George Nguyen – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Tue, 31 Aug 2021 14:22:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Google says title changes don’t impact rankings Mon, 30 Aug 2021 19:57:16 +0000 "This just changes the displayed titles, it doesn't change ranking or takes [sic] anything different into account," he elaborated.

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On Saturday, Google Search Advocate John Mueller clarified that the changes the company has been making to titles in the search results have no effect on rankings.

“This just changes the displayed titles, it doesn’t change ranking or takes [sic] anything different into account,” he elaborated.

Why we care

This means the titles you wrote may still be taken into account by Google when it ranks results. So, don’t stop optimizing your titles just because they may change in the search results. If your clickthrough rates have taken a hit, you can use a third-party tool to check whether Google changed your titles and if it did, it may be worthwhile to experiment with a new title. If, on the other hand, your clickthrough rates have improved, you might want to make note of how Google changed your title for future reference.

That having been said, Google makes ranking changes very often, so you may experience rankings fluctuations, but they won’t be due to title changes.

More on title tag changes

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Four tools to check for title changes in the SERPs Mon, 30 Aug 2021 17:31:17 +0000 These tools let you see whether Google changed your title, the date it changed and what it was changed to.

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On August 24, Google confirmed that it changed how it creates titles for search result listings. The confirmation came roughly a week after search professionals began noticing such changes — in the interim (and even after the confirmation), SEOs raised concerns about how these Google-altered titles may affect their traffic.

Unfortunately, title change information isn’t available in Google Search Console or Google Analytics. So, SEOs have turned to third-party tools to see whether their titles are being changed. Below is a list of tools you can use to check for title changes and instructions on how to do so.

Ahrefs. Title changes can be checked in Ahrefs, although it is a manual process. You can check for changes via historical SERPs in Site Explorer > Organic Keywords 2.0.

Image: Ahrefs.

Since this method shows a list of search results for a given keyword, toggling the “Target only” switch (as shown below), which only shows the snippet from your site, can help you get to the information you’re looking for a bit faster. You can then compare titles by changing dates.

Image: Ahrefs.

Rank Ranger. The SEO Monitor tool from Rank Ranger is designed to monitor URLs and show you how they perform in Google Search, based on historical data. The data is displayed in a graph that shows ranking changes over time (shown below).

The top 20 URLs for the keyword “buy books,” over a 30-day period. The bold line represents the URL currently being tracked (in this case, Image: Rank Ranger.

Below the chart is a list of all the changes to the page title and description in Google Search. This means if you or Google make any changes to your title or description, it’ll be displayed here with the date that the change occurred.

The list of changes for the keyword being tracked. Image: Rank Ranger.

This enables SEOs to cross-reference rankings changes with title changes, although Google has said that title changes do not affect rankings.

Semrush. It is possible to track title changes using Semrush, although the toolset provider does not have a specific feature to do so. For keywords you’ve been tracking in the Position Tracking tool, click on the SERP icon next to the keyword.

Image: Semrush.

That will pull the search results page for the date selected in the report, as shown below.

Image: Semrush.

If you suspect a title was changed, you can confirm this by changing the date in the report and repeating this process to compare titles. Note: you can only view this information for the period you were tracking those particular keywords.

SISTRIX. In the left-hand navigation, under SERPs > SERP-Snippets, there is a button to “Show title changes,” which takes you to this screen:


The red text indicates words that have been dropped from the title and the green text indicates words that have been added.

Other tool providers. We also reached out to a number of other toolset providers. Screamingfrog and Sitebulb do not support this functionality. And, Moz and STAT did not immediately respond to our inquiries.

Why we care. Knowing when your titles are getting changed, and what they’re getting changed to, can be useful for analyzing any correlation the changes may have on your clickthrough rate. Together, these details may help you decide whether to adjust your titles, or if you’re seeing positive changes, they can also tell you what may be resonating with your audience.

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How Google and Yelp handle fake reviews and policy violations Mon, 30 Aug 2021 15:02:41 +0000 A side-by-side analysis of Google and Yelp's respective approaches, policies and punitive measures.

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Review platforms, like Google and Yelp, enable local businesses to expand their online visibility and establish credibility through customer reviews — two important aspects of marketing that SMBs may otherwise struggle with.

Over the last few years, maintaining an accurate online presence has gone from being an important marketing tool to being a lifeline for local businesses. In fact, platforms like Google and Yelp churned out a slew of new features last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, enabling businesses to rapidly communicate business hours or service changes to their customers.

Unfortunately, bad actors may seek to harm a business’s online reputation through fake reviews or by crowding them out with fake listings. While Yelp and Google both have extensive systems and policies to fight bad actors, there are important distinctions that every local marketer should be aware of, and knowing them can help frame your expectations for each platform as well as enable you to make more informed decisions about where to spend your time and resources.

In addition to a side-by-side analysis of Google and Yelp’s respective detection systems and ramifications for violators, we’ve also featured insights from experienced local search marketing experts on the efficacy of each platform; you can read their insights towards the end of this article.

How Google and Yelp detect fake reviews and listings

Both Google and Yelp have implemented automated systems as their first line of defense against fake reviews and bad actors. And, they both use human moderators for tasks that the technology isn’t suitable for. However, their respective policies and approaches, which inform the deployment of their technology and human staff, are the most important distinctions to keep in mind as you establish your online presence.

Google’s approach seems to emphasize prevention at scale via machine learning algorithms that help to tackle fake reviews and listings. Yelp focuses heavily on the integrity of its reviews and seems to have more robust punitive measures in place for violators. 

Google’s automated detection system. Google’s automated systems “use hundreds of cues to detect abusive behavior, such as a shift of review patterns on a business and implausible behavior patterns by reviewers,” a company spokesperson told Search Engine Land. Typical user pattern data (for example, users tend to leave reviews, ratings and photos at places they’ve already been) is one of Google’s most important resources when it comes to identifying illegitimate review content and implementing solutions to combat them.

Google’s machine learning-first approach, which has also become a prominent aspect of its paid and organic search systems, is designed to prevent policy-violating content at scale. “For example, we have focused efforts on detecting content coming from click farms where fake reviews and ratings are being generated,” the company said in a February 2021 blog post, “Through better detection of click farm activity we are making it harder to post fake content cheaply, which ultimately makes it harder for a click farm to sell reviews and make money.”

