Trending December 2023 # Google: Hreflang Not A Ranking Signal, But Will Drive Targeted Traffic # Suggested January 2024 # Top 19 Popular

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Google’s Gary Illyes has clarified that the hreflang attribute is not a ranking signal, though it will result in more targeted traffic.

On the use of hreflang, Illyes says:

“You will NOT receive a ranking benefit per se, at least not in the internal sense of the term. What you will receive is more targeted traffic.”

This information was provided during a Reddit AMA on February 8 in response to a question regarding conflicting statements Googlers have made about hreflang.

“Hey Gary, you and [John Mueller from Google] have conflicting statements on hreflang. John says they will not help with rankings and you have said they’re treated as a cluster and they should be able to use each others ranking signals. Can we get an official clarification on this?”

Illyes says the confusion likely stems from peoples’ interpretation of what is considered a ranking benefit.

Technically, there is no ranking benefit associated with using hreflang in an algorithmic sense.

But it might seem like there is because it allows the most relevant version of a page to be served to users based on their location.

There’s a two-pass process that occurs when Google detects an hreflang attribute.

Google will first retrieve the version of the page with the strongest ranking signals.

If the page has a sibling page in a language that’s more relevant to the user, then Google will do a second pass and serve the sibling page in search results.

Here’s how Illyes explains it:

“Let me give you an example:

Query: “AmPath”

User country and location: es-ES

Your site has page A for that term in EN and page B in ES, with hreflang link between them.

In this case, at least when I (re)implemented hreflang, what would happen is that when we see the query, we’d retrieve A because, let’s say, it has stronger signals, but we see that it has a sibling page B in ES that would be better for that user, so we do a second pass retrieval and present the user page B instead of A, at the location (rank?) of A.”

A follow-up question was asked about Illyes’ use of the word “strongest.”

Does that mean strongest based on a page’s own signals?

Or does that include signals from other pages in the same cluster?

Illyes confirms that signals aren’t shared between pages.

“Strongest on its own. Within the cluster the signals aren’t passed around. That would be like a really bad game of squash”

For more insight from Google’s Gary Illyes, read the full AMA here.

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Is Using Google Analytics A Search Ranking Factor?

Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful tool that lets website owners learn how users interact with their webpages.

The amount of information we can get from Google Analytics is so in-depth that a theory has been circulating, for over a decade, that GA data is a ranking factor.

Is Google Analytics really powerful enough to influence Google search results?

Let’s take a closer look.

[Recommended Read:] Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction

The Claim: Google Analytics As A Ranking Factor

In Google’s How Search Works documentation, we can see that a webpage’s relevance is one of the many factors used to rank webpages.

The most basic relevancy signal is that the content contains the same words as the search query.

Additional information about how Google determines a page’s relevance is provided.

Beyond simple keyword matching, Google says, “We also use aggregated and anonymized interaction data to assess whether search results are relevant to queries. We transform that data into signals that help our machine-learned systems better estimate relevance.”

What is “interaction data,” and where does Google get it?

That makes sense because those are the metrics marketers are familiar with and understand to represent the interactive data Google may be looking for.

Marketers may also notice a correlation between the metrics improving as their position in the SERP improves.

Is it possible that we are somehow improving Google’s understanding of our website’s user experience using Google Analytics?

Like some sort of SEO bat signal?

Can we directly influence rankings by giving Google more “interaction data” to work with?

[Ebook:] Download The Complete Guide To Google Ranking Factors

The Evidence Against Google Analytics As A Ranking Factor

While we don’t have direct access to Google’s algorithm, evidence shows Google Analytics as a ranking factor is not a plausible theory.

First, Google representatives have been clear and consistent in saying that they don’t use Google Analytics data as a ranking factor.

As recently as March 16, 2023, John Mu has responded to tweets about Google Analytics impacting rank.

In jest, a marketer suggested if Google wanted people to use GA4, they could just say it would improve ranking.

John Mu replied, “That’s not going to happen.”

Google seems to continuously be batting down the idea that its analytics services influence ranking in any way.

Back in 2010, when we were tweeting to snag the top spot in results for a few moments, Matt Cutts said, “Google Analytics is not used in search quality in any way for our rankings.”

And you don’t have to take Google’s word for it.

Here are three websites ranking in the top 10 for highly competitive keywords that do not have the Google Analytics tag on their site.

