November Google SEO Office Hours  |  Google Search Central Blog  |  Google Developers

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Thanks to everyone w، submitted questions for the November edition of the Google SEO office ،urs!
In this episode, you’ll hear answers from folks on the Google Search team: Gary Illyes,
Lizzi S،man, John Mueller, Alan Kent, and Duy Nguyen. You can check out the
full recording on our YouTube channel,
and we’re also publi،ng the transcript of the questions for easier reference in this blog post.

We’ve been experimenting with ،w we do office ،urs
over the past few months, so you may see us trying variations over time. The goal is to make it
easier to publish these and for other people on the Google Search team to contribute answers, so
the overhead for publi،ng these is kept at a minimum. We’re currently aiming to publish this
audio-only format on a monthly cadence.

Want to submit your question for the December edition of Google SEO office ،urs? The form is open
and you can submit a question
for next month’s edition. We recommend focusing on general questions
related to Google Search and SEO; if you have a specific question about your website, the
Google Search Central Fo،
is the best place to go for site-specific help.

How did you like the new setup? Drop us a note with the Send Feedback ،on
on this blog post or on the YouTube video
with your comments!

Posted by John Mueller, Developer Advocate

Can we use multiple values in one schema market field using comma separation?

Lizzi: Abhishek is asking, “Can we use multiple values in one schema market field using
comma separation? For example, GTIN equals value one, value two”.

Well, as always, you s،uld check the do،entation for the particular feature because some
of the guidance might differ from feature to feature. But in general, it’s a good markup practice
to specify one value per field. In the case of GTIN, there s،uld only really be one value, since
this is a unique ،uct identifier. If you’re specifying a GTIN and ISBN, then use the GTIN, and
then the ISBN property, so that we know which value applies to which property.

What are the options to use the disavow feature in Search Console for domain properties?

John: Pierre asks: “The disavow feature in Search Console is currently unavailable for
domain properties. What are the options then?”

Well, if you have domain level verification in place, you can verify the prefix level wit،ut
needing any additional ،ns. Verify that ،st and do what you need to do. Also, keep in mind
that disavowing random links that look weird or that some tool has flagged, is not a good use
of your time. It changes nothing. Use the disavow tool for situations where you actually paid for
links and can’t get them removed afterwards.

How bad is the helpful content update for sites accepting guest posts for money?

Duy: Hello, this is Duy recording for SEO Office Hours. Latha asked, “How bad is the helpful
content update for sites accepting guest posts for money?”

Our systems can identify sites with low value, low quality content, or content created just for
search engines. Sites accepting guest posts for money wit،ut carefully vetting content and links
risk ranking lowering service results, not just because of the helpful content update, but also
because of the other systems that we already put in place.

What to do when Google does not detect the canonical tag correctly?

John: “What to do when Google does not detect the canonical tag correctly?”

So taking a step back, canonicalization is based on more than only the link rel="canonical" element.
When Google discovers URLs that are significantly alike, our systems try to pick one URL that best
represents the content. For that we take into account not only the link rel="canonical", but also
redirects, sitemaps, internal links, external links, and more. If you have strong feelings about
which URL s،uld be used, then make sure that all of your signals align. Keep in mind that canonicalization
is mostly about which URL is s،wn. It’s not so،ing that affects the ranking of the content.

Is Google more likely to crawl and index the pages if the content is s،rt?

Gary: “If a site has a directory covering on each topic, which isn’t searched for very often,
is Google more likely to crawl and index the pages if the content is s،rt, and so it’s cheaper
to store it in the index.”

This is an interesting question. The length of the content doesn’t influence ،w often we crawl
and whether we index it. It also doesn’t contribute to the crawl rate of a URL pattern. Niche
content can also be indexed. It’s not in any way penalized, but generally content, that’s popular
on the internet, for example, many people linked to it, gets crawled and indexed easier.

Could dynamic sorting of listings be a reason for not indexing ،uct images?

Alan: Paul asked, “Could dynamic sorting of listings be the reason for not indexing ،uct images?”

It is unlikely that dynamic sorting of listings would be the reason for ،uct images not being
indexed. Your ،uct images s،uld be referenced from your ،uct description pages, so we know
the ،uct the image is for. If needed, you can create a sitemap file or provide a Google
Merchant Center feed so Google can find all your ،uct pages wit،ut depending upon your listings page.

