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Why Content Is Important for SEO

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Why Content Is Important for SEO

At their best, they form a bond that can catapult any website to the top of search engine rankings.

But that’s only when they’re at their best. Because, when they’re at their worst, they can cause Google penalties that are near impossible to recover from.

The purpose of this chapter is simple; to provide you with an understanding of why content is important for SEO and show you what you can do to make sure they work together in harmony.

As we dive in, we’ll gain a better understanding of what content means, what its SEO value is, and how to go about creating optimized content that lands you on the search engine radar.

Let’s get started.

What ‘Content’ Means

Providing an exact definition for content, and one that is agreed upon by all marketers would be near impossible.

But, while it is a challenge, TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden gathered some definitions of content from marketers around the world that give us a solid starting point.

Actionable marketer Heidi Cohen describes content as:

“High quality, useful information that conveys a story presented in a contextually relevant manner with the goal of soliciting an emotion or engagement. Delivered live or asynchronously, content can be expressed using a variety of formats including text, images, video, audio, and/or presentations.”

While Cohen’s description is right on point, it’s important to understand that content found online isn’t always high quality and useful.

There’s a lot of bad content out there that doesn’t come close to providing any type of relevancy or usefulness to the reader.

In a more simplified but similar definition, Social Triggers founder Derek Halpern says:

“Content comes in any form (audio, text, video), and it informs, entertains, enlightens, or teaches the people who consume it.”

Once again, Halpern is describing content that is, at the very least, relevant and useful to its intended audience.

If we avoid a description of “quality” content, we can take a more direct approach by looking at the dozens of different types of digital content.

At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what content is while also understanding some of the different formats where it can be presented.

But what exactly is its value to SEO, and why is it so important that the two work together?

What Is the SEO Value of Content?

Google, the king of search engines, processes over 6.7 billion searches per day.

And since we’re talking about search engine optimization, that means they’re pretty well suited to answer this question.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin co-founded Google in 1998 with a mission:

Google's mission

That mission remains the same today. The way in which they organize that information, however, has changed quite a bit over the years.

Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving in an effort to deliver, as they say, “…useful and relevant results in a fraction of a second.”

The “useful and relevant results” that Google is attempting to deliver are the pieces of content that are available throughout the web.

These pieces of content are ranked by their order of usefulness and relevancy to the user performing the search.

And that means, in order for your content to have any SEO value at all, it needs to be beneficial to searchers.

How do you make sure it’s beneficial? Google helps us with that answer too.

Their recommendation is that, as you begin creating content, make sure it’s:

Why Content Is Important for SEO

When these elements are in place, you maximize the potential of the SEO value of your content. Without them, however, your content will have very little value.

But, creating great content isn’t the only piece of the puzzle. There’s a technical side that you need to be aware of as well.

While we’ll talk about that later in this chapter, Maddy Osman put together a comprehensive resource on How to Evaluate the SEO Value of a Piece of Content that further elaborates on the topic.

For now, we can conclude that the SEO value of content depends on how useful, informative, valuable, credible, and engaging it is.

The Importance of Optimizing Content

The reason optimized content is important is simple… you won’t rank in search engines without it.

But, as we’ve already touched on briefly, it’s important to understand that there are multiple factors at play here.

On one side, you have content creation.

Optimizing content during creation is done by ensuring that your content is audience-centric and follows the recommendations laid out in the previous section.

But what does audience-centric mean, and how does it differ from other types of content?

Audience-centric simply means that you’re focusing on what audiences want to hear rather than what you want to talk about.

And, as we’ve identified, producing useful and relevant content is the name of the game if you’re looking to rank in search engines.

On the other side of the optimization equation is the technical stuff.

This involves factors like keywords, meta titles, meta descriptions, and URLs.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about next as we dive into how to actually create optimized content.

How to Create Optimized Content

When attempting to create optimized content, there are a few steps that we need to follow.

They include:

1. Perform Keyword Research & Determine Your Topic

While we’ve already identified that your main goal should be to create audience-centric content, keyword research is necessary to ensure that the resulting content can be found through search engines.

