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Google+ Hangouts - Office Hours - 08 March 2016

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JOHN MUELLER: OK. Welcome everyone to today's Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout. My name is John Mueller. I'm a webmaster trends analyst here at Google in Switzerland and part of what we do is talk with webmasters and publishers, like the ones here in the hangout and the ones that submitted a bunch of questions. It looks like there are some technical issues with the Q&A stuff so what I'll be doing is first going through the ones that were posted on the event listing and then going through everything else. But as always, before we start with that, for those of you who don't come into these regularly, is there anything on your mind that you'd like to get started with? Any open questions, problems, comments you might have? Nothing? Oh, I'm sure it'll come up.

BARRY: You guys are perfect, so--

JOHN MUELLER: All right. Thank you, Barry. I'm glad I have that on record. OK. So let's see where we can get started with the questions. We heard sites that are getting multiple DMCA hits will suffer in ranking. We're a UGC site and we average four to five DMCAs every month. Is that number OK or is there a concern in terms of ranking of the website? So we don't have any specific numbers on number of DMCA requests that are OK, and the number that's too much. So that's not something where I can really say that much about. It seems compared to the sites that are shown in the Transparency Report that four to five DMCAs is pretty much on the low end, so that's probably not something that critical. Regardless, I'd still respond to these as appropriate and make sure that you're taking the right steps to prevent these going forward in the future as well. Does Google give any preference to internal links from navigation over ones on a web page? And if you have multiple links on the same page going to the same internal page is that a priority of which link is more relevant? We do try to understand the structure of a page, in general, when we crawl and index pages to understand the difference between the boilerplate-- So the part of the page that doesn't change so much across a website compared to the main primary content of the page-- but I think with regards to internal navigation, if you have a website that has a normal kind of internal navigational structure with a menu or with related links, those kinds of things, then that's not something where you need to worry about where you have your link placed. And having multiple links to the same page can be perfectly fine. So that's not something where I'd say you need to artificially tweak the web structure of your site so that it matches esoteric design that you think is optimal. As long as these links are not no follow, as long as there's kind of a normal structure of a website there, ideally with maybe a hierarchy with higher level pages, lower level pages, and categories, those kind of things, then that's not something where I'd really worry about where those links are actually placed. hreflang question. Let's say a site CMS pushes up multiple copies of pages to country specific directories and each has a correct hreflang tag but the content has not been translated, how will Google react or treat to those pages if it's all in English, but the hreflang tag says it's in Spanish? I think we do try to have some kind of protection in there for these kind of issues. What will probably happen is we'll just say, well, these pages are all the same. We should treat them as one page instead of as multiple pages. But in general, if you know that your site is doing this, I'd try to prevent that. And really make sure that you're using hreflang properly so that when we look at your site, we know we can trust the hreflang markup on your site in general. If I spend a lot of time improving a particular part of my site, for example, product pages, can these rank really well separately from the rest of my site or will they never rank highly if there are issues elsewhere like on my site? So yes. Specific parts of your site can rank individually from the rest of your site. For the most part, we do try to understand the content and the context of the pages individually to show them properly in search. There are some things where we do look at a website overall though. So for example, if you add a new page to a website and we've never seen that page before, we don't know what the content and context is there, then understanding what kind of a website this is helps us to better understand where we should kind of start with this new page in search. So that's something where there's a bit of both when it comes to ranking. It's the pages individually, but also the site overall. We're a UK site but we use CloudFlare CDN. When I check online, it says my website is hosted in America, even though we have the servers in the UK as well. So what do I need to do there? If you use normal geotargeting setup either by having a country specific top level domain or by setting it in Search Console, then we'll figure that out. So that doesn't really matter. Lots of sites use content delivery networks, and depending on your location, you might see a different server location as well, and that's perfectly fine with us. So I'd just make sure that Search Console is set properly or that you're using a country code top level domain. We've been trying to improve our descriptions and added useful content around our product pages. Can this affect the rankings of the parent category pages as well? Sometimes, but in general not so much. So if we're just looking at the content of these pages, then we try to look at them separately. Obviously, if we see overall that lots of people are recommending your website because of something lower level on your website, then we'll say, well, in general, this website seems to be well-recommended. Maybe we should trust it more. We use tabs on our product pages for UX. I know Google discounts anything that's hidden. We have lots of useful info, so should we use htags as titles, which contain hidden content to help improve these since it's all relevant? Essentially, we try to ignore that if you're using hidden content. So we would find that probably when we crawl your page, when we look at the html, but when we render it, we'll notice that it's kind of hidden content, and we won't give it as much weight as we would something that's visible. So if you have specific parts that are important for this page, I'd just make sure that they're visible by default when this page is opened. Also, so that users when they go to this page, they see kind of what they were searching for in the search results. On the other hand, if you have auxiliary content that you think isn't that critical for a page, then maybe putting it in a tab like this makes sense.