Machine learning models are also used in the Google My Business verification process to catch fake profiles before they appear on Maps. Ideally, Google’s systems will remove the policy-violating content or flag it for further review, along with the associated user account, before the content gets in front of users. But, some fake reviews and profiles are bound to slip through the cracks, as they do with all platforms, which is why the company also deploys thousands of human analysts.

Google’s human content moderators. Teams of human operators and analysts complement Google’s automated detection systems. These analysts help with content evaluations that algorithms may not be able to analyze, such as understanding local slang within a review.

The company has yet to disclose more information about the role of its human analysts, such as whether they help to improve Google’s systems (the way search quality raters do), stating that, “Staying a step ahead of scammers is a constant battle, so we don’t share specific details about our processes.”

Yelp’s automated detection system. Yelp’s automated recommendation software analyzes data points from all reviews, reviewers and businesses in order to recommend reviews to users, but it also looks for solicited reviews and unfairly biased reviews (like reviews that may be written about a competitor or someone’s own business). This software takes the relevance of the review and the reliability of the reviewer (how often the user is active) into account as well.

Yelp’s human content moderators. Yelp has been relatively open about how it uses both technology and its human content moderators to combat policy-violating content: “When a community member, a business owner or our automated system alerts our team about potential issues, a real human reviews the issue every single time,” Noorie Malik, Yelp’s VP of user operations, told Search Engine Land.

Yelp’s user operations team investigates fraudulent activity, validates new businesses when they sign up with Yelp and works to identify activity that might warrant a Consumer Alert.

Consumer Alerts. When Yelp detects abnormal activity on a business profile, which may be an attempt to manipulate a business’s reviews or ratings, it conducts an investigation that may lead to the application of one of its Consumer Alerts.

A Yelp Consumer Alert. Image: Yelp.

These notices appear as a pop-up over the business’s review section and may contain a link to any evidence Yelp has gathered. The platform may also temporarily disable the ability to post reviews when it applies a Consumer Alert. There are currently six types of Consumer Alerts:

  • Compensated Activity Alert: This may be applied when Yelp has evidence that someone has offered an incentive (such as a discount) in exchange for a review.
  • Public Attention Alert: This alert was created in response to the rise of social activism surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. When someone associated with a business is accused of, or the target of, racist behavior, Yelp applies this alert to warn users that the business may be experiencing a spike in reviews due to the increased public attention.
    • Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert: Yelp may apply this alert when a business with a Public Attention Alert attracts media attention over the use of racist symbols, slurs or other acts of overtly racist conduct. This alert always include a news article where people can learn more.
  • Questionable Legal Threats Alert: Yelp applies this alert when it has evidence that a business is abusing the legal system to intimidate a reviewer.
  • Suspicious Review Activity Alert: This may be applied when Yelp’s systems detect questionable review activity, such as when a large quantity of reviews originates from a single IP address.
  • Unusual Activity Alert: Sudden media attention may cause an unusual spike in activity on a business profile — for example, instead of basing their review on firsthand experience, users might leave reviews as a form of social commentary. In such cases, Yelp applies this alert and temporarily disables content until activity returns to normal and its moderators clean up the page.

Consequences for violating Google and Yelp’s content policies

If you get caught, running afoul of Google and Yelp’s respective content policies can result in a range of consequences for your business.

Both platforms can remove illegitimate reviews. “Reviews are automatically processed to detect inappropriate content like fake reviews and spam,” Google states in its prohibited and restricted content page, “We may take down reviews that are flagged in order to comply with Google policies or legal obligations.”

In fact, in 2020 alone, Google removed 55 million policy-violating reviews and almost three million fake business profiles. However, these figures, which the company publishes annually, tell an incomplete story because it does not disclose the total number of reviews submitted, active business profiles, reviews and profiles flagged by users and so on.

And, as some of the local search professionals who spoke to Search Engine Land for this article have highlighted in the section below, “the success rate is very tiny” when it comes to getting Google to remove fake reviews once they’re live.

On Yelp, “Reviews that the software determines to be less reliable are moved to a separate ‘not currently recommended’ section of a business’s Yelp page and are not factored into the business’s overall Yelp rating,” said Sudheer Someshwara, Yelp’s head of trust and safety product. The “not currently recommended” section is still accessible to users via the link below the recommended reviews, and reviews may move back and forth between the two sections over time, as the recommendation software continues to learn and evaluate signals.

When content is flagged on Yelp, either by its technology or users, the platform’s team of human moderators manually investigates the complaint, which may result in the removal of fake or purchased reviews, whether those reviews are “recommended” or not.

Yelp applies ranking penalties; Google declined to comment. When businesses violate Google’s policies, the company removes the misleading content and additional penalties may be applied, depending on the specific case. Google declined to comment when asked whether it specifically applies ranking penalties to businesses that violate its policies.

Yelp was more transparent about ranking penalties: “When we find evidence of extreme attempts to manipulate a business’s reputation and inflate their search ranking, we may issue a search ranking penalty,” Someshwara said. These penalties are lifted once the offending behavior has stopped. In particular, search ranking penalties can be applied against businesses that solicit reviews; “If we find indicators of systematic review solicitation, we will apply a search ranking penalty to affected Yelp business pages,” the company said in a support center post.

Yelp may remove business listings; Google may revoke profile ownership. Yelp reserves the right to remove from its platform businesses that seek to artificially manipulate its systems or mislead users.

“If we determine that a business is buying fake reviews or violating any other Google My Business policies, we take swift action ranging from removing content to account suspension and revoking Business Profile ownership,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land.

Violators can still advertise on Google, but not on Yelp. In addition to managing their business profiles and organic presence on Google and Yelp, business owners can take advantage of each platform’s paid products to boost their visibility.

“Businesses are banned from advertising with Yelp for at least one year if they receive a Compensated Activity Alert or a Suspicious Review Activity Alert (including if our team finds evidence that they participated in a review ring),” Someshwara said, adding that these alerts require concrete evidence before they’re applied. Yelp may also ban businesses from advertising if it identifies egregious attempts to manipulate a business’s search ranking or star rating.

