Candour

Google Core Update May 2022, using spam sites for keyword research and Apple's new search engine

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What's in this episode?

In this week's episode, Jack Chambers-Ward is once again joined by his co-host, Mark Williams-Cook and they discuss:

  • The rumoured new Apple search engine
  • The May 2022 Google Core Update and SISTRIX’s data around it
  • Using PAA spam sites for keyword research
  • New side-by-side SERPs being tested by Google

Show notes and links

Transcript

Jack: Welcome to episode 21 of season two of the Search with Candour Podcast. My name is Jack Chambers-Ward, and I am joined by Mark Williams-Cook. This week, we will be talking about the new Apple search engine, the May 2022 Google Core update and SISTRIX's data around that, PAA spam sites and how they can be potentially used for keyword research and a new side by side SERP feature being tested by Google.

Jack: Search With Candour is supported by SISTRIX, the SEO's toolbox. You can go to sistrix.com/swc if you want to check out some of their fantastic free tools such as their Instagram hashtag generator, H rev Lang validator, checking out your site's visibility index and the Google update tracker, which we'll be talking about in a lot more detail later on in the show. That's sistrix.com/swc for free tools.

Mark: This is actually a rumoured new search engine from Apple, but apparently from a trustworthy source. So this came from a tweet from, guess who? Glenn Gabe.

Jack: Our man, Glenn Gabe. Good old Glenn.

Mark: He was actually talking about a tweet by Robert Scoble. So many of you may know @Scobleizer on Twitter, who was talking about Apple's WWDC, which is their worldwide developers' conference, where they announce a bunch of new stuff like new APIs for developers. It goes on over a few days, but there is a keynote on the sixth, which is actually, I believe going to be the date this podcast is aired. Yes, Monday the sixth. If you are listening to this, today Apple will be doing their keynote for WWC. These are a couple of tweets from Robert. He said Apple's WWDC will be the first of three events that Apple is preparing for next year, introducing the world to augmented reality, a form of which we haven't seen yet.

Jack: Interesting.

Mark: It goes on to just kind of detail what, he thinks is coming in WWDC, but interestingly, for us, at least in the SEO world, he finishes on a very nonchalant oh, and a new search engine is coming too. Will Siri finally get “smart”? Glenn Gabe had kind of wrapped this up saying that this isn't a guess from him. He's heard this many places. Initially, I was a bit like, so what? There's loads of other search engines. No one can compete. I've seen a lot of people talking about what needs to happen with a new search engine to be a competitor to Google, which is fundamentally actually they need to do something different, because in terms of traditional search results, Google is so far ahead in terms of technology. Generally, I believe personally, in search equality. Yes, they're not perfect, but if you've used any other search engine for a long while, you realize the other ones are far from perfect as well, but there needs to be a completely different angle. Some search engines have done that. There's search engines that plant trees based on searches and things like this, but fundamentally, from a user value point of view, from the value exchange of my time, I'm doing a search. Give me the thing I want. They're very similar to Google.

Jack: We've kind of covered this. We talked about how we'd both experimented with a few other search engines. I think you'd use DuckDuckGo for a while and then gave up and just ended up Googling things. Right, Mark? There was a setting for just Google it for me and it just ended up using Google instead.

Mark: Yeah. They have this, if you do an exclamation mark G, it will run the search basically on Google. Once I learned about that, I found with increasing frequency when I was kind of like on, because what I was doing was having Google kind of on my laptop, desktop and experimenting with DuckDuckGo on my phone, but what I found was a lot of the searches I do on my phone are more kind of urgent.

Jack: Yeah, sure.

Mark: So I'm moving around. I need to find something. So with increasing frequency, I just found myself going, I don't have time for this, just Google it. Which brings you back to, well it's obviously for me, at least it was giving better answers, but this is why I then after thinking about it for a while, got quite interested in this. There's two things here that interest me. Firstly, for those that don't know, last year, Google paid Apple, I believe it was 15 billion dollars.

Jack: Yep.

Mark: To basically be their Safari search.

Jack: The default search engine on Safari. Yeah, exactly.

