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Site publishers are reporting increased rankings after improving their Core Web Vitals scores. Google’s Martin Splitt answers the question of whether those ranking boosts are because of a Page Experience update testing and explained why the Google rankings improved for those publishers.

Loren asked Martin Splitt:

“Is this an indication that the Page Experience Update may be testing right now, perhaps on the weekends, and/or slowly rolling out before it officially does?

Or is it a coincidence?”

As Loren read the question, Martin Splitt could be seen on the screen shaking his head indicating his answer is going to be no.

Screenshot of Martin Splitt Shaking His Head to Say No

Despite shaking his head, he may have surprised viewers with his reply.

Martin Splitt answered:

“It’s neither. It’s not even a coincidence.

Page speed has been a ranking factor before.

It has nothing to do with Page Experience in this case.

But it coincidentally by making the site better accidentally you got a ranking boost from something that is not Page Experience.”

At this point Martin Splitt gives an enthusiastic thumbs up and gesticulated with his hands in celebration of all the publishers who experienced ranking boosts after improving their core web vitals scores.

Martin Splitt Celebrates those Who Experienced Core Web Vitals Success

“That makes a lot of sense actually. So kudos for getting your page sped up before the Page Experience update goes out.

You may be seeing an improvement in ranking because of those changes that you’ve done but not necessarily because of the Page Experience update.

Okay, that makes perfect sense!”

Page Speed Ranking Boost?

In the past, the page speed ranking factor boost has been considered a somewhat small factor. But apparently to Martin Splitt it may be a ranking factor that could help improve rankings in a more dramatic manner.

Page Speed Ranking Factor

Page Speed has been a ranking factor for desktop users since 2010.  Google announced on July 2023 that it was now a ranking factor for mobile searches.

According to the official announcement:

“…as of this month (July 2023), page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches too.

If you’re a developer working on a site, now is a good time to evaluate your performance using our speed tools.”

The announcement at the time recommended reducing too much JavaScript and excessive image sizes as part of an initiative to increase page speed.

“Are you shipping too much JavaScript? Too many images?

Images and JavaScript are the most significant contributors to the page weight that affect page load time based on data from HTTP Archive and the Chrome User Experience Report – our public dataset for key UX metrics as experienced by Chrome users under real-world conditions.”

Page Experience Update is Not Active Until June 2023

Any publishers experiencing ranking boosts after fixing their page speed issues may probably look to the page speed ranking factor as a possible reason.

The Page Experience update is not rolling out yet in any form at this time and thus cannot be the reason for any ranking boosts at this time.

Citation

Watch Martin Splitt explain why rankings are already getting a boost after fixing core web vitals

You're reading Google: Why Fixing Core Web Vitals Already Boosts Rankings

Fixing Google Web 2.0 Style Iv

How to fix what is broken and not break what is not 

This post is part of a series. See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Those attributions are on-site factors and easy to manipulate by the webmaster. However, Google has information from other sites as well, that make a statement about the page. Not on the site itself, but all other sites that refer to it. It should be possible to compare what the webmaster says about him to what other webmasters say and what Google knows already about both sites. Google supposedly knows[i] a lot to detect linking schemes and other artificial link networks.

Spam on .EDU sites will become much easier to detect, unless universities are starting to link to ecommerce sites en mass rather than other educational content. A site that does reviews tends to link to ecommerce sites with the intention to have the customer buy it if he likes the review. Those are just two examples that show how it could help in detecting spam.

The attributes I presented are only an example. I used them to demonstrate how webmasters could express and communicate different important information to the search engines. Similar or even completely different attributes might be more useful to achieve the same thing at the end.

Match this with the intention of the user that uses the search engine.  

Yahoo! Mindset[ii] for example let the user express their intent with a search on a sliding scale from 1 to 10 where 1 stands for shopping and 10 for researching and 2-9 for everything in between but with the ability to put more or less weight on the one or the other.

Microsoft has at their MS adCenter Labs a search feature called “Detecting Online Commercial Intention[iii]”.

There are two possible options. Either you enter a query of keywords or key phrases or you enter a website URL.

The tool will return a number between 0.0001 and 1.00000 as a result. The closer the number is to 1.00000, the higher the determined probability that the query or webpage has a commercial intend.

Those are steps into the right direction. Give the users what they want and let honest Webmasters help you with matching them with their sites and to wheat out spam.

If the user wants to “visit Disneyland”, show reviews and sites to book for it. If the user wants to “buy porn”, show the user a site where he can buy porn. In order for Google to improve on that, is it necessary that webmasters will be honest and over time trusted more by Google; and the benefits webmasters will get from it will make them do it.