This is one area where Yelp and Google differ dramatically, as Google currently has no advertising penalties for businesses that violate policies on the organic side. All of Google’s standard ads policies still apply.

Yelp continues to monitor listings; Google doesn’t seem to. “Yelp has a system in place that monitors and detects if repeated violations occur,” Someshwara said, adding that it also relies on its base of users to report violations.

Google did not disclose details about if or how it continues to monitor business listings that have a history of policy violations. However, the company did emphasize that “we closely monitor 24/7 for fraudulent content, using a combination of people and technology.”

Google and Yelp, through the eyes of practitioners

A business’s experience with a platform often plays out differently in real life than it does when they’re learning about the platform. The three local marketers who spoke to us for this article have extensive experience with both Google and Yelp and their insights can help to frame your expectations when using those platforms.

“Room for improvement in . . . both platforms.” “I think the strengths Google and Yelp have as local review platforms is their reach and their authority, so to speak,” said Niki Mosier, head of SEO at AgentSync, who spoke more broadly about the pros and cons of these platforms. “I posted a review for a national park less than a week ago with a photo and got a notification yesterday that over 2,000 people have seen that photo,” she provided as an example.

Mosier pointed to the difficulty involved with removing policy-violating reviews as a weak point for both Google and Yelp: “Slanderous or inaccurate reviews can be very harmful to a business,” she said, “I know it’s a slippery slope with letting people get reviews removed but I think there is definitely room for improvement in that area on both platforms.”

Google. Ben Fisher, co-founder of Steady Demand and a Google My Business platinum product expert, and Joy Hawkins, owner of the Local Search Forum, Local U and Sterling Sky, spoke to the respective strengths and weaknesses they’ve experienced across Google and Yelp.

“Google powers local search, and while [reviews] are a conversion factor, they can also be a ranking factor,” Fisher said. People may decide to visit a local business after reading reviews, and reviews are also a ranking factor for Google. “This is a powerful [benefit],” he added. 

“[Google’s] strength would be that it is easier for business owners to collect a high volume of reviews without worrying about them all getting filtered (like Yelp),” said Hawkins.

Fisher and Hawkins both singled out fake reviews as a problem for the search engine: “The most negative con is that reviews can be gamed, they can be bought by competitors and in the worst-case scenario, they can be weaponized in an attack,” Fisher said, “A successful negative attack can easily wipe out your star rating and bring down the ranking of GMB and any Local Service Ads you have connected to GMB.” Google does have workflows for handling negative reviews, “but the success rate is very tiny,” he added.

“For Google, their biggest weakness is combating fake reviews,” Hawkins said, “They are beyond terrible at it and even the most obvious cases that get reported by a human (not automatically caught) get missed (Google deems the reviews fine even though they’re fake).” 

Yelp. “Yelp’s strength is definitely that they combat fake reviews (and filter them) better than any other platform, in my experience,” Hawkins said. Fisher shared a similar opinion: “Yelp has a better way of handling reviews and I hear clients that get very good removal rates; additionally if there are a lot of fake reviews Yelp may put up a warning to consumers.”

Yelp’s more stringent reviews policy seems to be a double-edged sword for marketers: “The negative is that they also filter out a ton of legitimate reviews which makes the overall ratings for many businesses appear to be much lower than what Google shows,” Hawkins said, “Their no-soliciting policy makes it really hard for businesses to combat negative reviews,” she added.

“This is probably the most frustrating part: a user must have a trusted account to leave a review and many users simply do not fall into this criteria,” Fisher said with regards to Yelp’s recommended reviews, “Therefore, a review on Yelp could be a lost opportunity.”

You don’t get to pick and choose

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. As marketers, we must meet our customers wherever they are, and in this case, that means growing your presence on both Google and Yelp. Knowing the policy and capability differences of each platform can help you invest your time and resources more wisely, but ultimately, each site should serve to bolster your business’s overall reputation. This can be especially important if you ever become the victim of a negative review attack on one platform, as your presence on other platforms can continue to bring in customers.

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Will Google change this title?; Thursday’s daily brief Thu, 26 Aug 2021 14:00:00 +0000 Plus, tactics for content resilience in a dynamic search landscape.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, the title tag debacle has to improve, right?

Google has confirmed it changed how it goes about creating titles for search result listings, and you can read more about that below, but the explanation isn’t very cathartic for search professionals who meticulously craft their titles, factoring in things like keyword research and audience personas.

The company says that, in its tests, searchers actually prefer the new system. It’s hard to believe that people prefer outdated titles that refer to Joe Biden as the vice president, to point out a particularly egregious example. Google knows this — in fact, it has even set up a thread where you can upload examples and leave feedback. That’s a promising start, but in the meantime, click-through rates are suffering and users may be confused.

This is an interesting predicament because the vast majority of sites don’t have SEOs to optimize their titles, which means that the change may potentially benefit those sites and the users who are searching for that content. However, it may negate or even hurt the work that our industry is putting in. Is this a case of the greater good outweighing the needs of the few? Has your brand been impacted? What’s your outlook on this? Send your thoughts my way:

George Nguyen,

Google confirms it changed how it creates titles for search result listings

After more than a week of bewilderment and, for some, outrage, Google confirmed that it changed how it creates titles for search result listings on Tuesday evening. Previously, Google used the searcher’s query when formulating the title of the search result snippets. Now, the company says it generally doesn’t do that anymore. Instead, Google’s new system is built to describe what the content is about, regardless of the query that was searched.

The new system makes use of text that users can visually see when they arrive on the page (e.g., content within H1 or other header tags, or which is made prominent through style treatments). HTML title tags are still used more than 80% of the time, though, the company said. Google designed this change to produce more readable and accessible titles, but, for many, it seems to be having adverse effects — just check out the replies in the Twitter announcement. Fluctuations in your click-through rate may be related to this change, so we suggest you make note of it in your reporting.

Read more here.

SERP trends of the rich and featured: Top tactics for content resilience in a dynamic search landscape

The search results change all the time — not just the order of the results, but the features and user interface as well. Over the years, we’ve seen blue links get crowded out in favor of featured snippets, then featured snippets became less prominent as knowledge panels proliferated, and so the cycle goes. So, how do you ensure that your content stays resilient and continues to attract the traffic that your business relies on as the SERP evolves?

