Daily Archives: November 3, 2021

SEO at Scale – Building the Foundation of Success: In Search SEO Podcast

By | November 3, 2021

Don’t forget, you can keep up with the In Search SEO Podcast by subscribing on iTunes or by following the podcast on SoundCloud

The In Search SEO Podcast Community Question of the Week!

SEO Community Question #43

Summary of Episode 43: The In Search SEO Podcast 

The legendary Stephan Spencer joins us to offer a truly holistic, if not downright spiritual look at doing SEO at scale and doing it successfully!

  • The role of team building when doing SEO at scale
  • How to find the right team for the right SEO tasks
  • The actions you can take to develop your SEO team the right way

Plus, subdomain leasing…. Are you kidding?! 

Before we start, we have some big news. We’ve released our Schema Markup Generator tool! This is a FREE tool that lets you generate, test, and validate the code for Person, How-to, FAQ, and Article markup! Did we mention it’s free!

Head over to the Rank Ranger site and look for the tool under the resources tab at the top of the page!

On the Absurdity of Subdomain Leasing [00:03:32 – 00:14:15] 

This week, Mordy rants and raves about what has to be the stupidest idea he’s seen in a long time: Subdomain leasing. What is it? Subdomain leasing is when company A, whose own site may not have a ton of backlinks or authority says to company B, “Hey, Company B, can I pay you so I can siphon some of your authority and ranking juice by using a subdomain on your site for my content?”

For example, a recent Search Engine Land article discussing this topic showed that a coupon site was leasing a subdomain from CNN. That’s right, the news site. The URL was coupons.cnn.com. Now the coupon site is “supposedly” receiving all the ranking power that comes with the CNN site.

Where it gets insane is when you click on this URL, you land on what appears to be CNN’s website as you see the same header and CNN’s logo, but underneath that header template is a listing of coupons that you would normally see on a site like RetailMeNot.

This is insane! Is CNN so desperate for cash that it’s willing to turn its well established and high-ranking website into a street corner prostitute? Why would they do this? They have no idea what the leased domain will do with their site. For all CNN knows, the coupons domain could post all sorts of craziness or do all sorts of crazy things with the page. Is CNN willing to take that risk?

Now, technically, this nonsense is not against Google’s guidelines, which boggles Mordy’s mind considering some of the things that are against Google’s guidelines!

Two months ago, John Mueller was asked about domain leasing and he said: “The other aspect that always plays into these kinds of configurations on websites is when it comes to quality. We try to look at the quality of a website overall. So if there are particular parts of a website that are really low quality, I don’t know if these are like really low-quality coupon sites, for example, where the coupons are essentially just the same thing as everywhere else on the site or everywhere else on the web, then overall that could be degrading the quality of that site a little bit.”

To translate, and to quote Mordy, “Google is going to demote the crap out of sites that do this as soon as they get the algorithm adjusted accordingly!” And you know what? Mordy thinks Google should! According to him, if you’re implementing domain leasing on your site, that means you don’t care about your site. If CNN is willing to sell itself for a couple of bucks when they don’t even need it, why in the world would we, as users, think they’re in the business of providing quality content?!

In the case of a big bomber like CNN. Google will still consider them as a news authority, but it will call some of their content into a higher suspicion which will have an impact on some of their rankings overall. It’s like adding a bit of water to a cup of orange juice, it dilutes the overall potency.

Why is this an issue? Because the most important thing John Mueller said was, “The other aspect that always plays into these kinds of configurations on websites is when it comes to quality. We try to look at the quality of a website overall.”

As you may know, Mordy is all in on the idea of Google profiling your site and seeing if what you’re putting out aligns with what you claim your site is. And Mordy’s pretty darn sure CNN doesn’t claim they’re offering their users the best coupons for a back hair beard trimmer!

SEO at Scale from a Team Perspective: A Conversation with Stephan Spencer [00:14:15 – 01:06:18]

[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]

Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO podcast interview session. Today we have with us a living legend. He is the co-author of The Art of SEO (among many other titles). He is the host of two podcasts, Marketing Speak, and Get Yourself Optimized. He’s a prolific SEO speaker. He is Stephan Spencer!


Stephan: Thanks for having me.

M: I have to say you’re just a fascinating person. You’ve been in the industry since its infancy. You seem to have a wonderful inner-balance and harmony to you. How did it all come about both professionally and personally?

S: That’s a great question. I was going through a dark time in my life in 2009. I’ve been going through a divorce. I’ve been working in the SEO industry for a while by then. And I was just not feeling super resourceful. Certain friends of mine, in a two-week period, told me to go to a Tony Robbins event. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but I thought it wasn’t a coincidence that three different people recommended him. And that started my whole journey of personal transformation. I did a whole life reboot over the course of those next 10 months until I became totally unrecognizable to the person I was previously to the point where I will show up at SEO conferences and people wouldn’t recognize me.

That physical transformation was just a small part of the whole transformation as a couple of years later I went to India on a Tony Robbins’ platinum trip. I ended up meeting my wife through that platinum partnership. Also, I got a spiritual awakening from that trip to India. It was a monk who touched me on the head and gave me a Deeksha, a oneness blessing. It was almost like an out of body experience. I felt this deep connection and calm. I went outside and saw all the trees and grass in this brilliant green like a cartoon. This started a whole spiritual transformation for me. I’m big into Kabbalah now.

I do have two podcasts, one is on marketing, and the other is about personal development, spirituality, productivity, and biohacking podcast. It was just an incredible journey and I wanted to share it with a wider audience. I’m also working on a book about that journey and how we live in a friendly universe.

M: Wow, what an incredible story.

The Forgotten Essence of SEO at Scale 

From that, let’s go into something more mundane, succeeding at SEO at scale. Before we get started, just to make sure our audience is up to speed, what does it mean to do SEO at scale?

S: If you have more than a million pages to your site and you have numerous sites in your portfolio or you’re in the business of acquiring sites or online businesses or brokering them, or you’re a VC or a private equity firm that works with portfolio companies and they work on multiple platforms and you want to roll out SEO across to more than a small number of pages, and you don’t have the ability to humanly touch each page individually. There’s just no way to do this at scale. Those are the kind of issues that to me are interesting to solve.

M: One of the things I see a lot when people talk about SEO at scale is automation, technical considerations, and site structure, but I want to go in a different direction and talk about team development. When you’re running a large site or multiple large sites there needs to be an overarching strategy as part of doing SEO at scale. To what extent do you think of other factors like team-building play a roe? Where do they fit at doing SEO at scale?

S: It’s the cornerstone. For example, one of my clients owns 1,800 websites. They have a big internal team and work with a lot of agencies, freelancers, and companies that aggregate freelancers. It’s an interesting problem, but the thing that is the foundation of success in that scenario is having really solid SOPs (standard operating procedures). Transforming those SOPs from big documents that people only read once to ones that people operate within a daily process by utilizing tools like Process Suite that make these interactive checklists and the prerequisites are baked into the process. It makes the SOP into a living document.

You have to think of who’s on the team and who needs to be on the team, what the success metrics are for each team member, what the handoffs are where the first job ends and the next begins, what are their roles, responsibilities (roles and responsibilities are different things), get their buy-in, maybe even get them to write for themselves their roles and responsibilities, and give them guidance.

Do a Value Determination Process. I like to use Dr. Martini’s process for determining your values hierarchy. Let’s say you know there highest value is family, world travel, or religion, then you can map that highest value to their roles and responsibilities. For example, let’s say you have a VA (virtual assistant) on the team who does travel bookings for you and their highest value is world travel. You can teach the VA how to get the best tools online to make their trip cheaper and they will feel engaged, they will feel functional ownership. Functional ownership means to make your team members feel like functional owners and not like they’re renting a car that they don’t care about and will beat it up or not wash the car. You make them feel like they’re owning their jobs.

The E-myth Revisited and Beyond the E-myth by Michael Gerber are both important reads. If you don’t want to try and fix your existing business by building all the systems and so forth into it, then you want to start over with a skunkworks company, or NUKO, and build your systems and SOPs into that business first. That is a much more viable strategy.

When you do all this, getting that team structure, sitting them on the right seats on the bus, and that will set you up to win. Whether you are trying to scale millions of pages or just want a 100-page website that has serious revenue for you. Whatever the size of your business, whether a solo consultant or a marketing manager, this all applies. How do you scale without using ideas from Impossible to Inevitable (functional ownership)? That’s the basis for success. It’s not using the right SEO tool or checking the right metric.