FEMALE SPEAKER: Can I just ask a quick question on that point?


FEMALE SPEAKER: Say for instance you're using effectively hidden content, but it's great from a UX perspective, and then you decide, well, Google doesn't like hidden content and you get rid of it. And then the conversion just drops through the floor because people, humans, actually like it. If you put it back, you're not potentially putting yourself in a kind of endangering position, are I? In that Google would just literally say, well, I'm not going to take it into account. But it's great for humans. It's obviously great just getting that balance, isn't it?

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah. I don't know if you could argue that hidden content is great for humans. But in general in that situation where you remove it and you add it back, we would just treat it algorithmically like any other content on the site. So in particular what we found is really problematic is when you're searching for something and you find the snippet, and you think, oh, this matches what I was looking for. You click on the results, but the page that the website shows you doesn't have anything about what you were searching for. That's kind of the tricky situation that we're trying to prevent with treating hidden content like this. So if it's-- I don't know-- you're searching for a hotel and you click on this page, and all you see is information about car rentals, for example. Because hotel is in a separate tab that's hidden, you don't actually see that on the page. So having a user actually figure out, well, if I just do the right thing on this page, then actually I'll see the content. That's almost-- I don't know-- a hard step for a lot of people. So if like the hotel content is important, I'd just put it on a separate URL. You can still use a tab navigation on top. But just make sure it's a separate URL with that content visible by default.

FEMALE SPEAKER: So effectively you could have tabs, but you could have it so that the URL was connected to from the original content?


FEMALE SPEAKER: OK. But also, say for instance you had like a stepped process for somebody which was instructions on how to use the site, and that was a reasonably good user experience, easy to use for humans, but you didn't want to include all that content for Google, literally, because it perhaps has too much information and you don't want to be at risk of being overoptimized. Is that acceptable?


FEMALE SPEAKER: OK. Well, thank you.

ROB: John, in that scenario though, you can't control what you rank for. If someone is searching for hotels and you show a result for hotels, but when you click through it's showing car rentals, is that your fault or Google's?

JOHN MUELLER: That's kind of what we're trying to improve by not valuing that hidden content so much. So that-- From our point of view, any time a user clicks on something and doesn't find what they were looking for, it's our fault. By default, it's always our fault. Even if the website got hacked during the time we tried to crawl it or whatever, we think it's essentially always something that we should be able to handle a little bit better. But in a case like that when you're looking for a hotel and you get a car rental page, then that essentially means we weren't ranking things the way that we should, and that sometimes leads to decisions like this where we say, well, actually this hotel information was in a hidden tab. Maybe we should have devalued it a little bit. And if we find a better match for that hotel, we'll show it, but if we don't find a better match and this is essentially the only content we have for that hotel, and it's in a hidden tab, then we'll just show it anyway, because that's the only source of this information for that user.

ROB: Oh.

JOHN MUELLER: Let's see. Some more questions here. My company name is actually three words, which make up a phrase, for example, Big Red Box. So my website within the content, should I be referring to my company as Big Red Box or as one word BigRedBox, as that's what the URL does? So will Google recognize both of these as being my company? Essentially we try to recognize kind of like a phrase that belongs together. When we see that working together within a website, we'll try to recognize that and treat it as one thing. So it's not something where you'd artificially have to use your domain name instead of your company name when you're talking about your company. When a user explicitly wants to go to my site via Google search on mobile, does it count towards the quality of the site the same as if he wanted to see my website in the desktop search results? Are browsing data from Chrome browser used in web search? As far as I know, we don't use that in web search. So that's essentially something where you have to interact with your users and if users are happy with the content that they find, then that's essentially between you and the user. And we kind of see the more indirect effects when people are, for example, linking to the content. Is there any SEO benefit of using the title attribute on links? Is that a ranking signal? Does it contribute in any way? I don't think we use the title attribute at all for the link anchor text there. I think what we do use is if you're using an image, for example, and you link that, then we take the alt text out and try to use that. But I don't think there is any SEO benefit of using a title attribute there. So it definitely wouldn't make sense to say, well, here's a link with this anchor text and then within the atag also add the same thing as a title. I don't think that would give any additional value there.

FEMALE SPEAKER: Can I ask another quick question, John, just on that particular subject?


FEMALE SPEAKER: Because it's something actually that I've been thinking about quite a bit. You know that we've got Image Bot that collects images, and we've got the normal Google Bot that crawls text, if you'd like, webtexts. So the image is collected presumably by Google Image, but the other week you mentioned the alt text, is that collected by Google Web or is it collected by Google Image? Because you mentioned that the actual alt text can be part of the actual rendered content. So is the actual benefit actually in the fact that it's Google Bot versus Google Image that takes that back, and the same with text, the title, potentially, on links, so it's actually part of the actual rendered code, as such, the content?

