Welcome to I’ve Heard That, the podcast from Hurrdat Marketing that discusses digital marketing trends, tips, and more.
Hi and welcome to I’ve Heard That. I have two amazing guests today. Welcome Aaron and Max.
Good to be the back.
Awesome. Well, today we’ve talked plenty about what you can and should do online for your site. And today, we’re going to give you the list of don’t do, should not do that online. I know we’ve talked before, you guys have seen it all. So, tell me a few things that are no gos.
Max, let’s talk about ADA compliance and just how important that is. I think that’s a good place to start because the mistakes aren’t just self-contained, they can have consequences. So, I’d love to start there.
Right. Well, a trend we’ve been seeing lately, especially with ADA compliance becoming more and more prevalent and for websites needing to be ADA compliant, specifically, if you have multiple locations, you are beholden to the American Disabilities Act and that applies online as well. Most people try to shoot for AA compliance, that’s what we recommend, and there are some strict caveats with that. And the biggest one that we’ve run into is color, making sure that the colors you use for your links, for your headings, those are able to be read. And I’m talking specifically about contrast. So, if you have a lighter blue or a lighter gray for a heading, that might not be enough contrast, unless it’s big enough or it could, in most cases, just need to have a color change.
And we’ve been running into clients that have a brand guide that they are clutching onto like it’s the Bible, and they need to revise or at least change how they’re treating some things online. Specifically with ADA compliance, maybe all of their links are a certain color that are not passing anymore. There are ways around that, but those brand guides are living documents, not the 10 commandments written in stone. They need to be flexible. And so, you need to take that into account when you’re going through an ADA compliance check.
Yeah. So, not only can you get in legal trouble, like people have issues using your site. And I would venture to say, it’s probably best practice anyways, even if that didn’t exist, because if it’s hard to navigate, if it’s hard to read, then it’s not going to be useful to the end customer anyways.
Yeah, especially in those contrast situations. I mean, just as a user, it’s kind of hard to read the text if it’s not a good contrast. So, you’re making the average user do more work and then you’re breaking compliance.
Yeah, it’s all good advice too. I mean, none of it would be bad. I know for a long time there was a trend to make links not look like links and I was certainly guilty of that too, before ADA compliance became more of a thing. But to take the underline off, and so you’d only have to hover over a link to maybe tell that it was a link. It’s okay to have text links be underlined. It’s fine. The early days of the web were all that anyway. It’s good to recognize what links are, so, don’t be afraid to add the underlying back in. Don’t just rely on the color. I know it offends some people’s personal aesthetics, but work on the medium that you’re in, form [inaudible 00:04:07] function.
Absolutely. Aaron, what about you? What have you seen that’s a no go?
One thing for me personally still is just hidden text, so, putting stuff under accordions. There’s definitely a time and a place for it, but it’s still making the user do more work to find that text. And Google has changed their language on this a bit to say that, especially as we’ve gone to mobile first, that it’s okay to hide some text. They understand that you need to do it on mobile. But in the SEO community, we still see that text that’s hidden performs at a lower level than text isn’t. So, that text that is visible when the page loads and that’s more of an SEO thing. But it’s something we’ve seen really, really big results time after time again, when we display text on load, instead of having it hidden behind an accordion or a tab or something along those lines. So, that’s one that I still think is really important. And to, as we’re looking at web design, find ways to include that text on the page.
Yeah. I mean, it’s a balance. You don’t want to have everything out from behind the accordion where you have to scroll, scroll, scroll forever and have a hard time finding it. But if it’s nested behind those accordions, it’s difficult to find in addition. So, we’ve seen sometimes it’s better to take those and split them off into their own section or their own page. So, you don’t have to choose either. It’s like if we had to go hunting for this, then maybe we should just show someone where it is.
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And there is a balance there, it’s not a black and white thing. And I’m not going to argue that it is, but if it’s important, I would display it, make it really easy to find.
My counterpoint, not really a counterpoint, I agree with everything that both of you said, but if, for instance, the page, we just did a page recently that was mobile first that was being loaded through the client’s app. So, it’s not SEO appropriate, it’s mobile only, and there was a ton of information we had to use accordions. And that is an instance where it works really well. Accordions are toggles, whatever nomenclature you want to use. I prefer toggles because you can open up more than one. Accordions are kind of stuck with opening only one at a time, but that’s an instance where it might be appropriate to use. And I’m talking, it was about 18 sections, so, quite a bit. And again, this was a page that lives on their site that is referenced on their app, but not in their site map. It’s turned to no index, no follow. You cannot view it outside of that on a desktop.
