Melissa Rice (00:00:00):
All right, well, welcome to the 39th episode of SEO for Bloggers, where we’re unwrapping the mysteries of tracking performance through seasonality. We’ve got our wonderful lineup of experts, including Casey Markee of Media Wyse, Arsen Rabinovich of TopHatRank, and I’m sorry, Andrew Wilder of NerdPress and making-
Arsen Rabinovich (00:00:16):
And, Arsen Wilder.
Melissa Rice (00:00:20):
Sh, you always interrupt me. And, making a sparkly return like tinsel on a Christmas tree is the one and only SEO strategist Kayle Larkin. Hi. Kayle, we’re delighted to have you back on our webinar and sharing your expert knowledge, so thank you so much for joining us. A reminder to everybody, because we’re going to get this ball rolling right away, there’s a Q & A at the end, so please put all your questions in the Q & A section, which you can find below and of course tell us where you’re tuning in from. All right guys, are we ready? Everybody, thumbs up, yes. All right, Casey, how can fluctuations in seasonality impact the overall performance of a blog’s SEO?
Casey Markee (00:01:08):
Well, I’m glad you’ve asked that question because I’ve been waiting to answer that question for gosh, all day, since yesterday, since I found out that we should talk about that question-
Arsen Rabinovich (00:01:18):
That this is the question that will be asked.
Casey Markee (00:01:20):
Yeah, so just like anything, it depends. We should’ve had glitter. We should have glitter, throw glitter all across the screen.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:01:31):
Nothing was planned.
Casey Markee (00:01:32):
So when we talk about seasonal fluctuations for overall performance, there’s a lot of things that go into that. The first one is changes in searcher intent. So, seasonal shifts often lead to changes in searcher intent and no bigger way do we see that in Christmas when people might be searching for gift ideas or holiday related content, and that aligns of course with your holiday specific appetizers, your desserts, and the so on.
We also have a big change with regards to keyword relevance and volume. I shared actually a couple of days before Thanksgiving in the Food Bloggers Central Forum, this huge list of notices I got from Google commenting on the big seasonal changes in keywords and traffic that was affecting many of you on the call and many of the 400 plus profiles I had in my search account. It was Google saying, “Oh my gosh, green bean casserole is up 14,000%.” So, I know hopefully a lot of you experienced those great notices from Google commenting about how incredible the changes in traffic had been.
We also have to think about things like content freshness. Search engines often prioritize fresh and relevant content, and you’re going to see big changes with regards to that as you go into the holiday specifically. New terms and phrases become popular every year during specific seasons. Others gain and lose relevance depending upon the day and week. Content freshness is going to be a big deal, especially for all of you on the call. We want to prioritize publishing timely and seasonal content specifically more during the holidays as much as we can. Content publishing frequency is not a ranking factor, but we find that Google tends to really increase crawling around important seasons and holidays. So, we want to really take advantage of that increased crawl efficiencies and crawl rate as we come up into the holidays and publish as much on target content as we can.
And then, I think finally, one of the other things you want to be aware of is competition levels. Seasonal industries often experience very increased competition during peak seasons. I know many of you of course are in the food and lifestyle niche. There’s going to be lots of competition over very specific recipes. Everything from anything gingerbread related to cookies galore. We really want to make sure that we want to adjust our SEO strategy to account for this heightened competition. That means going back to Google for last year, looking at your top 20 recipes, pulling out the ones that have a seasonal appropriation and making sure that we’ve updated or dusted them off so that they’re up and ready to go to take advantage of similar shifts this year. So, going to be interesting to say the least. There’s a lot we can do to take advantage of those shifts.
Melissa Rice (00:04:15):
It sure will be. Thank you. Kayle, is there a way to compare 2022 with 2023 data without having to pull up both UA and GA4 in separate windows?
Arsen Rabinovich (00:04:29):
Kayle Larkin (00:04:30):
Yeah, yeah, good question. I know this is on a lot of people’s mind. There are a few ways to do this. You’re going to use Looker Studio, which was previously called Data Studio. So when I say Looker Studio, I’m talking about the same thing. The first thing you need to do is add. Am I paused?
Melissa Rice (00:04:49):
You froze for just a minute-
Kayle Larkin (00:04:50):
I did freeze.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:04:51):
We can hear you.
Kayle Larkin (00:04:51):
Can you hear me though?
Arsen Rabinovich (00:04:52):
Yeah, we can hear you.
Kayle Larkin (00:04:52):
Okay, perfect. I’ll just keep talking. It’s a great, great stop frame.
Casey Markee (00:04:58):
We’re taking screenshots of this for our annual cards. Move on. Nothing to see here.
Kayle Larkin (00:05:06):
Oh, my goodness. Nothing to see here. So, on both Universal Analytics and GA4 as a data sources in your Looker Studio, and the easiest route would be to create two tables next to each other in the same Looker Studio dash. Or a little bit more technical, a little bit more time-consuming, you can blend the data, and we are going to link to a resource. It’s a YouTube video from Dana. She’s awesome. She has great tutorials on YouTube, and this will take you step by step through how to blend Universal Analytics and GA4 data and then you can get that nice continual line graph over time. I do want to add just an asterisk on this question though, to keep in mind that some metrics are calculated differently between UA and GA4. So, this is not going to be a clean comparison, so just have that little asterisk as you’re comparing GA4 data to UA data.
Melissa Rice (00:06:12):
Excellent. Andrew, do you have recommendations for setting up tracking specifically for the holidays?
Andrew Wilder (00:06:23):
No, because I think you want to track everything all the time, right? So if there’s something specific that you’ve added for the holidays that you want to track separately, you may want to be looking at those micro conversions like did people watch a video, or did they click a link to download? We were talking earlier in talking about UTM tracking codes, so you can add tracking codes to links. So maybe Kayle, can you drop that link in the chat? There’s a UTM tracking code builder, so you enter the URL of the various things you want to add to the URL, so that way it pulls in the data as people click it.