At SMX Advanced, Crystal Carter, senior digital strategist at Optix Solutions, outlined the following potential strategies for greater SERP resilience:

  • Optimize content for mixed media featured snippet panel results. There are often multiple site link opportunities in featured snippets (from images and/or videos), so you might be able to attract clicks even if you don’t “own” the snippet.
  • Create knowledge hubs for potential contextual linking developments. Google often experiments with new features on live search results, as it did with image carousels with featured snippets. Late last year, it tested out contextual links, and for some niches, this could be a way to gain more visibility or further branding if contextual links receive a wider rollout.
  • Build structured data into your website before rich results arise. It doesn’t take that much effort to do, it informs search engines about the nature of your content and if search engines end up supporting the structured data with a rich result, you’ll be ready.
  • Use intent-focused long-form content to potentially benefit from passage ranking. This may help you extract extra search visibility from your detailed content.

Read more here.

Stickers to replace ‘swipe-up’ links on Instagram

On August 30, Instagram will deprecate support for the “swipe-up” link (in Instagram Stories) in favor of a “Link Sticker,” TechCrunch reported on Monday. The Link Sticker will behave much like the poll, question and location stickers in that creators will be able to resize it, select different styles and place it anywhere on their Stories.

Why we care. This change may enable greater engagement between audiences and creators. The swipe-up link only enabled users to swipe up (or they could bounce to the next Story), but Stories with Sticker Links behave like any other Story: users can react with an emoji or send a reply.

Creators that can access swipe-up links will have access to Sticker Links. For SMBs, that may mean that they still don’t meet the follower threshold, unfortunately. However, Instagram says it’s evaluating whether to expand this feature to more accounts down the road — I wouldn’t hold my breath for that, as more accessibility to Sticker Links may have safety implications, especially if bad actors use it to promote spam or misinformation. 

You saw my Post where, now?

Google Posts can now appear on third-party sites. Google has posted a notice stating that “Your posts will appear on Google services across the web, like Maps and Search, and on third-party sites.” The company has yet to provide further detail on the nature of these sites, the implementation or if they’ll simply be embeddable by all. Thanks to Claire Carlile for bringing this to our attention.

What should you ask at the interview? There are a lot of jobs available right now, so you may have your pick. Jasmine Granton has published a great thread of questions you should ask to narrow down your prospects.

Nike’s robots.txt. If I told you what it said, that’d ruin the joke. Go see it for yourself at Thanks to Britney Muller for sharing this one.

Working remotely? Here’s how to make friends with your coworkers

We’re now very, very deep into working during/around the pandemic. Over the course of the last year and a half, you (or some of your colleagues) may have switched jobs and, now that organized happy hours have sort of lost their appeal, you may be wondering how to build relationships with new coworkers.

To help us all be less socially awkward, WIRED’s Alan Henry offered the following tips:

  • Ask colleagues to hop on a video call just to chat about what they’re working on or their interests. You could do this over a coffee, drink or even ice cream. And, be willing to reschedule if you or they just aren’t up for it that day.
  • Make plans for after you complete a big project. The work is done and people are more likely to be in a celebratory mood.
  • Join in on the conversation. When someone shares photos of their pets, you can share some of yours too (also works for kids!). Share your sense of humor by commenting on jokes or sending memes.
  • Follow your coworkers on Twitter, or Instagram and TikTok, if you’re comfortable with interacting with them on those platforms.

“The fun never happens organically when you’re all stuck behind screens,” Henry wrote, “You have to make it happen, which means putting yourself out there and making yourself (and possibly someone else) slightly uncomfortable.”

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The shifting sands of SERPs; Tuesday’s daily brief Tue, 24 Aug 2021 14:00:00 +0000 And, why you should consider non-Google advertising.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, I was at a climbing gym last Friday when suddenly a semi-familiar tone sounded off all around me.

It was a severe weather notice for Hurricane Henri going off on everyone’s smartphones at the same time. I tapped on the notice and was taken to Google’s mobile SERP, where I was shown the SOS alert at the top, followed by the latest articles in the Top Stories carousel, a map of the storm’s expected path and links to local resources — a far more useful results page than the simple, nostalgic 10 blue links of days long gone.

The layout and interface of search results pages has shifted so much, even just over the last few years: The industry had a field day when Rand Fishkin published that over half of Google searches ended without a click. Last year, I documented how Google adjusted its coronavirus-related results pages in response to the pandemic’s spread across the U.S. And, just last month, Google’s Pandu Nayak sat down with me to share his roadmap for MUM and what search results might resemble in the future.

Needs change and so do the nature of queries — it’s to be expected that the interface our audiences use to find what they’re looking for also evolves. I don’t expect any of you to be optimizing for storm warnings, but it’s always worth it to take a look at the experience offered on those results pages because, one day, they may make it onto a commerce-driven results page, for example.

George Nguyen,


Google said in the year 2020, it made 4,500 updates to Google Search. These changes can be ranking changes, user interface changes and much more. By comparison, in 2019, Google made 3,200 changes to Search. Looking further back, in 2010, we covered that Google had about one change per day.

Google also launched a “fully-redesigned How Search Works website that explains the ins and outs of Search.” In the 2021 version, it “updated the site with fresh information, made it easier to navigate and bookmark sections and added links to additional resources that share how Search works and answer common questions.”

Why we care. It is nice to see Google document how many changes it makes to Search from year to year. It is also good for search marketers to review how Google Search works and do a deep dive into the language Google uses to describe how the search engine functions.

Read more here.

The case for advertising on search engines other than Google

It can be easy to equate search marketing with Google marketing, because, well, statistically, it is. But it shouldn’t be. By focusing on Google above all else, we perpetuate a cycle that overlooks the value that smaller competitors might be offering and keeps the search behemoth at the top. 

We can’t write off these smaller search engines’ failure to launch as evidence they were a worse product. That’s an oversimplification and it’s one we see Google and other near-monopolies use to justify their status as “natural” monopolies.

