TopHatRank Blogger SEO SEO Resources for Bloggers and Publishers AMA & Review of Q1 Google Updates: SEO For Bloggers Episode #40

AMA & Review of Q1 Google Updates: SEO For Bloggers Episode #40

Recap, Q&A, + All the Resources

This is our first episode of 2024, and it was a game-changer!

We unpacked the latest Google updates from Q1 that have sent waves through the blogging community.

We discussed the updates, their implications for your blog, AND actionable tips for improving your SEO strategies.

Don’t worry—we’ll be back again in Q2 with our next episode, which will cover more of the ever-changing algorithm and, as always, SEO for bloggers.

Use these buttons to jump to sections, and don’t forget the “back to top” button (bottom right) for easy navigation:

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Q&A With The Panelists

These are each of the questions that were asked during the Q&A portion of the webinar. The answers are provided by the panelists. Have a question about this episode you'd like addressed? Reach out to!

Question 1

1. Reducing “Unhelpful” Content By 40%

Kindly define unhelpful content in the context of recipe blogs. And since most of us create very similar recipes, would those be considered unoriginal content?

2. 4 Changes To Link Signal (Google Deemphasized Links)

Can you kindly discuss if this affects our internal and external links.

3. Kindly describe how we can use Navboost (quote from SEG: “The recent U.S. government anti-trust lawsuit against Google made clear that the Navboost signal which tracks user interaction signals is a powerful ranking factor”) to our advantage as recipe bloggers. How can we improve our user interaction signals on our website apart from the comments section?

1 . Answered Live. 2. Covered in detail in this article here: 3. By driving traffic through linking, social shares, and PR. You also need to focus on specific anchor text-rich internal linking, having a intuitive website layout with easy navigation, breadcrumb trails, and organized content. Finally, the faster your site loads, the faster you can provide a positive UX.

Question 2

I’m seeing a slow, steady drop in traffic on my organic traffic over the past year rather than any one significant drop. What does this mean, and how should I address this issue?

It can mean you are getting beat by bigger and stronger sites. It can mean that Google is reassing the relevancy of your content and removing keywords, slowly, you should not be ranking for. Finally, it can mean that others are out working you.

Question 3

Is a flat curve considered good right now considering? Used to be going up! Should this be concerning?

Nobody can go up forever. In this recent climate, if you are ‘flat,’ that’s certainly not cause for concern.

Question 4

In regards to these updates, in your experience, how many bloggers are affected? 10%? 90%? of your clients? Everyone? Are some folks receiving postive effects, or ONLY negative?

It’s a smaller percentage then you think. I went through my GSC and I found hundreds of sites that were positively impacted by the recent updates. But no, it’s “not all negative.” It’s just that the negative owners are clearly more vocal.

Question 5

Is it beneficial to use topic content briefs when creating a post or is that considered using AI?

This is using AI. But again, Google is not “against AI” as a tool. They are against 100% AI-generated content. There’s a difference.

Question 6

A lot of people are talking about creating new sites if they were deeply hit by HCU, either transferring content to that new site or testing new formats (i.e. recipe card first). The rumor is people with newer sites weren’t really effected by HCU. Any thoughts on this?

Complete nonsense. Don’t do this. New sites would take “at least” a year or more to rank anyway, in this environment.

Question 7

My posts contain:
– Table of Contents (TOC)
– Video
– Ingredients List
– How to make recipe w/ numbered process shots
– Storage info
– FAQs
– Top Tip
– More Recipes
– Recipe Card

Many posts I see don’t have:
– How to w/process shots
– FAQs

Do we need to strip everything out?
Create a streamlined post with a link to the full post?

Answered Live.

Question 8

Can you recommend specific ads to remove that are affecting mobile INP the most?

Ads, not so much. But this article should be a must-read for you:

Question 9

You can see if you are passing INP on GSC right?


Question 10

What site can we check INP with?

Google’s PageSpeed Insights or inside your Google Search Console (Experience > Core Web Vitals).

Question 11

How do I decrease LCP? Are ads usually the culprit to failing this?

If implemented correctly, ads are generally not the cause of high LCP. Instead, it can be a slow server or pages that aren’t optimized well to render quickly. Using tools like WP Rocket’s “Remove Unused CSS” will help significantly, as will reducing any unnecessary “bloat” from your site (extra scripts, lots of web fonts, and so on). It also depends on what the largest element is in the viewport – on some sites it’s text, on some its images. So you need to be sure whatever it is will render quickly.

Question 12

If most of our traffic comes from Pinterest, how much does the HCU affect our metrics?

Probably not much. But you should be using GSC specifically, which tracks “Google-only” traffic to determine if you were affected by the HCU update.

Question 13

Is the blog post template that has been discussed in the past no longer the best approach? A lot of the top results I am seeing seem to be fairly short vs all the standard sections above the recipe card (i.e. Why This Recipe Is Amazing, Ingredients You’ll Need, How To Make, Tips, FAQ, etc)

Answered Live.

Question 14

What if we are seeing all or mostly social media posts in the SERPS?

Then you are not alone.

Question 15

What about when your posts are dropping but only slightly. For example, from Position 1 to 2 or 3, but still losing a lot of traffic? Do you touch those posts and update and take the risk?

Answered Live.

Question 16

I’ve seen a drop in popular content, but have also lost 100% of my thumbnails from SERPs. How can I analyze losses properly when I’m also losing clicks from that? Is it a bug or not? Google is contradictory or just pure vague on this.

Answered Live.

Question 17

None of blog posts are showing the thumbnail in SERP anymore. Is there anything I can do to fix this or is it a Google problem?

Answered Live.

Question 18

When I check the search rankings for my keywords, almost all of the content in the top 10-25 are not what Google has stated it considers “helpful.” I will often see a lot of older, not updated content. Why am I seeing this? Most of the sites ranking are older bloggers or sites like AllRecipes.

Per Google, this is because they are elevating known brands. Further, your idea of helpful and Google’s are not the same.

Question 19

Is there a way food bloggers can successfully use Web Stories? A large source of our traffic pre-helpful content came from our web stories. now, they are never shown as they are deemed “unhelpful/thin content”.

Google significantly lowered the visibility of Web Stories back in February. See the article here: – you would be wise to police these and remove any that have little or no traffic over the last month or so.

Question 20

So, RankIQ is a no?

Any tool can be used incorrectly. But yes, MANY sites that were impacted by the recent updates were using Rank IQ.

Question 21

Should you reindex a post after a major update? When I asked GSC to reindex a post, my ranking dropped for a few weeks.

You should always index content that you think you have improved. Also, you don’t have to “ask GSC to reindex a post.” That’s not what the URL inspector tool should be used for. Just take the NOINDEX off and be patient. Google will get to it.

Question 22

If no one is searching for it, what is the point of unique recipes? And if we are small and don’t have a large email list, what then?

That’s a question you’ll have to answer. Are you writing your recipes for you and your users or for Google? Your goal should be to build a community and then work to fill the needs of that community. Google will take care of itself.

Question 23

How many of our posts should focus on KWs, and how many can we create just for our readers? Is there a perfect ratio, and is it different for each blogger?

No such thing.

Question 24

I’d like your thoughts on the “mixing up content” approach with more Discover-friendly content. For example, instead of an SEO templated “Apple Pie,” do something like “The #1 Dessert That Screams Americana for Your July 4th Celebration” (probably a terrible example, but you get the gist).

Google is clear that you cannot rely on Discover for regular traffic, and it’s so fickle that we seldom recommend focusing on it specifically. But clearly, “link bait type content” with compelling headlines still has a place. You’ll just have to experiment.

Question 25

I am noticing very short recipes at the top of the serp. No FAQs, no detailed how to (it is all in the recipe card), thoughts?

This is not a trend we see. Especially in the carousels.

Question 26

What about the loss of the thumbnails in the SERPs, even though those posts are in the carousel?

Answered Live.

Question 27

What are we supposed to make on food blogs if all recipes are oversaturated?

Answered Live.

Question 28

Can you speak more about aged content that is not ranking? The responses made it sound a little hopeless. Can updating/republishing content pull us out of that, or is the answer only new content?

Answered Live.

Question 29

Should we no longer be incorporating content briefs?

Depends on the quality of these “content briefs.” You need to be reviewing what Google is ranking for your specific query and emulating that.

Question 30

Should we still be including FAQs or should we make those H2s now?

Answered Live.

Question 31

Is digital PR still important?


Question 32

How does the idea of making the intro area short possibly conflict with internal linking opportunities in the first couple of paragraphs? Should that be scaled back a little?