A few things to keep in mind when choosing your keywords and topic:

  • Focus on Long-Tail Keywords
  • Avoid Highly Competitive Keywords With Massive Search Numbers
  • Use a Proven Keyword Research Tool
  • Match Your Topic to Your Keyword

2. Develop Your Outline & Format for Optimal Readability

As you’re creating your outline, be sure that you’re formatting your core content so that it’s broken down into small chunks.

Online readers have incredibly short attention spans. And they’re not going to stick around if your article is just one ginormous paragraph.

It’s best to stick with paragraphs that are 1-2 sentences in length, although it’s all right if they stretch to 3-4 shorter sentences.

You’ll also want to be sure that you’re inserting sub-headers and/or visuals every 150-300 words to break up the content even further.

As you can see from the graph below, website engagement impacts organic rankings.

Time on Site vs. Organic Position graph

And, if you want to increase engagement, readability is crucial.

Example of Properly Formatted Content

Here’s an example of a page that is formatted for optimal readability:

Example of properly formatted content

As you can see, most of the paragraphs are only a sentence or two long.

The text is also broken up using subheadings every 100-200 words.

Example of Poorly Formatted Content

On the other end of the spectrum, here’s an example of a post that’s likely to send readers away directly:

Example of poorly formatted content

In this post, the content itself is fine. The problem is the extremely long sentences and paragraphs.

With better formatting, the author could easily increase visitors’ average time on site.

3. Stick to Your Topic & Target Keyword

As you begin writing your content, keep in mind the importance of sticking to the topic, and target keyword that you’ve chosen.

Don’t try to write about everything and anything within a single piece of content. And don’t try to target dozens of keywords.

Doing so is not only a huge waste of time, but it also prevents you from creating the most “useful and relevant” content on your topic.

Focus on what you’ve chosen as your topic and stay hyper-relevant to that topic and the keyword that supports it.

Brian Harnish’s Local SEO Guide for Beginners is a great example of an author staying hyper-relevant to a specific topic and keyword.

Just by looking at his title, the topic and target keyword are immediately clear.

And, due to this focus, Harnish’s guide ranks on the first page of Google for the phrase ‘local SEO guide.’

Hyper-relevant to topic and keyword example

4. Include Backlinks Throughout Your Content

If you read the local SEO guide, you’ll notice that Harnish includes several links to external sites.

Since Google has made it clear that credibility is an important SEO factor, linking to relevant, trustworthy, and authoritative sites can help ensure that search engines see your content as credible.

Be sure, however, that the words you’re using for the link are actually relevant to the site the user will be sent to.

For example, take a look at this sentence:

“You need to understand how to create a compelling headline for your content.”

If you were to link to a resource showing the reader how to create compelling headlines, you’d want to link the bolded portion shown below:

“You need to understand how to create a compelling headline for your content.”

In most cases, it’s recommended that you keep your links to six words or fewer.

How to Optimize Your Content Once It’s Created

Now onto the “technical” part of content optimization.

The most important steps include optimizing the following:

  • Title Tag
  • Meta Description
  • URL

Let’s take a look at how to complete each step.

1. How to Optimize Your Title Tag

When a user performs a search, the title tag is the clickable headline that they see at the top of each result.

For reference, it’s the highlighted portion in the image below:

Optimized title tag in search results

Title tags are important for a few reasons. First and foremost, they help search engines understand what your page is about.

In addition, they can be a determining factor for which search result a user chooses.

To optimize your title tag, you’ll want to be sure of the following:

  • Keep it under 60 characters.
  • Don’t stuff multiple keywords into the title.
  • Be specific about what the content is about.
  • Place target keywords at the beginning.

The example above is a good one.

Here’s an example of a tag that fails to follow these guidelines:

poorly optimized title tag

The difference between the two is clear, and it shows the importance of optimizing your title tags.

2. How to Optimize Your Meta Description

Your meta description is the small snippet of text that appears under the title tag and URL.

When performing a search, it’s the section that’s circled below:

Optimized meta description

While Google has said that meta descriptions don’t have a direct impact on rankings, they do affect whether a user clicks on your page.

