Google Search For . (Period)

For today, I wanted to record a quick observation I had while Googling. It’s also a reminder that choosing the correct search terms can drastically change what Google returns to you.

If I Google for the period symbol (.), I get back results for the phrase “full stop punctuation.” I know this because the words “full stop punctuation” are bolded in the returned Google page. Here’s a screenshot in case that changes:

Note that the links aren’t terribly interesting – I don’t see any links to punctuation or style guides, just pages with the words “full stop punctuation.”

Now interestingly, if I search for the words “period punctuation”, I get back a small context box explaining to me what a period is used for in writing, as well as a list of punctuation and writing guides:

The results for a Google search for “period punctuation.”

As you can see, a minor change in search terms dramatically changes what you get, even if both terms mean largely the same thing.

Googlebot Cannot Scroll; Infinite Scroll Doesn’t Help SEO

I saw a fascinating article in today’s Search Engine Journal: Google’s Martin Splitt Explains Why Infinite Scroll Causes SEO Problems. Read it for some background information, but the bottom line is that Googlebot (the Google web crawler/indexer) does not scroll web pages, which means that any content exposed via infinite scroll is not indexed.

Infinite scroll can also cause other problems: some screenshot browser addons and services have difficulties rendering infinite scroll web pages. It’s easy to love infinite scroll as a user since it gives the illusion of infinite content, but it can be a nightmare for automated services.

The fix: Make sure that all content on a web site can be accessed without using the infinite scroll function. Also, send Google a sitemap so it knows where all the valid URLs are: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/183668?hl=en .

SEO Best Practices – Marking Missing Pages With 404

I saw this tweet today that deserved to be highlighted:

Tweet from Google Webmasters Twitter account: Return a 404 code for any pages that are removed.

In short: if you remove a web page, make sure your server is returning 404 to correctly indicate that the page is removed and the URL is invalid.

I see a lot of sites that – for invalid URLs – return a 200 status then an error message in the body of the response. That only serves to confuse crawlers (and there are more crawlers on the web than Google’s).

Google News Weekly Letter For Dec 29 – Jan 4

Happy New Year 2020! Wishing all of you a prosperous year filled with happiness and joy! Let’s jump right into fray:

Year End: With the end of 2019 comes all the articles summarizing 2019 and guessing at what’s in store for the new year. I loved this infographic showing the popularity of influencers based on their Google searches. Forbes has a list of the top 2019 Google searches and trends, while The Register compares the progress of each cloud company (AWS, GCP, Azure) against each other. Finally, TechCrunch lets us know that “Disney Plus” was the most searched term in 2019.

Taxes: Nobody likes them, but Google has to pay them. The city of Mountain View, CA is now charging an employee head tax, Google is expected to pay $3.3 million a year. Google is ending use of the famous “Double Dutch/Irish sandwich” tax scheme to reduce their tax bill. A bonus for US taxpayers: the IRS is barring TurboTax and H&R Block from hiding their free tax filing options from a Google search.

Products: Google is famous for shutting down products, so here comes PC World with their take on products unlikely to survive the next decade. The Motley Fool believes that Microsoft does 3 things better than Google. Speaking of competition, ProtonMail has released an encrypted calendar service: available today for ProtonMail paid users, and then available to everyone once it exits beta this year. Keep your eyes on this one: a calendar makes users more “sticky” (spending more time on a service) and could be the opening of ProtonMail building out more productivity services to compete with Google.

Search: Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent $15 million just on Google ads on his run for the presidency. If you love data as much as I do, check out Google’s transparency report which details Bloomberg’s ads, their targeting, and various other metrics. For SEO folks, a useful note comes out of Search Engine Journal: heading tags (H1, H2, etc) are used by the Google spider to understand the topic of the paragraphs below the headers but are not themselves ranking factors.

Losing Visits & Revenue During A Domain Name Change

A fascinating article popped up yesterday which underlines the importance of SEO and domain names: From BetaKit – Looka lays off 80% of staff as failed rebrand from Logojoy cuts revenue in half. Read the article – it’s a concise story about how Logojoy rebranded and moved to a different domain name; due to a series of errors, the company lost 80% of its organic traffic. In other words: because of a name/domain change Google and other search engines lowered or removed LogoJoy from their search results.

