Ep. 184 - May 20, 2021 - Light Version

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In this episode, we discuss our current thoughts surrounding general algorithm turbulence in the SERPs, why MUM is important, if ADA compliance is ranking factor, the best SEO practices for ecomms and more!

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

  • Google’s latest advancement in understanding language: MUM
  • Is ADA compliance a ranking factor?
  • Lyndon NA discusses ‘term’ coverage
  • PBNs are pretty obvious says Google
  • The links report in Google Search Console is independent from the disavow tool
  • Google’s video on SEO best practices for eCommerce
  • Is sitemap processing tied to ranking changes?
  • Machine learning will enable Google Analytics to gather data when cookies aren’t available
  • Are you aware of the different business types and business categories that cannot access Google My Business Posts?
  • Split testing lessons related to adding ratings and reviews structured data to local pages
  • Ahrefs now has historical SERP snapshots
  • Our tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO articles
You’ll also have access to all past episodes, including this one.

News about Google’s Algorithms

Our thoughts on the latest Google algorithm turbulence

Once again there has been much turbulence in the SERPS this week. Barry Schwartz reported that there was much more industry chatter related to updates than usual. On May 13 many site owners reported massive drops in traffic. The same is true of May 15. We’ve marked both of these dates as significant in our algorithm update list. However, we have not thoroughly analyzed either of these dates as of yet.

It is interesting to note that several of our clients who saw traffic losses this week were ones for which we previously had removed manual actions for unnatural links. It is far too early to say anything conclusive yet, but it is possible that Google changed something in regards to how they value links. If true, we do not think that these sites were further punished. Rather, some of the remaining “good” links that were previously helping them rank may now be detected by Google as links that can be ignored because they aren’t true recommendations.

Given the recent news about Google’s latest advancement in understanding language, MUM (which is 1000x more powerful  than BERT), it would not surprise us if some of the recent turbulence is related to Google putting less emphasis on links as a proxy to understand whether content is good, and more on their understanding of the content itself.

Are these mini-updates or just normal ranking changes?

Since January of 2021, we have been talking about dates that we have called “mini-updates”. These are dates on which many site owners are talking about seeing ranking changes, many of our clients have significant changes in rankings and traffic, and also, in most cases, the SEO weather tools are spiking. 

Last week, Glenn Gabe and I were talking about the many mini-updates we have seen this year. Glenn asked Danny Sullivan whether Google was running more core updates lately and his answer was no as Google now announces these.

I asked Danny about these “smaller updates” he mentioned. Here was his response:

The blog post that Danny referenced is Google’s blog post on what site owners should know about core updates.

He added, “But we do have small updates that happen all the time. They can produce changes, as any update might. Plus, content itself is always changing, and since ranking is dynamic, that causes changes even if we made no updates at all.”

There is no doubt in my mind that we have seen a large number of small unannounced updates lately in Google’s effort to improve at returning results that best meet the needs of searchers. However, there is likely little value in us trying to figure out what it is that Google changed. If you have seen traffic declines lately, it may be because Google updated something in their algorithms that now makes your site look less attractive than your competitors. It’s also quite possible though that what you are seeing are just normal ranking changes as competitors improve, Google better understands their E-A-T related signals, and also as Google better understands the intent behind user queries.

In my podcast episode this week (embedded at the top of this page), I’ll speak a little bit about an article I read this week where Bill Slawski writes about a new patent Google was recently granted (hint, this is MUM), that allows them to get even better at matching relevant content to a user’s query.

Our advice, no matter what the cause of your decline in traffic remains the same. Thoroughly read the Quality Raters’ Guidelines (or buy our book that contains much of the checklist we use when analyzing a website through the eyes of a quality rater), improve how you demonstrate E-A-T both on and off your site wherever possible, do all you can to be technically sound, and most importantly right now, look at what has changed in terms Google’s understanding of intent and relevancy for the keywords that have lost rankings. 

MHC Announcements

Disavowing for 2021. MHC’s annual report

ICYMI, we published our disavow article this week that includes Marie’s full thoughts on what disavowing is like in 2021. It answers the main question: should you still be disavowing? Feel free to leave comments on the post, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

Google Announcements

Google introduces a brand new web series: Getting Started with Page Experience

This is an introduction to page experience, but advertised for everyone. The series will walk you through optimization for the new and improved page experience ranking metric. This is super important for many reasons, but we know that Google is really striving to consider the experience for users, and this is another step towards that. We’ll follow along with this web series and jump back with any great tips. 

SEO Tips

SEO, the magic ingredient behind these large brands

Kieran Flanagan (SVP Marketing at HubSpot) discusses how some of the largest brands in the world have relied on SEO to accelerate their growth. More specifically, he outlines how instances such as RapGenius leveraging user generated content to stand out from the pack, Pinterest’s move to refocus their attention on topic clusters, HubSpot’s dedication to fulfilling educational content for business builders and more. 


Copywriting tips to write like a pro!

Strong copy has the ability to drive action or inspire trust with users. This is a great thread of writing activities to help you make your copy worthwhile. Get your brain in the zone, and practice writing for different reasons and audiences. It may just help you step up your game. 

Local SEO - Google SERP Changes

Google My Business ‘Services’ justifications rolling out across additional GMB categories

Originally appearing back in 2018, the Services section of your GMB dashboard appears to be where Google is pulling this data directly from to show to users. As more GMB categories are being linked to this SERP feature, we’d suggest that you take a moment to verify that your titles are in line with what you want users to see.

SEO Tools

Yoast has improve schema capabilities

Yoast now supports some new enhancements related to authorship which should have many of you excited! As Lily shows, you’re now able to implement items such as ‘expertise in’ and ‘awards.’

If any of you missed it back in April of 2020, Lily has a phenomenal article on how to use structured data to support E-A-T that is a worthwhile read.

Recommended Reading

The State of Link Building Report 2021 – Paddy Moogan
May 17, 2021

Paddy Moogan and the folks at Aira released a huge report on the state of link building in 2021. The report covers so much in the realm of link building to tactics and techniques, to reporting, to agency and in-house SEO specific questions. Every section has insight from many industry experts as well giving their comments and thoughts on the questions asked! This is a huge data-driven report and provides so much information and insight on how the industry approaches link building. 


Google’s Top Products Carousel: Everything You Need to Know – Andrew Shotland
May 12, 2021

Andrew Shotland makes some sharp observations over at SEJ on the new Top Products Carousel (TPC) SERP feature, which includes a product name and linked image, an average rating across a number of review sources, a short summary of product features, and a collection of review cards for the searcher to flip through. 


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It’s well worth the $18 per month. Want to see a sample premium newsletter episode? View it here.

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

  • Our tl;dr summary of some awesome recent SEO articles
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