And click-through rate can have an indirect impact on rankings as well.

As far as meta description best practices, you should:

  • Keep it under 160 characters.
  • Provide a short, specific overview of what the content is about.
  • Include relevant keywords (they will be highlighted when a user sees search results).

The example above shows a well put together description. Here’s an example of one that could use some work:

poorly optimized meta description

3. How to Optimize Your URL

Your URL structure is another component of SEO that has an indirect impact on rankings, as it can be a factor that determines whether a user clicks on your content.

Readability is most important here, as it ensures that search users aren’t scared off by long and mysterious URLs.

The image below provides a great example of how URL readability can affect the way a user sees results.

Scale of url readability

So, Why is Content Important for SEO?

The answer?

Because when content is optimized, it drastically improves your visibility.

And without visibility and exposure, your content is just another one of the millions of articles that are posted every day on the web.

Nobody sees it.

Nobody shares it.

Nobody does anything with it.

But it’s actually easy to get visible when you know what to do.

Sometimes, it can be the difference of something as small as writing optimized, unique meta descriptions for all your pages to send a huge visibility boost to Google.

If you want visibility and exposure, you have to commit yourself to the grind of consistently creating optimized content.


Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita

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Ranking Factors & The Myths We Found

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Ranking Factors & The Myths We Found

Yandex is the search engine with the majority of market share in Russia and the fourth-largest search engine in the world.

On January 27, 2023, it suffered what is arguably one of the largest data leaks that a modern tech company has endured in many years – but is the second leak in less than a decade.

In 2015, a former Yandex employee attempted to sell Yandex’s search engine code on the black market for around $30,000.

The initial leak in January this year revealed 1,922 ranking factors, of which more than 64% were listed as unused or deprecated (superseded and best avoided).

This leak was just the file labeled kernel, but as the SEO community and I delved deeper, more files were found that combined contain approximately 17,800 ranking factors.

When it comes to practicing SEO for Yandex, the guide I wrote two years ago, for the most part, still applies.

Yandex, like Google, has always been public with its algorithm updates and changes, and in recent years, how it has adopted machine learning.

Notable updates from the past two-three years include:

  • Vega (which doubled the size of the index).
  • Mimicry (penalizing fake websites impersonating brands).
  • Y1 update (introducing YATI).
  • Y2 update (late 2022).
  • Adoption of IndexNow.
  • A fresh rollout and assumed update of the PF filter.

On a personal note, this data leak is like a second Christmas.

Since January 2020, I’ve run an SEO news website as a hobby dedicated to covering Yandex SEO and search news in Russia with 600+ articles, so this is probably the peak event of the hobby site.

I’ve also spoken twice at the Optimization conference – the largest SEO conference in Russia.

This is also a good test to see how closely Yandex’s public statements match the codebase secrets.

In 2019, working with Yandex’s PR team, I was able to interview engineers in their Search team and ask a number of questions sourced from the wider Western SEO community.

You can read the interview with the Yandex Search team here.

Whilst Yandex is primarily known for its presence in Russia, the search engine also has a presence in Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Georgia.

The data leak was believed to be politically motivated and the actions of a rogue employee, and contains a number of code fragments from Yandex’s monolithic repository, Arcadia.

Within the 44GB of leaked data, there’s information relating to a number of Yandex products including Search, Maps, Mail, Metrika, Disc, and Cloud.

What Yandex Has Had To Say

As I write this post (January 31st, 2023), Yandex has publicly stated that:

the contents of the archive (leaked code base) correspond to the outdated version of the repository – it differs from the current version used by our services

And:

It is important to note that the published code fragments also contain test algorithms that were used only within Yandex to verify the correct operation of the services.

So, how much of this code base is actively used is questionable.

Yandex has also revealed that during its investigation and audit, it found a number of errors that violate its own internal principles, so it is likely that portions of this leaked code (that are in current use) may be changing in the near future.

Factor Classification

Yandex classifies its ranking factors into three categories.