[i] Rustybrick (17. November 2005), “Google Knows Link Networks Well”, Search Engine Roundtable

[ii] Yahoo! Mindset, experimental search, Yahoo!

[iii] “Detecting Online Commercial Intention”, MS adCenter Labs, Determine probable commercial intention based on query or URL

What Causes Google Rankings To Be Highly Volatile?

Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO expert Jenny Halasz. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post! 

Welcome to another edition of Ask an SEO! Today’s question comes from Dwight in Texas. He asks:

Why is it that we see lately our rank on Google for “auto shipping” go from 6 to unranked? Then, in a day or so it shows back up in or around the same rank. We have not done anything to the site that should cause this volatility. We have an SEO service working monthly on the site. Our SEO score is pretty good on RYTE and Moz. We have lost most of our SERP on the high volume keywords over the past 2 years. We can’t seem to recoup our rankings and what we have is highly volatile… Any ideas? Thanks!

Google has been highly volatile lately. There have been a series of updates that have left a lot of sites scrambling.

Depending on the industry, a few of the sites I monitor also saw volatility.

I’m not going to go into details on what we think was in the algorithms themselves (i.e., what types of sites were winners and losers) because others have already done a great job of that.

I’m also not an algo chaser, so I generally look at volatility as something that is temporary, and it usually is.

So while I can’t tell you details about your situation without looking at your data, I can tell you some things it could be.

5 Reasons for Ranking Fluctuations

Here are five primary considerations when you see your traffic or rankings fluctuate or take a dive.

1. Is the Volatility Real?

Eight times out of 10 that a client comes to me in a panic, the problem is with the data itself.

It could be that the tool they use to check rankings is having issues, or that the analytics code somehow got stripped off the pages.

While this may seems obvious, but similar to restarting your computer, check the most obvious things first.

2. What Changes Have Been Made?

Did your server have downtime, or were there other technical issues?

Have you added or deleted a lot of content recently?

3. Look at Your Links

Have you lost any big links recently?

Sometimes just the loss of a highly valuable link can send your rankings into a tailspin.

4. What Has Your Agency Been Doing?

What has your agency been doing on your behalf?

Ask them for details.

Have they been posting a lot of guest posts or buying links on your behalf?

Have they done something else that is outside of Google’s guidelines?

Do you have any manual actions as a result? (Remember, no manual action doesn’t mean there isn’t an algorithmic one)

5. Have You Been Hacked?

It isn’t uncommon for me to find that a site has been compromised in some way when their rankings drop.

Is Your Site Still Relevant?

If you go through all of the issues above and still feel confident that none of them are to blame, then you may need to simply accept that your website is not as relevant or valuable as it once was.

Google’s algorithms are always designed to elevate the best of the best. That doesn’t always happen in practice, but it’s always the goal.

Therefore if you find your own site losing ground, you may need to rethink your strategy and consider that maybe there’s more you need to do to be considered the best.

Based on your original question, which indicated that you’ve been seeing a gradual but consistent decline, the problem most likely is a relevance issue.

Your strategy may be outdated or not keeping pace with the competition.

Hold your agency to task for this. They should be providing you with a detailed plan for how they’re going to turn this downward trend around.

If they aren’t, they may not be the right agency, or you may need to upgrade to a higher level of service with them.

Also, consider that it is not unusual at all for a consultant or other agency to audit a site and strategy even while they are with another agency.

A good audit by an outsider provides a new perspective and can be done in partnership with your agency in most cases.

(I plan to do another post on how to choose an auditor, because I think there’s a lot of “audits” out there that are not helpful.)

Have a question about SEO for Jenny? Fill out this form or use #AskAnSEO on social media.

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Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

Google On Effect Of Low Quality Pages On Sitewide Rankings

In a Google Webmaster Hangout, someone asked if poor quality pages of a site could drag down the rankings of the entire site. Google’s John Mueller’s answer gave insights into how Google judges and ranks web pages and sites.

Do a Few Pages Drag Down the Entire Site?

The question asked if a section of a site could drag down the rest of the site.

The question:

“I’m curious if content is judged on a page level per the keyword or the site as a whole. Only a sub-section of the site is buying guides and they’re all under their specific URL structure.

Would Google penalize everything under that URL holistically? Do a few bad apples drag down the average?”

Difference Between Not Ranking and Penalization

John Mueller started off by correcting a perception about getting penalized that was inherent in the question. Web publishers sometimes complain about being penalized when in fact they are not. What’s happening is that their page is not ranking.

There is a difference between Google looking at your page and deciding not to rank it.

When a page fails to rank, it’s generally because the content is not good enough (a quality issue) or the content is not relevant to the search query (relevance being to the user). That’s a failure to rank, not a penalization.

