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  • What's Your Next Move? - niche surfer Wave Issue 174

What's Your Next Move? - niche surfer Wave Issue 174

Google Offers Practical Advice; SEO Myths; 10+ Years of SERPs Changes; ImageFX + MusicFX; Semantic Internal Links; CHAMP Outreach; Gen Z Behaviors; SEO ROI; and Much More!


What can we learn from Google?

They often give theoretical tips instead of practical, actionable tips. But they surprised me this week with two real-life examples that allow us to not only observe but to actively engage and follow to see what happens.

Google’s Updated Starter Guide

In their blog post about the updated guide, they share a list of things they removed, compressed, and added.

It’s a great inside-look to the thinking of what they consider important to share for “a starter audience.”

I’m not saying that more advanced topics like structured data are not important. It’s more about setting a solid foundation for your site.

And if you’re in the Topical Maps Unlocked course, you’ll find many of the same concepts because the course is all about creating your site’s foundation.

What can you do to see if their changes, following their own suggestions, will have a positive or negative impact on rankings?

Track the SERPs for the search query “seo” in a rank tracker yourself.

If you don’t have an SEO tool that can show you the history of SERPs for a keyword, then the easiest thing is to use up 1-2 spots in your rank tracker for keywords like ‘seo’ and ‘how to start 'seo’ (that’s what I did). Don’t forget to add the google.com domain or developers.google.com domain.

If you remember from last week’s niche surfer issue, Google already predicted their guide will probably rank lower and have higher volatility.

Rare, Practical, Useful Advice from Google’s Danny Sullivan

Pigs might just be flying because Danny Sullivan offered some concrete advice to Brandon Saltalamacchia on X/Twitter about why one of Brandon’s articles went in and out of the SERPs.

Why I always say to look at your site objectively is because it’s super hard. It’s always best to have someone without a stake in your site take a look.

Danny starts off like most of Google’s advice: “At first glance, it wasn't clear to me that there was much original content here. It looks and feels at first glance like a typical ‘here's a bunch of product pages.‘“ Very vague and purposely so in the past, imo.

But then he actually gets into specifics about why the article “feels out-of-date.” Some of the notes he offered on this 2024 review article:

  • "As of today (April 22nd) the Rog Ally is not out yet, and it was just announced on April 1st" is on the article dated today, Jan 29, and you'd said on Jan 27 this page has also been updated, so what significant change is actually happening to warrant a new byline date?

  • "At the time of writing, the Lenovo Legion Go isn’t currently out, but all signs are pointing towards an October 2023 release date" -- same thing, confusing to be out-of-date on a page claiming to be fresh as of today.

  • "The IndieGoGo pages goes live on September 5th, so bookmark it and get ready to make a very wise purchase!" -- again, out-of-date.

Even after what I thought was helpful advice, there was still a lot of negative comments about HCU and updates in the thread. But the key thing I took away is that no article is perfect and you shouldn’t think your article is either.

Even if you believe your article is perfect, there are so many other factors - LINKS, anyone? What are your competitors doing?

What’s Your Next Move?

Google and their talking heads will always have mixed messages and contradicting suggestions. Think about this:

Google says to write for users.
Google says that search engines are users.
Google says don't write for search engines.

- the carousel of contradictions

There’s an immediate impulse to speak your mind about these inconsistencies. Venting is healthy, but don't get stuck in a loop of frustration. Voice your thoughts, then pivot to action.

Focus on what's within your control - improving your site. There is so much information out there about things you can do to make your site and content better to drive more traffic.

Start by scrolling down these weekly emails

and looking for things you can do when it comes to creating content, attracting links, and growing social media traffic.

Don’t sit idle and think that ‘doing nothing’ will help your site recover with the next HCU or Core Update. That’s wishful thinking.

Sure, some sites luck out (mine included). But more often than not, those sites that got hit were left alone because of time-constraints (like me) or lack of desire to update it (me too).