The other thing I’ve been playing a lot with, well a little bit with recently is Microsoft Clarity. Not to be confused with Clarity from the Food Blogger Pro and Bjork folks, but Microsoft Clarity is another tracking tool that you can add to your site that is, if you’ve used Hotjar before, it’s the same kind of tool where it looks at heat maps, so you can see how far down on the page people scroll. You can actually watch replays of what people do as they browse your site and it shows you their mouse basically a real-time playback and you can actually, I think you can watch people in real time as they use your site. So, it’s really good for getting some user insights. And so, let’s say you put on your homepage a bunch of holiday recipes, you can see in real time are people hovering over one and then clicking on something else. Maybe you want to change the order about-
Casey Markee (00:07:37):
We just lose Andrew?
Andrew Wilder (00:07:39):
I’m still here.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:07:40):
No, he’s still here.
Andrew Wilder (00:07:41):
I’m still here. Man, we’re having a great tech day.
Melissa Rice (00:07:46):
I know it’s-
Andrew Wilder (00:07:48):
If you haven’t played with Microsoft Clarity, that’s something you could check out. The terms of service seem to collect a lot of data, but it’s all anonymized, so read that carefully and decide if you want to put that on your website as you’re sending that data home to Microsoft. But, it’s a pretty cool tool and if you’re rolling out some new features, you might want to check, use it temporarily. You don’t need to have it running all the time, right? But let’s say you build a new holiday recipes landing page, you could collect data on that and see how people are interacting with it and adjust it from there.
Melissa Rice (00:08:17):
Excellent, thank you. Kayle, are there tools that can be used to help with predicting seasonal trends?
Kayle Larkin (00:08:26):
Yes, there are user-friendly tools that can offer insights into seasonal trends and consumer behavior. So, I feel like these are ones that you guys are all already going to know, but I’m going to talk about them anyway. Your most standard is to just open up Google, go to the search engine or if you’re looking in Instagram or TikTok, wherever you’re posting, go to that platform, open up a private browser tab and start typing. You’ll see Google showing you autopopulated suggestions. You can go click through to the search engine result and look at that people also ask questions. You can look at the related queries at the bottom of the page, and this is all useful in identifying what people are actively searching for during this holiday season.
Another place is looking at your own data. So within Search Consult, which is another free tool, you can see which landing pages, Casey touched on this a bit in the beginning, which landing pages or search queries, excuse me, are increasing in popularity. Now, I’m going to lose my voice. I lost video and now my voice.
Okay, we’re back, and I’ll dive more into Search Console here in a bit. There’s another question, I’ll break that down. Another one is Google Trends. Google Trends is another free tool, and you can use that to analyze the popularity of specific search terms and see how that interest fluctuates over time and in different seasons. And the last one I want to talk about is one that you probably all already use also, but BuzzSumo. BuzzSumo is really great at helping you identify the trending topics across different social media channels using social media shares and engagement. So, that can help provide insights into what content is performing well across various platforms during the holiday season.
Melissa Rice (00:10:26):
Awesome, thank you. And Andrew, you are so on top of it in this chat. Thank you for dropping those links. Arsen, got one for you. How can changes in search intent during holiday seasons affect rankings?
Arsen Rabinovich (00:10:43):
Yeah, it can happen a lot. We talk about intent frequently on these webinars. As updates roll out, you do notice changes in how search result pages appear, and that’s a byproduct of Google gaining a better understanding of what people are searching for and what kind of results they’re expecting to see and what works for them. And, that’s the pogo sticking effect that we frequently talk about. So as Google gains that information, as updates roll out and fortunately we saw a lot of updates leading up to the holiday season, search intents are going to shift and the search results are going to change based on that. So, where Google might at certain points determine that, “Hey, for a specific query, I would rather show videos above the organic results,” or “I want to insert any other special feature into the search result,” or “I have a complete different understanding and now this query is commercial intent, or it’s a blended of intent.” We call this a fractured SERP result where Google’s like, “I’m going to show you a little bit of everything.”
So where the page used to be 10 recipe results, now you have three educational, three commercial, and three recipes. So now, your ability to rank your content on that page for that keyword is limited to only three spots. So, definitely be mindful of that when you’re looking at your keyword fluctuations. The first thing we do internally is we take a look at what that search result looks like, and that’s going to be the first thing that you need to do to understand whether it’s something that you can actually fix. Whether the decline in your position is a byproduct of something wrong with your content, or you’re just not relevant anymore, or it needs to be updated, or that the search result page itself change and now you might not have an opportunity to be there anymore.
Melissa Rice (00:12:29):
Okay. This was a big question, Kayle. How can data from last year’s holiday season help inform this year’s marketing strategies for bloggers, not just SEO?
Kayle Larkin (00:12:48):
I have a lot to say on this topic. So, I’m going to try and stay concise because it’s a big question. So when you’re thinking about, when you’re looking at data from last year’s holiday season and how that can inform this year’s marketing strategy, the number one thing would be… I work with affiliate bloggers and in e-commerce space. We’re primarily looking at peak buying times. If you know when peak buying times are, you know when to schedule those campaigns to speak to those people when they’re in that buying state of mind. So, that’s the first trend. Pay attention to peak buying times.
The second thing is don’t only look at third party data, consider the first party data you have. What I mean by that, and this is something you probably should have done prior to the holiday season, but I am going to mention it so you have it in mind for ways you can improve after this holiday season. So, paying attention to your user’s feedback during the holiday season. We have these peak in buying time, their peak in times when they’re visiting your website. What is the customer feedback? What is the user feedback? Are they experiencing complaints or issues? Are they encountering issues when they’re visiting your website? And then, make sure you address those pain points so that the next holiday season is smoother in those areas. If they’re having a hard time finding appetizers on your website for example, how can you make that easier to navigate to appetizers that go with your primary course? So, refining website usability based on first party data.
The third point I would look at is another kind of broad topic thing, and it’s looking at recurring topics. So, is there an influx? Well, we know that there’s going to be an influx of queries that pertain to gatherings, large gatherings, family gatherings, so looking at your content or your queries, not at a per search query level, but what is the broader topic? I know every December, for example, right now what I’m working with is every brand, they’re getting together their end of year reporting. So at Elevar, I’m looking at how can I support our audience as they’re coming to end of year reporting, that kind of mindset.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t focus too much on data, query data from last year because trends change so rapidly. You would want to more look at the last two or three months, which queries are you seeing a rise in, or which type of content are they engaging with the most? So, your most recent data can inform your content format, the platform, the marketing channels you should be using and then trends increases in those specific queries.
