New information came pouring out this week about Google’s mobile-first indexing, which is confirmed to have been rolled out to a significant number of sites. We’ll fill you in on all the must-know details and explain how the new way of indexing search results may affect your site.
Google’s beloved Keyword Planner tool has received an update, which is a good thing. What’s not such a good thing is a policy change that may affect your ability to use Keyword Planner in the future. Notable updates have also been rolled out to Google Search Console. Lastly, a new Q&A video from Google’s John Mueller clears up a few things about 404 errors.
More details about each of these top stories are included in this week’s SEO & SEM news roundup.
Google Confirms Mobile-First Indexing Has Started
Google made an official announcement on its blog letting webmasters know that a significant number of sites have been migrated to mobile-first indexing. This is a new method of indexing search results which involves crawling and indexing only the mobile version of a web page. Traditionally Google has prioritized crawling and indexing desktop versions of web pages.
This change is being made in response to the shift in search behavior over recent years. More searches are being conducted on mobile devices than desktop or laptop computers. That means Google is making every effort to ensure it’s serving content that is optimized for the majority of users’ screens. If a website is not mobile-friendly then it will still be indexed via traditional methods. Sites that are not optimized for mobile will still show up in desktop search results, and may even show up in mobile search results if Google determines it’s the most relevant result for a particular query.
Google says this change should not affect search rankings, it’s only going to change the way content is gathered and indexed in search. In fact, Google has even said mobile-first indexing began months ago and no one has noticed yet. However, now you’ll know for sure if your site has been migrated to mobile-first indexing because Google is sending notifications via Search Console. Migration is ongoing, so if you haven’t received a notification yet you still may in the near future.
Google Keyword Planner Update
Google’s Keyword Planner, perhaps the most popular free keyword research tool on the web, has received an update. The biggest changes are primarily design-related, now matching the look and feel of the Google AdWords redesign that was rolled out months ago. Other changes to Keyword Planner will provide users with faster access to more data in one place.
For example, data has been condensed in the redesigned ‘forecasts’ section, so users can now see keyword and device breakdowns without having to click through to different tabs. In addition, the forecasts section will now include an estimate of how keywords in the plan may affect performance.
Users will still have access to the same amount of data in Keyword Planner, and it will still operate the same way. There is no data being removed, and there’s nothing really new to learn in terms of how the tool works. Data is just being presently differently, and some sections may include more data than they did before.
Google AdWords Policy Change May Affect Access to Keyword Planner
Google has a new AdWords policy which requires users to have spent at least some money on ads in the past 15 months in order to maintain an active account. Those who don’t spend money on ads will have their accounts deactivated. If you have no intention to run AdWords ads you may be wondering why this policy change matters to you. Well, Keyword Planner is technically part of Google AdWords. That means if your AdWords account is deactivated then you will not be able to access Keyword Planner. The good news is you can reactivate your account at any time, but failure to spend money within the following 3 months will result in your account being deactivated again. However, you can repeat this process as many times as you like. It may get annoying after a while but at least you’ll still be able to use Keyword Planner for free.
Updates to Google Search Console Reports
Google Search Console reports have been updated to provide more context to data. The updates include:
- Annotation cards: Hover over bullet points in the error report to learn more about the issue detected on that particular date.
- Difference column: See how data has changed over a period of time
- Filter/Compare: Redesigned with a new look and pre-populated values
- Overall improvements to the date picker and comparison view.
Google announced the news on Twitter, where it also published a short video demonstrating the new annotation cards.
Check out some visual updates in the New Search Console:
????Filter/compare have a new look & pre-populated values
????Improvements to date picker & comparison view
Tell us what you think about these updates by using "Send Feedback" button! pic.twitter.com/dErqMkbPSx
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) March 19, 2018
Google Says 404 Errors are Fine… on Two Conditions
Google’s John Mueller released a new Q&A video this week answering a webmaster’s question regarding 404 errors (also known as “page not found errors). It’s a fairly standard SEO best practice to correct all 404 errors by redirecting missing pages to the next most relevant page. However, if you do not have the resources to deal with all 404 errors then Mueller says there are two conditions in which you do not need to worry about them.
According to Mueller, these types of errors are only a problem if the URLs returning 404 errors are being linked to from other pages of the site. They’re also a problem if they’re receiving traffic from other sites. If the URLs returning 404 errors are not being linked to internally, and not receiving traffic, then it’s “perfectly fine” to leave them be. Mueller also recommends relying on Google Search Console’s assessment of 404 errors. Search Console will sort crawl errors in order of priority, so if it’s determined that all top crawl errors are irrelevant then it is not necessary to set up redirects.
Wrapping it Up
In summary, the key takeaways from this week’s news include:
- Mobile-first indexing has begun, though it’s not expected to affect search rankings.
- Google Keyword Planner has been redesigned, with some sections containing more data.
- Google AdWords accounts with no ad spend in the past 15 months will be deactivated.
- Google Search Console has been updated to provide more context to data included in reports.
- Google’s John Mueller says 404 errors are “fine” as long as they have no internal links or traffic.