And yes, when these sites rebound, you'll hear the success stories through tweets and newsletters, tempting you to believe inaction is the secret sauce. Look closer, though.

Consider this scenario:

  • Your site was penalized because of factor ABC in an update.

  • The next algo update shifts focus to favor XYZ, which your site has, prompting a recovery.

That doesn’t mean ABC is not an issue. It simply means XYZ now carries more weight. But imagine if you'd addressed ABC when it was flagged.

Wouldn’t ABC + XYZ = better results?

So, I challenge you to create a list of 5 things that can be improved on your site. If you can’t come up with 5, then you should bring in a fresh set of eyes to see what’s hiding in plain sight.


Lizzi Sassman and Gary Illyes from the Google Search Central Blog have revamped the SEO Starter Guide to make it more digestible for beginners. It’s gone from 8k words to 4k words.

Since its original release in 2008, the guide has evolved and now streamlined to focus on the essentials new website owners need. They've pared down sections and clarified concepts. They’re trying to help newcomers improve their site’s search presence without getting overwhelmed.

My Take: The good thing about this is to look at what they consider the core concepts and things to look at. If you're in the TMU course, check out the quick post I made in the "Topical Authority" channel about how the Starter Guide points to a few key points to the lessons on topical maps 🔥

Laura Nineham takes on some of the most resilient myths in the SEO space. She does a nice job of going through each myth to give you a clear view of the realities of SEO practices today. Here are some of the myths that she debunks:

  • The Ideal Keyword Density: Spoiler alert, it doesn't exist. Google urges writers to focus on natural, helpful content rather than keyword stuffing.

  • Long-Form Content Always Performs Better: It's not the length but the comprehensiveness and relevance that count.

  • More Content Is Always Better: Quality and relevance trump content volume in SEO success.

  • Meta Description Is a Ranking Factor: Meta descriptions influence click-through rates, not direct search rankings.

  • SEO Is Something You Do Once: Continuous effort and updates are essential for maintaining and improving SEO performance.

Andy Crestodina walks through how, over a decade, Google's focus has shifted dramatically from rankings to SERP features like AI-generated content, altering the landscape of SEO strategies. He highlights the ongoing evolution towards a more interactive and visually engaging search experience, revealing opportunities and challenges for digital marketers aiming to adapt and stay ahead.

There’s also a nice 7-page Google Slide with images of the SERPs from 2018 to 2024, from 10 blue links to SGE’s mini-blog post.

SEO Ripples

  • Google shows off a cool feature for Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, and Samsung Galaxy S24 users: Circle to Search. It allows you to look up information instantly with simple gestures like circling or scribbling on your screen. Circle products on images or videos and Google will search for it.

  • Barry Schwartz breaks down how Google removed the cache link from its search results. That link allowed users to access stored versions of web pages. However, he offers a workaround for those looking to access cached pages and shares insights from Google's Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, on the reasons behind this change and potential future enhancements.


Mark your calendars! Google’s next big move with Core Web Vitals is transitioning First Input Delay (FID) to Next Paint (INP) starting March 12, 2024.

INP measures how quickly your site reacts to clicks and taps, replacing the old FID. It's basically all about giving users that super speedy, frustration-free experience they crave.

Chris Haines dives into his ingredients for creating irresistible product pages. He covers 16 critical elements like crawlability, clear titles, and engaging visuals as a blueprint to optimize product pages to turn traffic into happy buyers. He also covers auditing pages for SEO issues.


Google introduces ImageFX and MusicFX, showcasing how these tools can turn simple text prompts into stunning images and captivating music. Ideal for creative minds looking to explore new dimensions, these tools also boast improvements and safety measures, ensuring a responsible use of AI technology.

I played around with it and I have to say that both are really cool. The images are better than some of the ones that Midjourney creates.

Created with Google’s ImageFX - ImageFX vs Dall-E vs Midjourney

Prompt: Photorealistic image of 3 surfboards with each surfboard having a letter of the alphabet on it. One surfboard has the letter G. One surfboard has the letter M. One surfboard has the letter D.