JOHN MUELLER: In practice, we'd combine that. So we take what we crawl with Google Bot Web, which will be the text part of the page and combine that with the image that we crawl with Google Bot Image. So it's not that just like one of these crawls ends up being in the image in the index. We essentially take both of them. So especially for image search, we always have to combine the image with a landing page. We can't look at them individually and say, well, we're just focusing on the image, and we don't care about any landing page, because we need that extra context from the landing page. And that includes the alt text, that includes things like captions, additional text on the page in that section of the page, all of that.

FEMALE SPEAKER: So in effect it actually adds further context to the content overall?


FEMALE SPEAKER: Effectively on the whole page by adding the alt tags. [INAUDIBLE]


FEMALE SPEAKER: Right. Thank you.

JOHN MUELLER: Sure. I'm working on a website and no matter what I change, the schema rating stars aren't showing in search results. I've tried to use software application reviews. Nothing works. At the same time, the schema test tools show that all is OK on the website. So when it comes to structured data and which snippets we essentially look at it on three levels. Primarily, on the one hand, it has to be technically correct. So that's something that you're testing with those testing tools. On other hand, it has to be compliant with our policies so that you're marking up the right type of things. For example, one type of issue that we sometimes see is that people will take a random piece of content and mark it up as a recipe, and, of course, it's not a recipe. So that's the kind of thing that we look for, our algorithms to look for. And finally we have to be kind of trusting of the website overall. So it kind of has to reach a certain quality bar from our point of view. So that's something that might be in effect here. I'd probably have to check the website directly. But that's something that is generally the issue when we see people say, well, I have implemented everything properly. I've implemented it in the right way, but it's still not showing up, then usually it's just a sign that you need to work on your website overall to kind of really give it an extra boost in terms of quality. When should you have--

MALE SPEAKER: The website in question--

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah, go ahead.

MALE SPEAKER: The website in question is already a few years available. [INAUDIBLE] Lots of traffic here right now from Google, so--

JOHN MUELLER: I can barely understand you from-- It keeps breaking up. Maybe you can add it as a comment in the chat and I can pick it up there. But we can get back to that. I have a travel blog with a lot of old entries. If I create a new site and link to older posts at a new site, is that OK? Will Google think that it's a manipulation of its algorithm? In general, what I would do if you are setting up a new site is just do a normal site move so that you're actually redirecting from your old site to the new one. So that's probably what I'd try to do there. If you can't do a site move, if you want to keep your old content separately, then linking to it is perfectly fine. That's not something where I'd say would be particularly problematic. We've now appeared in press releases. Somehow they forgot to write the back link. We've asked them to do so. We didn't pay for that, and now it appears. What will Google think? So in general, I'd recommend not using press releases as a way to build links, because that's something that has been abused a lot in the past. And our algorithms and our [INAUDIBLE] team are generally trying to recognize those kind of situations where essentially you're creating the content and publishing it on other people's sites. So that's something where I'd really try to avoid using press releases as a way of kind of artificially building links. We did a site redesign, at the same time did a migration to https just last year. But since the switch, the impressions and the click data in Search Console has become nonexistent, yet we haven't seen any loss in organic traffic, and we're still number one for our brand. So what's up? This is actually a really common thing that a lot of sites run into when they move to https, and it's not really a sign that you're doing anything particular wrong or that your website is penalized or anything. It's essentially just that Search Console is looking at sites on a per URL basis. And when you move to https, that's a different URL. So you have to verify the https version of your site as well in Search Console so that we can show you the https specific data there. So probably everything is fine. It's just a matter of adding that site to Search Console and looking there.

ROB: John, was that Liam's question?


ROB: Yeah, he posted. I answered that on the page, and he said, yes, he did add the other domain separately.

JOHN MUELLER: OK. So probably not looking in that domain then. Maybe it's added and you're just looking into the old version instead of the new one. That's really a common thing. Rob spotted that right away probably. It's one of those things that we should probably be doing better in the UI. We've improved our contents, gained some back links, solved 404 problems, and now our site looks great. How long do we have to wait until we see ranking improvements? We essentially, for the most part, we work on adjusting the ranking in real time as we recrawl and reindex, reprocess all of the URLs that are involved, so this is something where you'd see a kind of a steady change in rankings over time. Sometimes there are bigger steps that are taken when algorithm needs to reprocess data for a website overall. But in general, you should see kind of a steady change over time regardless of any other changes. We had a page on our old domain. Now we're redirecting it to a new domain via 301, but by mistake we didn't create the content. Now we have the content but there's been a two months gap. Will Google consider it as a new page? Probably we'll still follow the 301 and try to pick that up again. So that's not something where I'd kind of worry if we treat it as a new page or as an old page. We'd be able to at least forward the signals to that new page and to kind of move all of the information that we have to that new URL. So these things can happen sometimes. It's good that you noticed it. And if you notice that you might have missed other URLs like that, I'd just go ahead and kind of readd that content so that it's back on your site.