Mark: This is obviously because lots and lots of people have iPhones and it shows the enormous value of them being present on those devices and people Googling stuff. Obviously, there's a direct correlation there to the money they make on their ads, but I imagine that's a longer-term.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: A longer-term play. I think last year it was like 200 billion in revenue they did again with like 70, 80% being on ads. I doubt that they directly got 15 billion in revenue from iPhone ad clicks, but they're paying for that kind of privilege as well. Firstly, it means that I guess if Apple wanted to, they have a huge head start on any other search engine, because they can just put themselves on people's phones.

Jack: Yep.

Mark: The interesting thing for me was the comment about will Siri finally get smart? Yeah, because for me, Siri is notoriously dumb.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: It's kind of useless. You can't even do basic things like set two alarms for this. It's just like what? This leads into what I was saying around my searches on my mobile were kind of more urgent and I just wanted them done. If Apple can crack having an interface, that's more of an answers and a doing engine between Siri and their search engine, which I think is possible, because they've obviously got the under the hood knowledge of both of those things to make them play together nicely.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: Then they could be onto something because if my phone could give me decent answers, like it fails a lot of time if I'm like, is this store open or when is this open until, how far is it until this? If then give me those answers. I would do that instead of Googling it.

Jack: Yeah. I think you got to go for a different approach, right? At this point you can't just copy Google and just kind of do what they're doing, because they are, as you said, so far and ahead away in terms of technology and things like that, you are kind of just picking up their scraps at that point. If they go for a different angle and we've talked about it again, talk about how DuckDuckGo are now going way more towards that security-focused kind of side of things and a few other things that you mentioned, Cozier who plant trees and stuff like that. There are a few different ways of doing it to kind of get your own little niche in your own little angle. I think if Apple could do something like that, they're prioritizing those kinds of answering local questions or really fast responses and things like that, that could be something really interesting. To dive into a bit, the history of this, this isn't the first time we've heard of Apple kind of thinking about using search engines and building their own search engine, because Barry Schwartz, of course at search engine round table, kind of went into a bit of the history as far back as eight years ago when some of the people in SEO spotted signs of the Apple spider crawling about, Apple bot crawling around and then in 2015, more Apple bot sightings and even Apple listing some of their own search ranking factors as well.

There's also mention of a very big honcho at Google, John Giannandrea going over to Apple in 2018 as well. There's definitely some seeds being planted over the last sort of decade or so of Apple wanting to move into the search engine space. Yeah, this is clearly an overnight decision. I think as Robert Cowell said, this could be the big announcement coming up that will lead to a lot of stuff going forward in the future as well. I'm very interested because there aren't really that many companies that can compete with Google, that can compete with meta, that can compete with these massive, huge technological corporations. Apple is one of those companies, one of the most profitable companies in the world and has been for a while now. Yeah, it's a big dog of the technological world moving into search engines and SEO and stuff.

I think that's really interesting. I'm not an Apple user myself. I never really have been, but I'd be very interested just from a kind of technology standpoint, seeing what they're going to do different and how they're going to stand out against people like Google. We haven't mentioned Bing as well. Could they then eat Bing's lunch and move up to the second spot and be accounting for five, six per cent of searches. Or as you said, Mark, if it's like a mobile focus thing, they could really do some numbers with the amount of searches that are done on mobile compared to desktops for those, as you said, the fast response I need to know if this is open or how far away this is, or when does this thing change? That could be really interesting.

Mark: Yeah. For me, it's they need to get a differentiation that is centred around reducing friction further for the user. It boils down to that.

Jack: Yep.

Mark: DuckDuckGo is great. To be very brutal, to me, it's just Google with a gimmick. It's Google with privacy.

Jack: Sure.

Mark: Ecosia is great. It's Google, a lesser version of Google with a gimmick, by they plant trees, which is great, but they are not fundamentally making the job of the user easier.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: It would on average take longer, in my experience, to find what you're looking for. You are essentially making a choice to trade off your convenience, whatever the thing is that you want.

Jack: I think a lot of Apple users, like I said, my friends, my colleagues who use Apple, I've always been an Android kind of person, but my friends who do use it, talk about how easy it is to use, how well integrated, if you're in the Apple ecosystem, it all just kind of works together and there's no extra like, oh, I have to go and do my Windows updates and all this kind of extra stuff. Apple stuff just kind of works out of the box most of the time.