M: Wow, I feel like I’m definitely talking to the right person about this topic.

I want to jump back on a more meta question. When looking to build the team or when creating a functional workspace, how much of that starts not only with your team members’ values, but how much does it start with your values as the team leader?

S: There’s that expression that s**t rolls downhill. If you don’t have great values, or you’re all into shortcuts, or loopholes before they close, that’s a virus that spreads through the company. It’s very important that you get your head straight in terms of why you’re doing something. You’re not going to change a 1,000-word blog post to 3,000 words just to better monetize the page. Instead, if everything you do is underpinned on the idea of value creation, you can think of how can I create massive value for the readers, for the community, for the world, and to reveal more light in the world by going from 1,000 words to 3,000, by doing it cost-effectively, getting the monetary value I need, and all the while doing massive value creation. It’s not just about gaming the system.

M: Speaking of creating value, when you start hiring people, how do you bring that value to the employee? How do you foster that self-fulfillment/self-efficacy to your employees?

S: I want to understand what drives them and every one of my staff people has to do the Value Determination Process on Dr. Martini’s site. They also need to do other assessments like a Strengths Finder so I know their top-five highest strengths. Then they can work on their biggest strengths and you’ll set them up for success. People want to feel successful.

B. J. Fogg, one of the top behavior change experts in the world, came up with this concept that there’s an emotion that no one came up with a name for and he just named it. He’s coming out with a new book called Tiny Habits and we’re doing a workshop together at Sandford on October 1st. This emotion that he named is called Shine. Shine is the feeling you have when you’re successful. People stop using apps that make them feel less successful. In everything that you do with your team, are you instilling more shine?

Marie Kondo wrote a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It sold millions of copies and she now has a show on Netflix. Her concept is all about sparking joy. If you hold a book in your hand that’s on your bookshelf and you’re trying to understand if you should give it away or hold onto it and you’re just holding it in your hand without opening it. Does this spark joy in your life or does it spark dread? If it doesn’t spark joy then get rid of it. If what you’re doing to manage your team member isn’t sparking Shine, then you’re not being a good leader. And it’s not just to align with their highest values because of course you’re doing that with them at the very beginning and checking in with them on a regular basis with performance reviews. But the mapping of their highest values to their job functions is something you do at the beginning of the job and then you check in with performance reviews. How am I doing at tapping to your highest values with what you do on a day-to-day basis? Then when you’re doing team meetings, ask each person to share what’s exciting them, what they’re up to, and what challenges they’re facing, personal challenges too. People are humans, they’re not robots. You have to really and truly care about them.

M: Yeah, those are some amazing points. I feel like, as a society, we have forgotten what it means to exist. And I think that’s what you mean regarding joy and shine that there’s a certain sense that you’re tapped into actual existence and one of the ways to fulfill that is through work. Work, oddly enough, is a spiritual thing and it’s a monumental task to cater to, culture, and foster.

S: It’s funny you say that. Three days ago I spoke at Affiliate Summit East and one of the things I said was that business is a spiritual game. That really struck people. I think of business as a spiritual game or discipline where you’re out there in the world either revealing light or not, adding value or not. If you’re just trying to exploit the loopholes, then there’s no lasting value. If you don’t have the customer’s, client’s, or visitor’s best interests at heart you will lose, it’s just a matter of time.

Any business philosophy will say this. For example, look at what Jay Abraham teaches regarding the concept of preeminence, “If the prospect is better served by being sent to your competitor, you send them to your competitors.”

M: Right. It’s a different notion of winning.

I have to ask, when looking at a new employee, how much are you looking at their knowledge and skillset vs. how much are you looking at their disposition or values/attitude?

S: I’m looking at a number of things. A person’s values I can’t change. I do this test called the Honesty test. Let’s say I ask in the interview process, “Tell me what you think is the most important attribute for this position. Is it attention to detail, creativity, honesty, dedication, or technical acumen? Which of those five is the most important attribute? The only right answer is honesty because you can’t train honesty when you bring someone on board. If somebody doesn’t consider honesty as a very high attribute, they’re going to be cutting corners. They’re going to be surfing Facebook or buying things on Amazon for personal reasons while on the company clock. You’re not going to fix that.

You can’t have somebody who doesn’t feel a sense of ownership or personal agency, not a go-getter, they don’t feel responsibility, i.e, response-able, able to respond. And it’s not just understanding that it’s your duty or obligation to do this thing, it’s a higher level than that. True responsibility is about being the cause of the matter. If it needs to be done, it needs to be done and if not by me then by who?

I remember a workshop where I learned this concept of responsibility and I had this breakthrough in the men’s room during the break. Next to the sink is the soap dispenser and it was empty. There was enough to get the tiniest bit out. Now the previous version of me would try to eke out the last amount of soap and then get back to the workshop. But I felt responsible because I knew that somebody after me was going to be affected by this so I found the hotel phone to contact housekeeping and I called and said that the men’s room was out of soap.

You want to screen for people that feel they are responsible. These skills are so secondary. If someone who is a Liberal Arts major who gets around fine on the computer, but doesn’t know all of the SEO tools. If they’re hungry to learn, motivated with a personal passion, and they answered the right value questions including honesty, then they’re in. We’ll do a trial period with trial projects to make sure they’re good at the job, but in general, that’s the type of person we’re looking for.

And I hate when people lie to me. If you don’t know something, be honest about it. If you don’t have a favorite SEO tool, you can say “I don’t have a favorite SEO tool because I’m new to this space, but I’ve been reading Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal, and I’ve been reading your book and I’m on Chapter Two and I really like x, y, and z in that chapter.” So with that, I’m cool with, but don’t lie to me.

M: That’s just a good lesson in life across the board, don’t lie to people.

To go back on something you said, in the SEO space, there is a large chunk of people in the SEO industry who don’t come from a technical or data scientist background. Myself, personally, I came through the content end. Do you think one of the unique traits of SEO is the ability to assimilate people who are not coming from a technical background into the industry? On the flip side, is one of the major tendencies or traits to have when coming to the SEO industry is that drive to learn? More than other industries?

S: I think the personality trait of being hungry to grow is the type of personality you want to employ in your company. And if they have that then you’re set because you just need to make sure they have the tools and the upscaling available to them. Things like going to conferences, accessing online training, etc. I have a 20-hour online course on do-it-yourself SEO auditing. If they’re finding these tools, finding these resources, even the free ones, it’s great. I just want to see that hunger is there. Again, I am looking at their strengths as well. I’m also looking at their conative abilities. You can test that with the Kolbe test. I, for example, am high as a quick starter. I’m great at starting things, but not at finishing which is why I have a team. I want to focus on my strengths, not my weaknesses, which is where my clean up crew comes in to do all the implementation and grunt work after I developed the strategy for a content marketing campaign.

That is what you’re scanning to see if they’ll be a good fit. Not just sitting the right people on the bus, but sitting the right people in the right seats.

M: Let me wrap up with what you said before about developing the team and moving them long. One of the things I noticed was the way we analyze people in the workplace is very quantitative and results-oriented, yet we sort of forget to look at the person themselves with what they need to grow and develop. How do you properly develop your team and team members so they can be where you want them to be?

S: It goes from being activity focused to outcome-focused. Once you and the team are outcome-focused the game changes. The need to have quantitative measures drops, not completely, but it becomes more qualitative.

For example, let’s say you’ve been delegating tasks to ghostwrite some articles for a website you’re contributing to. You have a ghostwriter who writes three articles a week and he keeps on delivering quantitatively, but there’s no functional ownership. There’s no understanding or buy-in to the bigger picture. As the business owner, if those articles don’t end up being published then they’re worthless. Quantitative metrics are irrelevant because there was no result. You, as the leader of the company or team, are obligated to delegate the outcome, not the tasks. When you do it becomes more about the qualitative and not the quantitative where your writers will have that sense of ownership and agency in their destiny because now you got them to buy into the bigger picture. And their questions of why do I need to keep contributing to this website, what’s the value, what makes it relevant to the company and myself will all start to make sense.

And now you don’t have to babysit every step of the process. Before, it might happen that a writer drafts the articles, but forgets to submit them to the editor for proofreading. In that case, they were task-oriented and not focused on the outcome. Now, they’re more focused on achieving the outcome.

M: And it’s not possible to manage things that way. If they’re not bought in and not looking to drive home what they’re doing. You’ll never be able to micromanage them to the point where you feel happy.