FEMALE SPEAKER: John, can I just ask another really quick question?


FEMALE SPEAKER: Sorry everybody. On that point about the lifetime between crawling and the shuffle, et cetera, and reindexing, et cetera-- It may have been asked before-- but what kind of length of time is that? So we get-- We analyze our logs and we see that Google is crawling today. How long is it likely to be before it goes through the machine at the other end and then gets spat out into a changed result or reindexed in a different position, generally?

JOHN MUELLER: Generally, it really depends. So for some things we're able to process these things really quickly, so maybe a minute or two even. For other things, it takes a bit longer. Maybe, I don't know, half a day or a day depending on what all needs to be updated. And that also depends a bit on the data centers. So it might be that it's updated in one data center first and a couple of hours later you see it somewhere else. But it's hard to kind of give a general timing there from the crawl point to when it's actually reflected in the live results. And some of the algorithms might have different update frequencies there as well. So I have seen reports, for example, that the cache page is updated a couple days later and the snippet takes another day, but actually the page actually already ranks for those terms that are on those updated URLs. So that's something where individual processes within Google might take different long.

FEMALE SPEAKER: Is there ever an instance where a result gets removed and then the shuffling around happens and then it just goes back in? Because sometimes I'll see things that just literally disappear. And then they come back in in a higher position. It's almost like-- It literally is like a card index file. You taking them out and you putting them back in. You can kind of catch those times where it's just appeared for a while.

JOHN MUELLER: That shouldn't happen. I tend to take something like that as a bug and bring it to the teams here. But in practice that should be more of a fluid change in that we update the data and then the new data is there. It's not that we kind of take the URL out, update the data, and then put it back again. That should kind of happen live. What sometimes happens is especially with really maybe new content that we picked up really quickly where we said, oh, we need to push this really quickly to the search results is we'll push it really quickly to the search results, and then after a while notice, well, it's not getting the pick up that we kind of assumed. People aren't responding to it by linking to it. Those kind of things. And we say, well, we'll just put this in the normal queue for the next time. So kind of this time between something that we pushed as something that we assumed would be fairly urgent, but then noticed, well, maybe it's not that urgent after all. We'll put it in the normal queue and there might be a small gap between that sometimes. But in general, if it's just a URL that gets updated, we should be able to do that on the fly without actually things dropping out.

FEMALE SPEAKER: And sorry. Just one final quick question. I've been saving these up for quite a while.

JOHN MUELLER: That's good.

FEMALE SPEAKER: So say, for instance, you have an issue with an infinite loop, et cetera, so lots of random URLs in the search and you're trying to deal with that. If you inadvertently somehow let Google into a parameter driven section of the site, and it literally churns out lots of links, but then you 410 them-- Effectively you chop off that arm, so to speak-- those links that have been crawled, do they go into a massive queue? So effectively, because they're already sent off down the pipe, you'll end up with them all getting crawled at some point? Because--


FEMALE SPEAKER: --honestly, I've got none of these left on a site that I'm kind of looking at. There's no-- you know, when I crawl it, there's no issues. But when I check the logs, some days there's like 50,000 [INAUDIBLE]. And then other days, it's like 30,000 410s. So clearly I've got rid of them. But then they're in a queue somewhere, randomly.

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah, so I think there are two aspects there. On the one hand, kind of the first time that we try to crawl list, they might end up in a queue like that. So that's something where sometimes we send a message to the site saying, hey, we found too many URLs on your website. And you look at it and you say, well, of course. My website is big. I have a lot of URLs. But usually this is because we ran into a section where we found a new type of parameter in the URL. We don't really know what to do with it. So we'll queue all of these first and we'll try to go through them to figure out is this parameter really something relevant or not. That's the one side. The other part, once we've crawled them and we see even that there's a 4040 or 410, we'll try to refresh these over time. So it might be that, I don't know, every couple of months we'll say, well, we have extra capacity for this website. We could crawl it a little bit more. And we have all of these URLs that were 404 last time, but maybe the webmaster changed something and there's actually content there. So we'll go out and kind of fill up the capacity that we have for the website with these URLs that we think are probably 404s but we just want to double check.

FEMALE SPEAKER: But if you 410 them, you're basically saying they're gone.