This has been outlined in Yandex’s public documentation for some time, but I feel is worth including here, as it better helps us understand the ranking factor leak.

  • Static factors – Factors that are related directly to the website (e.g. inbound backlinks, inbound internal links, headers, and ads ratio).
  • Dynamic factors – Factors that are related to both the website and the search query (e.g. text relevance, keyword inclusions, TF*IDF).
  • User search-related factors – Factors relating to the user query (e.g. where is the user located, query language, and intent modifiers).

The ranking factors in the document are tagged to match the corresponding category, with TG_STATIC and TG_DYNAMIC, and then TG_QUERY_ONLY, TG_QUERY, TG_USER_SEARCH, and TG_USER_SEARCH_ONLY.

Yandex Leak Learnings So Far

From the data thus far, below are some of the affirmations and learnings we’ve been able to make.

There is so much data in this leak, it is very likely that we will be finding new things and making new connections in the next few weeks.

These include:

  • PageRank (a form of).
  • At some point Yandex utilized TF*IDF.
  • Yandex still uses meta keywords, which are also highlighted in its documentation.
  • Yandex has specific factors for medical, legal, and financial topics (YMYL).
  • It also uses a form of page quality scoring, but this is known (ICS score).
  • Links from high-authority websites have an impact on rankings.
  • There’s nothing new to suggest Yandex can crawl JavaScript yet outside of already publicly documented processes.
  • Server errors and excessive 4xx errors can impact ranking.
  • The time of day is taken into consideration as a ranking factor.

Below, I’ve expanded on some other affirmations and learnings from the leak.

Where possible, I’ve also tied these leaked ranking factors to the algorithm updates and announcements that relate to them, or where we were told about them being impactful.

MatrixNet

MatrixNet is mentioned in a few of the ranking factors and was announced in 2009, and then superseded in 2017 by Catboost, which was rolled out across the Yandex product sphere.

This further adds validity to comments directly from Yandex, and one of the factor authors DenPlusPlus (Den Raskovalov), that this is, in fact, an outdated code repository.

MatrixNet was originally introduced as a new, core algorithm that took into consideration thousands of ranking factors and assigned weights based on the user location, the actual search query, and perceived search intent.

It is typically seen as an early version of Google’s RankBrain, when they are indeed two very different systems. MatrixNet was launched six years before RankBrain was announced.

MatrixNet has also been built upon, which isn’t surprising, given it is now 14 years old.

In 2016, Yandex introduced the Palekh algorithm that used deep neural networks to better match documents (webpages) and queries, even if they didn’t contain the right “levels” of common keywords, but satisfied the user intents.

Palekh was capable of processing 150 pages at a time, and in 2017 was updated with the Korolyov update, which took into account more depth of page content, and could work off 200,000 pages at once.

URL & Page-Level Factors

From the leak, we have learned that Yandex takes into consideration URL construction, specifically:

  • The presence of numbers in the URL.
  • The number of trailing slashes in the URL (and if they are excessive).
  • The number of capital letters in the URL is a factor.
Screenshot from author, January 2023

The age of a page (document age) and the last updated date are also important, and this makes sense.

As well as document age and last update, a number of factors in the data relate to freshness – particularly for news-related queries.

Yandex formerly used timestamps, specifically not for ranking purposes but “reordering” purposes, but this is now classified as unused.

Also in the deprecated column are the use of keywords in the URL. Yandex has previously measured that three keywords from the search query in the URL would be an “optimal” result.

Internal Links & Crawl Depth

Whilst Google has gone on the record to say that for its purposes, crawl depth isn’t explicitly a ranking factor, Yandex appears to have an active piece of code that dictates that URLs that are reachable from the homepage have a “higher” level of importance.

Yandex factorsScreenshot from author, January 2023

This mirrors John Mueller’s 2018 statement that Google gives “a little more weight” to pages found more than one click from the homepage.

The ranking factors also highlight a specific token weighting for webpages that are “orphans” within the website linking structure.

Clicks & CTR

In 2011, Yandex released a blog post talking about how the search engine uses clicks as part of its rankings and also addresses the desires of the SEO pros to manipulate the metric for ranking gain.