Optimize It or Disavow It

M: Since I haven’t mentioned SEO tools…. You can either have too many tools, too much automation, or too many people on your staff. Which is worse for proficiency? Which is worse for producing SEO results at scale?

S: Obviously, I’d choose too many people. There’s the old adage, “Too many cooks in the kitchen.” Or even better the adage, “A camel is a horse designed by a committee.” You’re going to end up with a camel with too many team members. There’s also Parkinson’s law at play which says that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” The idea is that if you want something done fast and efficiently, give it to the busy person and give it to them with a very aggressive deadline. If you think they’re really busy and you give them an extra-long time to work on this, then they will take an extra-long time to get it for you. But if you say you need it by Friday, you will get it by Friday. Parkinson’s law works. But if you have too many team members then you have the opposite happening and it’s going to be a trainwreck.

M: Thank you so much, Stephan!

S: Thank you for having me, Mordy. And for the listeners, if you are interested in using my approach to hiring and screening candidates or team members, I have an SEO hiring blueprint and an SEO BS detector and I’ll put both out for the listeners at www.marketingspeak.com/insearch/.

SEO News [01:10:25 – 01:16:39]

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines New Updates: Google has again updated its Quality Rater Guidelines. The changes include new content falling under the YMYL (Your Money Your Life) umbrella. Also, Google seems to want sites to distinguish between content created by the site itself vs. content that comes from an outside source.

Competitor Ads Found in Local LIstings: Google was spotted showing a competitor-based carousel at the very top of a Local Panel. Meaning, the competitor carousel appeared above the featured business’s very name!

Auto-DNS Verification in Google Search Console: Google has introduced Auto-DNS verification! Google is partnering with a series of domain name registrars to help expedite the verification process.

New Top Movie Picks Carousel in Google Search: Google is rolling out a new movie SERP feature. For queries like, what to watch, Google is showing a ‘Top Picks for You’ carousel which brings up an overlay of shows you can swipe through.

Fun SEO Send-off Question [01:16:39 – 01:20:38]


Which reality TV show should Google star in? 

For Mordy, there was an easy answer: Big Brother. Not that Google is the generally ignorant, overly sexualized 20-something, but that Google is Big Brother itself for obvious reasons. Sapir answered with The Bachelor where all of these different domains are competing over being on Google’s SERP.

Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.

About The Author

The In Search SEO Podcast

In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.

Tune in to hear pure SEO insights with a ton of personality!

New episodes are released each Tuesday!

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Google Rolls Out November 2021 Spam Update

By | November 3, 2021

Google’s Danny Sullivan confirms a spam-fighting algorithm update has started rolling out to search results and will be fully rolled out within a week.

The rollout of the update begins today—November 3, 2021.

Exact details were not provided, though Google regularly rolls out spam updates to maintain the quality of its search results.

Google launched three spam updates already this year. This month’s update marks the fourth Google algorithm update targeted at spam this calendar year.

Thanks to these updates, Google’s automated systems keep more than 99% of visits from search results spam-free.

Last year Google’s automated systems blocked 25 billion spammy pages from being indexed in search results every day.


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Websites following Google’s webmaster guidelines have anything to worry about with respect to these spam updates.

Google has a strict definition of what it considers spam, which primarily includes low quality sites that trick users into providing personal information or installing malware.

Other types of spam include phishing scams and websites disguising themselves as other reputable sites.

With that said, even sites that follow Google’s guidelines could be guilty of spam and not even know it.

If a site is not adequately secured it’s vulnerable to being hacked, which can result in the website serving spam and/or malware to users without the webmaster knowing about it.


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Google publishes a spam fighting report every year, and the instances of hacked spam keeps rising.

If your site suddenly drops in rankings following this month’s spam update update, check your site’s security and look for signs of a possible attack.

We’re sure to learn more about the impact of the November 2021 spam update when Google publishes its annual spam fighting report next year.


Featured Image: naum/Shutterstock

Source link : Searchenginejournal.com

Google releases November 2021 spam update

By | November 3, 2021

Google is rolling out a new search ranking algorithm update targeting the more spammy side of of the search results. Google is calling this update the “November 2021 spam update.”

The update should take about a week to fully roll out and be noticed in the search results.

The announcement. Google announced this on Twitter saying “As part of our regular work to improve results, we’ve released a spam update to our systems. This November 2021 spam update should be fully rolled out within a week. We encourage sites to follow our best practices for Search.”

Google linked to the generic Google webmaster guidelines for more guidance.

Previous updates. The most recent confirmed Google updates since this November spam update was back in July 2021 named the link spam update, before that was the July 2021 core update, followed by the June 2021 core update, then part one and part two of the spam updates in June 2021.

Why we care. If you notice large ranking or traffic changes from your organic Google search results, you may have been hit by this spam update. Spam updates target specific guideline violations. Google did not say if this was links, content or other forms of spam, but rather just said it is spam related in general.

About The Author

Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry’s personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here.

Source link : Searchengineland.com

4 Explanations why Minimalist Home Decor is Wholesome

By | November 3, 2021

We all understand that our house is a place to get relaxed but what if your home is making you stressed out? Have you ever noticed that your home is accelerating your stress level whenever you see the stacks of laundry and dust bunnies? After a long day from work, You don’t deserve to walk in the house just to witness the chaos of household items. That is why most people opt for the method of decoring their interiors for the better appearance of their space so it could make you feel escaped from the busy world.

Google’s John Mueller Q&A: 4 SEO Questions Answered

By | November 3, 2021

Google’s John Mueller answers four rapid fire questions about common technical SEO issues that almost everyone runs into at one point or another.

Mueller addresses questions sent in by people related to:

  • Blocking CSS files
  • Updating sitemaps
  • Re-uploading a site to the web
  • Googlebot’s crawl budget

These questions are answered in the latest installment of the Ask Googlebot video series on YouTube.

Traditionally, those videos focus on answering one specific question with as much detail as Google is able to provide.


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However, not every question about SEO takes a whole video to answer. Some can be answered in one or two sentences.

Here are some quick answers to questions that are often asked by people just getting started in SEO.

Can Blocking CSS Files In Robots.txt Affect Rankings?

Yes, blocking CSS can cause issues, and Mueller says you should avoid doing that.

When CSS is blocked in robots.txt Googlebot is not able to render a page as visitors would see it.

Being able to see a page completely helps Google understand it better and confirm that it’s mobile-friendly.


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That all contributes to a webpage’s ranking in search results.

How Should I Update The Sitemap For My Website?

There’s no common simple solution for updating sitemaps that works across all websites, Mueller says.

However, most website setups have built-in solutions of their own.

Consult your site’s help guides for a sitemap setting, or for a compatible plugin that creates sitemap files.

It’s usually just a matter of turning a setting on and you’re all set.

What Is The Correct Way To Reintroduce A Site To Google?

It’s not possible to reset indexing for a website by deleting its files and re-uploading them.

Google will automatically focus on the newest version of a site and drop the old version over time.


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You can move this process along faster by using redirects from any old URLs to the new ones.

Would Deleting RSS Feeds Improve Googlebot Crawling?

A person writes in to Mueller saying 25% of Googlebot’s crawl budget is going to the RSS feed URLs that are in the head of every page.


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They ask if deleting the RSS feeds would improve crawling.

Mueller says the RSS feeds are not problematic, and Google’s systems balance crawling across a website automatically.

Sometimes that results in Google crawling certain pages more often, but pages will only be re- crawled after Googlebot has seen all the important pages at least once.


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Featured Image: Screenshot from YouTube.com/GoogleSearchCentral

Source link : Searchenginejournal.com

Do I Need to Disavow Links? | Seer Interactive

By | November 3, 2021

On the Technical SEO Team at Seer, we often get asked if using Google’s Disavow Tool is the answer to a link-related problem the client is dealing with. In most situations, the answer is no.

Below are some reasons you should and should not use the Disavow Tool from Google for your website.

There are very few instances where disavowing links should be an option. In most cases, you will know if you need to use the Disavow Tool because either:

  1. Google says you should (via a notice in Google Search Console)
  2. You knowingly participated in link manipulation

If your website doesn’t fall into one of these cases, then you probably do not need to use the Disavow Tool.

If you receive a manual penalty from Google, you will want to use the Disavow Tool to help clean up the penalty and start recovery. This is a reactive reason to use the tool.

You’ll know you have a manual penalty by looking in Google Search Console under Security & Manual Actions. From here click “Manual Action” and you will either see a notice explaining the penalty or “No issues detected”.

