Google gives SEO tips on how to handle day-long site closures

John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, wrote a blog post explaining how SEOs and webmasters can handle site outages or closures that last for a day or longer. This is when a webmaster intentionally takes down the site for maintenance, site moves, religious reasons or other reasons.

John offers three options:

    Block the cart functionality from Google and your users.Always show an interstitial or pop-up saying your site is offline today.Switch the whole website off for a period of time.

Each option can be handled differently, but the easiest option seems to be blocking the cart functionality if you don’t want people to buy from your site. This is common for religious practices where they are offline for Shabbat once a week. They do not want customers to transact with their website and earn money on Shabbat.

But some webmasters want to take the whole site offline and offer a warning, such as an interstitial or pop-up with an explanation of why the site is not accessible. Google told those who were worried about this that interstitials for religious purposes are within their acceptable use guidelines. These sites won’t or shouldn’t be hit by the Google interstitials penalty in this case.

When doing this, John Mueller said “the server should return a 503 HTTP result code (“Service Unavailable”) … The 503 result code makes sure that Google doesn’t index the temporary content that’s shown to users. Without the 503 result code, the interstitial would be indexed as your website’s content.”

Same with turning off the site, but also add these tips to your to-do list:

    Set your DNS TTL to a low time (such as five minutes) a few days in advance.Change the DNS to the temporary server’s IP address.Take your main server offline once all requests go to the temporary server.… your server is now offline …When ready, bring your main server online again.Switch DNS back to the main server’s IP address.Change the DNS TTL back to normal.

After rare Google confirmation of on-site penalty, Natural News is back in Google's index

In a rare move, Google confirmed that a publisher named Natural News was penalized and deindexed by the major search engine over Google webmaster guidelines violations. In fact, Google’s John Mueller specifically said the site was using sneaky mobile redirect, and once that is “cleaned up, the site can submit a reconsideration request through Search Console.”

It seems like they did clean it up and submitted a reconsideration request through Search Console, because the site is now back in the Google index. A site command now returns the home page and 440,000 other pages from the site.

It is incredibly rare for Google to confirm when a site is penalized to the press or public. But in this case, the site was claiming it was removed because it was pro-Trump. They started a White House petition against Google, and they are still encouraging people to sign the petition even after they have been restored to Google’s index.

The site said they would issue a statement at 11:00 a.m. Central time today on Google reincluding the site.

Abdul Sattar Edhi Google doodle celebrates Pakistani humanitarian who founded Edhi Foundation

Today’s Google doodle honors Abdul Sattar Edhi, a man who dedicated his life to providing social services for those in need.

Crediting Edhi with being a “global-reaching philanthropist and humanitarian,” Google says Edhi was born in India but moved to Pakistan soon after it became a nation, founding the Edhi foundation in 1951.

From the Google Doodle blog:

He soon noticed that many Pakistanis lacked shelter, medicine, education, and other essentials, and was moved to help in any way he could. He began by simply asking others around him to contribute time or money, especially when a flu epidemic hit Karachi.

Google reports that the Edhi Foundation operates 24 hours a day and offers multiple social services, including homeless shelters and medical care. “Most notably, the foundation operates the world’s largest volunteer ambulance network in Pakistan,” says Google.

Google didn’t share who designed the doodle, but it leads to a search for “Abdul Sattar Edhis.” Here is the full doodle image, highlighting Edhi’s ambulance services.

The Abdul Sattar Edhi doodle is displayed on Google’s US home page, in addition to a limited number of other international homepages, including Pakistan, the UK, Australia and Japan.

Link free or die

Why are we so afraid of links?

Back in the old days of SEO, we loved any link if it was free, even if it was from a spammy scraper site or the lowest-quality directory you’ve ever seen. If we did nothing to get that link, it was a great link. People assumed that all links were beneficial — and that even “bad” links were completely harmless, with no potential to cause damage.

Then we started to get scared… and we nofollowed links. We performed loads of link analysis and reached out to sites that we thought were spammy and asked to have our links removed. Oh, and let’s not forget that time period where we were terrified of exact-match anchors and then built 50 links that all said “Click here.”