JOHN MUELLER: Well, the next time they might come back. So we try them again. And the difference between the 410 and the 404 is mostly when the content used to exist. When we know that there used to be content there, we've indexed it before, and if you return a 404, then we think, well, maybe this is just a mistake. We'll double check again before we actually remove the URL from the index. And with a 410, we say, well, this is a pretty strong signal that the webmaster doesn't want this, so we'll take it out immediately. So the 404 410 difference is mostly with regards to how quickly it falls out. But once it's out, we really differentiate between a 404 and a 410. So we'll check these again every couple of months. And if you have a lot of URLs, then you might have this kind of steady stream of us just like refreshing these URLs to double check that we're not missing anything.

FEMALE SPEAKER: So is there anything you can do to stop it?

JOHN MUELLER: Usually you don't need to do anything to stop it, because--

FEMALE SPEAKER: Well, I'd prefer Google to be going in the right places.

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah, I mean usually we use this more to kind of fill up the extra capacity that we have. We say, well, we've crawled all the important URLs from this website. We know we could crawl 10,000 more URLs. So let's just double check the rest of the stuff on our list to make sure that we're not missing anything. So it's not that you'd lose anything by us not crawling those URLs or you wouldn't gain anything by us not crawling those URLs. It's essentially just our system saying, well, there's this big backlog over here that we don't really know what to do with, so let's just double check it when we have extra time.

FEMALE SPEAKER: But you could-- So you could effectively if you see that happening, you know, that it's not crawlable from all the crawls you do with crawling tools, it's an indication that maybe you're not actually using your capacity, so you could grow your site. You could fill it back up with good stuff, couldn't you?

JOHN MUELLER: You can always do that. Yeah. I mean the capacity is or the amount of crawling that we do per day from a website on the one hand is tied to the technical limitations that we see. Where we see, well, if we crawl more, then your server starts getting slow, starts returning server errors, those kind of things. So that's kind of a technical capacity issue there. And usually you don't want to fill that up, because if you have Google Bot crawl as much as it can, then probably your users are going to notice that things are a little bit slower than usual as well. So that's kind of the thing where usually you'd expect to have a little extra room available for Google to crawl a little bit more.

FEMALE SPEAKER: OK. That's great. Thanks John. Cheers.

MALE SPEAKER: As a continuation to this question, would it be a better to switch a page that I don't want to see anymore from 404 to 410?

JOHN MUELLER: I don't think that would make any difference with regards to crawling. Once it's removed from the search results, we essentially treat them the same. It's just that step from having it visible in the search results to it being removed. That's a tiny bit faster. And in practice, it's almost like a theoretical difference because normal websites they kind of have this time where these URLs drop out anyway, and if that happens one day earlier or one day later, it's not really going to make any practical difference.

MALE SPEAKER: But you just said that 410 will be removed faster, and by that I will be able to free capacity for the other parts of my website.

JOHN MUELLER: Yes. But normally we should be able to crawl more than enough from a website anyway. So it's really, really rare that we're so limited that we need individual URLs to kind of drop out faster so that we can crawl a little bit more. And that's usually a sign that your web server is so limited that it's already slow for normal users that your kind of running on the last part of your server's power.

ROB: John, would you combine the signals from any 400 code with a no index or something, and then use that as a reinforcement signal, say actually maybe that you shouldn't bother anymore?

JOHN MUELLER: We don't do that.

ROB: Or will that just prevent you getting there so that you would never learn?

JOHN MUELLER: We wouldn't pick up any of the content on the 404 page. So if you have a no index there, we would essentially ignore that.

ROB: So you wouldn't come back to that if you put it on that parameter or that folder or whatever it was.

JOHN MUELLER: I think if you really want us to kind of stop crawling that part of the site, I'd block in the robot's text. But in practice for like normal site changes where you're adding things and removing some things, that's totally too much I think. I'd just let it return 404. We'll just recrawl those parts from time to time to kind of see that we're not missing anything. But I wouldn't worry about that.

FEMALE SPEAKER: Just on that point, just to sort of help with that query. Those URLs that I was speaking about, they are deindexed now by the way. Because I deindexed from like 1 and 1/2 million URLs to 130-odd thousand. So they're not there. They're not indexed. But they're still getting crawled.


FEMALE SPEAKER: This is what I mean. There's definitely like some sort of random queue that they're in. So I don't know whether that adds a little bit of help for anybody. They're not there anymore. They're not in the index.

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah. I think that happens to a lot of sites over time. And sometimes we see sites that significantly revamped the kind of content that they have. Or they'll say, all of my blog is gone or all of my forum is gone, and suddenly 2/3 of their URLs are returning 404. And from our point of view, that's perfectly fine. We'll see that the first time when we crawl it. And then we'll know, oh, probably they don't exist anymore. We'll still recheck them after a couple of months, slower than we would crawl normal URLs with like a lower priority almost. And that's not something that you need to kind of artificially suppress. So I'd just let those return 404 and focus on the normal part of the site instead.