Yeah. So, the requirements, both the requirements and use are completely different than your typical FAQ section that somebody needs to go find an answer, versus like you mentioned using it from the app, even though it lives on site.
And a lot of FAQ sections are built through QIC research, understanding what users are asking and optimizing around keywords. So, in those, if we can, because there is a balance and if there’s a lot, it does make sense at times to go to that accordion. But if we can, that’s the situation where we’d avoid it. Where in Max’s instance, definitely a positive user experience move to use the toggles there.
Yeah. And I would say between six and 10, if we’re talking FAQ specifically. Any more than that, I would maybe start suggesting we either need to break this up or split it up into its own section or something like that. But between six to 10 questions, I think that’s pretty reasonable on a page, I think, depending on how long the answers are.
Yeah, that has a big role in it too. If it’s concise answers, then yeah, I’d say that’s pretty reasonable.
And or you can solve a bunch of other ways, like referencing other full blog articles or using a chat support to actually walk someone through solving the issue. There’s just other options. It’s a lengthy FAQ.
Max, you mentioned a few things as we were talking before. You’ve seen it all, so share. These are not [crosstalk 00:08:29] we’ve seen online.
Seen it all. Yeah, I can’t think of anything specific. I mean, trends throughout the years, I mean, we’ve gone all the way from full animated sites using Macromedia/Adobe Flash, where it’s all built into a movie, one page, this one index at HTML and then your site lives in this movie, versus going to web standards. Versus now, with the rise of, I shouldn’t say the rise, jQuery’s been around for a while, but we’re seeing a lot more animation and text were just elements on the page that maybe don’t need to have that.
I recently came across a site that we were talking to that every text element, every paragraph had some animation on it to the point where it was very annoying to just even get any information off of the site. You don’t need to do that. And so, animation’s always one where it goes in cycles, where like I was saying, late 90s, early 2000s, there was a lot of animation. We got back to best practices, got back to web standards, and then now we’re seeing the rise of animation again.
And I mean, yeah, it’s cool, but not everything has to have animation to it. I mean the most important thing is it goes back to the ADA compliance. Can I find what I need? Can I read it quickly? Can I get to that information quickly? Anything that gets in the way of that is poor UX.
On the SEO side, what are some more no gos? I know we’ve talked about site maps before.
Yeah. I’m trying to think from a web design perspective. I’m trying to think off the top of my head. I guess this one can be considered directly SEO, traditionally, but Max and I were talking about this ahead of the podcast, the home made background videos and how much that slows down the load and the site and how much of an impact that actually does have on SEO now.
Yeah, the trade off.
Yeah. That’s a big user experience thing to have a slow site, but Google really cares about page speed and load times now because they know people care about it too. So, that was definitely something we touched on ahead of this.
Yeah. The video background, we still get requests for it and I always plead with them, this isn’t going to help. You’d be better off taking this money that you’re going to use to make a video in the background of a header or a hero image, and actually make like a real honest of goodness brand view that you can load in YouTube or another video player that can help you with your marketing. And you can add that to the page. I think you’re just better off. Again, we’re starting to see a retreat from the whiz-bang, can we do it, versus now, should we do it, because you’re starting to see negative SEO impacts on these things.
Yeah. I think that’s a great example where there is a trade off. It impacts page speed, loading time. So, if you were here in the studio, I would imagine you guys on opposite sides of the table. But I think in problem solving, thinking through how we help our clients figure out, and through the design and SEO planning process, how does this look and what’s the purpose of it, then you can solve it in a way that meets both. You don’t have to choose a super sexy design or a terrible design, but it pleases Google, because at the end of the day, you have to please the users. That’s what pleases Google and follow Google’s best practice, or you’re not going to find any users.
Right, yeah. And I think this ties into another thing, Max, where I was just thinking, those background videos don’t translate super well over to mobile.
No, they don’t at all. We turn them off. I mean, most places turn it off. There is some software that you can work around it, but yeah, it’s a very poor mobile experience. I mean, if you’re just on cell service in the middle of wherever, trying to just get some information in this background video, it keeps trying to load, you’re going to lose them. I mean, again, it’s just good UX on top of SEO. I mean, I’m happy that Google’s penalizing it now, because that seems to be the only way people will listen to it, what we say. It’s like, this isn’t good for your site. Google doesn’t like it, and then they’re, “Oh, okay.” It gets a little bit more cache.
