This week we learned that spammy Schema markup can lead to penalties, Google was accused of biased search results, and AdWords ads can now display star ratings.
Full details about each of these top stories in this week’s SEO news roundup.
Latest SEO News – Week Ending 7/3/2015
Be Careful with Schema Markup
We recommend that all of our clients make liberal use of Schema — it’s a powerful tool that can help search engines better understand and index your content. While implementing Schema markup is extremely beneficial, it is important to not risk over-utilizing this feature to the point of appearing spammy.
It recently became known that Google has begun issuing penalties for improper use of Schema markup. When issuing these penalties, Google points to updates recently made to ratings and reviews Rich Snippet policies.
Google’s specific penalty message is as follows:
“Markup on some pages on this site appears to use techniques such as marking up content that is invisible to users, marking up irrelevant or misleading content, and/or other manipulative behavior that violates Google’s Rich Snippet Quality guidelines.”
In other words, make every effort to follow Google’s guidelines when implementing Schema markup. When in doubt, you can always use Google’s own Structured Data Testing Tool. Run your Schema-marked-up pages through the tool and it will alert you of any warnings or errors.
Google Unfairly Ranking Its Own Sites Over Others?
A new study came out claiming to prove Google is unfairly ranking its own sites ahead of others, especially in the area of local search. The study was commissioned by Yelp and carried out by researchers at Harvard Business School and Columbia Law School.
When conducting a local search, more often than not you’ll be presented with Google’s “Local OneBox”. This box contains local business listings with links to their locations on Google Maps and to their profiles on Google+.
Google’s Local OneBox is not subjected to Google’s search ranking algorithm, unlike all other sites found in organic listings. The Local OneBox will always appear over competitors like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and so on.
Yelp is understandably upset over this and tried to prove through its recent study that the way Google is surfacing local search results is actually harmful to users. Statistics in the study show users would prefer to have local search results ranked fairly — not the way Google is currently presenting them.
Will this lead to the search giant changing its ways? Doubtful. Google has the legal right to display search results however it pleases. However, it’s important for people to know what they’re up against when competing in local search. The greatest threat may not be your competitors, it may be Google itself.
Rating Stars in Google AdWords
If you’re promoting the website of your local business via Google AdWords, there’s an important new change you need to know about.
Through the use of location extensions, you can now display your rating stars right in the ad itself. The ratings are taken from your Google My Business listing, which should already be automatically linked to your AdWords account
In order to make use of this new feature you must ensure location extensions are enabled in your ads. To take full advantage, start encouraging more customer reviews on your Google My Business page!
Going forward, having a higher star rating than another local businesses can be a huge competitive advantage if you’re running Google ads.
Wrapping it Up
Google is catching on to spammy Schema markup and issuing penalties, the search giant is favoring itself over others in local search, and AdWords location extensions can now display your star ratings.
If you’d like more information about any of these updates, please leave a comment below and I will be sure to respond.