TopHatRank Blogger SEO SEO Resources for Bloggers and Publishers Q1 Algorithm Updates: Diagnosing & Recovering Lost Traffic: SEO For Bloggers Episode #32

Q1 Algorithm Updates: Diagnosing & Recovering Lost Traffic: SEO For Bloggers Episode #32

Recap, Q&A, + All the Resources

Watch this month’s episode of SEO for Bloggers where our SEO experts focused on overcoming the challenges posed by the recent Google algorithm updates and adapting to the changes using SEO strategies to update your content for traffic recovery.

Adjusting to algorithm changes is a continuous process, but adequately aligning your site can better prepare you for whatever Google rolls out next!

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

Are there any specific reports on GSC you recommend to figure this out? What are we looking for to figure this stuff out?

Answered Live

Question 2

Is it possible that the updates HELPED some food bloggers? My traffic initially tanked, but then it went up threefold. It has leveled out now but is still up overall.

Answered Live

Question 3

Would equipment links in the recipe cards etc., qualify as a part of the review update?


Question 4

To discover if you’re affected by a Google update, would you see across-the-board drops of most/all of your posts, or only see drops on some posts?

Google grades on an individual post basis. But they penalize at the host level. So you would tend to see sitewide drops, even though the “issue” may be specific to a small subset of content.

Question 5

I’ve recently read that Google is devising significant search changes to beat back AI rivals like Bing AI. Looking to the future, are we in for more volatility from Google because of this?

Answered Live

Question 6

For the Helpful Content Core updates, does it matter if you have a ton of web stories that aren’t doing anything? Can you be dinged for those? Also, how important is it to no-index regular blog content that doesn’t get any search traffic in terms of the Helpful Content core updates?

Google has said that “legacy web story content shouldn’t negatively impact you.” But if you have dozens or HUNDREDS of these older, outdated web stories sitting on your site, they still take up crawl budget and can lower crawl quality. Since you can’t NOINDEX them at scale, this is a problem. As discussed on the call, if you audit the web stories and don’t see ANY traction in the last 6-9 months, deletion may be the way to go.

Question 7

I understand not to touch our unicorn posts, but what if they dropped from position #1 to #9 or #10?

Then they are not unicorn posts. And you should feel comfortable updating the posts to improve them as you see fit.

Question 8

Arsen, will your slide deck for diagnosis be updated to show how to do this in GA4 in a few months?


Question 9

If I’ve deleted web stories & changed them to 410, should I go back and change redirects to the post itself?

Yes (assuming the web stories were specifically about the posts).

Question 10

How many h2’s are too many?

There is really no such number. This depends on content length and content detail.

Question 11

One of my websites was recently affected by the Elementor Hack / Malware. It’s gone through Sucuri to remove the Malware. Any tips on what we should do after Malware has been removed from a website?

For security, make sure that you’ve changed all user passwords, rotated the “”SALT”” keys, and changed hosting passwords, including the database password and SSH/SFTP credentials, and that there are no “”triggers”” set in the database. (Your host should be able to help you with these tasks.)

For SEO, double-check in GSC that there are no Manual Actions or Security Issues still flagged.

Question 12

How important is consistency with Google? If I have a bunch of content that I haven’t put up yet, should I schedule out consistently, or should I publish out all that I have and might not be able to post again for 2 or 3 weeks?

Google has said that “content publishing frequency” is not a ranking factor. Meaning that Google doesn’t view your site as a machine that needs to pump out content at regular intervals. Your goal should be bottom-line QUALITY content, not QUANTITY. You publish when you can. But each piece should be as highest-meets-needs as possible. If that means you publish twice a week, great. If that means you can publish 4 times a week, even better.

Question 13

What is a good way to manage anchor texts across posts to ensure I’m not using the same anchor text wording over and over? An Excel spreadsheet might work fine but would love some input from others who are mastering this.

Link Whisper can show you the anchor text used on each post

Question 14

What does Link Whisperer do that one can not see when using the Yoast plugin (it counts internal links for each post) when writing each post? I do my internal linking to other recipes when I write my post. Should I be doing that differently?

Link Whisper shows you the anchor text you used and what posts it is on. So if you change an h1, you can see if the anchor text needs to be changed. It’s cool!

Question 15

Is there a way to tell using a tool which web stories might be ranking above your regular blog post?

You’d need a rank checker for this. You could go into GSC and look at all the “impressions” of your web stories. Take those, then do a physical search in Google to see, visually, if you have any outranking you.

Question 16

Is it possible that a 10-15% traffic drop over a month or two is due to an update? Or are the drops typically larger?

It’s always possible. Your drop could also be the result of seasonality, a change in search behavior, a technical issue, or a Google update. It’s why understanding how to perform a traffic drop audit is so important. Review the resources shared live to do just that.

Question 17

When you say Author bylines, what do you mean specifically?

The byline is “by your name”, generally under the post title. It should link to your About page, generally.

Question 18

Is Link Whisper premium worth the cost?

It may be if you want more detail in breaking down anchor texts and have the software suggest other linking targets. But if you know your content well, then the “free” version tends to be just fine

Question 19

Casey, how often should we have a site audit?

Every 12-18 months is a good benchmark. Certainly not before then.

Question 20

Does Create have an author link in the card? I haven’t seen it yet.

From what I can see in the template options, none of them seem to have it. I would recommend contacting the Mediavine-Create team to confirm that and urge them to add it if they don’t.

Question 21

Should the About Me page be titled our blog title or our personal name?

It should just be “About Me – Site Name,” don’t overthink it.

Question 22

Can you give us an example of a well-done product recommendation within a recipe post? I recommend 1-2 products in all of my posts with a short description – I’m wondering if that’s why I got hit by this one.

Personally, I don’t think recommending “products” within recipe posts is a good practice, period. I know a lot of bloggers like to include “equipment sections.” But I find most of these are a waste of time, like recommending a “spatula” and a “mixing bowl” when every kitchen in America already has these. Instead, if you are going to include equipment/product links in recipe posts, it should be “unique” items the average blogger is not going to have. Otherwise, confine those to the recipe card.

Resources & Links

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


Melissa Rice (00:01:58):
Welcome everybody. Thanks for all your patience. This is our 32nd episode of our SEO for Bloggers, and this episode-

Arsen Rabinovich (00:02:03):

Melissa Rice (00:02:04):
I know, is going to focus on recovering traffic from the recent Google algorithm updates that pretty much took a toll on a lot of bloggers and publishers these last few months.

Melissa Rice (00:02:15):
So, without further ado, as always, joining us are SEO experts. Casey Markee from Media Wyse, Andrew Wilder from NerdPress and Arsen Rabinovich from TopHatRank. Say hi, guys.

Casey Markee (00:02:26):
Hey. Welcome.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:02:28):
Hello, hello.

Melissa Rice (00:02:29):
So much to cover this episode, so I don’t want to delay any further. I just want to remind everybody that we’re going to have the Q&A at the end, so feel free to drop your questions in there and thumbs up any questions that you see that you want to see answered, and they’ll get pushed up in the queue and yeah, let’s get started.

Melissa Rice (00:02:48):
First question, Casey, please let everyone know which Google updates occurred and what kind of impact did they have and which publishers might have seen the biggest drops in traffic.

Casey Markee (00:03:01):
Oh, fantastic. Yeah.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:03:02):
Start from the beginning, Casey.

Casey Markee (00:03:03):
The million-dollar question. Congratulations. Welcome to this horror show that is your monthly SEO presentation. We’ve got a fantastic crowd here today. I know a lot of you have been suffering over the last several weeks, so let’s get into it. Google has pushed out a plethora, that is your $15 word for the day, of significant updates and changes to the search results over the last several months. It basically started on the 21st of February when they put out a product reviews update.

Casey Markee (00:03:32):
This product reviews update really affected bloggers that had a lot of restaurant and fashion reviews, a lot of lifestyle content. The review system aims to better reward quality sites that have high quality reviews, and what I’m going to do is I’m going to paste over the information sheet from Google on the reviews updates because there have been several here. I’m going to go ahead and pop that over here.

Casey Markee (00:03:55):
Reviews update info from the big G right here. Okay. Now, the thing that you need to know about these reviews update is it very seldom do they affect a lot of food bloggers. We had some that were affected because they tend to have a lot of travel reviews or maybe they wanted to do both travel and food, and unfortunately the travel side of the content wasn’t necessarily as highest meets needs as the recipe site. And so we’re finding that Google has really kind of put down the hammer on a lot of these weaker content and we’ve been seeing a lot of that.

