niche surfer - Wave Issue 155

September 2023 HCU Aftermath; Roundup of Who Got Hit; Content Refresh Timelines; No Apple Search; ChatGPT Can See, Hear, Speak, and Browse; Ooops Google Bard; Microsoft Nuclear Reactor;and Much More!


Lots of great thoughts on the aftermath of the Google September 2023 Helpful Content Update (those sources below).

But before we get into that…Whether as a buyer or seller, are you getting ready for Black Friday already?

Almost 2 months to go until BF and I’m already being asked about what I’m going to do for the Topical Maps Unlocked course (TMU) and for the service. I expected it at maybe 30 days before, around Halloween time, but not this early 😅 

I hadn’t put any thought into it until a couple weeks ago when I started getting asked. I think I’ll do something for TMU, but most likely not for the service.

I’m actually planning to raise the prices soon for the topical maps service. Lots of happy clients, great feedback, and word of mouth, but it’s been hard to keep up with demand, while maintaining quality. I’ve been pouring a lot more into services. If you want to get one before the price increases, go get a topical map now.

TMU will also get a 2.0 refresh in the coming months. All current TMU 1.0 students will be upgraded to 2.0 automatically. The plan is to give TMU an update, but also much more value. Get TMU now to get the 2.0 update for free later.

And to end the intro today, I tried out the new DALL·E 3 image creator and made these two images:


Roundup of 'Guesses’ on What the HCU was About and Who Got Hit

Here are many of the larger experts / places that people go to for insights. Take everything that people say with a grain of salt because no one ever knows exactly:

Spencer Haws and Jared Bauman from Niche Pursuits podcast also do their recap of the ones from the list above with looks at some sites.

Glenn Gabe discusses Bing's new XML Sitemap Coverage Report and its “Content Quality” flag. This tool allows site owners to identify and analyze URLs that have been excluded from indexing due to content quality issues, offering an essential insight for improving website content and potentially boosting search engine rankings.

Gabe highlights the importance of investigating URLs flagged for low content quality and not taking Bing’s word blindly. Even though the content that Bing flags might not align with Google's evaluations, understanding and addressing these issues is crucial for overall content enhancement.

An email from Jerry Dischler, the Vice President of Google Ads, has been leaked as part of a DOJ investigation. Addressed to Prabhakar Raghavan and the leads of the Chrome team, the email suggests a demand for the Chrome team to "inject" queries as soon as possible to enhance revenue targets. Dischler’s email further implies a requirement for additional “ranking tweaks” to augment ad revenue swiftly.

Despite Google's usual policy of keeping the Search Quality team separate from Google Ads, the email, shared on Twitter, reveals a pressing concern about hitting revenue targets, even suggesting a new mobile layout release to boost revenue. The uncertainty and the surprising nature of the email have created a buzz and raised questions about Google’s operations and priorities.

SEO Ripples

  • Google updated a couple documentation pages to help with debugging drops in Google Search traffic and improving SEO with a Search Console bubble chart. They also come with videos from Search Console Training YouTube channel.

  • Martin from Google explains how to modify your Site Name in Google Search with a small bit of ‘Website’ structured data on the homepage. Here’s their documentation page on it.

  • Google Search showed a fake, AI-generated image for "Tank Man" because they aren’t able to detect fake images (yet). Right now, all they can do is manually remove these types of results when they find out about them due to media attention.

  • Dario Zadro goes through the pros and cons of HTML vs XML sitemaps. The best one depends on the specific user or purpose.

  • Interesting conversation how the HCU affected those made-for-Google sites/content, ye Google keeps telling people what to do. Google's John Mueller defends the company’s support to SEOs by providing extensive resources and tailored advice.


  1. PeakSERP Launches “Find Your Top Competitors” Feature - Easily find the keyword overlaps with competitors and run head-to-head comparisons against them with the new competitor analysis suite.

  2. Google Looker Studio SEO Template - Olga Zarr shares her free template for in-depth SEO analysis.


Drew Page from Siege Media, shares a data study that analyzed the SERPs of 17,749 total keywords, inducing nearly 234 million searches per month. The findings revealed that the average page one ranking content is updated every 1.31 years.

He emphasizes the importance of regular content updates, highlighting that even the 'best software' keywords are updated around every 197 days on average. The study also demonstrated how certain keywords require more frequent updates, and how, on average, a page for every phrase match keyword was last updated within the last three years.

The Semrush Team the concept of Silo SEO, a website architecture model. While it effectively groups related content, the strict interlinking within these silos and lack thereof between them could actually hamper your site's SEO performance and usefulness.

They suggest adopting like topic clusters, where interlinking between related topics is encouraged. Topic clusters, centered around a pillar page, allow for a clear, organized structure while maximizing the benefits of internal linking, enhancing both user experience and SEO.

Abigail Crosbie dives deep into the changes Google made to HowTo and FAQ rich results, which are impacting a range of websites. Google's announcement declared FAQs are now exclusive to certain businesses and HowTos are demoted to desktop, soon to vanish entirely.

Both structured and non-structured data websites have been affected. Despite these challenges, recovery is possible by identifying lost or dropped keywords, understanding the intent behind those keywords, and adjusting strategies to align with new SERP features and formats.

SEO Ripples


Exciting developments are coming to ChatGPT, making it more interactive and user-friendly! OpenAI is rolling out new voice and image capabilities, allowing users to have voice conversations and show images to ChatGPT, making interactions smoother and more intuitive.

Imagine snapping a picture of a landmark and having a live conversation about it, or sorting out dinner by showing pictures of your fridge and pantry contents. These features will be rolled out to Plus and Enterprise users over the next two weeks.