That depends on how much you are linking. It’s common to see a couple of links in teaser text. Again, you should link when it makes sense to users.

Question 33

It seems that since the update, web stories (at least for me) have taken off WAY more than they used to. Do you know anything about that?

Not the case at all. Most people hit by the HCU update saw their web story traffic go off a cliff on 4/9. Further, there is less web story traffic now than three months ago. And Google has removed web stories from many carousels.

Question 34

I don’t use breadcrumbs schema yet. Can you suggest an example website that I can look at to see what breadcrumb schema looks like?

Breadcrumbs schema is the norm for most sites. You can see breadcrumbs present on examples here: and as examples to emulate.

Question 35

Casey, do you have a template you recommend when writing blog posts?

Yes, it’s covered in my audits.

Question 36

How many times can you “refresh” aging content?

As many times as it is needed, recipes are not “timeless,” regardless of what some may believe.

Question 37

With Google saying they may get rid of recipe ratings in the SERPS, is it still okay to give our own recipes 5 stars when we publish them?

Absolutely. And to clarify, Google has never publicly said “we may get rid of recipe ratings.” What Google HAS said, to me and others, is that you are a “user” and there is no issue in rating your own recipes. You either trust them, or you don’t.

Question 38

Is there an average number of posts or recipes a brand-new food site needs before gaining traction on Google these days?

We usually don’t see much movement in Google until a site has around 25-50 recipes and has been actively updating the site for 6-9months

Question 39

Is there another way to report missing thumbnails besides X?

You can also use BlueSky, as far as we know. But, as explained on the call, this is a KNOWN ISSUE with Google. They are working on it.

Question 40

I’ve heard using Grow can slow down the site (if tying in with search) vs. Slickstream. Have you heard anything of that?


Question 41

When you say not to touch a post in the top three, can we still go in and do internal linking with these posts?

Sure. But that’s also “touching the post.” That being said, Google usually has to crawl a post multiple times to “trust changes.”

Question 42

Has anyone been impacted positively from these updates?

Absolutely! Every update has winners and losers!

Resources & Links

Below are links to all tools, articles, and other resources mentioned in this webinar:


Melissa Rice (00:00:00):
All right guys. I think we’re going to kick it off now. A lot of people are still joining. So great to see everyone. Thank you for joining us today. I know it’s been a while. You’ve been waiting a few months actually to see these beautiful faces of ours. As I’m sure you can tell, we’ve adjusted our webinar schedule. SEO For Bloggers will now be quarterly from here on out, but in every episode, we’re going to jump straight into the latest Google updates and address all of those burning questions. So we hope you’ll continue to join us and stay tuned for some additional content we’re cooking up for everyone later this year. But without further ado, welcome to our 40th episode.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:00:43):

Casey Markee (00:00:49):
40. And I remember when I turned 40, it was a nice gloomy day.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:00:51):
30 years ago.

Casey Markee (00:00:52):
It’s a long time ago. 30 years ago.

It was good. Coffee cost 5 cents.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:01:00):
Gas was free.

Melissa Rice (00:01:01):
Yeah, exactly.

Casey Markee (00:01:03):
We didn’t have-

Arsen Rabinovich (00:01:03):
Not a wifi signal.

Casey Markee (00:01:04):
We just pushed the-

Andrew Wilder (00:01:05):
All right. We got so much stuff to get to, you guys.

Melissa Rice (00:01:08):
We got a lot to cover. So today we’re going to cover the SEO rollercoaster that Google has everybody on. It’s been dizzying. We’ll do our best to cover the recent updates and shed some light on what’s happening and what you can do now. So as always, we’re joined by Casey Markee of Media Wyse, Arsen Rabinovich of TopHatRank, and Andrew Wilder of NerdPress. And as always, I am your host, Melissa Rice. As always, at the end, we’re going to have our Q&A. So please, please drop any questions in there and we will cover those at the end. So starting right off. Casey.

Casey Markee (00:01:43):

Melissa Rice (00:01:44):
Can you please help? No. Can you review the turbulence that we’ve seen and what kind of Google updates that rolled out in Q1 that have a lot of bloggers trying to recover? We do know now about the HCU and what it’s doing. Or can you explain? Can you elaborate, please?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:02:04):
Tell us, Casey.

Casey Markee (00:02:05):
Let me pull out my crystal ball. Where is it? Basically, what happened was that Google pushed out a core, a spam, and a helpful content update all at the same time on March the fifth. The thing is they’ve now decided to make the helpful content update a regular part of the core algorithm series. So when they pushed out the core update, they pushed out a revised and updated HCU signal wrapping them together. Now the spam update completed on, I think it was April, but the core and the helpful content updates are still ongoing. Usually, it takes anywhere from 27 to 30 days. I would expect that we’re probably going to have improvement or that those updates will complete probably by next Monday, which is quickly… What date is that? Come on, tell me, Arsen. It’s like-

Melissa Rice (00:02:58):
The 8th.

Casey Markee (00:02:58):
… the 8th or something like that would be my suggestion there. Now, if you-

Arsen Rabinovich (00:03:02):
I mean, I recommend this for you quickly.

Casey Markee (00:03:04):
Did you [inaudible 00:03:04] that? Did you?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:03:05):
I recommend this for you quickly.

Casey Markee (00:03:06):
Exactly. So if you ever want to track these updates and you should, this is a status board. I pasted the link over in the search results there so you can take a look at it. The status board is your way of determining how long the update has been going, when it started, and when Google officially stops the update and says it is completed. Now, clearly, we’ve been having a lot of issues. A lot of people were asking, “Well, how come I haven’t seen any improvement?” As of today, we have had no confirmed improvement from September’s helpful content update. Clearly, that’s not good. We keep waiting. Google has said, “Hey, don’t do anything until the update that’s fully rolled out.” But at this point, we should be seeing some improvement at least somewhere from September’s rollout and we are not. So that’s very discouraging.

Now, what can we do about this? Well, Google is saying, in many cases, if you’re not seeing improvement, it’s because you didn’t make enough improvement or changes, and they published a help page on this. You can see that specifically over here. And the whole point of the update page is that they want you to create this strange thing, I don’t know if you’ve heard about it. It’s called helpful, reliable content. Have you ever heard that term before? It’s completely strange, but apparently, none of our content is helpful, reliable content.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:04:26):
Or reliable, right?

Casey Markee (00:04:27):
Yeah. So we’ve pasted over some information here. First, there is the search page, the support page that Google provides going through in detail what they consider helpful, reliable content, including a list of questions that we need to start asking against our own content. I’ve also provided my link to the helpful content update that was published last September. I received a lot of positive feedback directly from Google saying that this is exactly the kind of things that we should be looking at doing and improving on the content we publish. And yet, even though we’ve been trying to do that, we have not seen any improvement.

Now, with regards to the core update that pushed out, Google pushed out the core update to fight four things specifically. And I’m going to go ahead and paste that over as well. And those four things are, of course, fighting spam. It was another filter on low-quality content. It was amazing that they use this number, they said that they were reducing the existence of low-quality content by 40%. That makes it very clear that this was an incredibly large major update. They’re also looking to combat site reputation abuse. Basically, that means that if you’re networking with a larger site to piggyback your SEO, they were going after that specifically saying, “Hey, you know what’s unnecessarily what we want to do and we’re not going to give you credit for doing that.”

And then finally, there was an expired domain abuse portion in this recent core update where people were, again, buying expired domains, redirect them, or basically what they do is they’d rent space on other domains and have that host article. So it’d be like if you bought an expired educational domain and started publishing gardening information on it, Google was specifically going after that and other avenues.

I wish we could say that there was anything positive that we could see so far from these updates to provide any sort of soothing or assurance to you that there is hope on the horizon. But right now, we’re still waiting on, of course, the update to run. We’ve heard the term gaslighting a ton over the last couple months because Google keeps telling us over and over again, “Hey, here’s what you need to do.” We’ve done dozens and dozens of audits where we’ve pulled out all these examples of content that we think that we need to improve. We’ve either de-indexed that content and where we’ve worked with the blog owner diligently to improve that content at scale, and yet here we are well into this update and we’ve had no discernible recovery cases.

So what do we do? Well, we just have to wait and see what we can do after the update is over, which again is probably going to be next week. Google knows that there’s a problem because this is the very first time they have announced a form that they will be releasing the day after the update is over so that we can start submitting possible false positives. If you think about it, imagine that there’s a 1% false positive on these updates from the helpful content update. That is literally hundreds of thousands of niche blogs. So it is going to be an extremely interesting, a little bit of work to not only get your site on that list for Google to review, but what exactly is going to happen with that review or if there is going to be a review anyway. So at this time, we would just have to tell you to just stay positive and when we know something, you’ll know something.

