SEO Office Hours – January 22nd, 2021

SEO Office Hours - January 22nd - Hero Image

This is a summary of the most interesting questions and answers from the Google SEO Office Hours with John Mueller on January 22nd, 2021. 

Tracking internal traffic

8:53 – A website owner added tags to the end of their internal links in order to track internal traffic on their website. The tags were created using a question mark and a keyword, like “?menu”. Is this an issue from an SEO perspective?

John said that while this approach might work for a small website, it’s not optimal. That’s because Google will have to crawl all these URLs separately and decide which page is the canonical one. On a large website, this would negatively impact your crawl budget.

John then explained that there are two better approaches to tracking the internal traffic on your website. 

One is to use hashes in your URLs for tagging traffic. If you add a hash at the end of the URL, Google will ignore it and just look at the part of the URL address that’s before the hash.

The other option is to use Google Tag Manager if you’re using Google Analytics.

Creating a new website

14:36 – What should you focus on when creating a new website? Is it creating new content, getting the buzz out, answering user intent? 

John said it’s good to focus on all those things. He also suggested that it’s worth it to take a lot of time and figure out what it is that you want to focus on. You should find a way to leverage your existing experience and provide something relevant for your users. At the same time, you should be looking for a niche – if there’s a topic that is getting a lot of interest but isn’t covered yet, it represents a chance for you to grow a new website. John also said that you should be planning for the long run – stay within a range of topics that are connected to each other.

Transferring content to a new website

18:14 – A website’s owner site got hit with a core update in the past. Now, they want to move the content from the old website to a new domain, but they don’t want to risk transferring some of the negative signals the old website has acquired in the past.

John suggested using one of the two approaches:

  • If the content is valuable, you can just move it to the new website, and 301 Redirect the pages on the old website to the equivalent pages on the new website.
  • If you don’t want to be associated with the old website at all, you essentially have to create new content. If you just copy and paste the old content, Google will notice and will have to choose a canonical version.

Using a popup for a limited time

19:35 – Can you use a popup on your site for a limited time, e.g., display a survey on your website for a week? Can this get penalized by Google?

John didn’t think Google would penalize a website for having a popup. There are two things you need to consider, though:

  • Google has a policy against intrusive interstitials that might get you penalized in mobile search results.
  • If you’re showing the popup instead of your regular content, Google will index the content inside the popup.

Content duplication between YouTube and blog posts

27:31 – If you have a YouTube channel and a blog and you use the copy to create both posts and videos, does Google treat it as duplicate content?

John said that Google doesn’t analyze the text of the videos on YouTube and then maps them to web pages. That’s because even though the content might be the same, the form is not, and Google doesn’t mind if you’re covering both these types of intent with the same content. 

Switching to mobile-first indexing

33:36 – A website owner who has an m-dot version of the website wants to switch to mobile-first indexing. Their website used to be crawled primarily by a mobile crawler in the past, but now it’s being crawled by the desktop crawler. What can they do to switch?

John said that he didn’t know why Google would switch back to the desktop crawler. He said that Google switches to mobile-first indexing when it detects that the website is ready for it.

If a website is still being crawled by the desktop crawler, there are two possibilities:

  • The website could be a part of a control group that Google is testing before fully switching to mobile-first indexing later this year.

Later in the podcast, John said there would be no way of knowing whether or not you’re in the control group.

  • Google’s systems still think that the website isn’t ready to be switched to mobile-first indexing yet.

John continued to say that there are many aspects that may make Google hesitant to switch your website to mobile-first indexing. For instance, it could be that you have more images on your desktop version than your mobile version. 

John’s suggestion was to let it be and just wait until Google goes fully mobile-first. There’s no ranking benefit from being indexed based on your mobile version.

John also added something very interesting: if a website isn’t ready to be switched to mobile-first indexing because some of its desktop content is missing on mobile, Google wouldn’t see this as a “ranking effect.” It just wouldn’t be able to access all of your content, and your traffic would probably drop.

He said that the system that decides whether or not a website is ready to switch to MFI looks at the domain as a whole to “figure out whether it’s ready or not.” However, once the website was switched to MFI, the actual indexing is decided on a per-page basis.