Yeah. And that kind of ties into another thing with people just neglecting mobile at times, in the way they design sites. What are some of the things you’re seeing there, Max?
And in case you don’t know from our previous episodes, you cannot neglect mobile.
It’s now a mobile first index. And not to mention, it’s a mobile first index anyways, because people are using mobile for the majority of sites. I get that there’s some exclusionary industries that, yes, are primarily desktop. That’s okay. But please design and use and plan for mobile.
Yeah. We’ve even run into those few clients that tell us that nobody looks at our site on mobile. They’re like, “Well, Google does.”
Or if your customers are going to a trade show.
Yeah, yeah. We’re going to optimize it. It might not be as good as if we were doing it first, but it’s still going to be comparable. Lately it’s been the opposite or we get lip serviced. We really want this to be mobile first, but everything that they want changed is desktop related. And that’s just the nature of the beast. Specifically, just working with clients, it’s a work day. They’re in front of their computer and that’s just what they see and that’s what they react to first. So, just be sure to always check mobile, make sure whatever you’re using to build your site is working in mobile, working in a responsive design, and preferably, that’s being done first, but you should pay attention to all of it. It’s all important. It’s all gets back to user experience.
I’d say one thing I’ve noticed on mobile at times is a hero area on the homepage or any page really, that it looks good on desktop. And it’s a cool design, kind of like a bold way to start the page, but it doesn’t say anything itself. And when that loads on mobile, users are not getting any context with having to scroll down the page.
Yeah. They have to scroll a full thumb length to get like, “Oh, there we go.”
Right. So, that’s one thing for me that stands out as a bad user experience, where if you’re thinking desktop first, you’re really missing out on something on mobile to where we’d prefer to have some context, a little bit of intro text, and a call to action up there in that hero area. Even on mobile so that people can take action without having to do work or at least get enough context to know they’re at the right place, because really any page could be a landing page, and I think people forget that too. I think a lot of people who are in their site every day think maybe-
Homepage, homepage, homepage.
… coming through the homepage and when they’re navigating somewhere, they understand the context of where they’re going, but really any page can be a landing page. So, you have to create that positive experience immediately.
Yeah. So, like weaving throughout the site, those calls to actions or those ties back to walking someone through their customer journey. Maybe they need a question answered now and we should introduce a contact form or maybe we can help them self serve by sending them to FAQs. It’s not just, like to your point, coming in on the homepage and then we navigate to the product section and then we do contact. It’s not so linear always.
And maybe coming back multiple times on top of that.
Awesome. Any other do not do warnings?
What do you got, Aaron?
One thing we talked about a little bit was just copy on the site. So, there’s kind of two different mistakes that can be made is copy that’s written without any design in mind. And all of that is left up to the designer to try to figure out how to break up massive text blocks and make it work in a design and make it a good user experience where people can get through it. And then, Max, you had a different take on that as well.
Where design comes first, the text is being treated as just another element on the page to be moved around and not really read through or understanding the context of what the text is trying to get across. I’ve seen it both ways. And me, personally, I would rather have all of the texts up front and then I can design around that. But I also have a good understanding of how to break up text and how to get the points that they want to get across through the design so that there’s a balance there.
But a lot of times I’ve seen, especially in young designers where the text is maybe like a 30% gray and so you can’t read it. I mean, but it looks cool if you step away from it, but if you try to read it, it’s impossible. And so, not treating it like another design element, but treating text as text, and actually reading through it and giving it as proper due and understanding how typography works and how that’s going to affect the customers and the user experience.
Yeah. And from my perspective, having a content SEO and then a user experience background, if I’m thinking about text or writing copy, it’s important for me to think through the ways it can be utilized and designed and its function on a page. And I think that goes a long way, and really knowing what should be emphasized, and being able to communicate that too, with designers that this is a section I really want to stand out and this to be maybe a conversion point or something along those lines. So, on the other side of that too, I think that’s a really important part of the process if you truly want the copy and the design to work seamlessly together.
