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Conflicting Website Signals & Confused Search Engines | Raleigh SEO Conference 2019 | Rachel Costello

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Are you sending mixed messages to Google? There are many different signals that feed into URL selection for search engines, and when these signals aren’t implemented correctly, search engines have to make their own assumptions about your website and what pages it thinks are important.

In this talk, Rachel will share examples where a website’s signals can be ignored or overruled, as well as how to test your site's setup. Don’t leave anything to chance – be sure that the most important content on your site is getting the attention it deserves.

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Conflicting Website Signals & Confused Search Engines | Raleigh SEO Conference 2019 | Rachel Costello

  1. 1. CONFLICTING WEBSITE SIGNALS & CONFUSED SEARCH ENGINES Consolidating Your Content in Search Rachel Costello, Technical SEO & Content Manager @rachellcostello
  2. 2. I take notes on the Google Webmasters Office-hours Hangouts. @rachellcostello
  3. 3. Back in 2018, this answer from John Mueller got me thinking: @rachellcostello “You can see the canonical page that Google has chosen in the new Search Console.” Source: https://www.deepcrawl.com/blog/news/google-webmaster-hangout-notes-january-9th-2018/
  4. 4. @rachellcostello I had questions I wanted answers to. Such as, Why is Google ignoring our instructions and choosing for us?
  5. 5. The Goal: I want to consolidate my website’s pages to strengthen their position in search, and get more value from my existing content. @rachellcostello
  6. 6. The “Solution”: Add canonical tags. The Goal: I want to consolidate my website’s pages to strengthen their position in search, and get more value from my existing content. @rachellcostello
  7. 7. The “Solution”: Add canonical tags...? The Goal: I want to consolidate my website’s pages to strengthen their position in search, and get more value from my existing content. The Problem: Unfortunately, it’s not that simple... @rachellcostello
  8. 8. @rachellcostello Some things to note about canonicalization.
  9. 9. @rachellcostello brightonSEO The canonical tag is a signal, not a directive. @rachellcostello
  10. 10. Pages have to be very similar, or preferably identical for canonicalization to work. @rachellcostello
  11. 11. @rachellcostello Any unique content on a page with an accepted canonical tag will be ignored.
  12. 12. Many-to-one canonical tags are often ignored. @rachellcostello
  13. 13. @rachellcostello brightonSEO WHAT WE’LL COVER 3. Using Google’s selections for optimization insights. 1. How Google decides which pages to favor. 2. How to persuade Google to pick the right URLs. @rachellcostello
  14. 14. @rachellcostello brightonSEO HOW GOOGLE SELECTS PAGES TO SHOW IN SEARCH @rachellcostello
  15. 15. @rachellcostello brightonSEO When choosing preferred URLs, Google often assumes that our implementation is wrong. @rachellcostello
  16. 16. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Not all website owners have knowledge of SEO.
  17. 17. @rachellcostello Canonical tags XML sitemaps Robots.txt
  18. 18. So Google uses an algorithm for URL selection to make sense of all the chaos out there. @rachellcostello
  19. 19. @rachellcostello brightonSEO Canonical URL: example.com/product Internally linked URL: example.com/product1?facet= ... Externally linked URL: example.com/product1?utm= ... Sitemap URL: example.com/product-page ? @rachellcostello
  20. 20. @rachellcostello Googlebot will assume the site owner needs some help. So it will pick a canonical URL for you.
  21. 21. @rachellcostello This is where the algorithm will be used to help make sense of this mess. It uses these signals:
  22. 22. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Canonicals Sitemaps Redirects Backlinks Internal links Parameters 1 2 3 4 5 6
  23. 23. @rachellcostello brightonSEO If you sit back and do nothing, Google will do its best to pick preferred URLs for you. @rachellcostello
  24. 24. @rachellcostello brightonSEO But Google’s algorithms aren’t perfect. They can make mistakes. @rachellcostello
  25. 25. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello
  26. 26. The algorithm’s results will be better if you do your part and use consistent signals. @rachellcostello
  27. 27. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Canonical URL Sitemap URL Redirect URL Backlink URL Internal link URL Parameter URL /product/product1 /product-page
  28. 28. @rachellcostello With website signals, there’s strength in numbers.
  29. 29. “Align internal linking and rel canonical tags to get a particular page indexed.” John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Source: https://www.deepcrawl.com/blog/news/google-webmaster-hangout-notes-august-25th-2017/ @rachellcostello
  30. 30. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Each of these signals are given different weights by Google.
  31. 31. “Google can choose to show canonicalized pages if you link to them internally and within sitemaps.” John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Source: https://www.deepcrawl.com/blog/news/google-webmaster-hangout-notes-july-7th-2017-2/ @rachellcostello
  32. 32. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Internal links + Sitemap links Canonical tag
  33. 33. “Parameter handling signals are stronger than the canonical signal.” John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Source: https://www.deepcrawl.com/blog/news/google-webmaster-hangout-notes-may-15th-2018/ @rachellcostello
  34. 34. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Parameter Handling Canonical tag
  35. 35. “URLs in sitemaps are not guaranteed to be indexed if they differ from the ones that are linked to internally.” John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Source: https://www.deepcrawl.com/blog/news/google-webmaster-hangout-notes-november-14th-2017/ @rachellcostello
  36. 36. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Internal links Sitemap URLs
  37. 37. @rachellcostello brightonSEO My observation: More weight is given to signals that are more likely to have been implemented by a human. @rachellcostello
