Joost's weekly SEO recap:

Google & HTTPS, Bing no longer nice

An interesting week this one, including an update that seems to have quite a bit of impact. There are also some nice new features in Google Trends, possible labels for slow loading sites and some more annoying news about Bing and keywords.

A Google update

It wasn’t Panda, it wasn’t Penguin, though both are still “to come”, but this week we had an update that gave several people in the SEO industry a shudder. Mozcast, which measures changes in the search results for a fixed set of keywords and calculates a “temperature” based on that, had one of its “warmest” days ever.

Dr Pete over at Moz wrote a post, thinking this change could be related to the HTTPS changes Google did earlier. This was quickly refuted by Googler Gary Illyes on Twitter. And of course, most SEO bloggers stopped thinking at that point and just wrote down that it wasn’t HTTPS related. I disagree with that. I think Googlers don’t necessarily always know anymore what causes something to happen.

Google’s algorithms are, in part, self-learning. They automatically determine factors that cause a site to be trusted. This week, Wikipedia started moving to HTTPS entirely. If more and more sites that Google trusts, like Wikipedia, the FBI and now also Reddit, all are on HTTPS, that factor might automatically become more important, simply because of that machine learning. So while Googlers might say they haven’t changed the algorithm, the algorithm might have changed itself. Note that Gary’s tweet said “AFAIK”. They do that more and more when talking about the algorithm. Simply because they don’t always know.

Of course, this is just a theory, and it would not explain all of the changes, but nothing ever does. My own thoughts on HTTPS haven’t changed much since January last year.

More Google news

Google did more this week. Google Trends got a nice update, including both real time data and data for YouTube. You should definitely just have a play with that for a bit. This Wired piece on it is good. Another interesting bit was that Google UK confirmed that more than half of their searches and YouTube views now happen on mobile. Have I reminded you to get your site ready for mobile enough now?

There was some fuzz the last few weeks about a Google backed company getting a penalty and then being reinstated in the search results within a week. Apparently John Mueller of Google said that everyone could get back this quickly. All you have to do is do a “fantastic job of cleaning these things up” and send in a “great” reconsideration request. I’ve spoken to a few SEO’s who do cleanups for sites that got penalized the same way this company did. No one had ever seen it happen, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Google is once again testing a “Slow to load” label in the search results. It’s hard to reproduce tests like that, probably in part because where I spend most of my time online, at work and at home, I have either 4G Internet or a 200 mbit fiber connection. Doesn’t really make sense for Google to show that label on those connections.

Another update from Gary Illyes making me kinda scared was this one. He said this:

Please be mindful with noindex directives and remember that most search engines will honour it, even if it’s in the BODY element.

Which brings back all sorts of bad thoughts in me, wanting to leave meta robots noindex elements in comments on posts. It’s a good reminder nonetheless. Another tweet from Gary pointed to new breadcrumbs documentation, unfortunately it doesn’t answer some of the questions I had from the old documentation so I’ve send another email to Google.

Bing stops being nice

I’ve always had a soft spot for Bing, in part because they employ Duane Forrester, who is a great guy doing Webmaster outreach there. I have to admit they’ve made me lose some of those warm feelings this week when they announced they were no longer going to pass on search queries (part of them also moving to HTTPS completely). In their words:

to further protect our users’ privacy, we will not include the used query terms.

I think that’s nonsense, because just like Google, they will give them to advertisers. I wrote a scathing piece about that on SEObook when Google announced that in 2011. This is no different. Of course Bing doesn’t really send most sites that much traffic anyway, so most of you won’t (and/or shouldn’t) care.

That’s it for this week!

We still have an action on our site reviews, for a little while longer you can get $100 off. See you next week!

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24 Responses to Google & HTTPS, Bing no longer nice

  1. Gail
    Gail  • 5 years ago

    Newbie questions:
    1) Does having https protect site visitors from getting malware or viruses when they use a contact form or sign up for a newsletter?
    2) Does it protect them in any other way? I’ll be using PayPal Express Checkout as my payment gateway and I’ve read it isn’t necessary to have https for that.
    3) I read in a comment above that changing from http to https gave a website a lower Google ranking. Why would Google do that if they’re encouraging using https?
    Thank you!

  2. Gal Baras
    Gal Baras  • 5 years ago

    Joost, I see a strange decline of search traffic and a significant change in query ratios across secure and insecure sites alike. In fact, a couple of my worse hit client sites have been on HTTPS for almost a year.

    They are both sites, but I doubt this makes a difference.

    Great update!

  3. Thomas Zickell
    Thomas Zickell  • 5 years ago

    The HTTPS correlation with Wikipedia is undeniable.
    I respect what Google tells people but at the same time they are hardly a transparent company. In less it was an official press release telling me something of that nature which is very very rare from Google. I will not take a Google or the matter how tweet into account.

    Anyone who is surprised by the actions being has taken or the actions being Google takes has to think about where they get their revenue.

