Mobile Friendliness Now a Google Ranking Signal

phone-cross-eyedThey’ve been warning us for a while, but Google have finally announced that mobile-friendliness will be added as a ranking signal next month:

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results”

The fact they use the word *significant* is, well, significant. You don’t often see them give algorithm tweak announcements this kind of adjective emphasis. Normally, they’ll use vague phrases like “potential impact” or “quality improvements” or “Matt Cutts suggests”. So you can be sure that the forthcoming changes are going to be the source of panic attacks in webmasters the world over and late night Skypes for SEOs everywhere (yeah, thanks a lot Google).

Meanwhile, responsive WordPress theme designers will be rubbing their beards with glee at the prospect and adding more Threadless t-shirts to their wishlist.

So let’s assume for a moment that you have spent the last two years watching LOL cat videos on Facebook instead of making your website mobile friendly. Let’s also assume that your site has a scarlet letter displayed across it in the SERPs instead of the wanky desirable mobile-friendly banner issued by Google.

What can you do now to ward off the Google ranking oblivion heading your way? In the words of Douglas Adams: DON’T PANIC.

Here’s a check list to start with:

  • Log out of Facebook. I mean it.
  • View your site on various mobile devices and try not to cry.
  • Don’t have multiple devices? That’s ok, QuirkTools have just the tool for you.
  • Check your site against Google’s mobile friendly test tool.
  • Pull yourself out of the foetal position and take a deep breath. You can fix this!
  • If your site is built on a popular CMS, Google will likely have a technical guide on their Developers site that can help guide you and/or your designer make your site more mobile friendly. For example, check out Google’s Technical Guide for WordPress users.
  • Browse the theme library of your CMS for a recent responsive design / mobile friendly theme that doesn’t make your wallet flinch or make you want to gouge your eyes out. This is a lot trickier than it sounds.
  • Log out of Facebook dammit!
  • Back up your current site and related database/s.
  • Make sure you choose a theme that uses largish font that can be viewed easily on the smallest of iPhones. You know, for those of us who can’t afford a iPhone 6.
  • Check all your favorite plugins to make sure they are mobile-friendly. You’d be surprised how many of them look great in IE 10 but entirely screw up how your site appears in Safari. Uninstall or replace those with plugins that don’t impact your site’s appearance.
  • Set your mobile viewport. Yeah, I’ve got no idea what this means either.
  • Make sure that your text links are separated by at least one line of text between each. Being too close together make them difficult to click on with a mobile device.
  • Underline your links and highlight them using a different color to your main text. But please don’t use hipster grey. That’s just the color of sadness.
  • If you’ve verified your site in Google Webmaster Tools (of course you have!), you can check your site’s Page Speed using the Page Speed Insights tool. Or you can use Google’s stand-alone version.
  • Make any page speed tweaks suggested by Google.
  • In my experience, your site should now look mostly normal across various devices, apart from a glitch that shoves your header 5cm to the right on Google Chrome for Android no matter what the heck you try. Thankfully no-one uses that browser.
  • Check your site against Google’s mobile friendly test tool again.
  • Repeat, Rinse, Repeat until you can live with the outcome of the test.
  • Log back into Facebook. Cute cat videos await!

 

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Q and A: Should I 301 redirect my penalized domain to a new site?

QuestionHi Kalena

If my site example.com gets penalized and de-indexed from Google (some competitor spammed my site hard), can I 301 that site to my new site with the exact same content? Would my new site get penalized too?

And what happens if my new site gets penalized from spam again… can I 301 it to another domain using the same content? I wonder if i can 301 the past two domains to my new site, passing on the link juice.

What do you think?

Sam

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Hi Sam

GREAT question and one that I thought I knew the answer to, but it prompted me to do a little more research to make sure.

My instincts told me that if you could simply recover from a penalized domain by implementing 301 redirects to a new domain, then there would be more incentive for spammers to create and burn keyword-stuffed sites as a tactic to gain short term traffic and long term links. This is not a situation I could imagine Google being comfortable with.

But at the same time, if penalized domains pass their penalties on via 301 redirects, what is stopping a competitor from 301 redirecting their penalized site to your non-penalized site as a nasty negative SEO tactic?

So, after digging into the topic, here’s what I found out:

1) We know that 301 redirects are Google’s preferred method of directing traffic between pages and sites, and for transferring link juice from an old domain to a new one. However, any page redirected from one domain to another via 301 is going to lose some PageRank.  So it follows that implementing a 301 redirect on a penalized site WILL pass on some of the link and PageRank value of the redirected site to the new site. Therefore, you should NOT implement a 301 redirect on a penalized site, because any link or PageRank-related penalties will be passed on to the new site as well.

2) If you 301 redirect more than one penalized domain to a new domain, you are probably going to pass on double the negative PageRank and link juice to your clean domain, so don’t do that either, unless you want double the drama.

3) If you are thinking of simply scraping the entire content of your penalized domain and republishing it on a new domain, think again. There is new evidence that Google can track the content that earned you the penalty in the first place and penalize it in the new location, even if you don’t use 301s or tell Google about the move via the site migration tool in Webmaster Tools.