The typical wisdom when moving domain names is that a site will lose 20-30% of visits coming from search engines for 5 – 7 months after the move. However LogoJoy made two major errors which helped to drastically decrease the visitors they saw:

  1. During the rebrand from LogoJoy to Looka, the company also added more services; initially they were only creating logos, but they also added additional services such as business card designs, social media support, etc. Adding services is great, but doing so simultaneously to a rename only serves to dilute the value of a site in the eyes of a search engine.
  2. The name LogoJoy quickly summarizes what the site is about: it’s a place to get logos and possibly other services related to branding. In short: it’s a great, easily-memorable name that also helps SEO since it includes the word “logo”. The new name “Looka” is ambiguous: you can easily imagine multiple different companies in many sectors having that name. In addition, “Looka” doesn’t help SEO: it’s not immediately connectable to branding, logo, social media, etc.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if at least 10-15% of the traffic loss was due to the unclear new name: losing “logo” from the site name and not replacing it with a similar word strongly linked with branding (for example: media, brand, public relations, etc).

These issues could have been fixed by multiple ways, some of them pricy, some of them not so much.

The most obvious solution is not to rebrand. LogoJoy could have kept their logo-generating business at logojoy.com, then spun up another site ( BrandJoy.com? MediaJoy? ) to host their additional sales of business cards, social media assistance, etc. Once both sites were established and running for at least 6 months, then they could have been merged under the Looka brand.

A pricy-but-possible solution for LogoJoy would be – considering they had millions of dollars from venture capital funding – to simply buy their way out of the problem. LogoJoy could have bought up Google, FB and Twitter advertising for keywords relating to branding: logo, social media, how to brand my site, etc. Although this would be a very expensive move: easily at least several million dollars if not more.

The easiest solution would be to keep the LogoJoy name and sell the additional services they wanted to offer (business cards, social media) under the LogoJoy name as well.

Bottom Line Summary: Be very careful when moving domain names. When moving domain names keep the focus on the domain change. Make sure to appropriately 301 (Moved Permanently) the old site to point to pages on the new site. But most importantly, keep the focus on the move. Don’t dilute the value of your site by trying to enter new areas. If you can afford it, buy ads on Google for keywords relating to your site – the ads can do double duty by (1) referring users to you new site and (2) informing users about the name change.

Google Wins Europe “Right To Be Forgotten” Case

A notable article from the BBC: Google wins landmark right to be forgotten case.

Excerpted from the BBC:

In 2015, CNIL [French privacy regulator] ordered the firm to globally remove search result listings to pages containing damaging or false information about a person. But it [Google] resisted censoring search results for people in other parts of the world. And the firm challenged a 100,000 euro fine that CNIL had tried to impose.

In short, this ruling means that any European right to be forgotten requests are limited to search results from EU users; US and other countries’ search results won’t be affected.

SparkToro: Less than Half of Google Searches Now Result in a Click

A friend shared this interesting article with me – here’s the bottom line summary:

In June of 2019, for the first time, a majority of all browser-based searches on Google.com resulted in zero-clicks

https://sparktoro.com/blog/less-than-half-of-google-searches-now-result-in-a-click/

Essentially: in more than half of Google searches, the user is not clicking on a result link. This can be because the user has their question answered via Google’s featured snippet section (example below), or the web browser launched a separate app (for example, a mobile user clicking a link which opens up the Android/iOS Google Maps app), or simply because the user got frustrated and stopped searching.

An example of a featured snippet from a Google search: a box just underneath the search box with information. Note the About Featured Snippets link on the bottom.
An example of a featured snippet on a Google search. Note the About Featured Snippets link on the bottom of the image.

This article is just another reason why good Google marketers need to target high value keywords to get users to click through.

The article expands on this, it’s definitely worth a read: https://sparktoro.com/blog/less-than-half-of-google-searches-now-result-in-a-click/ .

Georgios Papanikolaou Doodle

Today’s doodle celebrates the life of Georgios Papanikolaou, who invented the pap smear.

The Google home page looked like this with the doodle:

Here is the doodle by itself:

The doodle links to a search for his name: