19/07/17 // Written by Emma Phillips

Google Hangout Highlights: Hidden Content, Duplicate Content with Subtle Differences, Rankbrain and More

Google frequently arranges live Google Hangout sessions online, hosted by its Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, who runs one-on-one sessions with a select group of search specialists.

Ingenuity Digital’s SEO Technical Account Manager, Dan Picken attends these sessions to ensure he’s at the leading edge of search science, asking the questions that will enable us to keep our clients’ businesses fully optimised online.

Please see below Questions & Answers we asked last week (12th July 2017) in the latest Google Hangout.

We even got exclusive access at the start due to a few technical difficulties their end, a win for us!


Does hidden content on Mobile have a lesser weighting like it does on Desktop?

Can he confirm that in the world of Mobile First the use of hide/reveal accordions on content will have no negative effect on the performance of Mobile webpages?

Currently we know that webpages that have hidden content, whether it be behind tabs or in some sort of drop down functionality together with something like a “show more” button, typically receives a lesser weighting from Google when calculating the sites organic rank. Here’s an example from one of the largest brands in the UK who implement this on their pages.

Yep even Argos, do it!

It happens across many different types of sites, and you see it on a lot of big brands. And you do have to think, why wouldn’t they? Isn’t it better for user experience to not bombard a visitor with a huge amount of page content??

And with even less screen space on a mobile, UX (user experience) surely is at the top of the list for a site visitor.

Well, we wanted to get to the bottom of whether there was indeed a compromise between UX and ranking when Mobile First rolls out or will Google still devalue content because it is ‘hidden’.

Well, good news!!

JM agreed that with the Mobile First Index there are clear limitations to the user interface and of course it is inevitable that content will be hidden to ensure a cleaner layout.

John Mueller confirmed that hidden content on Mobile DOES NOT impact page ranking performance.

This is a relief and makes perfect sense, this is mobile, users want info quickly while on the go, if you want to see all the content then you should get the option rather than this being forced on to you.

So guys, you can keep that additional content behind that clean sleek mobile design, no need to bring it out (well unless someone clicks on that button of course!).

John Mueller confirms it here:


And then confirms it later on in the hangout here:


Hyphens, Slashes, Spaces, which ones?

We also wanted to get his advice or tips on writing content in different ways.

So as an example, “dc-dc” (with a hyphen) , “dc dc” (with a space) or dc/dc (with a forward slash), which should we use??

We assumed that Google would strip out the punctuation and treat them all the same as essentially, they are the same thing, yet they do tend to rank differently, so which is the better option?

I put this to John…

He recommends that you should just “write naturally and try to figure out the language they are using and use that”. He does go on to say that they try and recognise these as synonyms of one another, and where they can would “fold them together.”

He does accept that they do recognise subtle differences and as a result will also try to rank them differently.

We suggest the best way to tackle this is to try and understand how your users search for your products/services. Ways you can do this are by using:

Keyword planner. Great tool to understand search queries and their popularity (search volume). What are the types of search phrases people are using. If Google does combine the subtle differences together when using the planner, consider using the one that Google shows by default.

Internal Search. Another great way of determining how people search for your products/services is by using your internal search logs, again how are they searching, are they using hyphens? Spaces? Is this typical of the industry?

Search Console. Search Console is another great tool to understand what types of phrases your site is being found for. You can find this information under “Search Analytics” and then selecting “queries.”

Competitors. And finally competitors, is there consistency between your competitors? Are they all writing in a particular way? At the very least it would give you an indication of the industry sentiment towards language used.

John also suggested that in cases like this, “think more like a marketing person rather than just an seo.”

Sound advice!

Video here:


Duplicate content across the same products with subtle differences such as colour?

I asked him what the best way to handle subtle differences between product pages was. In the example I gave, colour is the unique attribute to the page yet the content is more or less the same for the exception of that element.

So, what is the best way to handle different colour options?

He said he would think about what the primary aspect of this page is, so “is it primarily the product and the colour is an attribute of that product or is that colour the unique selling proportion for that product that they have.”

He gives the example of selling a “diamond plated laptop and you have the same laptop available in black, obviously the laptop itself is kind of the same thing but the colour, the style is something that is very unique and that’s when you’d say well I’d probably want separate pages for that.”

He further said:

“On the other hand, if it’s a laptop in green, grey and black and people can randomly choose which one they want, then the colour is not the primary aspect of that product.”

With that advice I would recommend going ‘back to basics’ using options we mentioned above ie keyword planner tool, search console, internal search, is the colour of the item really important? Does it need its own landing page?

Also on a similarly related note, think about adding value to the pages:

  1. Your reviews of the product/service
  2. Customer reviews of the product/service
  3. Related products

All of the above can add value to the page for both Google and for the visitor.

Video below:


Rankbrain, what’s it for?

We were curious about Rankbrain, what exactly does it do? Is it Rankbrain’s job to decide what algorithms should be used based on the query. So, for example, if I was to search for something like “shoes” or “healthcare”, would Rankbrain choose the “meta title tag” as a more important element for one compared to maybe “links” as more for another phrase?

This came from an interesting topic on Tech Crunch.

John Mueller said: “Rankbrain is more about understanding the query, specifically understanding queries that we don’t really know how to handle so things like shoes or healthcare or something generic like that is less of a problem.”

He then goes on to say that “roughly 15% of our queries every day are completely new which we haven’t seen before.”

Woah, 15%!?

So, because of this Google isn’t sure what to show in search for these queries, what sites are relevant, what pages are relevant, what is it that the user is actually searching for!

He does go on to give examples such as the searcher could be using “synonyms in a weird way.”

Another example is where people use the word “not” in a query so as “shoes that are not in blue.” Generally, Google would take these words such as “blue” and “shoes” and basically show you results of blue shoes (at least in my experience anyway!!).

But essentially Rankbrain is there to try to figure all of this out.

Here is the video:


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