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In a recent video, Google’s John Mueller answered a question about how semantic HTML helps search engines understand website content.
Mueller discussed how semantic HTML affects a site’s SEO, accessibility, and search rankings.
But first, let’s define semantic HTML and how it works.Semantic HTML 101
Semantic HTML elements provide meaning and structure to web content.
It helps search engines and browsers better understand the content and relationships on the page.
Some common semantic elements include the following:Semantic HTML – A Ranking Factor?
Although semantic HTML helps search engines analyze page content and structure, it’s not a direct ranking factor, Mueller clarifies:
“Semantic HTML does help to understand a page. However, it’s not a magical multiplier for making a website rank higher.”
While semantic HTML may not immediately boost rankings, it improves SEO and accessibility and remains a foundational best practice.
Using it, you can optimize for search engines while creating an optimal user experience.How Semantic HTML Benefits Google
Using semantic HTML elements properly can help with SEO in the following ways:
Having headings to structure passages of text
Putting images next to the words that are relevant to them
Using table tags for tables of data, not just for positioning content
Mueller notes that Google’s algorithms aren’t too precise about similar elements.
For example, when grouping together text sections, Google treats section, article, and div elements the same. The specific element used is less important than having a clear structure and relationship between elements.How Semantic HTML Benefits People
Semantic HTML greatly improves users’ experience from various backgrounds, including those with disabilities.
It does so in the following ways:
Semantic HTML aids screen reader software in conveying web content to blind or visually impaired users.
Assistive technologies like Braille readers and text-to-speech software benefit from semantic HTML’s clear structure and meaning.
Semantic elements facilitate responsive web design, ensuring content is accessible on various devices.
Semantic HTML future-proofs content by adhering to web standards. This means all users will likely be able to access the content even as technology progresses.
Developers can create web content that humans and machines understand by following semantic HTML principles, leading to an inclusive web experience.Mueller’s Plea To Website Owners
Mueller concludes the video with a plea to website owners to use semantic HTML even though it’s not a direct ranking factor.
“Please use semantic HTML. It’s not a ranking factor, but it can help our systems to understand your content better.”
Source: Google Search Central
Featured Image: Screenshot from chúng tôi June 2023.
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At Google I/O 2023, Google announced a new technology called MUM (Multitask Unified Model) that it will use internally to help its ranking systems better understand language.
Since the announcement, there has been much discussion about if or when MUM would become a ranking factor.What Is MUM?
Dubbed “a new AI milestone for understanding information,” MUM is designed to make it easier for Google to answer complex needs in search.
Google promises MUM will be 1,000 times more powerful than its NLP transfer learning predecessor, BERT.
MUM uses a model called T5, the Text-To-Text Transfer Transformer, to reframe NLP tasks into a unified text-to-text format and develop a more comprehensive understanding of knowledge and information.
According to Google, they could apply MUM to document summarization, question answering, and classification tasks such as sentiment analysis.
MUM is a significant priority inside the Googleplex, so it should be on your radar.The Claim: MUM As A Ranking Factor
When Google first revealed the news about MUM, many who read it naturally wondered how it might impact search rankings (especially their own).
Google makes thousands of updates to its ranking algorithms each year, and while the vast majority go unnoticed, some are impactful.
BERT is one such example. It was rolled out worldwide in 2023 and hailed the most significant update in five years by Google itself.
And sure enough, BERT impacted about 10% of search queries.
RankBrain, which rolled out in the spring of 2023, is another example of an algorithmic update that substantially impacted the SERPs.
Now that Google is talking about MUM, it’s clear that SEO professionals and the clients they serve should take note.
Roger Montti recently wrote about a patent he believes could provide more insight into MUM’s inner workings. That makes for an interesting read if you want to peek at what may be under the hood.
For now, let’s consider whether MUM is a ranking factor.
[Recommended Read:] The Complete Guide To Google Ranking FactorsThe Evidence Against MUM As A Ranking Factor
In his May 2023 introduction to MUM, Pandu Nayak, Google fellow and vice president of Search, made it clear that MUM technology isn’t yet in play:
“Today’s search engines aren’t quite sophisticated enough to answer the way an expert would. But with a new technology called Multitask Unified Model, or MUM, we’re getting closer to helping you with these types of complex needs. So in the future, you’ll need fewer searches to get things done.”
