Archive for February, 2016

Title: Google On AMP As a Ranking Signal

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

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Google has been talking up Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for months, promising a February launch date for when it would start sending search traffic from Google results to pages using it. Many are no doubt wondering if utilizing AMP will give them a ranking boost. Well, Google addressed that.

Have you set up AMP for your site yet? How was the experience? Discuss.

Earlier this week, Google began showing AMP results in search results. In fact, this came a day earlier than expected and earlier than when Google actually made the announcement. We posted about it prior to the announcement, but let’s take a moment and look at what Google has said since then.

The announcement came on Wednesday. Google said:

In just over four months, AMP has come a long way, with hundreds of publishers, scores of technology companies and ad-tech businesses all taking part in this joint mission to improve the mobile web for everyone. And starting today, we’ll make it easy to find AMP webpages in relevant mobile search results, giving you a lightning-fast reading experience for top stories.

Now when you search for a story or topic on Google from a mobile device, webpages created using AMP will appear when relevant in the Top Stories section of the search results page. Any story you choose to read will load blazingly fast—and it’s easy to scroll through the article without it taking forever to load or jumping all around as you read. It’s also easy to quickly flip through the search results just by swiping from one full-page AMP story to the next.

According to the company, pages built with AMP load an average of four times faster and use 10 times less data than equivalent non-AMP pages.

The company didn’t mention AMP as a ranking signal in the announcement. Word around the industry was that Google would likely make it one. At launch, however, it is not. Still, that doesn’t mean it won’t become one.

During a recent webmaster hangout, Google’s John Mueller was asked about this. Here is what he said (via Search Engine Roundtable):

AMP a ranking signal…At the moment, it’s not a ranking signal. So it’s obviously one way to make mobile friendly pages, so that might be an option where I’ve already seen some sites where they’ve moved their whole website to the AMP format, and obviously that’s a mobile-friendly set-up, so that kind of gets that mobile-friendly boost, but just AMP itself is not something that we have as a ranking signal at the moment.

Mobile-friendly was of course announced as a ranking signal roughly a year ago. Even if AMP isn’t directly a ranking signal on its own, it will naturally put you on the path of another ranking signal.

In fact, stands to reason that it will help you out beyond just mobile-friendly, but also with page speed, which Google announced as a ranking signal quite some time ago.

This week, WordPress.com sites began supporting AMP automatically, and there’s a new plugin for self-hosted WordPress sites. From the WordPress.org plugin directory:

With the plugin active, all posts on your site will have dynamically generated AMP-compatible versions, accessible by appending /amp/ to the end your post URLs. For example, if your post URL is http://example.com/2016/01/01/amp-on/, you can access the AMP version at http://example.com/2016/01/01/amp-on/amp/. If you do not have pretty permalinks enabled, you can do the same thing by appending ?amp=1, i.e. http://example.com/2016/01/01/amp-on/?amp=1

Note #1: that Pages and archives are not currently supported.

Note #2: this plugin only creates AMP content but does not automatically display it to your users when they visit from a mobile device. That is handled by AMP consumers such as Google Search.

You can find an FAQ page for AMP here.

Do you intend to support AMP with your site? Do you already? Let us know in the comments.

Image via Google/AMP

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Title: No Telling When Google Penguin Will Return

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

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What once seemed so close now seems so far. In other words, for some SEOs and webmasters who have been patiently (or impatiently in some cases) waiting, that glimpse of a light at the end of the tunnel has just faded from view. It’s possible that its visibility is just being clouded and that the light is still close, but things just got a lot darker.

We’re talking of course about Penguin. Perhaps this is a little dramatic, but it’s clear from reactions around the web that people are growing more and more frustrated the longer Google takes to push out the update it has been promising for so long.

Are you anxiously awaiting Google’s next Penguin, or have you simply moved on with your life? Discuss.

Penguin will turn 4 years old this April. The update has been the bane of many SEOs’ and webmasters’ existence for all this time, and things really haven’t gotten a whole lot better for some of them, despite promises from Google.

The reason the update exists – to fight webspam – is important, and it’s certainly a problem that needed to be addressed in Google’s search results, but there’s hardly been a consensus on how well it’s been executed, and a great deal of frustration has lingered, largely due to how hard it can be to recover from getting hit by the update, even when the necessary changes have been made to a site.

The reason it is so hard to recover is that Google refreshes Penguin so infrequently. Affected sites must wait until Google releases Penguin again before they can recover, and that could take months. If you’re trying to run a business and rely on Google for traffic, it can feel like an eternity, and that’s exactly how it’s currently feeling for some.

Google said back in June that it was working on a new version of Penguin that will run continuously (meaning webmasters and SEOs won’t have to wait for long periods of time for a chance to recover). At the time, they indicated this would be months off. The last Penguin update had been launched the previous Q4.

In July, they said it was still months away. In September, it was expected to hit before the end of the year. This was still the case in late October.

In November, Google confirmed the update will be a “huge” change, but in December, they said “With the holidays upon us, it looks like the penguins won’t march until next year.”

It was interesting that they cited the holidays as having something to do with it because after that it was expected to come in January (following the holidays), but that didn’t happen either. Google did, however, say last month that the updated timeframe on Penguin was now “this quarter”.

Now, even that’s questionable. We’re not halfway through February, and Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable points to a tweet from Google’s Gary Illyes indicating that he has no idea if the Penguin update is still likely to come this quarter.

@mrjamiedodd I haven't talked to the engineers for some time, I don't know.

— Gary Illyes (@methode) February 12, 2016

It’s worth noting that Illyes isn’t actually on the team that works on Penguin even if he generally serves as one of the main messengers to webmasters.

If this uncertainty wasn’t enough, Schwartz points to another tweet from Google’s Zineb Ait, who now says they’re aiming the roll-out at “as soon as it is ready,” and who knows when that will be?

@alekseo It is still work in progress at the moment. I can't tell when it will be rolled out. We are aiming at: "as soon as it is ready"

— Zineb Ait (@Missiz_Z) February 16, 2016

Will it make this quarter? Will it make Penguin’s 4th birthday in April? Will it make it this year?

How do webmasters feel about this continued delay? Well, suffice it to say, we’re seeing expletives thrown around pretty loosely.

When do you think Google will finally push out this update? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Title: Google Announces JSON-LD Support For Reviews and Products Structured Data Markup

Search Engine News, Search Engine Optimization

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Google announced JSON-LD support for Reviews and Products structured data markup.

Webmaster trends analyst John Mueller wrote in a Google+ post (via Search Engine Roundtable) that along with the launch of support for JSON-LD for Reviews and Products structured data markup, they’ve also “cleaned up” some of their application logic.

“For example, requirements for explicit reviewed item and correct property name values are now enforced. Check your markup in the Structured Data Testing Tool and Search Console Structured Data Dashboard to see if your site is impacted by these changes.”

Mueller notes that more info about how to format Reviews and Products markup to comply with Google’s validation rules is available here.

“We hope these changes make it easier to use structured data on your side!?” he says.

Google released the structured data tool to help webmasters author and publish markup on their sites. It provides validation for all Google features powered by structured data, support for markup in JSON-LD (including dynamic HTML pages).

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