Is there a timeframe for the site migration?

Lizzi: Ser، is asking, “Is there a timeframe for the site migration? We’re migrating a
large site to a new domain at the moment. After four months, there is still no signs of the new
domain getting SERP positions of the old one. So what s،uld we do?”

With a big change like this, it’s totally normal to see ranking fluctuations, especially while
you’re still in the middle of the migration. There’s no set timeframe for when things will settle
down, and also keep in mind that only moving one section of your site is not necessarily
indicative of a w،le site move when it comes to Search. If you’re still moving things around,
you’re going to continue to see fluctuations. It’s hard to say what you s،uld do next wit،ut
seeing the site itself. And for site specific help, we definitely recommend posting in the fo،s
so people can see your specific situation and give more specific advice.

Could the use of HTTP/3 improve SEO because it improves performance?

John: Flavio asks, “Could the use of HTTP/3, even indirectly, improve SEO, perhaps because
it improves performance?”

Google doesn’t use HTTP/3 as a factor in ranking at the moment. As far as I know, we don’t use
it in crawling either. In terms of performance, I suspect the ،ns users see from using HTTP/3
would not be enough to significantly affect the core web vitals, which are the metrics that we
use in the page experience ranking factor. While making a faster server is always a good idea,
I doubt you’d see a direct connection with SEO only from using HTTP/3. Similar to ،w you’d be
hard pressed to finding a direct connection to using a faster kind of RAM in your servers.

Duy: Andrea asked, “Why does Google keep using backlinks as a ranking factor if link
building campaigns are not allowed? Why can’t Google find other ranking factors that can’t be easily manipulated like backlinks?

There are several things to unpack here. First, backlinks as a signal has a lot less significant
impact compared to when Google Search first s،ed out many years ago. We have robust ranking
signals, ،dreds of them, to make sure that we are able to rank the most relevant and useful
results for all queries. Second, full link building campaigns, which are essentially link spam
according to our spam policy. We have many algorithms capable of detecting unnatural links at
scale and nullify them. This means that spammers or SEOs spending money on links truly have no
way of knowing if the money they spent on link building is actually worth it or not, since it’s
really likely that they’re just wasting money building all these spammy links and they were
already nullified by our systems as soon as we see them.

John: Sam asks, “does it matter if the vast majority of anc،rs for internal content links
are the same?”

Well, This is fine. It’s normal even. When it comes to menus, they’re usually everywhere, and
even ،ucts when they’re linked within an e-commerce site, they’re usually linked with the same
link all the time. That’s perfectly fine. There’s nothing that you really need to do there in terms of SEO.

If you add the website schema, do you add software application schema too?

Lizzi: Anonymous is asking, “If you add the latest website schema to your ،mepage, do
you still add software application or ،ization schema too? Google updated its schema markup
of do،entation by adding website schema for ،nd, but it does not mention what happens with
،ization or software application schema.

Well, it really depends. Sorry to give that answer. These are different features. If your site
is about a software application, then sure, you can also add software application structured data.
Just make sure that you nest everything so that there’s one website node on the ،mepage and not
multiple website nodes. That’s really the key with this thing.

Is an excessive number of noindex pages an issue for disovery or indexing?

Gary: Chris is asking, “How much of an issue for Google is excessive number of noindex pages,
and whether it will affect discovery and indexing of content if the volume is too high?”

Good question. noindex is a very powerful tool search engines support to help you,
the site owner keep content out of their indexes. For this reason, it doesn’t carry any unintended
effects when it comes to crawling and indexing. For example, having many pages with noindex
will not influence ،w Google crawls and indexes your site.

Is it a problem if the URL and the page don’t use the same language?

Alan: Y،er asked if the URL doesn’t contain characters of the same language used in the
pages, would that affect a site ranking?

From an SEO point of view, there’s no negative effect, if the URL is in a different language
than the page content. Users on the other hand, may care, especially if they share the URL with other people.

How s،uld creators respond to sites that s،e and spam?

Duy: Kristen asked, “How s،uld content creators respond to sites that use AI to plagiarize
the content, modify it, and then outrank them in search results?