Then, the timeline provided for when MUM-powered features and updates would go live became “in the coming months and years.”The Evidence For MUM As A Ranking Factor
When RankBrain rolled out, it wasn’t announced until six months afterward. And most updates aren’t announced or confirmed at all.
However, Google has become better at sharing impactful updates before they happen.
For example, BERT was first announced in November 2023, rolled out for English-language queries in October 2023, and rolled out worldwide later that year in December.
We had even more time to prepare for the Page Experience signal and Core Web Vitals. Google announced them over a year before the eventual rollout in June 2023.
Google has already said MUM is coming and will be a big deal.
But could MUM be responsible for a rankings drop of many sites experienced in the spring and summer of 2023?
[Discover:] More Google Ranking Factor InsightsImplementing MUM To Improve Search Results
As promised, Google announced new and potential MUM applications publicly.
In June 2023, Google described the first application of MUM and how it improved search results for vaccine information.
“With MUM, we were able to identify over 800 variations of vaccine names in more than 50 languages in a matter of seconds. After validating MUM’s findings, we applied them to Google Search so that people could find timely, high-quality information about COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.”
In September 2023, Google shared ways that it might use MUM in the future, including new ways to search with visuals and text – as well as a redesigned search page to make it more natural and intuitive.
In February 2023, Google offered insight into how RankBrain, neural matching, BERT, and MUM lead to information understanding. In this post, the following was noted:
“While we’re still in the early days of tapping into MUM’s potential, we’ve already used it to improve searches for COVID-19 vaccine information, and we’ll offer more intuitive ways to search using a combination of both text and images in Google Lens in the coming months. These are very specialized applications — so MUM is not currently used to help rank and improve the quality of search results like RankBrain, neural matching and BERT systems do.”
“Now, using our latest AI model, MUM, we can automatically and more accurately detect a wider range of personal crisis searches. MUM can better understand the intent behind people’s questions to detect when a person is in need, which helps us more reliably show trustworthy and actionable information at the right time. We’ll start using MUM to make these improvements in the coming weeks.”
Later in the post, Google continued describing how MUM could improve search results.
“MUM can transfer knowledge across the 75 languages it’s trained on, which can help us scale safety protections worldwide much more efficiently. When we train one MUM model to perform a task — like classifying the nature of a query — it learns to do it in all the languages it knows.
For example, we use AI to reduce unhelpful and sometimes dangerous spam pages in your search results. In the coming months, we’ll use MUM to improve the quality of our spam protections and expand to languages where we have very little training data. We’ll also be able to better detect personal crisis queries all over the world, working with trusted local partners to show actionable information in several more countries.”Our Verdict: MUM Could Be A Ranking Factor
While Google doesn’t use MUM as a search ranking signal yet, it most likely could in the future.
In multiple posts about MUM on The Keyword blog, Nayak promises MUM will undergo the same rigorous testing processes as BERT before Google implements it into search.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
Using 301 redirects is crucial when permanently moving an old webpage to a new URL. They will ensure a positive user experience by instantly connecting users to the content they are looking for, even if they were given an old URL.
But do 301 redirects affect your rankings in organic search?
This chapter will cover the relationship between 301 redirects and improved Google rankings.
More questions about Ranking Factors? We cover all of them in Google Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction.The Claim: 301 Redirects Are A Ranking Factor
What are 301 redirects?
A 301 redirect is a server-side redirection for a permanently changed URL.
You would use a 301 redirect for the following scenarios:
You are going from HTTP to HTTPS.
You are moving from an old domain to a new one.
You are optimizing URL slugs for existing posts and pages.
Most of the discussion surrounding 301 redirects focuses on whether PageRank would transfer from the old URL to the new URL.
Or, if inbound links existed for the old URL, would they automatically be applied to the new URL?The Evidence Against 301 Redirects As A Ranking Factor
Not much is officially said about 301 redirects as a ranking factor.
In 2012, Matt Cutts, former head of Google’s Webspam team, said that Google would follow an unlimited number of redirects from one page to another.
Google will even make multiple hops if a page is redirected to another page, then redirected again and again. He noted that the Googlebot might stop following redirects after four to five hops.
In 2013, Cutts confirmed that a small percentage of PageRank is lost in 301 redirects. While some SEO professionals quote a loss of 15%, Cutts doesn’t say there is a specific percentage.
“30x redirects don’t lose PageRank anymore.”
