You need this month’s roundup if recent core or review updates have hit your site. It curates some of the freshest, most in-depth coverage of updates and other urgent SEO topics.
The case studies are first. You’ll have plenty of data to sift through, starting with a deep dive into the impact of the Helpful Content Update. Then, you’ll find out the real size of Google’s index and see some numbers on Google Discover traffic declines.
Next, you can pick up some new SEO tricks from the guides. You’ll learn how to recognize and respond to the three different SGE snapshots and how to mine Reddit for SEO insights using your favorite AI tool. You’ll also discover the results of a massive SEO “heist.”
Last, you’ll get caught up on the latest news in SEO. Discover why some Google patent requests may offer clues for the future. You’ll also read the announcement closing the November Core Update and November Reviews Update.
Analyzing the Long-Term Impact of Google’s Review Updates and What That Could Mean for Sites Impacted by the Helpful Content Update (HCU)
Glenn Gabe brings you this deep dive into how the HCU and other recent updates have impacted sites. For site owners who may be new to the topic, he provides a quick history of how the update has evolved and explains why you may not get any announcements of future changes.
He then lays out what he’s learned about the update, using graphs of real client sites, direct statements from Google, and his analysis.
His first finding was that things look bad for many review sites he’s analyzed. He describes many of them as “basically shut down.” These sites dropped by as much as 70%+ overnight and then never recovered.
However, he argues that sites can recover. His review of the most affected sites found that many of them, unfortunately, had obvious reasons for being targeted. He provides some tips (backed by evidence) for how sites can lose the “not helpful” classifier through content and UX updates.
Check out the complete analysis for evidence about how the review updates work and how you can stay on Google’s good side. Next, you’ll get some information that Google rarely discusses about its index size and capabilities.
Google’s Index Size Revealed: 400 Billion Docs (& Changing)
Cyrus Shephard brings you this behind-the-scenes look at some information revealed in Google’s recent trial. As Cyrus points out, there are trillions of pages out there.
Google never had or claimed the ability to deliver them all. However, they’ve never discussed how many sites were eligible for Google searches.
Court documents revealed that the true size of this index was 400 billion documents. To put this in perspective, he reminds you that Wikipedia alone has 7 billion pages.
The existing index includes ebooks, PDFs, and other kinds of content. The total space reserved for web pages is probably well under the reported figure. He notes that this makes Google’s index only about half the size of the Wayback Machine’s index of pages.
These numbers suggest that web pages are fighting for limited space. Cyrus believes they may be fighting over even less in the future.
Cyrus examines the belief that Google’s index expands over time and argues that there’s a possibility it’s shrinking instead. Google suggested in some documents that they had taken action in the past to shrink the index, and Cyrus believes they may be motivated to do it again.
Check out the complete breakdown of the data for some of the reasons Cyrus expects a smaller index in the future and some of the forces he believes will be driving that change. Next, you’ll learn why so many publishing sites are struggling after the updates and what may be causing it.
Traffic Declines in Google Discover, Top Stories & Google News Affect Publishers Across the Globe
Lily surveys the damage done to the online publishing niche in the aftermath of the two broad core algorithm updates, between September and November. She notes that the chatter she is hearing from publishing site owners is bad across many different languages and regions.
She was able to draw some data from an SEO community post she started. In it, you can find SEOs sharing evidence of pages that had gone from millions of clicks a month to zero by the conclusion of the updates.
She also surveyed over 150 site owners to learn (among other facts in the full article) that:
- 73% of overall respondents indicated that they have seen their Google Discover traffic drop to 0 during the past 3 months.
- 72% of overall respondents claim that they are no longer seeing their articles appearing in Top Stories or prominently in the Google News tab, unless they sort by “Most Recent Date.”
She breaks down her survey respondents to draw out a lot more data. She covers the kind of sites that are affected, the amount of traffic they’ve lost, and where they are located in the world, and which updates caused the issues.
Check out the complete piece for a ton of other information, including some theories on what’s causing the volatility. Now, you’re ready for the guides. You’ll start by learning about SGE snapshots, and how much traffic risk you can expect from each one.
The 3 Main Types of Google SGE Snapshots and Their Level of Ranked Pages Traffic Risk
Aleyda Solis breaks down the different SGE snapshots that may affect results in your niche and examines the possible risks that they represent to your traffic.