Compare that to Bard’s latest updates where you can access Gemini Pro globally in over 40 languages and generate images. Here’s the image that Gemini Pro gave with the same prompt:

Created with Gemini Pro

Google introduces a game-changing feature in Google Maps that harnesses the power of generative AI to discover new places. By feeding specific or broad requests into Maps, AI analyzes the vast data, including insights from the Maps community, to receive curated place suggestions.

Initially available to select U.S. Local Guides, this feature promises a personalized exploration experience, whether you're hunting for vintage vibes in San Francisco or seeking shelter from the rain.

source: blog.google

AI Ripples

  • Kyle Wiggers dives into OpenAI's latest move, allowing ChatGPT users to integrate custom GPTs into chats for a personalized conversation experience. This update caters to both casual users and developers, introducing a marketplace for GPT apps, aiming at a more interactive and versatile ChatGPT use. He discusses the potential challenges, including moderation hurdles and the need for increased user engagement with these custom GPTs.


Roger Montti discusses the evolving nature of internal linking strategies to align better with Google's enhanced understanding of content. He points out that the conventional approach to internal linking, which emphasizes keyword-matching anchor text, hasn't kept pace with the significant advancements in how search engines interpret web pages today. By encouraging a shift towards considering the semantic context and the structure of content, he suggests a more nuanced method of internal linking that benefits both SEO and user experience. Here are some key takeaways from his article:

  • Traditional internal linking practices are outdated compared to Google's current content comprehension methods.

  • Google's guidelines do not advocate for "keyword-rich" anchor text as commonly believed.

  • Internal links should be contextually relevant, enhancing both navigation and comprehension for users and search engines.

  • A modern approach to internal linking takes into account the taxonomy of topics within webpage content.

  • Moving beyond a keyword-focused strategy to a topic-oriented mindset can future-proof SEO efforts and improve site engagement.

Vince Nero shares his C.H.A.M.P. method for effective email outreach with five key pillars. His approach centers on:

  • Connect: Start by forging a genuine connection with your recipient.

  • Help: Make sure your email offers value or assistance.

  • Adapt: Your email’s tone and content should mirror the recipient's style.

  • Make it Scannable: In our fast-paced world, emails need to be easy to read on any device.

  • Personalize: Go beyond the generic.


Liz Stanton from Hootsuite explores if the SEO strategies we've come to depend on for Google can also amplify our content's reach on social media like TikTok and Instagram. The curiosity around whether social media serves as a viable search engine for the younger demographics, particularly Gen Z, sets the stage for this investigative piece. Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Traditional SEO tactics of targeting keywords and creating relevant content can indeed boost reach and engagement on TikTok and Instagram.

  • Social platforms have their robust search functions, which can guide the creation of keyword-centric content.

  • Implementing keywords in captions, on-screen text, and scripts can significantly increase a video’s visibility.

  • Videos optimized for SEO garnered 33% more views from new TikTok users and a notable increase in engagement rates.

  • While the experiment showed more mixed results for Instagram, overall, there's a promising trend that SEO can enhance social content performance.

Dan Oshinsky breaks down crucial updates from Gmail and Yahoo that could impact your ability to send newsletters. Starting February 1 (two days ago!), non-compliance with new email sending rules means risking access to a significant portion of your audience.

He simplifies the tech-heavy process of staying compliant, covering everything from authentication protocols like SPF and DKIM to managing spam complaints.

My Take: This is one of the more comprehensive articles if you want to learn more about everything. Basically, if you send any emails, you’ll want to set up your SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. It’s really simple and the majority of email providers will give you the exact settings to use.

They do say it’s if you’re sending over 5,000 emails per day, but I’d suggest to do it even if you’re under the limit.