Casey Markee (00:04:31):
Now, the thing to understand about these reviews, say, the reviews update specifically, is that it’s all about bottom line quality. It’s all about you understanding and providing value to your users. It’s not enough for you to just say, “Hey, I had a trip to Boston and oh, by the way, I saw these four places.” That’s not a travel review. A travel review is something that adds value to the user, and Google provides a long list of things they’re looking for on these reviews, and travel kind of posts on the link that we’ve shared.

Casey Markee (00:05:04):
That was on, again, February the 21st. Then on March the 15th, we had a significant March core update that lasted until the 28th of the month. I’m going to go ahead and paste over the link to the core updates, which we have shared many times in the past, so you can get an idea of what Google is talking to about with regards to core updates. We’ve had this happen and we’ve talked about this repeatedly in the past.

Casey Markee (00:05:30):
Google is always saying, “Hey, it’s not necessarily that you did anything wrong, it’s just that someone else might have done something right.” But that’s very little solace if you’ve had a significant traffic or a ranking loss, and so I understand that that’s confusing for a lot of bloggers. The thing that we really want to emphasize with core updates is that, folks, these are not real time. So, many of you have been asking questions about, “Hey, we made these recent changes and we did all this really cool good stuff, and yet we were still hit by this core update.” Or, “What if we’ve been doing things really well and yet we were still hit by this core update?

Casey Markee (00:06:05):
Core updates have a legacy pattern to them. There’s a lot of the data that’s baked in. That’s why it takes so many months between the core updates because Google is gathering information. So, understand it’s not real time. The only real time update that exists with Google is literally the Penguin update, which has been in existence since 2016, which is amazing how old we are. But these core updates really are refreshed dramatically. You have to get in the information. Then they take the information, they determine it and they push out an update, specifically.

Casey Markee (00:06:37):
This was a significant update, this recent one. Google is all about improving their systems to assess content. These changes can result from individual pages that are just not up to snuff. Google grades on an individual page basis, but they penalize at the host level. So, for example, if you have a small percentage of very low quality, thin content, maybe you’ve engaged in over-optimization practices. Maybe there’s just something else that Google just does not like about your site, that can rise to a granular level and affect the whole site.

Casey Markee (00:07:10):
We had that update that happened on March, and so a lot of people were still affecting from that, and I’m going to show you some graphics in a minute. But then, hey, wait, more to come. On April the 12th, Google pushed out another reviews update.

Melissa Rice (00:07:26):
Oh, boy.

Casey Markee (00:07:26):
This one was not related to products at all. This one was related to non-product reviews. This was, again, things like articles… I’m going to just take the words from their notification. It says, “This update evaluated articles, blog posts, pages, and similar first party standalone content written with the purpose of providing a recommendation, giving an opinion, or providing analysis.”

Casey Markee (00:07:52):
That is a very wide net. We’d want to be going through your side and reviewing this kind of review content. If you provided recommendations on boarding facilities, if you were, for example, into a dog breeding or if you were a site that tended to recommend specific kinds of classes of blenders. I had a review site the other day that reached out with a large drops. You have to make sure that that content provides value and it’s not just rehashing existing content with the goal being to stuff those with affiliate links, which is a big theme that we’re seeing, and we’re going to show you a graphic on that.

Casey Markee (00:08:33):
Then unfortunately, we had an update. You’re going to try to interrupt me, Melissa, don’t even try. Don’t even try, Melissa. We’re not done yet.

Melissa Rice (00:08:41):
Let’s not get too granular yet.

Casey Markee (00:08:43):
The rollercoaster is continuing to go here, okay? Now, after the reviews update that we had on 4/12, then we had… wait for it. We had a video thumbnails update that happened on 4/13 and completed on 4/15. This unfortunately was devastating to a lot of bigger bloggers. We’re talking bloggers who went from, and again, I’m going to show a graphic in a minute, but went from, say, 700,000 clicks from video results to 70,000. It was a very, very large drop.

Casey Markee (00:09:19):
And unfortunately, folks, in many cases you will not be getting that traffic back because what Google has decided, especially with video thumbnails, is that if the video is not the most prominent part of the page, and that has never been the case with recipe sites. Video has never been the most prominent element on a page. Then they are going to start dialing back those video carousels and you’re going to find that they’re pushing people to the video tab instead.

Casey Markee (00:09:46):
And so we’re still getting some video traffic, but it has been cut in many cases as high as 70-80%, and it’s just Google is telling you, which is hilarious that this is not going to affect a lot of people, but it certainly did affect a large group of people specifically. And according to them, this is not something that you’re going to get back. Now, Melissa, interject quickly before we go into screenshare.

Melissa Rice (00:10:09):
No, I just wanted to say let’s save some of the details for the questions that we have coming up as well, but thank you. I mean-

Casey Markee (00:10:16):
Yeah, good times. Good times.

Melissa Rice (00:10:17):
… it’s a lot and it’s overwhelming for most, and I know why because it was just one after another after another. But now that we know the problem, Andrew, is there any other tools that you could recommend for people that were hit by these updates that they could see? I mean, maybe to just compare whether or not this was from actual updates or actually just seasonal declines because that was a major question amongst our attendees.

Casey Markee (00:10:43):
Exactly. Yeah. I’m going to go ahead and paste over a link to the Penguin tool, and the Penguin tool is your best friend.

Melissa Rice (00:10:54):
Oh, wait. Andrew, will you chime in too?

Casey Markee (00:10:55):
Let’s have Andrew chime in too.

Andrew Wilder (00:10:55):
That’s okay. I was just about to paste in the same link.

Casey Markee (00:10:58):
Andrew, talk about-

Andrew Wilder (00:10:58):
Thank you for doing that.

Casey Markee (00:10:59):
Talk about that tool, Andrew, take it away.

Andrew Wilder (00:11:02):
Actually, well, to be fair, Casey, you just introduced me to this tool, so you are allowed to be the one pasting the link. But this is a tool that lets you analyze your site and it helps you discover if your changes in traffic were related to one of the core updates.

Andrew Wilder (00:11:18):
Ultimately, I don’t think it really matters too much if your traffic dropped because of a core update or just a regular update. Google’s updating things all the time, but that result is the same is that your traffic dropped, right? So, you really need to dig in and figure out why your traffic dropped.

Andrew Wilder (00:11:32):
The first thing I would recommend is going to Google Search Console. Rather than using a third party tool, Google Search Console is going to the source. If you start to use references there and the reports there, you’re going to see the changes. And you want to start to tease out is it everything that’s dropped site wide or is it just certain pages that have dropped?

Andrew Wilder (00:11:53):
For most of you, 20% of your pages might be producing 80% of your traffic. So, if just one of those pages drops, that could be a noticeable hit and maybe it’s not something systemic or site-wide. And we did a webinar on this specifically, number 13, called Analyzing Drops in Traffic. So, I’m going to paste that link in here. If you are trying to figure out why your traffic dropped, this is a really helpful tool. And if I remember correctly, guys, we did show some screenshots in here of using Search Console.

Andrew Wilder (00:12:24):
Also, I know a lot of people use SemRush. The one big caveat with that is it’s third party data, so take it with a grain of salt. I think, Arsen, we were looking at something with someone recently, and the numbers just didn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:12:38):
Zero sense.

Andrew Wilder (00:12:40):
I feel like that’s a useful tool, but trust but verify. Don’t take anything SemRush tells you as gospel because it’s not coming directly from Google.

Melissa Rice (00:12:52):
I guess, Andrew-

Arsen Rabinovich (00:12:52):
Don’t trust anyone, basically.

Melissa Rice (00:12:54):
Andrew and Casey, can you redrop that link, that was for the Penguin?

Casey Markee (00:12:59):
No, that’s the correct link. Apparently you guys are just all bringing this site down because you’re so awesome.

Andrew Wilder (00:13:06):
Oh, I didn’t have… Yeah, that’s the same one I had.

Casey Markee (00:13:07):
Yeah. That’s the same one. We’ll just wait around. I blame it on Carrie.

Andrew Wilder (00:13:10):
Yeah, perfect.

Casey Markee (00:13:12):
Blame it on Carrie. Blame it on Carrie for now, okay? She’s probably the one who brought the site down.

Melissa Rice (00:13:16):
Be nice. Be nice.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:13:17):
A thousand bots hitting the site at the same time.

Casey Markee (00:13:19):
Bots. She says lots of bots. It’s crazy. It’s crazy.