JOHN MUELLER: All right. Let me grab some questions from the Q&A app.

MALE SPEAKER: Can you get back to my question about the rich snippet?


MALE SPEAKER: It looks like I have an internet connection better now, so I can ask a little follow-up.


MALE SPEAKER: You said that the website needs to have some sort of trust. How can I measure the trust? The website in question is on the internet for a couple of years now. It has quite a huge traffic from Google. It's really fast. It has all the needed things that I can think about. How can I measure trust? Because I do know that this website doesn't show rich snippet at all. None. [INAUDIBLE] no. Stars for reviews. And we did try to switch types. For applications we tried reviews only. Each time we left it for a couple of months, like half a year, just to see maybe it takes some time to add them. But we don't see them at all on the [INAUDIBLE].

JOHN MUELLER: So what you can sometimes do is a site query to see if you we're technically able to pick them up. So sometimes we would show that the rich snippet's there. That might be something to double check.

MALE SPEAKER: --I will check.

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah. So in general, we don't have any kind of public trust metric or quality metric that webmasters can pick up and kind of optimize on. We really try to understand the quality of a website overall. And for that, one thing that you could do is go through the-- What is it? 23 questions that Amit Singhal posted a bunch of years ago now on the Webmaster Blog about things that you can ask yourself about high quality sites. And take some of those questions and go through maybe a group of people who aren't related to your website at all. Have them go through some tasks on your website, some tasks maybe on competitors where you think this the best website of the same type. And try to understand where users are seeing a difference between the two websites and where maybe you could take a hard look at your website and say, OK. This part of my website that I thought was really fantastic, maybe people don't recognize it as being as fantastic as it could be. Maybe I need to focus on that more. But these are the things where it's not a matter of using the right html code, the right meta tags. You really have to take a step back and look at your website overall, maybe with fresh eyes to get kind of the hard truth that usually the webmaster doesn't want to hear by themselves. And I have the same difficulty when I send things out for review, I try to get like the really honest feedback and sometimes that clashes with what I thought I would expect. But that's the type of feedback that you need to get as a webmaster to really get a fresh look at your site and to see where people who aren't connected to your site might see issues or might see ways that you can improve things.

ROB: The Webmaster Forums are a good place if you want harsh feedback.


MALE SPEAKER: Or if you had some type of zero to ten score that you could assign to a web page-- Ten being the highest. Zero being the lowest-- we would be able to figure out how important a page is.

JOHN MUELLER: Well, you kind of see that already, right? You enter your preferred keywords in this box and then you see a list of sites that we rank in the order that we think they're relevant. So--

MALE SPEAKER: Right. But you could rank a site very well, but not have rich snippets.

MALE SPEAKER: My point exactly. Our website is ranked very well for lots of keywords, especially in different languages, but we don't see rich snippets at all.

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah. I'd really try to see what you can do from a quality point of view overall. So I haven't looked at your website. So maybe I'm totally off the mark. But in general, when it comes to rich snippets, when we don't show them, it's really a matter of us assuming that the quality of this website isn't as high as we would like to see it.

MALE SPEAKER: OK. Thank you.

FEMALE SPEAKER: John, there was a-- I stumbled across a Google Webmaster's guide to search engine optimization for starters on some article the other day. It's quite old. I think it was from 2010 or something like that. There looked to be still quite a lot of fairly current stuff in there. Will that ever kind of be updated, that document? It's kind of just really well-buried actually. I stumbled across it by accident the other day. It was about 40 or 50 pages long, something like that.

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah. We should do that.

FEMALE SPEAKER: It had a lot of really useful stuff that's actually is still relevant. A lot it is really still relevant.

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah. I know we did a revamp a couple years ago. So I don't know if you saw the original one or the slightly revamped one. But even in the revamped one, there are things like all of the mobile information that has significantly changed. So it's not so much a matter of like your general SEO type things, but it's more that the technical details have significantly changed. And those are things we'd like to get updated in that guide. But I don't know what the specific plans are at the moment to update that. I know it's a topic that comes up every now and then.

FEMALE SPEAKER: I'm just thinking that you know that probably would be really useful for people.

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah. We should do that.


