Wild SERP Turbulence, NotebookLM, Important Bard updates, Code Interpreter Uses for SEO and a LOT of AI News: Episode 295, July 17, 2023

Last week’s episode (294)  See all episodes Subscriber Content

There is a ridiculous amount of information in this week’s newsletter! Google News continues to face widespread indexing issues leading to publisher traffic declines. Also, we’re seeing “Googlequake” levels of volatility in US search results. I’ll share some data on the fluctuations.

In the subscriber section I’ve shared some data showing what I believe to be ongoing helpful content updates causing SERP turbulence. 

There are so many new developments in AI including massive improvements to Bard worth noting, Claude opened to all in the US and examples of people getting good, practical use out of Code Interpreter.

Speaking of Claude, I used it to summarize many SEO articles so I could share them with you, and it did an incredible job.

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In this episodesemrush sensor very high

SEO News & Tips

  • Widespread Google News indexing issues causing publisher traffic drops
  • Search volatility hitting “Googlequake” levels in the US & other countries too
  • Analysis of key dates showing possible ongoing helpful content updates (subscriber only)
  • Many sites getting INP Core Web Vital Warnings

AI News & Tips (I put the exploding head emoji on a few because wow…these are so game changing!)

  • New updates to Google Bard including searching with an image🤯
  • Claude writing assistant now available to all in the US and UK – it’s so good🤯
  • Google NotebookLM will let us use our Google docs as grounding for AI 🤯
  • Creative uses of Code Interpreter for SEO and data analysis (the SEO part for subscribers only)🤯
  • Study showing users enjoy ChatGPT more than Google for answering questions

Also, summaries of some great articles published this week.

The subscriber content contains a few extra goodies like prompts I used and dates I expect are related to helpful content updates recently. Also, extensive thoughts on using AI writing tools for content generation, including some thoughts on understanding the topic layer of the knowledge graph.

Not able to subscribe? You’ll still learn lots each week in newsletter. Sign up here so I can send you an email each week when it’s ready:

SEO News & Tips

Google Working to Fix Widespread Google News Indexing Issue Causing Traffic Drops

Google has confirmed an ongoing indexing issue in Google News that has caused decreased traffic for many publishers starting in late June. Google said it is affecting all sites and they are working to identify the root cause. Publishers have reported significant drops in visibility and traffic. Google later said they identified the problem and implemented a fix, though some publishers have yet to see full recovery. 

As of July 17, Google says they’ve identified the issue and have implemented a fix.

More on Search Engine Round Table.

There is also more on Search Engine Roundtable on the ongoing saga we touched on last week where Google is no longer recommending using a canonical tag for news syndication.

SERP Turbulence

We are still experiencing wild SERP Turbulence, especially in the US. The SEMrush sensor is showing “Googlequake” levels of change:

semrush sensor very high

It is not as high for other countries, but still increasing. On the weekend, we saw spikes in SERP turbulence across all of the countries Semrush monitors.

Google’s Danny Sullivan teased us, making me think for sure that a core update was imminent:

I did not initially understand the reference Danny was making here:

Claude explained for me:

Claude explaining Danny Sullivan's tweet

In the subscriber content, I share more on which dates have been the most impactful over the last few months and what I think they recommend. I have not updated my algo list in a while as it was getting kind of silly reporting on every day that the Semrush sensor is up.


Many Sites Got Warnings of INP Core Web Vitals Issues

Interaction to Next Paint is a new core web vital. If you got an email from Google this week, this is likely something that should be looked into. It’s a factor, although likely a tiny one. While INP is not yet something Google is considering in their algorithms, they will eventually.

INP is one element of page experience and likely not the most important one. Still, if Google is telling you you have issues here, I would recommend looking into fixing them.

This thread has excellent information to help answer your INP questions.

Other interesting SEO news & tips

Ahrefs had an update that makes a lot of sites look like they are doing well when they are not.

WordPress is planning a major revamp of its admin UI. 

You can turn insights into alerts in GA4:

John Mueller says that if you weren’t buying links, there’s no need to disavow.

