SEO and AI News - Aug 8 traffic drops, SGE while browsing websites | Episode 300. Aug 21, 2023

Last week’s episode (299)  See all episodes Subscriber Content

Hello everyone! And welcome to all of the new readers. Here’s what’s new in SEO and AI news this week.

There’s a new AI feature from Google: SGE while browsing will show SGE results in a sidebar in Chrome. 

There are some strange ranking and traffic changes August 8, 2023, perhaps related to FAQ’s? John Mueller said in recent office hours that good technical SEO is not enough when it comes to ranking – you also need good content, experience, reputation and more. Also, the latest on Gemini, Life advice from your Google assistant, AP standards for AI use, how I view Google organic traffic in GA4 and a lot more.

Subscriber content

In the subscriber content this week:

  • Thoughts on reputation / popularity with a deep dive into the QRG
  • Using ChatGPT’s Code Interpreter to deeply analyze reviews
  • Can adding words about the author’s E-E-A-T to a title help with rankings?
  • The quality raters’ needs met scale

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

Many sites with traffic down August 8 - related to FAQ's?

Several sites that I monitor have seen unusual patterns in their impressions and rankings that start around August 8, 2023. Many are seeing a significant drop in impressions, an apparent increase in keyword rankings, and a slight drop in clicks.

GSC showing odd changes Aug 8, 2023

Victor Pan wondered if this change could be connected to changes in how the core web vital LCP is measured.

The sites I checked with this issue do not have changes in CWV scores, so I’m not convinced this is what’s going on. But I have not dug deeply into this issue yet.

Is it possible that the issue is connected to people getting less FAQ traffic? The changes Google made to show less FAQ’s and How-To in the SERPS were announced August 8.

This is possible, although several of the sites that I monitor that have this pattern either do not have FAQ’s or only have a tiny handful of them – not enough to explain the losses seen.

One site went from an average of 280K total impressions a day to 250K. When I filter GSC to show Search appearance → FAQ rich results there is indeed a drop in FAQ results that happens Aug 8. However, the drop is from about 570 impressions to about 150. It doesn’t explain the drop in 30k impressions overall.

I may be digging into this more thoroughly as I have a client report I’m working on now that has this same odd traffic pattern starting August 8. If you are also suffering the same drop and have some observations, please do reply to this tweet thread.

Other sites are seeing improvements:

The latest on FAQ’s

Google announced August 8 that they’d be showing FAQ’s in the search results only for “well known, authoritative government and health websites.”

Here is a non-YMYL site in my profile that went from around 3000 impressions from FAQ’s daily to around 800. Those 800 are desktop – which has remained stable. Mobile FAQ impressions dropped to zero.

losing FAQs

Lily Ray has reported similar activity.

How-To in SERPs despite no markup

Jeannie Hill noticed she had what looks like How-To rich results on a post that is not marked up with how-to schema.

ho-to results in SERPS

There is a table of contents on this page which appears to be where this is pulled from.

Google office hours

Here are the latest office hours with John Mueller.

I asked Claude for a summary of the transcript (Note: I have not verified accuracy.) I bolded the ones I found most interesting.

Question: How many URLs can a sitemap index file have?

Summary: A sitemap index file can have up to 50,000 URLs, just like a regular sitemap file. The sitemap index file only contains links to other sitemap files.

Question: Does setting ARIA attributes improve SEO?

Summary: Using ARIA attributes just for SEO has no advantage. Use them properly for accessibility reasons instead.

Question: Should I redirect canonicalized “domain/en” to “domain,” or is being canonicalized enough?

Summary: No SEO advantage in redirecting. Be consistent with canonicalization and internal linking.

Question: Do the elements of the link after a hashtag (#) in the URL affect how it’s displayed in the search results?

Summary: Generally no, Google ignores URL fragments. But sometimes fragments display different content.

Question: Why is my site not ranking despite low competition and good SEO?

Summary: Good SEO is not enough. You need good content, experience, reputation etc. Technical SEO is just one aspect.

Question: How can I see if my newly bought site has a penalty?

