Google Webmaster Hangouts 5-1-2018

New Content Will Fluctuate in Rankings

A hangouts member mentioned that they had published a new piece of content that ranked very quickly.  Then a day or two later it had completely disappeared.  While John notes that this may be a bit of an “extreme” case that it’s still “completely normal.”  You should expect to see these kinds of ranking fluctuations.  This is particularly common with newly published content.  Google makes what amounts to a “guesstimate” of where that content should rank.  Sometimes this guesstimate is dramatically incorrect, sometimes just a bit.

You Might Be Seeing Desktop Only Sites In the Mobile First Index

Yes, you read that right.  Or perhaps you saw that correctly?  Either way John mentions that some desktop sites have made their way into the mobile first index because “they themselves” are a sort of “responsive” site despite the poor user experience.  While proper mobile UX and speed is still the eventuality of this mobile first change, it seems there are still some dinosaurs that will be coming along for the ride.

Mobile-First Does Not Mean Results Are All Mobile-Friendly

The first snippet above is a perfect example of how this can be seen in the “wild.”  Just because a site may not be “mobile-friendly” apparently does not mean that it cannot be in the mobile-first index.  Although, it does seem abundantly clear that over time those sites will disappear further and further from SERP view (as mobile-friendly is a ranking factor).

Do Your Own Review of Search Snippets to Come Up With Best Practices

A hangouts member asked if Google had “best practice” guidelines for meta content.  As most people have heard by now the length of meta descriptions have been increased in many cases.  John said that Google does NOT have best practices for these.  The best way to come up with good meta descriptions is to do some searching yourself.  Are you happy with the descriptions you see?  If not, then perhaps there is an opportunity there.

Specifically with Mobile-First Indexing Google Takes Non-Visible Content Into Account

For example on mobile most navigation is hidden behind a hamburger menu.  Or sometimes content is hidden behind tabs.  With the mobile first index there is no difference between visible content or content within a tab that a user cannot see.

Google Will Mostly Forward on Historical Data for a URL When it Has Been 301 Redirected

301 Redirects are a very common webmaster tactic for showing the search engines that one of your URLs has changed to a new version.  These redirects can be a real headache for SEOs.  They can cause fluctuations in rankings dramatically.  However, Google does claim that they will pass on the historical data (IE: link value) to the new page through the redirect.

When Considering Menus Focus on Usability Over Anything Else

Some SEO’s will tell you that a “mega-menu” system is best for ranking well.  Other SEO’s have other opinions on that topic.  From Google’s perspective, neither are optimal unless it pleases the user.  While this sounds like typical rhetoric it does make sense for webmasters looking to achieve long term results.

Conclusion

There seemed to be a usability thread through-out this hangout.  Whether it was indexing issues or menu types – the goal of the webmaster should be to not just make great content but to please the user.  The better the user experience on a given site the more likely it will be returned to.  In the long run – that will be a site that ranks well.

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