There was some interesting discussion on images this week:

I don’t believe John is saying unique images are a direct ranking factor or that stock images are a negative ranking factor. Rather, if you are a professional photographer, probably you should be using your own images. If unique imagery can help make your content more valuable and insightful, they should be considered!

Here’s a good find by Gael Breton on what the QRG says about unique imagery.

Should you use unique images? I expect that in many cases this can give Google signals that are taken into account by the helpful content criteria. I think in many cases, unique imagery can contribute to the following:

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources, and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?

Lily Ray noticed a topic filter for “product comparison sites”

Product comparison shopping filter shared by Lily Ray

Schema and E-E-A-T tip:

Ezoic is closing its affiliate program.

There is a great summary of the latest Google SEO office hours on Google’s blog. I pasted the entire thing into Claude and asked it to list each question and a brief summary of the answer. I bolded a few that I thought were interesting:

  • Site not appearing in Google search results – issue with mobile crawling resulting in 403 errors. Need to fix site to allow mobile crawling.
  • Millions of 404s vs 301 redirects – Both are harmless, decide which is better for your specific scenario.
  • Canonical URLs for ecommerce category pages – Canonicalization works the same for Client Side Rendering or Server Side Rendering sites. Shorter URLs are better but not required.
  • Search results only show USD prices – Because Google mostly crawls from US, that’s the currency seen. Need separate URLs per currency.
  • Newly purchased domain shows 404 – Need web hosting and content for domain before it will show up in search.
  • Remove Chinese links – Disavow tool won’t remove links, just tells Google not to use them for ranking. Can ignore unwanted links.
  • Migrate to new domain – Many guides online for site migrations.
  • Unique product page content – Can provide genuine review, testing, useful info beyond manufacturer specs.
  • Separate Search Console reports by subdomain – Verify subdomains, then can view separate reports.
  • Lots of 404s negatively impact rankings? – No, 404s are harmless.
  • Get back in Google Discover – No easy way, focus on high quality content eligible for Discover.
  • Schema for affiliate site? – No special schema, use nofollow and sponsored to label affiliate links.
  • Good robots.txt tips – Depends on your site needs. See Google documentation.
  • How Google uses quality raters – Don’t directly change rankings, used to evaluate algorithm changes.
  • Redirects in Search Console – Common after migration, not a problem as long as redirecting properly.
  • Site not in search results – Verify in Search Console for fixes.
  • Stop domain used for email showing in search – Block with robots.txt or use noindex.
  • Site showing desktop index – Likely already mobile-first. Check Search Console crawler types.
  • Hreflang query string issues – Be consistent to avoid canonicalization problems.
  • Form design/position effects on SEO – No special impact, but position indicates content importance. (This was super interesting! John said, “The visual design doesn’t matter much, but where you place it on the site might give Google an idea of the importance of the content”.)
  • Removing pages to improve indexing – Focus on improving quality, not just reducing pages.
  • Using .ai domain – Now treated as gTLD, so can use for global presence.
  • Clear 404s in Search Console – No way to clear, automatically collected over time.
  • Indexing request for scholarly paper – Make sure indexed version is accessible without login.
  • Redirect practices for non-web URLs – Yes, same practices apply to PDFs, images, videos.
  • Partial hreflang implementation – Fine to use only for sections needing localization

Shopify just announced “Sidekick”, AI powered support that is like having a deeply confident Shopify and Entrepreneurship expert alongside you while you grow your business.

AI News & Tips

Google NotebookLM will let us use our Google Docs as grounding for AI

Google has started to roll out what we’ve previously referred to as Project Tailwind. This will give us the ability to make a personalized AI from our Google Docs. Wow. Starting today, testers can ground NotebookLM in specific Google Docs that you choose.

Then, you can use Google’s AI to summarize your notes or, most excitingly, ask questions. 

Google gives these examples:

  • A medical student could upload a scientific article about neuroscience and tell NotebookLM to “create a glossary of key terms related to dopamine”
  • An author working on a biography could upload research notes and ask a question like: “Summarize all the times Houdini and Conan Doyle interacted.”

