Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller from Google organises live Google Hangout sessions online with a select group of digital specialists to answer those burning questions on search.

Reprise’s very own Daniel Picken joins these sessions to ensure that him and the team are at the leading edge of search science, asking the questions that will enable us to keep our clients’ site’s fully optimised online.

Here’s a few Key highlights from the Hangout on the 6th April 2018:

 

Question 1

Rolling Out Mobile Phone Index, will you get a penalty if the content doesn’t match?

For the New Mobile Phone Index that went live on the 26th March 2018, it states in the best practice article the following:

‘Your mobile site should contain the same content as your desktop site. If your mobile site has less content than your desktop site, you should consider updating your mobile site so that its primary content is equivalent with your desktop site. This includes text, images (with alt-attributes), and videos – in the usual crawlable and indexable formats.’

So we had to ask, would your site receive a penalty if you were in breach of the points above?

Johns challenges the question by responding with: “is it really the case that you need to provide less content on mobile, as I assume more and more people use mobile as their primary device they want the full experience on. And if something is not necessary for the full experience, then why do you keep it on your desktop?”

He further goes on to say that there are two things that come into play when considering this topic:

“On the one hand, where we switch sites over to the mobile first index, we do check to see if the content is equivalent enough so that we feel from a content point of view there wouldn’t be any issues with ranking. Therefore, if we see there are significant differences between the mobile and the desktop version then we wouldn’t probably switch that site over (desktop content vs mobile content). If we did switch that site over, what would happen is we would only index the mobile content. So if there is anything on the desktop version that is critical for that site’s ranking and it’s not on the mobile version, then we wouldn’t index it and we wouldn’t be able to rank that site based on that content.”

He also gives as an example to demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be exact, so if the site is missing say five words for example, Google would not demote the site, all that would typically happen is those five words wouldn’t be taken into account for indexing and ranking purposes.

 

Question 2

The new ‘bounce box’ that appears around websites, can you give more details?

I also asked a question around a new feature in SERPS that we’re labelling the “bounce box.” The Bounce Box is triggered when you access a website and then click back to the Google SERPs, so as an example:

Before you enter the website

Google Car Search Results Page

After you enter a website and click back

Bounce Box Google Search Results Page

After you access a website and return back to Search you see a ‘people also searched for’ box that appears around the website you originally visited.

So I asked JM, is this just directly related to the queries in the search box? or is there more taken into consideration, such as anything related to the website itself?

After comically saying “he doesn’t know” he then goes on to say: “A lot of these search features are things that teams within Google are experimenting with to try to figure out what the right approach is, what kind of thresholds there are, where to use content, what kind of signals to use for these things. So especially the newer features I would assume they’re very much in flux and people are experimenting and seeing which way does it make sense to show this to people how do people actually get value out of this additional information that we provide in search.

So although we didn’t get a conclusive answer as to what makes this box work we do have to question the future of the new feature as its simply deemed an experiment so let’s see if it lasts!

 

Question 3

Let’s say Page A has canonical pointing to page B so I suppose page A will get deindexed right?

I thought this was an interesting question asked by another specialist because as we know, signals do get directed to the canonical location but what really happens to the original page?

What we do know is that it wouldn’t be the page that gets selected to be used in the SERPs  where the canonical tag resides but the url where the canonical tag points to.

His answer is interesting see below video:

So as you can see from the video, after some internal debate with, just himself! JM finally answered the question of whether the page gets de-indexed when it points to another page:

“Usually but not always, so when we have this situation with multiple pages that have the same content we use signals like the canonical tag, like redirects, like internal links, like sitemaps to figure out which one of these, A or B should be the one we keep.”

“So if everything tells us that A is the one that is the canonical that we should keep then we will use A. If there is a mix then we will use A. If there’s a mix that some signals say this one, some signals say that one then sometimes we’ll use this one and sometimes we’ll use the other one it’s not 100% guaranteed.”

I think the important thing to take away from this answer is to be consistent, if you’re inconsistent then this confuses Google and creates issues with indexing and recalling the pages you want to rank. I’d highly recommend Moz’s article on canonicalisation so check it out!

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Daniel Picken

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