Melissa Rice (00:13:23):
I have the next question for Arsen because a lot of people wanted to know if they should take immediate action after seeing these losses or should they let the dust settle, and when they’re ready, where should they focus their efforts first?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:13:39):
I mean, look, we’ve said this before. Don’t touch it. What are you going to fix? You don’t know what you’re fixing. We don’t even know what to tell you to fix yet, so you got to sit around, you got to wait, you got to observe, you got to monitor, keep an eye on your Search Console. That data’s always a little bit delayed. Keep an eye on your analytics, that’s a little bit more current. And just observe.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:14:04):
I’ll share a link here in a second once I find it on my side, but I had slides from the talk that I gave. If you already don’t have it, we have it on our website, the talk that I gave in Tastemaker, the digital thing that happened in September.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:14:18):
In those slides, I literally have step-by-step instructions where to go in your analytics to look at where things fell off and identify which pages. And then to repeat that in Search Console to actually figure out which keywords [inaudible 00:14:30]. I’m showing you the diagnostic part, and that’s all you should be doing right now. You should be just monitoring, observing.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:14:38):
Changing something, just like Casey said earlier, if you change it now, it’s not going to get picked up right away. There’s really no point. Certain things that we do like changing title tags, focusing content a little bit more, does get picked up, but if you were hit-hit and it’s a major issue, it’s going to take some time. Casey, I think you had some stuff on this also, right?

Casey Markee (00:14:57):
Is this the lot of bloggers updated their posts or we do that question again?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:15:01):
No, no, no, no. You said we’ll be sharing screenshots from tools mentioned. The first question, question three. Yeah.

Melissa Rice (00:15:08):
Arsen, I wanted to touch on what you said though. You say to give it some time. I mean, what’s a realistic timeframe? Because that’s the big question.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:15:16):
Look, while things are volatile, it’s really hard to make any kind of diagnosis. It’s like if you sprain your ankle or you break your ankle and you go to the doctor and well, x-rays are going to be kind of useless while it’s swollen. It’s the same thing. Things are going to be moving up and down. On some blogs, we’re seeing a little bit of a reversal. One of our industry colleagues is posting, he monitors updates and he’s seeing a reversal to the review update right now, and it’s been a few days since. You don’t know. If you start touching things right now, there might not be a reason to do it, right?

Casey Markee (00:15:47):
And I will say this as well, that we understand if you’re a blogger and you wake up after these updates and you’ve lost 40% to 60% of your traffic and you’re like, “Well, geez, I’ve been doing everything well, I’ve been running below the recommended levels of ad. I don’t have entrust of interstitials. I’ve been doing all these things really well and yet I was still hit.” You’re thinking, “Well, screw it. I’m going to go and increase my ads 40%. I’m going to get my ads above the recommended level now. I’m going to submit a disavow file when I shouldn’t be using disavow files. I’m going to do this and that.”

Casey Markee (00:16:26):
I get it. I don’t think it’s great, it’s very smart, but I totally get it and I understand that that’s just panic and fear talking. I don’t recommend it. If you were hit by one of these updates and it’s not something that you can explain, we have to give it a little bit more time, and then of course, visit with a professional so that we can go in and see if there’s anything dramatic that we can fix now.

Casey Markee (00:16:48):
But in many cases, folks, I know it’s hard to say with these core updates, and it’s lame, but it’s not that you did anything wrong. It’s that other people necessarily did a lot of things really right, and you might have lost some specific rankings, which were very valuable for you. The only way that you’re going to get those back is to assess the current environment, find out what has changed in the SERPs in relation to your drop post, make those improvements in the next several months before the core update is run again, because we’re not going to get any improvement, any real improvement.

Casey Markee (00:17:22):
I mean, we can certainly get incremental improvement, but we won’t get any real improvement until the next core update runs, which based upon history is going to be probably June or July at this point.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:17:33):
At the same time, and just to what Casey was saying, when you lose positions, and most of the time the heaviest traffic declines, the losses in traffic will come from dropping from position one to position two or from position two to position three because those are the biggest drops, right? Going from position one to position two is a huge drop in traffic for you guys.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:17:55):
For us as a SEOs, that’s a fluctuation. We’re not looking at it as a penalty or any kind of devaluation algorithmically. You just got moved in the shuffle. Somebody else is doing a little better at either satisfying the topic, satisfying the intent, covering the topic, whatever it is, they’re doing a better job. You can fix that, right?

Casey Markee (00:18:13):
Yeah, we’ve mentioned this before. Search is a zero-sum game. For some of you to win, the rest of you have to lose. Some of you are going to be winners in some of these core updates and some of you are going to be losers. It always balances itself out in the end. I can’t tell you how many sites that I’ve been fortunate to have them as clients for many, many years. They’ve been hit and recovered from multiple updates. That’s just how it works.

Casey Markee (00:18:38):
No one is impervious to a Google update. It doesn’t matter how big you are. It doesn’t matter how great an SEO you think you are. Everyone is going to get hit eventually. That’s just how it works. It’s kind of a whack-a-mole thing.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:18:48):
It’s not like Google hates you. Google is not saying, “You suck.” Google is saying somebody else is just doing a little better. That’s it, right? But if you’re seeing, and again in those slides, I’ll post them here in a second. I explained shallow drops, probably not algorithmic, just the shuffle happening. Bigger drops where you’ve dropped from traffic driving positions, probably algorithmic.

Casey Markee (00:19:08):
Exactly. But again, you guys are great. There is no more harder working segment of content creators in the world than the food and lifestyle bloggers on this call today. We know all of you have put in the work, and we wish that things could be easier, but they can’t. And I wish we had the best answers for you. Unfortunately, we don’t. We have to look at the data just like everyone else, but our goal here is just to make sure that you understand what is true and what is not true with regards to updates.

Casey Markee (00:19:42):
That’s our goal, it’s to kind of distill some of the myth, the rumor and the innuendo here, and hopefully you have the true facts on this, and we’re going to get into that as we go through the questions here. And I know that we tend to only do an hour, maybe we go a little longer today, guys, maybe. Maybe just a little bit.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:19:59):
This wasn’t planned.

Casey Markee (00:20:00):
This wasn’t planned.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:20:01):

Andrew Wilder (00:20:01):
Casey’s going off-script here.

Casey Markee (00:20:02):
I’m going to go off-script.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:20:03):
Casey’s going off-script. Don’t listen to Casey. Mute him.

Casey Markee (00:20:06):
If we don’t go longer today, it’s because they don’t want to share their knowledge with you.

Melissa Rice (00:20:09):

Arsen Rabinovich (00:20:10):
Mute him. Get his mic.

Andrew Wilder (00:20:14):
Get his mic.

Melissa Rice (00:20:15):
I mean, you’re going a little bit quickly because we do have some of these questions, so…

Casey Markee (00:20:20):
Put those questions up. Rapid fire.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:20:22):
Look, another question for Casey.

Melissa Rice (00:20:24):
Touching back on what you said about panicking. I mean, a lot of people did just update all their posts and so there’s a lot of concern that it was done in vain. I mean, do they do anything different? Do they go back and change them? Do they optimize more? What do they do?

Casey Markee (00:20:45):
I’m all about ritual sacrifice. Again, one of the things you could probably do is burn an effigy of Google. I think that might be helpful, call it lethargic. Very, very, very, very helpful and helpful for you. You could do that, that’ll help you.

Casey Markee (00:21:01):
But one of the things to understand is again, do a self-assessment. And I paste it over the links to the core updates page again, because we can never share that page enough. This is Google telling you what they’re looking for in these core updates. They’re assessing your content first and foremost. Is the content useful? Have I made an improvement to the existing scholarship that is around that topic? What is it about my recipes that I can do to improve?

Casey Markee (00:21:28):
And like I said, someone who might be adding more ads, is it easy for me to pull out the content on a mobile phone with regards to ads? Am I using jump links? Am I using jump to recipe buttons? Have I checked to make sure that my content is free of errors and syntax errors, free of spelling and syntax errors? That’s a big one.

Casey Markee (00:21:49):
I just audited a blogger the other day and we ran Grammarly against their site and they were just literally shocked at how many spelling and grammar errors they had in their content, and it was because they weren’t checking the work of their VA. All good. That stuff happens, but we really want to increase that and make sure that we’re fixing those at scale because that is a competitive disadvantage, especially in this day and age. We can’t have that happen.

