niche surfer - Wave Issue 144

SEO Tactics; SGE + Local Search; LLMs Equal SEO Disaster; Intro Tips; SEO Footprints; Bing Chat Is Good for Publishers; Bard Updates; and Much More!


A few months ago, I embarked on a journey to hire an in-house content team. Our mission? To harness the power of AI in generating quality content for websites.

After several months of fine-tuning our process, we’re now at a point where that process has encouraging results on active sites are doing well.

So I turned to starting new sites based on topical maps that we’ve created. We are in the process of creating an initial batch of over 100 articles for our upcoming site, and we're halfway there.

Our process leans heavily on human involvement, from researching to outlining to editing to images. The AI portion is mostly to write the first draft based on detailed outlines by the writers.

Despite the progress, a question still lingers in my mind - will it be worth it?

Advancements in AI writing tools and language models prompted me to consider experimenting. I wanted to see how these tools would perform in comparison to our current AI+Human model. So, I've set the stage for a face-off:

In one corner, we have the AI+Human process we’ve been working on.

In the opposing corners, a variety of AI tools operating without human editing.

I've even purchased six additional domains (yes, six!) for this test. I might buy more if there are other AI tools to explore.

To ensure a fair fight, all sites will have:

  • Same topical map and content

  • Same internal linking structure

  • Separate servers and IPs

  • Separate emails

  • No linking between each other

  • Separate analytics tools (I’m getting a massive migraine already 😅)

What I need help with:

  • Any tips to keep the testing honest and prevent inadvertent influences between the sites.

  • Suggestions for AI writing tools not in this list: AutobloggingAI, Cuppa, DrafthorseAI, Frase, and Zimmwriter?

At first, I intended for this to be an internal experiment. However, it occurred to me this week, why not share the journey with you all? This project has been months in the making and will likely take just as many months to bear fruit.

But bear with me through this process. I am hopeful that the insights gleaned along the way will prove valuable for all of us!


Another Google SEO Office Hours video going through many questions (transcript here), including:

  • What is less harmful: millions of 404 error pages or millions of 301 redirects to the parent listing page? Answer: It Depends

  • What URL format and declared canonical is the most optimal for an ecom site's category pages to get indexed?

  • I purchased a domain name and tested it, and it comes up with a 404 error. Why? Answer: You need a hosting company.

  • How can I get Google Discover to come back? Answer: Nothing. Cross your fingers and hope.

  • My website domain is not showing when you search on Google. Why?

    14:39 - Should a global company use .ai as their GTLD or is it considered by Google as a ccTLD? Answer: As of June 2023, it’s a gTLD.

  • I want to clear all “Not Found (404)” errors in Search Console. How? Answer: You can’t. It’s a good thing.

  • We need your professional advice with our website ranking! Answer: Sure! We love these private help meetings. (j/k - Google says to go to their help pages.)

Si Quan Ong at Ahrefs shares actionable and effective methods to give your SEO a lift without the need for generating fresh content. Here are the 5 of their key tactics:

  • Attract more clicks to your top-ranking pages by crafting irresistible title tags.

  • Revitalize your old content that's experiencing declining traffic. A little refresh can do wonders.

  • Fill in content gaps in existing pieces. Keep up with what your top-ranking competitors cover and follow suit.

  • Boost your key pages with internal links. Navigate that PageRank around your site.

  • Fix those broken backlinks. Don't let potential referral traffic and "link equity" slip away.

I like their infographic table that shows the Impact, Confidence, and Ease of the various tactics:

Miriam Ellis takes a look at Google's Search Generative Experience (SGE) and its impact on local search data. Here are some key takeaways:

  • SGE's logic differs from traditional Google search, potentially affecting your local search strategy and keyword research. Be prepared to reassess your core keyword phrases if SGE is broadly rolled out.

  • Local packs within SGE don't always match traditional local packs, meaning you might have to study and audit your SGE competitors separately.

  • More local businesses are displayed in SGE packs compared to traditional 3-packs, providing greater visibility opportunities.

  • Structured citations still hold value in SGE. Yet, the links from carousels to local business websites are sparse, indicating the need for Google to rethink this aspect.