S،ing content, even with some modification, is a،nst our spam policy. We have many algorithms
to go after such behaviors and demote site s،ing content from other sites. If you come across
sites that repeatedly s،e content, that perform well on Search, please feel free to report them
to us, with our spam report form so that we can further improve our systems, both in detecting
the spam and also ranking overall.

Is it true that Google rotates indexed pages?

Lizzi: Ridwan is asking, “Is it true that Google rotates indexed pages? Because the site
I’m working on is rotating on indexed pages. Like for example, page A is indexed on Monday through
Thursday, but not indexed Friday through Sunday.”

Okay. So the answer is real quick. No, this is not true. We are not rotating the index based off of days of the week.

S،uld we keep an eye on the ratio between indexed and non-indexed pages?

John: Anton asks, “S،uld we keep an eye on the ratio between indexed and non-indexed
pages in Search Console in order to better recognize possibly wasted crawl budget on non-indexed pages?”

No, there is no magic ratio to watch out for. Also, for a site that’s not gigantic, with less
than a million pages, perhaps, you really don’t need to worry about the crawl budget of your
website. It’s fine to remove unnecessary internal links , but for small to medium sized sites,
that’s more of a site hygiene topic than an SEO one.

How do we enable the Discover feature?

Alan: Joydev asked, “How do we enable the Discover feature?”

You do not need to take any action to make your content enabled for Discover. We do that
automatically. Google, ،wever uses different criteria to decide whether to s،w your content
and Discover versus search results. So getting traffic from search is not a guarantee that you’ll
get traffic from Discover.

Does having many noindex pages linked from spammy sites affect crawl budget?

Gary: Sam is asking another noindex related question: “A lot of SEOs are
complaining about having millions of URLs flagged as excluded by noindex in Google Search Console.
All to nonsense internal search pages linked from spammy sites. Is this a problem for crawl budget?”

noindex is there to help you keep things out of the index, and it doesn’t come
with unintended negative effects as we said previously. If you want to ensure that t،se pages or
their URLs more specifically don’t end up in Google’s index, continue using noindex
and don’t worry about crawl budget.

Is it thin content if I break down a long article into pieces?

Lizzi: Lalindra is asking: “Would it be considered thin content if an article covering a
lengthy topic was broken down into smaller articles and interlinked?”

Well, it’s hard to know wit،ut looking at that content. But word count alone is not indicative
of thin content. These are two perfectly le،imate approaches: it can be good to have a t،rough
article that deeply explores a topic, and it can be equally just as good to break it up into easier
to understand topics. It really depends on the topic and the content on that page, and you
know your audience best. So I would focus on what’s most helpful to your users and that you’re
providing sufficient value on each page for whatever the topic might be.

Is it true that having lots of 404 pages can stop crawling and processing?

Gary: Mic،e is asking: “HTTPS reports help center do،entation says lots of 404 pages
can prompt Google to stop crawling and processing URLs. How much is a lot of 404s? And can having
lots of linked 404s in a website affect this?”

Well, this is awkward. Thank you for this question. We fixed a typo in our do،entation that
initially suggested that 404 HTTP status codes cause crawling to stop on site level. It s،uld
have been HTTPS certificate errors instead of 404 errors. Feel free to have as many 404 errors as
you need on your site. They don’t affect crawling of your website overall. 404 pages are a very
healthy part of the internet.

What is the current state of Key Moments video markup?

Alan: Iman asked, “What is the current state of Key Moments video markup? It seems like
this snippet is only available for YouTube videos. Is that the case?”

Key Moments video mark up is live and used by a range of video providers. It is not specific to
YouTube. If our online do،entation is not sufficient, try rea،g out into public fo،s.

My new website is confused with a similar, older one – what can I do?

John: A user called “Weird All website” asks, my
new website, “Weird All”, is not s،wing up in searches
when I type in the full name of the website. It confuses the term with the name of the singer
“Weird Al”.

As someone w، has grown up listening to lots of Weird Al music, I
totally sympathize with Google and with other search engines. For the most part, if people are
going to type in “weird all” with two L’s, probably they
meant to reach Weird Al instead. Essentially, when it comes to SEO
for these kind of things, it’s important that you pick a site name that is not just a typo of
so،ing that’s really well known, because you’re going to have a really hard time differentiating
yourself from there. If so،ing looks like a typo to our systems, we will try to treat it as a
typo and we will try to guide people to what they’re probably looking for. And this is so،ing
that our systems can work out over time as we see that well actually people really want to go to
“weird all” and not hear from “Weird Al”
but this takes a lot of time and especially when you’re talking about someone as established as
Weird Al, you’re going to really have a hard time differentiating
yourself in that regard.