And I think I’ve seen this play out many different ways, some better than others, but for example, when you’re writing, your H1 is typically the main starting point. But then in design we’ve seen it get lost, whether it’s like, H1 is tiny and then there’s this big H2 and you’re like, that’s not what we were emphasizing, then we need to work this backwards. Well, one of two ways, we need to decide if the design and the layout’s more important in this and we are working our content around that, or more often than not, we’re like, “Hey, no, this is what’s supposed to be emphasized.”
And that’s a classic separation of content from presentation. So, what we’ll see is someone using an H2, cause the default size of the H2 or the H6 or whatever looks better in that design than how it should be structured from an SEO perspective, where you have H1 is first, H2, the second, H3, third, and it breaks down that way. And I always tell people, we can change how that looks through CSS. If you want to deemphasize your H1, like, okay, I recognize that the H1 on this page is important, but I don’t want that to be the most important thing on this page. I’m like, that’s fine. Visually, we can deemphasize it. But contextually, in the markup, in the HTML markup, it’s still very important, has the same amount of SEO weight as it would ordinarily.
Yeah. Thanks for clarifying that. So, let’s not confuse search engines just by manipulating the way it looks in design.
Yeah, through which header you choose. And yeah, that’s definitely something we’ve seen a lot over the years.
It goes through cycles.
Yeah. And then one of the big issues that comes from that is often multiple H1s, which gets really confusing for search engines. The other tags, H2s, H3s, you definitely want to create the hierarchy so it’s more of an outline. So, Google can go through and figure out the structure of a page. But multiple H1s, I think to me is one of the biggest issues that can come from taking that approach.
We’ve seen a lot of the multiple H1s in portfolio type sites, where they’re displaying an array of work on the homepage. Each one of those, especially if we’re talking in the WordPress nomenclature, it’s pulling in a custom post type, a portfolio post type. And it’s displaying the title, but it’s pulling it in as an H1. And so, that’s an instance where your theme would need to be modified so it’s displaying H2s if they’re all being displayed on one page.
And another, at least right now, we’ll see what Google does with this. But another consequence of not having a clear H1 or a single H1 is just over the last couple weeks, and it’s a huge thing in the SEO world is Google has started using H1s as the titles they display and search quite a bit and ignoring what you want them to put there. And they’ve been using other things too, like H2s, or even like little snippets of paragraph text to put your title in the search results now. But the biggest change has been, or the most common thing they’ve done is start to use your H1 instead of your HTML title tag.
Because Google’s like, “Hey, you showed this to me on the page, you think this is the most important. And we know normally they’re hand in hand, but there have been some surprises we’re like, “Oh, thanks, Google. You think you know more.” And it is because we set it up that way.
Yeah. So, yeah, if you’re not using your headers in a structured way, you might get something really funky coming into search results and the consequence would be way lower click through rates. So, people would see something they don’t expect, based on the search that they performed. And then from there-
Just lose ranking.
…you lose your click through rate, and then probably ranking after that.
Thanks. Well, thank you guys for walking us through all these things we should not do. For things we should do, go back, listen to some of our earlier episodes, of course. So, be sure to like, rate, review, subscribe to our podcast. We get new episodes twice a month and they drop every other Wednesday. So, happy to have you guys back. Thanks again.
Great to be back.
Great to be back, Meghan. Thank you.
I’ve Heard That is a part of the Hurrdat Media Network. For more information, follow Hurrdat on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram, or visit hurrdatmarketing.com.
Speaker 4 (24:40):
A Hurrdat Media production.
Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster
Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.
Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update
On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.
Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete. We have also extended our advice for product review creators: https://t.co/N4rjJWoaqE
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) December 1, 2021
The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.
A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:
“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.
Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.
Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”
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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.
The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.
The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.
The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.
Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update
Product Review Update Targets More Languages?
The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.
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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.
This is his question:
“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.
So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.
…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”
John Mueller answered:
“I don’t know… like other languages?
My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.
But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.
But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.
I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.
But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.
And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.
So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.
But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”
Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?
While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.
Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.
One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.
It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.
Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update
Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines
John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global
Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark
Survey says: Amazon, Google more trusted with your personal data than Apple is
MacRumors reveals that more people feel better with their personal data in the hands of Amazon and Google than Apple’s. Companies that the public really doesn’t trust when it comes to their personal data include Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.
The survey asked over 1,000 internet users in the U.S. how much they trusted certain companies such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon to handle their user data and browsing activity responsibly.