You get your iPhone, your Mac, your iPad, all connecting, then connecting to Siri and like smart devices and stuff like that as well. Apple TV now tying into everything. They're really kind of branching out. I think being part of that ecosystem and having that search on your TV, that search on your iPad, that search on your phone, that search on your, whether it's a Mac Air or a proper Mac like you're a designer or a developer or something like using it. It's fascinating to see how far-reaching they can be and how far-reaching they could be even more considering their whole thing is kind of that accessibility.

That kind of out of the box, it works straight away. So yeah, I can definitely see that being a direction they'll head into.

Mark: The thing I'm, again, excited about is if they pulled this off, this to me is kind of ushering in the next phase, next generation of SEO. For quite a while, we've spoken to clients about building a digital footprint. This is more than just, okay, we want to appear on a list of search results. We want to rank highly. We want links. This is about, okay, well, let's think longer term. It's likely going to go down the root of more intelligent, personal assistance, more answers, and more people just telling actions to devices. How do you become the brand, the company, the organization that supplies the answer to that query when someone wants to order the pizza or the curtains from their house, how do you be the organization that intelligent device is going to recommend? They're still going to make choices. I'm sure there will be more personalization wrapped in there, but there's still going to be algorithmic choices. Therefore, there will be ways to optimize this and I'm sure what will happen is we will see, as we have done historically, greater parallels between customer-centric, business modelling and what is considered optimal for these devices.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: Google's always tried to say that. Just make good content, because the idea is good content just magically gets good links. Therefore, that's why we want to rank it, when actually the search sort of SEO people focused on, well, if I can just get the links, I can skip the hard bit.

Jack: That's one of the golden rules of SEO. I know you and I talked about this in the early days of me, coming on board with Candour and stuff like that. Thinking about SEO, when you are optimizing for a search engine, it can't negatively affect the user.

Mark: Yeah.

Jack: That is such a golden rule of SEO that I think most people kind of grasp these days, hopefully, but I think it is a thing where, as you said, technology is getting smarter and smarter, literally in terms of smart devices and stuff like that. Things like the Google Assistant and Siri and all this kind of thing and Cortana, that nobody ever uses with Bing, even though it's a cool name. It's named after Halo and stuff. It's a cool idea. I don't know anyone who's ever used Cortana consciously.

Mark: No.

Jack: Usually you click on it and go “God, no, don't do that. Turn it off.”

Mark: Yeah. It gets turned off on install.

Jack: Pretty much. Yeah, I think that the golden rule of anything that you are doing to optimize for search engines, shouldn't negatively affect the user experience, is another key part of this. I think having that, like I said, accessibility, ease of use, fast response for users. I think that's definitely where the industry as a whole is going. I think it is very interesting you use the term, like the next wave, the new generation of SEO, because I know we've covered this a lot. We are so Google focused in our industry because it is so dominant, is essentially the search engine for intent. It's literally synonymous. People use the phrase, I will just Google that instead of searching for something, even outside of the context of literally using a search engine, people still use, I will Google that as the verb. Yeah, I'd be very interested to see if Apple can almost take some of that mind share as well, away from Google. Not literally in terms of number of searches and stuff like that, but even think people kind of addressing that in their day to day kind of household name kind of stuff.

Jack: Apple is already a household name. They've kind of got that foot in the door in many ways.

Mark: Final question to you to wrap this section off. If it's not called Google, what will it be called for Apple?

Jack: That's interesting. Yeah. What are they going to... It can't just be called like “Apple search” or something boring. Right?

Mark: Apple it.

Jack: I'm going to Apple it.

Mark: Siri it.

Jack: Yeah. Is there some Apple puns in there?

Mark: I guess people say I'll ask Siri.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: I've heard people say that, but like I've heard people, yeah. It's obviously more casual, but oh, what's this, is what ask Siri.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: Rather than saying Google it.

Jack: Yeah. Nobody says, oh, I'll ask my Google Assistant, said no one ever.

Mark: I reckon it'll be Siri based.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: I reckon it will be based. I reckon Siri will be super Siri.

Jack: Is there a Siri pun there that we could be making that I'm not... I don't really know the origins of the word Siri. I'm not really sure how we could. No…sorry listeners!

