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: https://blog.google/products/search/let-google-be-your-guide-to-rio-de/
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: https://blog.google/products/search/let-google-be-your-guide-to-rio-de/
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.

Schema.org is the vocabulary of choice developed by search engines. It is reliable and extensible. It is community driven. One can suggest changes to schema.org

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 Schema.org. 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

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Personalized Digital Marketing Web

Dear Friends and digital enthusiast, we have always been reading and talking of personalization, but have we tried to build a digital web and digital marketing mix in line with a conventional marketing mix.

Every organization has to identify their visitors across touch points. Through customers organizations tend to learn and improve their channels. One can understand the intentions, likes and trouble points through analytics. This information when churned through Big Data will create an awesome picture of Customer Journey Analysis (CJA). But this CJA comes with huge amounts of Capex through hardware, software and engineers.

This entire data driven CJA will be a tremendous asset if known how to use it. But how should organizations plan to utilize this. Organizations should utilize this CJA data by building a Digital Marketing Mix (DMM). This DMM will be similar to a workflow or platform through which Organizations can build communication channel with its customers and visitors.

The DMM is spread across various platforms. A high-level mix can be as designed below

Here this 3 dimensional metrics clearly communicates where a customer will fall in according to his behavior and journey. How an organization can take advantage of such customer in its reach. What platforms and tools does an organization should look to employ and what will be the key challenges for an organization to deploy and execute its marketing digital campaign.

This post is specially written by Bala Raghavendra Prasad for SEO in Short.

Bala is a digital enthusiast and knowledge seeker. He works in BFSI industry from last 10 years and worked on Digital marketing and Technology roles. He looks forward to meet and learn from peers and also visit various avenues where digital marketing is thought, learnt, practiced and enjoyed. He can be contacted on rbala.prasad@gmail.com 

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

A 6-Step Guide to Getting AMP Right!

Well, we all know how since the past one year, AMP is booming in the Search space. Initially, AMP pages just appeared on the carousels but since November 2016, these have now started reflecting on Google Search as well. As most of the webmasters are now moving to this approach, you too should (if you have not already).  Recently Tejas wrote an article on Why one needs AMP, and what it is! In this article, I’ll try to jot down the do’s of AMP implementation, and how to get it live and rolling.

1) Coding an AMP Page

Google has specific guidelines for AMP, where JavaScript, Images, CSS, or any other styling language must be from the AMP library. If any extra codes that are not AMP predefined exist on the page, Google will disregard that as an AMP page.

This is what a typical AMP coding looks like, everything from the <html> tag to JS and CSS, is picked from the AMP library. 

Don’t worry, Google has these guidelines documented.

Tip: Ensure you have Schema for Google News Carousel and AMP Top Stories Carousel for maximum optimization (highlighted above)

2) AMP Annotations

Similar to the annotations we provide for desktop and mobile versions of a site, so that Google picks it up on Mobile search, we have to provide the following AMP annotations for Google to pick up the AMP pages.

On a non-AMP page, place this code –

<link rel="amphtml" href="<Link to your corresponding AMP page>" />

On your AMP page, place a canonical pointing to your corresponding non-AMP page-

<link rel="canonical" href="<Link to your corresponding non-AMP page>" />

3) Google Analytics

Just like other styling codes, Google has AMP-analytics, that allows you to track users, sessions, and all the other metrics similar to a non-AMP website. Here’s the catch – many webmasters are not pleased to see that AMP traffic is not included within Organic Search, which should rightfully be so, but hey, you can always make a case on it and get it added to your Organic search (explained in a later point below). 

4) Test the AMP Page

This is a compulsory step for any web development – to debug in case of any issues. Google Search Console provides an AMP testing tool that allows you to identify bugs in a page. This is a brilliant tool and has helped us always! Make sure you run your pages through this, to be extra sure of the validity. 

5) Submit to Google News

Remember, AMP carousels or Google News carousels are basically fresh articles that have a life span of 48 hours. So, for these pages to show up on “Top Stories/AMP Carousels”, it is very important that you submit your site on Google News. Here is the procedure –
  • Maintain a dynamic XML News sitemap. WordPress by default maintains one, that gets updated every 48 hours, and stories older than 2 days are removed, if your site is hardcoded, ensure you create a News sitemap, which should keep getting updated as and when a story goes live. 
  • Another guideline, Google News guidelines. Read this thoroughly before submitting your site to Google News, else you’d have to wait for 60 days for reconsideration and resubmitting, and hence delaying AMP visibility on carousels 
  • While submitting on Google News, ensure you have included all the top categories in Section, articles under which you want Google to pick up on the carousel. If these are not added, articles under that category are less likely to be picked up

Once this has been approved, you can see results within a day or two! :-)

6) Monitoring and Analysis

As mentioned in point 2, you will realize that the non-AMP traffic doesn’t grow, especially if more than 60% of your Traffic is through Mobile. Well, don’t panic, like I said, let’s make a case.