Melissa Rice (00:07:56):
Well, it’s a little dark, but we’re going to stay hopeful. Fingers are all crossed, [inaudible 00:08:05] fingers. Andrew, one of the other changes Google has rolled out recently is the new Core Web Vital metric, Interaction to Next Paint. Can you tell us a little more about that, and should everyone be panicking even more than they already are?

Andrew Wilder (00:08:20):
Let’s just add gasoline on the fire right now.

Melissa Rice (00:08:22):

Andrew Wilder (00:08:24):
So on March 12th, Google changed one of the three Core Vitals metrics. It used to be First Input Delay, which was one that nobody had trouble passing, and so they decided to make it harder and change it to something called Interaction to Next Paint. That’s a really Googly way of saying how responsive is your website to user input. So when somebody clicks on something, does it have a delay before it does stuff or does it feel interactive? Right? The goal is to have a site that is responsive. So when you click on things, it responds quickly, right? So the desktop devices are not having too much trouble passing, but, of course, most traffic isn’t desktop. It’s mostly mobile devices. And the problem is when you load up your site with a ton of stuff and you’ve got a little mobile device that’s got to do tons of processing, it can really bog down.

And so what we’re seeing is JavaScript has a lot of impact on that, and the biggest culprit is, you’re not going to like this, but it’s ads, which makes perfect sense, right? Ads are a tremendous resource hog. There’s a lot of stuff, there’s a lot of videos. So we’ve been doing a lot of digging at NerdPress to try to figure out like, “Is it specific ads? Is it videos? Is it this ad? Is it ad density?” There are things you can do besides ads, but if we look at an average of our clients that don’t have ads, they’re like at 100 and something milliseconds. The limit’s 200 milliseconds. And if you’re at ads, you’re going to be much higher. It adds 100 milliseconds or so. So there’s not a lot of wiggle room. We could do a whole webinar on INP for SEO, for bloggers. For NerdPress clients, we’re actually doing one tomorrow because we’ve been getting so many questions. I do have a primer article that we’ve published a blog post about it that we can… I’ll share in the chat in a second.

The short answer is you can’t do that much if you’re running ads. There are things you can do, reduce the size of your page like paginating comments. In your sidebar, if you have a ton of featured recipes, let’s say you’ve got a widget that shows 30 different popular recipes, pare that down to four. The more stuff that’s on the page, the harder it is for the browser to respond to an interaction. So once you do the basic optimization stuff, which really is not that different from what we’ve been recommending for years, it’s going to be up to your ad network. I will say Mediavine, on average for our clients at least, Mediavine is performing better than Raptive. We are talking to both of them a lot. So if you’re on Mediavine, your odds of passing are pretty good. If you’re on Raptive, it’s not, but we are seeing a trend line. We’re talking to them daily, they’re doing a lot of experimentation to figure out like, “Is it this thing or this thing?” So I know they’re actively working on it.

So if you were seeing in your Core Web Vitals like 220-something millisecond average on your origin summary, you’re not that far. And my suggestion would be take a pass, clean up some things. And then if you’re with Raptive, email them and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” And just keep the pressure on to keep them working on it, but you may just have to wait a little bit. The good news is everybody’s kind of in this boat right now and it may be a ranking factor, but I think it’s a very slight ranking factor. John Mueller recently downplayed the impact of the ranking factor, although he’s referring to smaller sites. So if you’re in a very competitive niche on a very competitive target keyword, you may need to pay a little more attention, particularly on that page and you can test that one page. But don’t panic, it’s not the end of the world. There’s lots of other things you can worry about. I’d say content is still-

Casey Markee (00:12:05):
And that’s our goal. We’re going to give you at least 10 other things to worry about today. Much more important-

Andrew Wilder (00:12:10):
And we’re only on the second question right now.

Casey Markee (00:12:11):
That’s right.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:12:12):
We have a list.

Casey Markee (00:12:12):
We have a whole list.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:12:13):
We have things we worry about.

Casey Markee (00:12:13):
So you’re good.

Andrew Wilder (00:12:16):
Yeah, so everybody take a breath and don’t worry about too much about INP. It’s going to get better.

Melissa Rice (00:12:23):
Cynthia said, “Good, I will [inaudible 00:12:26].

Arsen Rabinovich (00:12:25):
This is all we had to do for Cynthia. Just tell her, “Listen, don’t worry about it”

Andrew Wilder (00:12:27):
You will be fine.

Casey Markee (00:12:28):

Arsen Rabinovich (00:12:28):
Good to go.

Casey Markee (00:12:30):
Just take another slice of that pizza, Cynthia. You’re good. Don’t even worry about it.

Melissa Rice (00:12:38):
Hilarious. Arsen, what should bloggers do differently now to align with the SEO changes? And are there immediate takeaways or best practices they should implement on their site host updates?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:12:51):
Right. So look, we’ve been looking at a lot of sites since September. We have a huge waitlist for our forensic audits. We’ve looked at a lot of sites who were affected. Here’s what I’m going to tell you. It feels like you’re being hit by the helpful content update, but most likely you’re not because I’ve only seen three actual helpful content update hits, like true, true, helpful content update hits. Now, what we have to do is understand what’s happening to our rankings, to our keywords, to our content that has been winning and making money for us. And when you start looking at the behavior and you have to drill down, you can do this in Search Console, you can do this in SEMrush, you can do this in any tool you use. It’s never going to be 100% accurate, you’re just getting an idea. But if you look at the posts that were affected, where your traffic actually declined from, right? And you’ll notice the position changes for the keywords that were the main traffic drivers.

And those of you who have had calls with me know my process for this and what I look at, and I look at the behavior of the keyword as it makes its way down, right? So I look at the drop and I look at the time period. I’m not going to take a huge chunk, I’m going to break it apart. So I’m going to do like September to October, right? And then I’m going to do maybe February through March, but what I’m trying to understand is how the keyword fluctuated. If I was in the top 10 positions and I fluctuated, but I’m still in top 20, most likely that’s not a helpful content update hit. That’s just the reshuffling of the update to whatever Google does and that’s normal for everyone. If you’re starting to notice that a lot of your keywords are dropping down below top 20, you’re seeing hits of 60, 30, 40 positions and that’s happening to a large chunk of your content, we can safely assume that there is possibly helpful content being applied here, right?

Now, the other thing that we have to be mindful of is content that’s just aging. And a lot of times, this is what I’m seeing right no. Bigger bloggers who are, it seems like you’ve been hit and I see this trend line just goes down, right? Starting in September is just trickling down. Some of you have this kind of a move where it’s recovering, but not all the way. Pay attention to the content that’s been aging. There were hints historically telling you that this content is not performing the way it needs to be performing. And now that the algorithm is smarter, more information has been collected, there’s a human layer, which we know now is true from the antitrust case, Google is using click data, we know that Google is making decisions based on user input.

And you’ve heard me talk about this, you’ve seen me do this on webinars. I search for something, I clicked on the first position, I’m not happy with it, I clicked on the second one, I dwell there. Over time, Google understands that the second result is better than the first one and it’s going to make shuffling… It’s going to shuffle things around, right? And then from there, it learns that, “Hey, these are the type of results that the user is expecting to see and is actually engaging with for this particular query.”

So you want to take a look at what Google is telling you now. Look at the top 10, what’s Google showing you? Did the SERP change? Does Google have a better understanding of the query? Did the intent change? Did we go from informational to commercial? Did we go to a blended result where it’s both? You put in tacos, that result looks different every few days, right? So look at what changed. Look at your content. If you’re seeing shallow drops, most likely that you just need to re-optimize, you need to refocus your content, you need to go back and update your content. Content that’s been aging is going to continue to decline because you’re aging out of the set of data that Google uses to analyze, right? So if you’re out of those top 20, most likely you’re not being a part of that seed set, right? So definitely take a look at that.

What you should be doing different is analyzing each query and each topic individually. Do not templatize things anymore. Your soup recipes are going to be different for every soup. Your sauce recipe is going to be different for every sauce. Look at Google. I’m not giving you anything new here. You’ve heard me say this over and over again. Look at Google. Google is telling you what it wants to see, and then ask yourself this question, “How close am I coming with my content to what Google is expecting to see in the top 10, 20 positions?” So most likely, what you’re seeing as a byproduct of these updates is your content that’s just hasn’t been updated and is slowly aging, is going to continue to age and keep dropping in positions as better content is being selected by Google for the top 10 positions. That’s my story.