The dilemma is that search engines need revenue to grow, which comes, in most business models, from advertisers. And advertisers need users, which come with growth. It’s a chicken and egg situation. Which comes first: growth or advertisers? Who else can you consider for advertising:

  • Ecosia: An environmentally friendly, privacy-focused search engine that plants trees as you search.
  • Brave Search: Started as a browser and recently expanded into the search engine space.

Read more here.

Messy SEO Part 1: Navigating a site consolidation migration

Messy SEO is a new Search Engine Land column covering the nitty-gritty, unpolished tasks involved in the auditing, planning, and optimization of websites, using MarTech’s new domain as a case study.

“I recently joined the Third Door Media team to help clean up these issues arising from the consolidation of Marketing Land and MarTech Today. The new site needed someone to jump into the thick of things and chart a path forward,” writes Third Door Media’s new Content and SEO Manager.

Follow along as Corey sorts through the messy side of SEO and navigates the fixes needed to help this website migration achieve its goals.

Read more here.

The deal with title tags in Google Search, Bing Webmaster Tools adoption and the WFH schism

Get caught up on the title tag situation. For those wondering what the deal is with titles in Google Search, Brodie Clark has published an excellent explainer, complete with an FAQ section at the bottom.

Do you use Bing Webmaster Tools? Eli Schwartz posted a Twitter poll asking whether SEOs ever log into BWT. There are still two days left to participate, but when I last checked, a bit under half of respondents said, “Nope.”

“Why does everyone want to keep working from home?” “Return hesitancy is sparking friction as businesses figure out the new normal,” said Marketoonist creator Tom Fishburne.

The burden of sending our children back to school this year

“It’s enough to bring a parent to tears, except that every parent I know ran out a long time ago—I know I did,” Dan Sinker wrote for The Atlantic. “Ran out of tears, ran out of energy, ran out of patience. Through these grinding 18 months, we’ve managed our kids’ lives as best we could while abandoning our own. It was unsustainable then, it’s unsustainable now, and no matter what fresh hell this school year brings, it’ll still be unsustainable.”

The main point of Sinker’s article is encapsulated in the four-word title, “Parents Are Not Okay.” I’ve chosen to spotlight it today because, chances are, some of your colleagues are parents or you, yourself, are a parent and we are now in back-to-school season.

Sending our children back to school while COVID cases are rising, masking continues to be a battleground and a vaccine for children under 12 remains unavailable is a far cry from the improvements we were hoping for a year ago. Sinker describes it as a “monkey’s-paw situation, because, as a parent, all I’ve wanted for a year and a half is for my kids to go back to school—for their sake and for mine—but not like this.”

While we all like to view ourselves as professionals, there are things that are far more important than our jobs; in this case, the welfare of our children. These worries are likely to take a toll and businesses should recognize that, from practitioners all the way through to the C-suite. No one has ever had to do what parents in 2021 are doing, especially because, unlike last year, remote schooling seems to be off the table in so many regions.

“All this and parents are somehow expected to be okay,” Sinker wrote. Perhaps we can lighten the burden by acknowledging what parents around us are experiencing and maybe even find ways to support them where we can.

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“It depends” doesn’t have to be the answer if you ask the right questions; Thursday’s daily brief Thu, 19 Aug 2021 14:00:00 +0000 Plus, blank images in Top stories and new features in the YouTube results page.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, aren’t you tired of hearing “it depends?”

After moderating so many Overtime Q&A sessions for SMX, I’ve noticed that many professionals formulate their questions something like this: relevant background information, goal, “What should I do?”

“It depends” is the preface I hear most often from our expert speakers. That’s because, while they do possess more strategic knowledge that could benefit you, they aren’t totally familiar with your situation (and that’s due to the short nature of Q&A sessions — Twitter conversations are pretty much the same, too). 

Instead of having your peers spitball a few ideas (a fraction of which you’ll reject because you weren’t able to give a comprehensive overview of your predicament), I suggest that we rethink how we ask for help: Ask for what considerations you should take into account as you plan your strategy. This will help you think more critically about your business’ overall goals, how marketing fits into it and the role you, as a search professional, play when it comes to making it all work together.

George Nguyen,

Featured images in the Top stories carousel are not loading due to a bug

Numerous reports of images not loading in Google’s Top stories carousel began surfacing on Twitter yesterday morning. We were able to replicate the issue (shown above) and the carousel shows either blank or blurred featured images, but some of the reports we’ve seen include screenshots of the carousel in which one or two of the images did successfully load. Google has confirmed that it’s a bug and is working on a fix but has not provided a timeline.

Why we care. A blurred featured image may negatively affect your clickthrough rate, so make sure to annotate your reports to reflect this oddity. In search results where just one or two images loaded successfully, the story (or stories) that didn’t load properly may receive fewer clicks. And, since the Top stories carousel is an important source of visibility and traffic for some publishers, this could also impact advertising revenue and other marketing opportunities that depend on getting a user onto your site if the bug goes unresolved for an extended period. Fortunately, Google is already working on it — we’ll continue to provide updates as they come in.

Read more here.

New ways to show up when people search on YouTube

Image: YouTube.

YouTube this week made two big changes to how search works on the video platform:

  1. Timestamps come to video previews: Previously on desktop only, if you hover your mouse over a video, it would play a short preview snippet of the video. This preview capability is now rolling out to mobile. Plus, videos with timestamps will now have chapters available in the search preview.
  2. Auto-translating captions: Along with new preview options, YouTube will begin translating English subtitles to multiple languages (and eventually roll this out to captions in other languages, too). 

Why we care. If you want your videos to stand out in YouTube search, adding timestamps will now be critical. The new translation option gives your videos the opportunity to show up for an even wider global audience than before. 

Read more here.

It’s all about transparency

Red alert. “What red flags should companies be aware of when choosing an SEO agency?” asked Kim Doughty, and SEO Twitter is responding. It’s worth checking out just to ensure your own agency isn’t accidentally turning off businesses with its messaging. Our own Director of Search Content Carolyn Lyden advises that businesses steer clear of agencies that make guarantees (“Your site will rank for these keywords in X days!”), those that don’t give you admin access to your own analytics and agencies that use fine print to take ownership over your online properties/listings.

