niche surfer - Wave Issue 166

Reviews Update Done; How Search and Ranking Works; Bad SEO Practices; Pillar Page Examples; Gemini Released; and Much More!


Hey there!

"Hey there! I had a bit of an 'aha' moment while recording a podcast this past week (first one in ages) – niche surfer has just breezed past its 3-year anniversary! Time flies, doesn’t it?

It all started on Nov. 10th, 2020, with my very first issue – a roundup of various income reports, which you can revisit here. Since then, the newsletter has evolved significantly.

The second issue, though more modest, paved the way for what niche surfer has become today – a much broader exploration of topics mirroring my own expanding knowledge base.

For those who’ve been riding this wave with me from the start, you've probably heard me say I kicked this off to share tidbits I found helpful each week.

As someone who devours information, the idea of curating a digest of the most useful articles, videos, and resources seemed not only necessary but a way to give back to a community I’m deeply passionate about.

This journey has been a true labor of love. I haven’t focused on monetizing it heavily, and I shudder to think what a P&L statement might reveal - let’s keep that book closed 😅.

In the early days, I dabbled in promoting Appsumo lifetime deals, earning a modest $10-30 weekly. But as the quality of apps went downhill, I only spotlight tools that I personally use or come highly recommended by trusted peers.

I don’t actively seek out sponsors either, so I only get one every once in a while when someone reaches out. Psst, interested in sponsoring? Here’s a calendar to book your spot 😁 

One of the perks, however, has been the platform to showcase my own creations, like the Topical Maps Unlocked course and the DFY Topical Maps service. That's been a huge plus.

Reflecting on these three years, it's clear that while the path hasn't been lined with gold, it's been an enriching journey in knowledge and community.

Here’s to many more years of learning, sharing, growing, and surfing together! 🌊 


Google November 2023 Reviews Update is Over

Almost one month later, the Reviews update that started on Nov. 8th finally finished on Dec. 7th.

Barry Schwartz also investigated intriguing behavior of Google's Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, and John Mueller, who've been selectively removing posts from their X accounts. He notes the potential link between these deletions and Google's 'helpful content update,' raising questions about its rollback.

My Take: Wouldn’t be a surprise if they ‘updated’ some of the unhelpful results that came from the HCU. Of course, they never ‘rollback’, it’s just part of their continued algo updates to make search better for everyone. Maybe that’s the November Core and Reviews updates went so long.

Danny Goodwin provides a comprehensive look into Google's search and ranking mechanisms informed by Pandu Nayak's testimony at the U.S. vs. Google antitrust trial (full transcript PDF). It sheds light on how Google's search engine operates, including indexing, algorithms, deep learning systems, and more. Some of the highlights include:

  • Google's index is constantly updated to reflect the ever-changing web, focusing on quality over quantity.

  • Google employs numerous algorithms and machine learning models for ranking, none wholly dependent on a single, large model.

  • Over 100 signals contribute to Google's ranking process, with the document itself being a primary factor.

  • Navboost, a core system, uses historical user clicks to enhance search results.

  • Deep learning systems like RankBrain and DeepRank play a significant role in adjusting document scores and understanding language for effective ranking.

Kari Dearie's outlines common SEO mistakes and offers practical advice on avoiding them. The common bad practices:

  • Low-Quality Content

  • Duplicate Content

  • Too Many Ads Above the Fold

  • Keyword Stuffing

  • Toxic Backlinks

  • Content Spinning

  • Over-Optimized Anchor Text

Edwin Toonen explains how Google's search operators enhance SEO efficiency by enabling precise, targeted searches. Covering basics to advanced techniques, Toonen illustrates how to use operators like quotation marks, minus, and wildcard for refined search results.

Benu Aggarwal offers a comprehensive guide for adapting SEO and content strategies to align with the latest technological advancements and user search behaviors. Here are the areas to focus on:

  • Multichannel Approach: Diversifying your online presence across various platforms and content types.

  • Relevant Content: Creating content that is highly relevant to search queries, keeping the E-E-A-T in mind.

  • User Experience: Focusing on optimizing all touchpoints and the entire user journey across all channels.

  • Engagement and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

  • Deep Schema Markup for Discovery and Clarity

  • Visual Optimization: This involves ensuring visual content is optimized and entity-focused, and using tools like NLP to score and enhance visual content.