4) If you’re concerned that a competitor might have used negative SEO tactics against you by 301 redirecting their penalized site to your non-penalized site, don’t be. Google is apparently quite good at ferreting out this particular negative SEO technique. If you’re still worried, you can use the Disavow Links tool in Webmaster Tools to instruct Google to ignore any links from the penalized site.

Hope this helps!

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Q and A: Can you please answer 3 SEO Questions?

QuestionHello Kalena

I’m a new Search Engine College student and I have 3 questions about SEO:

1) I’ve listed key phrases in a bulleted list.  One of the items listed is not a keyphrase, but does it matter to the search engines where the key phrases are, as far as their order in the list?

2)  I noticed something called “itemprop” in the meta description tag when I look at the source code of my website.  I know this is something to do with “All in One SEO” coding.  If itemprop is in the meta description, will that affect my SERPs?

3) Itemprop seems to be an issue with W3C, and the W3C Code Validator found more than 30 errors with my WordPress theme’s coding.  Could this also affect my SERPs?

4) I wrote more than 300 words for my site, and I’ve been changing words to try and improve the site’s performance over several months.  However, when I type in a key phrase I can’t locate it in Google.  Also, it seems the only way I can find it (on page 5) is when I type in the city with the key phrase.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Kind Regards

Ben

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Hi Ben

I don’t usually answer more than one question per post, but I’m feeling generous today ;-)

To answer your questions:

1) All other things being equal, keywords/phrases at the start of your tag are given slightly more relevancy weight than keywords/phrases towards the end of the tag.

2) I use the All in One SEO Pack plugin for WordPress as well and I’ve never noticed this *itemprop* you speak of. However, it appears to be attribute for embedded items in your code. It shouldn’t have any impact on things as the content of the meta description tag rarely has any influence on your page ranking in the SERPs.

3) Yes, HTML validation can have an impact on how search engines index your code, which can in turn have an impact on how well you rank. If you have used W3C to validate your code and it has found errors, I suggest you try to correct the errors as best you can.

4) SEO is a fluid exercise. You need to constantly tweak and refine your page code and content (and link profile) until your page starts to rank well. As long as you follow the advice in our Search Engine College lessons and on this blog, you should find an improvement over time.

Hope this helps.

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Fast Five in Search – Week 45, 2014

fast-five

 

This week I’ve been spending a lot of time in Google Analytics and looking at the most popular pages on this blog.  Turns out that the Q and A posts are the most popular, so this week’s Fast Five is a collection of my most popular Q and A posts for 2014.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) Q and A: Will Google penalize me for redirecting my old site to my new site with duplicate content? In this post, I help a webmaster who has moved domains and is concerned that his redirect may be penalized by Google as duplicate content.

2) Q and A: How many AdGroups should a single PPC campaign have? A Google AdWords advertiser is concerned about how many adgroups her campaign has and asks me for advice.

3) Q and A: Is rewriting content from another blog a legitimate SEO tactic? In this more recent Q and A, I help out a guy whose sister has hired a SEO company using dodgy site-scraping tactics for SEO purposes.

4) Q and A: How do I login to my YouTube channel The number of people who lose control of their YouTube channels is surprising. In this post, I assist someone who has forgotten their YouTube login and needs help getting it back.

and finally…

5) Q and A: Do Gmail accounts ever expire? In this post, I answer the age-old question of whether Google accounts every expire and whether they can be re-activated.

Happy reading!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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Fast Five in Search – Week 44, 2014

fast-five

 

So this week I was hoping to post five super fresh YouTube videos about SEO, particularly focusing on Google’s recent algorithm tweaks. But when I went searching – boy was I disappointed! Seems that all my favorite search marketing channels have been too busy to post any fresh content lately. So instead, I did a bit of yak shaving and ended up with five not so recent – but still incredibly insightful – YouTube videos about digital marketing.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five:

1) Whiteboard Friday: Surviving the SEO Slog by Rand Fishkin of Moz. In this vid, everyone’s favorite bearded SEO super-hero Rand tackles one of the greatest pitfalls of performing SEO – the initial hard slog. In your first few months of SEO efforts, it can seem like you are running on a treadmill to nowhere. You might be putting in a great deal of effort, but not yet seeing the results. Rand amusingly calls the gap the “Delta of Dissatisfaction” and explains how to manage client expectations around this gap from the get-go.

2) The Future of a Brand by Joanna Lord of BigDoor. Joanna is a delight. An ex Moz senior staffer, Joanna’s star is rising high in the world of brand evangelism and digital marketing and she has the type of life I like to follow vicariously through her Facebook feed :-). Although she has since left BigDoor and gone on to bigger and better things, this video really encapsulates her approach to brand marketing and particularly how to evolve and optimize an existing brand into a new entity without losing customer loyalty.

3) How to Create a Business Page on Google Plus by Matthew Meyer of SiteProNews. The reason I included this video is because I get a LOT of questions about Google+ and how to create a business page on Google+. This is one of the best step-by-step vids showing you how to do this.

4) How to Remove an Image from Google Images by Jeff LaFlam from Google Webmasters. Another question I get quite a lot on this blog is how to remove pages or images from the Google search results. This video shows that it’s easier than you think.

and finally…

5) Introduction to Google Plus by Martin Shervington of Google Plus Your Business. This is the first video in a series of five which covers just about everything you need to know about Google+ if you’re a business or organization.

Happy watching!

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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