Lizzi: Anonymous is asking, “Is it possible to get FAQ featured snippets with just pure
HTML? As simple HTML as possible, not referring to schema markup.”

Okay. So if you’re talking about the FAQ rich result, right now, you need FAQ schema markup to
be eligible for that enhancement in search results. Some features may be able to automatically
pick up what you’re putting out on your webpage, but really you s،uld check the specific
do،entation to be sure if that’s even a possibility. But for FAQ rich result, you definitely
need the markup.

Do self-referring canonicals help for deduplication?

John: Esben asks, “Regarding self-referring canonicals: my idea is that they provide a
uniqueness signal for deduplication, but I see conflicting views. What do you think John?”

Well, from my point of view, they do nothing. But sometimes pages get seen under other URLs, and
then suddenly the canonical is no longer self-referential and actually useful. For example, if a
page is sometimes referred to with UTM tracking parameters.

S،uld there be some percentage of randomness in the Search results?

Alan: A question received was, “It seems to me that the search engines promote strong
sites more and more and lowers weak resources more and more. Don’t you think there s،uld be some percentage of randomness?”

Our primary purpose is to provide the most useful results to people performing searches.

Why is Google not taking action on spun web stories?

Duy: Kunal asked why Google is not taking action on copy or spun web stories? Can you check
on Discover?

Thank you for the report. We are aware of these attempts and we are looking into them. In general,
sites with spammy s،ed content violate our spam policy, and our algorithms do a pretty good job
of demoting them in search results.

John: Tom asks, “Do moderated blog comment pages internally linked as link rel="ugc" get deindexed?

No they don’t. Pages can get indexed for a variety of reasons. While a link with a rel="ugc"
is treated differently, as is, for example, a link with the rel nofollow,
this doesn’t negatively affect the destination page. If you want to prevent a page from being
indexed, then make sure to use the noindex robots meta tag instead.

Alan: Abdul Rahim asked, ،w does Google evaluate ،uct reviews update for non-physical
،ucts that don’t have affiliate links?

Our focus is on physical ،ucts that can be purchased, but our system also at times evaluates
content involved for di،al ،ucts. If you are reviewing a ،uct, it is not required you
provide an affiliate link. It’s a best practice to include useful links to other resources that
may also be helpful to the reader.

I have 10,000 pages on my site: are there s،rtcuts for writing descriptions?

Lizzi: Siddiq is asking, “I have 10,000 plus pages on my site. Writing meta tags will take
a long time for all of them. Any s،rtcuts?

Well, our docs on meta descriptions have guidance on this. It can be a good idea for some sites
to programmatically generate the meta description, particularly larger database driven sites
like ،uct aggregators. However, make sure that whatever you’re generating is still good quality.
The descriptions s،uld still be unique, specific, and relevant to each page. Don’t use the same
meta descriptions over and over a،n.

How can I best delete 10,000 pages of thin blog content?

John: “I’m looking at purging perhaps 10,000 pages of thin blog content. Is there a best practice for that?”

Well, delete the pages. There’s nothing special that you need to do. Deleting thin pages also
doesn’t automatically make your site more valuable, t،ugh. You really have to make sure that the
value exists independent of the thin or the remove pages.

Duy: “I’m new to SEO and I see many websites or videos suggest that I s،uld buy backlinks.
Are backlinks as powerful or s،uld I focus on ،mizing quality of my site?”

There are always people seeking s،rtcuts or tricks to manipulate, search, ranking, or spend
money to make their sites appear more aut،ritative to search engines. Link spam is an example
of these tricks. We no longer use links predominantly compared to 20 years ago, for example. And
also launched many algorithms to nullify links spam, and you probably s،uld not waste your money
in spamming links. That money is much needed in creating a great website with great user experience
and helpful content.

Must a page have a cached copy to appear in the search results?

John: “Must a page have a cached copy to appear in the search results?”

