This week: Google confirms what we’ve always suspected about redirects, penalizes sites for outbound link spam, blocks sites with deceptive download buttons, and makes it easier for you to find cheap gas.
Here’s what happened this week in SEO.
Google Penalizes Outbound Link Spam
You might be under the impression that Google will only penalize your site for unnatural inbound links. Think again.
This past weekend, the search engine giant penalized a number of sites for outbound link spam. Specifically, bloggers were offering positive reviews of a product or service in exchange for some type of kickback (usually a free product or free subscription to the service).
Previously, Google had warned webmasters to use the “nofollow the link, if you decide to link to the company’s site, the company’s social media accounts, an online merchant’s page that sells the product, a review service’s page featuring reviews of the product or the company’s mobile app in an app store.”
Alas, some webmasters chose not to comply. This past weekend, they paid the price. Their sites are now dealing with manual actions.
Google Posts Gas Prices in Local 3-Pack
Gas prices haven’t been much of a problem lately, thanks to the plunge in crude oil futures. However, if you’re still interested in pinching your pennies at the pump, Google can help.
If you Google “gas” you might see more than a listing of local gas stations in the 3-pack at the top of the search results. You could also see the per-gallon price for gas at each of the stations listed.
Now you can do some comparison shopping for the lowest gas prices in your area from the convenience of your own home office or smart phone. Yet again, Google has made your life a little bit easier.
Google Blocks Searchers From Sites With Deceptive Download Buttons
Have you ever visited a site to download software and found yourself duped by the fake “DOWNLOAD” button that’s actually part of an advertisement? It appears that Google is cracking down on sites that allow that.
This past week, Google announced that it will block searchers from sites that display big “DOWNLOAD” buttons in ads. Also, sites that try to trick visitors into sharing a password or calling tech support are blocked as well.
It’s a Google policy that dates back to February, but the company reiterated it this past week.
Google Announces New Features for Google Analytics
Every digital marketer’s favorite analytics tool, Google Analytics, is getting some new features. Among them:
- Deeplinking into AdWords from the AdWords Reporting Section – Google is making it easier for webmasters to take action based on insights offered by AdWords reports. The new feature will display an AdWords logo next to each campaign in Google Analytics so that users can quickly click to the appropriate campaign in AdWords.
- Move google-analytics.com to SSL – In a move that seems way overdue, Google Analytics is now secure. Because of an increase in privacy related concerns, Google has decided to secure all communications to and from its analytics website.
- Flexible Auto-tagging Override for Analytics-AdWords Linking – Google is making auto-tagging override flexible so that advertisers have more control over UTM values.
Also, Google is offering a few enhancements to people who use Attribute360.
Redirect or 404 Products That No Longer Exist?
The short answer: it’s still an outstanding question.
If you’re running an e-commerce site with products that are out of stock or no longer exist, what’s the best way to treat visitors who arrive at an unavailable product page from the SERPs? In some cases, webmasters will display a 404 page (hopefully, though, one that doesn’t actually display the error code “404”). In other cases, webmasters will use a 301 redirect to send those visitors to similar products.
But what does Google prefer? According to John Mueller, webmasters should do what’s best for the user. That’s not much of an answer, but it’s the best that you’re going to get.
Here’s what Mueller said: “The short version, imo, is to do what works best for the user, and search engines will generally figure it out from there too. Sometimes that’s a redirect, sometimes a friendly 404 page (and those can be customized too).”
Mixing Mobile-Friendly Options Is Fine
In a Google hangout this week, John Mueller said that mixing different types of mobile-friendly technologies within one web page or site won’t cause any problems for search results.
Some sites use a responsive layout with CSS. Others use dynamic serving. Still other websites use a completely different URL to serve mobile-friendly content.
There are also sites that use a combination of those technologies. Mueller said that’s not a problem for Google.
“So if you use responsive or dynamic serving or separate mobile URLs, it is essentially up to you,” he said. “It is something that you can also mix, where you say well part of my website is fully responsive and part of it just sniffing user agent to make sure that we can like serve them properly.”
Confirmed: Google Indexes Redirects
There’s been some questions lately in the SEO community about how Google handles redirects. John Mueller issued a lengthy post on Google+ this week that answered them.
For 301 and 302 redirects, Mueller said that Google will index the content that’s served, even if it’s at the redirected site.
For other redirect codes, here’s what Mueller had to say: “What about 303? 304.5? If you have strong feelings about one of the other kinds of redirects, feel free to use them. We’ll have to figure out which URL to index the content under, so if you have strong feelings about that too, make sure to follow up with other canonicalization signals.”