Mark: Staring blankly…

Jack: Listeners, if you do know, let us know. Tweet and if you have any ideas for what the Apple search engine could be called if it hasn't already been announced by the time you are listening to this, which is cheating if it has been announced.

Mark: “These guys are so wrong. They're idiots.”

Jack: Exactly.

Jack: As many of you in the SEO industry probably already know Google rolled out their first Core Update of the year, last week, almost literally as we were recording last week's episode. Mark and I were quite annoyed and we messaged each other literally, I think it was like half an hour after we finished, like, oh yeah, they've just announced it just now. We are actually going to dive into it a little bit and we'll also tie it into a fantastic article written by our friend, Steve at SISTRIX. We'll go through and look at some winners and losers from the core update and some data from SISTRIX themselves as well. Mark, do you want to dive into the core update, the official wording from Google and then we'll dive into some SISTRIX stuff in a sec as well.

Mark: Yes. So incredibly exciting as usual.

Jack: We love a core update.

Mark: In that, it's not. I think it's probably been like a couple of years now, Google stopped giving their updates interesting names. They stopped telling us specifically what they were kind of addressing in those updates.

Jack: Yeah. They kind of put the veil back over in a way, like it was a lot of secrecy for a while. Then they, as you said, revealed like, oh yeah, this is specifically looking at spam stuff. This is looking at link stuff or whatever, but now yeah, like there's the pre-penguin and the post penguin ear and all that kind of stuff. Now it's just the post-May 2022 core update. It's not as catchy.

Mark: I actually find it harder to remember when the updates were, because they all sound the same or you just need to memorize the months. I mean, and to be fair, we've actually had a couple, like we had the product review update, but they're quite small and targeted. Generally with these big updates, they don't kind of tell us anymore what they're affecting. I think we've been through this before. I think it's actually probably, because of how they work in the 10 years ago, they would actually say update the link algorithm or update how they look at content specifically, because I think there's more machine learning involved now.

Jack: Everything's kind of interconnected way more than it was a few years ago. Right?

Mark: Yeah. I think kind of broad core is almost a good way for them to describe it, but it makes it a lot harder. I mean, there was lots of jokes when this was announced within a couple of days of people saying like, oh, I wonder when the first analysis will be out because there are people trying to publish kind of analysis within 48 hours of these updates coming out.

Jack: When we had Steve on the show a few weeks ago, I kind of touched on this with him and talking about how there is that real kind of competition between whether it's independent SEO's on Twitter, just trying to tweet at the known publications. We mentioned Barry from search engine round table earlier, or going to search engine journal and things like that and trying to get those links, trying to get that coverage for whether you're a freelancer or for your agency or whatever it is.

Yeah, people just dive on this stuff straight away. There's a lot of speculation around sort of the early time people seeing some volatility and rankings or changes on their site, whatever it is, maybe some indexing issues, whatever it is, keeping an eye on that kind of data can give you an idea of a core update coming up. What SISTRIX have done here and what we're going to touch on in a bit more detail is kind of the after-effects of that, on what this could actually mean for you and your site and what it's meant for some big retail sites here in the UK as well.

Mark: Yeah. I especially like just covering these, because I know we have got, like some people maybe working in smaller teams or in house, who aren't on Twitter and it is possible to miss that these updates have happened. I have actually seen a few people posting what looked like fairly big changes from this update, which I love. I think that's super exciting when that happens. If something drastic has happened, that might be why, but as Jack said, this is the official wording that Google gives. They say, several times per year, we make substantial improvements. I think I should say changes really, but we make substantial improvements.

Jack: That's the corporate Google like “Yeah, we're improving everything. Everything is improvement. Everything's fine.”

Mark: We make substantial improvements to our overall ranking processes, which we refer to as core updates. Core updates are designed to increase the overall relevancy of our search results and make them more helpful and useful for everyone. Today, we are releasing our May 2022 core update. It will take about one or two weeks to fully roll out. So a couple of important things there. I think it's always useful to just go over the Google statement, to ground yourself. As we've known, Google's saying they want to make results more helpful and more useful.