If there is a penalty, you’ll want to explore using the Disavow Tool to help fix the issue:

The first scenario is a retroactive one because Google has already discovered the offending links and penalized you.

On the other hand, you might not have received a manual penalty from Google yet — but if you’ve purchased links in the past then you could be at risk of receiving a manual penalty. We’re going to be proactive in this case, and disavow those links we know were purchased.

You might not even be the one responsible for buying the links, but maybe an agency you hired to do SEO work on your site used black or grey hat measures to get links to your website. This could make it very difficult to know what links were acquired “correctly” versus links that were obtained in a black hat way.

If these links are discovered, Google might penalize the website.

Like purchasing links, ill-received or mistagged links whether purchased or not can come back to haunt your site.

Buying links isn’t the only way to end up with links that could end up being toxic for your site. Other links that could pose harm to your site include:

  • Links obtained through *******
  • Guest blogging with the sole purpose of swapping links
  • Participating in link farms or schemes
  • Not correctly marking up an affiliate or sponsored links

Rare Potential Other Use Cases

There are cases where your website might be on the receiving end of a negative SEO attack, where someone is pointing thousands of bad links towards your site in an effort to tank it or get it penalized. 

In this scenario, using the Disavow Tool might be an option if you do not trust Google to be able to identify this as an attack and devalue those links rather than penalizes your website. But even in this scenario, Google is good at understanding attacks like this, so you probably still don’t need to use the Disavow Tool.

These are all actions that would prompt us to consider using the Disavow Tool. The reason is, in these scenarios, there is an actual risk of harm to your site, or in the case of receiving a manual penalty, harm has already happened to the site.

With so few actual situations where we recommend using the Disavow Tool, that means there are a whole bunch of scenarios to not use it in!

Here are some reasons you should not use the Disavow Tool:

  • Receiving links from spammy websites
  • Minor drops or fluctuations in organic traffic
  • Minor drops in rankings
  • Because an SEO tool highlighted spammy links

These all could be symptoms of a reason you’d need to disavow a link, but not likely. Disavowing links would be the last resort in these types of situations. Why? Unless your website falls into one of the use cases we discussed earlier, bad links are not the cause of performance issues.

Receiving Links from Spammy Websites

Every website, given enough time will attract spammy links; it’s just part of being on the web. It’s normal.

These types of links are not a concern. Google can tell the difference between random spammy links and links meant to manipulate search rankings. Google is not going to penalize you for spammy links.

These types of links do not need to be addressed via the Disavow Tool.

Temporary Drops or Fluctuations in Organic Traffic or in Rankings

If your website is experiencing temporary drops or fluctuations in organic traffic or rankings it is extremely unlikely that bad links are the cause.

💡 Here are 18 ways to diagnose organic traffic declines.

The reason being is that if links were the cause of the drops or fluctuations you would know because GSC would show you a manual penalty. Also, when a website is manually penalized, the ramifications are not temporary and do not fluctuate. You would see a sustained decrease across the board in rankings and traffic.

If you find yourself facing this situation we would suggest starting with looking in Google Search Console to check if there are any manual penalty notices. If not, then bad links are not the issue. 

From there we would start with looking at if there are any recent site errors that are contributing to the traffic/ranking fluctuations. 

If your Coverage chart has a large increase in errors, that could be your cause for traffic and rankings issues.

I’d also check to see if changes were made to the robots.txt, XML Sitemap, server configurations, headers, and meta tags before I even consider disavowing links.

Because an SEO Tool Highlighted Spammy Links

SEO tools can and will highlight spammy links pointing to your website, but these reports don’t warrant using the Disavow Tool.

As we said, every website will collect spammy links over time. Those links don’t need to be acted upon. With that said, it is good to keep an eye on these reports. It never hurts to know who is linking back to you.

Last Words on the Disavow Tool

I hope we’ve made it somewhat clear in what scenarios using the Disavow Tool is the best route and highlighted use cases where it is not.

Links can be tricky. We have to put a lot of trust into Google when they say that they can tell a good link from a bad one. If not, SEOs would be left to disavow any link that wasn’t 100% legitimate. 

The Disavow Tool should be looked at as a last resort, when there is a clear signal you should use it or you’ve exhausted all other options.

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Why Does Google’s Algorithm Keep Hitting YMYL Sites?!

By | November 3, 2021

No matter how many times Google denies it, we keep coming back to the idea that the search engine’s broad core algorithm updates are targeting Your Money Your Life (YMYL) sites with a vengeance.  It’s a conversation that just won’t die. With each new broad core algorithm update, we’re left to wonder… is Google targeting YMYL sites? Is it not targeting YMYL sites? And if Google isn’t targeting YMYL sites then why does it seem like it is? 

And the reason for all of this is…. 

A Brief History of Google’s Core Updates & The Hoopla Over YMYL Sites

Google’s August 2018 Core Update was dubbed the “Medic Update” and for good reason. There was a clear and tangibly observable “focus” on YMYL sites. That is, sites within the Health and Finance verticals were quite obviously impacted to greater extents than sites belonging to other niche industries (data to come).

This was followed by the March 2019 Core Update, which saw some of the YMYL sites impacted by Medic undergo a bit of a reversal. (Note, that while some of the sites impacted by the Medic Update did see a bit of improvement in their rankings, they were, as a rule, still at a net loss as the gains were not nearly as drastic as the initial losses.) 

While the “YMYL chatter” was a bit muted during the March 2019 core update it began again with renewed fervor after the June 2019 Core Update. Here too, there seemed to be a bit of a larger focus on changing the rankings of YMYL sites (again, data to come). Thus, you’re here reading this post because it seems the connection between Google’s core updates and YMYL sites simply won’t die. 

Of course, as a result of there being a YMYL theme pervading Google’s core updates, there has also been all sorts of speculation trying to explain it. Some have said that the core updates were built to hunt down and hit YMYL sites in need of whatever sort of improvements. Concurrently, some have said that these sites have not been impacted any more than any other site type.

Neither of these are true. 

There has definitely been a YMYL focus within some of the broad core updates. Yet, Google is not specifically looking to kill the rankings of certain YMYL sites or to specifically impact that niche in general. 

In other words, are the core updates designed to target YMYL sites? No, no, and no. 

Is it merely a coincidence then that there is a pattern showing a connection between the core updates and YMYL sites? No. That’s an absurd proposition. The algorithm is insanely intelligent. A focus on one type of site or one type of site being impacted more than others has to have an explanation. How could you suppose that the impact of core updates on YMYL is accidental when it keeps happening? 

What I would like to do is walk you through some of the data from a few of the core updates, do a bit of qualitative analysis, and then show you what’s really going on with Google’s algorithm and YMYL sites.  

What the Data Says About YMYL Sites and Google’s Core Algorithm Updates 


While there is a glaring connection between Google’s core updates and YMYL sites it behooves me to establish this with some actual data. The industry’s assertions aside, there is some considerable data pointing to a relationship between the core updates and the sites that make up the Health and Finance niches. 

The Medic Update and the Heavy Impact on YMYL Sites 

Let’s start where this all began… the Medic Update. There is good reason that the update was dubbed the Medic Update and not the ‘August 2019 Core Update’. Here’s a look at the rank volatility increases per position on the SERP as well as ranges of positions on the SERP for the ******** niche during the Medic Update: 

Medic Update ******** Niche Rank Fluctuations

Here’s how the niche with the highest concentration of low quality/spammy sites (i.e., the ******** industry) compares to the Health niche: 

Health Niche Data Medic Update

It’s not even close. The first position on the SERP was stable within the ******** niche. We even recorded a slight increase in stability (though it’s nominal and most likely reflects a lack of increased rank fluctuations than an increase in rank stability). Compare that to the first ranking position within the Health niche which saw a whopping 7.5% increase in rank fluctuations. The same pattern manifests itself at both the 2nd and 3rd ranking positions with the Health niche being far more volatile than the ******** niche before we see a synchronization among the top 5 and top 10 results overall. 

I could go on and show you the same pattern across any other non-YMYL niche. The point, however, is clear, YMYL sites were subject to greater rank instability than the other niche industries. 

The YMYL Conversation Cools Off with the March 2019 Core Update 

As I mentioned earlier, the March 2019 Core Update gave us a bit of a reprieve from YMYL conjecture. From an industry comparison perspective, the YMYL niches were not any more volatile than the other niches. In fact, in some cases, the YMYL niches were a bit more stable than the other industries: 

Google Update Data Comparison

More than that, there was a downturn in the level of volatility overall when comparing the March update to Medic. This applied across the board, even to the Health and Finance niches. 