I’m surely leaving out other critical changes, but the bottom line is that links freak most of us out, whether we’re building them or they’re being built for our site.

Let’s break down five of the biggest fears and discuss how healthy or unhealthy they truly are.

1. Fear of actively pursuing links

I’m including begging and buying here. Some have the viewpoint that any link that was not editorially given is a bad link. In my opinion, if you waited to only get editorially given links, you’d be waiting a very long time to see any results. It’s an ideal, in my opinion.

People can claim that a successful link-building campaign is not based on money, but in my opinion, it absolutely is. You cannot create an utterly amazing and far-reaching content campaign without a healthy budget unless you just happen to have talented people on your staff who can do it themselves. Even if you create this awesome content that will naturally attract links, you have to promote it — and I don’t just mean tweeting about it.

Plenty of content gets pimped via email outreach, for example. Content is sent to parties who might find it valuable, along with a nice, gentle suggestion that you link. To me, that’s not much different from just asking for a link; but to those who preach that all you need is great content to attract links naturally, it’s a whole different ballgame.

I kind of dump this approach into the begging category. You may consider it an editorially given link, though. Are they really that different? Not in my mind; at the end of the day, you saw content and you linked to it.

Do you think Google can tell what your reasoning was for linking? Can they distinguish between whether you came across that content on Facebook and included a link to it in a new post, or whether the agency who created it emailed you about it and said that if you like it, link to it? Nope.

So, is this fear healthy or not? I’d go with not healthy, but with a caveat: you have to really know what you’re doing.

2. Fear of the links you get naturally

This one is also wise in my opinion, as so many people think they cannot possibly be hurt by free links that were just handed to them.

However, this fear can go too far. People will see a link come in from a brand new site where the Domain Authority is 11, and they freak out. Is this going to hurt me? Should I disavow it?

I may be crazy for saying this, but I don’t really worry much about those kinds of links unless they’re coming to me in great numbers and from some spammy niches. If some new blogger who is just starting out decides to link to my site in an article about link building, I’m not going to flip out and ask for the link to be removed, nor am I going to disavow it.

Still, it’s good to audit your backlink profile and ensure that you are disavowing any spammy links. Even if you didn’t pay for them or ask for them, they could still be coming from low-quality sites that could ultimately harm your rankings if not dealt with.

Healthy fear or not? Pretty healthy.

3. Fear of linking out to other sites

I’ve only really encountered this one when we do outreach for clients (and not all that often, luckily). Webmasters will say that linking out is illegal, or that Google will penalize them for it.

Recently, while doing a link review for a client, I was looking at a page from which we secured a great link for a client last year. I remembered that page well because of all the great resources it linked to and how thorough it was. I’d been thrilled to secure a link there.

Today, there are zero outgoing links on that article. Zero. All the info is still there, but you’d have to look up each site on your own. To me, that is absolutely dreadful to do to your users. Some of the most beneficial content out there links out to other resources. This is one fear that I think is completely unsubstantiated.

Healthy? Not in my mind.

4. Fear of linking out without a nofollow

This one is tricky. In Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, they advise doing the following for links that may violate their guidelines:

Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the <a> tagRedirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file

Google has added many types of “manipulative” links to their guidelines over the years, though — and I suspect they will continue to add more. As a result, many webmasters now slap a nofollow on automatically.

I have no problem with nofollowed links; if they’re good to send traffic, I’m happy. My main issue is that this sculpting of the web is being done by people who don’t really have much understanding of how the web works. Some of these people are nofollowing links that should not be nofollowed. How is that going to impact rankings when it becomes a common thing to do? Oh, right… we’ll just find another way to manipulate the web.

With paid links and affiliate links, most webmasters do nofollow them. If you’re just editorially linking out to an article on someone else’s site to help make your content better, you don’t need a nofollow.

Healthy fear? Not unless you really do have a good reason that is something other than “it’s the only legal option.”

5. Fear of Google in general

Is anyone terrified of Bing or Duck Duck Go? If so, I’ve never heard about it. They’re all scared of Google. Google will penalize me for building links. Someone will turn me in for building links. Google will take down my site and I will starve to death. People still say these things.

