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  • To Disavow, or Not to Disavow - digital surfer wave 188

To Disavow, or Not to Disavow - digital surfer wave 188

Giving Away Free Articles; Google Volatility (Again); No OpenAI Search Engine (yet); AI Search Evolution; Information Gain Buzzword; Content Decay; and Much More!

Disavow Dilemma Debate…

John Mueller said this week that the disavow tool will be removed at some point. That brought out people on both sides of the table on whether disavowing has any effect.

I asked ChatGPT to help me share the debate as a soliloquy:

To disavow, or not to disavow, that is the question:

Whether it's nobler in the mind to endure

The penalties and drops in PageRank from spammy backlinks,

Or to take action against a sea of toxic links,

And by addressing them, clear our name. To disavow—to cleanse,

No more; and by a cleanse to confirm we end

The heartache and the countless Google penalties

That rankings are heir to. A resolution

Devoutly to be sought. To disavow, to cleanse—

To cleanse—perhaps to improve: there lies the challenge,

For in that action of purification, what dreams of high rankings may come,

When we have cast aside these damaging ties,

This consideration demands our attention,

It's this that dictates the effort we must devote to our online presence.

If you’re undecided, I’d say to just look at what people have tested and shown to work or not work.

Patrick Stox has shown that the disavow works and that links matter.

Grind Stone has also demonstrated that disavowing helps, but I couldn’t find where I saw it before with a quick search. Here’s his X/Twitter page to go digging or it might have been in his newsletter.

If you do decide to use a disavow, one very important thing to note is that Google needs to recrawl the URLs in the disavow file. Just because you uploaded a list of URLs, Google won’t automatically go crawling those URLs.

You can use a crawling or indexing service to suggest to Google that they should check out those URLs.

“The disavow file was processed immediately, but the links inside the file still needed to be recrawled before the impact of the disavow could be seen.”


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Glenn Gabe and Barry Schwartz note a potential unconfirmed Google Search update causing ranking volatility around May 3rd and 4th. Despite no official announcement, community chatter and data suggest significant SEO fluctuations.

Roger Montti discusses Apple’s Safari 18 that will feature Intelligent Search, summarizing webpages in response to queries, along with a Web Eraser to permanently remove site content.

Web Eraser allows users to permanently remove specific elements like advertisements, videos, and text from webpages. Once removed, these elements remain blocked for the user on subsequent visits, enhancing user control over content visibility and experience 🫤 

Aleksandra Beka Jovicic shares essential local on-page SEO tips. She highlights actionable steps like optimizing content for user intent, leveraging local keyword research, and implementing schema for local business.

Barry Schwartz reports that Google has quietly removed the search result count from its pages. Previously visible by default, it now requires clicking "Tools" to view.

Danny Goodwin dives some slides from the U.S. Department of Justice's closing deck against Google (full deck here). The DOJ accuses Google of manipulating search ad auctions and inflating ad costs to boost its revenue, thus harming advertisers.

My Take: I will no longer “raising prices”, only “coming up with better and more fair prices”.

SEO Ripples


OpenAI will be announcing some things on Monday, May 13th and rumors ran wild that it was going to be GPT-5 and/or a search engine. Looks like it’s neither.

source: twitter.com

Here’s the 1-minute chart of GOOGL stock on Friday. They recovered some early losses after Sam Altman said they’re not announcing a search engine. Any guess when he tweeted?

Albert Gouyet explores the evolving strategies Google SGE and AI-First engine Perplexity are using to refine their search results and adapt to user needs. Some of the key takeaways from the article:

  • Google SGE is reducing its presence in search results, potentially making room for paid results.

  • There has been a notable decline in general product viewer results on Google SGE.

  • Perplexity is increasingly prioritizing trusted sources and user-generated content, like Yelp.

  • Google is experimenting with smaller display sizes for SGE, indicating a shift towards more concise delivery of information.

  • Google has begun issuing more warnings about the experimental nature of generative AI results, suggesting a cautious approach to their implementation.

AI Ripples

  • OpenAI and Stack Overflow launch an API partnership. This collaboration will integrate OpenAI's LLM models with Stack Overflow's technical content, enhancing AI tools and developer efficiency. The partnership aims to empower developers by surfacing validated, community-backed technical knowledge directly within ChatGPT.

  • OpenAI also inked a deal with Dotdash Meredith to make sure they get access to People and the sexiest men alive.

  • OpenAI introduces tools to help researchers verify content authenticity. These new technologies, including watermarking and AI classifiers, offering crucial tools for recognizing AI-generated content.