Let me make sure. I’m checking my notes to make sure I covered everything. So, it’s a big question. Yes. Yeah, trends move so fast, so don’t try and use 2022 data for trends, use it more for recurring topics and use your most recent data for notating trends and then the type of platform you should be on and the type of content you should be producing. Did I answer that? People are nodding, so I’m going to stop talking on that one now.
Melissa Rice (00:16:32):
That was great. It was very concise and clear. Thank you so much.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:16:37):
Good notes, good notes.
Melissa Rice (00:16:37):
Yes, very much so. Andrew, what aspects of technical SEO as well this website performance should bloggers be working on to prepare for holiday traffic?
Andrew Wilder (00:16:49):
So, from a technical SEO perspective, not a lot needs to be different because technical SEO is technical SEO, right? You’re going to be making sure that your links are all working properly, your information architecture is good, all of those kinds of things that we’ve talked about ad nauseum on these webinars. But from a website performance standpoint, you also want to be checking that, make sure your core web vitals are good and for the posts that you know are about to spike in traffic, you can run those through PageSpeed Insights and make sure there isn’t anything on those particular pages that’s going to cause a problem. Maybe you have an old YouTube video that’s embedded that’s actually dragging your page speed down, so it’s a good time to check and refresh all that stuff. You also want to be looking at things like your last modified date. Maybe you do want to refresh the content a little bit from last year and just get that post updated November 20th, 2023 so it doesn’t look like it was updated two years ago, right? So, it ends up being, to looking fresh to everybody.
Melissa Rice (00:17:45):
Casey Markee (00:17:46):
Just to clarify, don’t update the post just to change the date to last modified. Google’s very clear, waste your time.
Andrew Wilder (00:17:53):
Refresh the content too.
Casey Markee (00:17:54):
Please try to refresh the content in some way, not artificially refresh the content.
Andrew Wilder (00:17:59):
Yes, thank you Casey.
Casey Markee (00:18:00):
Melissa Rice (00:18:01):
Then I just want-
Arsen Rabinovich (00:18:02):
I wasn’t nauseous from you reminding us about this all the time, ad nauseam. words from Andrew.
Melissa Rice (00:18:11):
I did want to just mention to everybody that we had a question and somebody asked if Looker Studio is free, and it is, and Andrew went ahead and replied in the chat that they do have some paid options as well, but the free version is very powerful. Okay, moving on. Kayle, are there best practices for tracking this year’s user behavior engagement with your website to help inform next year’s seasonal content? I know you kind of touched on this already, but anything more specific?
Kayle Larkin (00:18:42):
I don’t think there’s anything more specific to add as far as informing next year’s seasonal content. I am going to answer that question in a different way because you can absolutely use this holiday season’s behavior and user engagement to inform Q1 of 2024, totally. So, make sure that you are comprehensive data collection. So, you’re using those UTM parameters, you have your event tracking nailed down in GA4.
If you can consider it in 2024 to move from client-side tracking to server-side tracking because you’ll capture even more of your event data and then segment, you can think about how you can segment your content to offer more personalized options. This would be taking your user behavior data from GA4 and funneling that into your email marketing campaigns and segment based off the type of content they showed interest in. Everybody’s responding more, and they’re kind of expecting more personalized content like Netflix has completely spoiled all of us, and we want those personalized recommendations. We get that comprehensive data collection, segment, your email marketing campaigns so your ads based off their behavior, and you can use that information to kind of just create more personalized content in 2024.
Melissa Rice (00:20:13):
Perfect. Thank you. Casey, if publishers are noticing that a holiday post isn’t doing as well as last year, when is the right time to make changes? Specifically, when is the right time? Everybody wanted to know.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:20:28):
Give us the exact date.
Melissa Rice (00:20:31):
Drill it down.
Casey Markee (00:20:32):
I always like to do about 2, 2:37 in the morning, preferably 40, 72 hours after the post has gone live. I want to look very clearly, make sure that I also want to look outside, make sure if I can see the Northern Lights or not, that tends to help with my decision making. But no, there is no real wrong answer here when we’re talking about that kind of information. If you know your content better than anyone, my goal and I think the goal of everyone is we want to be as proactive as we can when we see that something is not necessarily right. The problem of course is that, hey, and I’ll just quiz Kayle here. Hey Kayle, what’s one of the biggest complaints of GA4 over GA with regards to reporting full information? Is there something called a delay that we’re experiencing with regards to traffic? Can you remind everyone what that delay could be and how long it could happen?
Kayle Larkin (00:21:30):
Yeah, the delay can be up to 72 hours. I want to analyze data within GA4 for three days after.
Casey Markee (00:21:37):
Right. So, imagine how many emails we’re going to get this year when we find that there’s a lot of people like, “I don’t understand what’s going on. This post is killing it, and here it is three days later and I still haven’t seen much data click in.” That is going to be unfortunately very common. We already saw it around Thanksgiving. As a matter of fact, thank God for Google Search Console because Google Search Console was the one that was sending everyone the, “Congratulations, we’re recognizing increased traffic,” to these top queries. Because, I had bloggers emailing me saying, “I’m looking at my analytics, and I don’t see any sort of a boost,” and I’m like, “Are you getting any notifications from Google that some of your specific queries have taken off?” And they’re like, “Oh, let me check.” Lo and behold, some people were getting those, and they were just ignoring them. They were not seeing them in their Gmail.
So, understand it’s a little bit different this year. It’s very hard to use Google Analytics quickly to see if something is not necessarily catching fire as it was before. So, I would be proactive on this, review your Google Search Console along with your Google Analytics information. We want to always compare the current year’s performance with the same period from last year. It’s just going to be tougher this year than in any previous year because we’re literally comparing a GA4 snapshot to a universal GA snapshot from a year ago, if you even have that data.
Now, if we find that there is some kind of a decline here, then we really need to determine what the possibilities for that decline may be. It could be changes in search algorithms, it could be increased competition, shifts in user intent or behavior, could be technical issues on your website. We will want to of course break down all of those, and we’ve got plenty of resources from our SEO for Publishers webinars that cover all of that and more. So, I would want you to investigate on those issues as much as you can, whether we also have the ability, and I’ll put an Andrew on the spot, he can go ahead and paste over the list of Google search updates that they keep so that you can get an idea of when Google updates have started and ended and compare that against any possible issues between now and Christmas because most likely we will have at least another update if not two before the year’s over. Why would we stop the trend?