Casey Markee (00:22:13):
We really want to work on the EEEAT, and I think we have a question on that coming up, so I won’t jump ahead. But the best advice I can give you is really just what we’ve said before. Be patient. Take a forensic look at what has dropped and pull out parallels. Don’t run a lot of ads, don’t run intrusive interstitials. Don’t think that it’s you. Don’t take it personally. Really work it focusing on your seasonal content. Find the content that did well over the next 90 days from 2022. Start refreshing that for 2023. Do a self-assessment as we said here today.

Melissa Rice (00:22:48):
Right. Arsen, two-part question here. Should bloggers leave their top rank gig posts alone if they only drop one or two spots? And then also some bloggers reported seeing losses of traffic, but not ranking. What does that actually mean? You’re muted. The fire, the flicking.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:23:11):
There we go. I had one of our cats going nuts in here. I had to…

Melissa Rice (00:23:16):
It’s probably hot in there.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:23:18):
Okay. Look, your money-making posts, Casey and I both have told you many, many times, don’t touch those. Don’t even breathe in that direction. Don’t look in that direction. Leave them alone. Yes, traffic dropped. You went from position one to position two. That’s a 50% decline in traffic on an average, that’s a big hit. You will probably cause more damage touching that post.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:23:41):
Certain things you can do, and we talked about them previously. And again, not right away. You wait for the dust to settle. You see where you level off, where you plateau, you give it some time and then you observe, you check out above you, why they’re there, what are they doing differently, learn from it.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:23:59):
But you can do a few things. So, you can do stuff that doesn’t touch the post. You can help support the topic, reinforce the topic, reinforce that signaling with external secondary signals. Those are internal links and back links. Optimizing those does not touch the actual ranking factors, the on-page ranking factors on your post that have been working for you very well and that’s why you were number one. But yeah, I would definitely not touch those posts right away.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:24:29):
For the second part of the question, typically declines in traffic, but not positions, are a byproduct… Typically, it’s because people are just not interested in that topic as much anymore. There’s not as much searches happening.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:24:42):
Another thing that could be happening is that the layout of the page has changed. There’s special features on the search result page that are satisfying that user’s intent and query, answering that query, and they don’t need to click through to your site anymore. And that typically also happens around updates when Google changes the way search result pages appear.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:25:10):
But most of the time, and you can easily check for this, and again, that’s in the link that I shared in my triage diagnosis slides, check for seasonality. If you’re seeing the same drops last season, then that’s probably that, right? Also check to make sure that it is Google, the decline in trafficking from Google. It could be other sources. And again, I go through that. It could be something else that’s sending less traffic and it just looks like there’s less traffic to that post. Yeah, go through those slides. They’re very easy and give you instructions.

Melissa Rice (00:25:49):
Thank you. Casey, does the new E as an experience affect recipe bloggers as a part of the EEAT now? And if so, how should bloggers specifically improve on this?

Casey Markee (00:26:04):
Well, I don’t think it affects us much in that Google’s not really penalizing you. I think a lot of people get confused by this new E, which stands for Experience. Google’s now telling quality raters to consider to which extent the content creator has firsthand knowledge or life experience in a specific topic.

Casey Markee (00:26:23):
Well, from what I’ve been able to gather both when I was at Pubcon Austin with Arsen and talking to other people about it, and we didn’t have a lot of… We did have some ability to talk to Gary Illyes and others. To them, when they talk about experience, and this is backed up in the Google Quality Rater guidelines. It’s not a favoritism. Someone who’s graduated, say, from Cordon Blue is not going to be viewed as more of an expert than someone who’s a home cook of 20 years of experience.

Casey Markee (00:26:51):
Experience is more about how it’s manifested on the page. Have you put together a quality recipe that a person can make the first time perfectly? Have you made sure that you’ve anticipated issues with that recipe? Have you put together content where you’ve asked and answered the appropriate questions that someone with an extensive and clearly qualified understanding of that topic would understand needs to be addressed for the average, uninformed or uneducated user?

Casey Markee (00:27:16):
That’s what we’re talking about with experience. So, as long as all of you on the call are having 100% control of your content, testing your recipes regularly and responding to comments on those recipes… Now, we don’t mean the comments like, “I substituted seven of your ingredients for Moroccan fennel seeds and for some reason it did come out perfectly. What did I do wrong?” We can’t plan for that, nor should you.

Casey Markee (00:27:42):
But if someone is giving you clearly… you’ve got clear advice in your feedback saying, “I made this recipe perfectly and yet it didn’t come out like it should,” and you’re seeing that more and more, then you need to retest your recipe, then we need to address that. That’s going to hurt your experience, that’s really close to your expertise as well, which is the next E there.

Casey Markee (00:28:03):
We can reinforce that experience by being detailed with our recipes. We can reinforce that experience by having detailed About Me pages. I don’t want to put anyone on the spot here, but when we’re talking about incredible About Me pages, here’s four right here. So, if you’re on the call…

Arsen Rabinovich (00:28:21):

Casey Markee (00:28:22):
If you’re on the call, boom, there’s four pages right there that I had ready to go. These are incredibly high quality.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:28:27):
I’m copying that. I’m saving that.

Casey Markee (00:28:29):
These are incredibly high quality about me pages and these people… You would absolutely feel that these people are qualified to do what they do based upon how they presented themselves on their About Me pages. So, don’t be shy about that. An About Me page is not just where you’re going to say a couple paragraphs about why you started blogging and have a photo or two of your family. And About Me page is also a way for you to attract brands to show your expertise to be physical there like, “Hey, I have this certification,” or, “Here are some things about me that make me an expert.”

Casey Markee (00:29:02):
Or, “Oh, by the way, all of my content has been featured here and here. Here’s a link to my various cookbooks.” All of that will help you to both present a quality outward image, but it’ll also reinforce both your experience and your expertise through your website.

Melissa Rice (00:29:18):
Great. So, despite being, like you said, a chef, I mean, they can put their other expertise, things that they’ve went to college for, link out to that, all of that, right?

Casey Markee (00:29:27):
Exactly, exactly, and the only other thing I would say here, this is one… I had this written down. It’s a pro-tip. Please cite sources in your recipes. Do not be afraid to link out to more information. I’m seeing this more and more. If this was just today, I was reading a recipe on quinoa, and please understand I do not like quinoa, okay?

Melissa Rice (00:29:46):
I was going to say-

Casey Markee (00:29:49):
I was reading the recipe against my will anyway, and I noticed that they casually talk about the origins of the grain, but they didn’t cite any of that. It’s not common knowledge, so it’s always okay to link out to more information. We want to provide a full and complete experience for users on our website. There used to be this belief that we wanted to hoard all of our page rank and authority by not linking out, but that hasn’t been the case for years and years and years.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:30:11):
The link juice, save the link juice.

Casey Markee (00:30:13):
Yeah, save the link juice. That’s not how it works. We want to link out when it makes sense to our users, we want to be useful. Bottom line.

Melissa Rice (00:30:21):
That’s a perfect segue into my question for Arsen. What role do the backlinks play in traffic recovery following a core update is? Or rather, when is a good time for a blogger to focus on off-page authority in their blogging journey?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:30:36):
Look, backlinks are not going to rescue you from devaluations during updates. You’re being devaluated again or you’re losing rankings because somebody else is doing a better job at content, not because of backlinks. Those of you who have had consultation calls with me, who have coaching sessions with me, I’ve shown you plenty of bloggers who rank at the top of page one or on page one and compete with big brand publications with a handful of back links.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:31:09):
Content is still going to be your primary driver factor. Backlinks help to reinforce that, right? Look at backlinks as a way of third party validation. Other sites telling Google that you are indeed a good resource on whatever topic you’re covering. The more of those you have, the better, but is it like a primary factor? I don’t think for the food and recipe niche bloggers, I don’t think it’s the… It definitely helps.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:31:41):
Can you use backlinks? And we touched on this earlier. Yes, you can. You dropped one or two positions, shallow drops, you don’t want to touch that post. You can reinforce that signal with optimizing internal links and building additional backlinks from relevant sites. We don’t care about domain authority. Don’t chase domain authority. Chase relevance.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:32:03):
Google has no concept of domain authority. They have their own thing called page rank. I’m not going to get into it. We cover that extensively on the previous webinars. Don’t stress over it. You have ways to get backlinks, you get good quality backlinks from relevant sources to those top performing pages. Make sure to not over-optimize your anchor text and you’ll be fine.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:32:22):
Look, Google does not penalize for backlinks. I have not had to do a penalty recovery in a very long time, and think it’s four or plus years at this point. Google sees crappy links. Google says, “You know what? I’m not going to evaluate them or use them as a part of my evaluation. They don’t help, they don’t hurt.” Would I go to backlinks to recover a post right away? Definitely not. I would wait, evaluate why I declined. Is it because my content is not satisfying that query? Is it because my content is not satisfying intent? Am I not doing a good of a job covering the topic? Am I over covering the topic? Maybe it’s too many words. I would analyze that first before going to backlinks, and that’s my story.