SEO Ripples

  • Ryan Law explores the role of SEOs in enhancing the internet experience. He addresses misconceptions about SEOs ruining the web, highlighting their essential contribution to the search ecosystem. He gets into how SEOs assist regular people in benefiting from search, transform helpful standards into functional websites, and pressure-test Google's systems, ultimately serving as a quality assurance team for the internet.

  • Google Search blog post says video mode now only shows pages where video is the main content. The change ensures that in video mode, search results will only display pages where video is the primary content. The article also details the impact on Search Console video indexing reports, noting that videos not being the main content will be marked as "No video indexed."

  • Bruce Clay addresses a common problem for ecommerce sites: surplus pages in Google's index. He recommends using the canonical tag to direct Google to the original product page, effectively handling near-duplicate content. He advises against using robots.txt, as it doesn't guarantee removal from the index, and suggests the robots meta tag as an alternative for more targeted control.

  • Google signals will be removed from GA4's reporting identity on February 12, 2024. This change will impact how user data is collected and reported, especially concerning demographics and interest data from signed-in, consented users. The removal of Google signals aims to enhance user privacy and data accuracy, marking a pivotal shift in digital analytics practices.

  • Jes Scholz explores how Google is evolving beyond a search engine into a comprehensive surface ecosystem. Scholz explains the increasing importance of social signals in influencing content visibility across various Google platforms, such as Search, News, and YouTube. He highlights the necessity for brands to adapt their SEO strategies in response to these changes, offering insights into how Google's focus on followership could reshape brand visibility and engagement strategies in the digital space.

  • Google's How-To rich results seem to be returning in search. Initially removed in August for mobile and September for desktop, these informative snippets are making a comeback. This resurgence coincides with the reappearance of FAQ-rich results, suggesting a broader change in Google's search features. .


Paul DeMott introduces a free Python script designed to analyze publishing frequency of competitors' content. This tool leverages sitemap data to reveal how often competitors publish or update content, a potential key factor in establishing topical authority in Google's eyes.

With a focus on semantic SEO, the script aids in identifying SEO opportunities, content gaps in micro-niches, and helps benchmark your own content efforts.


Tan Siew Ann guides us through creating effective pillar pages and the different types of pillar pages like guide, what-is, and how-to, offering practical tips for choosing the right keywords and finding subtopics. It highlights top examples in each category, revealing the secrets to their success.

Jason Hennessey delves into innovative strategies for law firms to attract more clients. Hennessey outlines 12 lead magnet approaches, including educational eBooks, free legal templates, exclusive webinars, and more.

Each idea is designed to educate potential clients and build a law firm's online authority, addressing the unique challenges and complexities of legal content marketing. Even if you’re not a law firm, this is a great article to get ideas for your own sites.


Sundar Pichai and Demis Hassabis unveil Gemini, Google's advanced AI model, in this Google post. They discuss through text and videos its multimodal capabilities, how it excels in understanding and integrating diverse data types like text, images, and audio. Optimized in three versions - Ultra, Pro, and Nano - it promises groundbreaking applications in various fields. A little more news on Gemini:

  • In another Google blog post, Gemini Pro is discussed and there’s a video of Mark Rober building a gigantic paper airplane to fly through a ring of fire with the help of Gemini Pro.

  • Devin Coldewey reveals that Google’s best Gemini demo was faked. The demo showcased the AI's multimodal capabilities - mixing language and visual understanding - but it turns out the interactions were pre-recorded using selected text prompts and still images, rather than live and spontaneous as implied.

Beatrice Nolan discusses how Google researchers coaxed ChatGPT into revealing parts of its training data using specific keywords. The study revealed that these prompts sometimes led to the exposure of personal information, including actual email addresses and phone numbers.

With just $200, the team extracted over 10,000 unique examples from ChatGPT’s vast training dataset, raising concerns about data privacy and AI training methods. You can read the researchers’ blog post to get more details.

Kristi Hines explains Microsoft's innovative Deep Search feature for Bing, using OpenAI's GPT-4. It transforms how Bing processes search queries, offering more relevant, comprehensive responses to complex searches. She explains that Deep Search, rather than replacing the standard Bing search, enriches it by utilizing GPT-4's ability to interpret and expand queries, delivering more nuanced insights.