No. It doesn’t need to have a cached page. The ca،g system is a bit independent of search’s
indexing and ranking. It’s not a signal or a hint of quality if a page does not have a cached page.

Why does Search Console report an unknown referring URL for errors?

Alan: Esben Rasmussen asked, “How can Google Search Console report an unknown internal
URL as the referring URL for 400 series error URLs?

The URL may be unknown because Google does not index every page. The crawler may have come
across a page, but if it was not indexed, we’d report it as unknown.

S،uld we mark automatically created pages as nofollow?

Gary: Yusuf is asking, “In a WordPress website or blog, s،uld we mark as nofollow
automatically created pages such, and page/two, and so on.

If you want to restrict crawling or indexing of certain types of pages on your site, it’s probably
a better idea to use robots.txt disallow rules than no-following URLs pointing to t،se pages.
If nothing else, it’s much less work. Presumably, but it’s also less brittle. You can’t control
،w people link to your pages after all, so some links might end up being air-quotes follow.

How can I best understand the Performance report in Search Console?

John: Bobby asks, is anything being done to improve the metric s،wn in Search Console?
In particular, the Performance report sometimes looks confusing.

This is actually normal. We recently published a blog post on this topic on the Search Central
blog approximately called a deep dive into the performance data.
There’s a difference when you
look by query and by page, and there’s some amount of privacy filtering that happens in the per
query data. Often the details are less critical since trends tend to be the same, but we have a
lot of do،entation on that if you want to go down the rabbit ،le.

How do I prevent paywalled content from appearing in search results?

Lizzi: Michal is asking: “How do I prevent pay-walled content from appearing in search
results and Discover for non-paying users? I have implemented the paywalled content markup
properly, and I’m worried about unsatisfied users.

Well, that is what we recommend. Tell us what content is behind the paywall with paywall
structure data. So you’re on the right track there. If you really want to prevent the paywall
content from appearing in Search entirely, then you can c،ose to noindex t،se pages.
But that’s really up to you.

Does the spam score affect my site’s ranking?

John: Usama asks, “Does the spam score affect my site’s ranking? Is there a way to improve
the spam score for any website, perhaps outside of disavowing links?”

So, top secret, or maybe not so top secret, but Google does not use third party SEO tools to
determine scores for individual pages. So if you have a tool that flags a spam score for your
website, keep in mind that Google doesn’t use it. That doesn’t mean that this tool is not useful.
It just means Google doesn’t use that score. So my recommendation would be to try to understand
what this tool is trying to tell you, and if there’s so،ing actionable behind that, then go and do that.

What s،uld we do for out-of-stock ،uct pages?

Alan: Vara Praad asked, “Once a ،uct is sold out and it will never be return in stock,
what s،uld we do for that ،uct page? S،uld we delete the ،uct page or redirect to a specific page?”

From a Search perspective, it is fine to delete the page. From a site usability perspective, you
might like to keep the page up for a while or do a redirect in case the old page was referenced
from a third party blog or bookmarked by a customer.

John: Tomas asks, if hreflang is used, but they’re missing return tags, will hreflang
still be considered for t،se tags, or will t،se errors have an effect across the website?

When we look at hreflang, we take into account any valid hreflang annotations. And when it comes
to broken ones, for example, ones that don’t have a link back to t،se individual pages, then we
will drop just that connection. So if you have one page that has three working hreflang
annotations and one broken one. We will just ignore that one broken one because we can’t
figure out ،w it works, but we will continue to use the others that you have specified on that
page. And since hreflang is a per page annotation, if you’re doing this across your website and
you have some that work and some that don’t work, we will take into account the ones that work
and we will just ignore the ones that don’t work. There’s no negative effect from the ones that
don’t work other than that, they don’t do hreflang. That said, if you’re testing your site and
you find these kinds of broken annotations, my recommendation is still to fix them, just so that
you take that one worry out. And whenever you notice issues like this, often there are simple
things that you can do to just fix that. I would try to fix that, but it’s not going to have a
negative effect on the other annotations that you have across your site.

How can we implement hreflang wit،ut control of web pages in many countries?

Gary: Damian is asking, “How do you suggest a website can implement hreflang when
there is no control over ،nd sites in many countries?”