  • SGE currently doesn't seem to recognize nuanced local attributes such as "women-owned" or "Black-owned," suggesting a less 'smart' version of local search compared to traditional methods.

SEO Ripples

  • Google Search getting backlash from news publishers about Google’s advice for syndication parts to use noindex instead of canonicals. Love Barry Schwartz’s comment: “Google can detect cancer with AI…but not figure out the original source?” 😂 

  • Google's Universal Analytics 3, which was supposed to stop collecting data over a week ago, on July 1st, is still collecting data for most, if not all, UA3 profiles. Yep, mine are all still collecting data.


Wondering how it’s been a while since the last update? Yes, it’s a long time.


Zak Kann’s new rank tracker is making waves by bringing you context on potential reasons your sites and keywords could be losing and gaining rankings.

After SerpRobot doubled their prices, PeakSERP is filling that gap left behind with their $5/month plans for 150 keywords.


Natalie Thomas does a deep dive on crafting effective introductions, a vital part of any content piece. She explains that a well-made introduction sets the tone, provides valuable information upfront, and lets readers know what to expect. It's a first impression and a guide map, all rolled into one. Key takeaways:

  • A good hook, crucial context, and clear thesis are key elements of a solid intro.

  • A hook can be created through interesting facts, answers to basic questions, or relatable examples.

  • Providing context helps bridge the gap between the hook and the thesis.

  • Avoid passive voice, cliches, ambiguous info, and unedited writing to keep your introduction sharp.


Wait…what? Jess Peck dives into the pitfalls of relying too heavily on large language models (LLMs) like GPT for your SEO strategies. You may have seen some of them already, but it’s a good discussion on the limitations and common misunderstandings surrounding LLMs. Here are the key takeaways:

  1. LLMs lack the concept of truth: They don't understand the difference between a hallucination and the truth. Expecting LLMs to decrease these "hallucinations" over time may be overly optimistic.

  2. The problem of over-engineered prompts: Although prompt engineering is the latest trend, it can easily result in misinformation, particularly as the complexity of the prompt increases. But I love my 1,000 word prompt!

  3. LLMs and logical reasoning: Contrary to popular belief, LLMs don't "reason" the way humans do. They spot and mimic patterns across vast amounts of text without understanding the underlying concepts.

  4. LLMs and external tools: Adding reasoning capabilities to LLMs using external tools or plugins has its own set of challenges. Consistent and accurate responses are hard to guarantee.

  5. The illusion of LLMs solving complex problems: As shown in the examples of GPT dealing with riddles or math problems, LLMs don't understand or solve problems. They merely guess the next term based on their training data.

Despite early concerns, it's actually been increasing traffic to publisher websites rather than hijacking it - at least that’s what Jordi Ribas, the Microsoft VP who oversees search and AI, says. The secret?

The chatbot suggests links along with its answers, which intrigues users to click and explore. He said they’re working with publishers and experimenting with different UI designs and techniques to grow interaction and drive traffic to publishers’ pages.

Google Bard has updates that include availability in 40 languages. New features aim to boost your productivity and match your creative flow. Here are the juicy details:

  • Listen to Bard: Now you can hear the AI’s responses, aiding in your idea generation process or assisting with pronunciation.

  • Customized responses: You can tweak Bard's tone and style to match your needs, from simple to professional.

  • Pin and rename conversations: This means you can easily revisit your creative discussions with Bard.

  • Code exporting: For you coding enthusiasts, Bard now allows Python code export to Replit and Google Colab.

  • Image prompts: This cool feature lets you use images in your prompts for Bard to analyze and aid your creativity.

AI Ripples

  • ChatGPT Code Interpreter is out in Beta for all ChatGPT Plus users. Seems it was temporarily down for some fixes too this week, but is back up for me, so don’t be surprised if it’s temporarily down for fixes as it’s still in beta.

  • Google released NotebookLMB, a new AI-powered notetaking software to get summaries, ask questions, or generate ideas. It comes with a built-in fact-checking feature, accompanying AI responses with original quotes from your sources.

  • Elon Musk announced xAI, a new AI company that wants to understand the universe.