Casey Markee (00:17:45):
And just to add to that very quickly, besides the Google of reshuffling results, we also have to come to the fact that all these core updates have a huge relevance boost to them. What is this relevance boost mean? Well, it means that it’s refining how Google is ranking specific keywords. If you have a post and it was ranking previously for 1,000 keywords, now for some reason, you’ve lost 120 or 130 keywords on that post. That feels like a penalty, but frankly, those are keywords you probably shouldn’t have been ranking for anyway because relevance-wise, they were not the most related keywords for your site.

Had an audit with a gardening site just last week, she’s had devastated fallout from the recent updates. What’s happened is her content is ranking fine. She has lost significant amount of keywords because Google was giving her basically these long tail, very high-end general fat keywords, and there are plenty of other results now that are more refined and qualified for those queries than her results. She was ranking for many, many queries that were not even on the page, were not even built in by links. But because she had good content, she was getting a pass. Google’s taking that pass away.

People always ask, “I don’t understand what’s going on with this Reddit and Quora stuff.” Understand that the reason that’s happening is that the search results were so bad as of last summer that more and more people started appending Reddit and Quora onto the end of their search results. The whole point of Navboost is to give a boost to those kind of results. That’s usability. Google realized, “My gosh, these huge numbers of people are starting to append Reddit, Quora and other sites because they can’t find what they’re looking for.” So what did Google do in response? They used the click data that they had from those searches and now you’re seeing more and more of those Reddit, Quora, and other sites dominate the search results.

Until we produce better content and change the search behaviors of everyone who’s apparently not on this call, that’s how we’re going to recover a lot of that lost traffic because Google is only giving users what they want. And if they’re showing that there is an incredible increase in people appending third-party sites to their search queries, they’re going to give a boost to those third-party sites.

Now, a lot of you on the call can just think, “It’s just a conspiracy. Google’s now signing a deal with Reddit.” Guys, that deal happened nine months after Reddit appeared in the search results. Reddit was getting a shit ton of traffic, then that’s when they started the negotiations after Reddit… Reddit negotiated that after they started receiving a 40% increase in traffic from Google. They literally said, “Google, you must really like our content. By the way, can we negotiate a more formal arrangement with you?” Don’t put the cart before the goat. It was Reddit that started that, not Google. So don’t think that you’re getting, “It’s because of this conspiracy.” No conspiracy. That’s how business worked. Google changed the results last summer based on user data to show more Reddit than core results. In return, Reddit got a shit ton of traffic and changed their entire business model. They went public, and now they also were able to negotiate these other arrangements.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:21:07):
And Google is very interested in Reddit’s knowledge graph-

Casey Markee (00:21:09):

Arsen Rabinovich (00:21:11):
… because it’s completely different than Google’s, has better entity identification, it’s been created by humans instead of algorithms. There’s much more. It’s not a conspiracy theory.

Casey Markee (00:21:22):
No, it isn’t.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:21:23):
It’s just a better result. That’s it. People signal to Google that, “Hey, I like the way Reddit is presenting this content to me to answer my question.”

Casey Markee (00:21:31):

Arsen Rabinovich (00:21:32):
And over time, Google’s algorithm learned that, “Hey, based on user engagement with my search result, this is what the user expects to see.” And every time there’s an update, Google will adjust its result based on that data. And if you’re not in that top 10, top 20, you’re going to get filtered out.

Casey Markee (00:21:46):

Andrew Wilder (00:21:46):
Can I just add also?

Casey Markee (00:21:48):

Andrew Wilder (00:21:48):
We are not our readers, right?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:21:50):

Andrew Wilder (00:21:53):
Jessica mentioned that people only append Reddit when they want results from Reddit. Well, I feel the same way. I type in Reddit in the query if I want results from Reddit, right? But that doesn’t mean that all users are doing that.

Casey Markee (00:22:06):
It’s just that a large enough group of users did that that Google had no choice. They couldn’t turn a blind eye to the data, and that’s why you started to see the shuffling in the top 10 results and that’s why you’re still seeing it. Now, this is where we’re getting the backlash. No one wants to go to Reddit to make chateaubriand because it will really taste like shit and you won’t be able to cut it. So that’s one of the things that we have to realize. There are some recipes that you’re just never going to go to Reddit for because they’re too complicated and the results and the advice is terrible. Google has accepted that, they’ve acknowledged it. These results that they’re trying to do, the updates, are them trying to find the balance that they can still show the Reddit and the core information while appeasing recipe bloggers who realize that, in many cases, they have the better result-

Arsen Rabinovich (00:22:52):

Casey Markee (00:22:52):
… and we’re just not there yet.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:22:58):
Deep breath.

Melissa Rice (00:23:01):
Andrew, many bloggers are asking, “How can a small site build authority in light of these recent Google updates?” And do you have any tips or words of encouragement at this point?

Andrew Wilder (00:23:13):
So I have to be the optimistic one here. So I would say nothing has changed from this perspective. It’s harder now, but the strategies are the same. You’ve got to build an audience, you’ve got to build great content, right? I mean, it’s the same thing we’ve been saying for 20 years is you need to create content that people will want to read and engage with. Logistically, that, I think, means more now than just creating good content. It has to be compelling, you have to share it in an area where people are going to find it. You can also niche down more. Gone are the days of being a general food blogger where you just write about everything, right? There’s too much competition, frankly, and too many sites doing it.

So you do need to establish expertise in a specific topic. You can start clustering your content. So if you’re going to focus on desserts, maybe you do a cluster of cookies or a chocolate series, right? You can write a series of posts on that, getting recognized on third-party sites, reaching out to other publishers, other media, start a webinar. That’s what we’re doing here, right? That’s helping the four of us. And we were talking about this before, and Casey also had a suggestion of buying kegs for college frat parties and putting your logo on them.

Casey Markee (00:24:28):
And that’s right. It worked great for me when I was driving traffic to a local asphalt provider in Chula Vista once, day times, right next to San Diego State. Unbelievable. They’re number one now. You guys want a referral, you just let me know.

Andrew Wilder (00:24:42):
Right. Perfect. If you need asphalt, go to Casey. The point being is you have to get creative, right? And as time goes by, you have to get even more creative. And then honestly, you have to keep your head down and keep powering through and create a lot of great content and be patient.

Casey Markee (00:24:59):
Now, that’s the thing and that’s the rub, right? Because we’ve got all these comments from Google saying, “Hey, we don’t want you to create content that’ll rank.” What?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:25:07):
No problem. We’re on it.

Casey Markee (00:25:08):
No problem, Google. We’re nailing it.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:25:11):
We’re already doing it.

Casey Markee (00:25:12):
We created a ton of content and it’s not ranking.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:25:14):

Casey Markee (00:25:14):
But no, Google is very quick at saying… If you’re using things like content briefs, if you’re using tools specifically to go after keywords that you think you should rank for, Google’s saying that is the wrong approach to take. That tells me that to them, that’s telling them, telling Google you didn’t survey your audience, you’re not writing content that your users wants. You’re writing content that you want to monetize. And that’s what Google is saying they’re against, even though that’s the whole point of having ads on our site is to monetize. Just understand as well that no one needs another breaded chicken thighs recipe anymore. There’s a million of them. So why would you come up with a recipe like that that is the same as every other recipe out there and then be upset when Google doesn’t index that content competitively. That’s the other thing is we’ve reached almost max, what is it? What’s the word that we’re looking for? Not volume, but just-

Andrew Wilder (00:26:10):
The content?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:26:11):
I’m not going to say it.

Casey Markee (00:26:12):
Emotion of all this content on the site that you can have. There’s only so many ways you can make an apple pie. So that’s our thing. Saturation. Thank you. I love it. Max headroom saturation, and we’ll go with saturation. That’s what I was looking for. And we have to think outside the box. What else can we do that is going to allow us to stand apart? If you have a recipe that you love, publish it. But if it’s an apple pie, just don’t expect that it’s going to rank competitively anytime soon unless it’s really a fantastic apple pie made with hallucinogens that will cause you to lose 15 or 20 pounds. That’s the kind of things that’s going to light to stand out in the very crowded space of recipes.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:26:52):
Where can we get that?

Casey Markee (00:26:53):
I know. I’ve been requesting it from a lot of bloggers so far [inaudible 00:26:56].

Andrew Wilder (00:26:56):
This is why Casey does not have a food blog.