Still, and as indicated above, there was a trend that had some of the sites heavily impacted by Medic undergo a slight reversal. However, this pattern was not entirely pervasive. Also, as a general rule, these sites did not regain their total ranking losses. Meaning, the March 2019 Core Update was not a true ‘reversal’ by any metric. 

The June 2019 Core Update Puts YMYL Back on the Table 


The last stop on this train brings us to the June 2019 Core Update which very much put the notion of core updates being synonymous with YMYL back on the table. 

A per niche look at the impact of the update says it all: 

June 2019 Core Update Data

Leaving the ******** niche aside, for the time being, there is a clear split between the Health and Finance niches and the Travel and Retail niches. Across every metric, whether it be the 1st result on the SERP or the top 10 results overall, there were significantly higher levels of rank fluctuations that pervaded the YMYL niches. 

However, that’s only half the story. If we look back at the last two updates, the March and June 2019 Core Updates, and the sites that were originally impacted during Medic, quite the telling pattern starts to emerge. 

Many of the health sites that had at least some of their rankings restored during the March 2019 Core Update saw those rankings disappear into an ethereal blackhole as a consequence of the June 2019 Core Update. Google giveth… and Google taketh. 

In other words… you had this: 


Draxe.com Site Visibility


Bodybuilding.com Site Visibility


Medicinehealth.net Site Visibility

At the same time, there was an alternate version of this pattern. There were indeed health sites impacted during the Medic Update that got a ranking boost during the March update. This boost was then followed by a downshift that was reversed during the June update. As opposed to the sites shown above, these sites saw their higher rankings return per the June update: 

Verywellhealth.com Site Visibility

No matter the particular pattern, the important thing to note is that there is a pattern. It’s hard to say there is no connection between the core updates and YMYL sites when aside from the niche data I presented there are unique rankings patterns that are pervasive at the site level.

In plain English, with vivid rankings patterns that apply across multiple updates…. how could there not be a connection between the core updates and YMYL sites?! That would be one mighty big coincidence. 

The DNA of Google’s Core Updates & Its Deep Imprint on YMYL Sites!


Bio-metric Fingerprint

Here’s where many jump the gun. Yes, there is a connection between the core updates and YMYL sites. That doesn’t mean, however, that Google has designed its algorithm updates to go after YMYL sites. Nor does it mean that there is any intention on the part of the search engine to impact YMYL sites to a greater extent than any other site within any other vertical. We’ve somehow jumped from there being a connection between the two that needs to be qualified to assuming that Google is hunting YMYL sites.

What then is the connection between the core updates and YMYL sites such that YMYL sites have been impacted to greater extents and such that it appears that Google is targeting YMYL sites with these updates? 


It’s not that Google is designing its core updates to target YMYL sites. In fact, I would venture to say it’s entirely possible that when constructing its algorithm updates Google is not thinking about YMYL sites at all (well, maybe not at all). 

So what keeps drawing us back to YMYL sites?


Applicability of the changes Google is making to YMYL sites.

The alterations to the algorithm that comes with the core updates are far more applicable to YMYL sites. And with greater applicability comes a greater emphasis, a greater degree of “algorithmic focus.” But it’s purely accidental, a by-product of what Google is now doing with its algorithm. 

So what is Google doing with its algorithm now? 

Site Profiling & Why It Means YMYL Sites Fall Into the Algorithm’s Crosshairs 


If we’re going to understand how Google’s series of broad core updates are highly applicable to YMYL sites then we need to first understand what the updates are doing… obviously. 

[A bit of a caveat before I get started with this: There are many aspects to a Google update. What I am about to show you is but one of them. So if you think there are other aspects to the update, know that so do I. You may now return to your regularly scheduled blog post.] 

Google, with its core updates, is profiling your site. 

The notion sounds kind of crazy until you start thinking. What has Google been doing, more than anything else, over let’s say the past two years? Trying to understand The Web qualitatively. Whether it be user intent, search journeys, or the Knowledge Graph… we’ve seen Google almost obsess over understanding things more intrinsically. 

Now, we normally reserve Google’s qualitative analysis to things like user intent or entities… and I’m not sure why. Yes, I understand that seeing how Google better understands an entity is visible. We can see the actual changes in the Knowledge Panel. We can see how all of the SERP features Google shows when an entity appears on the SERP helps build a deep topical understanding of that entity. That said, conceptually speaking a site or a celebrity, vis-a-vis a qualitative/intrinsic understanding, is pretty much the same thing. So if Google uses machine learning to understand who Marlon Brando is… it also uses it to understand “who” your site is. 

What I mean by Google understanding “who your site is” is that Google is aware of your site’s core intent profile. It knows what your site was created to do and if it’s actually doing that. So if your site is meant to tell you which of the latest Netflix releases is worth destroying your social, familial, and work-life over… it better do that (and not try to get you to buy a VPN so that you can kill even more brain cells by watching Netflix in 70 languages). 

Google Profiling Your Site: Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is


Let me show you how this site profiling “thingy” has played itself out over the past few updates. One of the things that really caught my eye with the Medic Update was the number of health sites that tried to sell a health product amidst their content that subsequently got slammed by the update. 

In other words, you had sites that portrayed themselves to be health information sites but had a strong e-commerce presence on all of their pages.  

Here’s what the top of a recipe from the health site draxe.com looked like back in August of 2018: 

Dr. Axe Top of Page

Now here’s the bottom part of the same page: 

That is a lot of product peddling for one page. So much so that it begs the question…. Is the purpose of this page to offer you a healthy recipe or to push its powders and classes and whatnot on you? I mean that in all seriousness, which would you say it is? If you knew nothing about this site, if you were looking at it with fresh eyes, wouldn’t that be a very hard question to answer? 

It’s a hard question for us to answer and it’s a hard question for Google to answer. Google is aware of both profiles, both the informational content as well as the heavy e-commerce elements and they cancel each other out. More than that, the commerce profile seems to be latent (that’s my nice way of saying sketchy in that they hope you don’t notice what they’re really trying to do). To that, the site self-describes itself as a site to “help people get well using nutrition”: 

Dr. Axe Site Description

Does this site, based on what you saw, do that? It’s a hard case to make since it seems it’s aim is to sell all sorts of products. Google seems to have thought so as well and destroyed this site’s rankings back in August of 2018. 

By the way, if you head back to the same page now, not much has changed. And other than a two month period, not much has changed for this site’s rankings since the Medic Update either. 

This is site profiling. This is the power of site profiling. 

How Good Is Google at Profiling Sites

Before we get into how all of this ‘site profiling stuff’ actually translates into YMYL sites getting hit harder by Google’s core updates, let’s first understand how good of a site profiling game Google plays. 

When analyzing the June 2019 Core Update there was one stat that stood out to me like none other: The Average Position Change.

When you think of a Google Update you think of wild ranking changes. That did happen during the June update, no doubt about it. However, the average number of positions a site moved as a result of the update across all niches was not what you would think. In fact, most sites moved maybe a position or so. Not 20 ranking positions, not even 10, or even 5. 

What we’ve seen is that Google is getting far better at knowing what keywords fit into your site’s profile and what keywords don’t. And as opposed to starting at the beginning of the learning curve, which would demand large ranking corrections, Google is very nuanced in its understanding of what does and what does not fit into your site’s profile. 

Think of it like this: The smaller the changes Google makes, the smaller the ranking adjustments during an update, the better and more nuanced the understanding of your site.  

And Google has gotten far more nuanced. Back in August of 2018, sites were moving between 3-4 ranking positions on average depending on the niche! Almost a year later it’s easy to see that Google has gotten better at profiling sites and is making highly nuanced rank adjustments as a result. 

Why YMYL Sites Seem to Be the Target of Google’s Core Algorithm Updates

Light Blue Target

Now for the fun part. Remember when I said YMYL sites are more applicable to the changes Google is seeking to execute via the core updates? Here’s how it all plays itself out….

Not all poor or conflicting site profiles are equal. Take ESPN, the world’s leading sports news website, for example. It’s pretty easy to imagine the profile Google ascribes to the site… it’s a sports news site. However, imagine that in every article, on every page on ESPN’s site are all sorts of pop-ups, CTAs, links, and banners for a sports streaming subscription. What would the site’s profile look like then? It’s again pretty easy to imagine Google saying, “Well ESPN, you say you’re a sports information site, but it really seems like you want to sell people a streaming service so that folks can watch sports.” 

