Catch up on the latest SEO trends with this October roundup. We’ve got the data, guides, and news you need to stay ahead of the competition.
First, you’ll get actionable data from a stack of compelling case studies. You’ll look at the winners and losers of the core update, how focusing on one topic may be all you need, and evidence that the Helpful Content Update punishes AI content.
Next, you’ll learn the latest techniques from the SEO community’s best recent guides. You’ll find out how to do a core web vitals audit, how to pull off programmatic SEO, and the value of request blocking.
The roundup closes on the news. Google confirms the end of the product reviews update, announces new local search updates, and updates search console errors about “short content”.
Winners & Losers Of The September 2022 Core Update & Product Reviews Update
Lily Ray brings you this comprehensive breakdown of who won or lost the latest major update.
First, she warns you that data collection is more complicated now than usual. Google launched multiple updates in a short amount of time, and isolating their effects is near impossible.
Due to these conditions, Lily’s analysis combined all the tested domains and didn’t attempt to sort them based on which update affected them. What you’ll see is how the domains are faring in the period before and after the update period.
The biggest winners saw as much as 200% growth in visibility. They included huge institutional sites, with the most successful ones being:
Lily also documented the sites that lost out on the most visibility. The top 5 that took the most brutal hit were:
The data was followed up with some analysis. For example, she noted that music sites massively benefitted from the updates. She theorized that Google may be shifting to show more music media results (rather than lyrics or bios) when songs are searched.
Check out the complete study for a lot more data and analysis, including some consequences for niches like stock photography, dictionaries, and eCommerce. Next, you’ll learn how valuable a focused content strategy can be.
How We Increased A Client’s Leads By 384% In Six Months By Focusing On One Topic Cluster
Lydia German brings you this look at how her team massively increased leads for a client by using a content strategy of hammering a single topic.
Her team discovered early in the SEO process that searchers responded to one service and term in particular (company liquidation). They focused on just this term and produced a massive guide for the topic that brought even more attention.
Lydia documents how the guide was expanded into a hub, and even details how the strategy was measured and cleared with the client. She also documents the work her team did to fix technical problems on the page and promote the completed hub.
The end result of a strategy focused on just one service offered by the client was an increase from 95 to over 450 leads.
The complete study includes more about how the strategy was implemented and the numbers behind the results.
This study is a good argument for thoughtful content, and the next one provides another. In the final case study for this month, you’ll hear one SEOs argument that Google is directly targeting AI content.
Case Study: AI Content Punished By The HCU Update
Kevin Indig brings you some evidence that you should think twice about using AI content.
Before he begins his analysis, he gives a quick example of how easy it is to detect poorly written AI content. He documents how Throughtheclutter.com (a celeb bio site with generated content) went from more than a million visits to zero after the Helpful Content Update.
He runs a snippet of the content used by this site through several tools to note how easily and with how much confidence they can detect AI-generated content. He shows that even clear and legible content can be easily recognized.
So far, Kevin’s data only supports the idea that the worst offenders are being targeted. Some sites that use AI content, but then polish and edit it, seem to have been left alone. Kevin closes with ideas for how teams can adjust their workflow to avoid risk.
That concludes the case studies for this month. The guides are next, starting with a look at what you need to know to perform a solid web vitals audit.
5 Things To Know In A Core Web Vitals Audit
Jan Willems Bobbink guests on an episode of the In Search SEO Podcast (a full transcript is included) to cover what goes into a successful audit and improvement of your site’s core web vitals.
He argues that five elements are important for ensuring an effective audit:
- The difference between specific visitor segments
- Comparing different page templates
- Understanding the difference between Pagespeed Insights scoring and CWS scores
- Prioritizing page types by benchmarking against competitors
He starts the interview by breaking down and explaining the importance of web vital reports for anyone who might need to catch up. After that, he begins going over his arguments for why his elements make your audits more valuable.
For example, his explanation of the first element includes a description of how the visitors who have the worst experiences on your site (because of slow or far away connections) can drag down your site’s overall reputation.
He suggests solutions that may be necessary when struggling visitors pass beyond a certain threshold of your total visitors.
The full guide contains a comprehensive explanation and advice for all essential elements. You should check it out if you need to improve your core web vitals score.