I would also of course, make sure that we are taking an eye at our content anew through the eyes of our users. We want to assess the quality and relevance of our content as much as we can. Does it meet the needs and expectations of the users of our target audience? Have we updated the content recently? We don’t want to update the content just to show a last modified date that’s fresh, but we want to make sure that we’ve gone in and looked at anew the content based upon what Google is raking competitively now. Has anything changed in the content that we can refresh? Have you had a new epiphany or any feedback from your audience that could be used to clarify the recipe or the post itself?
Andrew mentioned technical issues early on. We always want to make sure that technical SEO is sound. Do we not have any intrusive interstitials? Are the pages loading fast? Have we page dated our comments? No broken links, no internal redirects, stuff is easy to fix. We want to check it as much as we can. Pop everything into the Google PageSpeed Insights tool. Look at your excessive DOM node number specifically if you’ve got a 49 on your page speed score, but you’re passing core web vitals. Why do you have a 49 on your page speed score? What is it about your page that’s not doing well? Are we maybe not paginating or I’m sorry, lazy loading our elements below the fold? What are some things that we can do to make sure that our content, we’ve provided the best experience we can for users in Google at the same time?
So definitely be proactive and hit us up, especially Andrew. He loves to answer email. He was just telling me the day, “Man, I can’t believe that I’m not getting more email,” and I’m like, “No problem, Andrew, I’m going to start sending you some more email.” And so, hey, just understand we’re here to help you guys, so send us email if we can help you and if you, of course, in the words of Scooby-Doo, “See anything cheeky.”
Andrew Wilder (00:25:46):
I’m going to clarify something Casey said that if you’re good on core web vitals, but you’re getting a 49 on PageSpeed Insights, that’s okay. PageSpeed Insights is just a testing tool. People obsess about that big score number, and it is going to fluctuate a lot and so what you want to do is watch for changes in that. It’s just a tool to improve your site. So, there may be improvements you can make and faster is better, but if you’re good on core web vitals, you’re going to be in really good shape. So, I don’t want people to see that 49 and panic. Because, we have that a lot, and we do a test-
Arsen Rabinovich (00:26:12):
I’m sending you emails.
Andrew Wilder (00:26:13):
Great, but then-
Casey Markee (00:26:15):
But, I want you to send those emails to Andrew.
Andrew Wilder (00:26:17):
Right? This is why [inaudible 00:26:19]-
Casey Markee (00:26:18):
Especially, if it’s just a 49.
Andrew Wilder (00:26:20):
I’m going to mute Casey right now.
Casey Markee (00:26:23):
Andrew Wilder (00:26:24):
No, seriously, people see that score and worry, but if your core web vitals are good, then that’s what we’re really caring about because that’s what Google is looking at, and that’s a real world metric. The stuff on the bottom half of the page is just a simulated test, and it’s a diagnostic tool.
Melissa Rice (00:26:38):
Excellent. Okay. Arsen, I know that Casey just kind of touched on this, but what other adjustments can be made to the content and keywords during off season to maintain consistent SEO performance, any suggestions?
Arsen Rabinovich (00:26:49):
Yeah, we get asked this a lot, especially now. You got to be mindful of and just like Casey said, “If it’s working, don’t touch it,” but what if you did drop? What if you did move one or two positions? What if you did drop out of those traffic driving top three positions? There are certain things we can do. We’ve talked about this in the past, but there are a few things you can do if you don’t want to touch the content because the content is performing. There’s a reason you move the few positions. Maybe it’s an authority issue, maybe it’s an EAT issue. There could be a lot of things, but there’s a few things that you can do to help boost that post without touching the content, and those are secondary signals. That can be internal linking, improving those signals, and improving back links, getting better back links.
Internal links are going to be the easiest thing to do, probably the most effective in terms of time and effort. You want to find, there’s tools, there’s plugins that can help you with this. I like to do things manually. I like to look for relevant pieces of content on my site that are ranking well, that we can safely assume they have built up authority, whatever that authority is, and link from there to the post that I want to improve the ranking for using the anchor text. The anchor text should be the keyword that you’re trying to improve.
Casey Markee (00:28:12):
Or, a close variation.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:28:13):
Or, a close variation, right, and you want to be mindful of that. You can’t really, I haven’t seen over optimization on anchor texts recently in terms of exact match. So, it’s not a big deal if you’re going exact match, but definitely try to diversify and look at your secondary keywords. Because, it’s not always just one keyword. If one or two keywords are bringing in traffic. So, your internal links are going to be one of the strongest ways to improve your positions, and that’s essentially telling Google that, “Hey, here’s more paths to this post. Here’s context from the anchor text.” And, you got to make sure that these links are not coming just from your sidebar or your footer, and you don’t want to just have a block of text at the bottom of your post saying, “Other relevant recipes,” or other recipes you want to be interested in. Because, Google sees those as navigational. They’re not passing much contextual value.
So, you want those links, those internal links to come from paragraphs from the body of the posts, from paragraphs where there’s context. Google’s patents and the way they describe how they analyze the internal linkings and anchor text, they’re not only looking at the anchor text, they’re also looking at the content around that anchor text, the proximity, co-citation. Right, Casey is the language they use, co-citation. So to get more context about what the page you are linking to is about, so internal links must come from content and body of the content. They shouldn’t be just a block of links. Those are okay. Those will be seen as navigational, but they’re not going to help with SEO much. If there is much help, it’s not a lot. If there’s any help, there’s not a lot.
And then, the backlinks. With backlinks, you want to be a little bit more careful about your anchor text. You don’t want to go too much exact match because you might over saturate, and Google might look at it as a bad thing. Also, keep in mind that you can’t really harm yourself nowadays because Google is going to just not use those links. It’s going to disregard them. It’s not going to harm you, and it’s not going to help you. But, back links from relevant sites and internal links are going to be the strongest, two strongest signals that you can do to your content without actually touching your content.