Google is specific about what it means by these terms. They've talked before about time to result. How long it takes users to find what they're looking for, in their webmaster guidelines. They list what makes a good page. They talk about things like performance, security, mobile-friendly, all these types of things, not being misleading to the user. You don't have to take these as fluffy terms. Google gives you a lot of guidance. We've been through, like with the product review update as well.

Jack: Yes.

Mark: Google gave us like a 20 point list of things that they expect in reviews.

Jack: As we said, you don't always get that information. You don't always get that level of transparency. We talked about other stuff. Again, what I talked to about with Steve a few weeks ago, when we had him on the show, something, if you're working in Amazon, which is its own search engine, which still melts my brain that Amazon is a search engine, it's that big, but they change stuff all the time and there is no announcements. There is no press releases. There are no transparency for any of that kind of stuff. So one day your product can be doing fine. Then suddenly, sales drop off a cliff and you have no idea why. It's because Amazon updated something and they didn't tell you. Google, considering they're the big dog, is surprisingly transparent.

Mark: From what I hear, keeping my ear to the ground, when that happens on Amazon, it can be because there's suddenly an Amazon version of the product.

Jack: Yes, unsurprisingly.

Mark: It's unsubstantiated. There's some interesting documentaries about that. Anyway, so I think it's useful to just go over this, keep ourselves grounded. While these statements are kind of vague, there are specifics behind them. They go on to say, core updates are changes we make to improve search overall and keep pace with the changing nature of the web. While nothing in a core update is specific to any particular site, these updates may produce some notable changes to how sites perform, which we've noted in previous guidance on what site owners should know about core updates. This is what you should know.

We confirm broad core updates because they typically produce some wildly noticeable effects. Some sites may note drops or gains during them. We know those with sites that experience drops, will be looking for a fix. We want to ensure that they don't try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all. There's nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update. They haven't violated our webmaster guidelines, nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action, as can happen to pages that do violate these guidelines.

Jack: We touched on this a few times before as well. I think the phrase, penalized or penalty, is thrown around very liberally in the SEO community, especially when it comes to stuff like this, when it comes to Google changing algorithms and doing updates and stuff like that. A penalty and manual actions are pretty serious stuff. As far as I know on all the sites I've worked on, I've never had one thankfully, but-

Mark: Oh, we'll have to try and change that.

Jack: I know, right? Yeah. Hopefully, none of my clients are listening, but yeah, I think the phrasing Google uses there, is specific, as you were saying, Mark, because they don't want people to panic and just suddenly change a bunch of stuff, because they saw a bit of a shift in their traffic or a bit of a shift in their call or vital scores or whatever it might be. Suddenly people panic and change a bunch of stuff that probably didn't need fixing. It was just kind of a bit of volatility and then settling down a bit. I think it's ways that Google tell people that these days, because I have seen sites over the years panic and then really kind of shoot themselves in the foot with, oh yeah, we completely changed how we handle all of our blog content and it's now done in this style instead of this style.

We completely changed our internal linking structure. Okay, did you do that overnight? Did you plan out a huge map of your site and think about how that works? Well, we saw a lot of changes and we tried to react as quickly as possible. Don't do that. Calm down, have a think about it, actually read that stuff. In fact, I'd advise, as you were saying, Mark, go through and read the webmaster guidelines, go and read actual Google documentation. It's something. When I was first getting into SEO, like three or four years ago, one of the first things somebody on Twitter said to me was, go and read the original documents, like the old page rank stuff and like the really old school stuff. Then compare that to the current advice and guidelines from Google.

As you said, Mark, there is genuine information and layers of transparency in there that we don't often get from plenty of other sources essentially. I think it's really interesting having that as a way to kind of give context of stuff and really ground yourself, as you were saying, around these big core updates that happen, because we are not given much information with these broader updates. I think that can cause a lot of panic, but thankfully we have people doing a lot of analysis, people checking the data, people reviewing stuff, and kind of why we are here is we are trying to help you out to say, hey, by the way, we have our sources, we work with SISTRIX through them, sponsoring the show.

They have a bunch of sources and data journalists they work with who do the analysis. Hopefully, with you listening to this show and us reading these articles, we can get a bit more context there and kind of help you not panic and go, oh God, my site suddenly crashed. What's happened? Hopefully you can get an understanding of why, and maybe you can do some positive changes that can then help you grow in the future.

