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How to Avoid SEO Misinformation



How to Avoid SEO Misinformation

A lot of good information about SEO is out there. But there is also quite a bit of bad information. It doesn’t help when Google’s search results amplifies the bad information

For example, Google’s John Mueller recently debunked the SEO myth of LSI Keywords:

For example, John Mueller recently tweeted that LSI keywords are not real.

Screenshot of John Mueller stating there is no such thing as LSI KeywordsJohn Mueller recently tweeted: “There’s no such thing as LSI keywords — anyone who’s telling you otherwise is mistaken, sorry.”

But Google subverts his message by ranking SEO misinformation at the top of the SERPs.

If you search for LSI Keywords on Google, the number one ranked web page asserts that LSI Keywords matter for SEO and the next two search results are LSI Keyword generators.

Screenshot of search for query: LSI Keywords


John Mueller and Google’s search engineers may scratch their heads about where SEO myths come from. As you see above, many times it is Google that is amplifying and reinforcing those SEO myths.

How is a search marketer to know what SEO information is correct when Google’s search results reinforces SEO misinformation?

Discern Between Opinion and Fact-Based Insight.

It’s important to verify if the writer is citing and linking to an authoritative source. Something like a Googler statement, a patent or research paper helps to elevate an opinion into a fact-based insight.

Everything else is just an opinion and they don’t matter if there is zero basis to support it. That something “sounds reasonable” is not enough.

Just because Google ranks something at the top of the search results does not make it true, either.

Googler Statements Must be In Context

Some people have agendas. When that happens they tend to cite Googler statements out of context in order to push their agendas.

The typical agenda consists of sowing fear and uncertainty for the purpose of creating more business. It’s not uncommon for search marketers to say that Googler’s contradict themselves.

I find that Googler’s are remarkably consistent, especially John Mueller. What is inconsistent is how some people interpret what he says.

Google’s John Mueller lamented in a podcast that “two thirds of what he is quoted as saying is misquoted or quoted out of context.”

An Example of Fact-Based Insight

If your rankings dropped nowadays it could be because the algo decided that another page is more relevant to the search query and the users. We know this because Google has published official guidance on their updates.

Among the many insights that Google’s official guidance says about the updates, it shares this:

“…the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better.”

That’s an official statement that one of the reasons a site may lose search positions is because another site was “under-rewarded.

Now here’s a reason that has not been confirmed. Another reason could be because the content is not factually correct.

Nobody’s discussed the algorithms surrounding this. No Googler has confirmed that the algorithm is fact checking. The SEO community has a feeling that fact-checking is going on.

Is there any basis for the idea that Google is fact-checking? Yes, there is.

Nobody else (as far as I know) has discussed the following research paper. The Google research paper is called, Relevant Document Discovery for Fact-Checking Articles.

That research paper describes a way to fact-check articles. It proposes a way to verify factual information.

So the claim that Google might be fact-checking health related sites has some basis to it. We don’t know for sure. But the fact that there is this research paper (and others) elevates the opinion to a possibility. There is a basis for the idea.

We don’t know for certain. But there is at least evidence that fact-checking is something that Google has been researching.

The next best evidence is a statement from Google confirming that they are doing something.

Fact-check What You Read

In an article about what was said at a Webmaster Hangout, always watch the cited video clip yourself. By watching it you can determine for  yourself if the article you read was correct or if it was omitting something in order to push an agenda.

Correlation Studies are Not Reliable

Articles featuring correlation data attract a lot of attention. Data obtained from studying millions of search results will show patterns.
It’s undeniable that patterns are revealed.

But the patterns are meaningless because… correlation.

For example, if we extract that the XX percentage of top three rankings are published on WordPress, does that mean publishing on WordPress helps rankings? No, it does not.

Correlations tend to be meaningless. Meaningless correlations happen all the time and are the norm. Assigning meaning where there is no proven meaning is a mistake.

A correlation study of SERPs that typically consists of multiple search intents will not reveal useful information about today’s AI/Machine Learning algorithms.

Articles based on correlation are, in my opinion, great clickbait but generally have no usefulness for understanding ranking factors.

Correlation-based SEO articles consistently reach the wrong conclusion of what caused an effect.