Don’t miss the following guide if you need to make significant updates quickly. You’ll learn how one SEO says you can take advantage of programmatic SEO without getting on the wrong side of Google.
5 Ways Programmatic SEO Can Generate Growth
Andrew McDermott defines programmatic SEO “as code-generated web pages that produce a large number of specialized content using data pulled from your database”. He argues this kind of content is capable of powerful growth even when AI content is being targeted.
He argues that the essential difference is that programmatic content exists to be useful and serve searchers’ needs.
Andrew also argues that enterprise brands are in a uniquely protected place to test out programmatic content without the usual risks because of how Google treats their results.
Andrew lays out everything you’ll need to know to start using programmatic SEO. He covers all the steps he uses to implement this SEO strategy and explains each step in enough detail so you can follow along.
In the later parts of the guide, he provides a series of use cases to help you apply programmatic SEO more insightfully.
If you enjoyed the technical aspects of this guide, the final one for the month will be right up your alley. You’ll get an explanation of a “render gauntlet”, learn why it can cause problems for your site, and discover what you can do about it.
Render Gauntlet (Request Blocking)
Oliver H.G. Mason takes you through a problem he experienced with a client’s site, and how he ultimately solved it.
The initial problem was that pages were being crawled but not indexed. Oliver discovered that the core content on the page wasn’t consistently recorded as rendered by the URL inspection tool.
To illustrate the problem with this issue, he takes you through an example of opening Nike’s site and disabling a single one of the bundled script files.
None of the core content on the page runs unless the dozens of scripts involved are all successful.
Oliver discovered his client’s site had 25 such bundles that needed to load correctly for any content to be rendered. Google wasn’t consistently up to the task of passing through that many obstacles (the render “gauntlet”) to understand the page.
He provides you with several solutions. Early on, he points out that getting the page rendered server-side would solve this issue (although it would not alert you to the problems).
He also suggests you return any content you want Googlebot to see in the initial HTML.
That closes out the guides for this month. The last month’s top headlines are next. For the first story, Google has confirmed that its major product reviews update is officially over.
Google September 2022 Product Reviews Update Rollout Complete
Danny Goodwin brings you this coverage of the official end of the Product Reviews Update. This was the last of three major updates that nearly ran concurrently with one another. Over the last month, you have experienced:
- The helpful content update (Aug. 25 to Sept. 9)
- September 2022 core update (Sept. 12 to 26)
- Product review update (Sept. 20 to 26)
The end of the product review updates marks the end of a short, volatile era in SEO. Google hasn’t provided a date for any future updates, but it’s clear that SEOs have a lot to consider and rework.
Local SERPs aren’t getting left out of the big changes. Google has announced 7 new features that SEOs will get to play with soon.
Google Announces 7 Local Search Updates
Matt G. Southern brings local SEOs some exciting news from the annual Search On conference. Local results are being significantly expanded, with many cool new features for small businesses and restaurants, in particular, to stand out in search.
One such new feature is “search for restaurants by dish”. Searchers can enter a dish into a search field and browse only the results that carry the dish on their menus. Restaurants will also be able to declare specialties.
The other new features include:
- More support for digital menus
- Enhancements to Google Maps’ Live View
- Aerial views of famous landmarks
- Immersive view
- Neighborhood vibe checks
Check out the article for images of some of these new features as they appear in search results. In the final article for the month, you’ll learn why Google has dropped instructions against short content.
Google Drops Article Too Short & Word Count Section From The Search Console Content
Barry Schwartz brings you this look at Google’s removal of the “word count” reference from its list of best practices. This appears as a small change, but it may represent a significant shift in how Google views “short content” compared to only a couple of years ago.
As Barry points out, Google just recently maintained content errors for content that was “too short”. That error was also confirmed to be removed in this update.
Many SEOs theorize that Google prioritizes content that is “useful”, even if that means a couple of sentences.
Danny Sullivan has been documented embracing this philosophy. He is quoted in one appearance as saying that people “shouldn’t stress about word count”.
A friendlier attitude toward short content could change SEO significantly in the long run. When new techniques are discovered, we’ll cover them in a future roundup. See you then.
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