#Google Webmaster Hangouts Notes – 19 February 2019


Hey! I’ve just returned from a vacation and now I’m resuming my Google Webmaster Hangouts Notes.

Here’s a full video of Google Webmaster Hangouts from 19 February, you can find the timestamps in the brackets after each answer.

Using X-Robots-Tag HTTP header will not prevent Google from following a server-side redirect (1:36)

Note also that if you add a ‘nofollow’ attribute within your X-Robots-Tag, Google will not follow any links anyway as the page redirects and Google won’t even look into the content on it.

Make significant website changes step by step (9:25)

If you need to implement many changes like switching the core system, redesigning the website, etc., make these changes step by step as if you roll out all of them at once, they might confuse Google and this might result in significant organic traffic drops.

The time it takes for Google to pick up a domain migratio greatly depends on how significant your migration is (15:01)

If you’re just changing the domain name, setting up 301 redirects pointing to the same content on a new domain, your website is clean and easy to crawl, Google will pick up the changes really quickly, maybe in a day or so. Just make sure that both websites are added to Google Search Console, and you will be able to observe the indexing changes there.

But if there are significant changes like URLs, frameworks, content, it will take Google much longer to shift things over to the new domain. Google will need to re-evaluate it and see where it should be ranked.

Google might index URLs with UTM parameters if you link to them internally (17:33)

This one is interesting. UTM parameters in the URLs are used to assign source, medium and campaign which will be shown in Google Analytics traffic source reports. Sometimes people use these parameters in the URLs to track some promos, for example. Thus, such URLs might be linked internally.

But the thing is that by linking to a URL with UTM parameters, you tell Google to index it. But in reality you don’t want this URL indexed, so you’re adding a rel=canonical pointing to the URL without UTMs. Though this is not a typical situation when a rel=canonical may not work, Google can still ignore it and index this URL. It can even rank it.

In my opinion, it doesn’t make any sense to rank such URLs as people will visit them from Google but the parameters will override the source and it will screw up all marketing campaign tracking.

John Mueller suggests keeping things as explicit as possible by cleaning your internal linking.

It’s better to have a single website for multiple countries than separate sites for each country (26:51)

If you have many websites targeting different countries, you will still need unique content to rank high. Using hreflang won’t help to rank high as this tag just swaps up URLs, it doesn’t provide any boost to the websites using it.

So when it comes to internalization strategy, having a global site is better rather than splitting things up.

You can combine different types of schema markup on a single page (29:31)

When it makes sense, you can use different types of schema markup on a single page. Just make sure your structured data is focused on the primary content of your page.

If your pages targeting different countries but one language are the same, Google can pick up and rank only one of them (33:54)

If you target different countries with multiple identical pages, Google will most likely choose a single page as a canonical version and rank only it. If you have hreflang configured, Google will swap up URLs in search and show a most relevant URL instead of the canonical one. But in the indexing report in GSC you will still see the info for only the canonical URL.

Such listing might still be confusing as people in one country might see currency of another country in Google snippets.

There are 2 approaches you can use to handle international content better.

  • On the one hand, you can unite pages targeting different countries if the content is completely identical.
  • On the other hand, you can make sure pages for different countries are not duplicate but have different content instead. This way they’ll be indexed and ranked individually.

The principles listed in Google UX Playbook are not part of ranking signals (40:04)

This playbook was created by Google ads team, the principles given there are not considered as ranking factors for organic listings.

However, if you improve UX on your website, it may positively influence how Google sees it too. So improving UX has indirect influence on your rankings.

Affiliate websites can rank high if they are of high quality (41:06)

Google doesn’t automatically downgrade affiliate websites. The reason why many of them might not be ranking on the first page is that they tend to be of low quality. But if an affiliate website has good content and overall optimization, it can successfully compete with other resources in Google search results.

Google is pretty good at ignoring links from hacked websites (47:19)

Sometimes hacked websites send lots of random links to other resources. Google is pretty good at ignoring such links, so you shouldn’t worry a lot about their negative influence on your website rankings.

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