Ep. 164 - Dec. 23, 2020 - Light Version

Looking for the premium members version? Log in here

In this episode, we discuss the latest on the December core update (including a possible tweak on December 18 and whether the core update is connected to BERT), the return of the Request Indexing tool, Google’s year in review, site migration advice, structured data tips, and much more!​

SYNCU Podcast

Marie’s Podcast for this episode

If you would like to subscribe, you can find the podcasts here:
Apple PodcastsSpotify | Google Play | Soundcloud

Ask Marie an SEO Question

Have a question that you want to ask Marie? You can ask them on our Q&A with Marie Haynes Consulting page and Marie will answer some of the best questions each week in podcast!

Not a premium subscriber? You're missing out!

It’s well worth the $18 per month.

The following topics are covered in the premium version of this episode:

  • Full analysis of the latest on the December core update
  • SERoundtable makes a recovery
  • Was the December core update connected to BERT?
  • How does organic traffic react when a two-step email signup component is added to pages?
  • How to create success with Core Web Vitals
  • A content Migration Guide from Bing
  • What kinds of rich results can sites with adult content have?
  • Is passage-based ranking live yet?
  • Our tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO articles
You’ll also have access to all past episodes, including this one.

Algorithm Updates

We are continuing to analyze the December core update. In last week’s episode of the newsletter, we discussed the following:

  • Many sites affected December 3, saw further changes in traffic on December 10. We shared some analytics of sites affected with our premium readers.
  • Danny Sullivan confirmed that the update affects Google’s entire index page by page.
  • He also confirmed that the update had finished rolling out by December 16.
  • While this update affected most verticals on the web, we did see greater impact in our alternative medical sites.
  • We theorized a lot about how Google’s use of Natural Language Processing frameworks could help them understand more about user intent. We’ve expanded on this in today’s premium episode of the newsletter as new information has become available.

If you’re interested in subscribing to the newsletter, you will have access to all of our past episodes. We’ve been discussing and theorizing about the December core update for several weeks now.

This week, while we do not feel we have this update figured out completely, we discuss whether or not the update is connected to Google’s use of Natural Language Processing frameworks, whether ad experience is potentially a bigger factor now, and what we are seeing with alternative medical sites right now.

What MHC is analyzing now

We have put more time into analyzing this update than any in the past! Usually by now, the patterns are fairly obvious to us, but this update is an unusual one. Here is what we are continuing to investigate and theorize upon:

  • Did Google make changes to how they assess alternative medical topics? Several of our alt med clients saw nice improvements across the board with this update. We feel that Google may have made strides in being able to understand which of these pages are trustworthy. In the past, we feel that a lot of alt-med content was simply discounted by Google even though it was the type of content many people were searching for.
  • Is Google paying more attention to headings now? It is very interesting to note that in most cases, we can see that pages that improved with this update are ones that have made good use of headings. We’ll likely have more information on this in future newsletters.
  • Are excessive ads more of a factor now? After reading Kevin Indig’s observations above, we are going to do more investigation into whether sites that saw declines tended to have bad ad experiences. It should be noted that Google’s blog post on core updates includes this question, “Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?”

We don’t claim to completely understand Google and we don’t expect that anyone in the SEO community will be able to reverse engineer this update. Our goal, however, is to find as many ways as possible for our clients and our newsletter subscribers to be able to improve their websites in ways that Google may reward.

December 18 – possible tweak to the core update

SERoundtable reported that many sites were seeing further changes on December 18. We did have a few clients who saw improvements on December 3 and appear to have had a further boost on December 18:

We also saw sites that had a decline on December 3 that appears to have gotten worse December 18.

Google did share with us last week that the update finished rolling out as of the 18th. We do not know whether Google made changes or tweaks to the update, or whether what we are seeing here is simply a continuation of the initial rollout. 

We haven’t analyzed this potential tweak in great detail as of yet as many of the sites that are affected generally see turbulent traffic patterns at this time of year.

We have read some great articles on this update this week. 

Glenn Gabe’s thoughts on the update so far. This is a must-read for those who were affected by this update.