  • Anthropic released Claude 2 in public beta with 100k context windows, a new website, file uploads, and human-like content generation passing AI detection tests. Kristi Hines runs through examples with tests using OriginalityAI and ZeroGPT. Try Claude Chat yourself.


Matthew Woodward shares how SEO footprints, the "hidden gem" in link building, can lead to building tons of quality links at scale on his site,

What exactly are these SEO footprints? They're digital imprints left across the web, sort of like breadcrumbs we can follow. Some key notes:

  • They're not a quick-fix, but a long-term strategy that can yield significant results.

  • Footprints can lead us to guest blogging, blog commenting, forums, sponsorships, and even educational domains.

  • The trick is to combine specific footprints with targeted keywords to discover these opportunities.

Matt Diggity discusses a powerful SEO technique called a 301 redirect, which involves redirecting a website domain to another website, thus transferring all valuable backlinks from one domain to the other.

He gives examples of successful 301 redirects, including websites like device and Laptop251, which saw a significant increase in monthly visitors after executing this technique.

My Take: If you’ve seen sudden jumps like that with traffic charts, one of the big reasons people have those isn’t because they have any secret sauce, it’s because of 301 redirects. I’ve used and still use 301 redirects whenever I find a good opportunity. Or you can check out how I went from 0-200+ visitors in less than 7 days (no 301 here and it’s not something you should do):


Tomek Rudzki at Onely breaks down how you can leverage Python, even as a beginner, to automate repetitive tasks, connect to APIs, and generate useful SEO tools.

His step-by-step instructions with screenshots are helpful for beginners to learn how to get sitemaps, scrape pages, measures pagespeed, and more.


Mark Webster from Authority Hacker showcases a website flip project in 2023, transforming an expired domain into a profitable website that was sold for six figures. Key things to keep in mind if you’re trying to do the same:

  • Choosing the right niche is crucial for the success of a website.

  • A solid keyword research and understanding of competition are essential to ensure the viability of the chosen niche.

  • High-quality, niche-specific content is vital in the competitive online environment.

  • Link building is necessary, especially in the early stages of the site, and it's particularly beneficial for an expired domain.

  • Monetizing the website involved Amazon Associates for product sales and AdThrive (now Raptive) for display ads.

  • They emphasize the importance of patience.

  • Despite stopping work on the site for a period, it continued to generate traffic, demonstrating the potential sustainability of the business model.

  • Selling the website without a broker was an effective strategy to maximize profits, saving on potential commission fees.

  • Acquiring a drop domain that used to have an active website can save a lot of time and help bypass the Google sandbox.

Jason Mills talks shares the tumultuous journey of his first profitable affiliate site, started back in 2019. He reveals how the site weathered three Google updates, detailing the highs, lows, and hard-learned lessons along the way. Key things he talks about:

  • Content Velocity

  • E-E-A-T Principle

  • Regular Updates

  • Consistent Formatting

  • Quality Over Quantity of Backlinks

Do check out his Niche Creator interview too.

Ever wondered what happens when you block high-ranking pages using robots.txt? Patrick Stox from Ahrefs did, and decided to test it. While they expected a significant impact, there was only a slight shift in position. Here are his key findings:

  • Blocking high-ranking pages using robots.txt didn't drastically affect their rankings.

  • The pages lost all featured snippets when blocked from crawling.

  • Even though the pages were blocked, Google seemed to continue using the past content to rank them.

  • The blocked pages still showed up in search results.

  • Despite the less-than-expected impact, it's not advisable to block pages you want indexed—it does hurt.


  • WordPress announced that 6.3, scheduled for release in August 2023, will help websites attain better Core Web Vitals SEO scores, particularly with regard to Largest Contentful Paint (LCP).


If you’re enjoying niche surfer, I’d love it if you would share it with your friends! I’ve put together some rewards as well:

  • Refer 3: Get a Twitter Shout-out

  • Refer 5: Get featured in an issue

  • Refer 10: Get One Ask Me Anything Question

  • Refer 50: Get 50% Off the Topical Maps Unlocked Course

  • Refer 100: Get a Free copy of Topical Maps Unlocked

  • Refer 150: Get a 1 hour SEO 1-1 Coaching session with Yoyao


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