1. Data is concrete and irrefutable.
2. Interpretation of the data is fluid and refutable.

IF there is some research, patent or a Googler statement that shows that it’s been researched, then the test conclusion has a higher  probability of being correct.

I’ve been working in SEO for almost 20 years. I have seen all kinds of crackpot hypotheses and reasonable ideas floated to explain things. But they were just ideas. They had no basis in fact.

They are essentially just guesses.  Guessing is a poor basis for creating a business strategy.

Proof via citation (research, patent or Googler statement) shows that an idea is at least possible or factual.

Nobody can say with certainty that X caused Y because what happens between the X and the Y happens inside Google’s so-called black box in which nobody can see what is happening.

And what happens in Google’s black box stays in Google’s black box.

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Yoast 12.1 adds custom favicons to the mobile snippet preview



Yoast 12.1 adds custom favicons to the mobile snippet preview

Yoast has released version 12.1 of its WordPress plugin; the update adds your custom favicon to the mobile snippet preview, matches Google’s font sizes on desktop search results and introduces new schema filters.

Yoast’s mobile snippet preview with custom favicon. Source: Yoast.

Why we should care

An accurate preview of your mobile and desktop listings enables you to get a better idea of what your customers see before they click through, which may help you optimize your snippets and encourage them to click on your results.

The new filters introduced in this update can also be used to control your schema output and provide searchers with pertinent information about your brand.

More on the announcement

Yoast 12.1 also adds the following filters for more granular control over schema output:

  • wpseo_schema_organization_social_profiles filters an entity’s social profiles. You can use it to customize social profiles within the Organization schema object.
  • wpseo_schema_company_name and wpseo_schema_company_logo_id filter your company’s name and logo from the theme options if it hasn’t been designated in Yoast SEO’s settings.
  • wpseo_enable_structured_data_blocks disables Yoast’s structured data block editor blocks.

For more on Yoast’s structured data implementation updates, check out our coverage on Yoast SEO 11.0 (general schema implementation), 11.1 (images and video structured data), 11.2 (custom schema), 11.3 (personal image and avatar structured data), 11.4 (FAQ structured data), 11.5 (mobile snippet preview) and 11.6 (updated How-to structured data block).

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Google Updates Reviews Rich Results – Check Your Structured Data



Google Updates Reviews Rich Results - Check Your Structured Data

Google announced an update to Reviews Rich Results. The goal is to improve the Reviews Rich Results for users and to
“address” abusive implementation and impose limits to where rich results trigger. Additionally,the “name” property
becomes required.

Reviews Rich Results

The reviews rich results are explained in Google’s Review Snippet developer page. Google takes your schema structured data related to reviews and show stars in the search results.

Screenshot of a Reviews Rich Result

The rich snippets developer page states:

“Review snippets may appear in rich results or Google Knowledge Panels.”

It’s the guidelines on their appearance in the rich results that is affected.

Limits Imposed on When Rich Results Reviews are Shown

Google announced that the display of rich results reviews will be limited. This means that any reviews outside of those limits will no longer show review snippets.

These are the allowed schema types:

Self-serving Reviews Not Allowed

Self-serving reviews are reviews of oneself. Google will no longer display self-serving reviews in the featured snippets.

This is how Google explained it:

“We call reviews “self-serving” when a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A – either directly in their markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget. “

“name” Property is Now Required

In perhaps the biggest change to Reviews Rich Results is the mandatory requirement of the name property in the featured snippets.

Publishers who rely on schema structured data plugins, including Reviews WordPress Plugins, should check if their plugin is currently including the “name” property.

If the name property is not included with your plugin then look for an update to your plugin and update it. If there is no “name” update then it may be something your plugin maker has in a future update.

You may wish to contact your plugin maker to find out when this is coming because the “name” property is now important.

Will Rich Results Disappear if “name” Property Missing?

Google did not say if failure to have the “name” property in the structured data will result in a loss of the Reviews Rich Result. They only said it’s required.

“With this update, the name property is now required, so you’ll want to make sure that you specify the name of the item that’s being reviewed.”

This is an important update for publishers who use reviews structured data. Make sure your structured data is properly updated in order to continue to show rich results for your structured data.