Kevin noted that some large, authoritative domains that lost traffic in May, recovered with this update, including nfl.com, creditkarma.com, nerdwallet.com, pexels.com and verrywellhealth.com. He also noted that some sites that declined with the May update declined even further with this one, including drugs.com, fandango.com, 9gag.com and howstuffworks.com. It is also interesting to note that Wikipedia lost a LOT of traffic with this update.

Kevin theorized that UX could be a factor in this update as many of the sites that improved truly had a better user experience. He pointed out that sites like howstuffworks.com that saw declines often had a horrible ad experience.

We resonated with how Kevin ended his article saying, “We’re not living in times of linear correlations anymore. There is no single factor that determines whether a site wins or loses in a core update.”

Stay tuned for more information as Marie has been asked to write an article about this update, for Search Engine Land to publish. This should be out later this week.

MHC Announcements

This is our final newsletter of 2020, as the MHC team will be taking a holiday break! Our office will be closed this year from December 24th until January 4th.

Thank you for another amazing year of SNYCU and we look forward to sharing the newsletter again with you on January 6th, 2021! Wishing you all a happy holiday and New Year! 

Ahrefs Tip of the Week

Using Ahrefs to rank for more featured snippets

We were intrigued by this post from Ahrefs this week.

You can use Ahrefs’ keyword explorer to find some really quick wins when it comes to getting a featured snippet. If you are an Ahrefs subscriber we’d encourage you to go through this exercise:

1) Put your domain into Ahrefs. We use, “mariehaynes.com”.

2) Click on Organic Keywords in the left sidebar

3) Use the filters to include, “what is, what are”

You’ll now be shown a list of pages on your site that has content that could potentially be better formatted to answer a searcher’s question in a way that Google may choose as a featured snippet.

Here is the list that showed for our site:

For example, on our article on whether Better Business Bureau ratings can affect your ability to rank is ranking on page two for “What is a bbb rating”. There is a good chance we could win a featured snippet if we went into that post and add a paragraph that starts with “What is a BBB rating”? We would then follow that heading with a couple of sentences that succinctly answers the question. There is a good chance we would increase rankings for this query, and potentially win a featured snippet in doing so.

Google Announcements

Google’s year in review

Google’s search central blog posted a recap of all of their internal changes that 2020 brought on despite how weird of a year it’s been.

  • Search Console launched a handful of new stuff from the removals report, crawl stats report to improved data exporting and Search Console API updates
  • Google announced the new Core Web Vitals and UX metrics that will contribute to the page experience ranking factor.
  • Google Developer’s blog changed their name from Google Webmasters to  Google Search Central.
  • Their Webmaster Conference shifted online adopting the new title of “Virtual Unconference”
  • They launched ‘special announcement search results’ to better deliver crucial and relevant information in the search results

Way to go Google!

Request Indexing is back in Search Console!

After a little over two months, Google has re-enabled the “Request indexing” function of the URL Inspection Tool in Search Console:

This feature is commonly used when site owners published a new page or made significant changes to an existing page, as a way to call Googlebot to the page in order to index the new page/version of the page. If you have a number of URLs that you want Google to crawl and index, the best method is still to submit a sitemap.

Additionally, just because you’ve used this function to request indexing, there is no guarantee that the page will be included in Google’s index. While it may seem like a handy way to expedite crawling and indexing, Google still seeks out high quality, useful content.

For now though, Leonie Mann has summed up our feelings on this pretty accurately:

SEO Tips

Google explains how they handle inconsistencies between content and structured data markup

Does your structured data markup match with the content on your page? John says their systems explicitly check for confirmation of structured data before it (possibly) gets shown in the Search results. This is because Google wants to be positive that what they’re showing is on a page can actually be found on that page.

Episode #1 of Sustainable Monetized Websites

Here’s a new web series from Google that’s all about the policies, guidelines, and best practices that are geared towards people who monetize their content online:

This series is hosted by Googler Aurora Morales, who works in Policy Education for Publishers, who explains in Episode 1 a bit of what this webinar is about and who may benefit from it. Some of the topics this webinar will be covering are best policies and guidelines on navigation, creating unique and original content, and how to use the tools that are available — such as the Publisher Policy Center, Search Console, and Site Kit — to measure your performance.

Episode 2 will be about the importance of healthy navigation, which we’re already looking forward to!