Casey Markee (00:26:58):
That’s right. LSD. It’s all meant medicinal. I know that’s tough to hear, but that’s the God’s honest truth is a lot of you on the call are publishing content that you’re never going to rank for because there’s already so much saturation and competition, and we have to dial that back and start going back to what was ranking on your site and seeing if we can provide complimentary content around what is ranking and go from there.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:27:24):
I think you had something?

Andrew Wilder (00:27:25):
Yeah. So Rachel Farnsworth said something recently that really resonated with me. She said, “The question to ask is, ‘If my site went offline, would my readers email me to let me know?'” And that’s the audience you want, right? You want a site so compelling and a community so excited about what you are producing for them and the value you’re providing for them that if your site goes down, they’re going to be like, “My gosh, your site’s down. Can I help? What’s going on? I want to let you know,” versus any site that is just targeting Google traffic. All that’s going to happen if your site’s down is they’re going to hit the back button and go to the next site on the list. So I think that’s just a great litmus test to have in your head. As you’re creating your little corner of the web, how can you be providing value in building a community that wants to be there with you?

Casey Markee (00:28:09):
Exactly. I mean, that’s a very good point. You could even go a step further and say you want to have content on your site that is embarrassing to Google if they don’t index it. And that’s what we want to be, and it’s very hard to get there these days with so much competition, but you guys can do it and we can help, hopefully, commercial appending.

Andrew Wilder (00:28:29):
It is a chicken and egg problem.

Casey Markee (00:28:30):
Chicken and egg. Exactly.

Andrew Wilder (00:28:31):
It takes time and it takes creativity. There are other ways to get traffic besides Google. Pinterest still does send traffic, Facebook audiences, but getting creative, doing a challenge, doing giveaways. There’s a lot of other ways to get interest and backlinks and start building it up, but it takes time.

Melissa Rice (00:28:50):
There’s mixed feelings in the chat, guys. I know, Jordan.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:28:56):
I’ll cover some of that in my next answer.

Melissa Rice (00:28:59):
Jordan’s like, “Don’t create recipes people aren’t searching for.” It is confusing.

Casey Markee (00:29:04):
No, it’s. That is literally a direct quote.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:29:07):
Switch to DIY transmission repair articles.

Casey Markee (00:29:09):
Yeah, that’s a direct quote. That’s crazy. Don’t create articles, don’t create content just for Google. That’s not what we want. No, we want helpful gems that we have to search for. Terrible, I know.

Melissa Rice (00:29:23):
We’re at our halfway point. We’re going to have to get through these. I want to save some time for Q&A at the end here. But, Casey, this was a really important question that I saw a lot from our registrants. So here we go. With the emphasis on helpful, high quality content, why does low-quality content still rank high in SERPs?

Casey Markee (00:29:43):
There are two things that have always been constant with Google results. Big brands crowd the SERPs consistently and low-quality content is routinely indexed. Why does that happen? Well, there are tons of conspiracies about this. We have everything from a deluge of affiliate sites that Google… It’s like whack-a-mole. Tons of affiliate sites will pop up. Google will whack them as fast as they can, but they’re fast and they’ll replace it with five or six other sites and Google can’t get them all regardless of how many updates they do. We also have the belief that Google promotes big brands, even though we’re seeing more and more of that not happening in fruition. I’ve never had more five or 10 million session a month bloggers reach out to me at any point than 2024 because they’re all getting hit as well.

We also have the conspiracy to increase ad clicks. This is all for money. Google is trying to do this, make the results bad so that they use paid results to find better results. Maybe it’s the fault of SEOs. Maybe we’ve been pushing all of this poor content for years and we’re just really much better at it than we thought we were. Or maybe it’s just that Google doesn’t have anything better to rank for the query or that, again, poor SERPs drive a lot of ad clicks. But the answer to this is it’s probably none of these. It’s the fault of users because users like familiarity. That’s where we get the term familiarity bias, because big brands are familiar, big sites that we know are familiar. If I’m looking to take a recipe to my girlfriend’s house, maybe I’m going to go to a really big blogger I recognize and not a smaller niche site because I believe that that recipe is going to be better. I don’t want to make a mistake. Something along those lines.

Familiarity, bias is very big, and again, we are not necessarily the people using the search results, but we’re looking at that. I mean, that’s why you’re seeing these issues with Reddit and Quora because Google is using user first signals in the SERPs. People are so tired of search results that they started the fixing of Reddit and Quora to the end of queries because they didn’t like the results google was returning. And Google in turn said, “Look at all this data that’s coming in. We’re going to give these sites huge jumps in SERP visibility,” and that’s what we’re seeing. You may not like this, but this is Google in their own twisted way, giving users what they want. We’re just unfortunately on the wrong end of that deal. And the only way for us to fight this to make sure that everything that we promote is as good or better than the no brands, and we have to physically understand that familiarity bias exists and to combat it by being more visible with our social and our non-Google marketing efforts. It’s all we can do.

Melissa Rice (00:32:25):
All right. Arsen, is there a way to determine if traffic loss is due to the latest Google update or other factors? Can you provide some insight on what bloggers should look for?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:32:39):
Yeah, and I quickly talked about this earlier, right? We’re looking at the behavior of the keyword as it’s moving around to really get an understanding. Look, most of the time, I really don’t care what the update was or what was affected. I’m looking at the data and I’m looking at what Search Console is telling me, what my data is telling me from the website, and I’m making decisions based on that. I shared this before. It’s an older presentation. It’s a year and a half, maybe more. It was for the Virtual Tastemaker in September of 2023, I think maybe. No, 2022. The screenshots are older because it’s two years old, but the process remains the same. So go through there and focus on… And I give step-by-step instructions on what to do in Search Console to see this fluctuation and how to analyze it. Now, again, be mindful, it’s an older presentation.

But we want to go in and we want to see how the keyword for that article behaved, your primary or your secondary keyword, you moved out of top three spots, you’re still in top 10, you’re still relevant. It’s just somebody else who’s doing a better job. You moved out of top 10 and you’re below top 20. The further you’re out of that top 20, Google is telling you, “This content is not relevant,” and this could be for multitudes of reasons, right? It could be Google is selecting a different content type. Now it’s a roundup instead of an individual recipe post. Intent change, now it’s a commercial query instead of informational query.

So some things you might not be able to return, but understanding the movement and then looking at that post and saying, “These keywords exited, these other keywords improved.” And that tells you what Google is seeing from this post now, what is it more relevant for. And that will kind of hint to you that based on this new evaluation, whatever this new criteria is that we really don’t care about because we’re looking at what happened after, right? Now this post is ranking for these keywords, so what do I do? Do I refocus? Do I de-optimize? Casey talked about this. You could have been ranking for a bunch of keywords that you weren’t even intending to rank for just because there wasn’t a-

Casey Markee (00:35:04):
A better result.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:35:05):
Right. Sorry, I’m reading the chat. I’m ADDing right now. So Google didn’t have a better result because it maybe didn’t have an understanding of the query, didn’t understand what the user was searching for, now the update run through, there’s more data, Google is able to present better content under a better understanding. So you need to look and you need to adjust your content and understand, “Is this still something that I can actually improve and I can win with?”

Don’t give up. I see bloggers who have lost 60, 70, 80% of traffic, but when we actually look at the post and we’re like, “Let’s zoom in. Let’s see where you lost the traffic.” Keep in mind, moving from position one to position two is a 50% reduction in traffic. In my and Andrew and Casey’s world, you’re still great. Position two is amazing.

Casey Markee (00:35:58):

Arsen Rabinovich (00:35:59):
To you it sucks because that’s less money. Going from position two to position three is another 50% reduction in traffic. That’s even more loss. For us, still wonderful, right? So analyze things individually, analyze posts individually. And I said this before and I’m saying it again, keep an eye on your moneymakers. Keep an eye on the content that’s making you money. You start seeing fluctuations, create a process for yourself, “I dropped out of top three, I’m now in top five. What do I do? I’m out of top five. I’m still in top 10. What do I do? I’m out of top 20. What do I do?” The presentation that I linked to, just make sure you scroll down on it, on that page will answer all of that for you.

Melissa Rice (00:36:50):
Andrew, if some bloggers haven’t experienced any losses, those are very lucky we know, from the recent updates, should they still be on guard?

Andrew Wilder (00:37:02):

Melissa Rice (00:37:02):
Good answer.

Casey Markee (00:37:06):
That’s it. Move on. Always be on guard.

Andrew Wilder (00:37:09):
Of course, especially if your search traffic part is your business and that your business depends on it. And, of course, you have to be on guard because this is changing every day. It’s not just the HCU and core updates, Google’s changing things. They’re tweaking every day, multiple updates a day. So it’s always going to be moving, but that’s also why this is fun. It’s always different every day.

