Google scares HTTP webmasters
Google sent emails last week warning insecure website owners (that’s owners of insecure websites, not website owners with low self-esteem) that Chrome will soon be alerting website visitors if they are about to enter data on a webpage that it isn’t secure. The email was only sent out to HTTP website owners, not HTTPS website owners because data entered onto those sites is protected by extra levels of security, you see the difference?
The change will be as of October 2017 and on the Chrome browser version 62 and up. To note, this won’t affect other browsers (Like Firefox or Internet Explorer) and will only be displayed on pages with input fields like forms. It is however, a sign of things to come. Google has been pushing for a securer internet over recent years with HTTPS becoming a lightweight ranking signal in 2014.
Users are more conscious than ever about their online security, so whatever you can do to reassure them that their confidential data is safe is likely to assist with getting them to complete forms and transactions.
Ability to leave a review on Google Maps listings temporarily lost
Next up, the ability to add reviews to Google Maps was temporarily lost last week for 4 whole hours. For 4 whole hours on the 16th of August users of your products and services were not able to tell the world their opinions of your service. For 4 whole hours. OK, it might not sound like much, but actually users’ reviews are one of the top ranking factors for the Google local search algorithm. So, if you want your website to appear high in Google map pack it’s crucial you have a lot of positive, legitimate reviews. So even though the ability to leave reviews was only down for 4 hours, every review counts.
As a result of the this temporary outage, there’s been a renewed chatter in the SEO industry about reviews and incentivising people to give reviews. I have to say Google in particular is really hot on ensuring reviews are real, and in worse cases, fake reviews could be illegal under potential new UK law. So, my two-pence, the best incentive for a customer to leave a positive review on your Google listings, is providing an exceptional service, and never, ever pay for fake reviews.
On-page mark-up or Data Highlghter, but never both
Finally, implementing structured data on your website is important for helping search engines understand the context of text, numbers and images. It’s essentially a system of pairing a name and a value so the likes of Google can understand that a long series of digits is a telephone number or several lines of text is an address. It can help with getting yourself in the coveted Position 0 spot in the search results and also for augmenting the way your result looks in the SERPs, like adding those nifty review stars.
Commonly, structured data is applied using formats like JSON-LD or microdata. But, if the last sentence I used went way over your head, you may have used something far simpler to mark up data on your site, Google’s Search Console based Data Highlighter. This is a tool that sits within Google Search Console and allows the less technically confident to indicate to Google what certain types of data they have on their site without having to mess with the code.
An SEO asked Google rep John Mueller this week if Google favours one over the other. John said no, but "avoid using the highlighter if you have valid markup. Why add potentially invalid and conflicting signals?"
In my opinion, it’s better to use proper structured data, as Google’s data highlighter is only recognised by Google and very limited in what you can mark-up – articles, events and movies – you’re in luck, anything else… maybe not.