Unfortunately, there’s a reason for that. I’ve seen too many sites get unfairly penalized to think it’s not a possibility, no matter how clean your backlink profile is. And hey, there are more than just link-related penalties!

Healthy fear? YES. I mean, I think people need to do what is right for their own businesses. Maybe you wouldn’t lose your shirt if Google did penalize you. Maybe you really love risk. That’s fine with me. But I do think you have nothing to lose by being at least a tiny bit afraid — or, at minimum, aware — of their power.

Some might take this all to mean that I don’t like Google or that I’m advocating violating their guidelines. My position is that they have their own rules and if you break them, they have the right to penalize you.

My biggest problem is that by attempting to curb all the link spam, they’ve issued broad guidelines that can penalize sites for doing things that used to be okay, and they will probably add something new that might penalize sites for something that is currently all the rage.

We all need to have some fear. What we don’t need is ignorant terror that makes us ruin the web needlessly.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Sharing is caring: Click share and post-holiday shopping success

Click share is a key way to gauge the success of your Shopping campaigns. The metric shows you the percentage of total possible clicks you are receiving with your Shopping ads. If you aren’t reviewing this metric on a regular basis, 2017 is officially the time to start the habit.

Incorporate click share into your daily optimizations

Click share can be an incredibly useful metric because it delivers the type of insight that you’re used to receiving from average position in your Search campaigns. Shopping ads can take a lot of different forms, which means that we can’t calculate an average position in the same way as we can for Search ads. Enter click share for Shopping.

By regularly reviewing this metric on your product group tab, you can see how well you’re doing at driving traffic to your site for high-value shoppers. You should use it in concert with impression share.

Impression share tells you how you’re doing at getting your items in front of shoppers looking for your products, while click share tells you how effective you are in winning those shoppers that see your products. A 100 percent impression share, while great, might not reveal anything about your true potential. Here’s one of my favorite sayings from business school:

30 percent of 40 percent is greater than 10 percent of 100 percent.

It’s possible to underperform even with a 100 percent impression share because it doesn’t reflect whether those shoppers chose to visit your site. That’s why click share is such a crucial metric to monitor. And once you’ve started to monitor it, what can you do with it? Why, increase it.

How to increase your click share

There are a few ways to do this. It’s a similar process to Search ads. Exactly like you work to improve your average position, you can take steps to increase your click share for Shopping ads:

1. Increase your bids

An increased bid is often the most effective way to be more competitive in the auction. Review your click share by individual product groups. If there are certain product groups that you want to drive more clicks, look at your bids and increase them where it makes sense.

It’s always a tricky balance between volume and return to maximize profitability. Increasing bids to grow your click share will increase volume — just make sure never to bid beyond the point of profitability. Check out the Bid Simulator to see your potential.

2. Increase the quality and relevance of your ads (which means ‘product data’ in this case)

Your product data is what we use to create your Shopping ad. Take a look through your search terms and see if your product title and description text aligns with the most common user searches. Put the most important details first in your product title, like size, color or brand. Increasing the relevance of your ads can help your ads get better placements and more clicks.

It’s also crucial to use high-quality images for your products. With higher screen resolutions in current smartphones, a high-quality image can be the difference when showing up alongside other competing ads.

3. Opt into the different enhancements for your ads

There are a couple of ways to make your ads even more appealing on the results page. For example, Merchant Promotions allows you to distribute your online promotions with your Shopping ads, including discounts, free gifts and “buy more save more” promotions. You can even add different codes for people to redeem. Product ratings can build trust right on the results page while qualifying customers as they click to your site.

You can use each of these three methods to create better ads that have a better shot at driving interested customers to a purchase.

Going beyond click share

Click share is super-important, and hopefully, now you have taken that to heart. It’s not the only way to take advantage of whatever search volume you’re seeing, though.

Some holiday-friendly strategies still work in non-holiday months. Strategic, time-specific campaigns let you make more specific decisions about your bidding and budgeting. Custom labels can be great for product groups that have peak seasons. If you label them, the stuff that’s currently in season (or that’s about to be in season) can get the attention it deserves. And remember to keep an eye on product status insights to keep items approved.

