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 https://search.google.com/search-console). 


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. 
https://www.example.com/blog/tag/seeds/

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 https://www.example.com with a sub-category page https://www.example.com/seeds/fruit-seeds.html

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:

https://www.example.com/seeds/fruit-seeds.html
https://www.example.com/seeds/fruit-seeds.html?p=2
https://www.example.com/seeds/fruit-seeds.html?p=3
https://www.example.com/seeds/fruit-seeds.html?p=4


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 https://www.example.com/seeds/fruit-seeds.html 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 https://www.example.com/seeds/fruit-seeds.html 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

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 entrepreneur.com. 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 webmasterworld.com.

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."

Mislabeling

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