“Paid for by” label on political ads. Google is now placing “Paid for by” labels on some political ads. This transparency feature enables users to learn more about who is paying for the ad and even lets them see details such as how much the advertiser has spent. Tip of the hat to Valentin Pletzer for sharing this.

What if the secret sauce wasn’t a secret? “If Google actually gave you a detailed breakdown of exactly how their algorithm works to rank websites, don’t you think the #SEO industry would become a boring industry to work in?” Mark Preston asked. The responses run the gamut from “SEO would become boring” to deeper insights about how companies might shift their emphasis from paid to organic.

Sydney court orders a scorned patient to pay $450,000 over unjust negative reviews and content that damaged a surgeon’s reputation

As those who run a local business may already know, negative reviews don’t even have to come from customers — they can come from people who simply attempted to engage with your business. That’s what happened to Dr. Warwick Nettle, a Sydney-based surgeon who declined a patient after consulting with her former surgeon, who cautioned him about operating on her.

“A federal court judge on Wednesday said the effect of the false posts caused ‘extreme’ damage to both the surgeon’s emotional and mental state and his prior ‘impeccable’ reputation,” The Guardian published. “His five-star Google rating dropped to 3.5 stars after the first two posts were published.”

The court fined Catherine Cruse, the scorned patient, $450,000. Unfortunately for Dr. Nettle, Cruse seems to have disappeared — she filed no defense and appeared at no hearings, despite her prolific online smear campaign that spanned eight months and various forms of content, including reviews and defamatory posts on online reputation sites.

The extent of the online abuse here is far-reaching: “A since-removed post on a third website included images falsely claiming to be results of botched surgeries by Nettle. The post also featured headshots of the surgeon with the phrases ‘the devil himself’, ‘inhumane medical care’, ‘abuse of power’ and ‘compulsive liar’ superimposed on them,” the story reads.

In the search industry, we typically discuss the cost of fake reviews (and other content that serves a similar purpose) as harming both businesses and consumers, which downplays the damage because it comes off as an abstraction. In this instance, a Sydney court has quantified the harm, and although Dr. Nettle may have a hard time getting what he’s owed, this can be seen as something of a precedent for similar cases. It also highlights the fundamental problem with online reputation sites that extort people and businesses to remove negative content about them.

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Top stories images aren’t showing in Google Search Wed, 18 Aug 2021 15:32:06 +0000 The company has confirmed that it’s a bug and is working to resolve it.

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Beginning early this morning, there have been numerous reports of images not loading in Google’s Top stories carousel (as seen below). The issue seems to affect search results globally and Google has confirmed that it’s a bug.

UPDATE: “This bug has now been largely mitigated,” Google tweeted on Thursday.

Featured images in the Top stories carousel are not loading due to a bug
The Top stories carousel, where featured images are not currently loading. Some have also taken screenshots in which only one or two of the stories feature an image that loaded as usual.

A problem on Google’s end. “Yeah, it looks like an issue on our side,” Google’s John Mueller tweeted regarding the issue. The company is currently working to correct the bug, Danny Sullivan, the company’s public search liaison, has confirmed.

Why we care. A blurred featured image may negatively affect your clickthrough rate, so make sure to annotate your reports to reflect this oddity. Some professionals have taken screenshots showing the Top stories carousel with just one or two images that loaded successfully, which could mean fewer clicks for the stories that didn’t show a featured image. And, since the Top stories carousel is an important source of visibility and traffic for some publishers, this could also impact advertising revenue and other marketing opportunities that depend on getting a user onto your site if the bug goes unresolved for an extended period. Fortunately, Google is already aware of the issue — we’ll continue to provide updates as they come in.

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Traffic and rankings don’t mean a thing unless they help you convert; Tuesday’s daily brief Tue, 17 Aug 2021 14:00:00 +0000 And, Google’s tool to report indexing bugs is now available in the U.S.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, all the traffic and rankings aren’t worth a thing if they don’t help you reach those business goals.

That’s the bottom line and that’s what we’re focusing on today at SMX Convert, our single-day learning journey that dives into organic and paid search conversion optimization. Barry Schwartz and I will be moderating the organic side, where the day begins with learning how to identify top-converting queries at every stage of the customer journey, then finding out how your content marketing can be leveraged to drive the funnel as well as ways to boost visibility and conversions via your navigation and CTAs. And, we’ll cap it all off with testing your strategy for continued improvement.

On the PPC side, moderated by our own Director of Search Content Carolyn Lyden and Anu Adegbola of MindSwan, you’ll start with how to create copy that converts. Then you’ll hear about targeting tactics to help you make the most out of those new ad copy skills you just picked up. And lastly, we’ll focus on improving landing page conversions using both qualitative and quantitative data.

There’s even more value to be had if you plan on attending the community meetups, site clinics and keynotes — I’m particularly looking forward to Michael Aargard’s talk on “The psychology of disappointment: How it works, why it hurts, and why it’s so bad for conversion.” You can check out everything SMX Convert has to offer over at the agenda page. We hope to see you there!

George Nguyen

Google’s tool to report indexing bugs is now available in the U.S.

That’s not an actual button in the image above — it’s what the button to access Google’s indexing bug reporting tool looks like, and you can locate the real deal at the bottom of the URL inspection help document and indexing coverage report document.

The tool, which was announced as a pilot program back in April, enables SEOs and site owners to report an indexing issue directly to Google. It is designed for those who need further support with indexing issues outside of the Google community forums and support documentation.

When it was first announced, the company said it would be “fully available to all in the U.S. within a week or less.” Nearly four months later (certainly better late than never), it’s now accessible to all signed-in Search Console users in the U.S. Don’t forget to bookmark it and use it when you need to escalate an issue.

Read more here.

Brett Bodofsky chats with Barry Schwartz about third-party PPC integrations

In the second part of his interview, Brett Bodofsky, senior paid media specialist at Elumynt, discussed some common themes among third-party PPC integrations and shared some guidance for when it comes time to pick one out.

In addition to evaluating the capabilities of the platform and the build vs. buy value, Bodofsky’s number-one piece of advice was to look for a company with a great support team: “When you’re starting with a brand new integration, you may have never used it before and you’re going to want a team to back you and help you get integrated with it,” he said, “Can you get a hold of somebody on the phone? If not, do you really want to consider them? What happens when you have a question?”

