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:
https://www.seroundtable.com/google-m-dot-responsive-sites-25713.html



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 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