Melissa Rice (00:37:36):
That’s one way to put it. Arsen, do you see any interesting trends in these types of posts that have or have not been affected by the updates?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:37:45):
Yeah, like I said, we looked at a lot of websites. Melissa’s on these calls with me. She’s unintentionally also looking on these websites. We looked at a lot of websites. Yes, content, so I can look at the historic trend over the last 24 months, how this content has behaved over time. And I can tell you this, that bloggers who are on top of their content and they’re keeping an eye on things that matter, are always aware of what’s happening with their top performers. So they’re able to take action quickly. Again, you start seeing movement, you look at search results, what changed? There’s tools to help you with this. You can do this manually on your own. You can create a spreadsheet for yourself easily. That’s not rocket science.

We’re looking and we’re basically asking ourselves, “What is everybody in top 10 that’s similar to me?” Other blogs, don’t look at Reddit, don’t look at Food Network, don’t look at Cooking New York Times. Look at other blogs, right? What are they all doing in common that I am not? Is their content shorter than mine? Is their content longer than mine? Are they answering more questions? What kind of questions are they answering? Are they structuring their content?

Prioritization of intent, since day one, I’ve been talking about this. If you get intent down, you really understand, “Hey, the user…” And this feeds into helpful content because I searched for something specific. I searched for, I don’t know, potato soup recipe, right? Baked potato soup recipe. I landed on this page. Now the first paragraph tells me the history of baked potato soup. I did not Google that. I searched for a recipe. Give me the recipe, right? This helps understanding why the user is on your page and effectively being able to predict and address that. Give them the recipe. Thank you, Amy. And then that’s that’s what I’m here for.

Now that I’ve made this recipe, what else do I need to know? This is all of your secondary stuff, how to store it, what to serve it with, get creative there, answering questions. That’s the secret sauce. Don’t answer the same questions everybody else is answering. Casey mentioned this before. Google does not want to show the same 10 recipes for apple pie from 10 different websites, right? Now, you need to find a balance. “Well, Arsen, you said that you have to do everything that everybody else is doing in common.” Yes, but you can still establish uniqueness. You can still establish yourself as an expert. You can still provide better questions, better processes below the main reason why the users are there.

So what I’m seeing from… And I have my coaching clients who are winning through these updates because they started doing this from the get-go. These are new blogs who started writing based on what we preach in these webinars, right? And they’re increasing. I can show you this over and over and over again because they’re satisfying intent. They’re adjusting their content properly. Look at what everybody else is doing. Google is literally telling you what it wants to see. Come close to that. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. The algorithm doesn’t work that way. That’s my story.

Melissa Rice (00:41:07):
Katie asked really quickly just, should she be looking for other blogs with similar DA when she’s doing that, sort of like cross reference?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:41:15):
Forget about DA.

Casey Markee (00:41:15):
No, waste of time.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:41:18):
Google has no concept of DA.

Casey Markee (00:41:20):
And neither should you at all. Period.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:41:22):
Stop thinking about it. Again, I can show you screenshots of my coaching clients who have brand new sites that are ranking above sites that have huge DA. Your content is your main driving factor. That’s what is going to be from now on. You’re going to see over time as Google moves more into an entity-based search engine, and that’s why the whole thing with Reddit for the knowledge graph to better understand entities and all of that. The DA aspect, which is mainly backlinks, is going to be become obsolete completely. Content is your main driving factor.

Andrew Wilder (00:41:54):
Hey, can I jump in real quick? I want to clarify something I said a minute ago because I got a strong response in the comments when I said fun. I’m not taking any delight in everybody’s traffic dropping or revenue going down. What I’m trying to convey is this is what it is. This is a new normal, this volatility. And being a publisher now, if you’re trying to have a business as a publisher and get traffic, it’s going to be a rollercoaster. So you need to find a way to enjoy it, enjoy what you’re doing, or maybe start thinking about something else. I believe we are the sum of our days. We should love what we do. And if you’re not loving it, I think it’s not going to come through in your content, right? So you need to find a way to have fun, even if traffic is dropping or your rankings. You need to enjoy this. And so the nice thing is this will always keep it interesting. It’s not going to be the exact same thing day in and day out. And that was what I was trying to get to.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:42:49):
And sorry, Melissa. I’m so sorry. Also, I want to clarify. I didn’t mean move the recipe card up. I’m saying give them the instructions for the recipe. Obviously, leave the recipe card where it lives. You don’t need to move the recipe card above the fold. But your first few paragraphs, or if you’re going to have an intro paragraph like, “Why I love this recipe,” or whatever it is, make it short. Don’t spend too much time on it, right? Prioritize what the main reason the user is there for.

Melissa Rice (00:43:18):
Mark, we’re going to cover more of that in a little bit. I have seen, and this isn’t part of our questions, but a lot of people who were saying they’re just abandoning their blogs and starting new from scratch.

Casey Markee (00:43:28):

Melissa Rice (00:43:30):
I know.

Casey Markee (00:43:30):
Certainly wouldn’t do that.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:43:32):
Email me, I’ll buy it from you.

Casey Markee (00:43:33):
Yeah, same.

Melissa Rice (00:43:33):

Casey Markee (00:43:37):
If you’re selling, we’re buying.

Melissa Rice (00:43:40):
Casey, next question to you, please. How should table of contents and FAQ sections be implemented in blog posts post-update? And are they still considered helpful for SEO?

Casey Markee (00:43:53):
This is a crazy thing. When we talk about things like FUD, fear, uncertainty, and doubt, at no point in the last year have I heard more of that than this ridiculous notions and incorrect notions that they are around the use of FAQs and table of contents. And we’re going to go over why that’s happening. There was a statement back by Google in August 2023 where they reduced how to an FAQ visibility in the SERPs. And that was, again, because everyone was using both of those on the site and just it wasn’t helpful. So Google decided they would limit rich snippets to sites that were only well-known or authoritative government or health websites. Fantastic.

Well, apparently, everyone stopped reading the article after that because the very next line of the article was Google saying, “Please do not remove structured data from your site. It doesn’t hurt you. We just use it for rich snippets.” Well, one of the things that the articles did not cover, and which many bloggers on the call today still don’t understand is that Google uses different algorithms for the PAAs, the People Also Ask. And one of the things that they’re doing is pulling in FAQs into the PAAs. I can’t tell you how many I find every day just going… When I do my audits at 10 A.M., we go online and we look at the PAAs and there are multiple FAQ blocks being pulled into the PAAs. Clearly, Google is having no trouble reading the FAQs on the site.

Well, it’s the same way with table of contents. That brings us to reason number two. Google Liaison, Danny Sullivan, sent out a tweet where he mentioned things like TOCs as something that people have been adopting in mass, not necessarily because they’re useful, but because they’re seeing other people use them. Well, the thing is, he was quick to clarify that in the follow-up tweet where he said, there’s nothing wrong with table of contents, especially if they’re useful to your users. I know many of you on the call are using table of contents, advanced jump links, whatever they are, and you’re using an FAQ block. There is no reason, none, not to use both of those.

The most recent argument I saw recently was something that was an argument flowing around that somehow the addition of FAQ schema on a recipe page may cause conflict with the recipe card. That’s the height of nonsense. And the reason that that’s the height of nonsense is that the average recipe page uses no fewer than seven different schemas. We’re using breadcrumb schema, we’re using article schema, we’re using recipe schema, we’re using video schema, we’re using FAQ schema, we’re using site link search box, we’re using ratings and review schema. Folks, that’s not how schema works. Schema works together. So it is the height of nonsense for anyone to go around and say, “I can’t figure out what’s wrong. So the reason that Google hit me is because we’re all using FAQs and table of contents in our posts.” Folks, that is just not it.

And so what do we do to refute that? Well, as an expert, we have to use actual data. So I spent the entire weekend going through my entire Google Search Console, and I just started putting every site into a column, here are the sites that are up over 100%, here are the sites that are up 10 to 70%, here are the sites that were down. Every block used FAQs and TOCs. How many sites do I have to paste over today in the comments? Would it be 10, 20, 80? Because I’ve got a list of 89 sites right here that all have been increased in traffic by over 100% over the last year. Many of you are on this chat right now and they’re using TOCs and FAQs. So please.