Casey Markee (00:30:10):
Yeah, really just to hit on that, again, internal links, incredibly important, but they have to be contextual links. They have to be in content, we call them in content contextual linking. We link naturally from the top of the post to the bottom. A lot of bloggers struggle with this. Write your recipe, then go back through your post and ask yourself, “Is there some easy ways for me to contextually and easily input some other links to related content in my post?” You mentioned, for example, “Towards the top, this apple crumb recipe uses a very specific type of glaze and oh, it’s the same glaze I’m using in my lemon scones here.” That’s a contextual link where you’ve provided a link that makes sense, that fits in with the information on the page and that you want to link for. That you’re telling Google, you’re telling users, “When you go to this link, you’re going to see my lemon scones.”
Now, where we’re seeing a lot, and I’m seeing this a lot in audits lately, is an inability to correctly use Link Whisper. So for everyone on the call who has Link Whisper and who has upgraded, please take the recommendations from Link Whisper with a grain of salt. If Link Whisper keeps telling you they want you to link every instance of beef on your site, that is a complete waste of your time. Same way with most single words, you are never going to rank for beef or bacon or probably scones or anything.
This is for most everyone on the call today. Be specific with your linking. You want to tell Google and users where you’re going. If you have a lemon scones recipe that you’re trying to rank for, it should be lemon scones, or it should be lemon scones recipe or some kind of a variation. Don’t just use scones. Definitely don’t just use lemon. I’m seeing that a lot. I had an audit just the other day where there must’ve been 40 or 50 links on a page, which by the way, that’s too many, and they were all single term links, and I’m like, “Why did you do this?” “Well, Link Whisper told me to do this.” Total waste of time. We had to do undo all of that. When you do that, all you’re doing is muddying the contextual signals for Google to understand your site.
We want to link to what we want to rank for. That’s the easiest way to understand that. Longer tail internal linking is always going to be more effective for you, so be aware of that. Try not to link everything by pie or dessert or, oh gosh, what was one the other day? Ice cream. If you have eight or nine different ice cream recipes and all you’ve done is link all of them by ice cream, guess what? None of them are going to rank for ice cream. Because, it’s too muddied with regards to the contextual signal. So really, focus on differentiating all those internal links as much as possible, and the site you save will be your own, guaranteed.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:32:55):
Melissa Rice (00:32:56):
When you were saying that, I could just hear like a cheerleader, “Be specific, be be specific.”
Casey Markee (00:33:00):
Melissa Rice (00:33:00):
That’s all I can hear in my head. Andrew, in your experience, what else should bloggers monitor besides their content in preparation for the holiday season?
Andrew Wilder (00:33:13):
Their team, and the reason I say that is when traffic is ramping up, you need to be really careful about clearing caches on your site. This is one of our Facebook posts every year right before Thanksgiving for our clients. So, you most likely have some sort of content caching on your site like WP Rocket or CloudFlare and whenever you update content, those caches get cleared and then they have to get rebuilt.
We’ve had situations where the day before Thanksgiving, somebody’s VA was going through and updating dozens of posts because they had some downtime and they’re like, “Hey, I’m off today or whatever, I’m just going to update all this content.” And, the server was crashing and we couldn’t figure out why until we realized this was happening, and she was basically invalidating the cache over and over and over again so the server couldn’t keep up. So, you want to be really careful of the technical aspect of what is keeping your site up and running during a big traffic spike. Please don’t, the day before Thanksgiving next year or right before Christmas and everybody’s looking for those recipes, you don’t want to be accidentally taking your site offline because it’s getting overloaded.
The other part of that is if you’re not sure, check in with your host. They can take a look and see how your site is performing, and it may be time for you to upgrade servers, and I know everybody hates to pay for hosting, but good hosting. You get what you pay for and if your host is legit, and they say, “Yeah, you’re really pushing the resource limits, it’s time to upgrade.” If things are running smoothly and you know it’s because of traffic, then it’s probably time to upgrade. There are some shadier hosts out there who will not try to troubleshoot, and they’ll just try to upsell you, but hosts like BigScoots, they’re going to look at your actual usage and say, “Yeah, it’s time for more resources.” And, I can’t think of a better investment on your site than quality hosting.
Melissa Rice (00:34:53):
Excellent. And on to the next, Kayle. Do you have any tips on leveraging tools like Google Search Console, Semrush or any other tool that you know for seasonal data analysis?
Kayle Larkin (00:35:07):
Yes, so there are so many, right? We could have a whole hour to talk about tips of leveraging our tools for a seasonal data analysis. I’m going to focus on some things we’ve talked about in this episode pertaining to Search Console. So, the first one I want to talk about is finding trending queries. I said I was going to come back to it, so I’m coming back to it. In Search Console, you can use the performance report and set a comparison date range to analyze the time period that you are looking at, that you want to see if queries or analysis, seasonal data is changing. So maybe, that is November month to current date in comparison to the previous period, looking at October. And, what we’re looking for is queries or search terms that are increasing in impression because that will show us that there is an increase in interest. More people are searching for those terms and clicks, so engagement with our site. This would clue us in to right now what are people wanting information on?
Another way that you can leverage Search Console and I’m sorry I can’t remember who, but we were talking about optimizing landing pages. I think it was Arsen. So, define those landing pages to optimize. We can also use Search Console, and do that date comparison range and looking at where those impressions are increasing. So, we’re seeing our audience having an interest in this query, but our engagement is not increasing, our clicks are not increasing, so maybe we’re no longer meeting the search intent. I am seeing this on my website right now because all of my blog articles are about Universal Analytics, not GA4. So, my traffic and my positioning is going down because I’m no longer meeting the search intent.
Another thing you can do with this data, other than just finding pages to optimize is that also clues you into where you could be running at, right? So I used to do this when some international organizations. Where if a blog article impression started increasing, trending, I’m going to run a display ad on the mom blogs, on the local news stations to drive more traffic to that landing page, to that article, to that recipe. Or, you can use that to inform your social media or your email marketing. So, those are the pages that people are interested in finding to help them find it.
We can take this a step further. We can open our GA4 search query report and we can see that data from Search Consoles. We can see the impressions increasing, we can see the queries or the engagement increasing or decreasing. But, we can also see the engagement data from our website itself. So, they came through these landing pages and then did they take the action on our site that we wanted them to take? Whatever action that is, whatever makes you money, so that you can make sure that the pages you’re optimizing for are going to pay off in the end as far as revenue goes. Those are my tips for Search Console with seasonal data analysis.