Melissa Rice (00:33:07):
Thank you for that story. Andrew. Moving on to web stories, people have reported that they’re not working effectively anymore as a result of the updates. Has Google started to deprioritize them?

Andrew Wilder (00:33:20):
Yes, and to that I say hallelujah. I hate web stories. I’ve hated them from the beginning. I think they were a ploy from Google just to try to save amp, which I’ve also hated from the beginning, this is one of the most thing things I’m most passionate about. I will fight you.

Andrew Wilder (00:33:37):
But so I say good riddens to web stories. I think in general, they don’t offer value to readers, so, goodbye. Having said that, I was chatting with Carrie on our team earlier today. She’s had a problem where her web stories are ranking instead of her blog posts, and this is happening more and more. That’s a problem too, right? Because web stories, you can’t really run ads on them, or if you do, the RPMs are very low.

Andrew Wilder (00:34:02):
Also, side note, GA4 still does not work on web stories, even though the deadline is coming up pretty quick. Google still hasn’t figured that out. What Carrie is thinking of doing, if this happens to you, is just ditch the web story and redirect it to your blog post because the blog post has so much more value for your readers, and of course for you in terms of revenue. If your web stories are getting in the way, definitely switch that around, and then maybe you don’t have to spend all your time trying to put together web stories and you can focus on your blog posts and recipes themselves.

Melissa Rice (00:34:34):
Very good. Arsen is-

Andrew Wilder (00:34:37):
Cynthia’s saying she was getting thousands of hits on our web stories and 80% clickthrough.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:34:41):
How much money did you make though, Cynthia? From those?

Andrew Wilder (00:34:43):
Well, 80% clickthrough is pretty good, but is that still happening? I think the trend is going to go down because web stories really just aren’t that good for visitors, right? Relative to the recipe.

Casey Markee (00:34:56):
Yeah. The thing is about web stories, it’s never been more crowded. I mean, not only did they… I think we recently, well, maybe we haven’t mentioned on the call yet, but besides these other updates that we’ve gone through, Google has changed carousels and changed several search features just since February. I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but we don’t have people also ask questions anymore. We have others also want to know, or others want to know. That’s the new people also ask. They’re gone. So, they’ve changed that.

Casey Markee (00:35:31):
They’ve also put a new wiki data carousel at the top for some of the really big queries, which has pushed down content further below the fold on mobile. They’ve also switched where the web stories carousel was, they moved it down a little bit. Things are not what they were. One thing is not like the other. It’s been changed considerably if we were to compare just the last 30 days to the previous 30 days. That’s of course going to cause a lot of volatility and both bottom line web story traffic and also just general traffic in general.

Melissa Rice (00:36:03):
Speaking of things that are kind of different, Google seems to be favoring sites that are over-optimized, Arsen. Some bloggers reported that more over-optimized sites are on page one, for example, post with a bunch of H2s, and let me know what are your thoughts on that.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:36:24):
Look, we’re constantly, even on our calls when we have our consults with our clients, we’re constantly looking at search result pages. And yes, and we’re comparing search because one of the things that we teach is take a look who’s there and what they’re doing, and we’re analyzing those pages all the time. Yes, yes, your observations are correct. We are seeing that, and if you remember since 2019, Casey and I have been like, “Don’t over optimize. Don’t stuff your keywords,” and it’s really tough to kind of still continue to preach that when we’re seeing that it’s working.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:36:58):
Look, at the end of the day, we don’t know why they’re there. We don’t know 100% why they’re ranking on page one. It could be many factors, many, many factors. Yes, they could be over-optimizing their headings, and that’s fine. Maybe they have other signaling, which is queuing Google to show them maybe they have topical authority.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:37:19):
WebMD can rank on page one for a lot of queries with just two words on the page if they wanted to, right? Because Google already understands that they are an entity that specializes in providing medical advice. Same thing for, you see a lot of really crappy pages. I’m just reminding myself I’m cursing. But really, really crappy pages from Food Network or any of the big brand websites. We don’t know why they’re there.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:37:50):
Always evaluate everything that you’re seeing there. And just because they’re doing it, it doesn’t mean that you should be doing it, but definitely evaluate and play with your pages, unless you’re obviously position one, two or three. Play around, test. If it’s working, it’s working. If it’s not, redo it. It’s an optimizing process.

Casey Markee (00:38:11):
Exactly, and unfortunately this is a situation where you could have two sites, you could go to various queries and we could certainly provide some examples, where the number one ranking site doesn’t have the keyword at all on the page. This is an example where Google has been really clear that the days of on-page optimization are basically over.

Casey Markee (00:38:35):
We can optimize a page based on all externals signals and have that page rank number one. Depending upon those external signals, it could be making sure that the fastest letting page is also the page that answers the query the best, but doesn’t mention the query necessarily on the page at all, which is hilarious, but that’s where we’re going.

Casey Markee (00:38:52):
When we’re talking about ranking a page and we’re talking about on-page optimization, our goal should just be write a page that’s easy for a user to navigate. If I’m writing a page around Christmas trees, I just don’t necessarily think that it does the user any good to have 10 H2s on a page and have Christmas tree be in everyone.

Casey Markee (00:39:10):
Google’s smart enough to understand somatically what the page is about without us having to do that, and that’s why I think it’s just silly to say, “Okay, well this page above me is [inaudible 00:39:19], maybe they’ve got a keyword density of 5%, and every other word is Christmas trees.” But then you come to find out that, “Oh my gosh, they’ve got three links from the National Orbiters Association and then two links from Canada Forestry.” And you’re like, “Well, geez, I wonder what would happen if we took those links away.” Most likely the page wouldn’t rank at all regardless of the on-page optimization. It’s never what we see on the page, usually, that is the whole story for getting a page to rank.

Casey Markee (00:39:47):
Our goal is to write a page that is attractive to users and is easy to parcel and disseminate. I would say that at the most, just like we found when we did the analysis in 2019, if you have a H1 and an H2 with the recipe card, that’s your focus keyword. And then you have maybe another seven to 10 H2s on the page. If it’s natural for you to mention the keyword in there, great, but I think it’s incredibly stupid, and a very poor practice, to just say, “This is my template. I’m going to put my keyword in each two on the page and we’re going to call it a day.”

Casey Markee (00:40:22):
Because I think that eventually the pendulum is going to swing another direction and you’re just going to get your head chopped off.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:40:29):
And very frequently we also see pages that are just a recipe card. It’s just a recipe card on the page and it’s ranking, so there’s definitely caveats to it.

Casey Markee (00:40:39):
Well, and that’s again, that’s because the carousel and as I’m sure… I mean, the recipe carousel and the organic results operate independently, so I mean we could literally just publish 10 pages with recipe cards on them and depending upon how competitive the keyword is, we’ll rank in the carousel very quickly.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:40:54):
Right, right.

Melissa Rice (00:40:56):
Well, once they’ve kind of made it more user-friendly and they’ve worked on their content and they’ve done the best that they know how to do, how do they make it more competitive? Because everyone’s going to be doing their very best. Do you have any tips, Casey?

Casey Markee (00:41:10):
Well, I wish that we could… It was different, but it’s basically the same old spiel that we’ve said for years is that we always want to write for users, not a word count. Our goal is not to worry about what others are doing. Our goal is to make the best possible recipes and pages we can. We want to link internally to this content. That’s by far the biggest advantage I’ve been seeing in audits lately. That’s why we’ve been pushing Link Whisper like it was a ticket to heaven or a ticket to getting our kids into higher education.

Casey Markee (00:41:38):
Link Whisper is a great way for you to very clearly see on one page how many pages you are not linking to. You can also go ahead and sort all that link anchor text at scale to see what pages could use a little bit more of contextual signals and webpages don’t have any. But just by improving internal linking, we can make dramatic improvements in bottom line rankings.

