other new happening on the search results page layout. This morning I observed "More Results" button at the end of organic listings on mobile search, which in turn loaded next set of organic results.

I reckon Google started experimenting this last year in the US. The look and feel for the layout and "More Results" button was different then. Also the search results on such pages were probably limited to four instead of regular ten. This time I can see full list of regular search results along with "More Results" button. Maybe this is slowly rolling out in India now. Some of you might have already seen this earlier but this isn't uniform across all users.

I ran a query for "home loan" on Google mobile search and found this button at the bottom just after "Related Searches". I can see that for various other search queries.

Is Google getting rid of it's standard Pagination method of showing more results and taking a cue from Infinite Scrolling by adding "More Results" button at the end of search results? 

Excited to see so many changes being made in the search layout but I wish this could be less frequent. Talking about this particular change, this is definitely more user friendly where you can view more results at the same time check the earlier results by just scrolling up.

Sunday 4 February 2018

'Google chose different canonical than user' from New Search Console's Index Coverage proves How Smart is Google!

Index Coverage from Google's New Search Console

We all have got access to the much awaited New Search Console (available at 

While the new features are in the development stage, we already have access to couple of great ones. The first one is of course the Performance section that provides data for 16 months! 

And the second one is Index Coverage. 

Once you open the Index Coverage report you would find loads of details that includes the following:

Errors - Pages that couldn't be indexed for some reasons.

Valid with Warnings - Pages that are indexed but with some issues and Google isn't sure if they are intentional at your part. Example - Tag pages on your blog.

Valid - Pages that are indexed without any issues.

Excluded - Pages that were intentionally not indexed.

Now under Excluded you would see various reasons due to which Google didn't index some pages of your site. 

The reason that interests me the most is 'Google chose different canonical than user'.

Google chose different Canonical than user

I tried to find some excluded URLs under this reason and was amused to know how smart Google is. Will try to present my learning with a simplified example here:-

Assume I have an ecommerce site with a sub-category page

Under this category I have a lot of products that I serve using Pagination. Let's assume 20 products on each page and following is the URL structure:

I have perfectly set up the Pagination with the required rel next/prev and rel canonical tags. (Refer to Glenn Gabe's excellent article on how to set up the Pagination properly.)

All these pages present unique products and hence I have implemented self-referencing canonical tags on these pages rather than pages from p=2 to p=4 having a canonical tag that points to the main page /fruit-seeds.html

Now just imagine somewhere down the line, I am left with just 15 products. 
That means the main page is enough to serve all these products. But the other pages, p=2 to p=4 are still present in Google's index with a self-referencing canonical tag and if I try to check these pages, they all show the same 15 products that are actually available on the main page.

While my canonical tags are telling Google that pages p=2 to p=4 have self canonical tags but Google is smart enough to understand that those pages are now showing the same products as the main page and it has to disregard my canonical tag. Hence it chooses different canonical and excludes p=2 to p=4 pages from the index. And it only shows in the index.

How to check this?

Once you navigate to 'Google chose different canonical than user' under Index Coverage, you would see a list of URLs that were excluded from index. Click on any of those pages and you would see Page details that open on the right:-

Click on View as Search Result.

You would see the page that Google considered as canonical.

So basically you would see search modifier 'info:' followed by the excluded URL and as result you would see the canonical version Google preferred to index.

That's really smart. And this also proves rel canonical is a HINT and not a DIRECTIVE.

Comprehensive details on the Index Coverage Status Report is available here:

Edit - I had a detailed discussion on Twitter with Glenn Gabe on this topic later today. Thanks to his thorough guidance, here is a learning in such a scenario.

While Google would get this right most of the times, ideally having older component pages (example p=4 page) still resolving the same content as on page 1 isn't optimal. To handle such a situation, one can 404 these pages or redirect them to the right page depending on the situation. The point here is to make sure the pagination is clean, rel next/prev and rel canonical tags are placed correctly. And about the older component pages redirecting to the right page or returning 404 error, also depends on how big is the number of such pages.

You need to take care of the fact that 301 redirects to less relevant pages are treated as soft 404 errors!

- Tejas Thakkar