In 2023, John Mueller was asked if Google would see 100 domains redirected to one as spam. His response:
“Redirect away. I doubt you’d get SEO value from that, but that’s kinda up to you. For example, if you might use a domain name in an ad campaign to have a memorable URL to show, even if it ends up redirecting to your main site in the end.”
In 2023, Mueller further confirmed that HTTPS is a lightweight ranking factor when discussing how SSL affects a website’s search rankings. The redirection of a website from HTTP to HTTPS is the closest way 301 redirects are linked to ranking factors.
In January 2023, Mueller discussed the possible SEO implications of stringing multiple 301 redirects together. Redirects can negatively impact speed. Also of note: Google will only crawl up to five “hops” in a redirect chain.
In April 2023, Mueller answered a question submitted to #AskGoogleWebmasters about how long it takes Google to rank a new URL instead of the old one that has been 301 redirected. Mueller explains that 301 redirects signal canonicalization, but that Google also uses other factors for canonicalization.
He mentions a previous video discussing how Google chooses the right canonical URL. He then says that you can help Google determine the preferred destination URL beyond a 301 redirect by updating internal links, sitemaps, and other references to the original page to reference the new URL.
In June of 2023, Mueller discussed how Google could choose a new URL over an old one without a redirect.
Suppose you copy content from an older URL to a newer URL and don’t place a redirect. In that case, Google may still be able to choose the new URL as canonical due to other signals (internal links, sitemap links, etc.).
Google also regularly updates its guide to redirects and Google Search in its Advanced SEO documentation – noting that server-side redirects are best.
“If you need to change the URL of a page as it is shown in search engine results, we recommend that you use a permanent server side redirect whenever possible. This is the best way to ensure that Google Search and people are directed to the correct page.”
They also add in the FAQ for changing URLs that 301 and 302 redirects do not result in a loss of PageRank.Our Verdict: 301 Redirects Are Not Likely A Ranking Factor
301 redirects may not boost the rankings of your webpages, but they can ensure that both Google and search users are directed to the content you want them to find.
They also ensure you don’t lose the ranking signals built to old URLs when moving them to new ones.
But while they are essential for signaling the proper canonical and passing ranking signals, we have no official confirmation that 301 redirects are a ranking factor.
Remember that just because something isn’t a Google Ranking Factor doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. You should still manage redirects carefully and avoid technical issues such as redirect chains.
Want to learn about other ranking factor myths? Check out the latest version of SEJ’s comprehensive Google Ranking Factors ebook.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
AMP is an HTML framework that helps desktop-optimized sites deliver ultra-fast mobile versions of webpages.
When you think about it, AMP ticks several boxes that suggest it could be a ranking factor:
Developed by Google ✅
Makes websites more mobile-friendly ✅
Improves page speed ✅
Despite actively encouraging people to use it, Google has debunked claims that AMP is a ranking factor.
Case closed, right?
But we can’t write it off and ignore the impact it has on other elements that do matter for SEO.
Here’s what the evidence says about AMP’s impact on search results and its connection to other ranking factors.
And if you have more questions about what is and isn’t a Google Ranking Factor, we answer them all in the latest Google Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction ebook.The Claim: AMP As A Ranking Factor
The claim here is straightforward – AMP gives pages a ranking boost in Google’s search results.
Discussions about AMP as a ranking factor began when Google launched the technology in 2023.
People think AMP is a ranking factor because Google has a stake in its success as a technology.
Google is responsible for creating AMP and actively encourages using it as part of a more significant effort to speed up the web.
In theory, Google could increase the adoption rate of AMP by turning it into a ranking signal.
The ranking boost would be a reward for using Google’s new technology. Of course, that would be unfair to any site not using AMP.
If Google used AMP to rank search results, you could argue it would be forcing sites to use its technology to stay relevant.
Thankfully, that’s not how search works.
But AMP isn’t irrelevant to SEO by any stretch.
Let’s look at the evidence on how AMP impacts SEO.The Evidence Against AMP As A Ranking Factor
This one is pretty easy – Google has confirmed that AMP is not a ranking factor. Again. And again.
In Google’s Advanced SEO guide, the company says it ranks all pages using the same signals:
“While AMP itself isn’t a ranking factor, speed is a ranking factor for Google Search. Google Search applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page.”
This quote touches on something we mentioned earlier about AMP impacting other things, like page speed, which are confirmed ranking factors.
Sites that use AMP can potentially benefit from these other signals.
As of July 2023, page speed has been a ranking factor for mobile searches.