Casey Markee (00:42:00):
If we’re pulling out all the anchor texts like I do in an audit, and there’s a thousand internal links and we’ve got all this anchor text and here’s a column with 150 links internally where you use the word, “Here,” that’s an opportunity. We’re going to go in and update all of those “Here’s” to target keywords. We’re going to update all the “This is” and the “That’s,” and, “Visit this recipe,” and that other stuff. We want to make sure that we’re using anchor text rich keywords and that we’re using variations so that we can go ahead and provide increased topical signals to Google about what our site is about. Common sense. And even those on the call that have had audits, they still struggle to do this.

Casey Markee (00:42:42):
We really want to work on making sure that we have provided extremely strong topical signals internally, and this is the most important thing. If you don’t remember anything else today, remember this, other than any everything else. If you have multiple recipes on a site, please stop shooting yourself in the foot and using the same anchor text for the five recipes. If I’ve got five apple pies, I damn sure better not be using apple pie on all five of those. If our goal is to really rank for a very high quality keyword, I need to be able to differentiate all those.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:43:13):
You might actually be harming yourself by doing that because you’re [inaudible 00:43:16].

Casey Markee (00:43:17):
That’s where all the bigger bloggers suffer though. They’ve forgotten the incredible amount of content they have published over the year. Here’s three Beef Wellington recipes. I didn’t even realize that those existed on my site. Here’s four Paradise Salads. Oh my gosh, I didn’t even realize that I had that. And here is seven chicken recipes where all I used for my internal anchor text was oven roasted chicken on five dishes.

Casey Markee (00:43:39):
You are not going to rank competitively for all those dishes if we can’t separate the internal signals by making sure that we’ve used unique internal linking anchor text whenever possible.

Melissa Rice (00:43:50):
All right, now that these updates have occurred, Casey, what’s the best mix of updating? Should people be working on updating old posts? Should they be creating new posts? Is there a healthy balance?

Casey Markee (00:44:05):
I know that Andrew said previously about the 80/20, it is very true. 80% of a person’s traffic is usually 20% of their content. We really need to go in and do a deep content audit and find out what content hasn’t been touched in years, what content is sending traffic, what content is not, sorting that out seasonally and seeing what we can do. If you haven’t done a content audit, I’m going to go ahead and paste over my Tastemaker presentation for last year, which goes over this in detail. And here it is.

Casey Markee (00:44:37):
And this is going to allow you to go through your site at scale and find the content that you can revisit. Our goal right now should be content that’s going to be relevant to the user in the next 90 to 120 days. Spring salads, summer recipes, Mother’s Day brunch, Cinco de Mayo, Father’s Day barbecues, all that stuff. What recipes? Do a year-over-year survey, find out what was doing well for you last year, make sure that we can go in and update that content with new and clarified signals.

Casey Markee (00:45:06):
Can I add jump links? All the recipe cards filled out? Have I optimized the top of my site so that I can make sure that it’s free of ads? If I come to your site on mobile and desktop, the first thing I should be seeing should be teaser content and a featured image. I shouldn’t see any ads. No ads should load until below that first featured image, and yet we still struggle with that because AdThrive doesn’t listen to us. You could tell AdThrive to move ads down, but you got to tell them three times. Third time’s the charm.

Melissa Rice (00:45:36):
Okay. Andrew, what can publishers do to future-proof their sites from future Google Core updates?

Andrew Wilder (00:45:42):

Casey Markee (00:45:43):
Raptive. Correct.

Andrew Wilder (00:45:44):
Yeah, it’s now Raptive.

Casey Markee (00:45:47):
Now Raptive. Yeah, Raptive. Good times.

Andrew Wilder (00:45:48):
Yeah. It’s really following all the best practices. If you’re trying to chase the last core update and constantly tweaking things because of what you think the algorithm changes are, that’s not going to serve you long term. The core of all of this has not changed in 20 years. Think of your readers and write great content, right?

Google has a document on this from a few years ago, which hasn’t changed because everything still holds true here. They have a little bit of information on how core updates work and… I’m sorry, that was the wrong link. I want this one. Working too fast here.

Melissa Rice (00:46:26):
Thank you.

Andrew Wilder (00:46:27):
Yeah. This was posted in August of 2019, but it’s really general about all of core updates. And it’s all of the things we’ve been talking about, so that’s it from a content perspective. You also want to make sure your site is running well technically, right? Core web vitals is still a ranking factor, so you want to make sure that you’re in the good range for that. You want to make sure all of the technical things, all your breadcrumbs are set up correctly. Yoast is configured for everything correctly. Your site maps are set up. All of those details. You want to have all your ducks in a row at all times so that you don’t ever have anything that’s working against you.

Melissa Rice (00:47:01):
Okay. I know we touched on this a little bit earlier, but Arsen, are we going to continue to see the effects of these updates well into Q2?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:47:08):
Yeah, of course. There might be even more updates.

Melissa Rice (00:47:11):
Does that-

Arsen Rabinovich (00:47:11):
I mean, Google’s on a roll. I mean, it was quiet for a while. Last year was kind of quiet, and then Google’s like, “Well, looks like you guys have gotten too comfortable. Here’s a few.” Yeah. Look, you should always be prepared for fluctuations. Casey and I preach this very frequently. Do not rely on the platform that has an algorithm that you don’t control. Build your email list.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:47:43):
That’s the only true thing that you can have, that you have full control over. Best practices. Keep it clean. Consistently audit review. I mean, we’ve provided everyone with so many resources, go through 32 episodes, slides, tools. All of you should have enough resources right now under your fingertips to really help you not only go in a preventative way, “What can we do to future-proof our site?” but also arm you with enough education and knowledge and tools for you to be able to be proactive during these updates and be able to mitigate the effects that you’re seeing.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:48:26):
This will continue to happen. The search engine is changing rapidly. We’re constantly seeing new things come up, so yeah, you’re definitely going to keep seeing effects of algorithm updates ongoing.

Melissa Rice (00:48:41):
Thank you. It’s not great news, but…

Arsen Rabinovich (00:48:45):
I mean, look, it’s-

Casey Markee (00:48:46):
It’s not great news.

Melissa Rice (00:48:46):
But I’ll take it.

Casey Markee (00:48:50):
But it’s news. There you go. It’s not great news.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:48:50):
I’ll smile while I say it.

Casey Markee (00:48:53):
But it’s said with a smile.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:48:55):

Andrew Wilder (00:48:56):
That’s part of the game, right? I mean, this is going to happen again and again, especially if all of your traffic is coming from Google, so diversification is really important as we go forward. For sure.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:49:04):
Build those email lists, guys.

Melissa Rice (00:49:06):
Yeah, great point. Casey, for those publishers that weren’t affected by the recent updates, are there any specific instructions for them? Some people didn’t see anything.

Casey Markee (00:49:14):
Well, that’s fantastic. It does happen. Google can’t penalize everyone. It’s all good.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:49:19):
It’s not a penalty.

Casey Markee (00:49:21):
Continue to do what you’re doing yet. You’re right.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:49:22):
It’s not a penalty.

Casey Markee (00:49:24):
It’s not a penalty.

Andrew Wilder (00:49:24):
Feels like that though.

Casey Markee (00:49:27):
Understand that it is not if you’re going to be affected by an update, but when. I mean, it’s great that you haven’t been affected now, you might be affected in the future. I think I’ve said this a couple of times. It’s never been more competitive to be a food and lifestyle, ever, at any point in history. This is the most competitive time. And we’re also seeing with all these updates and the changes to the SERPs just over the last couple of months, that you are experiencing… I mean, there is less real estate than ever before.

Casey Markee (00:49:57):
Google collapsed the recipe carousel. We went from six to eight to four now. Now, you have to expand to six and eight, so you’ve lost… I’m terrible with math, but I believe that’s 50% of real estate. Check my math, you go from four… We used to have eight. Now you go at four and you have to expand it to more.

Casey Markee (00:50:15):
They also moved carousel features higher now. Web stories has been moved around. They’ve changed. People also asked to… What did I say before? What is it? How others are looking or others want to know is what it is. It’s just very hard these days. It is much harder to rank than it was three years ago by far. If you have been very fortunate and have continued to have success, keep doing what you’re doing, focus on nicheing down as much as you can. Focus on bottom line quality, use quality frameworks. Making sure that your site is as technically sound as possible is half the battle for a long-term strong SEO rankings. Get support. Pass Core Web Vitals. Make sure that your site is easy to navigate.