Summary: Check Search Console for current manual actions. Past actions won’t be listed. Algorithms can also affect sites without manual actions.

Question: Is it okay to use product rich snippets for real estate properties?

Summary: Google will ignore product markup for real estate. Use structured data that has a visible effect.

Question: Can hreflang be used to link similar content targeting different countries, even if not direct translations?

Question: Can we use a white font, but on a colored background?

Summary: Yes, just use good contrast so text is readable.

Question: Does the use of an article HTML tag have an impact on Google?

Summary: No particular effect from article tag. Use semantics for good reasons beyond SEO.

Question: Is it a problem for SEO to have a mix of relative and absolute links on our website?

Summary: No problem, search engines handle links like browsers do.

Question: For structured data on a French website, should we write the opening days in English or French?

Summary: Use language shown to users, except for enumerated fields like days of week which must be in English.

Summary: No, the provided IP is not a Google IP. Reverse DNS lookup shows it’s from a Hong Kong cloud provider.

Question: Does Google treat certain tags as a signal that the website is attempting to give a good UX?

Summary: Google cares about actual good user experience metrics, not just attempts. Make sure implementations are functional.

Question: Why does the Google cache page show a 404 error for my site?

Summary: Cache errors don’t affect indexing. Use Search Console instead for URL diagnostics.

Question: Online gambling websites appearing on our domain that originate from Google’s smartphone crawlers.

Summary: Google doesn’t make up content. This means the server is likely hacked. Secure the site and get help if needed.


Opening up the Search Bar to newsletter subscribers!

Oh yeah, my new community is unfolding really well. I would love to have you join us. This link will get you into the general discussion area where you can read through and comment on the latest stories and interesting things I’ve posted about regarding Search. 

The discussion area where members can post about Search, AI and ask questions about your site is a separate paid, private area. In the last few days we’ve had some great discussions:

code interpreter scatter plot of a site's keywords impacted by the September Core update

I’ve just created a new section specifically for site owners to ask questions of the community about our sites or clients. 

The private area is currently $18 per month although I think I may increase this as it’s causing some confusion with the price being the same as a paid newsletter subscription.

It has been fascinating to watch this group grow. We’ve got 70 members so far, and we’re just getting started! Will you join us? I have lots of plans for how we can use this for so much more in the future. It is exciting to watch it all unfold. TY to those who have contributed so far!


Check out the Search Bar

More SEO Tips

John Mueller gives some advice here that might sound basic, but I think it’s quite profound: “Consider what people are actually searching for….” then, “put words on your site to address that.” The consistent factor I see when I’m reviewing pages that have done well following Google algorithm changes, vs the site I’m reviewing is that it does a good job of identifying the main need of the searcher and immediately convincing the searcher their need will be met on this page. It is so important to understand what the person is searching for and be sure that you address that need.

Glenn Gabe noticed a useful GSC notification for a page that was getting fewer visits. It turns out that the page was actually broken, so the notification was incredibly helpful.

John Mueller says that if you’re having trouble getting Google to crawl pages, it may be because they’re not deemed to be important.

This was an interesting conversation on what it takes to appear in Google News or Discover. Marino Mosna suggests that the key is convincing Google your content is going viral.

If you want to check if you’ve had Discover success, go to GSC and you’ll see Discover in the left sidebar. I found my article on Google discussing SGE in their earnings call had a nice spike of 8K impressions in Discover with 200 clicks. Yes, it did go semi-viral compared to most of my articles. But here’s something else to consider. I don’t usually spend too much time on optimizing my main image for articles, but in this one I took Google’s advice and made the image 1200px wide. I noticed that most images in my Discover feed have very little text, so I avoided that as well. It’s hard to say whether the attention to my featured image contributed to this Discover spike.

image I used for my post that did well in Discover

Algoroo has adjusted their colour coding to reflect the “new normal” of turbulence all the time. 

Even still, it is incredibly obvious that starting in May, and worsening mid June, we’ve seen much more change in the search results than previously.

Lily Ray reported on a case where it looks like the page was unable to rank because of violent content.

