Published November 4, 2020
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September Google Bugs: Mobile Indexation and Canonicalization Issues
We saw two major bugs hit Google in September, affecting 0.2% and 0.02% of the index respectively, according to the search engine. While those numbers may seem small, there are trillions of pages in Google’s index – 0.2% of 1 trillion is 2 million, after all. Here are more details on the two problems that came to light late in the month:
1. Mobile Indexation Bug: This bug was causing Google to not index a variety of pages. The mobile-indexing issue impacted about 0.2% of Google’s index, beginning in early September but spiking at the end of September through Oct 1.
2. Canonicalization Bug: This bug led Google to select the wrong canonical page, often one with no connection to the original page. As a result, affected pages stopped ranking for relevant terms. Impacted roughly 0.02% of the index, beginning around Sept. 20 until Oct 1.
Both issues were acknowledged by Google on October 1. The mobile indexation problem was reported 99% resolved on Oct. 9; the canonicalization issue was reported 99% resolved on Oct. 19.
As a result of these bugs, many websites saw significant rankings shifts and sharp declines in traffic to affected pages. Others may have experienced traffic or ranking gains in unexpected areas, or if their competitors’ sites were affected. Google said when the problems were announced that there was nothing that site owners could do.
Our best advice to site owners is to note the issues in Google Analytics and keep an eye open for pages that did not bounce back by late October. Pages that have not regained at least a good portion of their previous rankings and/or traffic may have technical issues or content problems that you can address.
Here’s the thread from Google’s public liaison of search, Danny Sullivan.
Google’s Request Indexing Feature Temporarily Disabled
Beginning on October 14, Google has disabled the “request indexing” feature in Google Search Console. Google reports that the tool is expected to be down for several weeks for “technical updates.” It is unclear if this is directly connected to the indexing bug.
Disabling this tool means that you cannot request Google to re-index individual pages using this method. Note that normal crawling and indexing is not affected.
Google: Anchor Text Provides Strong Context for Links
The ROI SEO team has always recommended clear, relevant anchor text be used for any links on a website.
Google’s John Mueller recently answered a question during SEO Office Hours on how the content around the link provides context that Google might not be able to get from the anchor text itself. John said that Google can get “secondary” context from the surrounding content, but that it gets “really strong piece of context from that anchor text …”
Not having the ideal anchor text isn’t likely to seriously hurt your site (we’ve probably all seen that site that ranks well with multiple “click here!” anchor text examples), but providing as much information to Google as you can only helps the search engine better understand your website and how it’s structured.
Learn more here.
Study Looks at Which Rich Results Get Clicks
There’s been a big push to add structured data to websites as a way to both provide Google with more information about your site and to generate rich results that can help you to stand out from the competition. But which rich results get the most clicks?
A recent study by Milestone Research found that click-through rates can vary widely, with CTRs for FAQ rich results for non-branded terms as high as 91%. On average, page 1 CTR (rich and standard) is 49.5%, with all rich results averaging 58% CTR.
There’s a lot of great information about branded vs. non-branded and more.
Read about the study on Search Engine Journal.
Web Stories Added to Discover
Originally introduced several years ago as AMP Stories, Web Stories are a way to create quick visual stories and encourage reader engagement. They offer a blend of text, images, video, audio, and animation that load quickly (using AMP) on mobile devices.
The name of the format was changed earlier this year, and Google is expanding where Web Stories can be found and viewed. In early October, Google announced that this format is now being shown at the top Google Discover, as well as Search and Images (and the Web Stories Showcase).
Web Stories can be a great way to attract interest to your brand and engage your audience in new and compelling ways. But before you create your next great Story, make sure that you aren’t doing any of the most common things that Google says are likely to get your content blocked:
1. Overly commercial content (Stories, not ads)
2. Copyrighted content
3. Too much text (or videos that are too long)
4. Low quality assets
5. No narrative structure
6. Incomplete stories (you cannot require the user to click to your site for essential information)
Read more about Web Stories being added to Discover here.
Learn about the content policy here.
Hat-tip to this Search Engine Journal article.
Remember: SEO Can’t Easily Be Turned On and Off
A great reminder from Dr. Pete at Moz that you can’t use SEO like it has an on/off switch. Unlike paid search, where you can turn ads on to see an immediate benefit and turn them off as needed, SEO requires ramp up time and often continues to bring benefits when it’s not actively being performed. But those benefits will taper off and recovering any previous gains can take a lot longer than you expect.
Watch the video or read the transcript here.
This Month in Bing
In late September, Bing announced a new wave of AI improvements to the search engine, specifically with natural language generation. These improvements, Microsoft says, have led to better autosuggest suggestions, more relevant People Also Ask results, improved non-English intelligent answers, and better semantic highlighting.
While far fewer searchers use Bing compared to Google, this search engine can still be a great source of organic traffic and revenue.
Read more from Bing here.
Hat-tip to this Search Engine Roundtable article.
Here’s a roundup of some recent Google Shopping news:
- Google added support for retailer shipping data with shippingDetails schema.org markup; this allows retailers to display shipping cost information even if they don’t have an active Merchant Center account with a product feed. Learn more here.
- Google changed their image policy enforcement, moving from account-level enforcement to item-level disapprovals. Learn more here.
Local SEO News Roundup
- Problems with Google My Business? Search Engine Journal looks at five common Google My Business problems and how to fix them here.
- A “Pickup Later” option has been added to local inventory ads. Learn more here.
- “Message” button added to Google Local panel view that allows customers to ask questions about an update. Learn more here.
- New performance metrics are available for Google My Business. Learn more here and here.