1. Ahrefs, an SEO tool, famously does not use Google Analytics.

Tim Soulo, CMO at Ahrefs, tweeted in December 2023, “Every time I tell fellow marketers that we don’t have Google Analytics at chúng tôi they react with ‘NO WAY!’”

And the Ahrefs domain ranks in the top 10 positions for over 12,000 non-branded keywords.

2. Another famous example is Wikipedia.

Wikipedia articles dominate Google search results, ranking very well for definition-type searches such as computer, dog, and even the search query “Google.”

And it ranks for all this with no Google Analytics code on the site.

3. One more example is Ethereum.

Ethereum is ranking in the top 10 for [nft]. NFT is an enterprise-level keyword with over one million monthly searches in the United States alone.

Ethereum’s website does not have Google Analytics installed.

[Discover:] More Google Ranking Factor Insights

Our Verdict: Google Analytics Is Not A Ranking Factor

Google Analytics is a powerful tool to help us understand how people find our website and what they do once there.

And when we make adjustments to our website, by making it easier to navigate or improving the content, we can see GA metrics improve.

However, the GA code on your site does not send up an SEO bat signal.

The GA code is not a signal to Google, and it does not make it easier for Google to assess relevance (whether your webpage fulfills the user’s search query.)

The “bat signal” is for you.

Google Analytics is not a ranking factor, but it can help you understand whether you’re heading in the right or wrong direction.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Google Creates A New Source Of Traffic With Keen

Google has quietly announced a content discovery service called Keen. Keen is being referred to as a Pinterest competitor but that’s not entirely accurate.

Keen is a machine learning app that actively promotes relevant web pages to users. Keen is poised to become a new source of referral traffic, which makes it worthy of investigation.

What is Keen

Keen is an experimental web and Android app that is a part of Google’s Area 120 projects. Area 120 is described as where small teams can work together in a small startup mode to bring innovative projects to life.

According to an official post on Google, the project grew out of a husband and wife sharing information about activities that were important to them, activities they wanted to share with each other.

As they gathered links and resources related to their hobbies and goals, the Googler understood that he needed a tool that not only helped curate and share those ideas but to discover more of those ideas.

The post explains:

“It was powerful to tell each other what we wanted to spend more time on. And once we did, we found that collecting related ideas, links and resources together gave us a way to spend more time on our shared passions in real life.

To explore this idea further, four colleagues and I created a new experiment called Keen…”

The curated content can be shared with the public, with specific people or kept private.

What sets Keen apart from Pinterest is that Keen uses Google Search and machine learning to help surface content that is related to your interest.

As your collection grows Keen becomes even better at surfacing the kind of content users are interested in.

This is a proactive content discovery method.

According to the official announcement you can:

“Save and add links, text, images and web searches. Everything you add gets you more to explore…”

That “more to explore” part is what is going to help the web ecosystem receive more traffic.

Related: How to Get Organic Traffic That Isn’t From Google

Keen is a New Channel for Traffic

Keen represents a new opportunity to grow popularity and traffic.

The most powerful recommendation a website can receive is a recommendation from one friend to another.

The value of Keen to the web ecosystem is that it represents a new way for users to discover web content.

Keen actively searches and suggests relevant content to users.

A search engine is passive. It waits for someone to ask it a question. Keen is proactive.

Instead of passively suggesting content in response to search queries, Keen actively recommends content that people will enjoy.

This is far more than a Pinterest competitor. It’s a way to grow traffic and popularity.

Web publishers, search marketers and web stores may find it useful to look into Keen to see how it may fit into their marketing strategy.

Take A Peek At The Google Drive

The decription says, “… GDrive provides reliable storage for all of your files, including photos, music and documents … GDrive allows you to access your files from anywhere, anytime, and from any device — be it from your desktop, web browser or cellular phone.”

So not only may the Google Drive debut soon, it looks like Google is also venturing into music storage as well as photographs and documents. Bloggers the world over have been scouring Google’s servers and other corners of the Web in recent weeks to find definitive proof of the Google Drive. This discovery seems to confirm it. So what else is out there, and how did we get to where we are? Let’s take a look.