Casey Markee (00:51:06):
Don’t spend a ton of money on a custom site if they’re signing their name on the bottom and putting a very poor recipe index or forgetting to actually insert author bylines or not understanding what breadcrumbs are or… Again, I can’t tell you all the soft stories I’ve gotten over the last six months for people coming to me with these brand new sites that I couldn’t SEO themselves-

Arsen Rabinovich (00:51:30):
We see these author bylines, just every single call. The first thing I check now it’s improperly set up. So many. Check your author bylines.

Casey Markee (00:51:40):
Everything that you should be linked to a person. You. Your recipe posts and your recipe cards are separate entities to Google. Both of them get linked to you. Either use a custom author page or link them all to your About Me page, and then we’ll use the appropriate about me schema that’s built into Yoast or Rank Math or whatever. Super easy to do, and yet we still have these designers tripping over themselves to deliver these pretty sites, which don’t fulfill any of these needs.

Casey Markee (00:52:09):
Be careful, be understanding. Educate yourself on what a quality site design looks like. We’ve got some good quality site designers on the call today. I’m sure that any them would be happy to help you with that. Or you can let Arsen and Andrew and myself, and then we will send you a list of names.

Melissa Rice (00:52:28):
A healthy balance of fashion and function. Right. Is there a specific time that these publishers and bloggers should reach out for professional SEO help? Is there any sort of red flags that anyone should look out for?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:52:41):
Everybody reach out to Casey. He loves it.

Casey Markee (00:52:44):
Everyone reach out to me so that I can send you off to someone else. That is basically what we were talking about the other day, but I’m always happy to provide some free advice right away, especially if it’s something that I can answer in five or 10 minutes, but we sympathize with you. It is incredibly competitive out there. For some of you, this is your only form of income and you’re like, “Oh my God, I’ve lost 40% of my income. What am I going to do?”

Casey Markee (00:53:09):
I get it. This is where we would start looking around for alternative ways to increase that traffic. We need to really think about giveaways. We really need to think about investing in our email list. We need to think about working with sponsors. I have a lot of bloggers who tell me that they’re never going to work with sponsors or provide sponsorships on their blog, but then they lose 40% of their traffic, and maybe that changes the mindset a little bit.

Casey Markee (00:53:31):
It’s okay to have sponsored content. It’s okay to go the affiliate route, do whatever is necessary for you to cross that channel of your lost traffic until the next core update comes, and hopefully you bounce back.

Melissa Rice (00:53:47):
Anybody else? Andrew, any comments?

Andrew Wilder (00:53:53):
Yeah. I think NerdPress provides technical SEO help, right? That’s part of our plans, so that’s why I’m always letting Casey and Arsen talk about the content stuff.

Andrew Wilder (00:54:03):
But technical is a big part of rankings. I think we just proved the point earlier when we accidentally DDoSed the Penguin website, right? 200 of us all clicked over and the site crashed. You want to make sure stuff doesn’t happen to your site. They need better cashing, clearly.

Andrew Wilder (00:54:20):
You want to make sure that technically your site is running as smooth as possible. It’s not like having a parking break on. That’s one of the things Casey looks at in his audits, where he goes through and says, “Hey, you’ve got these problems.” And then it’s always in terms of when to get an SEO professional or get a professional help, if it’s something you’re interested in and want to learn about and can learn about, great, go for it. If it’s something you don’t want to spend your time on, then hire somebody else.

Andrew Wilder (00:54:45):
I especially think it’s important if it’s something that is happening over and over again where you are doing it as the publisher, you need to learn how to do it. If it’s the kind of thing that only really needs to be done once, like getting rid of your permalinks, dates in your permalinks, you’re not going to be doing that often. So, you want to hire somebody to do it who knows how to do it and won’t screw it up and will minimize the impact to your site.

Casey Markee (00:55:05):
Yeah. I cannot stress that enough because again, just changing permalinks, that is a 12-step process if you do it correctly. It’s not just you going in and changing the permalinks. There are various other things that you have to do. Updating internal permalinks, making sure that you’ve informed Google, updating your sitemap, tons of stuff. Andrew and others who provide assistance in those monthly blog support plans should be competent enough to do all that for you.

Casey Markee (00:55:29):
Don’t think for a moment that you should be doing that yourself, because there are steps that you can miss and it’ll just set yourself… You’ll take two steps forward and three steps back.

Melissa Rice (00:55:40):
Okay. I want to save some time for Q&A questions, just because we’re getting to the end of the hour here. I know we’re going to go over little for Casey, but I’ve got right off the top a question here from Tammy. She asked, “Does recommending specific products that we do using affiliate links fall under the non-product reviews?”

Arsen Rabinovich (00:56:06):

Casey Markee (00:56:06):
Well, I think her question is how do you know… Where is that, by the way? It’s under question and answer, right?

Arsen Rabinovich (00:56:09):
210. Oh, they’re all in 210.

Melissa Rice (00:56:12):
It’s about, I would say eight or… no, four, five down. Yeah.

Casey Markee (00:56:17):
Well, anytime that you write a product review, you are subject to the product review guidelines and the product review guidelines, which we’ve linked to in this, are something that you do need to be aware of. Did you do the product review just because you got a free product? Did you do the product review because it was a way for you to make money? If your answer to both of those questions is yes, you probably are at a heightened risk of problems because product reviews are there specifically to provide value to your audience.

Casey Markee (00:56:43):
Take the commiseration, take the commission, take all of the financial incentive out of it. If you were not paid for this product, would you even consider doing the review? Because that’s certainly something to think about. We also want to make sure that we’re doing products that align with our audience and our needs.

Casey Markee (00:56:59):
I get it. We want to make money, but clearly I would not… Hey, I’m not going to advertise, “You’re never going to see me shill for a 100% meat alternative ever, regardless of how much money they pay me.” There are just some things that I’m just never going to do. No offense, Amy and the rest of the vegans on the call. Just not my thing. It’s okay. There are some things that I’m just never going to do. I am a meat person for life, period. So, you have to determine whether or not… Read that review section that we shared, because that’ll be very illuminating for you.

Melissa Rice (00:57:34):
Okay. Next question is from Kara, “Are there any specific reports on GSE you can recommend to figure out?” I would say I think she means the drops, right? The effects of the updates, “What are we looking for to figure this stuff out? And, sorry,” she says, because she’s a tech newbie.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:57:55):
It’s in the slides. I give specific, “Click here, here, here, and here,” to go to where you can see all of that.

Casey Markee (00:58:03):
Can we do a… Well, let’s do this. Well, first of all, I have to see if I can actually… Okay, I’m not seeing that.

Arsen Rabinovich (00:58:15):
Are you going to do a screen share?

Casey Markee (00:58:18):
I’m going to do a screen share everyone. So hey, watch this. I’m just going to share this very quick photo here so that you can see that. Everyone see this photo here? This is a photo of a blogger that was hit by the core update. This is exactly how you would address if you wanted to go into your Search Console right now and do a review. Look at the dates here, you see how we’re comparing 3/15 to 3/28 to 3/15, and 3/28 the previous year? This is a great way so you can see a year over year about how dramatic the drop was from the core update.

Casey Markee (00:58:50):
This is a very simple way for you to see at scale by doing a year over year. Now, you could also compare 2/15 to 2/28 to 3/15 to 3/28 and get a simple comparison there to see what the drop is because we know that’s when the core update started, and we know that’s when the core update ended. And in this case, you can see that the blockers suffered noticeable traffic drops, in this case about 20%-25%. I’m terrible with math, but it’s a big drop from content.

Casey Markee (00:59:25):
And that’s how we would want to go ahead and review this at scale. Go in and use your Search Console. We know the dates. You know the dates of the update. Take the dates, look before and after the update. Do a year-over-year comparison. Always use Google Search Console because that’s Google-only information.

Casey Markee (00:59:43):
It’s going to make it a substantially easier to troubleshoot specific core updates or specific ranking updates with Google. Or use the Penguin tool that we previously brought down together as a group. So, that should work pretty well.

Casey Markee (00:59:57):
The Penguin tool works. You just provide access, you log into the tool, you give it access to your Google Analytics. It pulls over all of your Google information and puts it on a chart showing the reported dates for the updates. So, you can see really on a big screen, “Okay, here’s the update. Here is my regular daily visits, and you can see if it goes up and down. It’s a very easy, visual way to see if you were affected at all by this or any other update.”

Melissa Rice (01:00:26):
Excellent. Thank you. Moving to the next question, Chula asks, “I’ve been reading recently that Google is devising significant search changes to beat back AI rivals like Bing AI. Looking to the future, are we in for more volatility from Google because of this?” Anybody?