In such a scenario the authority of ESPN’s content would be called into question. In other words, Google would have to ask, “To what extent can we trust this content if its focus isn’t really sports information? If the site is really focused on getting subscribers, how authoritative is the content when the site portrays itself as an informational site?” 

By the way, you can see how Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust (E-A-T) would enter the conversation right there (E-A-T is a major part of the YMYL/core update conversation). A site’s profile and a site’s authoritativeness and so forth are directly connected, they’re the flip side of each other. (I’ll get back to this later on.) 

What Site Profiling Brings Is Far, Far, Far More Relevant to YMYL Sites

So ESPN (in our example) has an authority problem but what’s the impact of that on users? I literally mean what would happen to users if ESPN’s content really weren’t authoritative, if it weren’t truly reliable? 

What, you would get the wrong sports score? Assimilate some pretty bad analysis on what your favorite team should be doing in the offseason? 

OK, not a good thing… but is anyone going to die over it? No. 

Now ask the same question for a health site whose content authority is called into in question…. Is anyone going to die over it? Maybe, yeah! 

In other words, finding a problem with a site’s profile calls its authority into question. Finding a problem with a YMYL site’s profile calls its safety into question! 

Now you tell me, should a sports news site with a profile problem lose rankings to the same extent as a YMYL site with a profile problem?….. I didn’t think so either. 

And now you understand why YMYL sites keep getting impacted by the core updates more than other niches! The overall change Google is trying to make in that it wants a site to rank well for what is part of its core identity also means that a YMYL site is more applicable to seeing ranking losses when that profile has issues. 

What it means for a non-YMYL site to have a poor or conflicting profile is not what it means for a YMYL site to have the same. In one instance there is no concern over user safety (as a rule). With non-YMYL sites, there is usually no major risk knocking at the door. As a result, the core updates are far more applicable to YMYL sites. 

Bringing the Core Updates Impact on YMYL Sites Full Circle


Red Circle Sci-Fi

Everyone knows the best part of a cake is the icing, and the icing on this cake is just as good. On the one hand, it seems like Google is specifically targeting YMYL sites with its core algorithm updates. Yet, on the other hand, we have Google saying that they do no such thing. Wouldn’t you know it, our approach here perfectly explains how both positions/perceptions can be true! 

There is nothing in the algorithm that specifically relates to YMYL sites any differently than other sites on the web. There is nothing built into the core updates that directly deals with YMYL sites in a special way. So when Google says that the core updates are not designed to treat YMYL sites with any variance… that is true.  

Yet, you could see why it would be easy to perceive the updates to be targeting YMYL sites. The nature of the core updates is more impactful when dealing with YMYL sites. The natural result of the updates when dealing with YMYL sites inherently means a greater impact vs other niches.  

The idea of the nature of the core updates being more applicable to YMYL sites perfectly explains how it is possible that there is nothing special built into the core updates that targets YMYL sites while the niche is affected by the updates more than any other niche across multiple updates. 

And there you have it… it all fits! Glad that’s settled! 

About The Author

Mordy Oberstein

Mordy is the official liaison to the SEO community for Wix. Despite his numerous and far-reaching duties, Mordy still considers himself an SEO educator first and foremost. That’s why you’ll find him regularly releasing all sorts of original SEO research and analysis!

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Dealing with the Evolution of Featured Snippets: In Search SEO Podcast

By | November 3, 2021

Don’t forget, you can keep up with the In Search SEO Podcast by subscribing on iTunes or by following the podcast on SoundCloud

The In Search SEO Podcast Community Question of the Week!

SEO Community Question #44

Summary of Episode 44: The In Search SEO Podcast 

Featured Snippet aficionado, Nigel Stevens, joins us to discuss his outlook on the zero-position box!

  • What tips the scales when Google chooses content for its Featured Snippets? How can you know?

  • How to use Featured Snippets to understand keyword intent.
  • How should you structure your Featured Snippet strategy & what should you expect from it.

Plus, we look at the whole nofollow attribute kerfuffle. What happened, what’s going on, and what to make of it all!

What’s Behind Google’s Change to ‘NoFollow’ Hinting? [00:03:36 – 00:19:57]

Last week, on September 10th, all hell broke loose on Twitter. Everyone and everything went nuts about Google’s change to the nofollow link attribute. Specifically, the attribute will now be treated as a “hint” rather than as a directive.

For those who don’t know, Google has also introduced two new link attributes: a sponsored attribute for sponsorship/paid links, and a UGC (user-generated content) attribute for links in things like the comments section.

Now for the kicker. The traditional nofollow link attribute which was used to avoid coming off like a link scheme or when linking to sites you’re “unsure of” will only be treated as a “hint.” What all this means is that Google may see your nofollow attribute and say, “Eh, even though you put a nofollow here, we’ve decided to factor this link into your site’s ranking process or rankability.”

Plus, as of March 2nd, 2020, Google will use the nofollow “hint” to decide if a page should, in fact, be crawled and indexed. So a page from a nofollow link can be crawled and indexed if Google thinks it fit!

We know what you’re thinking, WHY???!!!

Well, Google did give us an official statement:

“Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.”

[Just as a random sidenote, Bing has said that they’ve always considered nofollow links as “hints.”]

There are two popular theories behind Google’s statement.

  1. The major news publishers have developed the practice to automatically nofollow the hell out of everything. As a result, Google has an issue understanding the full backlink profile of certain sites.
  2. The other idea is more conspiratorial, but nothing we haven’t seen before. To quote a Tweet from the CEO of SEO Israel, Nati Elimelech, “Is Google trying to milk SEOs for more data by creating two new link properties?” Meaning, with the new sponsored and UGC attributes, Google will get more specific data on what links people use.

There’s also the issue that SEOs don’t see any reason why using these new link attributes will help. Danny Sullivan said this will help Google understand things better, but SEOs won’t do it just for the greater good.

Mordy remembers an interview with Rand Fishkin where he explained how the early versions of Penguin were set up to get data from websites so it’s plausible… beyond plausible that Google is looking to gather more data here.

The thing that’s weird about all this to Mordy is he gets Google wants to analyze anchor text and link practices, but what does that have to do with using the links as part of the ranking picture? Are you saying that Google can’t analyze anchor text and linking practices, or even crawl the linked page, or even index it, and not consider our linking to that page as a “1st-party endorsement”? As something that should be part of the ranking picture? Something here just isn’t right.

What Mordy can say, in his opinion, is this was a poor and vague roll-out.

What exactly is the “hinting” process? When will a nofollow link be part of your profile and when won’t it? What if a bunch of weird sites are linking to you with the nofollow attribute? Do you have to consider disavowing them? John Mueller did come out a few days later and said you don’t have to consider disavowing links, but Google should have been clear about these sorts of things from the very start.

There has to be transparency and this does not come off as being transparent. We should have a very clear understanding of why this was needed and what the “hinting” evaluation process will look like.

Mordy did pose one theory that might be a bit out there. He supposes that it’s possible that Google made this change as a way to discourage no-follow links. Whereas previously a content creator would link to a site they’re unsure about by using the no-follow directive… now, with “hinting” it might not be worth the risk (as you don’t know that Google won’t factor the link into your ‘ranking profile’). The result might be forgoing those borderline links altogether and only linking when you’re completely confident about the site you are linking to.

Where We Stand with Featured Snippets: A Conversation with Nigel Stevens [00:20:03 – 00:57:55]

[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]

Mordy: Welcome to another In Search SEO Podcast interview session. Today we have an industry speaker, author, and Featured Snippet aficionado. He is the CEO of Organic Growth Marketing. He is Nigel Stevens.


Nigel: Thanks, it’s great to be here.

M: So what is Organic Growth Marketing and who did your amazingly awesome avatar?

N: I found this guy on Fiverr who did it for $6 dollars and once he did mine he did it for my whole team.

We’re a small team that works with select clients, mostly in the B2B SaaS space. Also some B2C software like Unsplash and Soundcharts, and a little e-commerce. We mostly focus on content SEO, organic acquisition, and all the things in between.

M: Awesome. So let’s get right into it with Featured Snippets. So everyone is on the same page, what is a Featured Snippet, how do they impact search, and how have they evolved over time?

N: Featured Snippets are a type of rich result where Google pulls an answer from a top-ranking webpage into position zero. Meaning, historically position 1 was the top-ranking position, and now Featured Snippets is the top result and it usually appears on top of other features like Map Packs and other rich results.