  • Microsoft is developing a new AI model named MAI-1 with 500 billion parameters, potentially premiering soon. Positioned between GPT-3 and ChatGPT-4, MAI-1 aims for high accuracy with reduced power use, lowering inference costs significantly, and may debut at the Build conference. For reference, GPT-3 had 175 billiion parameters, GPT-4 is estimated to have 1.76 trillion, and Gemini Ultra has 1.6 trillion.

  • A little fun - Ohio is using AI to streamline its administrative code, reports Ned Oliver. The state, under Lt. Gov. Jon Husted's initiative, has already eliminated 2.2 million superfluous words. The AI tool, RegExplorer by Deloitte, identifies redundant and outdated regulations, significantly reducing bureaucratic overhead. So…AI is deciding on the laws now? 😂 


Michael Stelzner shares strategies to harness LinkedIn for sales. He details how to identify your audience, craft compelling messages, and guide prospects through a tailored LinkedIn sales funnel. He takes advantage of the platform's unique capabilities for targeted professional outreach.

In another article Tamilore Oladipo at Buffer has a guide to LinkedIn SEO and optimizing your posts and profiles for max reach.


Andrew Holland demystifies the new SEO 'buzzword'—information gain. He explains its applications across machine learning, Google's patents, and information foraging theory, providing a guide on how to leverage this concept for SEO effectiveness. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Information gain has different interpretations across machine learning, Google patents, and information foraging theory.

  • Google's patent on information gain helps them assess the originality of content, impacting SEO strategies.

  • Information foraging theory is becoming increasingly relevant, influencing how Google evaluates and prioritizes information.

  • Practical steps include optimizing information architecture and content design to improve the information gain rate for both users and search engines.

Lizzi Sassman and John Mueller discuss the importance of addressing old content and updating it to continue being useful to users today. They shed light on the gradual decrease in search interest and click-through rates over time, which can signal that content has "decayed." Some of the key takeaways from the episode:

  • Maintain Historical Integrity: Not all old content is bad; historical or reference materials still hold value. If necessary, clarify with banners or notices that certain parts of the content are from a specific date or period.

  • Improve On-Page SEO: Revisit SEO elements like meta tags, headers, and keywords to ensure they align with current best practices and search trends.

  • Refresh Visuals: Update old images and graphics to make the content more engaging and visually appealing to current audiences.

  • Fix Broken Links: Regularly check and fix broken links within your content. This not only improves user experience but also SEO rankings.

  • Add New Resources: Enhance articles with new resources, links, or embedded media like videos or podcasts to provide additional value to readers.

  • Re-promote Updated Content: Once content is updated, re-promote it through social media, newsletters, and other marketing channels to inform your audience about the refresh.

In some good timing, Sydney Go shared a step-by-step guide on content pruning this week too on the Semrush blog.


Ahrefs Pricing Getting Out of Hand for Many

I had to look more into the Ahrefs credits documentation and what consumes a credit. Reading their documentation makes it feel like half your clicks will require credits. Any time you get new information will require a credit. Be sure you read up on it if you have Ahrefs still.

Ahrefs does have a pretty good Webmasters Tool that’s free for users. You can add your own sites and see your backlinks, keywords, etc. There are limits, but a good starter. (Update: Of course, now that I said that, I went to double-check what I just said is true, but it “Couldn’t fetch data” for backlinks 😅 )

Now, if you sign up for a paid plan, I don’t know if those features will then use up credits…so, maybe two separate accounts?

Are you switching or have you switched over to Semrush?


Niche Safari Chris details his venture into paid newsletters using Facebook ads to drive email subscriptions, leading to significant churn and low engagement. He shares his exact emails and ads too.

Despite initial success with subscriber acquisition costs, the model's high turnover proved unsustainable. He shares candid insights on the pitfalls and changes in strategy, aiming to help others avoid similar mistakes.

My Take: There are many getting into newsletters and Facebook ads. There are many promoting this method who are successful, but I haven’t seen any discussing the failures and dangers in the detail that Chris does. I also don’t know if what he’s doing is that much different from people who are successful because I don’t see the emails and ads that are used.

The Authority Hacker guys dive into the world of Facebook ads and how small sites in the Facebook Ad Library can thrive without relying on Google. They share some small businesses that have successfully utilized Facebook ads over an extended period, revealing insights into their sales funnels and marketing tactics.

James Brockbank explores how HCU has affected travel publishers. He analyzes the performance of 671 travel sites since the HCU's initial rollout in August 2022, revealing a drastic reduction in organic traffic for many. Some of the key takeaways:

  • 78% of analyzed travel publishers experienced a drop in organic traffic.

  • He looks at the subjective nature of 'helpful content' as defined by Google.

  • Significant disparities are highlighted between sites that suffered losses and a few that saw gains.

  • He emphasizes the need for real expertise and genuine content in the face of sweeping algorithm changes.


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