The increased speed has the potential to lead to better rankings. However, sites can generate the same signals without AMP.Core Web Vitals
Google’s Core Web Vitals became ranking factors with the rollout of the Page Experience update in June 2023.
Leading up to the update’s launch, Google’s communication to site owners has always been that AMP can help achieve ideal Core Web Vitals scores.
“There is a high likelihood that AMP pages will meet the thresholds. AMP is about delivering high-quality, user-first experiences; its initial design goals are closely aligned with what Core Web Vitals measure today.
This means that sites built using AMP likely can easily meet Web Vitals thresholds.”
Google presented data showing that AMP domains were five times more likely to pass Core Web Vitals than non-AMP domains.
Passing Google’s Core Web Vitals thresholds can improve a site’s search rankings.
Again, as with the page speed ranking boost, you can achieve this without AMP.Decline Of AMP
AMP used to carry various perks that could enhance how a page appears in search results.
For example, Google’s Top Stories carousel appears at the top of search results when looking for news stories and used to only accept AMP pages.
That changed in June 2023 with the rollout of the Page Experience update, which now makes it possible for non-AMP pages to appear in the Top Stories carousel.
Another unique feature of AMP pages was that a lightning bolt icon appeared in search results to indicate which pages offered faster experiences.
Google has done away with that icon. Now, AMP pages are indistinguishable from regular pages in search results.AMP Decline Continues
Since the first version of this ebook was released, AMP has continued to decline steadily.
In response to complaints from publishers and readers alike, an update to Google News on mobile bypasses AMP URLs and sends traffic directly to publishers’ websites.
Google has a long history of introducing new tools, hyping them up, and retiring them years later. Examples include failed social media site Google+ and Skype competitor Google Hangouts.
AMP isn’t retired yet, but it would be on-brand for Google to say that this web technology it developed is no longer relevant.
It’s not only Google saying it, but other web companies are dropping AMP from their platforms.
Twitter no longer supports AMP links and treats them like Google News by redirecting visitors to the publishers’ domains.
As more companies continue to limit the prevalence of AMP, there’s no reason why you should have to do anything different to your website.
If you’re currently using AMP and are happy with how your webpages perform in search results, then continue doing what you’re doing.
Should the day come when Google shutters the AMP project, it’s not as though your website will stop working. AMP is HTML code crawled and indexed like anything else on the web.Our Verdict: AMP Is Not A Ranking Factor
Google has confirmed multiple times that AMP is not a Google ranking factor.
AMP can positively impact other ranking factors (e.g., speed), but it is not a factor on its own.
Find out more about ranking factors: Google Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction.
Featured image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
Google search ranking factors can gain and lose prominence over time.
A factor that carried a lot of weight with Google years ago may not carry much at all in the present day.
A website’s URL is an example of such a ranking factor.
Given that the impact of a website’s URL on search rankings has changed over time, you may hear conflicting information regarding how important it is today.
Let’s look at the claims regarding URL as a ranking factor, and then we’ll go over what the evidence says.The Claim: URLs Are A Ranking Factor
A website’s URL is said to be a factor for Google’s search rankings that can be optimized similarly to how one would optimize a title tag.
More specifically, the claims suggest that strategic use of keywords in a URL can help a website rank for queries containing those words.
Is there any truth to this claim?
Here’s what Google says.The Evidence: URLs As A Ranking Factor
Evidence directly from Google indicates URLs do not play as great a role in search rankings as claims suggest.
Looking back at the times Google has acknowledged URLs as a ranking factor, it seems the impact has waned over time.
In 2023, Google’s John Mueller confirmed keywords in a URL are a ranking factor.
However, he described the signal as being “very small.”
“I believe that’s a very small ranking factor, so it’s not something I’d really try to force. And it’s not something where I’d say it’s even worth your effort to kind of restructure your site just so you can include keywords in the URL.”
Mueller addressed the topic again in 2023, saying “Keywords in URLs are overrated for Google SEO.”
Instead, Mueller recommends choosing URLs for users, not search engines.
To be clear: That doesn’t mean URLs are not at all a factor in rankings. It means there are many more important factors to consider above optimizing the URL.
That’s made clear in other statements from Mueller, such as this one from 2023 where he says words in a URL are a “very, very lightweight ranking factor.”
“We use the words in a URL as a very very lightweight factor. And from what I recall, this is primarily something that we would take into account when we haven’t had access to the content yet.