Google Search Console now lets you analyze how many users land up on your site through AMP/News carousels, and how many land through Search results (where a non-AMP URL gets replaced with an AMP URL). 

Under Search Appearance, you get three options, 2 of which are described below –

AMP Article Rich Results – This filter shows you data for all those AMP pages that showed up on AMP Carousels

AMP Non-Rich Results – This filter is your life saver. You get all the AMP pages that brought traffic from the Search Rankings. So, pull this data out and map your cannibalization against the non-AMP for that time range, and you’ll make a strong case!
Well, that’s it! There are snags most of the time, so ensure you have the AMP Validity extension in your browser, that will signal to you in case there are any AMP bugs present.

Hope this was informational and helps you in your process. Feel free to reach out for any doubts related to this, and I shall humbly help you out.

Happy AMP-ing! 

This post is specially written by Sushmita Balasubramanian for SEO in Short.

Sushmita has over 3 years of experience in SEO and Mobile Audience, and is extremely enthusiastic about learning newer technologies in the digital space. Apart from work, she is an avid animal activist, and holds passion for extra curricular activities.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Ad Viewability - Importance over Impressions and other Interesting Factors

What is Viewability in Digital Advertising?

If I have to put this in simplest of the terms, viewability is an online marketing metric that tracks only those impressions that can actually be seen by the users.

How to measure Display Ad Viewability?

A display ad is considered viewable when 50% of an ad's pixels are visible on a screen for a minimum of one second.

measuring ad viewability - display ads and video ads
Source: viewability.withgoogle.com

How to measure Video Ad Viewability?

A video ad is considered viewabale when atleast 50% of the ad's pixels are visible on a screen for atleast two consecutive seconds.

Why is Ad Viewability more important than Impressions?

An ad might be served but not necessarily viewed by the user. Only a viewable ad can have an impact on user's mind, change perceptions or build a brand's trust. Hence digital advertisers and publishers are both giving more importance to a viewable ad rather than a served impression.

What are some important factors related to Display and Video Viewability?

To better understand the state of display and video viewability, Google conducted a study of their display and video advertising platforms such as Doubleclick, Youtube, etc.

They have beautifully presented five top factors related to Display and Video viewability here:

I have tried to list down some of the interesting factors here:

Display Ad viewability:
  • The most viewable position is right above the fold and not at the top of the page
display ad viewability above the fold
Source: www.thinkwithgoogle.com
  • Vertical ad units perform better than the horizontal ad units in terms of viewability. This is simply because the vertical ads stay on screen longer with the users movement around the page
  • Average above the fold viewability is 68% compared to 40% below the fold
  • The most popular viewability rates by ad sizes are mentioned below:
viewability rates by display ad sizes
Source: www.thinkwithgoogle.com

 Video Ad viewability:
  • Average viewability of video ads across the web (excluding Youtube) is 54%. It goes upto 91% for Youtube
average video ad viewability
Source: think.storage.googleapis.com
  • Video ads are more viewable on mobile and tablet devices than on desktop
Video ad viewability based on devices
Source: think.storage.googleapis.com
  • There are several video ads that are not viewable. 76% of those were never on screen - they were on a background tab or not on the screen at all! 24% of the non-viewable ads were scrolled off the screen or abandoned in fewer than two seconds
  • 350 X 250 video ad size is most popular by volume but offers only 20% viewability. 848 X 477 is the second most popular size and it offers a huge improvement of 89% viewability 
Video ad viewability based on video player sizes
Source: think.storage.googleapis.com

An important note for the Adsense Publishers:

Adsense publishers can make use of above mentioned factors to improve the ad viewability on their sites. Just make a note of one thing. When we talk about first fold of the page that provides more ad viewability, ads placed just above the fold of a page have higher viewability that those at the top of the page. But you need to follow the Adsense ad placement policies also. You can't place a 300 X 250 ad unit above the fold on mobile pages. So go for 320 X 100 ad units above the fold for mobile pages. You can place larger ad sizes below the fold.

- Tejas Thakkar