How to generate PR content ideas for the upcoming month(s)

We spotted this handy tip from Mark Rofe on coming up with topic ideas for content to pitch. Using Google News, search for terms that are relevant for your niche and limit the date range to a specific month. This will show you all the topics that people generally write about for that month, so now you know what kind of content to focus on creating.

Are you using this tip when doing competitor research?

This comes from Stephen Kenwright, and it’s something that we also rely on pretty heavily here at MHC, too. Adding /domain/{yourdomain.tld} to forums such as Reddit (or others that may be well-known within a particular industry) is a quick way to see all the times that people have submitted something from your site, or read what they’re saying about you. It’s great for finding ideas for content creation, what people are happy with about your brand, and even a place to gather complaints in order to help address common issues people are having with your brand, service, or products!

In case you missed it, Bing now supports HowTo schema in the SERPs

We’re unsure when this came out but Frédéric Dubut of Bing says that they’ve been experimenting with a lot of carousels lately. Now you know!

Google Help Hangout Tips

How long does it take Google to evaluate your site after you’ve been making improvements to your site’s quality?

John Mueller said in the most recent Help Hangout that it can take Google several months for them to understand a site after significant quality improvements have been made. So if you’ve been impacted negatively by a Core Update, it can take quite a bit of time for Google to reassess. While it depends on a lot of different factors, this is especially true for large websites. It will most likely take longer than a month for you to see any possible improvements in your organic (or Discover!) traffic:

Further to this, if you are a site that is constantly publishing new content (a news site, for example), then Google is going to be focusing more on the newer content for indexing… but that doesn’t mean that you can just ignore old, low quality content while focusing on creating new, high quality content. Google balances the overall quality of content:

Local SEO

Another week of all green on BrightLocal’s RankFlux tool:

Looks like no significant changes to Google’s Local Search algorithm, and things have been fairly steady all week. 

Now that this year is almost over, BrightLocal’s Year in Local Search article couldn’t be a more timely review of all the changes that have happened in Local Search over the past year. If you’re like us, it probably feels like three years ago, but it was just last January that we were all discussing Google’s deduplication change! We found this to be a great time capsule of the past year and a really handy reminder of how many things have changed in a (relatively!) short period of time.

SEO Tools

Whitespark just launched a complete redesign of their Local Rank Tracker:

Congrats, Darren, and everyone at Whitespark… we can’t wait to try it out!

Recommended Reading

How to Come Up With Tangential Content Ideas — Whiteboard Friday – Amanda Milligan
December 4, 2020

On a recent episode of Whiteboard Friday, Amanda Milligan deep dives into why site owners should be paying attention to tangential content. 


Why your content strategy needs both rank-worthy and link-worthy content in the mix – Amanda Milligan
December 8, 2020

In this post, Amanda talks about how marketers should think about the content they are producing.


Want More?

Premium members also get the following:

It’s well worth the $18 per month!

The following topics are covered in the premium version of this episode:

  • Full analysis of the latest on the December core update
  • SERoundtable makes a recovery
  • Was the December core update connected to BERT?
  • How does organic traffic react when a two-step email signup component is added to pages?
  • How to create success with Core Web Vitals
  • A content Migration Guide from Bing
  • What kinds of rich results can sites with adult content have?
  • Is passage-based ranking live yet?
  • Our tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO articles
You’ll also have access to all past episodes, including this one.

Note: If you are seeing the light version and you are a premium member, be sure to log in (in the sidebar on desktop or below the post on mobile) and read the full article here.

Part of the challenge of SEO is staying on top of industry news, trends, and techniques There is so much information out there that it is easy to get bogged down in information overload and trying to disseminate what’s truly important from all that noise can be really time-consuming and challenging.

Marie’s newsletter is a game changer because it manages to cut through the fluff and deliver high-quality information that is not only really important for those that do SEO, but it is presented in a format that is really easy to absorb.

If you are looking for a trusted information related to search that is highly actionable I would strongly recommend Marie’s newsletter.

– Paul Macnamara – Offers SEO Consulting at PaulMacnamara.com

Premium Members Login

Lost your Password?

Register for Search News You Can Use

Personal Information

Invalid Coupon Code

Card Details

USD 18.00 Every Month

Register for Search News You Can Use

Personal Information

Invalid Coupon Code

Card Details

USD 18.00 Every Month