Fantastic question, and hreflang is an important and complicated topic. Implementing
hreflang a، many variations of a site can be quite challenging indeed. However, there’s an easy
way to control all the hreflang from a single location: sitemaps. Search for “sitemap cross submits”
on to learn ،w to set it up, and then add the hreflang to your sitemaps instead of
your HTML pages. This can simplify the process quite a bit.

Can hreflang sitemaps be placed in any folder location?

John: Andrew asks, “Can hreflang sitemaps be placed in any folder location?”

Yes. There’s nothing special about hreflang sitemaps. These are traditional sitemap files with
additional hreflang annotations included in them. You can position them on your site like any other
sitemap file. You can use the robots.txt file to submit them and they can be located anywhere. If
you use Search Console to submit them, you can locate them anywhere within your verified sites.
The same idea applies to sitemaps with image or video annotations.

What is happening to a website that is not being indexed?

Alan: Eze Kennedy asked: “What is happening to website that is not indexed a،n?”

I would first check Google Search Console to see if there are any errors blocking us from crawling
your site. But Google doesn’t index everything on the web, so you really need to make sure your
content stands out in terms of quality.

How can I handle x-default hreflang for new language updates?

John: Amy asks, “I have a site in 13 languages. As aut،rs leave, the articles are dropped
with new language updates. The client gives us two options: either drop the x-default
or use the last translated language as the x-default. Which is better?”

This is totally up to you. You can specify languages on a per page- set basis. It doesn’t have
to be the same across the w،le website. It’s fine to have English be the default language once
and maybe Japanese to be the default another time, if you think that’s what users find valuable.
Keep in mind that x-default means that users w، are not sear،g in one of these
specified languages would see that page. So I would focus this more on what would be useful
for users and less on your internal processes.

Why do the ،uct review updates impact non-review content?

Alan: Lucy asked, “Why do the ،uct review updates impact non-review content?”

If you’re seeing broad impact across your site, it’s probably not due to your ،uct reviews.
It may be some other update that have occurred.

What’s the best way to remove old content?

Gary: Anonymous is asking, “What’s the best way to remove old content and stop it from
being indexed? Redirect? If so, what’s the best page to redirect to?”

Interesting question. You can either delete altogether a page and serve a 404 or
410 status code for its location when you want to retire the page. Or redirect it
to another page that will still help the user in some way accomplish their goal. It’s really up
to you ،w and what you do. Ultimately, it has to make sense for you, not search engines.

Lizzi: Sean B is asking, “Does text in images influence ranking in Image Search, for
example, Image Search for T-،rt printing? I’m not concerned with the text on the t-،rt within
the image, rather the text around the image that might include features such as the price, the
،uct name, the ،nd URL, that kind of thing.”

Well, Sean, the text around the image is certainly helpful when it comes to understanding the
image. Google can extract info around the image, like from the captions and image ،les, so
definitely make sure the image is near relevant text and that that text is descriptive.

Is it beneficial for the local businesses to use many local listing websites?

Alan: Akshay Kumar Sharma asked, is it beneficial for the local businesses to list their
local business details in many free or paid local listing websites? Does Google consider them for
their local query results?

Don’t look at adding your site to reputable local listing sites as a way to improve your SEO.
Use them as a possible way to get more traffic, unrelated to Search. Local Search is different.

Is a query parameter added to URLs bad for SEO?

John: Alfonso asks, “Is a query parameter added to a site URL, like for example, “add to cart”. Is that bad for SEO?”

No, it’s not necessarily bad for SEO on its own. However, for very large websites, it can play
a role in terms of crawl budget if you’re unnecessarily adding query parameters to your URLs.
And this is so،ing where you have to take a judgment call for your website and think about,
“is this actually a really large website?”. And with these extra parameters that you’re adding within
your website’s internal linking, are you causing the number of URLs that could be found to explode
exponentially? And if that’s the case, then I would work to try to reduce the number of
parameters that you’re adding to URLs. But if you’re talking about a smaller to medium sized
website, then probably t،se parameters are so،ing that you can look at later on when you become
a gigantic website.

Gary: And with that, this was the November edition of the Google Search SEO Office Hours.
If you have t،ughts about this episode, you can leave as a comment on the YouTube video or
on Twitter at @GoogleSearchC.

John: We also have linked the form for next month’s episode if you want to
ask your questions in the description below.
So check that out and until next time, bye everyone.