Backlink Breaker #12 - Standardizing REP, Mobile-First Dates, and LinkedIn Algo Details

The holiday week failed to slow anything down in the SEO and content marketing world. New features and platform updates from Google, LinkedIn and Twitter, kept everyone alert, with a bonus feature release from one of my favorite tools, the Wayback Machine.

The News

Google has requested to formalize the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP). For over 20 years, robots.txt rules have been unofficially followed by crawlers, but it’s never been standardized across the web, so Googlebot interprets your robots directives slightly differently than Yandex or Bing. Google wants to create a set of official rules to help REP perform better and set the stage for future growth. As part of this announcement, Google will retire code that handles unsupported rules, like noindex in robots.txt. You shouldn’t have been using noindex in your robots files anyway, but if you are, there are a number of superior alternatives (noindex meta tags, disallow in robots, 404s, etc)

LinkedIn shared detailed information on its newsfeed algorithm, clarifying a renewed focus on ranking specific professional conversations over trending content. Basically, LinkedIn checks the people, pages, and hashtags a user follows to determine what content should appear in the feed. When publishing on LinkedIn, move away from old tactics around trend chasing. Focus on building real connections and publish in a niche that your connections care about, LinkedIn will favor this content. LinkedIn also released new features for LinkedIn Pages, with five new CTA buttons, mobile editing, and community hashtags. It’s good to see a focus on the platform as LinkedIn continues to grow as content marketing channel.

Twitter will now hide tweets from public figures that break community guidelines. In the past, Twitter happily displayed tweets from famous people that would be burned to the ground if you or I tweeted it (for example, I dunno… our president), but they will now hide these tweets (but not remove). This update only applies to tweets from political figures, verified accounts, and accounts with +100k followers. It’s a step in the right direction for fairness on the platform, but in the end, should Twitter really be hiding anything that falls under first amendment protection?

The Wayback Machine added a new change feature, making it easy to figure out when big changes were made on a page in the past. Super useful tool for anyone who has to diagnose site changes. I often use Wayback Machine when checking for rank changes and how they might intersect with design tweaks on a site.

Google launched Google for Small Business, a new resource portal to help small businesses use Google products like GMB and YouTube. It’s good to see Google focus on the SMB sector, and this is something you can use to double check client work or help give SMB clients tools if they need any help implementing your marketing recommendations.

Searchmetrics released a Google diversity study showing that Google reduced the likelihood of seeing three pages from the same domain in search results by 50%. This means smaller sites now have the opportunity to gain some real traction in search, especially on queries where domains like Amazon would dominate the majority of top results.

Google Search Console now shows the date your site switched to mobile-first indexing, this can help you analyze the impact of the mobile-first change and pinpoint any larger site issues.

Ranking Factors

  • Old content can still be relevant and important, and date is not a primary ranking factor for certain queries. So, unless you have a query that needs “fresh” content, you don’t necessarily have to focus on the date. Good news for evergreen content production.

  • Google recommends minifying HTML & CSS because it reduces file size, which we all know can help with page speed and performance

  • Google clarified that a correctly implemented site migration should only take a day for Google to understand, and not impact your SEO. I’ve seen migrations run smoothly and also collapse terribly, and it’s usually because of a seemingly small piece of oversight that tumbles out of control. Take the time to plan a migration well in advance, so you don’t miss anything, and follow the Google migration docs.

  • XML sitemaps do not directly impact rankings, it’s an extremely valuable tool for getting pages indexed, but not a ranking factor on its own.

  • For Bing, semantic markup and structured data represent powerful ranking factors, be sure to use them when marking up your code! (as if you needed another reason)..