Over time, I’ve seen it evolve a lot. It used to be basic Q&A, like what time/day is the Superbowl. Now it’s gotten very advanced like having lists of different options. I’ve even seen some product pages that are targeted to intent keywords that are getting Featured Snippets.

M: Thank you for that. Let’s start with what I call Featured Snippet URL custody. We did a study a little while ago that showed that Google’s Featured Snippets are like a bad divorce with one site having about 75% of URL custody and another site only getting the URL inside a given snippet about 25% of the time. What is Google looking to accomplish when it changes that URL out within the Featured Snippet? Why not just leave that “main” URL 100% of the time? Is it just about diversity? Is it about Google adjusting intents?

N: Everything with SEO involves taking the very obfuscated, possibly false information Google tells us, and forming our theories. I think it’s primarily two factors and the first is ‘Always be testing.’ I read a book from the first marketer ever at Google who was discussing how they tried a bunch of different logo colors (even pink!) and it showed that Google will literally test anything and everything and that’s always going to be the answer to why Google changes anything. Especially further down the SERP on page 2 and beyond, they’re always going to get data to validate to move up URLs. And on page one they’re not going to use the same Featured Snippet forever, they’re going to keep testing.

The second factor is freshness. Google confirmed not so long ago that freshness is a factor in snippets which makes sense. Why would Google embarrass itself with outdated information? So between those two factors, there’s always something to change.

M: I think the freshness is just the tip of the iceberg. You are seeing much more inside the Featured Snippet and more queries showing up with Featured Snippets. Is it just a freshness algorithm or is there more going on?

N: I think there are two elements. There’s freshness even for evergreen content like an article on sales tools shouldn’t have tools from 15 years ago, but rather recent tools. The other thing is how Google is combining a news feed with the front page of Facebook. Something I noticed is publishing an article and getting it on to page one within hours and it’s on for a few days and then you have to work getting it back up the search results for evergreen. That’s where you have to look at the snippets and the top results for intent to see how much is this driven by freshness and how much is it just evergreen content. If you search, for example, Donald Trump, you will see different results every day because Google determined the intent isn’t autobiographical, it’s showing the latest about Donald Trump.

M: Yeah, those types of keywords can be hard to strategize for. Is it possible to build a Featured Snippet strategy on keywords where you know it will change week by week or day by day?

N: As an example, I work for a company that does travel and they want to rank for “best ‘x’ credit cards” and that needs to be topically fresh. When you look at the top results for similar queries all of those pages are being updated every month. It shows you the intent remains the same, but the offers will change. So it’s an underlying principle that’s reinforced by freshness, if that makes sense.

M: That does make sense. What criteria do you think Google looks at when deciding between two perfectly good pieces of evergreen content for a Featured Snippet? What do you think tips the scale?

N: It’s ultimately arbitrary as I’m seeing what happens in search results and developing hypotheses and beliefs based on that which is inherently arbitrary. What I try to do is learn from the Featured Snippets and think of what can I do that’s similar and what can I do to differentiate.

Take a look at a term like ‘full spectrum cbd’ and the Featured snippet compared full spectrum to broad spectrum. I was working with a company and they didn’t have a section in their content that defined and compared them. So we created this page, cited a source, added a little more detail and sure enough within a day we were in the Featured Snippet for a while.

The underlying process is to see what the current Featured Snippet is and make a hypothesis on it. This matches intent where you’ll do something similar but slightly different. Sometimes I got snippets that were very different.

M: You have this idea of using the Featured Snippet to determine user intent. It’s a fascinating idea, can you share it with our good listeners?

N: One thing I see that’s interesting is two Featured Snippets stacked onto each other, aka multi-Faceted Featured Snippets, I found those are oftentimes complementary and they don’t stick for a certain query. To me, that’s a blatant example of Google trying to determine the intent behind a query.

What I find fascinating is those queries where all you get in the search results are list examples or sometimes you just get a definition of ‘x.’ And sometimes you get this broad mix of intents where the Featured Snippet will be used as a guiding force of what needs to be on the page.

For example, the other day I looked at the query ‘CMMS’ (computerized maintenance management system). The snippet is a ‘what is’ definition but a lot of the pages are landing pages that are trying to sell you something. What it tells me is that people need a little education but you don’t need to write a book on this. You don’t need a 5,000-word article, you just need to define what it is, but you can also make your article more direct-response and CTA-driven.

That doesn’t mean your whole article has to be about that. You can have one type of intent you can optimize for on the page and the title tag. If a page has multiple types of intent you want to hit on them with different title tags and if the query is broad enough you can rank well on all of them and rank for multiple snippets. You might not need a page for each one of these snippets.

If you have good sitelinks and provide a clear answer to each of these related questions, the same page can rank with different snippets. It’s an oversimplification to say one page can only rank for one intent. I try to do the most with fewer pages.

M: That’s very interesting. How far can you go with having different intents showing on the same SERP? How do you know how far to go and how far not to go?

N: This is a chicken and egg problem. If all you do is 100% based on what you do on the existing SERP, you can either believe the existing SERP is awesome and all I can do is something like this but slightly better, or is there nothing better out there and I have to make a hypothesis that the current intent isn’t being fulfilled?

M: Right, and it’s true that it’s only to a certain point do you know the answers. Sometimes you need to trust in your hypothesis and take a leap of faith.

Two things I want to briefly go over. One is about headings and H2s. Google has advanced so far, how can it rely so much on headings? You see so many Featured Snippets that are just a list of H3s. How do you feel about this?

N: People sometimes like to write trends articles to show how advanced Google is. Two things can be true: 1) Google can be very advanced and be able to split through content to find exact things. And 2) it sometimes still likes to be spoon-fed content. Even in a broad sense, I see sites all the time doing shady stuff. I recently saw this snippet where it looks like it’s coming from one part of the page, but what’s really happening is Google is pulling out bolded sections and mish mashing parts of the page together. And that’s crazy! But most Featured Snippets come to having an H2 as the name of the list and H3s as the sublists. I think the guiding principle is Google doesn’t need to see headers to understand, but if you spoon feed it to them they understand it better. Google is advanced, but it will still rely on the basics.

M: To jump back on the variations on queries and Featured Snippets that show up. Why do you think that is? For example, if I search for ‘how to throw a curveball’ it is a totally different Featured Snippet then if I search for ‘ways to throw a curveball.’ One is a paragraph format and the other is a list format. Why is that?

N: That’s one case where you have to think from a content strategy perspective. Are going to assume that these are separate and that they don’t have to do with each other or are you going to draw a line in the sand and say that this is stupid and there’s no reason these have different answers?

I remember one example that I worked on, years ago, where there were a lot of separate results for ‘ecommerce KPIs’ and ‘ecommerce metrics’ and there was maybe one page that ranked for both. At first, I thought it would make sense to create two pages, but I thought that if you optimize for both and then use both within the text you will rank for both. By looking at existing results, my first bet was to try to get one page and after a month or so, if one term isn’t ranking I’ll spin off another page. I’d rather have one really great page with sitelinks where users can get to the right answer for both. I’d rather be proven wrong on that than try a 2004 SEO strategy of having 10 keywords with 11 unique pages.

M: Are you saying that because that’s what you believe in or it’s a matter of scale as there’s no way you’ll be able to create so many pages for so many keywords?

N: It’s both. We think we can provide a better user experience this way. Even outside of SEO, it will be a poor UX. And on the resourcing side, it’s a lot easier to write one page with two sections. For each new page you write you need to provide a little bit of context so it doesn’t make sense to separate them. You should think about how you can get the most from the fewest pieces of content. You should need it to be proven that you need a new page rather than assume.

M: By the way, people think this is some great advancement in Google that it will show how-to vs ways-to. I think it’s a flaw. I’m satisfied with either one of them, I don’t see any difference. I feel that Google will get better at consolidating what these terms mean into one understanding so you only have one URL showing up for both.

N: I think an important underlying principle is you can either not be data-driven and say we think we should have these articles based on nothing or see that in current search results these have unique intent so we’re going to create them. It’s easy to get boxed in your own little lane where you get mesmerized by the same 20 keywords and forget that Google has this monumental task of managing the world’s information and a lot of the time the results are something that will be improved upon. You can instead foreshadow how intent will be consolidated and be a leader instead of a follower.

M: Exactly. Let me jump into something controversial for a second. We always think of Featured Snippet URLs as very qualitative pages that hit user intent. But how much is it that the quality of the content versus Google using snippets as a way to come off as an authority?