The data shows very clearly, your goal should be to write the best post you can, and if a TOC and an FAQ is helpful to your users, then please, by all means. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Just keep using those for your users, but don’t latch on something. I get it. I understand that. We have all these sites running around trying to get explanations and they latch on the first thing that they can see, but this just isn’t. It’s just like when the helpful content came out and everyone said it’s because there was an affiliate disclaimer at the top of the sites, which has also been refuted by Google. That’s the kind of nonsense that we have to push back on as professionals whenever we can. So please, if you’re using a TOC and you’re using a block, I recommend the Yoast block, please do that. There’s nothing wrong with that. All good.

Melissa Rice (00:48:32):
I’m sorry to cut you off. We got to go fast. We got 10 minutes left, and we’ve got about six more questions. Andrew, should bloggers be focusing on other traffic sources and income streams outside of Google, given the updates?

Andrew Wilder (00:48:44):

Melissa Rice (00:48:45):
Okay. Next question, Arsen, is it still worth updating old blog posts or should bloggers remain focused on creating new content?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:48:57):
Yes, definitely. So look, again, I’m repeating what I said earlier. Your content that used to work for you, worked for you because it was good at that time. It’s still good content. It just needs to be refreshed. It needs to be updated. But also be smart about picking what you’re investing your time into. Take a look, A, is there still demand for this topic? How’s Google treating this topic? Do I have to reshoot it completely? Figure it out for yourself. But updating content should be very… Look, it’s one of the reasons you’re here on this webinar is because your content is aging. And when I say it’s aging, you haven’t updated it to be up to the current standards of what Google is expecting to see, right? So over time, you were in top three, you dropped off, you’re in top 10, now you’re in top 20, now you’re below top 20. And now it’s just going to continue to decline because you’re not within that relevancy bracket, right?

So definitely updating older content is super important. Creating new content is also important because now you’re going to see, “I used to rank for this keyword. This, I don’t know, baked potato soup post ranked for just potato soup, but now it’s not. It’s still ranking for baked potato soup, but not for potato soup. Google has a different understanding of the query now. Maybe I should create a new piece of content just for potato soup because I used to be there and I used to get a lot of traffic. So now I need to create a whole new post.” So yes, updating and creating, balance it out for you. If you took hits, I would definitely spend a little bit more time on analyzing my own content and seeing how quickly I can update. Everything that’s still in top 20 probably doesn’t need a rewrite, just needs a refresh.

Melissa Rice (00:50:36):
Casey, you already kind of touched on this, but how should actual post rating differ now compared to the last 12 months ago?

Casey Markee (00:50:45):
I don’t think a lot has changed. I think what we have to do is be useful, right? For the user. Stop relying on tools. Focus on providing content that users want, not content you think you can rank for. I think Google is really catching onto that. Google has made it clear that if you’re publishing content just because you want to monetize it and not necessarily because it is fulfilling the need of your users or filling a hole in your current content inventory, that you need to relook at that. And please survey your audience. I know I mention this every time I do an audit, you should be surveying your audience twice a year, once in the fall and once again in the spring because you usually get different audiences. Ask them very clearly, what content do they most enjoy on your site? What content would they like to see more of? How do they enjoy the structure of your posts? What is it that they wish they could see? That stuff is always eye-opening and illuminating for the average blogger.

And then think again, does the world really need another oven-roasted chicken recipe? And yet I get emails saying, “I don’t understand why my oven-roasted chicken recipe isn’t ranking.” Probably because there’s so many that Google can choose from. So try to come up with a different spin on that or move on to another recipe that has less competition.

Melissa Rice (00:52:00):
All right. We’ve got people asking, are round-ups still good?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:52:04):

Melissa Rice (00:52:05):

Arsen Rabinovich (00:52:05):
Look, again, search for chicken dinner recipes, plural. I guarantee you, at least nine out of the 10 will be roundups or category pages or whatever, right? Look at Google. Google will tell you what it’s expecting to see. That’s it. There’s no magic number, forward density, there’s no magic template. Look at Google. Put into your search query, Google is telling you what it wants to see. That’s it. Not rocket science.

Melissa Rice (00:52:33):
Andrew, does using AI in content creation affect search results positively or negatively in the current SEO landscape?

Andrew Wilder (00:52:41):
Officially, Google has said they don’t care if content is created by AI. They just care if the content is good and helpful. And I’d say readers probably feel the same way. If it reads like it was written by ChatGPT and not by a human, it’s probably going to hurt you. I use ChatGPT all the time to write stuff, but I rewrite it. So it depends also on what you mean by using AI for content creation. It’s great for ideation and ideas and structure. So it can be a writing partner, but don’t let it be your writer. That’s the short version there.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:53:11):

Melissa Rice (00:53:13):
Andrew, quick question and a little straight to the point. Are Web Stories dead?

Andrew Wilder (00:53:18):
God, I hope so.

Melissa Rice (00:53:19):

Andrew Wilder (00:53:21):
I’ve hated Web Stories from the beginning. I’ve been very vocal and public about that. At the last two Tastemaker in-person events, I asked large audiences, “How many of you like Web Stories?” And nobody raised their hands. And we have an article talking about that. So the short answer is, if Web Stories are still working for you, great, but most likely they’re not. I would not spend a lot of time working on Web Stories in the hopes that they’ll bring you traffic. But if you’ve already got them and if you’ve got a system, don’t listen to me. It’s working for you.

Melissa Rice (00:53:54):
Casey, how can bloggers recover missing thumbnail images and SERPs and implement effective tactics to post-update visibility and click-through rates?

Casey Markee (00:54:02):
Let’s talk about the thumbnails first. Unfortunately, and this is going to be bad news for everyone on the call, you cannot recover these. This is a known issue with Google. It has been escalated internally. John Mueller, Danny Sullivan, and multiple product reps on the Google forums have all said repeatedly this is a complicated issue involving multiple working parts. There’s various reasons. There is not one explanation. They are internally working on it. They know it’s a problem. You’ve been hearing Mueller say, “Well, we don’t guarantee rich snippets.” He’s saying that because he has no other answer. He knows that those should be showing up, but he can’t explain it and neither can anyone at Google. This happened a couple of years ago as well, and it took them six months to fix it. We also had an issue where Google actually pressed the wrong button and lost their entire backup at one point and had to rebuild that from a backup team in Belgium. That also happens.

So this stuff is a lot more cumbersome than you think. It’s all based on data centers. This is not a you problem, this is a Google problem. So the best thing that you can do, keep tweeting the Google Liaison, keep tweeting John Mueller so that they know how important of an issue this is for bloggers. This is a clear conversion issue. Rich snippets increase visibility, increased visibility increases CTR, increased CTR increases clicks. It’s all linked. So I understand we want those thumbnails back, you’re going to have to keep it up at your end sending tweets to the Google Liaison account and to John so they realize how important it is for such a large group of users.

Melissa Rice (00:55:41):
Guys, we might go over a few minutes. Is everyone okay with that?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:55:46):

Melissa Rice (00:55:46):
Arsen, how can bloggers ensure that their content stands out amidst the prominence of Reddit forum answers and search results?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:55:56):
Look, the layout of the search result page, we have no control over. How Google will prioritize where things are positioned is out of our control completely. Now, if a user has the intention to read a result from Reddit because they have already brand recognition, they’re comfortable with that ecosystem, they will go there regardless if at the top or not. They will scroll and they will go there, right? Just like when I search for something medical, I’m going to trust WebMD over something else, right? So this is a weird question because you want to be in the visible spots, right? So top three, top five, depending on the query, obviously, and I’m going to repeat the same thing. Be careful and make smart decisions when you’re choosing which content you’re going to go after. Look at the search result and ask yourself a question, “Is this worth my time? Can I actually be positioned in any of the traffic driving spots?”

But also right now, things are moving. We’re monitoring a lot of search results, literally taking screenshots of this actual Google search result to see how things are changing, and things are moving around. It’s crazy right now. So I probably wouldn’t make any decisions right this minute, but I would stand by and wait for things to settle down, but pick your battles.

Casey Markee (00:57:22):
And I know we didn’t talk about it at all, but we really need to make sure we get one more point in here. Folks, Google SGE, Search Generative Experience, goes live on May the 14th as part of Google I/O. It will go live on May the 14th. We have no idea what the percent of queries will be, but it will be live. And so you’re going to see a significant change if that is posted with a lot of recipe queries because they’re only going to pull in three results and those results are random. It’s one of the top three. Another result that could be number 12. And then another result that’s randomly taken from somewhere in the top 30. Not kidding. And then you have to scroll down before you can actually see the carousels.

So this could be a significant change in bottom line referrals, traffic visibility, we don’t know. So just mark that on, May 14th, because I want to make sure that you don’t email Nerdpress asking, “Hey, well, traffic seems to be considerably down today. Is there a technical issue?” It could be because SGE went live. So just make a note on your calendar and we’ll see what we’ll see.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:58:23):
Did they confirm this or is this from Eli’s article?

