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  • Is There Anything Else Besides the Google Leak? digital surfer - wave 191

Is There Anything Else Besides the Google Leak? digital surfer - wave 191

Best Google API Analyses; Google Statements; Ranking in Google AIO; Perplexity AI Pages Ranking; LowFruits Acquired; Key Local SEO Statistics; and Much More!

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FIRST …

Hmmm… what was the big news this week in SEO? 😂 

There’s just so much in Google’s Content Warehouse API documentation leak that I’m covering it here. When something of this magnitude happens, everyone will be covering it. With AI bots and chatbots, it gets spread even faster.

As you read through various posts, I’d say to take it all with a grain of salt because no one knows everything. There’s so much here that’s not definitive. The main things to keep in mind:

  • Confirmation Bias: People see what they want to see in the documentation. It doesn’t mean that’s what the docs are actually saying.

  • No Weight and Formulas: None of the attributes have any weight, so we don’t know how they’re calculated and the impact that it has on rankings or other purposes.

  • Only a Portion: The documentation is only a part of the whole kit and caboodle. As I go through, I’ve found so many unexplained variables and just dead-ends.

  • People Make Assumptions: Most of the attributes use acronyms instead of full words because they’re so commonly used that the developers already know what they are. Sometimes they’re also used to mask the real meaning (great for leaks).

On acronyms, there are ones that are somewhat easier to decipher. Eg., “PQ” only has so many possibilities and I think a safe assumption is that it means Page Quality.

But then there’s “NSR” which has more possibilities and two of the experts below don’t agree on what it stands for. Mike King suggests “Neural Semantic Retrieval” and Andrew Ansley suggests “Normalized Site Rank.” Who is right? Or maybe neither are. (AI came up with other meanings as fact)

With all that said, here are some of the better articles that I’ve seen on The Leak. These are the ones that are original and not using AI to summarize what others have said. I don’t know how many articles I saw that just regurgitated what these guys or others have covered 🥱 

I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones too though, so if you know of any, reply to this email and share them!

I don’t always make definitive declarations of “Google does this” because it’s just not always supported with evidence. I make educated guesses and if I don’t know something, I just say that I don’t know and I couldn’t find other references in the whole leak.

And one thing when analyzing yourself, I’ve tested a bunch of chatbots and they all hallucinate. You can’t trust its analysis because it’ll make up things. Documentation like this needs to be very specific, so hallucinations are dangerous.

So how do we know what works and doesn’t work? Test it yourself.

If we’ve confirmed anything from The Leak, it’s that there are sooo many factors that are considered in the multiple scoring, ranking, and indexing systems. Not to mention all the Twiddlers that will re-rank results before they’re served to the users.

The only way to know if something works or doesn’t work for your sites is to test yourself.

SEO

Liz Reid, VP and Head of Google Search, gives an update on the rollout of AI Overviews. They still maintain “people have higher satisfaction with their search results, and they’re asking longer, more complex questions that they know Google can now help with.” But there are still “some odd and erroneous overviews (along with a very large number of faked screenshots),” so they’re taking action to “hold ourselves to a high standard.” Liz outlines the steps taken:

  • Built better detection mechanisms for nonsensical queries.

  • Limited inclusion of satire and humor content.

  • Updated systems to limit user-generated content that may mislead.

  • Added restrictions for less helpful queries.

  • Enhanced quality protections for news and health topics.

  • Continuous monitoring and action on policy-violating content.

My Take: But there’s still no way to officially turn it off that I noticed. Seems like they want the data, they need it. I get it, you can only do so much of your own testing and QA (quality assurance) in-house, so they need to push it live for more data. A little bad press won’t hurt an accused-monopoly like Google anyways 😅 

Aleyda Solis offers up a couple of different ways to track how your sites are doing in AI Overviews. One is with ZipTie and SEOTesting. The second way is manually with a spreadsheet she created.

Natalia Witczyk dives into the non-Google search world, looking at engines like Bing, DuckDuckGo, and Brave Search. With an increasing focus on data privacy, customization, and user experience, these competitors are introducing innovative features that could shape the future of search.

Kipp Bodnar at Hubspot also published an article this week on 7 Google alternatives: DuckDuckGo, Bing, Ecosia, Mojeek, Seekr News, Baidu, and Wolfram Alpha.

Viola Eva explains how to rank in this innovative feature, optimize your brand strategy, and anticipate future SEO trends. She shares many actionable tips and practical steps for staying ahead in the AI-driven search era.

SEO Ripples

  • Barry Schwartz dives into John Mueller's advice on recovering from Google's core updates. If your site's rankings have tanked, it might not be just one issue but a mix of several. John's key takeaway? Sometimes it's best to move on and apply your learnings to new projects.

  • Google is improving search results for queries that include a site's name. Danny Sullivan from Google's Search team announced they're working on ensuring sites mentioned in a query are more prominently displayed. This change comes after several complaints about site-specific searches not showing expected results.