Google’s Picasa


After this discovery, the mystery became even more interesting…

Google Throws a Bone

Adding more fuel to the fire, Gmail’s Product Manager Todd Jackson said this in an interview with CNET: “We know people’s file sizes are getting bigger. They want to share their files, keep them in the cloud, and not worry about which computer they’re on. Google wants to be solving these problems.”

Google Internal Document

Peering through the the digital universe, Google Blogoscoped’s Tony Ruscoe found a reference to what may have been an internal document from Google on chúng tôi a Website to upload and share documents. The document was called “GDrive on Cosmo Getting Started Guide.” Reportedly, the document suggested that the Google Drive will support both Mac and PC users and will integrate with other Google service like Docs, Picasa, and Gmail. Now when you check the page on Scribd you get a message saying, “This content was removed at the request of M. Homsi/Google.”

It’s unclear what Cosmo is, but it may be some sort of upgrade to Google Docs. There was also a mysterious reference to something called Amethyst, and a suggestion that the lower end of the GDrive limit could be around 10 GB.

CSS File and the first photo

Before long the Google Operating System blog found a reference to a “webdrive” in the Cascading Style Sheet for Google Apps. This led to the discovery of a tiny little icon on Google’s servers called “mini_webdrive.gif,” found here. Just like ol ‘Nessy’s first pic the photo is hard to see, and while there’s no doubt it’s a storage icon, it could be anything (including the Gdrive).

That brings us today’s discovery. Pundits are already wondering if the Google Drive will herald the long-awaited “cloud revolution” by taking all files off your hard drive and moving them into the ether so they are accessible anywhere.

Like anything else from Google, the GDrive is anticipated with a lot of exaggeration and predictions that it will revolutionize the web. If it is real, and free, the GDrive may be popular; however, something tells me we are still too mistrusting to allow all our files to disappear into the clouds. Maybe someday we’ll be ready, but not yet.

Will Google Cloud Catch Up?

There’s an odd phenomenon that happens to me at Google Next conferences, Google’s annual event to tout its cloud computing platform. It happened to me at last year’s show, and it happened again this year.

I go into the event full of skepticism about Google’s hopes for its cloud computing platform. The search giant is clearly a laggard in cloud computing. Its toughest critics suggest it may never be more than a supporting player. And yet after I spend time at its annual conference, watch demos and listen to Google execs, I become convinced: Google Cloud will be a force to be reckoned with.

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I look back at my Google Next piece from last year and I’m almost sheepish – I was so enthusiastic about GCP’s chances, a distinctly minority opinion at the time. (In my defense, my Google Next article from 2023 was restrained.) Mind you, I’ve seen a lot of tech presentations; I’m properly jaded. But, even with a year to regain my doubts – well-founded doubts, to be sure – this year’s Google Cloud conference again won me over.

First, the skepticism. Cloud leader Amazon Web Services began offering IT infrastructure services in 2006, essentially pushing the IT industry into the new world of cloud. Microsoft, slow at first given its legacy of packaged software, saw the critical importance of cloud and invested deeply in Azure. Google, meanwhile, appeared to be largely sleepwalking. Google Cloud Platform has only been seriously competitive in the enterprise market for the last few years.

This Kubernetes display seemed popular among Next attendees

Estimates of 2023 cloud revenue from Deutsche Bank sum up the horse race: AWS earned $12.22 billion, with 2.42 billion for Microsoft Azure and $900 million for Google. (Figures don’t include sales of cloud-based productivity tools, which for Microsoft is huge.) Deutsche Bank forecasts that both Google and Microsoft will double their cloud sales over the next two years, with Microsoft growing at a faster rate that Google. In other words, GCP’s underdog status won’t change in the foreseeable future.

But Google? Hmmm, well, it has a depth of technical expertise that is unsurpassed by any company on the planet. But AWS has a clever habit of finding what’s commercial in high tech and offering it to businesses in a way that’s geared for their current needs. Microsoft is no slouch in this area either, and has an edge over AWS in hybrid cloud, a model adored by large enterprise.

Underneath the marketing noise, Google Cloud’s positives going forward boil down to two key areas: Google’s profound strength in artificial intelligence (and the related fields of data analytics and machine learning), and its newfound deep desire to romance enterprise clients.

Promoting GCP technology

Newfound Enterprise Focus: There’s an opinion that often voiced about Google: its internal company culture is geared for exceptionally high end, sophisticated tech. This is the company that creates self-driving cars and tweaks neural networks for deep AI projects. But catering to the boring needs of regular mainstream businesses? Not so much.

