#Google Webmaster Hangouts Notes – 8 March 2019

Hey! Welcome to MarketingSyrup! This post is part of my Google Webmaster Hangouts Notes. I cover them regularly to save you time 🙂

You can find the answers to the SEO community questions below with the timestamps from the video. And here is the full video of Google Webmaster Hangouts from March 8th:

Table of Contents

Make sure your translated content is of high quality (1:33)

If you need to translate your content, make sure it’s of high quality. So not just use Google Translate. Instead, you can take the Google translate version and clean it up to make it more readable. This makes a big difference and that’s something that users and Google notice.

If from the algorithmic point view Google can tell that this is really high-quality content then it will try to rank it better in the search results.

If your page is frequently updated, it’s better to serve static HTML to Google rather than JavaScript content (3:42)

First, Google indexes a page, then it tries to render it like a browser would. This process is easier if you have just HTML without JavaScript. But even if you’re using JavaScript, it’s not the case that the static HTML version would be delayed from indexing until this JavaScript part is ready. First, HTML gets indexed, later during the second wave of indexing, Google picks up JS content. But for most sites, this difference is not significant.

However, for websites that are frequently updated (e.g. news sites) and need to be rendered quickly, make sure that Google can pick up this content as quickly as possible. In this case, serving a static HTML version of the page to search engines is a good solution.

Google fetches the resources differently during the mobile-friendly test and real indexing (10:11)

One of the aspects that is a bit complicated at the moment is that Google has different priorities for the mobile friendly test compared to normal Googlebot indexing.

With the mobile-friendly test, Google tries to pull in resources as quickly as possible from the live server, and during indexing Google caches a lot of these resources and just takes the cached version of them. So during the mobile-friendly test, Google tries to render the page as quickly as possible and is able to pull in most of these resources but some of them might time out. That’s why you can see errors in the mobile-friendly test:


Errors in the URL inspection test in Google Search Console

The same happens in the live test in Google URL inspection tool, Google tries to pull in the live resources there as well.

But for indexing, Google has more time available for pulling in those resources, so they don’t usually time out. Moreover, Google uses cached versions of them. In that context, URLs with session ids or JS URLs make it hard for Google to re-used the cached resources.

Kristina’s note: All this means that in most cases you can ignore the resources errors you see in the mobile-friendly and URL inspection tools. But be aware of the dynamic URLs with session ids, they complicate the indexing process a lot.

In some cases, Google can assume that a page is duplicate even before actually testing it (14:14)

This is more common for eCommerce websites or websites that are using a templated framework.

Such a scenario can happen if Google sees a URL pattern when a large number of URLs with different parameters are leading to the same content. Then Google might start ignoring this parameter (or parameters) and treat such pages as duplicates. So if it has already indexed part of such URLs, it can just ignore other URLs of the same type even before checking them.

It’s also applicable to multiple websites. If you have a lot of different eCommerce websites and they all provide the same set of products and have the same product URLs after the domain name, Google might index only one of these websites and see the rest as its duplicates.

Kristina’s note: THIS IS HUGE!

Split product variations only if people specifically look for them (18:48)

For eCommerce stores which have configurable products, it make sense to split a product page into multiple variations with separate URLs only if people explicitly search for these variations.

You can see find more on this in one of the previous John’s replies.

Speed is one of the many ranking factors, and it’s not the determining one (21:18)

While site speed is a ranking factor, Google doesn’t rely on it too much when it comes to rankings. That’s why you might see slower websites ranking higher than yours sometimes.

Kristina’s note: But this doesn’t mean you don’t need to think about site speed. Check out these image SEO tips.

Google prefers JSON-LD markup to microdata (22:45)

Yes, that’s how it currently works. That’s why all new types of structured data come out for JSON-LD first.

More answers on structured data:

Google can easily find and index content hidden in tabs (24:40)

In general, hidden content in tabs is not a problem for indexing, Google can find and index it. Just make sure this content is not something important for users. Then you might want to display it directly on the page.

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It’s still important to use meaningful anchor text for links as it gives Google context (25:55)

Google still uses anchor text. It helps Google to get some context about a link. So instead of linking to pages (especially internal pages) with anchors like ‘here’, ‘click here’, be more specific.  

If you have user generated pages, it’s safer to have a hierarchical URL structure, so that Google can understand which pages belong together (29:50)

If your website has lots of user generated pages, you might be at risk of getting hit by Google’s algorithms for phishing or spam if users upload something spammy to your website.  

Make it easier for Google to understand which parts of your website belong together. This way Google’s algorithms might focus on particular subdomains/ subdirectories instead of hitting the whole domain if it finds something spammy on it.

For example, instead of a flat URL structure with the domain name followed by /something, use a hierarchical structure when the domain name is followed by /users/content.html (used as an example). This way Google will be able to differentiate particular parts of your website and concentrate the manual action only on the one which caused it.

It’s not necessary to add hreflang links to all the pages of your website (37:07)

Google won’t penalize you for not having hreflang links on your multi language website. You can even have them for some pages and not for others, that’s fine too.

With that being said, you might not need to have hreflang links on paginated or filtered URLs as it adds too much complexity.

More answers on hreflang:

It’s ok that some page elements are unreadable on mobile devices as long as they work (39:53)

If you have some unreadable page elements which are still displayed fine on mobile devices (they work, links in them can be clicked), that’s ok for Google too. Just make sure you’re using HTML elements properly, e.g. don’t add each letter of a page heading to a separate table cell in HTML, this makes it hard for Google to understand that’s actually one word.

If you need to swap out a URL with JavaScript, make sure to do it after the page is loaded, not on a user interaction (43:10)

Google can pick up things like swapping out URLs with JavaScript as long as this is done after the page is loaded. Remember that Googlebot can’t interact with the content, so if you use JS to change URLs once a user performs a specific action like hovering over a link, Google won’t be able to pick it up.

Note also that Google will still pick up both versions of the URLs that are being swapped out. This is related to the process of JS indexing and rendering discussed in the first question above.

If your page has the same content as pages on other websites, add some unique content to yours to provide more value and have an opportunity to rank higher  (45:29)

Google recognizes page blocks which are shared across multiple pages (e.g. a footer). If somebody searches for the content found there, Google chooses the most matching page to display in the search results.

This logic is also behind ranking the same pages found on multiple websites (in the question – URLs with the same famous quotes). Google just picks the page which seems to be best matching. You can bring more value by adding some other unique content, then you will have more chances to rank higher in the search results.

If you see mobile-friendly errors reported for the desktop pages in GSC, check your rel=alternate and canonicals (50:46)

Mobile-friendly errors on the desktop versions of the pages might signal of issues with your mobile version implementation.

That means that Google doesn’t have a clear understanding of which of these pages belong together, so it’s indexing these pages individually rather than as a pair. In this situation, you might want to check if there are any issues with your implementation of rel=alternate and canonical tags.

It might also be a good idea to move to a responsive design as it’s much easier to maintain which is very important in this mobile-first indexing era.

Nofollow only those links that you don’t want to have associated with your website (1:01:16)

There’s no point in nofolloing all external links you have, only those which you don’t want to be associated with (e.g. sponsored links).

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