A common example is the so-called Duplicate Content Penalty. There is no such penalty. It’s an inability to rank caused by content quality.

Another example is the Content Cannibalization Penalty, which is another so-called penalty that is not a penalty.

A penalty is something completely different in that it is a result of a blatant violation of Google’s guidelines.

John Mueller Defines a Penalty

Google’s Mueller began his answer by first defining what a penalty is:

“Usually the word penalty is associated with manual actions. And if there were a manual action, like if someone manually looked at your website and said this is not a good website then you would have a notification in Search console.

So I suspect that’s not the case…”

How Google Defines Page-Level Quality

Google’s John Mueller appeared to say that Google tries to focus on page quality instead of overall site quality, when it comes to ranking. But he also said this isn’t possible with every website.

Here is what John said:

“In general when it comes to quality of a website we try to be as fine grained as possible to figure out which specific pages or parts of the website are seen as being really good and which parts are kind of maybe not so good.

And depending on the website, sometimes that’s possible. Sometimes that’s not possible. We just have to look at everything overall.”

Why Do Some Sites Get Away with Low Quality Pages?

I suspect, and this is just a guess, that it may be a matter of the density of the low quality noise within the site.

For example, a site might be comprised of high quality web pages but feature a section that contains thin content. In that case, because the thin content is just a single section, it might not interfere with the ability of the pages on the rest of the site from ranking.

In a different scenario, if a site mostly contains low quality web pages, the good quality pages may have a hard time gaining traction through internal linking and the flow of PageRank through the site. The low quality pages could theoretically hinder a high quality page’s ability to acquire the signals necessary for Google to understand the page.

Here is where John described a site that may be unable to rank a high quality page because Google couldn’t get past all the low quality signals.

Here’s what John said:

“So it might be that we found a part of your website where we say we’re not so sure about the quality of this part of the website because there’s some really good stuff here. But there’s also some really shady or iffy stuff here as well… and we don’t know like how we should treat things over all. That might be the case.”

Effect of Low Quality Signals Sitewide

John Mueller offered an interesting insight into how low quality on-page signals could interfere with the ability of high quality pages to rank. Of equal interest he also suggested that in some cases the negative signals might not interfere with the ability of high quality pages to rank.

So if I were to put an idea from this exchange and put it in a bag to take away with me, I’d select the idea that a site with mostly low quality content is going to have a harder time trying to rank a high quality page.

And similarly, a site with mostly high quality content is going to be able to rise above some low quality content that might be separated into it’s own little section. It is of course a good idea to minimize low quality signals as much as you can.

Watch the Webmaster Hangout here.

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Screenshots by Author, Modified by Author

Google Answers If Core Update Ranking Losses Are A Soft Penalty

Google’s Office Hours Hangout featured a question about algorithm updates and whether the rankings of a negatively affected site is suppressed by a “soft penalty.”

The person asking the question made reference to a soft penalty, which is a phrase that’s been around for several years but isn’t really a thing.

They also make reference to suffering from a “flag” that’s been assigned to their site, which alludes to Google having marked the site in some way, as in flagged.

Here is the question:

“Both of my websites have been hit by different updates, around 90% drops and are suffering from some type of flag that is suppressing our sites until the soft penalty is lifted.

Or… is there even a soft penalty? “

This is the answer:

“No, the named updates that we publish on the rankings updates page on Search Central are not penalties in any shape or form.”

That confirms that any ranking drops associated with a named Google update is not a penalty and should not ever be thought of that way because that’s not what is happening.

The Googler explained why it’s not a penalty:

“They are adjustments to our ranking algorithms, so they surface even higher quality and more relevant results to search users.

If your site has dropped in rankings after an update, follow our general guidelines for content.

Take a look at how you could improve your site as a whole, both from content and user experience perspective, and you may be able to increase your rankings again.”

Core Update and Fixing Content

We understand those who do less well after a core update change may still feel they need to do something. We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward….

— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) October 11, 2023

Soft Penalty

I’ve been in the search industry for over 22 years and the term “soft penalty” is not a real thing.

There is no half-version of a penalty. A site is either penalized (by a manual action) or it’s not.

It’s a catch-all phrase that explains something without actually explaining it, like the phrase, “engine problem.”