I think this might be the beginning of a new paid search opportunity. Here’s what I imagine:

A user queries, “My traffic from Google is declining. How can I figure out why?”

Perhaps there is an AI generated answer shown to the searcher, alongside articles and videos that can help them. But imagine one option says, 

Discuss your traffic drop with Marie Haynes (AI Chatbot)

You could then converse with AI that is grounded in my own documents that I have created with advice on assessing traffic drops. 

It would be like using a conversational interface like Bard, but grounded in a specific expert’s knowledge base to provide more relevant, customized advice. Almost like getting quick access to an expert consultant through AI.

I can picture this being something that could be a new paid search opportunity where businesses who have spent years creating content to help their audience can now help a tremendous number of people!

I’m looking ahead though. For now, this is not a part of Google Ads, but I think it will be one day!

Here is the waitlist to sign up for NotebookLM.

Hope you enjoyed this episode! I’ve enjoyed writing it! There is so much going on.


Creating helpful content workbook

This book is very similar to my quality raters’ guidelines handbook that I wrote years ago and have published several revisions of. Its focus is to help you understand the helpful content system. It gives you questions to ask to improve your own content.

Here is an excerpt from the section where we talk about popularity as a component of reputation, and how Google uses the knowledge and shopping graphs to determine this.

The book is a combination of learning about how Google uses AI systems like the helpful content system. Then, it ends with several checklists and exercises you can work through to improve your content so that it best aligns with Google’s guidance on creating helpful, relevant content.

Here is the article that goes alongside this book. Google’s Helpful Content and Other AI Systems May be Impacting Your Site’s Visibility.

Click here to purchase the helpful content workbook.

Bard News

There were some big updates to Bard this week.

It is available in more countries, (but not Canada yet for some reason), and also in 40 languages.

You can now:

    • Listen to responses – good for asking for word pronunciation
    • Adjust the tone to simple, long, short, professional or casual
    • Save conversations👏
    • Export code to Replit & Google Colab
    • Share responses – Here’s one for you!
  • Use images as prompts (see the next section)

Bard is Connected to Google Lens

Bard identified a lot about this imageThis is a big deal. You can upload an image to Bard and converse about it. I tried a few queries. You can read here how I used Bard’s image recognition capabilities.

I uploaded this image and asked Bard, “What do you see in this image?” 

Bard recognized that there were two cats on a cat tree in front of a window. It did get a few details wrong, saying that the window was open and that there was a plant in the corner.

I expect you will see post after post of people pointing out how wrong Bard is in interpreting images. I expect it will get better and better and as people realize what it can do, it will change how people search. 

The title of Google I/O 2022, was, “Search your world, any way and anywhere.” Google said,

 “Though typing words into a search box has become second nature for many of us, it’s far from the most natural way to express what we need. For example, if I’m walking down the street and see an interesting tree, I might point to it and ask a friend what species it is and if they know of any nearby nurseries that might sell seeds. If I were to express that question to a search engine just a few years ago… well, it would have taken a lot of queries.

But we’ve been working hard to change that. We’ve already started on a journey to make searching more natural.”

I’ve shared more searches in my article.

I’d encourage you to try Bard’s image capabilities…not to find fault, but to learn what it can do. I expect we’ll see more and more exciting things in this area.

Setting the tone with Bard

I asked Bard for info about how we can set its tone.

setting the tone in bard

Then, I clicked on the slider and asked for “more casual”:

setting the tone with Bard

“Yo, I can give you factual info”.😂

Bard casual tone

Then I asked for “Simpler”

setting the tone with Bard

Claude Is Available to All in the US & UK - and is quite good!

I think we should be paying very close attention to Claude. Claude is not a Google product and as far as we know is not integrated into any of their products. However, in late 2022, Google invested around $300 million into the company that developed it, Anthropic. Google owns a 10% stake in the company.

This week, Claude opened up access to everyone in the US and UK. I fired up my VPN to test it out and was thoroughly impressed at how it helped me with writing.