Specific click factors in the leak look at things like:

  • The ratio of the number of clicks on the URL, relative to all clicks on the search.
  • The same as above, but broken down by region.
  • How often do users click on the URL for the search?

Manipulating Clicks

Manipulating user behavior, specifically “click-jacking”, is a known tactic within Yandex.

Yandex has a filter, known as the PF filter, that actively seeks out and penalizes websites that engage in this activity using scripts that monitor IP similarities and then the “user actions” of those clicks – and the impact can be significant.

The below screenshot shows the impact on organic sessions (сессии) after being penalized for imitating user clicks.

Image Source: Russian Search NewsImage from Russian Search News, January 2023

User Behavior

The user behavior takeaways from the leak are some of the more interesting findings.

User behavior manipulation is a common SEO violation that Yandex has been combating for years. At the 2020 Optimization conference, then Head of Yandex Webmaster Tools Mikhail Slevinsky said the company is making good progress in detecting and penalizing this type of behavior.

Yandex penalizes user behavior manipulation with the same PF filter used to combat CTR manipulation.

Dwell Time

102 of the ranking factors contain the tag TG_USERFEAT_SEARCH_DWELL_TIME, and reference the device, user duration, and average page dwell time.

All but 39 of these factors are deprecated.

Yandex factorsScreenshot from author, January 2023

Bing first used the term Dwell time in a 2011 blog, and in recent years Google has made it clear that it doesn’t use dwell time (or similar user interaction signals) as ranking factors.

YMYL

YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) is a concept well-known within Google and is not a new concept to Yandex.

Within the data leak, there are specific ranking factors for medical, legal, and financial content that exist – but this was notably revealed in 2019 at the Yandex Webmaster conference when it announced the Proxima Search Quality Metric.

Metrika Data Usage

Six of the ranking factors relate to the usage of Metrika data for the purposes of ranking. However, one of them is tagged as deprecated:

  • The number of similar visitors from the YandexBar (YaBar/Ябар).
  • The average time spent on URLs from those same similar visitors.
  • The “core audience” of pages on which there is a Metrika counter [deprecated].
  • The average time a user spends on a host when accessed externally (from another non-search site) from a specific URL.
  • Average ‘depth’ (number of hits within the host) of a user’s stay on the host when accessed externally (from another non-search site) from a particular URL.
  • Whether or not the domain has Metrika installed.

In Metrika, user data is handled differently.

Unlike Google Analytics, there are a number of reports focused on user “loyalty” combining site engagement metrics with return frequency, duration between visits, and source of the visit.

For example, I can see a report in one click to see a breakdown of individual site visitors:

MetrikaScreenshot from Metrika, January 2023

Metrika also comes “out of the box” with heatmap tools and user session recording, and in recent years the Metrika team has made good progress in being able to identify and filter bot traffic.

With Google Analytics, there is an argument that Google doesn’t use UA/GA4 data for ranking purposes because of how easy it is to modify or break the tracking code – but with Metrika counters, they are a lot more linear, and a lot of the reports are unchangeable in terms of how the data is collected.

Impact Of Traffic On Rankings

Following on from looking at Metrika data as a ranking factor; These factors effectively confirm that direct traffic and paid traffic (buying ads via Yandex Direct) can impact organic search performance:

  • Share of direct visits among all incoming traffic.
  • Green traffic share (aka direct visits) – Desktop.
  • Green traffic share (aka direct visits) – Mobile.
  • Search traffic – transitions from search engines to the site.
  • Share of visits to the site not by links (set by hand or from bookmarks).
  • The number of unique visitors.
  • Share of traffic from search engines.

News Factors

There are a number of factors relating to “News”, including two that mention Yandex.News directly.

Yandex.News was an equivalent of Google News, but was sold to the Russian social network VKontakte in August 2022, along with another Yandex product “Zen”.

So, it’s not clear if these factors related to a product no longer owned or operated by Yandex, or to how news websites are ranked in “regular” search.