  38. 38. @rachellcostello brightonSEO Often auto-generated by the CMS. @rachellcostello Often set manually in GSC. Canonical tags Parameter handling vs
  39. 39. @rachellcostello brightonSEO Often auto-generated by the CMS. @rachellcostello Often set manually in GSC. Can be rolled out without SEO input. A conscious decision by an SEO. Canonical tags Parameter handling vs
  40. 40. @rachellcostello brightonSEO Often auto-generated and auto-updated. @rachellcostello Often manually added within body content. Sitemap URLs Internal linksvs
  41. 41. @rachellcostello brightonSEO Often auto-generated and auto-updated. @rachellcostello Often manually added within body content. Sitemap URLs Internal linksvs Can be rolled out without SEO input. A conscious decision by an SEO.
  42. 42. @rachellcostello brightonSEO HOW TO TEST YOUR WEBSITE’S SIGNALS @rachellcostello
  43. 43. @rachellcostello brightonSEO Sending mixed website signals to search engines: @rachellcostello Wastes crawl budget. Increases time taken for indexing. Causes incorrect pages to be indexed.
  44. 44. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Take a closer look at the guidance you’re giving to search engines.
  45. 45. @rachellcostello Check for any inconsistencies in the signals you’re sending to search engines.
  46. 46. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Internal linking Redirects Noindex Sitemap inclusion Disallow
  47. 47. @rachellcostello brightonSEO INTERNAL LINKING @rachellcostello What to watch out for: Are there more internal links pointing to canonicalized pages than canonical pages?
  48. 48. @rachellcostello Examine links in to canonical pages.
  49. 49. @rachellcostello Examine canonical pages with no links in.
  50. 50. @rachellcostello Examine canonical tags to non-200 URLs.
  51. 51. @rachellcostello brightonSEO REDIRECTS @rachellcostello What to watch out for: Are internal links, backlinks or sitemap URLs pointing to a redirected page?
  52. 52. @rachellcostello Examine redirecting internally linked URLs.
  53. 53. @rachellcostello brightonSEO NOINDEX @rachellcostello What to watch out for: Are you noindexing pages that Google has selected as canonical without realizing?
  54. 54. “Don’t use a noindex tag on canonical pages.” John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Source: https://www.deepcrawl.com/blog/news/google-webmaster-hangout-notes-september-9th-2016/ @rachellcostello
  55. 55. “Don’t use a noindex tag on canonical pages.” John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Source: https://www.deepcrawl.com/blog/news/google-webmaster-hangout-notes-september-9th-2016/ @rachellcostello If you do, nothing will appear in search results for that cluster of pages.
  56. 56. @rachellcostello brightonSEO SITEMAP INCLUSION @rachellcostello What to watch out for: Are you sending 200 status code, canonical pages to Google via your sitemaps?
  57. 57. @rachellcostello Examine canonical URL sitemap inclusion.
  58. 58. @rachellcostello brightonSEO DISALLOW @rachellcostello What to watch out for: Are you blocking search engines from seeing signals for your key pages?
  59. 59. @rachellcostello Examine non-indexable pages being shown.
  60. 60. @rachellcostello brightonSEO HOW TO TEST GOOGLE’S URL SELECTION @rachellcostello
  61. 61. @rachellcostello See Google’s URL selection for yourself through the cache and Google Search Console.
  62. 62. @rachellcostello Incorrect cached page suggests that a different canonical has been chosen.
  63. 63. Remember this? @rachellcostello “You can see the canonical page that Google has chosen in the new Search Console.” John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst
  64. 64. @rachellcostello Let’s take a look in Google Search Console.
  65. 65. @rachellcostello The key reports in Index Coverage for canonicalization analysis.
  66. 66. @rachellcostello
  67. 67. “This page is marked as canonical, but Google thinks another URL makes a better canonical which has been indexed instead.” @rachellcostello Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7440203
  68. 68. @rachellcostello
  69. 69. “The URL is one of a set of duplicates without an explicitly marked canonical page. Google did not index this URL.” @rachellcostello Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7440203
  70. 70. @rachellcostello
  71. 71. “This page is a duplicate of a page that Google recognizes as canonical. This page correctly points to the canonical page.” Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7440203 @rachellcostello
  72. 72. @rachellcostello
  73. 73. @rachellcostello “This page has duplicates, none of which is marked canonical. We think this page is not the canonical one.” Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7440203 @rachellcostello
  74. 74. @rachellcostello You can gain useful insights from looking at the URLs that Google chooses to show in the search results.
  75. 75. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Great, which signals played into this? How can we replicate for other key pages? Google chose the specified canonical
  76. 76. @rachellcostello brightonSEO@rachellcostello Why not? Which incorrect signals caused this? Maybe internal linking? Google chose the specified canonical Google chose a different canonical Great, which signals played into this? How can we replicate for other key pages?
  77. 77. @rachellcostello Investigate further with the URL Inspection Tool.
  78. 78. @rachellcostello Make website signals clear and consistent for Googlebot so it doesn’t need to make decisions on your behalf.
  79. 79. @rachellcostello This is the key to getting particular pages indexed in Google.
  80. 80. @rachellcostello Google’s URL selection process is still a relative mystery, but at least we now know which areas to investigate.
  81. 81. @rachellcostello brightonSEO KEY TAKEAWAYS 3. Take learnings from the URLs Google does and doesn’t choose to show in SERPs. 1. Make your primary pages clear to Google by using consistent signals. 2. Test for inconsistencies within canonicals, redirects, internal links, sitemaps, backlinks and parameters. @rachellcostello
  82. 82. [INSERT YOUR LINKEDIN] [INSERT YOUR CONTACT NUMBER] {INSERT YOUR EMAIL] Thank You @rachellcostello Any questions? Send me a tweet:

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