Two more points since I think we have time, just to improve your tools in general, consider moving to server-side tracking. You can set this up with Google Tag Manager. It’s going to improve your event tracking. So, what is server-side tracking, client-side tracking is it’s calculating it from the computer, sending the signal. There’s a lot of reasons why you might lose that. You could lose that from the privacy updates happening with Apple or Firefox. You can use that from the user navigating away from the page before that event sent. But if you have server-side tracking set up, you’re going to capture a lot more of that event data.
The other one I want to mention is BigQuery, and I dropped that in the chat about how you can still get realtime reporting by linking GA4 data to BigQuery and then using BigQuery in your Looker Studio dashboard. So BigQuery, a lot of people are afraid of it, and they haven’t made that connect yet because they’re still trying to figure out GA4. Don’t be afraid of BigQuery. It’s pretty much just like a giant Excel sheet that’s going to host all of your data, and it’s not retroactive. So even if you’re not ready to play with BigQuery yet, definitely get that connection going, so you can learn more about it in 2024.
Melissa Rice (00:40:13):
Awesome, thank you so much. And, I’m just going to drop one thing in our list here. Casey, some bloggers noticed changes in search rankings and traffic since the last wave of Google updates. What should bloggers focus on doing first in your opinion?
Casey Markee (00:40:30):
Well, the first thing they’d want to do is understand the nature of the update or updates that could have possibly impacted them. We want to research and understand the specifics of any core updates. Google does a really good job of explaining how to track these and even provides information on them by means of a dashboard. I’ve gone ahead and pasted over that dashboard into the notes so everyone can see it. It’s called the Search Status dashboard gives you an idea of what updates have run, when they plan to end, and other information by means of hyperlinks, so you can understand how each of the updates specifically work.
After we kind of understand… Well, before we do that, I also want to mention, and we’ve talked about this before, use the Penguin tool. Last time we pasted this, what happened? We brought the site down, so maybe we can do that again, but we’re going to go ahead and paste that over. The Penguin tool is updated regularly. It’s very good. It’s very easy to use. You log in, you give permission to your analytics, and it provides an overview of your analytic patterns against reported updates from Google. So it’s a very, very quick and easy way to see if I’ve been affected specifically by which updates and when that update would’ve affected me even down to the hour and time, so well worth your time to look there.
Once we’ve done there and we’ve determined whether or not we’ve been affected by the update, we need to determine things like evaluating content quality. We need to determine if there’s some user intent alignment issues. We want to check our E-E-A-T factors, and we want to monitor the competitor landscape. We want to keep an eye on which competitors are faring, which competitors were negatively impacted by the updates, which competitors were not affected at all by the updates. Most people are following their rankings closely enough to notice if someone new was elevated above them, and likewise, we’d want to compare that result to ours and see if we notice any patterns or any compare and contrast issues with that information.
And this has been the hardest one to understand, but we also need to really accept patience and monitor the issue. I get this. I know it’s tough to wake up one day and find that your traffic is anywhere from 30 to 70% down and everyone decides, “Okay, I’ve got to do everything I can to recover,” and they throw literally everything at the screen including the kitchen sink and it does nothing for them. And then, they’ll come to us to help even a couple weeks or a couple months later, and they’ve muddied the data and the changes so much that it’s almost impossible for us to determine, other than going back and using the archive.org or way back machine to see exactly what the situation was before they retained an expert.
I get it. I understand how important this is. People have lost livelihoods. Trust me, I have done nothing but these traffic drop audits for the last several months, and I have plenty of bloggers who, again, I wish there was more than I could do than provide a sympathetic ear and tell them we have to be patient. But even if we recover all of the traffic or if we identify and we make all the changes, the algorithms are not instantaneous. It’s going to take months for them to trust the changes. You can view it as a flag. You can view it as a trigger.
But if you are hit by these updates, whether it’s a core update, a spam update, a reviews update, or the helpful content update, it’s not an instantaneous fix. We have to make improvements and then we have to get Google to recrawl and see those improvements and basically remove the flag against our site so that we can spring forward again when it’s reran. They say that the systems are running constantly, but that’s just not honestly in reality what we’re seeing. We’re seeing that it’s taking several months for sites to recover, and what can we do while we’re waiting and we’re bleeding all this traffic? Well, what we can do is have you focus on the non-Google part of your search efforts. Let’s revisit your Pinterest focus. Let’s revisit what you’re doing on social. Let’s revisit whether or not web stories is an option for you because we have control over those. We don’t necessarily have any control over how long it’s going to take Google to come back, recrawl, and reassess our site and our efforts.
So, understand it’s not personal. It’s not just a you issue, it’s just that it takes a while for Google core updates to run for your rankings to stabilize and for Google to rerun the same algorithms against your new improved efforts. And so, please understand it is not personal. I have had plenty of bloggers cry on the phone with me over the last couple months telling me that this is unrecoverable. I can assure you it is recoverable. You just have to be patient, and you have to work through the advice you’re getting from actual professionals. So, good luck out there.
Melissa Rice (00:45:22):
I want to save some time for the Q & A, but Arsen, I’ve gotten a quick question for you. Can you share some insights on how to make sense of what’s happened during an update? I know Casey kind of already rolled through it, but any other details?
Arsen Rabinovich (00:45:33):
Okay, so this is a good question because we’ve been getting, we got swamped, I think after New York. There was a bunch of updates that rolled out. Everybody thought they got affected by the helpful content update. “Oh my God, I got hit by helpful content.” When we actually look at what happened, I think out of, I don’t know, maybe like 50, 60 websites that we reviewed since then, I’ve only sought one actual helpful content update hit. It might feel like one, but it’s not. It’s not. Okay, so you want to look at your GSE. You want to see how the keywords actually behaved over that period of time where you saw the decline. So if you see a keyword and keep in mind with GSE negative movement is good, positive movement is bad when you’re looking at average position. So, moving from position three to position one is negative movement. That’s good. It’s a little confusing when you’re looking at it. Just remember, negative is good, positive is bad.
So behavior of keywords, we can safely assume that if you were ranking in the top 10 positions, and you’ve declined from there and remained in the top 20 positions, the Google is essentially telling you here that your content is still relevant to the query. It’s just somebody else who’s doing a better job at optimizing for it. And, we talk about optimizing how? Making sure the content matches the query, making sure you’re satisfying the intent and making sure you’re covering the topic in its entirety, based on what Google assumes that entirety to be. And, you’ve heard me say this ad nauseum, right, Andrew? That’s the word, right? Okay, so movement, two position drops, two position drops, three position drops. You remain in top 20. That’s not a helpful content hit.