It is an incredible editor:

Claude is a good editor

Claude is now the tool I am using most for assisting with writing. There are no limits (like how ChatGPT Plus limits you to a certain amount of tokens used every few hours) and I have found it to be incredibly good at helping me improve my writing and summarize this week’s stories. 

I have found, however, that it is not great at some things the other tools do better such as returning recent information.

Kristi Hines wrote even more on Claude.

I used Claude to summarize this article about itself:

The bit about Jasper is interesting. In the subscriber content I share my thoughts on using AI writing tools. 

Speaking of Jasper, the CEO wrote a blog post this week to share that Jasper has let go of a number of employees. They say they are reshaping their team to focus on where AI is going.

Google Wordcraft

Google’s Wordcraft is an open sourced AI writing tool.

There’s not much publicly published about this tool. Andrea Volpini suggested this may be the paper behind it

I uploaded the PDF to Claude and asked for a summary.

The authors conducted a study where 13 professional writers used an AI-powered writing assistant tool called Wordcraft over 8 weeks. Through interviews and journals, they found writers saw potential for AI to aid brainstorming and research, but it struggled to preserve style/voice and lacked deep story understanding. While some incorporated its text verbatim, others used it more for ideation. Key limitations were repetitive, bland suggestions as well as inadequate story comprehension and inability to maintain distinct voices. The authors conclude more research is needed for AI writing tools to account for diverse user goals, exhibit controllable creativity, and complement rather than replace human writers.”

ChatGPT Code Interpreter Uses

Last week I shared how I uploaded GSC data and used ChatGPT’s Code interpreter to overlay the dates of Google algorithm updates. I desperately want to do more with this, but have too many things I’m working on! I expect I will pick this up again soon and do more that I can share with you. Till then, here are some of the best examples I could find of people learning to use Code Interpreter.

As a reminder, Code interpreter draws on Python when it feels it can create code to best help you.

Detect faces on video.

Blur a face in video.

Remove blank space from an image.

Extract text from images and generate a text file of it.

Make an animated GIF out of a bar graph:

Make videos out of images:

Upload a CSV of 10 years of sales data and find the top 10% of zip codes by sales per capita.

In the subscriber content I’ve shared a bunch of the mind blowing uses for SEO including summarizing & making charts of GSC data, clustering keywords, classifying by intent and more.

A New Study Shows Users Find ChatGPT More Enjoyable than Google

A new study published in July 2023 found that people enjoy using ChatGPT more than Google for answering questions online. Users said ChatGPT was more fun and satisfying to use. But it was not as good at catching mistakes. 

Twitter, X.AI, and Creator Payments

On Friday Elon Musk did a Twitter Space to discuss X.ai.

This is a new AI company designed to “understand the true nature of the universe.” Musk says that the goal of X.ai is to determine what is true. It’s quite an interesting Space to listen to.

I have long suspected that Musk bought Twitter because it is such a valuable source of real time expert information. If something is happening in the world, Twitter is where you can find out what is happening right now, as it happens.

If you think a Google update is happening, many of you will look to Twitter to see whether several SEO experts are reporting about changes. If a financial crisis is happening, you can immediately get the thoughts of the world’s leading financial experts by seeing what they are saying on Twitter. Twitter’s real time data is so valuable.

I thoroughly enjoy sharing interesting things on Twitter, but it is unsettling when I think about how it will be used by X.Ai. Every word that you have ever said publicly on Twitter is available to this AI. I am continuing to work on a project I’ve hinted at over the last few months – a community for us to be able to share together in a safe place. I will share more details soon. (Funny story, ChatGPT and I had a big long talk this morning to help me decide whether to put out a podcast episode or get the membership group going. Podcast won. I so desperately want to get back to it! The group will happen soon though.)

Because experts are important to Twitter, they need to work to keep them. This is why we saw this week that Twitter will be doing more to reward the experts who create content.

This week many creators got huge payouts from Twitter.

Apparently more will follow:

You currently need at least 5 million impressions a month for 3 months in a row to qualify. That is a lot. Last month, I had just over a million impressions. 