“Google makes phenomenal technology, but their strength and their weakness is that everything is very ‘Googly,’” said Stu Miniman, an analyst with Wikibon who attended Google Next. Translated: it’s geared for the hyper geek. Google’s attitude is perceived, he explained, as “we make the best stuff, and the smartest people know how to use it.”

Another longtime tech pundit I spoke to at the event, who asked that he not be named, put it thusly: “With Google, they can talk to you a long time and you won’t really know what they said. They’re smart people, they’re smarter than you.”

But there were signs at the conference that this is changing. Google SVP Diane Greene, hired in November 2023 to remake Google Cloud, is GCP’s greatest asset. Having co-founded and built VMware – which revolutionized enterprise IT – Greene has the enterprise DNA that Google so lacks. If anyone can turn the GCP into a leader, it’s her. (Incidentally, in her keynote, she said, “I look forward to the day when this audience is 50 percent women.”)

Onstage, Greene presented various large enterprise GCP clients. Most notably, to my eyes, Colgate-Palmolive. While it’ a highly successful company, no one has ever described Colgate as a hot bed for futuristic innovation. Greene’s spotlight on Colgate seemed to saying, Look, we can cater to the needs to plain-old businessy businesses. GCP enabled Colgate to deploy the G Suite of productivity tools “to 28,000 employees in less than six months.” Wow, touting cloud-based office software: that’s a wonderfully mundane thing to brag about in 2023.

Clearly, Greene is whipping GCP into shape as an enterprise competitor. Google Cloud has hired more new employees than any of Alphabet’s other divisions; it’s also working to bolster its partner community. Google claims that in competitive bid situations, it’s awarded the contract 50 percent of the time, an increase from prior years. Not surprisingly, Microsoft and AWS dispute this; an AWS executive told The Wall Street Journal that “We rarely see (Google) among the last two finalists for big deals—especially when it comes to larger customers or enterprises.”

Whatever the truth of that issue, GCP is rolling out a smorgasbord of tools to entice enterprise clients. For instance, a free Virtual Machine transfer service, which facilities transfer from public clouds or on-premise environments; Cloud Dataprep, which allows data to be more easily prepared for processing; and support for Microsoft’s SQL Server on GCP. In fact Google put out a byzantine slew of announcements at Next; 100 by its own count, an amount no regular human could digest. Apparently the strategy is “let’s overwhelm them with new stuff – we are that committed!”

Press conference with Google executives; SVP Diane Greene at far left.

Along these lines, Google pushed two points hard this year. First, it promoted itself as the most resilient, reliable cloud, offering five nines – 99.999 – of uptime. Greene said that GCP had been designated as “having the highest availability of any cloud over the course of 2023.” (The figures come from CloudHarmony, a division of Gartner.) Then, in a clear jab at AWS, which suffered a recent outage, said added, “I think 2023 will be promising, too.” The audience chuckled heartily.

Microsoft issued a statement to dispute Greene’s claim, pointing out that it has a larger number of regions globally: “When looking at average uptime across regions, rather than total downtime across a disproportionate amount of regions for each provider, Azure reliability is in line with that of the other cloud providers measured…” Microsoft added a zinger of its own: “What we hear from our customers is that uptime is a more useful measure of availability.” Ouch! Take that, GCP. Google, for its part, promoted its expanding geographical coverage.

GCP’s most aggressive tactic to woo business was its price cuts, the surest path to the heart of any business. The so-called “race to the bottom,” price-wise, has been years long and Google has lost no enthusiasm for it. It cut Google Compute Engine prices up to 8%, offered Committed Use discounts of up to 57%, and extended its free trial from 60 days to 12 months.

Google also promotes its ability to get new cloud customers up and running quickly. Carousell, a marketplace app based in Asia, transferred from a competing public cloud to GCP in one month. Productivity software firm Evernote required just 70 days.

But those rapid on-ramps don’t reflect the experience of many established enterprises. At the conference, I spoke with a potential cloud customer, who attended to check out Google’s offering. He didn’t want his name used. What matters to you, I asked? He’s looking for reliability, support, and wants to avoid vendor lock-in – this last was particularly important. He said it would take 3-4 years to migrate to the cloud. That long, I asked? Yes, and some companies take longer, he opined. “If some cloud company says it takes six weeks, they mean a little startup takes that long.”

