#Google Webmaster Hangouts Notes – 8 February 2019


Welcome to Marketing Syrup! This post is part of the Google Webmaster Hangouts Notes series that I cover here.

Here is a full video of Google Webmaster Hangouts on 8 February. I added the timestamps for specific answers in the brackets for each answer. Enjoy!

Announcements

Google Search Console is in a transition period, so you are welcome to provide your feedback to Google there. But make sure to explain your thoughts and give context. It’ll help Google to prioritize or even rethink something.

You don’t need to address all 404 errors alerts you see in Google Search Console  (7:15)

Not all 404 notifications in Google Search Console are made equal. Thus, there might be different approaches to rectifying them.

If you see random URLs that have never existed on your website, that’s totally fine to return a 404 code.

If, on the other hand, you have a number of URLs coming from other websites, and these URLs return 404 errors as they have some typos, hyphens, etc. , it might make sense to redirect these URLs to existing ones, especially if there’s traffic coming to these pages.

If you syndicate content, the websites with your content might rank higher than you (9:18)

There are many factors involved in determining which page to rank if multiple pages have the same content (which usually happens with content syndication).

A canonical tag (a cross-domain canonical here) might be a good idea in this case. But it’s still not an ideal solution since only part of the page content may be the same while the rest – navigation, images, any other blocks – is different, so a canonical might not work in such a scenario.   

With that being said, when syndicating content, you might face a situation when this content on other websites ranks higher than on yours.

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Understanding and properly indexing URLs with hreflang links takes Google longer than normal indexing  (13:00)

The process of indexing sets of URLs using hreflang links is done in multiple steps: first, Google crawls and indexes different versions of a page. Then it needs to index hreflang markup and follow alternate pages you specify there. So the whole process takes 2-3 times longer than normal crawling and indexing.

There’s no preference for any country if you’re using hreflang (14:26)

Google tries to treat all websites the same, and it doesn’t give any boost to any country.

Moreover, using hreflang tags doesn’t changes rankings, it just swaps up the URLs.

It takes Google time to pick up your 301 redirects after a website migration (15:47)

Google crawls and indexes URLs individually, so some 301 redirects can take hours to be seen by Google while others may take days and weeks. That’s totally fine.

Note also that all the redirects should be set up on a page by page basis.

If someone explicitly looks for your old URL, Google can show it even if it redirects to another page (17:27)

Even if Google has successfully processed your 301 redirect, it can still show your old URL in search results if somebody is explicitly looking for this old URL. It might be confusing, but Google just tries to be helpful.

This is good to know as it means there might be nothing wrong with your redirects if Google still shows the old URL in its search results for some queries (e.g. site: queries with the old URL).

For a page that redirects, GSC URL inspection tool returns the results of the target URL (20:07)

This means, that if Page A redirects to Page B, and the Page B has a noindex tag, then the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console might show a noindex tag applied to the Page A.

This makes sense as Google treats the Page B as the final URL and thus shows its signals for the page A too. It’s interesting, so I’m going to dig deeper into it and will have a separate post on it.

Even if you have valid structured data markup, Google might still omit it in the search results (27:05)

If you provide valid structured markup data, it doesn’t guarantee that it will always be shown in Google search results. Google has other algorithms in place that decide whether or not to show your markup, e.g. it might not be relevant for a particular search, your website might not be trusted enough, etc.

It’s better to have a consistent URL structure for all your websites/subdirectories targeting different locations (28:55)

While it’s possible to handle parameters differently for different locations in Google Search Console, it’s better to have a consistent structure for those parameters across all your websites/subdirectories. This helps Google to better understand and properly handle those parameters and is an overall better solution in the long run.

Google can treat different pages of a website as duplicates if it can’t access content on these pages (33:33)

In this example a webmaster asked John Mueller why multiple pages of the website canonicalize a single page though there are no canonicals added and these pages look differently.

John said, that it’s possible for Google to treat different pages of a website as duplicates (and thus assign canonicals to them) if Googlebot can’t really see the content on these pages. So basically, it sees the navigation and the footer, but the main content is hidden (via JS, for example), that’s why such URLs might look as duplicate.

It doesn’t matter for Google which URL structure you choose (35:11)

URL structure should make sense for your business and customers, but it doesn’t matter if you use a flat structure (site.com/your-category-or-product-here/) or hierarchical structure (site.com/product/your-product-name-here/).

Just make sure your structure will work for you in the long run and don’t narrow it down too much.  

There are multiple reasons why Google may not show a website even if people look for its name (54:35)

Firstly, the website name might be too general, e.g. bestplumbersinnewyork(.com). This is treated as a general query, so the search results are positioned based on their relevancy, and this example website might be seen as the best result by Google.

But if a website has a unique name and still doesn’t rank for it, it means Google doesn’t trust this website they way it used to.

I would say that there are also cases when another website has a similar name and a stronger online presence, so your website (especially if it’s new) might find it hard to rank for its name. But in general, it’s a matter of time.

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