Need answers to your burning Google and SEO questions? John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst at Google, provides clear answers for webmasters, business owners, and marketers who want to understand the nuances of Google and search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is all about getting your website crawled, indexed, and ranked so people can find you and your products or services when they “Google” information about your company.
Recently, we began participating in Google’s office hours. Below are some of the questions that Mueller answered in the September 27 Google Webmaster Central Office Hours.
Questions About Updating Websites, URLs, and Content
Q. Should I combine multiple related pages that have similar content with a similar keyword focus into one big page?
A. If you combine multiple pages into one page, it will take time to rank again. Still, Mueller recommends this long-term strategy. It makes sense to have one stronger page that focuses on the keyword rather than multiple pages with less content.
Q. If I update URLs to shorter, smarter URLs will this impact rankings?
A. Yes. Generally, anytime you make bigger changes on your site, it will take some time for rankings to settle down again. (If it’s just one URL with a redirect, Google can figure it out pretty quickly.)
On a broader scale, if you’re cleaning up URLs, Google essentially needs to re-process the whole website to understand the relationships between all the pages. It will take a couple of weeks to several months to recover rankings.
Q. If a company’s Brand A needs to be merged to the same content management system (CMS) as Brand B, will this impact Brand A’s rankings?
A. Yes. A redesign of a website, new URL structure, new links, and new layout, will take a significant amount of time to “settle down.”
Be really careful with migration. Track and redirect all old URLs to new URLs. If you are merging and splitting pages, track all of that separately.
Google needs to understand the new site structure—especially if you are considering an enterprise site with a lot of content. This could take three to six months.
Q. In the above scenario, if the new URL structure and page design will be similar, will the two sites be at risk of duplicate website content?
A. It depends how similar the page content is. If the content on both sites mostly matches, Google will look at the equivalent content. For each page of similar content, Google will choose one as the canonical. In this case, you might consider having just one website.
If one brand is targeted to one audience and one to another, it might make sense to keep both sites separate. But then content should be distinct. If content is different, but URL structure is same, that’s not a problem. If content is the same, that’s a problem.
Crawling and Indexing Questions
Q. What type of linking is natural?
A. You and your customer can link to each other. That type of linking is perfectly natural. This is not something to worry about. When multiple sites link to other multiple sites, Google is pretty good at picking up these linking schemes.
As we reported earlier this year, linking schemes are one of the 25 Worst SEO Mistakes to Avoid.
Q. Does linking to other websites help or hurt SEO?
A. If you’re offering additional value for your users, linking to other websites is an awesome practice for providing value to your users. Useful content is just one way that your business can add value for your customers.
But if you’re involved in a linking arrangement with another company, linking to an advertisement, or linking from comments, it’s better to use the rel=”no follow” link attribute.
Q. Can I have more than one H1 on a page?
A. Contrary to many SEO software packages and historical advice, you CAN use H1 tags as often as you like on a page. There is no upper or lower limit.
At the same time, H1s are a great way to give more structure to a page. This is helpful to users and to search engines to understand which parts of a page are under different headings. It’s completely normal and somewhat expected to have more than one H1 on the page if you have more than one topic on a page.
Make your web writing digestible by using relevants headers and subheads.
Q. What if my brand guidelines require me to use a different term than the one people are searching?
A. At times, Google understands that Harley-Davidson with a hyphen (proper branding for its trademark rules) is the same as Harley Davidson (what users search). Google recognizes these are synonyms.
However, in many cases, it’s important to have content that uses terms that people use. For example, if you have a pharmaceutical product with a “fancy” medical name and a name that people actually call it, you’ll want to mention what people are actually searching. Whether or not you have trademark rules, if you don’t use the words people use, it’s going to be trickier to rank. Take into account what people are actually searching.
When writing for the web, avoid jargon and fancy words.
Q. Is it ok to have similar content across social media channels, blogs, and sites?
A. All of these pages will collect signals and rank. However, you’ll be competing with yourself to rank, which will be more challenging. In a competitive niche, this could be detrimental.
Google recommends having one source that’s really strong for your content. Your content’s “primary residence.” Concentrate on one platform. It’s ok to reach out on other platforms—just have one that’s primary.
Q. How can a news site get breaking news indexed as soon as possible?
A. Make sure you have hub pages on your website with different categories that list different articles. Google crawls those home pages and category pages as quickly as possible. That means the search engine can find new articles extremely quickly.
Sitemaps and RSS feeds with last modification dates are helpful, too. When Googlebot crawls a new date in the sitemap file, it can see that it’s something that is new. The algorithm recognizes that it is something that needs to be picked up as quickly as possible.
At the same time, news websites need to be easy to crawl quickly so that Google can index them quickly. Be sure Google can quickly access your server and that pages load quickly. To learn more, read Gary Illyes from Google’s article on crawl budget.
Q. How can I get a category page on my ecommerce site to rank higher on the search engine return page (SERP) instead of a specific product page?
A. First, you want to make sure that your category page is being indexed. (You can see this in Google Search Console.)
Second, make sure your category page is well linked within your website (internal linking). For example, ensure that the products within that category link to the category page.
Third, don’t overuse your keywords on your category page—or it looks “fishy” to Google. If it looks like keyword stuffing, Google will be skeptical. Language should be natural.
Assume that it will not be a quick fix. In the short term, help users on the product page to find their way to the category page.
Q. How should I handle infinite scroll?
A. Use pagination links. Learn more about infinite scrolling from Google.
Q. If I have a pop-up on my page after 30 seconds, does Google crawl it?
A. Maybe. Google renders a page, and according to Mueller, it gives the page “a little time to settle down.” The pop-up may or may not be crawled.
Reviews, Structured Data, and Rich Snippets
Q. If I bring in reviews from my Google My Business listing and place them on my website, will that improve my ranking?
A. No. If you use the markup for those review pages, Google will not show those review stars.
If there’s content in the review that is not otherwise on the page that might be something where it could rank. For example, the review might mention a service that is not otherwise on the page. This could potentially rank. But just by having a review on your page, doesn’t make it rank or not. In other words, if it’s a review about your business that’s hosted on your business, Google will not show that in the search engine return page (SERP).
However, if it’s a review about your product that’s on your product page, that’s fine.
Note: A Google My Business (GMB) page is one way to get your company on Google. It is a Google listing for your business. It includes a map, reviews, and your NAP (name, address, and phone number).
Q. With the new structured data requirements, if I have the wrong or invalid structured data on my website, will it impact my rankings?
A. No, the new structured data requirements won’t affect the ranking. However, your pages may not appear in the rich results. This may impact how many users clicks to your site. This, in turn, may impact your traffic. Mueller believes it worthwhile to get these fixed. You may need to contact the creator of the (now out-of-date) plug-in for rich snippets to appear.
In case you don’t know what “rich snippets” are, they are normal search results with additional information. They don’t directly impact SEO, but they may entice the “googler” to click. They are often used for recipes, reviews, videos, products, music albums, and events. Here are examples of search engine return pages with and without rich snippets:
No Rich Snippet
Question About Google Search Console
Q. Is the new fresher Google Search Console data final?
A. Google Search Console is a free seo and webmaster tool from Google. It used to take several days for data results to show up in Google Search Console. Now, new “fresher” data is available within the same day. However, the data may change slightly in the first few days and need time to “settle down.”
In sum, Google obviously believes that “SEO matters.” Are you telling yourself these 10 absurd SEO Lies?
Have a Burning Google question? Contact us.
Located in Palatine, IL, Nancy Burgess Strategic Marketing provides SEO services to companies throughout the Chicagoland area.