Arsen Rabinovich (01:00:44):

Casey Markee (01:00:44):
Where’s that? Where’s that?

Arsen Rabinovich (01:00:46):
Yes. The answer is yes.

Melissa Rice (01:00:48):
Yeah. I’ll move it ahead to Answered, so you can sneak a peek at it over there, Casey. But the answer is yes, Arsen?

Arsen Rabinovich (01:00:57):
The answer is yes. We talked about this a little bit earlier.

Melissa Rice (01:00:59):

Arsen Rabinovich (01:01:00):
It’s going to continue to happen as the search engine continues to evolve, updates will happen, things will change, best practices will change. We will have more webinars. We will tell you new things. This is ongoing.

Melissa Rice (01:01:10):
Okay. Very cool. Thank you for recapping that. I don’t want to run too much over, but if you’d like, we can answer maybe one or two questions more.

Casey Markee (01:01:21):

Melissa Rice (01:01:22):
Okay. Give me just a second to grab…

Casey Markee (01:01:25):
Because again, then we just have to answer all these off the…

Melissa Rice (01:01:29):
I know. You’re right. You’re right.

Casey Markee (01:01:31):
Come on. I don’t know. And look, I’m going to be honest with all of you guys. I just want you guys to know, Arsen and Andrew, incredibly lazy when it comes to answering these follow-up questions, okay? It seems like I’m always the one that has to log in and answer these questions, okay?

Melissa Rice (01:01:44):
Arsen has me for it. I put it in front of his face.

Casey Markee (01:01:47):
Oh, man. Good times. Good times.

Melissa Rice (01:01:50):
Okay, let’s go for [inaudible 01:01:51] question. It’s the very first one, Casey, if you want to take a look. “Oftentimes we know what an update is, targeting reviews, EEATs, family links, over-optimization, et cetera. But sometimes we don’t know what it does. We just see fluctuations in traffic. How do we figure out what the update does before we can even create an action plan to tackle the issue?”

Arsen Rabinovich (01:02:14):
You can’t.

Casey Markee (01:02:14):
That’s a great question. And the answer is, you can’t.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:02:14):
You can’t.

Casey Markee (01:02:15):
Because Google pushed out 2000 plus updates last year. 2000. They only report a very small percentage, which is the ones that we-

Arsen Rabinovich (01:02:23):
I think it was eight.

Casey Markee (01:02:25):
Yeah. I mean, they have a page now because people were so upset. Let me see if I can find the page here. It’s a page where they actually show just the most recent updates. Let me see if I can find it and paste it in here. It’s not on this page, but let me pop it up here.

Casey Markee (01:02:43):
And this is something that I would bookmark for everyone on the call. This isn’t a super… Here it is. It’s called the List of Google Search Marketing Updates. I’m going to go ahead and paste it over here.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:02:58):
Well, look, you really… We don’t know. We just monitor and observe, just like you guys, only we have more data to look at. And it’s always correlation. We’re correlating who won, who lost, and then we examine that, and then we bring that info to you.

Casey Markee (01:03:12):
As a matter of fact, we even rely on other tools to do it. There are various tools that do nothing but track this volatility. They range from, Rank Ranger, MozCast. There are various people-

Arsen Rabinovich (01:03:28):
SemRush has their…

Casey Markee (01:03:29):
SemRush has their volatility tracker, right?

Arsen Rabinovich (01:03:31):
Right, right. And then there’s weather forecast from somewhere else.

Casey Markee (01:03:34):
That’s Moz. Moz Weather Forecast. But there are people that do nothing, but follow that tool and publish updates, and you can see those. And we read those. We subscribe to those just like anyone else because it’s impossible for us to stay on top of that. So, we might have a Missive Digital… Gosh, what’s her name? It’s escaped me. Lily.

Casey Markee (01:03:56):
Lily does a great job putting together… She usually publishes a list of… because she has a stream that she’s able to get an Missive Digital, and they can publish a stream of who’s been affected in which niches by core updates. So, most likely there’s one coming out pretty soon. And they give a volatility score to that so we can understand which niches specifically were most affected, and then we can go in and drill down through that data and find if there’s any trends in the food and lifestyle niche specifically. And that’s what we do after the fact.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:04:28):
Well, look, again, you can’t really say, “Oh, this algorithm was looking at this, but I still got affected.” Many factors happen during these updates. Again, look through your data, look through your posts. It’s not difficult. Identify pages that lost traffic. Go into GSC. Identify which keywords lost positions, what kind of losses, shallow drops, deep drops, evaluate and then create an action plan. You don’t really need to know what the update was doing. Look at how you were affected.

Melissa Rice (01:05:03):
Okay, I think we’re going to end on a positive note. Cynthia had a question, and she wanted to know, “Is it possible that these updates helped some food bloggers?” Her traffic initially tanked, but then it went up threefold. It has leveled out now, but it’s still up overall.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:05:22):

Casey Markee (01:05:23):
Yeah, absolutely.

Andrew Wilder (01:05:24):
Yes, it should.

Casey Markee (01:05:25):
Great. We’ll take that.

Andrew Wilder (01:05:26):
So positive.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:05:27):
You’re welcome.

Andrew Wilder (01:05:30):
But that’s Casey’s point though, right? If somebody moves up, that means somebody else is moving… Or if somebody moves down, somebody else is moving up, right?

Casey Markee (01:05:36):
Correct. It’s a zero-sum. Zero-sum.

Andrew Wilder (01:05:39):
And the whole point is to make the search results better for readers. Google may not get that right, in our opinion, but that’s what they’re trying to do. They’re not trying to penalize you. They’re trying to get a better answer or the best answer to somebody who searches.

Melissa Rice (01:05:51):
Okay. Yeah.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:05:53):
Sorry. And that’s why we say don’t touch it. Just like with Cynthia, you might be affected initially, then you might recover. That’s why we say-

Casey Markee (01:06:03):
Cynthia had an audit and she’s all brunch and breakfast recipes, so… I mean, brunch and breakfast recipes, right, Cynthia? I mean, I want to have brunch and breakfast every day. That’s fantastic. I mean, twice on Sundays. Early dinner, supper. I mean, you’re in a winning niche there. I mean, everyone… The world’s going to end, but we’re still going want breakfast for dinner.

Melissa Rice (01:06:26):
Okay. I think just to end it all, we’re saying stay consistent with your content, keep it quality and work on your About Me pages, right, guys?

Casey Markee (01:06:37):
Yeah, all that.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:06:38):
And send Casey brunch.

Casey Markee (01:06:40):

Andrew Wilder (01:06:41):
Lots of fake bacon.

Casey Markee (01:06:42):
Fantastic. Lots of fake bacon. Yeah. Good times. And before we-

Arsen Rabinovich (01:06:45):
Lots of quinoa.

Casey Markee (01:06:45):
… we want to say an early Happy Mother’s Day for everyone on the call. You guys deserve it. Hopefully you’ll get spoiled in the next couple weeks, and keep your chins up. You guys are doing a great job. And we’re sending candy to Google every day. I’m sending Peeps.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:07:01):
I’m not sending any-

Casey Markee (01:07:01):
I had some Peeps left over from Easter, so I sent a whole shipment over to Gary Illyes, and we’ll see how that does, and we’ll go from there.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:07:08):
Casey wants to be front and center. We want to be like a Russian submarine under the radar. Don’t look at us. No eye contact with Google.

Casey Markee (01:07:15):
Exactly. Very visible.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:07:16):

Melissa Rice (01:07:17):
Wonderful. I’m not a fan of Peeps, but whatever floats your boat.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:07:23):
Those sound like fighting words.

Casey Markee (01:07:25):
Melissa. Melissa, out of the will. Done.

Melissa Rice (01:07:29):
They’re so toxic. But on that note, everybody, thanks for joining us. We will definitely be talking about GA4 next month. So, tune back in for that. And yeah, if you need any support SEO services, be sure to reach out to the NerdPress team. Casey’s always there available to send referrals our way, right? And yeah, we look forward to seeing you guys next month.

Arsen Rabinovich (01:07:57):
Bye everybody.

Casey Markee (01:07:58):
Bye everyone.

Andrew Wilder (01:07:58):
Thank you.

Melissa Rice (01:07:58):

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. When she’s not working, you can find Melissa exploring the world with her young son or at home documenting her DIY projects.


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 while under home quarantine.

Casey on Twitter >>

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 Twitter >>

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 Twitter >>

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