Backlink Importance

Yandex has similar algorithms to combat link manipulation as Google – and has since the Nepot filter in 2005.

From reviewing the backlink ranking factors and some of the specifics in the descriptions, we can assume that the best practices for building links for Yandex SEO would be to:

  • Build links with a more natural frequency and varying amounts.
  • Build links with branded anchor texts as well as use commercial keywords.
  • If buying links, avoid buying links from websites that have mixed topics.

Below is a list of link-related factors that can be considered affirmations of best practices:

  • The age of the backlink is a factor.
  • Link relevance based on topics.
  • Backlinks built from homepages carry more weight than internal pages.
  • Links from the top 100 websites by PageRank (PR) can impact rankings.
  • Link relevance based on the quality of each link.
  • Link relevance, taking into account the quality of each link, and the topic of each link.
  • Link relevance, taking into account the non-commercial nature of each link.
  • Percentage of inbound links with query words.
  • Percentage of query words in links (up to a synonym).
  • The links contain all the words of the query (up to a synonym).
  • Dispersion of the number of query words in links.

However, there are some link-related factors that are additional considerations when planning, monitoring, and analyzing backlinks:

  • The ratio of “good” versus “bad” backlinks to a website.
  • The frequency of links to the site.
  • The number of incoming SEO trash links between hosts.

The data leak also revealed that the link spam calculator has around 80 active factors that are taken into consideration, with a number of deprecated factors.

This creates the question as to how well Yandex is able to recognize negative SEO attacks, given it looks at the ratio of good versus bad links, and how it determines what a bad link is.

A negative SEO attack is also likely to be a short burst (high frequency) link event in which a site will unwittingly gain a high number of poor quality, non-topical, and potentially over-optimized links.

Yandex uses machine learning models to identify Private Blog Networks (PBNs) and paid links, and it makes the same assumption between link velocity and the time period they are acquired.

Typically, paid-for links are generated over a longer period of time, and these patterns (including link origin site analysis) are what the Minusinsk update (2015) was introduced to combat.

Yandex Penalties

There are two ranking factors, both deprecated, named SpamKarma and Pessimization.

Pessimization refers to reducing PageRank to zero and aligns with the expectations of severe Yandex penalties.

SpamKarma also aligns with assumptions made around Yandex penalizing hosts and individuals, as well as individual domains.

Onpage Advertising

There are a number of factors relating to advertising on the page, some of them deprecated (like the screenshot example below).

Yandex factorsScreenshot from author, January 2023

It’s not known from the description exactly what the thought process with this factor was, but it could be assumed that a high ratio of adverts to visible screen was a negative factor – much like how Google takes umbrage if adverts obfuscate the page’s main content, or are obtrusive.

Tying this back to known Yandex mechanisms, the Proxima update also took into consideration the ratio of useful and advertising content on a page.

Can We Apply Any Yandex Learnings To Google?

Yandex and Google are disparate search engines, with a number of differences, despite the tens of engineers who have worked for both companies.

Because of this fight for talent, we can infer that some of these master builders and engineers will have built things in a similar fashion (though not direct copies), and applied learnings from previous iterations of their builds with their new employers.

What Russian SEO Pros Are Saying About The Leak

Much like the Western world, SEO professionals in Russia have been having their say on the leak across the various Runet forums.

The reaction in these forums has been different to SEO Twitter and Mastodon, with a focus more on Yandex’s filters, and other Yandex products that are optimized as part of wider Yandex optimization campaigns.

It is also worth noting that a number of conclusions and findings from the data match what the Western SEO world is also finding.

Common themes in the Russian search forums:

  • Webmasters asking for insights into recent filters, such as Mimicry and the updated PF filter.
  • The age and relevance of some of the factors, due to author names no longer being at Yandex, and mentions of long-retired Yandex products.
  • The main interesting learnings are around the use of Metrika data, and information relating to the Crawler & Indexer.
  • A number of factors outline the usage of DSSM, which in theory was superseded by the release of Palekh in 2016. This was a search algorithm utilizing machine learning, announced by Yandex in 2016.
  • A debate around ICS scoring in Yandex, and whether or not Yandex may provide more traffic to a site and influence its own factors by doing so.