Plan Based conditional generation could radically change Search

This tweet by Google AI intrigued me.

I didn’t understand what it meant so I asked Bard to explain it. I then asked whether this new technology had implications for search. Bard said what Google is describing here has the potential to revolutionize search.

Implications for search re plan based conditional generation

ChatGPT said this technology could revolutionize how users interact with search engines.


My SGE access came back! And then it went away, lol.

Let’s look at one of the few screenshots I got. I added some thoughts on the websites that Google is elevating next to the SGE answer.

analyzing the SGE

If you want access to the SGE, Search Labs is now open to anyone in the US. (or, ahem…in other countries using a VPN.)

Lily Ray shared more examples of the SGE on Twitter. She is not impressed.

A few more AI stories

Google’s medical AI chatbot is being tested in hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic.

The Associated Press has reached a two-year deal with OpenAI to share access to some of its news content and technology in order to help train OpenAI’s AI algorithms, while also getting access to OpenAI’s technology and expertise. 

However, the FTC has opened an investigation into OpenAI to determine whether ChatGPT harmed consumers through its collection of data and its publication of false information on individuals.

ChatGPT now has a Wikipedia plugin. This looks incredibly helpful.

Shutterstock and OpenAI announced a 6 year partnership.

There have been some reports that ChatGPT was purposely made “dumber” by OpenAI. OpenAI denies this, saying, “Quite the opposite: we make each new version smarter than the previous one.”

How to make long exposure photos in MidJourney.

Dr. Demis Hassabis, co-founder of DeepMind, recommends these books. I hope to read them!

Google’s MedPaLM model was published in Nature this week

Last week I mentioned that I used the LinkReader ChatGPT plugin to interact with a Google Doc. Unfortunately this no longer works. However, you can copy and paste a huge Google doc into Claude to interact with it now.

Hollywood actors are now going on strike alongside writers. The actors are concerned over the possibility that AI might be used to create digital copies of them that can be used in movies and TV shows. 

Someone used AI to make Johnny Cash sing Barbie Girl.

Local SEO

Claire Carlile created a helpful document to help you find old emails from GBP by searching for commonly used subject lines.

Noah Learner started a discussion on the GBP performance metrics in the new API.

Miriam Ellis looked at what we know so far about local search and the SGE. She did a bunch of local searches and found that 100% returned local packs but on the SGE, only 77.6% of results contained them. Rankings differed from traditional local packs 62.8% of the time. SGE packs had more businesses listed but fewer attributes like “women-owned.”

Overall, traditional local packs currently provide a better user experience than SGE, but more research is needed as AI advances to see if that changes. The takeaway is to monitor SGE closely if it rolls out more broadly.

Darren Shaw shared how his team turned a 1 star review into a 5 star one.

Ben Fisher noticed that GBP removed its call tracking feature.

Great articles published this week

I used Claude to generate the summary for each of these and then read and confirmed the details and rewrote most in my own words:

In the subscriber content I’ve shared more about the prompts I used.

I Secretly Worked As A Google Search Quality Rater (You Can Too) – Cyrus Shepard

Cyrus shares his experience working as a contractor for Google as a Search Quality Rater. He had to complete extensive training and tests on evaluating search results and webpages. Cyrus can’t share everything he learned, but wow, this is an interesting read!

Everything We Know About Google’s Quality Raters: Who They Are, What They Do, and What It Means for Your Site If They Visit 

Another new article by me this week! I have not blogged for months and then this week I had 3 posts. I shared more about what we know about how the quality raters are used and answered common questions including who the raters are, what they do, and whether their visits impact rankings.

Most fascinating is that raters make quick subjective judgments on results and pages, rating them on scales for criteria like page quality and meeting user needs. I shared an example of how they may assess the main content of one site. While rater feedback helps shape Google’s algorithms over time, their ratings are just one signal among many and don’t directly cause ranking declines. I also shared how you can use GA4 to see which pages raters have visited on your site.