You got just shuffled around. That’s a normal fluctuation. You just got to optimize. You moved out of the top 20, you’re further away from relevancy. Take a look at what Google telling you. Look at the top 10 results. How close is your content coming to what you’re seeing there? And, you’ll start noticing that, “Hey, I am further away from what Google is expecting to see from that content.” You can also look at any tool Semrush you or Semrush. You can look at key search and look, put in your URL for that post and you’ll see what you’re ranking for now after the update. What shot up, some keywords went down, some keywords shot up. What shot up. That’s going to tell you what Google is seeing, what’s Google deriving from that post? So if you had a post that was ranking for one keyword and it dropped off, you want to take a look at that post and see what Google is ranking now. That will also help you understand what Google is deriving from that content.
So, you want to look at the behavior of the keywords that have declined. You staying within top 20. Good. Just optimize the post. You dropped out of the top 20. Now you got to look at what’s happening. Why? Am I not satisfying intent? Am I not covering the topic? Do I have a 300 word post for something that Google is ranking 3000 word articles for? Look at all of that.
And then, the last one is you completely dropped off. You’re not on top 100, you don’t exist anymore. So typically, that’s two things. Either the page itself is problematic, which rarely happens, rarely happens. The other thing is that Google found a different page on your website that’s relevant for that keyword. So, there’s a way to do this in GSE, and I think we have it in one of our webinars where we talked about content audits and that we have a process. I think Casey was showing how he does that. That’s it for my answer. That’s my story.
Melissa Rice (00:49:10):
Someone said, “Bah humbug,” Arsen. Okay, we’ve got about 10 minutes. I’m going to jump into the Q & A’s here. Janice has a question right away. “If you have a list of great side dishes to serve with your main course, does Google see the Feast FSRI block as navigational or does it give it link juice?”
Casey Markee (00:49:30):
The FSRI block for Feast, the Feast Simple Recipe Index block. Those are links, they count. They’re just not as great as an in content contextual link. Look at the links on table. Just very quickly go through the links on a page. We have an in content link. It’s in the main content. It’s surrounded by other content. For example, you said, “Banana cream pie,” and it’s surrounded in a sentence where you’re talking about banana cream pie. That’s literally probably based upon what all we’ve seen, the most valuable link you can have on a page because there’s a contextual relevancy to that link. It’s on the page. Let’s say that you had a list of links on the page, just a text link list, text link, text link, text link. Still a valid link, not as valuable as an in content link.
Now, look at the third kind of links, which is the FSRI block, which is just a photo and a text link. Same thing, still a valid link, just not as strong or valid as an in content link. Right after that, you have image links, same thing, image links, still valuable, but lower than the other three links we just spoke out. And then as Arsen just talked about, we have links on the sidebar and on the footer, and those are navigational in many cases. They are still counted as links, but let’s say that they’re 0.2 of the value of a regular link. Just to put some kind of a number to it. We have no idea because no one knows. We could just have to guess.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:50:56):
We’re assuming, right.
Casey Markee (00:50:56):
But let’s say for our assumptions, that link is about the value of one fifth of the other links on the page. That’s how you should look at it. You’re not wasting links, but please don’t have a recipe post where all you have on the page is an FSRI block of links and call it a day. That’s not good, correct, or qualified internal linking.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:51:15):
Right. Think context. Whenever you’re looking at your post, and you’re evaluating for internal links, think context. How clear is the page that I’m sending a user to? How am I explaining what the page is? The more context you provide, the more of that contextual signal will pass through that link.
Andrew Wilder (00:51:36):
Can I also just add real quick, it’s really easy to get caught up in the, “What’s the algorithm thinking?” But, Google really wants you to write for readers. I’m just going to throw that back in there. So, it makes sense what Casey just said in that context, right? If you’re writing an article on something and you link to something else in the context of the paragraph of the text, it is more important. And, that’s why Google weights that more.
Melissa Rice (00:51:59):
Nisha asked, “Can’t we use the title of the blog post as an anchor text, example, this tofu turkey pairs well with my “healthy cranberry sauce recipe” on my site?
Arsen Rabinovich (00:52:11):
Absolutely. Yeah. So what I usually like to do is if you actually take a look, I’m not saying you should run a crawl, but if you take a look, you’ll see that there’s already a lot of internal links using your entire post as the anchor text, because that’s just how WordPress and your themes are handling things out of the box. They’re using the title of the post as the clickable part in your excerpts and whatever it is. So, there is value in getting a little bit creative and really focusing in on or around that topic or that keyword that you want to rank for, right? So, without dilution or without over saturation.
Melissa Rice (00:52:47):
Perfect. Rachel has a question. She says, “Should we update our homepage publish date if we are updating it with seasonal content every month/quarter?”
Casey Markee (00:52:59):
Your homepage is getting refreshed regularly. You just don’t realize it every time you update or send new featured content on it by means of widgets that’s getting recrawled by Google. You’re good. You don’t have to worry about pinging Google to your homepage over and over. It’s fine.
Melissa Rice (00:53:18):
Okay, wonderful. Katie asks, “Are site’s actually recovering in several months if they are doing all of the right things?”
Casey Markee (00:53:25):
Melissa Rice (00:53:25):
Casey Markee (00:53:25):
No. So, we’re going to talk about this right now. We have seen a very-
Arsen Rabinovich (00:53:25):
Let’s talk about it-
Casey Markee (00:53:34):
… small percentage of sites that have recovered fully, as a matter of fact, less than 7%. And, a lot of those didn’t have the issues that we’ve been seeing. It’s because they haven’t rerun those algorithms. If you were hit by the helpful content update and you were hit, and you know were hit by the helpful content update because you’ve talked to a professional and they’ve said based upon their opinion and where you fall on the algorithm, “You were hit,” most of them have not recovered yet.
Now, you’ve been able to build traffic because you added new and better content. But, there still might be a flag on your site that won’t be removed until that algorithm is rerun against your site, or you’ve changed a significant amount of the content that caused you to get hit in the first place. It’s too soon. So until we see another helpful content update, honestly, I wouldn’t expect a full recovery from anyone. And even then, it’s very seldom that you ever have a full recovery when you get hit by an algorithm. You have close, but never a full, because we fundamentally changed the site when we were working on it.