The team from Stacked Marketer delves into the evolving online shopping habits of Gen Z in the marketplace. No longer the children many still perceive them to be, the eldest Zoomers are hitting 27 and their unique consumer preferences are coming into sharper focus. The article unpacks and highlights the need for brands to pivot strategies to stay relevant. Some of the key takeaways include:

  • A considerable slice of Gen Z (10%) prefers TikTok to Google for initial searches, indicating a shift in search engine dominance.

  • This generation prizes sustainability, often willing to pay more for products that support the ethos.

  • With 72% devouring video content on social media, YouTube reigns supreme as their platform of choice, closely followed by TikTok.

  • Brands are advised to lean into storytelling and video content across TikTok and YouTube to capture this demographic's attention.

  • The constant evolution of Gen Z's habits underscores the importance of staying updated with trends to effectively engage them.

My Take: This is the type of information that you should also be looking at to better understand audience demographics and keeping them engaged with your brands and sites.

Marketing Ripples

  • Emilia David at The Verge dives into how TikTok is nudging its creators toward a more YouTube-like formula, encouraging the posting of horizontal, longer videos (over a minute) with a promise of a viewership boost. They’re pushing to diversify content and challenge YouTube's dominance in long-form video content.

  • Jennifer Harmon offers insights into the trickiest parts of social media management in her piece on how to handle trolls and maintain a brand's integrity online. She offers a comprehensive guide for updating your Social Media Community Management Guardrails, ensuring your team is prepared to respond quickly and effectively to both negative and positive interactions.

  • Google's search results are including TikTok videos in featured snippets and SGE. This development marks a notable adjustment in Google's SERP strategy, reflecting multimedia's increasing role in search and the need for SEO professionals to adapt their tactics accordingly.

  • In a rare moment, Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan's, gave detailed feedback on how to enhance a specific article's helpfulness. Highlighting the importance of original content, clear expertise, purpose fulfillment, searcher intent satisfaction, and up-to-date information, he shares insights on making web content more user-friendly and possibly more favorable in Google’s eyes. A great read for those aiming to improve their SEO game!


Rachel Dennis shares how to take advantage of Google's search capabilities. Whether you're conducting market research, looking for guest post opportunities, or just trying to find specific information faster. Here are a few of the tips:

  • Quotation marks are your best friend for narrowing down search results to the exact phrases.

  • The "site:" operator allows you to search within a specific website, making your hunt for information more targeted.

  • Google Scholar is a goldmine for academic research, offering access to reliable sources.

  • Visual search and conversion tools simplify finding information and doing quick conversions.

  • Setting up Google Alerts can help you stay on top of new mentions or topics relevant to your interests or business.

My Take: Learning all the different capabilities of Google Search will take your skills to another level. It makes a huge difference.


Evan Bailyn breaks down SEO return on investment across various industries. He segments data by industry, offering a tailored look at Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS), overall ROI, and break-even times. Some of the key statistics:

  • Real Estate industry enjoys the highest ROI at 1,389% ROI with an 10-month break-even time.

  • Medical Devices and Financial Services both have ROI over 1,000% ROI too.

  • Construction businesses can expect a 681% ROI, achieving this in the shortest break-even at just 5 months.

  • eCommerce stands out for its longer break-even period at 16 months, despite a 317% ROI.

  • SEO services ROI and break-even: Standard Content Marketing 16% and 15 months; Technical SEO 117% and 6 months; Thought Leadership Marketing 748% and 9 months.


These next ones aren’t about SEO, but they’re very interesting news I thought are a good watch and read.

WSJ’s Joanna Stern attempted to wear it for 24 hours straight—including on the ski slope. She explores how this $3,500 mixed-reality tech intersects with daily activities.

Elon Musk's Neuralink made headlines with its first human brain chip implant, signaling a bold leap towards futuristic brain-computer interfaces. Ben Guarino reports on this major milestone, revealing how the device, aimed at aiding individuals with quadriplegia, promises neuron spike detection capabilities.


If you’re looking to start your own newsletter, beehiiv is offering a lengthy free trial and discount package to try it out. niche surfer is on beehiiv too. Here are the details:

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