Conclusion

Click and impression share are liable to change over time based on user search behavior and auction dynamics. Be sure that you aren’t losing click share to your competitors by checking in regularly.

Make click share a part of your regimen for Shopping optimizations. By combining this metric with the insights you’re already getting from impression share, you can understand both how you’re doing in the auction and how you’re doing on the results page itself.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

SearchCap: Google site closed, penalty recovery & shopping ads

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

From Search Engine Land:

After rare Google confirmation of on-site penalty, Natural News is back in Google’s index
Feb 28, 2017 by Barry Schwartz

HealthNews.com confirms being reincluded in the Google index after being deindexed last week.

Google gives SEO tips on how to handle day-long site closures
Feb 28, 2017 by Barry Schwartz

Need to turn off your website for a period of time, but worry your Google rankings will drop? Here are some tips from Google’s John Mueller on how to handle it.

Sharing is caring: Click share and post-holiday shopping success
Feb 28, 2017 by Matt Lawson

Click share is a crucial metric that can help you improve Shopping campaigns. Columnist and Googler Matt Lawson explains what it is and how to improve it.

Link free or die
Feb 28, 2017 by Julie Joyce

Why are we so afraid of links? Columnist Julie Joyce goes through several of our biggest fears and discusses how healthy they really are.

Abdul Sattar Edhi Google doodle celebrates Pakistani humanitarian who founded Edhi Foundation
Feb 28, 2017 by Amy Gesenhues

Today would have been 89th birthday of the philanthropist and humanitarian who spent his life crusading for those in need.

Search News From Around The Web:

Industry

2017 Engage (Social PPC & Psychographic Full-Day Intensive) Mini-Interview: Marty Weintraub, SEMpdx

Local & Maps

Your Google My Business Page in 2017: How Hard Is It to Mess Up?, LocalVisibilitySystem.com

Link Building

How to Create Content That Keeps Earning Links (Even After You Stop Promoting It), MozHow We Use Blogger Outreach To Promote Content And Build Links, ahrefs.com

Searching

Answer: Weather causes pain?, SearchReSearchGoogle’s Picture Of Trump Considered "Disrespectful"?, Search Engine Roundtable

SEO

Why Your Blog Needs SEO, problogger.comAdding Sitelinks Search Box Schema for Site Search in Google Search Results, The SEM PostBad Ads Usage Practices That Can Hurt Your SEO, Search Engine JournalGoogle Search Console Search Analytics Report Showing Emojis, Search Engine RoundtableGoogle: How to Optimize Podcasts for SEO, The SEM PostHow to Find Easy SEO Copywriting Opportunities, SuccessWorksHow to Look at SEO as a Digital Marketer, SEM RushTop 6 SEO Misconceptions You Need to Be Aware of in 2017, SEM RushYoast SEO 4.4, Yoast

SEM / Paid Search

How To Use Adwords Campaign Drafts And Experiments, PPC Hero

Search Marketing

7 Things Google PageSpeed Insights Doesn’t Tell You, State of DigitalHow Voice Technology is Shaping the Future of Search Marketing, vertical-leap.uk

Intro to Agile Marketing: Work faster and smarter by changing how you work

Are you struggling to keep pace with rapidly changing customer needs and market demands? Are you slowed down by organizational silos, hierarchies and processes?

It may be time to get agile. More than 90 percent of marketers who have adopted agile marketing say it has improved their speed to market for ideas, products and campaigns.

Join agile marketing expert Andrea Fryrear and Workfront Creative Director David Lesué as they explore what it means to be an agile marketer and provide practical tips on how your organization can make the transition.

Register today for “Intro to Agile Marketing: Work faster and smarter by changing how you work,” produced by Digital Marketing Depot and sponsored by Workfront.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

RIP DMOZ: The Open Directory Project is closing

DMOZ — The Open Directory Project that uses human editors to organize websites — is closing. It marks the end of a time when humans, rather than machines, tried to organize the web.

The announcement came via a notice that’s now showing on the home page of the DMOZ site, saying it will close as of March 14, 2017:

DMOZ was born in June 1998 as “GnuHoo,” then quickly changed to “NewHoo,” a rival to the Yahoo Directory at the time. Yahoo had faced criticism as being too powerful and too difficult for sites to be listed in.