    Google and Bing don’t care about people making websites to care about people finding websites. Plenty of people make great sites every day they know that’s not going away. Search engines are for end-users the idea that these companies have to be fair to us is also crazy.

    Google & Bing can keep pushing these annoying updates that will continue to drive marketers crazy and we all act like were surprised why?

    Google and Bing are in no way shape or form on the side of the person creating the site. They are looking out for every day person that is searching on their engines. It makes sense for them to restrict websites more and more. No one is just going to say well I will opt out of a search engine. It’s only going to become harder for us and the sooner we expect these things the better.

  4. sazal
    sazal  • 5 years ago

    I read your great great post . It’s really helpful for SEO technique. Can you tell me how to create backlink for my site. I want to do rank my site out of 10 in google and other search engine.
    below my site address

  5. Fajar
    Fajar  • 5 years ago

    wiwww.. this post verry interesting Joost. I’ve use BING but hardly understand.

  6. belonomi
    belonomi  • 5 years ago

    Thank you Yoast and I do appreciate the fact that you are willing to admit when there was a problem and fixed it.

  7. Vicky Choksi
    Vicky Choksi  • 5 years ago

    Yes, there was something detected in but doesn’t seem to be confirmed as update by Google yes. I didn’t notice traffic or ranking fluctuation so far.

  8. robe
    robe  • 5 years ago

    wow thanks your share weekly SEO recap. very great joost!

  9. Jen
    Jen  • 5 years ago

    Thanks for your insights. I have been seeing all kinds of fluctuations and am running some tests to figure out what is going out.

  10. Shaun
    Shaun  • 5 years ago

    Great update as always Joast.


  11. Christopher Simmons
    Christopher Simmons  • 5 years ago

    Thanks, Joost
    next time you query Google – give them another poke as I did last week – about finally fixing the “change site” from http to https to remove the TWO versions of site in Webmaster tools. Super annoying to get an email about “you have some pages not mobile friendly for your site…” they are referring to the http site (!) which has had a full 301 redirect since Dec. 1st, all sitemaps loading via https, Google News https, etc. (and thanks again for your news plugin :-). We did drop some spots after switching to https, which is kind of annoying — and it now shows we have 1/3 as many “sites linking to us” when looking at the https version. Still worried we lost some of our 15+ year equity with switch to https, even though we optimized server and pages so they actually load faster. (sigh). Sorry that turned into a rant ;-)

    • Joost de Valk

      Yeah the http, https difference is annoying. I see why they have it though: you could, theoretically, serve different content over https than over http.

  12. Rusbell
    Rusbell  • 5 years ago

    I was sure that it was not Panda or Penguin…. thank Joost

  13. Amadeo Brands
    Amadeo Brands  • 5 years ago

    I wonder if the HTTPS protocol will become norm?

    • Joost de Valk

      I think so… Every company that takes itself and its users serious should use it, IMHO.

      • Gail
        Gail  • 5 years ago

        Could you please tell me of a good SSL certificate provider that is affordable enough for a start-up online micro business?

      • Keith
        Keith  • 5 years ago

        I had HTTPS on my website for about 6 months and everything was smooth but then I realize it’s not compatible with many of the blogging services or power press which is what I was using.

        Even though itunes does not specifically support it it still worked with them. But Liibsyn and power press do not.

        I’ve since reverted back to you HTTP. So what to do?

  14. Aileen
    Aileen  • 5 years ago

    A bit unrelated to the discussion but Yoast, have you seen this:

    Would love to see this up on your Yoast plugin.

    • Joost de Valk
      Joost de Valk  • 5 years ago

      It already does that. Just fill out your WordPress user profile, WP SEO adds a Facebook field, fill it out and you get the author tag.

  15. Paulo
    Paulo  • 5 years ago

    really we need to take every care, as they are several updates and google this crazy uncle to pick us up, hehe. Congratulations for the article.

  16. John Pinner
    John Pinner  • 5 years ago

    Hey Joost thanks for the awesome recap, I am happy to report that i am seeing some pretty major fluctuations with the update and looking forward to seeing the dust settle to see what we get. Bookmarked Moz cast looks like an awesome app – do you think its anything like algoroo?

  17. Lou Paris
    Lou Paris  • 5 years ago

    I think I can confirm at least in my space that it’s not https related. One of my primary keywords (Hudson Valley Wedding DJ) saw a slip from #3 to #8. Mind you i am literally the only https enabled website of all my competitors in the top 40 slots next to a big national link aggregator (The Knot #1) and Craigslist (#9) and Pintrest (#40).

    So I am highly doubtful that the update was https related.

  18. David
    David  • 5 years ago

    Great recap Joost! Wasn’t sure I needed another with all the existing recaps. But this one is useful andere had unique tidbits aswell, so keep em coming!

  19. Quentin Moore
    Quentin Moore  • 5 years ago

    Joost, do you anticipate that Bing will see a significant increase in its share of search when Windows 10 is released? Since the desktop Cortana search app uses Bing and the new Edge browser will likely default to Bing, I wonder if we should start caring more about Bing.