Amazon and Google are considered by survey respondents to be more trustworthy than Apple
Those surveyed were asked whether they trusted these firms with their personal data “a great deal,” “a good amount,” “not much,” or “not at all.” Respondents could also answer that they had no opinion about a particular company. 18% of those polled said that they trust Apple “a great deal” which topped the 14% received by Google and Amazon.
Amazon and Google are more trusted than Apple is with consumer’s personal data according to a survey
However, 39% said that they trust Amazon by “a good amount” with Google picking up 34% of the votes in that same category. Only 26% of those answering said that they trust Apple by “a good amount.” The first two responses, “a great deal” and “a good amount,” are considered positive replies for a company. “Not much” and “not at all” are considered negative responses.
By adding up the scores in the positive categories,
Apple tallied a score of 44% (18% said it trusted Apple with its personal data “a great deal” while 26% said it trusted Apple “a good amount”). But that placed the tech giant third after Amazon’s 53% and Google’s 48%. After Apple, Microsoft finished fourth with 43%, YouTube (which is owned by Google) was fifth with 35%, and Facebook was sixth at 20%.
Rounding out the remainder of the nine firms in the survey, Instagram placed seventh with a positive score of 19%, WhatsApp was eighth with a score of 15%, and TikTok was last at 12%.
Looking at the scoring for the two negative responses (“not much,” or “not at all”), Facebook had a combined negative score of 72% making it the least trusted company in the survey. TikTok was next at 63% with Instagram following at 60%. WhatsApp and YouTube were both in the middle of the pact at 53% followed next by Google and Microsoft at 47% and 42% respectively. Apple and Amazon each had the lowest combined negative scores at 40% each.
74% of those surveyed called targeted online ads invasive
The survey also found that a whopping 82% of respondents found targeted online ads annoying and 74% called them invasive. Just 27% found such ads helpful. This response doesn’t exactly track the 62% of iOS users who have used Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature to opt-out of being tracked while browsing websites and using apps. The tracking allows third-party firms to send users targeted ads online which is something that they cannot do to users who have opted out.
The 38% of iOS users who decided not to opt out of being tracked might have done so because they find it convenient to receive targeted ads about a certain product that they looked up online. But is ATT actually doing anything?
Marketing strategy consultant Eric Seufert said last summer, “Anyone opting out of tracking right now is basically having the same level of data collected as they were before. Apple hasn’t actually deterred the behavior that they have called out as being so reprehensible, so they are kind of complicit in it happening.”
The Financial Times says that iPhone users are being lumped together by certain behaviors instead of unique ID numbers in order to send targeted ads. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg says that the company is working to rebuild its ad infrastructure “using more aggregate or anonymized data.”
Aggregated data is a collection of individual data that is used to create high-level data. Anonymized data is data that removes any information that can be used to identify the people in a group.
When consumers were asked how often do they think that their phones or other tech devices are listening in to them in ways that they didn’t agree to, 72% answered “very often” or “somewhat often.” 28% responded by saying “rarely” or “never.”
Entireweb Articles – Read the latest Articles and News in Search Engine related world!
Google’s John Mueller on Brand Mentions via @sejournal, @martinibuster
What’s A Brand Mention?
A brand mention is when one website mentions another website. There is an idea in the SEO community that when a website mentions another website’s domain name or URL that Google will see this and count it the same as a link.
Brand Mentions are also known as an implied link. Much was written about this ten years ago after a Google patent that mentions “implied links” surfaced.
There has never been a solid review of why the idea of “brand mentions” has nothing to do with this patent, but I’ll provide a shortened version later in this article.
John Mueller Discussing Brand Mentions
Do Brand Mentions Help With Rankings?
The person asking the question wanted to know about brand mentions for the purpose of ranking. The person asking the question has good reason to ask it because the idea of “brand mentions” has never been definitively reviewed.
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The person asked the question:
“Do brand mentions without a link help with SEO rankings?”
Google Does Not Use Brand Mentions
Google’s John Mueller answered that Google does not use the “brand mentions” for any link related purpose.
“From my point of view, I don’t think we use those at all for things like PageRank or understanding the link graph of a website.
And just a plain mention is sometimes kind of tricky to figure out anyway.”
That part about it being tricky is interesting.
He didn’t elaborate on why it’s tricky until later in the video where he says it’s hard to understand the subjective context of a website mentioning another website.