I really like this graphic produced by Jess Joyce describing how she creates quality content.

Shared by Jess Joyce - how she creates high quality content

How I see Google organic traffic in GA4

This week I started on a new traffic drop assessment and realized that, oh no, this site only gave me access to GA4. Although I write a lot on GA4 developments in newsletter, I have really struggled to do even basic things with it. This case forced me to learn some things. 

Here’s what worked for me to see Google/organic traffic in GA4. Please note this is not an official GA4 tutorial and may not even be the most optimal way to do things. But it allowed me to see Google organic traffic.

Reports → Life cycle → Acquisition → Traffic Acquisition

finding google organic traffic in GA4

Then, click this chart looking icon and it will open up a comparison pane where you can see I’ve chosen session source / mediumexactly matchesgoogle/organic

Seeing google/organic traffic in GA4

I then changed the date to see the last 12 months…and voila. This site was impacted by the March 2023 Core update.

Once you start playing with the comparisons, it’s easy to see how powerful GA4 can eventually be. I’d encourage you to play around in there! 

More GA4 info

This looks like a helpful article from Charles Farina to help us use GA4 to understand more about who came to our site from Search.

AI News

SGE while browsing in Chrome

This is a big change – available to some who are Google Labs testers. Once you have access, on some pages you visit in Chrome, you can get an AI generated list of the key points an article covers. 

It is interesting to see that the SGE while browsing responses look very much like the content that would be surfaced in an FAQ.

SGE while browsing

Here is an example Glenn Gabe shared when he visited a page on

SGE while browsing - shared by Glenn Gabe

Lily Ray put together this great video demonstrating SGE while browsing.

Lily had a good point when she noted that information from About this Source is often included in the feature.

Mark Traphagen shared this example:

Greg Sterling noted that SGE while browsing on a recipe page does not extract the recipe.

I do expect SGE while browsing to be quite helpful for many users. Some site owners are not impressed.

Personally, I can’t get SGE with browsing to trigger despite upgrading Chrome to the latest version. I can turn it on in labs, but it can’t see it in Chrome on desktop or on my phone. I also can no longer get the regular SGE. I think it’s possible that a VPN no longer works to allow Canadians access to these features. 😞

SGE now has definitions

You can now hover over certain words in SGE and get a popup with definitions and related diagrams on the internet.

definitions in SGE

Better understanding of coding information in AI overviews

Another SGE change – SGE will now offer suggested code snippets for common tasks, color coded with syntax highlighting.

Links to websites have gone missing from SGE!

We were excited recently to see Google showing links to websites from within the SGE answers that quoted those sites. Several people are now noticing that links are no longer present.

Google says they are continuing to test different options.

Gemini expected to launch this fall

The Information has reported that Google’s Gemini is expected to launch this fall. That is really soon! They describe Gemini as a collection of large machine learning models. As that article is paywalled, here is an Android Police article summarizing it:

“Rather than simply compete with products such as ChatGPT, Google intends to surpass its competition with Gemini. The source specifies that it is focused on combining the text capabilities of its large language models (LLMs) and AI image generation to create a multifunctional product. This means that instead of only being able to generate text, like ChatGPT, Gemini would be able to create contextual images — but Google is reportedly looking into adding other features as well. For instance, you might eventually be able to use Gemini to analyze a flow chart or control software with your voice.”


Life advice from your Google assistant?

Google is working on an AI tool that will give us life advice. Can you imagine?

I think we could one day use Google assistant plus a wearable device (i.e. Pixel watch / Fitbit) and have conversations like this:

Let’s say you’re in a stressful situation. An hour or so later, your Google watch alerts you, “Hey! Noticed an uptick in your stress indicators. Want to talk about what happened?”

Then, you converse with your Google AI assistant. The assistant could perhaps brainstorm with you on ways you can either avoid that stress or deal with it better. “Have you considered going for a walk? That almost always improves your stress metrics.”

ChatGPT to analyze headings

Lily Ray shared this use of Code Interpreter to analyze which headings performed best in Discover for one of her clients.