Non-penalty ranking drops can be caused by many different causes:

Content related issues

Improvement in how Google understands search queries

Quality issues

A competitor simply has better content

Watch/listen to the Google Office Hours Hangout at the 15:08 minute mark.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Luis Molinero

How Big Data Boosts Cybersecurity

The shift of businesses to big data and the interconnectedness of devices via the Internet of Things (IoT) has provided hackers with a more extensive range of devices to attack. This has resulted in companies stepping up cybersecurity to secure broader parts of their network. Nevertheless, all it’d take for a hacker to facilitate a security breach is to discover a new malware signature undetected by firewalls and antiviruses. Although the association of big data and IoT places businesses at an even increased risk of getting their data stolen, it can also be used to boost cybersecurity. Interestingly, firms are starting to acknowledge cybersecurity’s importance. They are now implementing various techniques. There have been increased Google search queries on cybersecurity like ‘

How Big Data Fosters the Cybersecurity Sector

When tech-savvy individuals work with big data, the first thing that comes to mind is how to protect this mass of data. Hence, the idea that big data could be leveraged to improve cybersecurity doesn’t occur instantly. However, the concept of using big data to better cybersecurity is not just sensible but efficient. Research conducted by Bowie University has revealed that around 9 in 10 businesses that utilize big data fend off internet threats better. The key to this improved performance is big data analytics. Big data analytics involves analyzing massive volumes of data using

Historical Data Analysis for Cyber-Attack Visualizations

By leveraging big data, firms can

Conclusion

Hackers have always been attracted to large amounts of data. That’s why IoT and big data have increased the risk of experiencing a cyber-attack. Nevertheless, even though firms are looking to protect the sensitive data they hold, it could be used as a weapon against cyber criminals.

The shift of businesses to big data and the interconnectedness of devices via the Internet of Things (IoT) has provided hackers with a more extensive range of devices to attack. This has resulted in companies stepping up cybersecurity to secure broader parts of their network. Nevertheless, all it’d take for a hacker to facilitate a security breach is to discover a new malware signature undetected by firewalls and antiviruses. Although the association of big data and IoT places businesses at an even increased risk of getting their data stolen, it can also be used to boost cybersecurity. Interestingly, firms are starting to acknowledge cybersecurity’s importance. They are now implementing various techniques. There have been increased Google search queries on cybersecurity like ‘ how to get a Turkish IP address ’ and ‘best antiviruses for PCs.’ The demand for cybersecurity tools like VPNs and malware protection software has increased because of the high levels of cybercrime. This article will reveal how big data helps the cybersecurity field become chúng tôi tech-savvy individuals work with big data, the first thing that comes to mind is how to protect this mass of data. Hence, the idea that big data could be leveraged to improve cybersecurity doesn’t occur instantly. However, the concept of using big data to better cybersecurity is not just sensible but efficient. Research conducted by Bowie University has revealed that around 9 in 10 businesses that utilize big data fend off internet threats better. The key to this improved performance is big data analytics. Big data analytics involves analyzing massive volumes of data using specialized tools like Excel and Python to gain business insights. This data could be relational in the form of tables or non-relational in the form of plain text with keys and values. Data could also be unstructured in the case of images, videos, and audio. Big data analytics aims to help businesses make intelligent decisions, understand market trends better, and get a feel of what customers prefer to enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction. However, the field has morphed into one that facilitates the retrieval of crucial information from large amounts of data which helps in various sectors, including cybersecurity. Big data analytics for cybersecurity works when past data is analyzed to predict future trends. When machine learning is merged with big data analytics, firms can better analyze historical data to determine what constitutes normal behavior. The outliers are considered abnormal behavior and an alert for a potential cyber-attack pop-up. For instance, if the usual work period for an organization is 9 to 5, machine learning will recognize that pattern to establish average behavior. If there’s a login made to the business network at an unusual time, the system would be alerted to prevent that potential digital security attack. Nevertheless, the applications of machines and deep learning go beyond this chúng tôi leveraging big data, firms can forecast cyberattacks and develop competent measures to avert them. For instance, an organization that has previously fallen victim to an internet attack can perform an analysis of the hacker’s activity. By leveraging machine learning, the patterns can be formed from the hacker’s actions to model a possible security breach attempt. Nevertheless, analyzing historical data to predict cyber-attacks isn’t restricted to companies that have experienced them. A firm without any prior digital security breaches can explore the vast amounts of industry data to spot the patterns made by hackers. The penultimate result would be a visualization of the events leading up to the attack. Subsequently, machine learning engineers can implement preventive measures to stop possible online attacks. This way, even though hackers are targeting companies that collect large amounts of data for attacks, these firms can, in turn, use the weapon provided by big data to frustrate cybercriminals.Hackers have always been attracted to large amounts of data. That’s why IoT and big data have increased the risk of experiencing a cyber-attack. Nevertheless, even though firms are looking to protect the sensitive data they hold, it could be used as a weapon against cyber criminals. Analyzing historical data and leveraging machine learning techniques can draw patterns from typical hacking behavior. Machine learning engineers can then create models to predict and prevent a future attack.

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