JOHN MUELLER: All right. Let me grab a handful of questions from the Q&A, and then we can open things up for all of you. We want to run A/B test on our landing page by serving one type of content to returning users and a different one to new users. Does Google consider this type of A/B test cloaking? So essentially we would never see the returning user type content because Google Bot doesn't keep cookies. So if there's something useful that you're showing to returning users, we would essentially miss all of that. So from that point of view, I don't know if that's in your best interest. And also, this isn't a traditional type of A/B test because you're not comparing the same type of users. You're essentially splitting things up into returning users and new users. So that's something where if you're testing something specifically with regards to how people react to your website, I don't know if you'd actually see useful results in a case like that. Obviously, maybe there are things that make sense by doing it like this, but if you're doing a traditional A/B test to see which variation is better, then you're looking at very different user groups automatically by splitting it up like that. If I was to show an extract of product descriptions on a [INAUDIBLE] page, how should I do that so it doesn't negatively impact me, as the text might be duplicated on the actual product page? In general, that's no problem. So we'll recognize snippets of text that are duplicated, and we'll try to find, more or less, the most relevant page for that snippet of text, and we'll try to show that one in the search results. So it's not a matter of us saying, well, there's a lot of duplicated content here. But rather we say, well, this specific piece of text that someone is searching for is duplicated on these five pages and from these, this is the most relevant one. So we'll show that one in search. Trying to improve my product descriptions for SEO. I know that you discount content behind tabs. I think we looked at this one. We're an e-commerce business and have a dedicated website for all countries where English is a main language. All of them use hreflang tag. Is there any added SEO benefit in terms of rankings in serving unique content in each one of these? Any additional SEO benefits-- Essentially what would happen in a case like this is we would rank all of these pages individually and depending on where the user's location is we'd swap out the URL shown in the search for the best matching one. So it's not so much that you'd have a ranking difference here, but rather we try to show the most appropriate one in the search results. And if all of these URLs are really exactly the same, then you probably don't have any value in actually creating these pages in the first place. So that's something. Maybe it's worth reconsidering. But if you're changing these pages subtly. If you have different addresses, different phone numbers on there, different currencies, different prices, then that's obviously a good use of the hreflang. So the text itself might be the same, but the metadata on the page might be a little bit different. But again, hreflang doesn't change the rankings. It only makes sure that the most appropriate one is actually swapped in at the place where it would rank. Why is content and mass produced URLS from hacked domains, which Google even identifies as being hacked indexed, sometimes over the original? The links from these sites to legitimate domains is also counted indexed in Webmaster Tools. So with regard to the links, I guess the tricky part there is we do show links in Search Console even when we say that we're not passing any page rank there. So that might be something that you wouldn't need to worry about. In general, we are aware of all of these different types of hacking, and we do try to work to prevent them from causing issues in search. And sometimes that works a little bit better. Sometimes we have to do more manual work to actually clean that up. But I know the teams are working on improving this, and they regularly work on improving this, because it's always this kind of constant battle between normal websites and those that are getting hacked. In general, I'd really take this as a tip to make sure that your website, when you put it out, is made in a way that doesn't get hacked that easy, that you're really on top of things when it comes to updating your CMS, that you're on top of things when it comes to making sure that you have the security settings right when security alerts come out, that you're really paying attention to what's actually happening with your website. But we do try to figure out what we can do with these kind of hacked sites a little bit better. One thing that I've been talking about with the team is that maybe we'll put together a special form where people can submit sites that they think are hacked and that might be something that we need to look at from a manual point of view or that we need to take into account with regards to our algorithms when we try to deal with hacked content to recognize it automatically. All right. Let's open it up for more questions from you all. We have a couple minutes left. What else has been on your mind this week or recently or at all?



MALE SPEAKER: Hey, good to see you. I got a specific question that just popped up when I was browsing earlier this week. So Google has its "no splash screen on mobile for downloading the app" policy. When I browse, they take me to a splash screen that's not really a splash screen. It's the website moved down. So you see the splash screen that would be blocking first click free, but in fact, if you click on Continue to the Site, it just scrolls you down. Is this OK? Or something that can be implemented more widely? Something that just Google's ignoring? Because they're doing essentially a splash screen that takes up the full screen, but it's on the same page.

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah. We've looked into a number of these, and we'll probably try to have to figure something out on how to react appropriately to issues like that. So it's essentially trying to-- So I don't know specifically what Yelp is doing that you're seeing there, because I don't use Yelp that much. But it's essentially something where people are trying to get around our policies, where we say, well, we don't want you to run an app install interstitial. And they tweak it so that technically it's not really an interstitial, but actually from a user interface point of view, it does look a lot like an interstitial. So those are the type of things where we're considering maybe taking manual action and saying, well, we need to flag this as an interstitial, even if it isn't flag from our algorithms. But I think that the teams are definitely aware of these kind of situations and they're trying to figure out how best to respond to that. So I'd definitely wouldn't use something like this as an example of something that you should copy as well, because just because one person is kind of getting away with doing something sneaky doesn't mean that it's something that you should copy as well, especially when you recognize that they're kind of trying to sneak their way past this policy.