For site owners who need to catch up, SGE snapshots are AI-generated results based on user queries. Site owners with ranked pages are concerned that these previews may replace the need for clicks (like other past Google features), or direct SGE users toward only a few sites.
Alyeda describes three ways that the snapshot may behave and analyzes the risk level of each one. She covers—
- Duplicative SGE Snapshot: This snapshot duplicates or overlays the current organic results. She believes this form doesn’t incentivize users to click SGE information, and considers this snapshot to be a low current traffic risk
- Summarizing & Complementary SGE Snapshot: This snapshot provides an expanded summary of the pages that are already ranking well. She considers this snapshot to be a low-medium current traffic risk.
- Accelerators SGE Snapshots: This snapshot attempts to provide the user with answers to the next step in their search journey. She considers this snapshot to be a medium-high current traffic risk.
Check out the complete guide for more information about how each of these snapshots behave along with plenty of helpful images so you can see these snapshots in action. They may play a large role in organic search going forward.
In the next guide of the month, you’ll learn how to mine Reddit for insights using generative AI programs.
Build Your Keyword Tool With Python and ChatGPT: A Subreddit Insights
Amin Foroutan teaches you how to set up and automate a process he’s discovered for pulling SEO data out of Reddit. He uses ChatGPT for his work, but you should be able to follow along with most other chat programs you prefer.
He starts by explaining how to apply for an API key with Reddit (you’ll need it for the process to work).
He also explains how to use the Notable plugin, which will be important for the process. Even if you’re not technically inclined, you should find it easy to follow the steps, and there are a lot of pictures to help.
Jumping into the process, he shows you how to structure a prompt and use the tools you’ve set up to generate tons of insights for keyword research, gap analysis, and more from the most-used terms and topics on Reddit or individual subreddits.
Check out the complete guide for some prompt templates, examples of results, and ideas for doing even more with the data you’ve produced. In the final guide of the month, an SEO team “steals” 3.6M traffic from a competitor and wants you to know all about it.
We Pulled off an SEO Heist That Stole 3.6m Total Traffic From a Competitor
Jake Ward tells you how he nabbed more than 3 million in traffic, including 480,000+ in October alone. The process he describes is shockingly simple. In the thread, he summarizes it as:
- Exported a competitor’s sitemap
- Turned their list of URLs into article titles
- Created 1,800 articles from those titles at scale using AI
He lays out each of the steps in more detail across the entire thread, though it doesn’t get much more difficult than that. He describes how he found the right competitor, exported the sitemap, generated article titles from the URLs alone, and then produced the content with AI.
The 3.6 million count was achieved after about 18 months of work, though he argues that this process moves faster with AI tools than it did even a few months back. Check out the entire thread for more information on his process and some images and data he’s provided.
Now, you’re ready to jump into the month’s top news stories. The first one covers what you can learn from Google’s latest patent.
Google SGE & Generative Summaries for Search Results Patent
Kristi Hines takes you through Google’s latest patent, and what it can teach you about Google’s next moves. As it turns out, the patent deals with SGE and has major implications for the future of search.
She covers Google patent US11769017B1. This patent is described as a “method for creating summaries of search results using large language models (LLMs).” It covers the integration of Google SGE and generative AI search summaries.
The patent is highly detailed, and Kristi links to several sources where you can check out the entire application.
Among other interesting reveals, it shows you how the snapshots you read about earlier work. In an included image from the patent application, you can see the flowchart process the snapshots follow.
See her complete article for more analysis of the patents and how you can prepare for them. Next, Google has announced the completion of the November Core Update, the fourth update of the year so far.
Google November 2023 Core Update Rollout Is Now Complete/Google November 2023 Reviews Update Now Done Rolling Out
Barry Schwartz brings you Google’s announcement of the end of the November core update. This update ran nearly the entire month, from the 2nd to the 28th. Barry provides some resources for any readers who want to learn more, including links to Google’s statements and analysis of the previous updates.
The end of the other update that started in November (Reviews Update) was announced on December 7th. This update was the eighth review update since 2021 and is the last one that will be publicly announced. Barry provides links to all of the past review updates for readers who may want to catch up.
For both updates, Barry recommends some recovery steps, including some that have been drawn from Google statements. See both articles for tips. You can also check out my video on recovering from algorithm updates.
That concludes the roundup for this month. Google has thrown a lot at SEOs in recent months, but that doesn’t mean they’re done for the year. Make sure to come back for the next roundup to find out what’s coming next.