It was soon acquired by Netscape in November 1998 and renamed the Netscape Open Directory. Later that month, AOL acquired Netscape, giving AOL control of The Open Directory.

Also born that year was Google, which was the start of the end of human curation of websites. Google bought both the power of being able to search every page on the web with the relevancy that was a hallmark of human-powered directories.

Yahoo eventually shifted to preferring machine-generated results over human power, pushing its directory further and further behind-the-scenes until its closure was announced in September 2014. The actual closure came in December 2014, with the old site these days entirely unresponsive.

DMOZ continued on, although for marketers and searchers, it had also long been mostly forgotten as a resource. About the only surprise in today’s news is that it took so long.

DMOZ will live on in one unique way — the NOODP meta tag. This was a way for publishers to tell Google and other search engines not to describe their pages using Open Directory descriptions. While the tag will become redundant, it will also remain lurking within web pages that continue to use it for years to come.

SearchCap: Google Assistant, local finder test & Bing hospital finder

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

From Search Engine Land:

Google Assistant to roll out across newer smartphones
Feb 27, 2017 by Greg Sterling

The virtual assistant capability will soon be available on smartphones running Android 6.0 and 7.0.

5 ways you can improve your new business’s visibility on Google Maps
Feb 27, 2017 by Wesley Young

Columnist Wesley Young compares the online presence of several new businesses to find out what makes one stand out and consistently outperform the others in Google Map search results.

Bing UK now displaying National Health Service data for GP & hospital search queries
Feb 27, 2017 by Amy Gesenhues

Searching for nearby GPs and hospitals on Bing UK will surface information pulled from the country’s publicly-funded national healthcare system.

Need to get with Google My Business support? Use Twitter!
Feb 27, 2017 by Greg Gifford

While phone support may no longer be accessible if you need help with Google My Business, columnist Greg Gifford notes that social media support is available (and good!).

Google local finder tests cards with horizontal scroll for map search results
Feb 27, 2017 by Barry Schwartz

Google loves the swipe left and right motion. They are now testing it on the Google Maps local finder search results.

Ida Lewis Google doodle marks 175th birthday of ‘America’s Bravest Woman’
Feb 25, 2017 by Amy Gesenhues

As Rhode Island’s most famous lighthouse keeper, Lewis saved a number of lives from drowning, including the two soldiers that inspired the doodle.

[Reminder] Upcoming webinar — Build Your Ultimate Martech Stack
Feb 27, 2017 by Digital Marketing Depot

It’s not enough to build a martech stack… you’ve got to build the right stack for your organization. Strategy, efficiency, integration and resources all play significant roles in martech stack decisions. Join martech expert Matt Heinz and Linda West, Act-On’s senior director of marketing services and operations, as they discuss the stack-building challenges facing marketers […]

Search News From Around The Web:

Local & Maps

Local Search Result Checker, CitationBuilderPro.Com

Link Building

Finding inspiration for a non-profit campaign with Majestic, Majestic BlogGoogle Says Web Directories Don’t Generally Help With Rankings, Search Engine Roundtable

Searching

AMP Results Get Mobile Carousel Preference, Rank Ranger

SEO

5 Local SEO Experts Share Voice Search and "Near Me" Predictions, Search Engine PeopleAsk Yoast: do off-topic comments hurt SEO?, YoastGoogle Panda Takes Into Account Site Quality Including Site Architecture, Search Engine RoundtableGoogle: Optimizing Images for Google SEO, The SEM PostReady to go global? Check your hreflang tags, State of Digital

Google local finder tests cards with horizontal scroll for map search results

Google is now testing a new format for their local search results on mobile when bringing up the Google Maps local finder. The new results are not in a vertical list view, but rather a horizontal card-style view. The card-style view requires you to swipe the cards horizontally to see more local results. This is different from the natural scroll up and down for the list view.

Mike Blumenthal published a GIF of this in action:

I am personally not able to replicate this, but Google is frequently testing Google Maps and local finder search interfaces. This one is one of the more extreme tests.