She also highlights Microsoft's broader AI ambitions for 2024, including the integration of GPT-4 Turbo and DALL-E 3 into the Copilot feature, and the introduction of multi-modal search capabilities.

AI Ripples

  • Microsoft’s blog shows off the latest updates in Microsoft Copilot in its first anniversary. New features include GPT-4 Turbo for complex tasks like coding, an enhanced DALL-E 3 model for high-quality images, and a multi-modal approach with search grounding for improved image understanding. There’s also the Code Interpreter for calculation and data analysis, and video understanding capabilities in Edge.

  • Roger Montti discusses the superiority of Tree of Thought (ToT) prompting over Chain of Thought (CoT) in jailbreaking GPT-4. ToT, an advanced reasoning method, enables AI to explore multiple paths, allowing for better decision-making and problem-solving. This technique significantly outperforms CoT, especially in complex tasks like jailbreaking large language models, and requires fewer queries to achieve results.

  • Grok is now available on X for Premium Plus subscribers in the U.S. The new AI chatbot from Elon Musk's xAI startup boasts a unique edge, blending wit and a rebellious streak, and can even incorporate real-time data from X posts into its responses. This distinct approach, including its capability to respond with vulgar or colloquial language, sets Grok apart from others like ChatGPT and Google's Bard, offering users a more dynamic and potentially controversial interaction experience.


Jenny Romanchuk outlines 20 distinct backlink types, offering examples and tips for acquiring high-quality links to enhance search visibility. Romanchuk emphasizes the importance of understanding different backlink categories, such as editorial and dofollow links, and their impact on website credibility and search engine rankings…badge links too.


James Brockbank dives deep into the significance of E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) in SEO. He highlights the importance of E-E-A-T in ensuring high-quality, reliable content on the web, especially for YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) sites.

His comprehensive guide is loaded with examples and practical tips for demonstrating E-E-A-T on your site, emphasizing authenticity and expertise. This is a must-read for anyone keen to boost their website's performance in today's SEO landscape.


Dani Leitner shares her unique journey of transforming her travel blog into a topical authority. Starting during the COVID-19 lockdown, Leitner leveraged her past travels and a focused SEO strategy without initial keyword research. Her breakthrough came with a detailed post on Interrail routes in Italy, defying the odds against established sites.

This case study demonstrates the power of niche content and topical authority in SEO, proving that creativity and a deep dive into specific topics can lead to significant long-term success in digital marketing.

Her site is in German though, but you can use Google Translate to check out her site.

Dom Wells and Onfolio Holdings introduces a new investment opportunity. The focus is on acquiring profitable B2B agencies and productized services, offering co-investment chances to qualified investors.

Dom highlights the potential of these agencies, noting their lucrative nature, low operational costs, and resilience during economic downturns. He explains that these acquisitions generally offer excellent cash on cash returns, as they can be bought for around 3x annual cashflow. He also discusses strategies for founder replacement and retaining talent, crucial for agency success.

My Take: While many of you may not be looking to invest into Onfolio, there’s a video pitch that also gives you insight into the operational and financial aspects of running an agency or offering services yourself.


Alexis Grant shares the nuances of selling a business that primarily relies on contractors instead of employees. Drawing from personal experience and industry insights, she provides valuable guidance for owners looking to make their contractor-heavy business more attractive to potential buyers. The article is a treasure trove of practical advice, key takeaways from the article include:

  • Buyer Appeal: Businesses using contractors are often attractive to buyers due to cost savings and flexibility, despite some inherent risks.

  • Pros and Cons: While contractor teams offer cost efficiency, they may also result in higher turnover and less investment in company culture.

  • Valuation Impact: A contractor model doesn't inherently increase or decrease valuation but affects it through profitability or risk factors.

  • Preparation for Sale: Owners should ensure clear contracts with contractors, comply with labor laws, and demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of their model.

  • Building a Strong Team: Creating incentives for contractors to stay and establishing reliable sources for new talent are crucial for appealing to buyers.


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

What Did You Think of This Week's Wave?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.


Find me and others in the Niche Surfer Discord community.

I’d also love to know what you think and if you have any ideas for the newsletter. Reply or email me at [email protected].

I’d also appreciate it if you shared it with fellow niche surfers. Have a great week taking your niche sites to another level!

he s

Join the conversation

or to participate.