  • Matt G. Southern breaks down Google’s confirmation of the recent leak, highlighting its potential impact on search transparency. He brings up the question, could Google become more secretive after the leak?

  • Barry Schwartz shares the latest updates on Google's spam reporting tool. You can now report site reputation and expired domain abuse. I hope people don’t abuse it 😅 

  • John Mueller from Google has once again criticized the idea of "toxic links," asserting that it's a concept invented by SEO tools to keep customers paying. In a Reddit thread, John said: "The concept of toxic links is made up by SEO tools so that you pay them regularly." But later changed it to: "Nothing has really changed here - you can continue to save yourself the effort."

AI

Ivan Mehta writes about Perplexity AI's update, which transforms your search results into well-organized, sharable pages. Perplexity says they see it as “information curation” and not “content generation through AI.”

My Take: I’ve started seeing Perplexity pages ranking for at least a week now. I haven’t seen them ranking on page 1 or 2, but if all the other AI tools from the likes of Arc Browser and Apple are going to release summarized pages as well, AI could eventually overtake the SERPs. Search engines will need to be able to figure out how to differentiate AI-generated and human to be able to keep the original sources above the AI-curated pages.

AI Ripples

CONTENT

Joshua Hardwick, Si Quan Ong, and Calvinn dive into the correlation between content scores from popular optimization tools (Clearscope, Surfer, MarketMuse, and Frase) and Google rankings. Their research reveals a weak correlation, suggesting that a high content score doesn't necessarily equate to better rankings.

However, content scores still hold value if used correctly. They offer insights on how to leverage these scores for improved SEO performance, emphasizing the importance of understanding their limitations and using them as a guide rather than a strict metric.

My Take: I agree with their take. One of the things I’ve de-emphasized with my writers and editors is the ‘score’ in Frase (that’s what we use). It’s more about the topical coverage for each article and bringing something new. Frase is still great to get an overview of what’s being covered in the Top 10-20 results, so we should cover that. But it doesn’t need to be exact matches for words. If Frase gives “SEO content tools,” it’s fine if we just say “content tools.” They can mark it complete by removing the keyword from the list.

TOOLS AND RESOURCES

  • LowFruits Acquired by AIOSEO: Paul shares an exciting update: LowFruits has joined forces with AIOSEO, one of the leading WordPress SEO plugins. He says to expect new features and top-notch support.

CASE STUDY

Glenn Gabe dives into the turbulent journey of a site impacted by Google's March 2024 Core Update. This case study sheds light on the site’s dramatic fluctuations through multiple algorithm updates, from the fall of 2023 to the major changes in March 2024. Glenn explains how a mix of well-ranking but unrelated content led to significant drops and reversals, and how decisive action helped the site rebound. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Fringe Content Issues: Tangentially related content can rank well but may not support your core business.

  • Algorithm Volatility: Expect significant fluctuations during major updates.

  • Content Cleanup: Removing irrelevant content can lead to long-term gains despite short-term drops.

  • Counterbalancing Systems: Google's updates may involve multiple systems influencing each other, causing dramatic changes.

Chris Green dives into the intricacies of implementing an effective SEO test and learn model. He outlines a structured approach to validating and scaling, emphasizing the importance of hypothesis testing and forecasting. Chris provides practical tips for creating proof of concepts and pilot tests to ensure SEO efforts are both efficient and effective.

My Take: Especially now with The Leak, you may be trying to test different things. It’s always good to have a way to stay organized. I know I will sometimes forget (or just skip) to stay organized and take notes because I think “oh, I’ll remember everything.” Nope.

The Backlinko Team share the latest local SEO statistics for 2024. From consumer behavior to key ranking factors, this list shows why local SEO is needed for connecting with nearby customers. Some of interesting stats:

  • 4 in 5 consumers conduct searches with local intent. 46% of Google searches have local intent.

  • 76% of "near me" searches result in a visit to a business within a day.

  • The top ranking factors include Google Business Profile categories and proximity.

  • Local searches on smartphones often lead to purchases within a day.

  • Local organic factors with the most impact are dedicated service pages, internal linking, and quality/authority of inbound links.

EDUCATION

Shlomo Freund dives into the business model of a 20-year-old dating software provider that caters to SaaS companies and is listed for sale. Exploring its potential for recurring revenue, he discusses the current state of the business, its history, and strategic growth opportunities. Shlomo evaluates the business’s sale details, including its profitability, asking price, and unusual aspects of the listing. He reveals both opportunities and cautions for potential buyers in the niche SaaS market.

My Take: He does these analyses on his YouTube channel regularly of businesses that are for sale or were for sale. Even if you’re not in the market now, these reviews are always good opportunities to learn something new and get ideas to increase revenues in your own online businesses.

Cedric Marceau offers up a whitepaper that serves as a primer on SGE and how Search is changing. If you don’t know much about SGE and how it impacts the search landscape, this whitepaper is a good start.

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