The leaked factors, particularly around how Yandex evaluates site quality, have also come under scrutiny.

There is a long-standing sentiment in the Russian SEO community that Yandex oftentimes favors its own products and services in search results ahead of other websites, and webmasters are asking questions like:

Why does it bother going to all this trouble, when it just nails its services to the top of the page anyway?

In loosely translated documents, these are referred to as the Sorcerers or Yandex Sorcerers. In Google, we’d call these search engine results pages (SERPs) features – like Google Hotels, etc.

In October 2022, Kassir (a Russian ticket portal) claimed ₽328m compensation from Yandex due to lost revenue, caused by the “discriminatory conditions” in which Yandex Sorcerers took the customer base away from the private company.

This is off the back of a 2020 class action in which multiple companies raised a case with the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) for anticompetitive promotion of its own services.

More resources:


Featured Image: FGC/Shutterstock



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Google Updates Search Console Video Indexing Report

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Google Updates Search Console Video Indexing Report

Google’s updated Search Console Video indexing report now includes daily video impressions and a sitemap filter feature.

  • Google has updated the Search Console Video indexing report to provide more comprehensive insights into video performance in search results.
  • The updated report includes daily video impressions, which are grouped by page, and a new sitemap filter feature to focus on the most important video pages.
  • These updates are part of Google’s ongoing efforts to help website owners and content creators understand and improve the visibility of their videos in search results.



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Bing Revamps Crawl System To Enhance Efficiency

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Bing Revamps Crawl System To Enhance Efficiency

According to a recent study by Bing, most websites have XML sitemaps, with the “lastmod” tag being the most critical component of these sitemaps.

The “lastmod” tag indicates the last time the webpages linked by the sitemap were modified and is used by search engines to determine how often to crawl a site and which pages to index.

However, the study also revealed that a significant number of “lastmod” values in XML sitemaps were set incorrectly, with the most prevalent issue being identical dates on all sitemaps.

Upon consulting with web admins, Microsoft discovered that the dates were set to the date of sitemap generation rather than content modification.

To address this issue, Bing is revamping its crawl scheduling stack to better utilize the information provided by the “lastmod” tag in sitemaps.

This will improve crawl efficiency by reducing unnecessary crawling of unchanged content and prioritizing recently updated content.

The improvements have already begun on a limited scale and are expected to roll out by June fully.

Additionally, Microsoft has updated sitemap.org for improved clarity by adding the following line:

“Note that the date must be set to the date the linked page was last modified, not when the sitemap is generated.”

How To Use The Lastmod Tag Correctly

To correctly set the “lastmod” tag in a sitemap, you should include it in the <url> tag for each page in the sitemap.

The date should be in W3C Datetime format, with the most commonly used formats being YYYY-MM-DD or YYYY-MM-DDThh:mm:ssTZD.

The date should reflect the last time the page was modified and should be updated regularly to ensure that search engines understand the relevance and frequency of updates.

Here’s an example code snippet:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″>

   <url>

      <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>

      <lastmod>2023-01-23</lastmod>      

   </url>

Google’s Advice: Use Lastmod Tag After Significant Changes Only

Google’s crawlers also utilize the “lastmod” tag, and the suggestions on using it by both major search engines are similar.

Google Search Advocate John Mueller recently discussed the lastmod tag in the January edition of Google’s office-hours Q&A sessions.

It’s worth noting that Google recommends only using the “lastmod” tag for substantial modifications, which was not mentioned in Microsoft’s blog post.

Changing the date in the lastmod tag after minor edits can be viewed as an attempt to manipulate search snippets.

In Summary

Microsoft’s recent study and efforts to improve the utilization of the “lastmod” tag in sitemaps will result in more efficient and effective webpage crawling.

Publishers are encouraged to regularly update their sitemaps and lastmod tags to ensure that their pages are correctly indexed and easily accessible by search engines.


Featured Image: mundissima/Shutterstock

Source: Microsoft



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