This week Google made a major change to how it displays local search results, a Google executive cleared up a myth about 404 errors, and we were reminded that even search giants need help with SEO sometimes.
Full details about each of these top stories in this week’s SEO news roundup.
Latest SEO News – Week Ending 8/7/2015
Google Local Pack Minimized
Google has minimized its local 7 pack of search results that would trigger when searches were conducted for local businesses.
The scaled down local pack features just three listings and has also removed both addresses and phone numbers. Also removed are any traces of Google+.
When searching on mobile there will be an option to call a business by tapping on the listing. Getting further information will require you to click through to the business’s website or Google Maps listing.
You’ll notice that instead of addresses and phone numbers, store hours are displayed for businesses with proper store hour schema markup in place.
Review scores and review counts are unchanged and still very visibly displayed underneath the name of the business.
Going from 7 to 3 listings seems like a drastic reduction, but there is now the option to expand the local listing card to view more. When you expand this section, up to 20 total listings will be displayed, which should give searchers plenty of options to look at.
Google’s new local 3 pack is now live across desktop and mobile.
Google: 404s Do Not Equal Penalties
Google’s Gary Illyes had a nice little reminder for everyone on Twitter this week when he proclaimed that the idea that 404s equal penalties is “utterly wrong”.
Whoever came up with the idea that having 404s gives a site any sort of penalty, you're wrong. Utterly wrong.
— Gary Illyes (@methode) August 6, 2015
Having 404 errors on your site will not lead to a ranking penalty, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to monitor them.
A 404 error means the page returning the error is not being indexed. That might be a page you’ve worked hard to create and had been designed to bring in organic search traffic.
Being alerted that one or more of your pages is returning a 404 error gives you the opportunity to investigate and correct the issue leading to the error before the page is removed from Google’s index.
In addition, linking to pages that return 404 errors does not hurt your site, though it sure makes things frustrating for users.
It has long been considered an SEO best practice to keep 404 errors to a minimum. In the event that 404 errors do pop up, you should always have a custom 404 error page in place that directs visitors to a set of other relevant pages to visit.
The worst thing that can result from a 404 is having a visitor leave your site, so try to ensure that a 404 error on your site is not a complete dead end.
Google Needs SEO Help
There’s no greater anecdote than this week’s news of Google hiring SEO professionals for a little SEO help.
Google is apparently seeking experienced SEO professionals with acute knowledge of Schema markup to help with its new online store at store.google.com.
Even those who control the search engines need outside help with getting properties to rank in search. If doing SEO work for Google sounds like your dream job, don’t get your hopes up because it sounds like Google’s hiring company is only reaching out to those it believes are qualified.
Wrapping it Up
This week Google’s local search pack got reduced to 3 listings, making the competition in local search even more tight.
We were reminded that 404 errors aren’t nasty things that lead to penalties, but an error that leads to a page being de-indexed.
Finally, we learned that even Google needs a little SEO help sometimes.
Until next week.