N: Let’s take this one step further. Google is a public company with shareholders. Their job, strictly speaking, isn’t to serve user intent, but to sell ads with rising CPC. At the end of the day, Google wants to keep people on the SERP until they click an ad and to attain users by offering good results. They’re always trying to optimize for these two things which makes sense. They’re a public company that needs to return steadily increasing gains to their shareholders.

And this is where intent comes in. You don’t need to read who’s playing who, who’s the quarterback, what are the ******* ****, etc. You’re fulfilling the intent by not clicking.

There are others which are more of a tease. If someone searches ‘customer engagement’ and they’re completely satisfied with, “Customer engagement is…” that’s totally fine. I’ve seen queries similar to that get snippets and get a huge traffic boost. I think it’s a combination of intent, the type of user you have, and how much depth there is to the query/question.

M: Well, for the Superbowl they’ll just show you the Patriots because that’s who will play and win.

Let’s talk mobile for a minute. I’m in the middle of a study comparing the URLs used in desktop Featured Snippets to mobile. Thus far, there seems to be about a 90% match. Meaning the same URL is used on both devices 90% of the time. What about that other 10%? Why would Google not make it 100%?

N: My approach would be more to ask why are they so similar most of the time? One thing you notice with any company is people saying that half their traffic is mobile but it doesn’t convert as well. And this is where marketers don’t think as human beings. You have to think of when you’re using your phone versus using your desktop. Google’s job is to help fulfill intent. Right now, and this is totally anecdotal, it’s a lot harder to do something on your phone than on desktop. So if Google is trying to help you do what you want, why would it give you the same results for both? Google should segment between giving people a quick answer and giving them a whole article. Sometimes if you’re in a commute you have time to read, but other times you’re at a restaurant with friends and you’re looking for that quick answer.

I’m saying this partially anecdotal but it’s also data-based because when you look at different metrics on different devices, it shows that people interact differently. Google will show different results depending on how people interact. That’s the whole point of this conversation, user intent varies by device.

M: That’s interesting. Do you think mobile Featured Snippets will be like Direct Answers at a certain point?

N: I’d say yes, but how would marketers and websites evolve? If you’re trying to have the same engagement or micro-conversion experience it won’t make sense. I find people testing, “Send this to me to read later,” or, “If you want to read more like this, sign up.” Or stuff like jump-to links where if I’m on my device and I don’t have the patience or time I can just click on what I’m looking for and find it. You can actually help people find stuff quicker especially on mobile when they don’t have as much time to find stuff.

M: What’s really interesting is in my study there were a lot of instances where there was a Featured Snippet on desktop, but not on mobile. Why is that?

N: Anecdotally, that doesn’t make sense if you’re assuming Google is this all-seeing, all-knowing, infallible being. Maybe it’s because they haven’t found a better way of doing it yet or maybe they believe that whatever metric there was for that query wasn’t being fulfilled. I have a feeling no one at Google has a great answer to that as they’re continually trying to figure it out. It is a very great question though and I’ll be curious to monitor those numbers.

Optimize or Disavow It

M: Assuming you could only do one or the other, which would you do? Optimize for a ton of low-difficulty Featured Snippets or one solid big-time traffic generating Featured Snippet win?

N: I think this says a lot about one’s overall philosophy. Do you buy that one stock you’re all sure of or do you set aside your money for the index fund? Ultimately, I like taking chances and going for the big fish partially because if you ran a probability and payoff analysis it would be worth it and also because I still **** the rush when for a high volume query and you see the traffic go up. There’s nothing quite like it.

M: Thank you, Nigel, for coming on!

N: Thank you, Mordy. It was very fun.

SEO News [01:01:12 – 01:05:23]

Restaurant Recommendations Now in Google Discover Feed: Good news for those who **** to eat. Google’s Discovery Feed is now showing restaurant recommendations!

Google Ads Bans Experimental Medical Treatment Ads: Google continues its hardline stance against bad health information being shown on the SERP by having Google Ads banning experimental treatments from the SERP and beyond.

Google’s Old Search Console is No Longer Available: Goodbye, old version of Search Console. Google has killed access to the old Search Console and is redirecting users to the new version!

Google to Give More Preference to Original Reporting: Google is now giving more weight to the original creator of content. Google announced that the original source of a news story will get preference on the SERP!

SEO Fun Send-Off Question [01:05:23 – 01:08:22]

If Google was a 90’s pop song, which song would it be?

Sapir chose “I don’t want to miss a thing” by Aerosmith solely for the title. Google doesn’t want to miss a thing and keeps changing and updating its algorithms to improve the search and gain more data. Mordy chose “Runaway Train” by Soul Asylum for those folks who think Google is a runaway train. Not that he thinks that himself.

Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast.

About The Author

The In Search SEO Podcast

In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.

Tune in to hear pure SEO insights with a ton of personality!

New episodes are released each Tuesday!

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How to Incredibly Decorate your Space with Small Home Decor Items

By | November 3, 2021

The interior decor of your home is a reflection of your personality. It is easy to create a design of your choice with proper guidance from expert interior designers and some small home decor items. Whether you have a small residence or a larger one, to masterfully transforming your space; you need to decorate your space with products that are seamless but have a huge impact on the overall look of your place.

State of SEO: Top Insights [Podcast]

By | November 3, 2021

Would you like to get high-level leads? Who doesn’t!

Using surveys as a lead generation and brand awareness strategy can be very effective.

Join Shelley Walsh, Special Projects Editor at Search Engine Journal and Founder, Loren Baker, as they use our State of SEO 2021 Report as a case study. (You can find a copy here: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/state-of-seo/)

They discuss the why, how, and challenges of our latest survey from a content marketing perspective.

Developing a good report is more than numbers; it’s also about connecting with the right people, getting good data, building your audience, and reaching them in various ways. Listen as they share how this survey has increased the success of gated content and considerations when publishing something like this on your own.


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We were looking to find something that would assert that industry authority that we had and something that would get us not only good page views but also links as well. –Shelley Walsh [09:54]

Having unique data is always a real plus point, and one of the real benefits of it is the fact that
they are natural linking machines. –Shelley Walsh, [13:22]

The value of building your own audience, whether you’re a company, ecommerce, a publisher, is that building up an email list or a customer list that you can revisit in more ways than one. –Loren Baker, [31:26]

[00:00] – A little about Shelley
[08:51] – Why SEJ decided to publish a massive piece of content, the State of SEO
[15:30] – How many SEO professionals were surveyed and how that led to quality results
[18:06] – Tactics that generated extensive media coverage, conversation, and backlinks
[20:17] – How Shelley designed the State of SEO survey to be useful and actionable
[24:49] – What challenges Shelley had and what she learned from doing this study
[31:22] – Is it worth it for ecoms or publishers to build their own audience?
[33:26] – How to leverage your audience for responses
[35:40] – Creating and using your own audience vs. using those owned by others
[39:19] – How Shelley and SEJ encouraged readers to respond
[41:16] – Comparing survey tool UX and how to choose the right one
[43:57] – What a survey design needs to be successful
[50:00] – What made the difference when publishing the results?
[53:11] – One of the classic rules in advertising applied
[55:14] – What people never mention about content repurposing and branding
[58:52] – Where do Shelley and Loren find their most valuable marketing insights?
[01:03:27] – Using surveys for lead acquisition
[01:05:14] – Questions to ask yourself when planning surveys
[01:06:20] – How to get good data even if you’re a small business


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Try to think about something different for each channel and approach it in a different way so that it’s giving people a reason to check out all the different avenues. Give a slightly different approach in each one. –Shelley Walsh, [58:38]

What really matters is that you know if you’re producing content that nails your concepts and you’ve got a really strong concept of value. –Shelley Walsh, [43:57]

If you’ve done a study or survey the first time, don’t give up. By continuously doing it, people start to expect it, and it starts to grow. –Loren Baker, [01:08:29]

For more content like this, subscribe to our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/searchenginejournal


Connect with Shelley Walsh:

Content marketing consultant Shelley Walsh is a Special Projects Editor at Search Engine Journal. Since founding ShellShock, her team has produced content that has attracted hundreds of links and gone viral. Having a passion for new challenges and learning new things has driven her to achieve success. She enjoys spending time at the ****, reading, biking, or climbing hills during her free time.

Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/theshelleywalsh
Connect with Shelley on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shelleywalsh/
Visit: https://shellshockuk.com/


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Connect with Loren Baker, Founder of Search Engine Journal:

Follow him on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/lorenbaker
Connect with him on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lorenbaker

Source link : Searchenginejournal.com