In the latter half of the conversation, Bodofsky continues to discuss third-party integrations but with respect to how they can be used to get back more control over your campaigns by layering automation onto an ECPC manual bidding strategy.

Watch the video here.

Consumer sentiment tumbles to 70.2, the lowest reading since 2011

Consumer Sentiment drops to its lowest level since 2011.
Image: University of Michigan.

Inflation and surging COVID cases have taken a toll on consumer sentiment, as measured by the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index, which is informed by 500 monthly telephone interviews of people across the U.S. Since just last month, the metric has fallen by 11 points, bringing it to its lowest point since December 2011.

“Consumers have correctly reasoned that the economy’s performance will be diminished over the next several months, but the extraordinary surge in negative economic assessments also reflects an emotional response, mainly from dashed hopes that the pandemic would soon end,” Richard Curtin, director of the survey, said in the report.

When it rains, it pours: “Only 36% of respondents expect a decline in the jobless rate, down from 52% the prior month, despite record job openings,” Jordan Yadoo wrote for Bloomberg,
“Consumers also became decidedly downbeat about their income prospects. The gauge of expected personal finances fell to a seven-year low.”

Why we care. The initial vaccine rollout, combined with various stimulus initiatives, gave consumers a reason to feel optimistic and behave accordingly (read: spend more freely). That optimism seems to have peaked in April (when consumer sentiment hit a 2021 high of 88.3) and now that vaccination rates have declined and initial worries about the Delta variant have largely become a reality, people and businesses are starting to hedge their bets. This may be a sign that consumers are tightening their spending to prepare for another economic downturn, and businesses may be doing the same with their budgets, which might also affect employment rates. However, I’d like to point out Curtin’s quote, which posits that these assessments reflect “an emotional response” and “dashed hopes” — maybe it’ll be better than we expect.

It looks like B2B influencer marketing on TikTok may become a thing

The domestic B2B digital ad market grew 32.5% in 2020 and is forecasted to grow 24.9% this year to nearly $11 billion in spending, according to a July 2021 report by eMarketer. Some of that growth may be going towards influencer marketing, and for good reason — that’s the takeaway from Erika Wheless’ article for Ad Age.

“The more we test platforms like TikTok, the more we are finding good fits,” Jenni Buchbinder, director of strategic communications at QuickBooks, is quoted as saying, “These influencers are small business owners themselves, so they can speak about our product from personal experience.”

Although QuickBooks also contracts influencers on other social media platforms, it’s found more value on YouTube and TikTok because those platforms are video-first. While the company has partnered with numerous small business micro-influencers, this isn’t a throwaway campaign — it even features baseball player Alex Rodriguez.

Naturally, there are key distinctions between B2B and B2C marketing to be aware if you’re mulling over whether TikTok is right for your brand:

  • There are usually longer buying cycles in B2B, and they tend to be more logical purchases (rather than emotional).
  • An influencer with a large following may not be necessary. Instead, businesses should look for an influencer that is more impactful and resonates with the intended audience.
  • B2B influencers usually work full-time at major businesses, which means they may not be able to accept traditional compensation.

If you’re considering dipping your toes into B2B marketing on TikTok, it’s also good to explore hashtags to see how your (or a competing) product is being used, kind of like a live focus group. And, if you’re looking for ideas, search around for user-generated content that’s already highlighting your product and build from there.

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Google’s tool to report indexing bugs is now available in the U.S. Mon, 16 Aug 2021 14:30:47 +0000 The tool provides a way for SEOs to escalate their issues with Google Search.

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Google’s reporting tool for indexing bugs is now available to all signed-in Search Console users worldwide (although it can only process reports filed in English), the company announced on Monday. The tool, which was first announced as a pilot program back in April, can be accessed at the bottom of the URL inspection help document and indexing coverage report document.

The button to access the reporting tool, as it appears at the bottom of the URL inspection help document and indexing coverage report document.

Intended use. The tool enables SEOs and site owners to report an indexing issue directly to Google. It is designed for those who need further support with indexing issues outside of the Google community forums and support documentation.

How to report indexing issues. Below is a screenshot of the form.


As the form is filled out, follow-up questions are generated so that the SEO or site owner can add more details about the issue. “We may follow-up for more information if we confirm an actual indexing bug,” Google says on the form instructions, “We will not respond to other kinds of issues.”

Why we care. Indexing issues in Google Search are fairly common. In fact, we’ve reported numerous confirmed indexing issues with Google over the years. Now that this tool is out of the pilot program, SEOs and site owners in the U.S. have a way to escalate these indexing issues, which should help them get closer to resolving them.

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I wanna get on the good foot; Monday’s daily brief Mon, 16 Aug 2021 14:00:00 +0000 Plus, how to plan content that actually ranks and Google Podcasts’ new requirements.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, let’s start the week off on the right foot.

The morning often sets the tone for the entire day, and your Monday can really frame your whole week. To that end, the team here at Third Door Media wanted to share some tips on how we start our days to give us the best shot at success; we’ve got some diverse approaches so there should be something here for every kind of professional:

  • “Don’t dive right into work. Have coffee with friends and set the tone for the week with intention.” – Carolyn Lyden, director of search content
  • “It starts Sunday with a review and recap where I re-read pretty much all my notes from various key meetings and start to create my weekly master plan. That plan is a single sheet of paper. After I get it all down, I move to my calendar and start to block out times for each key item or follow up. My mantra is simple: if it isn’t on my calendar, it’s not likely to happen.” – Marc Sirkin, EVP of product and technology
  • “I get my coffee, then I read my email newsletters — NYT and industry newsletters — If I am super organized that day, I write down up to six things (but no more) I want to focus on that day so I don’t let my inbox rule my time.” – Kathy Bushman, director of events content
  • “Morning meditation — I like the Insights Timer app. There are so many apps out there now that make it really easy to get started. Meditation is not hard. In fact, it’s really about taking a small break from effort altogether. I find it can be really centering to start the day by clearing your mind and just existing in the present moment, even if it’s just for five minutes.” – Henry Powderly, VP of content
  • “I check email, go through feeds before I am fully even up. I don’t have breakfast, I don’t read the paper. I just dive into catching up from what I missed from the previous night. Need any more quotes?” – Barry Schwartz, SEO news editing machine

And me, well, I start every day with a leisurely stroll with my dogs and my partner. I brew my coffee in advance so that I can take it with me, and I just try to focus on listening to the neighborhood, to my partner and to my dogs. I try to find some grounding there and carry that with me into the work that lies ahead.