Read Google’s announcement here

Making Review Rich Results more Helpful

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What really matters in Google’s nofollow changes? SEOs ask



What really matters in Google's nofollow changes? SEOs ask

Google’s news Tuesday that it is treating the nofollow attribute as a “hint” for ranking rather than a directive to ignore a link, and the introduction of rel="sponsored"andrel="ugc" raised reactions and questions from SEOs about next steps and the impact of the change to a nearly 15-year-old link attribute.

Choices for choice sake?

As Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan stated in a tweet Tuesday, the announcement expands the options for site owners and SEOs to specify the nature of a link beyond the singular nofollow attribute. The additional sponsored and ugc attributes are aimed at giving Google more granular signals about the nature of link content.

As a point of clarification, Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that nofollow in meta robots will also be treated as a “hint,” but there are no ugc or sponsored robot meta tags. He also stated that he’ll be updating the official documentation to explicitly reflect this.

There is no real benefit for the sites that implement these new attributes instead of nofollow, other than organizational classification if it’s helpful. That has some viewing it through a lens of skepticism.

“Massive impact” whether you adopt or not

Drawing the focus back to that the key change that nofollow is now a ranking “hint,” not a directive, Sullivan tweeted, “As Gary says, that’s very helpful to our systems that impact *lots* of people. The new attributes are a minor aspect.”

That was in reference to Illyes earlier tweet that the treatment of nofollow could have a “massive impact on the end user.”

It can be hard to reconcile hearing that the change could mean significant improvements in search results for users while also being told that most sites won’t see any ranking affect from the new nofollow treatment.

According to the announcement, these changes have already taken effect (save for nofollow being used as a crawling and indexing “hint,” which goes into effect in March 2020). “In most cases, the move to a hint model won’t change the nature of how we treat such links,” Sullivan and Illyes wrote in the announcement. “We’ll generally treat them as we did with nofollow before and not consider them for ranking purposes.”

Who benefits from the new attributes?

Implementing the more granular sponsored andugc attributes is optional, and Google clearly stated there is no need for SEOs to go back and update any existing nofollows. So will site owners adopt the new attributes if they don’t have to?

As Sullivan has stated, the purpose of them is to provide options to help it classify these kinds of links more clearly. The nuances Google looks at between nofollow,sponsored and ugc attributes won’t have an impact on your own site and the new attributes are voluntary to implement. “If you do want to help us understand the web better, implement them. If you don’t want to, don’t,” tweeted Illyes.

More work?

Making the new attributes voluntary means you don’t have to bang down IT’s door, but it could also mean the change request may fall to the bottom of the priority list for a lot of companies and never get implemented. As consultant Kristine Schachinger expressed in the tweet below, even the slightest SEO change can be hard to get implemented.

Google seems very clearly fine with that. At this stage, the actual work involved should be minimal. If your dev teams can’t implement a code change to incorporate ugc or sponsored attributes for several more sprints, or quarters (and you’ve been implementing nofollow when appropriate), you don’t have to fret.

For WordPress sites, Yoast SEO plugin founder and Chief Product Officer Joost de Valk said Tuesday that support will be coming in the next release.

“It’s quite easy,” said de Valk. If other vendors follow suit, it could speed up adoption of the new attributes.

An opportunity for manipulation?

Now that nofollow is a “hint,” some are also concerned about spammers that might want to test out whether their tactics have a new lease on life.

Google says this shouldn’t spur spammers because most links will still be ignored just as before, whether they use the nofollow, ugc or sponsored attributes. Further, given that one of the stated reasons Google made the change to consider nofollow a “hint” is to be able to better understand link schemes, this spam tactic could be more risky than before.

What now?

This change should not have you overhauling your nofollow strategy. If you publish sponsored content or host forums or comments on your site, consider implementing the new attributes when you are able to make a code change. If you can’t or just don’t want to, there’s no harm in that either.

“On the surface, this only benefits Google,” Chris Silver Smith, president of Argent Media, commented via Facebook. “But, if you read between the lines, ‘hints’ mean a passing of PageRank or equivalent values. They’re already using Nofollowed links in some cases. They just want it easier to choose between links to use now in more cases.”

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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