This week: Keyword Planner adds a new feature, that HTTPS ranking boost can be faked, and it’s easier than you might think to rank your AMP pages.
Here’s what happened this week in SEO.
Keyword Planner Adds Forecasting Feature
There’s a new feature in the Keyword Planner: forecasting.
Now, you can see search volume trends for the keywords that you’re using in your AdWords account.
Of course, you could also use the forecasting feature to look for trends in keywords that you might like to rank for in your SEO campaigns. Unfortunately, Google now limits the full use of Keyword Planner to people who are paying for advertising.
Still, if you are paying for AdWords in your digital marketing efforts, you might be able to get some insight into which keywords are taking off.
It’s definitely worth a look.
You Can Fake the HTTPS Ranking Boost
Back in 2014, Google announced that it would give a ranking boost to sites that use the secure HTTP protocol (HTTPS).
You might think that a company as sophisticated as Google might actually dig deep to determine that the URL really is referencing a site that uses a valid certificate before giving it the bump in rank.
All the Googlebot does is look at the URL of the site. If it begins with “https” instead of “http,” then it gets the ranking benefit.
That’s according to Gary Illyes, who said that the bot is “basically looking at the first five characters in front of the URL, and if it’s HTTPS and it managed to get in the search results and it will get a minimal boost.”
So you don’t even need to go through the trouble of buying an SSL certificate and configuring your web server to use it. You can just accept the HTTPS protocol as an unsecured protocol, serve up your pages with it, and Google might give you a boost in the SERPs.
Google Doesn’t Have a “Website Authority Score”
Think you might get a bump in rank because you have an “authority site”? Think again.
Digital marketers all around the world preach about the importance of developing an “authority site” so that they convince visitors that they’re at the right place.
But even if webmasters can convince visitors that their site is packed with valuable content about a particular subject, that doesn’t necessarily translate to an improved rank in the SERPs.
According to John Mueller, Google doesn’t have a “website authority score.”
There’s No Penguin Boost, Either
As we’ve reported in this space on multiple occasions, the latest version of Penguin (4.0) doesn’t “demote” sites that violate Google’s rules. That’s in contrast to older versions of Penguin, which did demote sites that used backlink spam.
This week, Gary Illyes made it clear that Penguin also doesn’t boost sites in rank.
— Gary Illyes (@methode) October 18, 2016
Responding to a question on Twitter, Illyes said flatly that “there is no Penguin boost.”
The latest version of Penguin just devalues links rather than moving a whole site up or down in the SERPs.
The Interstitial Mobile Penalty Only Applies to Search Clicks
As we’ve reported in this space, Google is applying a mobile penalty to sites that use intrusive interstitials. This past week during a Google hangout, John Mueller clarified what that means.
Mueller said that the penalty only applies to clicks from search results. That means if a user hits the site from the SERPs, but doesn’t see an intrusive interstitial until several clicks into it, then there will be no penalty.
However, if the interstitial pops up right away, then Google will assess a penalty to that site.
Google: AMP Pages Don’t Need Sitemap XML Files
If you’re AMPlifying your site, you might think that you need to update your Sitemap to include your AMP pages. That’s not the case.
This week on Twitter, John Mueller fielded a question about whether or not Sitemaps are required for the Googlebot to find AMP pages.
Here’s how Mueller replied: “No need for sitemaps for AMP pages – the rel=amphtml link is enough for us.”
So as long as your pages uses a canonical link pointing to their respective AMP versions, you should be good.