MALE SPEAKER: And is there any-- I know you can't say specific, but where does that gray area kind of start? Because with exit intent, scrolling down on the same page-- There's a million ways to do this, and some of them are more invasive than others. What would you-- If I think it's OK for my experience, that's fine. Or would you say try to follow the intent of the law from Google?

JOHN MUELLER: I don't know where we would draw the line specifically. So I have seen some blog posts, drafts, go around about that internally. And for some of that, maybe we can give some more guidance on what specifically to look for. But I don't know if we have anything specific to announce just yet.

ROB: John, can I ask a question following up from the last one before that, about the duplicate snippet on a product page versus its category.


ROB: I'll give you a URL in the chat, but it may well be that the answer is it's just your site, Rob. Because that particular result is for a little snippet of text that's on the product page to say that gift certificate is for that specific person. It's for one participant, and it's for that experience. And yet, the first four or five results are the category pages for that product, and nowhere on that category page does that snippet appear at all. It's just kind of the page above in the hierarchy to find product. And so that doesn't seem to be right at all. [INAUDIBLE] because it's our site I can't even--

JOHN MUELLER: No, no. No, no. It's not everything about your site.

ROB: So almost everything?

JOHN MUELLER: So I would have to kind of double check what's actually happening there where we're picking that up. But my guess is some of that snippet was on those category pages and because your category pages are pretty prominent within a website, in general, then we assume that they're more relevant for something like this. But--

ROB: They've never appeared on a category ever. They're in part of the participant and when you go to a product page, they're in the little tabs, a bit like we were talking about before. [INAUDIBLE] the tabs-- who it's for, when it's for, the availability, all of those. It's never ever appeared on those pages ever.

JOHN MUELLER: Yeah. I mean, it's a fairly long query. So if you're taking like a full sentence, then some of those words might be things that we say, well, this isn't that relevant for this specific query or we can rewrite this slightly and then try to find the best matches for that. So I'd assume--

ROB: It doesn't look for an exact match first?

JOHN MUELLER: No, no. It tries to find the most relevant one. If you want to find an exact match, you'd have to put it in quotes. And--

ROB: If you do, then it goes straight to the right place.

JOHN MUELLER: So I don't know. So one thing I'd generally try to do in a case like this is figure out is this something that really users are seeing or is this something that you ran across because you're kind of creating this content yourself and you know exactly what it should be. And kind of looking at the search query information in Search Console to see does this really kind of match an issue that people are actually having or do I just think it's an issue but nobody actually sees it.

ROB: Well, it's because we're constantly searching for different things from our site just to see if the page is appear anywhere, because you know how closely we're trying to monitor what's going on. So any kind of-- I've never seen that before, that kind of behavior, where obviously you're seeing it as part of our site. So you know that it's us, because the first five results or six are us. So knowing that, rather what you're really doing is saying we don't like the product page it seems.

JOHN MUELLER: I don't know if we could say that we don't like the product page. It's just that probably what we're seeing is that the category pages are more prominent within your website so we give them a little bit more weight. But I don't know. I'd have to take this query to the search quality folks just to kind of see what specifically we're picking up with regards to ranking there.

ROB: But if you take it to them, they're just going to go, oh, not again, John.

JOHN MUELLER: I can take it to different people. There are lots of people at Google. Don't worry. But my guess is just that this is too artificial of a query for them to really say, well, we should rank this or this first for something like that. Maybe these are just really close by with regards to like the final score that they get and we're like, well, we'll just put them in this order, but it doesn't really matter.


MALE SPEAKER: Hey John, I got a quick question for you.

JOHN MUELLER: All right.

MALE SPEAKER: So regarding the new amp-carousel for publishers, do you rank within that carousel? Does that interfere with the html version of your page showing up in the traditional search results?

JOHN MUELLER: Can you repeat that last part?

MALE SPEAKER: If you show up in an amp-carousel, does that inhibit the html version of your site from showing up within the traditional search results?

JOHN MUELLER: I believe at the moment it doesn't. I believe we show it in both places. But that's probably something that can change over time, where if we see that we need to deduplicate the results better, then maybe at some point we'll say, well, if it's ranking up here, then we'll filter it out down here.


JOHN MUELLER: All right.

MALE SPEAKER: Another question.

JOHN MUELLER: I need to head out. There's someone that needs this room. So if you have more questions, feel free to add them to the next Hangout, and I'll pick them up there. Thank you all for joining and

FEMALE SPEAKER: Thanks, John. Cheers.

JOHN MUELLER: Hope to see you all again in one of the future Hangouts.

FEMALE SPEAKER: Cheers. Thank you. Thanks. Bye.

MALE SPEAKER: Take care. Bye-bye. | Copyright 2019