George Nguyen,

How to plan SEO content that actually ranks

In her hit session at SMX Create, Hubspot’s Head of English SEO, Aja Frost went over her proven framework for planning SEO content. Content has been king for a while now, but just because you wrote something doesn’t mean it’ll drive qualified traffic to your site.

The key is to have a blueprint before you get started. Here are three steps to planning content that actually shows up in search results:

  1. Identify measurable metrics for your content goals. You won’t know what’s performed well (and what needs more work) unless you set a rubric for success. Aja’s formula for determining traffic goals is demand goals ÷ historical (expected) conversion rates = traffic goals.
  2. Perform your keyword research based on personas. “When I talk to advanced SEOs, this is often a step they skip,” said Frost. But she implores SEOs of all skill levels not to forego this phase. “The more deeply you understand your personas and the more detailed your insights, the more comprehensive and accurate your list of seed keywords will be.”
  3. Build a content calendar. You can also group keywords by theme (as opposed to persona) and sum up how much search volume you’re targeting for each theme.

90% of content on the web gets no traffic from Google, according to 2020 data from Tim Soulo of Ahrefs. The key to effective content that actually drives traffic and conversions is planning. 

Read more here.

There are new requirements to appear in Google Podcasts recommendations

Beginning on September 21, Google will enforce new requirements for podcasts to show in recommendations on the Google Podcasts platform. The requirements are as follows:

  • A valid, crawlable image: This image must be accessible to Google (not blocked to Google’s crawler or require a login).
  • A show description: Include a user-friendly show description that accurately describes the show.
  • A valid owner email address: This email address is used to verify show ownership. You must have access to email sent to this address.
  • A link to a homepage for the show: Linking your podcast to a homepage will help the discovery and presentation of your podcast on Google surfaces.
  • The podcast author’s name: A name to show in Google Podcasts as the author of the podcast. This does not need to be the same as the owner.

Podcasts that do not provide the required information can still appear in Google and Google Podcasts search results and users can still subscribe to them, they just won’t be eligible to be featured as a recommendation. Google Podcast recommendations provide greater visibility and can help podcasts attract more listeners, so ensure that you’re following the new requirements so that your podcasts are eligible for these free, highly visible placements.

Read more here.

On the hunt for something new in 2021? Here are the latest career opportunities in search

Senior SEO Analyst @ Uproer (Minneapolis, MN)

  • Salary: $50k-60k/yr + commission
  • Develop strategies and tactical roadmaps that prioritize SEO opportunities given each client’s unique situation
  • Educate clients in areas where they can positively impact organic search performance or take certain responsibilities in-house

Writer/Editor @ DELVE (Boulder, CO, remote)

  • Salary: $75k-85k/yr
  • Conduct expert interviews and review technical materials to inform writing narratives 
  • Work directly with internal teams on all assets related to content creation

SEM Manager @ Bodhi (Fairfield, IA, remote)

  • Salary: $50k- $85k/yr
  • Manage a team of 2-3 responsible for the planning, budgeting, strategic development, and implementation of search marketing campaigns for all clients
  • Lead the development and ongoing management of our search marketing team by sharing knowledge, coordinating training, and refining skill sets

Growth Marketing Manager @ Credly (USA, remote)

  • Salary: $90k- $100k/yr
  • Develop and implement targeted, multi-touch, Account-Based Marketing (ABM) campaigns that consistently achieve sales and pipeline goals.
  • Collaborate across sales and marketing as well as with integration and reseller partners to identify target accounts and define target personas. 

Enter a job opening for an opportunity to be featured in this section.

Start your week off with a good, hearty chuckle

#SEOchat, but promoted like an SEO article. That Mordy Oberstein is a clever one. This week’s #SEOchat will revolve around content measurement and it’ll be hosted by Azeem Digital; join in the discussion on Thursday at 1pm ET.

WHAT HAT BACKLINKS. I simply couldn’t get over this graphic from an SEO services listing on Fiverr. I’m not linking the actual listing because I don’t recommend it.

“Do you guys have an incognito mode?” I bet marketers would totally find a way to use this garbage data.

Is it ethical for companies to cut pay for remote employees that move to cheaper areas?

Facebook, Twitter and Google are among the companies that now have policies to reduce pay for remote employees that move to less expensive areas, and a lot of the decisions made by these companies are echoed throughout the industry. While location often dictates pay expectations for workers that commute to expensive metropolitan areas, is the same work somehow less valuable if you’ve left one of those metros?

“Screenshots of Google’s internal salary calculator seen by Reuters show that an employee living in Stamford, Connecticut – an hour from New York City by train – would be paid 15% less if she worked from home, while a colleague from the same office living in New York City would see no cut from working from home,” Danielle Kaye wrote for Reuters. “Screenshots showed 5% and 10% differences in the Seattle, Boston and San Francisco areas.”

There are glaring fallacies at play here, and not just with regard to remote workers in major cities getting to keep their full pay if they opt to WFH. Interviews with Google employees suggested pay cuts of up to 25% for employees moving from San Francisco to the nearly-as-expensive Lake Tahoe area, according to Kaye.

“What’s clear is that Google doesn’t have to do this,” Jake Rosenfeld, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who researches pay determination, said. “Google has paid these workers at 100% of their prior wage, by definition. So it’s not like they can’t afford to pay their workers who choose to work remotely the same that they are used to receiving.”

It’s one thing to adjust pay for new employees, but it’s simply a bad look to cut the pay of employees that helped your organization weather the pandemic thus far. Smaller companies, like Zillow and Reddit, have adopted location-agnostic pay models, citing hiring, retention and diversity advantages. I’ve largely discussed this topic through the lens of workers and employers, but there are so many levels to consider: the geographical distribution of wealth, the impact on metropolitan areas, the effect on housing prices and to some extent, the political map as well.

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