Perhaps for a customer like this, one of Google’s big sales pitches will be particularly compelling. Google points out in its marketing material that we’re living in a multi-cloud world; customers use more than one cloud vendor. Translated: even if we don’t get all your cloud business, perhaps we’ll get some of it. There’s a pragmatic humility in this. It’s the kind of pitch you hear from a backbencher; you don’t hear AWS talking about other providers.

Yet Google is correct about the dominance of the multi-cloud model. Companies will (and already do) use several cloud vendors, based on what that vendor does best. A company might use the Azure platform to boost its legacy infrastructure, and simultaneously deploy to GCP to leverage Google’s data analytics and machine learning offerings.

Google will benefit from this al la carte strategy, which is enabled by a multi-cloud world. Other cloud vendors will offer similar tools, but certainly Google’s version of various key tech tools – particularly machine learning and data analytics – will be at the forefront.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Hasn’t Changed Much – But That’s Not A Problem

If there’s one thing to say about Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch 5, it’s that it doesn’t look all that different to the Galaxy Watch 4. It sports broadly the same design and straps – albeit in new colour combinations this time around – in the same 40mm and 44mm casings.

Of course, that’s not to say there’s nothing new about the Galaxy Watch 5.

Longer, better, faster, stronger

Samsung has made strides in the durability department, with a sapphire crystal display that’s not only scratch resistant but 60% stronger than that of the Galaxy Watch 4.

There’s also a 13% larger battery, resulting in a boost in overall battery life, and new fast charging capabilities mean it can achieve 45% of charge in 30 minutes, or enough power for 8 hours of use after just 8 minutes of charging.

The size of the 3-in-1 bioactive sensor has also been increased in a bid to provide more accurate readings when exercising and sleeping, with new body composition targets available to further enhance your training regime.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

There are also brand new watch faces to choose from, along with a suite of updated faces and over 80 new complications to utilise.

While handy changes, it’s certainly not Samsung’s most revolutionary update yet – but if I’m being honest, it didn’t need to be.

The Galaxy Watch 4 was ahead of its time

Take the Galaxy Watch 5’s health and fitness tracking capabilities for example. Utilising Samsung’s bioactive sensor, comprised of an optical heart rate sensor, electrical heart rate sensor, and a bioelectrical impedance analysis sensor, the watch can provide key metrics not only on heart rate but blood oxygen levels and even your body composition.

Dominik Tomaszewski / Foundry

The latter, in particular, is impressive, requiring only two fingers on the watch to provide insights into your body mass, skeletal muscle, water levels, and much more.

The swathe of data available to the watch means the exercise tracking experience should also be among the most insightful around, complete with recovery time based on your exercise and even the recommended amount of water to drink post-workout depending on your sweat levels. Yeah, I don’t think the Apple Watch Series 7 can do that…

It’s a similar story when it comes to the Galaxy Watch 5’s sleep tracking capabilities. It does everything you’d expect a smartwatch worth its salt to offer, including a breakdown of sleep cycles, time asleep, interruptions, and even snoring detection, but it goes much further than that.

Using your sleep data, you’ll be assigned a sleep profile in the form of an animal. This can help provide additional insight into your sleep habits, and it’ll also use the data to create a customised multi-week plan with the aim of improving the quality of your nightly snooze.

Considering Apple is just about to add basic sleep tracking capabilities with watchOS 9, it’s another win for Samsung.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

To be honest, that’s a theme throughout the Galaxy Watch 5. While there isn’t much that is new – especially when it comes to tracking – it’s still one of the most tempting smartwatches you can buy in 2023, now with a bigger battery and better durability.  

It’s not enough for Galaxy Watch 4 owners to upgrade, but it’s an even more compelling option for those yet to invest in a Samsung wearable.

Besides, those that want something completely new have the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro to look forward to; it’s even stronger than the Watch 5, boasting a titanium body that’s 2x more durable, a display 90% stronger than the Watch 4, and a battery that’ll last over three days on a single charge.

For more on both the Galaxy Watch 5 and its Pro brethren, take a look at all you need to know about the Galaxy Watch 5 & 5 Pro. We’ve also got details on where to pre-order the Galaxy Watch 5 if you’re tempted by the new wearable.

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