Casey Markee (00:58:25):
This is confirmed.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:58:27):

Casey Markee (00:58:27):

Melissa Rice (00:58:29):
I wanted to segue a little bit off that last Reddit question. And Casey, should bloggers leverage Reddit forums as a traffic source or?

Casey Markee (00:58:36):

Melissa Rice (00:58:37):
Are there drawbacks?

Casey Markee (00:58:38):
Yeah, they will crucify you if you come in trying to promote your own content. There are lots of people who spend months building up a repertoire, a report like… Not sure that they’re on the call here, but… What’s the… Shoot.

Casey Markee (00:58:55):
The celiac site or whatever. They did a great job. They went in and set up an account so that they could provide free advice to those suffering various health issues. And once they did that, then they started putting in their own resources. They’ve been able to get good steady traffic from Reddit and be embraced by the community. But that is it. It’s very hard to do. It’s a marathon, not a sprint there.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:59:20):
I’m from the former Soviet Union, so bribing works. I’m very good at it. So if you find a good Redditor and you make friends with him and you offer him some money, there’s really no rules at this point. I just did it recently and it works.

Andrew Wilder (00:59:35):
Got to get creative.

Melissa Rice (00:59:37):
We don’t have a ton of time for these Q&As, but we’ll answer them and put them up on the blog. I just want to cover the first one that we got because they got upvoted so many times. Tammy asked, “My posts contain table of contents, video, ingredient lists, how to make recipe with numbered process shots, storage info, FAQs, top tips, more recipes and a recipe card. Many posts I see don’t have how-to process… I’m sorry, how-to with process shots and FAQs. Do we need to strip everything out and create streamlined posts with link to full posts?”

Casey Markee (01:00:08):
Absolutely not.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:00:10):
There’s a… Go. Sorry.

Casey Markee (01:00:13):
The template you described is very popular. Like I said, I can paste in right now 100 sites using that exact template that have about 100 to 500% increases. This is a you issue. It is not your template. I think you need to start thinking of the quality of your content, your keyword research, and what’s happening there. We have to find out, is there some way you’re presenting that content that’s presenting you from not being as successful? Now, I know that you are in a alcohol-related niche as well, which is going to hurt you. You are Scotch & Scones. So when you have other alcohol-related posts on that, that might also result in some filtering for you.

But I would urge you, my email’s open. Send me your recent recipe so I can grade it, but we really have to start going after content. I can’t tell you how many people email me and I look at their recipe and they went after a keyword that had 40 sessions a month and wonder why they weren’t getting traffic. We have to really make sure that we’re dialing in our keyword research that we’re writing complete posts. And also, not every post needs to look like those elements. Some posts might not need any FAQs at all. Some posts probably don’t need a video. Some posts definitely don’t need a top tip if you’ve got another section called expert tips already. You just have to really understand what the users are looking for. Look at what Google is ranking in the top 10 and go after that. In many cases, maybe you overdid it. A longer-

Arsen Rabinovich (01:01:34):
Topical focus dilution, right? Or overdoing it. And I see this a lot.

Casey Markee (01:01:36):
Yeah, overdid it.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:01:37):
And Google is very specific about queries. I give an example of oven-baked salmon with cilantro and garlic and it will rank for oven-baked salmon for cilantro and garlic, but it’s still an oven-baked recipe. So oven-baked salmon recipe. So do we de-optimize away from cilantro and garlic if we want to rank for oven-baked salmon? Yeah, topical focus dilution, everything that Casey says. And look, again, a template is a template. You can have a general template of what the flow of the article should be, but if you’re looking at the top 10 and you’re seeing that other bloggers like you there’s five paragraphs for the entire peanut butter jelly post recipe and you have 3,000 words on this, you’re definitely not meeting that criteria, right?

Casey Markee (01:02:22):
And we’ve been seeing a lot of issues where bloggers have been putting a ton of related recipe blocks in a post. Please stop doing that. On mobile, if I go to Google, I don’t want to scroll down through 10 blocks of related recipes.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:02:38):

Casey Markee (01:02:38):
Usually, four is fine, but I don’t need two sets of four. It’s like putting two FSRI blocks in your post and then having an FSRI block below the recipe card. That’s, in many cases, too much. We also never need 10 variations of substitutions. We want to be helpful. We just don’t want to write novels. And bloggers contact me, their content is good, but there’s too much of it. More is not better, it’s just more. So let’s look and see what’s ranking in Google. If you can see that there’s a top ranking post and it’s only 700 words, I’m not writing 1,700 just because.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:03:11):

Casey Markee (01:03:12):
I want to write something that’s complete, maybe a little bit better than that if I can, but something that’s in that range.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:03:18):

Melissa Rice (01:03:20):
Arsen, really quickly. What did you mean when you said 50% traffic mark? People-

Arsen Rabinovich (01:03:26):
Again, it’s not a template. It’s not cast in stone. To me, if I’m looking at a blog that has 1,000 articles and 500 of them have seen zero traffic in the last 12 months, something is wrong with that content, right? I gauge it. I’m like, “Is there more than 50% or is it less than 50%?” If it’s less than 50%, that’s fine. If it’s more than 50%, obviously, there’s something wrong. So I’m going to start investigating, right? Again, it’s my personal rule. Everybody has different measurements. There’s no specific number. Just like with keyword density, just like with anything else, there’s no specific… It all depends, you guys.

Melissa Rice (01:04:04):
Right. I’m glad you-

Arsen Rabinovich (01:04:09):
No gift this time.

Melissa Rice (01:04:09):
Good grief.

Andrew Wilder (01:04:14):
Can I just throw out an optimistic thought for a second? Google is telling us what they are trying to do, even if they’re not successfully doing it right now. They have been saying for 20 years, “Provide good content for readers.” And if we see them not providing good content, we need to let them know, but they are trying to make it better. I feel like the interests are actually aligned here, they’re just doing a bad job of it right now. So long-term, I think we can still stay optimistic towards that.

Melissa Rice (01:04:43):
Thank you. Andrew-

Arsen Rabinovich (01:04:46):
Melissa’s stressing out today.

Melissa Rice (01:04:47):
It must be that birthday energy that you’ve got for the tail end there.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:04:51):

Melissa Rice (01:04:54):
But yes, everybody, we’re going to answer those questions. I know we didn’t have time today. The blog post will be up in a week. You’ll visit our site, you can see it under our resources.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:05:04):
Visit our site.

Melissa Rice (01:05:05):
You’ll get an email when it’s live. We’re going to see you next quarter. We’re going to do it all over again with hopefully a little bit more of happy news. And again, Andrew’s got Nerdpress, actually. We’ll have their webinar tomorrow, the latest on INP. So if you are a Nerdpress client, please join him. But that’s it, guys. I’m wishing you just all the best and a digital hug.

Casey Markee (01:05:32):
Stay positive out there, guys. You can do it. I know it’s stuff out there. Don’t give up. Definitely don’t start a new domain. These things can bounce back very quickly. You could do it. We believe in you.

Melissa Rice (01:05:43):
Thank you so much everyone. Have a great rest of your week.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:05:46):
Bye everyone.


About The Panelists

Melissa Rice

Melissa, our webinar host, comes from sunny Los Angeles, CA. She is TopHatRank’s Client Success Manager; those who have chatted with her know how awesome she is. As she dives into the digital space, Melissa likes to discover new online marketing techniques and practices, UX design, and more.


Casey Markee

Speaker, writer, and trainer Casey Markee has been doing SEO for 20+ years, has conducted over 1000+ site audits, and has trained SEO teams on five continents through his consultancy Media Wyse. He believes bacon should be its own food group and likes long walks to the kitchen and back from his home office.

Casey on X >>

Andrew Wilder

Andrew Wilder is the founder of NerdPress, a digital agency that provides WordPress maintenance and support services for publishers and small businesses, placing an emphasis on site speed, stability, and security. He has been building, fixing, and maintaining websites since 1998, and has spoken on a wide variety of technical topics (in plain English!) at conferences such as WordCamp LAX, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, Food & Wine, Techmunch, BlogHer, BlogHer Food, and Mediavine.

Andrew on X >>

Arsen Rabinovich

Digital Marketer, SEO, International Speaker, 2X Interactive Marketing Award Winner, Search Engine Land Award Winner. Founder @TopHatRank, a Los Angeles based marketing agency that specializes in innovative digital marketing techniques for modern brands of all sizes.

Arsen on X >>

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