Here’s a screenshot from a video on the announcement page:

Because Google thought Bard chats were higher quality than the content from your sites, so they were indexing and showing Bard chats in the SERPs 😉 

It was all “accidental”.

But one key insight that came out of it was a Tweet from Google Search Liaison on how complicated it is for Google to remove Google URLs from Google Search (got it?). It’s much easier for Google to remove non-Google sites from the SERPs.

AI Ripples

  • Kristi Hines highlights the new feature from OpenAI – GPT-4 with Vision (GPT-4V). She shows off tasks like handwriting analysis and generating website code from a napkin drawing showcase its extensive potential. Vision is being rolled out over 2 weeks.

  • Amazon has agreed to invest up to $4 billion in the AI startup Anthropic, the company with the chatbot Claude. If you’re keeping track: Microsoft invested in OpenAI; Google has Bard, but also invested in Anthropic.

  • Google introduces Google-Extended for web publishers to control AI’s access to content. Google-Extended uses the robots.txt user-agent token for control (User-agent: Google-Extended), with no separate HTTP request.

  • Google is rolling out its AI-based Search Generative Experience (SGE) to U.S. teens aged 13-17. This follows the successful launch of Search Labs and positive feedback from users aged 18-24.


Seeing more people on social media start asking questions about whether backlinks are important or not because of an article focusing on a comment by Gary Illyes saying links are not a 'top 3' factor.

That comment was made by Gary Illyes at Pubcon in Austin and I shared that article last week. I also shared the Google “Search Off the Record” podcast with John Mueller and Gary.

Whether links are a Top 3 signal or not, it's still an important ranking factor.

The very same Gary Illyes said "links...links...links..." (paraphrased) in the latest episode about content quality. Here's the snippet from the transcript:

Episode transcript → 

The important thing to keep in mind is that Gary and others are only saying that links are not as important as it used to be.

That makes sense because technology has advanced and they’re able to analyze websites and the content more effectively now. In the past, they had to rely more on backlinks from other sites.


Miracle Inameti-Archibong dives deep into the world of Brand SEO Strategy, sharing insight on establishing a potent online identity and dominating the SERPs.

Miracle sheds light on various key aspects, including becoming a recognized entity on Google and utilizing schema markup for enhanced clarity for search engines.

She elaborates on the importance of engaging with a local audience, ensuring dominance in your brand’s SERP, and building a solid top-of-the-funnel content strategy. All these efforts culminate in creating a magnetic brand online identity that effortlessly attracts customers.


Google has rolled out both free and paid training courses that caters to both the non-technical audience and advanced technical practitioners.

The Google Cloud platform is offering two comprehensive learning paths, individual courses, and labs to provide a tailored learning experience.

For those pressed for time, a no-cost introductory course to Generative AI is available, taking roughly 45 minutes to complete. Further learning can earn you the Generative AI Fundamentals skill badge to showcase on your resume and social channels.

Google launches "SEO Made Easy" YouTube series, providing practical tips to optimize websites for better search engine performance.

The first episode, mentioned earlier, is with Martin Splitt discussing how to get your brand name to appear the way you want in the SERPs by modifying Site Names.

The Backlinko Team unravels the mystery of E-E-A-T in a comprehensive guide. The guide explains the added “E” for “Experience,” diving deep into the significance of expertise, authority, trustworthiness, and the newest ‘E’, experience.

Google rewards genuine, personal insight, placing high emphasis on content from individuals with practical familiarity in the topic discussed, especially for YMYL (Your Money Your Life) pages. The guide walks you through effective strategies to showcase your expertise, authority, and trustworthiness to enhance your site's SEO performance


Andy Crestodina’s Blogging Statistics piece provides a comprehensive look into the blogging world, backed by a decade’s worth of data and insights from over a thousand bloggers.

The report, rich in charts and expert inputs, digs deep into a variety of topics, such as the growing use of AI in blogging and the correlation between blogging strategies and experience. Some of the interesting insights shared:

  • AI in Blogging: 65% of bloggers use AI, primarily for generating ideas (43%), with very few using it to write complete articles (3%).

  • Time Invested: Bloggers spend an average of 3 hours and 51 minutes writing a blog post, with a third of those spending 6+ hours reporting “strong results.”

  • Post Length and Frequency: Longer and consistent posting leads to more success. The average blog post length is 1427 words, a 77% increase from a decade ago.

  • Challenges: Time and attracting visitors remain the top challenges for bloggers.

  • Effectiveness: Gated content and long-form guides yield the best results in blogging, contributing positively to email list growth.

In a recent Reddit update, u/snoo-tuh, the Head of Privacy at Reddit, outlined forthcoming changes to Reddit’s privacy, ads, and location settings. The aim is to simplify privacy descriptions, improve ad performance, and offer new controls for the types of ads users prefer not to see.

However, the Reddit community, in the comments, is raising concerns over these changes. Redditors feel the alterations, especially the removal of the ability to opt-out of ad personalization based on Reddit activity, undermine user privacy, focusing more on ad revenue and less on user experience and choice.

My Take: The timing of this happens to coincide with the announcement of the end of Google’s September 2023 Helpful Content Update, which resulted in Reddit getting much more visibility in the SERPs. Coincidence?

Going to be a lot tougher to find the truth about Google.

Crucial evidence from the Google antitrust trial removed from the DOJ website. Removal order followed a complaint by Google, citing irrelevance of the documents to the public.

This situation contrasts heavily with the Microsoft Corp. antitrust case in the 90s, which was more open to public scrutiny.


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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