Brand Mentions Are Useful For Building Awareness
Mueller next says that brand mentions may be useful for helping to get the word out about a site, which is about building popularity.
“But it can be something that makes people aware of your brand, and from that point of view, could be something where indirectly you might have some kind of an effect from that in that they search for your brand and then …obviously, if they’re searching for your brand then hopefully they find you right away and then they can go to your website.
And if they like what they see there, then again, they can go off and recommend that to other people as well.”
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“Brand Mentions” Are Problematic
Later on at the 58 minute mark another person brings the topic back up and asks how Google could handle spam sites that are mentioning a brand in a negative way.
The person said that one can disavow links but one cannot disavow a “brand mention.”
Mueller agreed and said that’s one of things that makes brand mentions difficult to use for ranking purposes.
John Mueller explained:
“Kind of understanding the almost the subjective context of the mention is really hard.
Is it like a positive mention or a negative mention?
Is it a sarcastic positive mention or a sarcastic negative mention? How can you even tell?
And all of that, together with the fact that there are lots of spammy sites out there and sometimes they just spin content, sometimes they’re malicious with regards to the content that they create…
All of that, I think, makes it really hard to say we can just use that as the same as a link.
…It’s just, I think, too confusing to use as a clear signal.”
Where “Brand Mentions” Come From
The idea of “brand mentions” has bounced around for over ten years.
There were no research papers or patents to support it. “Brand mentions” is literally an idea that someone invented out of thin air.
However the “brand mention” idea took off in 2012 when a patent surfaced that seemed to confirm the idea of brand mentions.
There’s a whole long story to this so I’m just going to condense it.
There’s a patent from 2012 that was misinterpreted in several different ways because most people at the time, myself included, did not read the entire patent from beginning to end.
The patent itself is about ranking web pages.
The structure of most Google patents consist of introductory paragraphs that discuss what the patent is about and those paragraphs are followed by pages of in-depth description of the details.
The introductory paragraphs that explain what it’s about states:
“Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs… for ranking search results.”
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Pretty much nobody read that beginning part of the patent.
Everyone focused on a single paragraph in the middle of the patent (page 9 out of 16 pages).
In that paragraph there is a mention of something called “implied links.”
The word “implied” is only mentioned four times in the entire patent and all four times are contained within that single paragraph.
So when this patent was discovered, the SEO industry focused on that single paragraph as proof that Google uses brand mentions.
In order to understand what an “implied link” is, you have to scroll all the way back up to the opening paragraphs where the Google patent authors describe something called a “reference query” that is not a link but is nevertheless used for ranking purposes just like a link.
What Is A Reference Query?
A reference query is a search query that contains a reference to a URL or a domain name.
The patent states:
“A reference query for a particular group of resources can be a previously submitted search query that has been categorized as referring to a resource in the particular group of resources.”
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Elsewhere the patent provides a more specific explanation:
“A query can be classified as referring to a particular resource if the query includes a term that is recognized by the system as referring to the particular resource.
…search queries including the term “example.com” can be classified as referring to that home page.”
The summary of the patent, which comes at the beginning of the document, states that it’s about establishing which links to a website are independent and also counting reference queries and with that information creating a “modification factor” which is used to rank web pages.
“…determining, for each of the plurality of groups of resources, a respective count of reference queries; determining, for each of the plurality of groups of resources, a respective group-specific modification factor, wherein the group-specific modification factor for each group is based on the count of independent links and the count of reference queries for the group;”
The entire patent largely rests on those two very important factors, a count of independent inbound links and the count of reference queries. The phrases reference query and reference queries are used 39 times in the patent.
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As noted above, the reference query is used for ranking purposes like a link, but it’s not a link.
The patent states:
“An implied link is a reference to a target resource…”
It’s clear that in this patent, when it mentions the implied link, it’s talking about reference queries, which as explained above simply means when people search using keywords and the domain name of a website.
Idea of Brand Mentions Is False
The whole idea of “brand mentions” became a part of SEO belief systems because of how that patent was misinterpreted.
But now you have the facts and know why “brand mentions” is not real thing.
Plus John Mueller confirmed it.
“Brand mentions” is something completely random that someone in the SEO community invented out of thin air.
Watch John Mueller discuss “brand mentions” at 44:10 Minute Mark and the brand Mentions second part begins at the 58:12 minute mark
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