More Interesting AI information

Google Gemini will eventually power Bard.

Microsoft’s jump on adding AI features to Search does not appear to have given them much advantage over Google. “The addition of AI helped boost Bing’s user base by 10% to 98 million in the months from its February launch through June, according to measurements from analytics firm YipitData. Even with the growth, Bing’s user tally is still tiny compared with Google’s 1.12 billion. “

OpenAI has released tools to help with content moderation.

OpenAI has acquired a company called Global Illumination. Global Illumination makes something called Biomes, an environment very much like Minecraft. Minecraft-like environments are often used in AI research, especially in reinforcement learning. These environments can be used to train AI agents to navigate, build, and interact, closely mimicking real-world scenarios. What is OpenAI up to?

The Associated Press published standards for generative AI use in its newsroom. They say, “We do not see AI as a replacement for journalists in any way.” The document mentions that AP has a licensing agreement with OpenAI and says that ChatGPT can be used with caution for helping with writing news, but should not be used to create content itself. “Any output from a generative AI tool should be treated as an unvetted source of material.”

Here’s an example of why you shouldn’t use AI to completely write your articles. Microsoft published an AI written article that gave tourism advice for visiting Ottawa that listed the Food Bank as a tourist attraction. “Consider going into it on an empty stomach.” 😬

Google says that “AI generated content isn’t spam unless done primarily for ranking purposes.”

New Google paper: Neural network pruning with combinatorial optimization. Neural networks often require large architectures and lots of computational resources. This makes it difficult to use them in things like wearables and smartphones. This paper shows a new way to make neural networks smaller and faster. 

Anthropic (maker of Claude) has raised another $100m, this time from one of the biggest mobile carriers in South Korea.

The New York Times is considering suing OpenAI to protect the intellectual property rights associated with its reporting. “If, when someone searches online, they are served a paragraph-long answer from an AI tool that refashions reporting from the Times, the need to visit the publisher’s website is greatly diminished,” said one person involved in the talks.

Amazon is now providing AI-generated highlights of customer reviews for some customers in the US. The summaries will allow you to quickly determine what other customers are saying about a product. You can also search through reviews with a feature that looks similar to the filter bubbles we have been seeing in Google search.

Justin Alvey modified a Google home mini to be a personal assistant. This is worth watching. I think soon this could be just how Google assistant works.

More info on NoteBookLM, the tool that allows us to use AI with our Google docs.

Local SEO

You can now add social media links to your GBP

You can add a link to your social media platforms in GBP. When editing your profile, click on Business information → Contact. This is only available for select regions just now. 

People are noticing reviews disappearing?

Amy Toman has noticed an uptick in chatter with people saying they have lost a number of Google reviews.

More clarity from Google on why images and video are sometimes rejected

Mike Blumenthal noted that Google’s update GBP guidelines say they may reject an image if your listing is not fully verified, your personal account is disabled, your profile is disabled, or the content is duplicative. There is a new support form you can use to appeal these decisions.

SEO Jobs

Looking for a new SEO job? 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

Subscriber Content

I really enjoyed writing this week’s subscriber content. If you’re new to newsletter, each week I write a bunch extra for subscribers. I send it out on Friday afternoon along with the draft of Monday’s upcoming newsletter. This week there’s an extra 1700 words on the following:

  • Thoughts on reputation / popularity with a deep dive into the QRG
  • Using ChatGPT’s Code Interpreter to deeply analyze reviews
  • Can adding words about the author’s E-E-A-T to a title help with rankings?
  • The quality raters’ needs met scale

Members can click here to access the page with links to all of the subscriber content Google docs.

Final thoughts from Marie

Dare I say it, it has been a long time since we had an official Google update. I was just thinking about how incredibly busy this week is for me. I’ve got several site reviews I will be completing this week or next, and I’m prepping for talks at Pubcon Austin and LocalU. It would be a really bad time for me for Google to roll out a core update. Or, who knows…perhaps the next big update we will see will involve Gemini?  Stay tuned!


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