Melissa Rice (00:54:33):
Okay, Michelle asks, “Thoughts on Semrush as a tool. I’ve been using it for years, but the organic search reporting, my blog seems to be dramatically different than Google Analytics. It’s always been slightly off, but not by tens of thousands. Talking to other bloggers, there seems to be off as well.”
Arsen Rabinovich (00:54:54):
So, I can answer that. So look, depends on which part of Semrush you’re looking into. If you’re looking at domain analytics, those numbers are all calculated. They’re not pulling directly from your Search Console or your analytics. They’re calculating it based on percentages.
Casey Markee (00:55:11):
Arsen Rabinovich (00:55:12):
Well, so clickstream data, but when they tell you what your actual traffic is, it’s like what your traffic from Google to your site is, it’s a calculation because they’re assuming that if you’re number three, you’re doing an average of five to 10% and then based on everybody who’s ranking there. So, that’s the calculation. That’s why it’s off. Now, if you’re looking at actual, if you set up a project for yourself and you go in there and you set up keyword tracking and you add your analytics and you add your Search Console, it’s going to bring the data in and be as close to what you’re seeing inside of those tools from Google.
Casey Markee (00:55:42):
And that’s the issue, is that most people don’t set up their sites as a project and they wonder why the data doesn’t match what they think they’re seeing elsewhere.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:55:51):
Melissa Rice (00:55:51):
Okay. Let’s see. We’ve got a few more minutes. Let see if we can get through these last three questions. David asks, “Can you explain more about the email messages Google was sending publishers about spikes?”
Casey Markee (00:56:03):
Yeah, they’re very common. Actually, if you go to Facebook page, David, I know you have access to it, there’s a whole section there showing all the emails I received three days before Thanksgiving showing all the sites that had received, set new daily records on various keyword phrases. You have received those in the past, you just aren’t aware of them. I’ve seen them myself. So if those are news to you, make sure you continue to check your Google account, check your spam. I wouldn’t be surprised if you got at least one or two. I wouldn’t lose any sleepover them if you didn’t get any, but that usually happens every year. Something goes crazy on a site and Google wants to let you know, “Oh, whoa, slow down. We’re tracking a search query that’s up 4000%. Congratulations.” And then, they’ll send you a little notice that says, “This change in traffic could be the result of seasonal changes or because of improvements you’ve made on the page,” and that is literally the sole content of the message.
Melissa Rice (00:57:02):
Wonderful. Colleen asks, “Regarding updating content, is it still advisable to leave post ranking in the one to three positions alone?”
Arsen Rabinovich (00:57:12):
Do not touch.
Casey Markee (00:57:13):
In most cases, absolutely. Yeah. Again, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I know a lot of people are like, “Oh my gosh, I really want to go in and I want to do this,” but at no time has it ever been more precarious than at this moment in time with regards to Google visibility, so let’s go ahead and keep the winners as they are and work on the lower hanging fruit when we can.
Arsen Rabinovich (00:57:34):
Internal links, back links is what you should be focusing on in those situations.
Melissa Rice (00:57:38):
Yeah, resist the urge to edit. Okay. Bianca has our final question here for our Q & A. “We are not currently serving next gen image formats as a recipe blog. Is this something that we should be jumping on right now and correcting before the Christmas period?”
Andrew Wilder (00:57:55):
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, no. No. Next gen images, that’s Google’s way of pushing their own proprietary protocol or a format called WebP. In reality, it doesn’t matter what format the image is in, it matters how big the image is. If you use a tool like short pixel or imagify and you compress properly, you’ve optimized an image before you upload it and you compress it properly, it’s probably going to be smaller than WebP and look better actually.
In my tests, the WebP images that are automatically generated from those end up being larger a lot of the time, so it’s really about file size. And if you start doing WebP on your own server, you’re going to duplicate all your images. You’re going to start running out of disc space. We just constantly run into problems with that. If you do want to start optimizing images through a better tool, CloudFlare Polish is a fantastic one. It optimizes images on the fly, and it’ll only serve a WebP image if it’s actually smaller, and it only does it if the visitor or the device can actually serve or display a WebP image because still not all tools can process WebP. So as long as your images are a reasonable size, meaning under 200 or 300 kilobytes, you’re great and you don’t need to convert the format.
Melissa Rice (00:59:05):
Casey Markee (00:59:06):
Just jumping in on there, will that CloudFlare Polish convert PNG images to JPEG?
Andrew Wilder (00:59:11):
Casey Markee (00:59:12):
Okay. Is there any way to do that with Short Pixel?
Kayle Larkin (00:59:17):
I think it may serve them as WebP actually, if it can. I think it can do that conversion. I’d have to double check. Short pixel can convert PNG. As a general guideline, use PNG for images that have text line art, smooth fields, drawings, things like that, and use JPEG for photographs. It makes a big difference because if you’re starting to do your Pinterest images with a huge photograph and a little bit of text. Save those as JPEG as well, so those formats, it does make a difference that way for sure.
Melissa Rice (00:59:44):
That’s so vital. It’s so vital, saving them a certain way. All right guys, we did it. We’re only a minute over, and we’re all so festive still look at-
Casey Markee (00:59:56):
That’s right. Look at that.
Melissa Rice (00:59:57):
I think we graduated, so I’ve got to turn the tassel to the other side.
Arsen Rabinovich (01:00:00):
We’re done with this.
Casey Markee (01:00:00):
Oh, look at that. Can’t do it.
Arsen Rabinovich (01:00:00):
Casey Markee (01:00:00):
You’re going to put it in the back here.
Melissa Rice (01:00:10):
Kayle, thank you so much for joining us again. Always a pleasure to have you. Everyone watching from home and listening, thank you so much for joining us. We hope you have a terrific holiday season with your friends and your family or however you plan to celebrate this season. And yeah, we’ll have the recap up in about a week’s time, so all those links, all those things mentioned today, those tools, will be dropped there, and you’ll get an email if you’re subscribed.
Casey Markee (01:00:38):
Arsen Rabinovich (01:00:39):
Casey Markee (01:00:40):
Happy holidays everyone. We’ll see you on the other side. Be careful out there.
Arsen Rabinovich (01:00:43):