So if this is the absolute first time we see this URL and we don’t know how to classify its content, then we might use the words in the URL as something to help rank us better.
But as soon as we’ve crawled and indexed the content there, then we have a lot more information. And then that’s something where essentially if the URL is in German or in Japanese or in English, it’s pretty much the same thing.”
As Mueller says, once the content is indexed, the URL becomes less important.URLs As A Ranking Factor: Our Verdict
Google has confirmed that URLs are a minimal search ranking factor.
When Google crawls a new site for the first time, it will use the keywords in a URL to get an idea of what the site is about.
That may play a small role in the site’s initial rankings.
Some SEO professionals also think it may be used to help group pages (i.e., with pages under folders being grouped together as they would with breadcrumbs).
Once the site’s content is thoroughly crawled and indexed, the SEO effect of the URL becomes minimal.
Featured Image: Robin Biong/Search Engine Journal
This story has been updated. It was originally published on June 18, 2023.
There’s no such thing as perfect posture.
That’s according to Eric Robertson, a physical therapist and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. He says that posture is a popular boogeyman—the presumed culprit for everything from back pain, to headaches, to the constriction of blood vessels, to fatigue. But in reality, he says, “People, in general, over-assign posture as the source of their medical conditions.” When it comes to posture and pain, “The research just hasn’t borne that out that there’s a strong correlation,” he says.
Of course, that doesn’t mean posture isn’t something to be conscious of or proactive about. It can cause health issues, although this happens much less frequently than people suppose. More often, bad posture is a symptom of an underlying problem, which your healthcare provider can often help you remedy.Postural problems
Most people walk around with a vision of perfect posture in their head. Perhaps you picture Audrey Hepburn’s ballerina-like stance or the Brawny paper towel guy’s confident, even-shouldered pose. We form these ideas at a young age, as parents and teachers remind kids to stop slouching and stand up straight.
But, Robertson says, “perfect” posture isn’t possible. “Don’t just assume what you think is good posture is the position you should actually take,” he says. “Good posture for one person is not [good] posture for another person.” (In other words, Audrey Hepburn probably slouched, too.)
Often, bad posture stems from muscular weakness, tightness, or spasms. If you don’t have the requisite strength in your shoulder girdle muscles, for example, it’s no wonder your shoulders tend to hunch forward. Being told to pull them back won’t work for long, as your muscles simply won’t be able to support the new position. Instead of criticizing, a physical therapist will use this information to create a regimen of exercises that strengthen the relevant muscles.
[Related: The three strength exercises everyone should do]
In some cases, Robertson says, problematic postural habits may contribute to future illness. While research suggests posture likely isn’t the source of your current pain, constantly straining your neck toward a computer screen, for example, can elongate the muscles in your neck over time. In some people, this might not cause any aches at all. But in others, it may eventually lead to more weakness, spasms, and discomfort.
“In general, the best approach to posture is to maintain strength, or improve strength where you’re weak,” Robertson says. Depending on your individual needs, your healthcare provider may suggest everything from running and weight training to special physical therapy exercises with a foam roller or resistance bands.
Work out your workday. Dane Wetton/UnsplashSpinal solutions
For people whose pain is severe, it might be time to reach out to a doctor. Your general practitioner can connect you with a physical therapist, or you can find one through the American Physical Therapy Association’s nationwide Find a PT database.
For people who are simply posture-conscious, or looking to make smaller improvements in their daily habits, Robertson says the key is enhancing your kinesthetic awareness—the understanding of where your body is in space. Exercise of any kind can help with this. And so can some common tools, like a lumbar support roll, which pushes your lower back slightly forward in your chair. While such devices are far from a cure-all, at the very least they remind you to think about how you’re sitting and the physical sensations your behavior is causing.
Most important, you’ll have to move. “There’s nothing inherently wrong with sitting at a desk, but the length of time you sit at a desk is perhaps problematic,” Robertson says. “The answer is to change your posture as often as you can.” Try setting a recurring computer reminder to stretch in your chair, take a lap around the office, or just breathe deeply for a moment. “Our bodies inherently like motion,” he says. “Any single posture—whether it’s perfect posture or not—won’t be good for you if you do it all day.”
Ultimately, pain is a sign that something is wrong in the body. If you experience it regularly, it might be time to reach out to a professional. But many of us falsely blame posture. Fortunately, we have the power to fix it. “Your body is strong and resilient,” Robertson says. “It just likes to move around.”
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