Is Pagination or Infinite Scroll Better for SEO? by Jack Gillen

The article compares pagination and infinite scroll in terms of user experience and SEO implications. It concludes that while infinite scroll can provide a better user experience for content discovery, pagination is generally better for SEO because it allows search engine crawlers to more easily index all of the content. The author recommends using component pages with infinite scroll to help search engines index the content, or choosing pagination if having all content indexed is a priority.

Jarvis Rising – How Google could generate a machine learning model “on the fly” to predict answers when Search can’t, and how it could index those models to predict answers for future queries [Patent] by Glenn Gabe

Glenn surfaced an interesting patent. It describes how Google could generate machine learning models “on the fly” to predict answers for search queries when regular results are inadequate, and then index those models to reuse for future related searches. This scalable system could provide Google with a powerful capability to deliver predictive answers at a massive scale, essentially training AI models dynamically to address open-ended questions posed through search. 

Most intriguing is the mention of an “automated assistant” surfacing these ML-generated predictions, potentially foreshadowing an AI like Tony Stark’s Jarvis. 

Google On Fixing Discovered Currently Not Indexed by Roger Montti

Pages discovered but not indexed by Google is a common issue, and John Mueller offered insights on how to address it. While there is a perception that the problem is usually due to limited server capacity to handle crawling, Google says this is not true. John Mueller suggested improving thin content by adding useful details to product pages, optimizing site menus to highlight important pages, and communicating page value. 

“Unless you focus on improving the actual quality, it’s easy to just spend a lot of time reducing the number of indexable pages, but not actually making the website better, and that wouldn’t improve things for search.”


Reboot Online conducted an experiment to test if AI-generated content or human-written content ranks better in Google, using 10 domains with no prior ranking history and artificially generated keywords. The results showed the human-written content ranked better on average, with statistical tests confirming the human content had significantly higher rankings. They discussed implications like AI not outranking human content yet and search engines building AI into results, but noted limitations like using artificial keywords versus real topics. Overall, it indicates human writing still creates better performing content, though rapid AI advances may change this.

How to Improve Your Google Rankings Fast: 7 Steps to Rank Higher Using GA4, Google Search Console and ChatGPT Andy Crestodina

The article provides a 7-step process for rapidly improving Google rankings by optimizing existing pages that already rank moderately well for related keywords. It advocates finding “striking distance” keywords a page ranks for but not highly, confirming rankings, checking relevance, finding semantically related phrases, improving the page with on-page optimization and tools like ChatGPT, waiting a week, and measuring results in GA4 and SEO tools. Case studies demonstrate rankings improving within days. It emphasizes targeting topics not just keywords, adding value for users, and tracking impact on traffic and engagement. The tips leverage data, quick edits, and generative AI to shortcut the usually slow SEO process and yield fast ranking improvements.

SEO Jobs

Looking for a new SEO job? SEOjobs.com is a job board curated by real SEOs for SEOs. Take a look at five of the hottest SEO job listing this week (below) and sign up for the weekly job listing email only available at SEOjobs.com.

SEO & Content Strategist ~ Stratabeat ~ $65k-$85k ~ Remote (US)
Search Strategist SEO/SEM ~ Meyocks ~ Remote (US)
Senior Product Manager, SEO ~ Upwork ~ $149k – $264k ~ Remote (US)
Senior SEO Manager ~ Wpromote ~ $70-$85k ~ Remote (US)
SEO/SEM Manager ~ KnowBe4 ~ $90k-$100k ~ Remote (US)

Hope you’ve enjoyed this episode!

Have Marie assess your site

Subscriber Content: My thoughts on using AI writing tools for content creation

This week’s subscriber content is a little different. I wrote quite a bit on my thoughts on using AI writing tools for content creation. While I don’t condone using AI writing tools to create content automatically, or at scale, there is a lot you can do with AI writing tools that has the potential to be helpful in terms of SEO. The article includes ways you can use tools like Claude or ChatGPT  to improve how you demonstrate to Google that you are knowledgeable on your topics. This includes understanding more about the topic layer of the knowledge graph.

I also talk about the concerns and limitations when using AI to help us with content creation.

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