Mark: SISTRIX do actually have a tool, don't they for checking the impact of Google updates?

Jack: Yes, that's all part of the free tools I mentioned at the top of the show. So you can go to sistrix.com/swc. If you click on the Google core update checker, you can actually get a full timeline of your site and you actually get positives and negative swings, depending on the updates and things like that. I know you were checking some sites that we've worked on and were working with recently earlier on, Mark. It's pretty interesting, right? Seeing a full timeline of like how many different changes have happened over the last year or two. I think it's been six months since the last big, broad core update, give or take, which is longer than usual for Google. As you said, we've seen the product update reviews. We had the page experience review. I think that was in March or February as well.

Mark: Yeah, it's really simple. So you just whack in the domain and it gives a nice timeline of all the updates and gives you just a nice, easy percentage visibility plus or minus because that's a really laborious thing to try and do manually. I really like that tool, just as a, oh gosh, I want to check, 10, 20 domains quickly. It's a really nice way to do it.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: You also mentioned, obviously some people have done analysis and I just wanted to quickly bring up a thread I saw by Malthe Landwehr I will link to it in search dot with Canda dot code UK, our show notes. He's just done a little kind of observation of some of the ranking changes early on, again, just to show what he's found. So I'll just read this thread for you, it's not that long. Said, five days ago:

“Google rolled out a significant change to its ranking algorithm. The May 2022 core update is a blessing for some and a pain for others. I dug into data from Semrush and SISTRIX to understand what happened. Based on the 100 largest losers and 100 largest winners, I observed three major trends.

  1. Video instead of text.

Jack: Interesting.

Mark: Interesting. Not surprising. Interesting.

Jack: No, not, not surprising.

Mark:

  1. Specialists instead of generalists.

Jack: Again, not surprising.

Mark: Very happy with that?

Jack: Yeah. Going through with touching on things like EAT and talking about experts, talking in their field, authoritative, expertise, trustworthiness, all that kind of stuff. Having specialists totally makes sense.

Mark: Then lastly:

  1. better search intent matching.

Which I loved, because obviously that's what also asked basically specializes in. He said in the video space, there are basically only winners, TikTok grew 99%.

Jack: Does it need to grow anymore?

Mark: And YouTube, already one of the most dominant websites in Google's organic rankings, grew 23%. Yeah. Huge growth over all of the video sites.

Jack: We touched on them pretty regularly when it comes to his winners and losers. Don't we? I think that's been even when we were talking about trend watch last week, how influential TikTok can be in terms of trends and stuff, continues to blow my mind and the fact that it just continues to grow and benefit from a lot of these updates. TikTok, you can question the company and their ethics and all that kind of stuff, but they're clearly doing something right in terms of visibility and the awareness that they're getting from search marketing.

Mark: This next one, particularly interesting for me, news publishers known for trying to rank for everything, lost on average, 4% of their Google rankings, while eCommerce and travel specialists grew by 5%. Google can recognize which websites actually have expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness for certain topics like you said. This was interesting because I spoke to a very big eCommerce site a couple of weeks ago and they were saying, oh yeah, well, all of our kind of categories, what's ranking at the moment is kind of like magazine publishing type sites, just doing roundups after roundups of every single kind of imaginable product and just putting affiliate stuff in. This is one thing that Multi's noticed has taken a drop. Here's some analysis in the thread for when these more generic sites are just trying to kind of also publish celebrity news, but then they're trying to review underwear and eye shadow as well. Google's been like, maybe not.

Jack: Yeah. Touching on that for the kind of generalist new stuff, Steve's right up here on SISTRIX, also touched on that and actually quotes Multi's tweet thread there as well, touching on the kind of the 30 new sites that Steve analyzed through SISTRIX, is data. As you said, Mark, a general loss for most, although what the independent dot code at UK has been doing is something interesting. They have their specific topic landing pages, and it's exactly what you were touching on there Mark, is them having those specific topic landing pages rather than a way more general news category or anything like that, has really benefited them. A direct competitor, which is the Daily [email protected] does not have those topic landing pages and saw basically an equivalent loss. So having really specific topics broken down into specific landing pages really is a benefit for these far more generalist sites.

The independent basically covers everything from celebrity news to technology, to everything in between. So actually having those topic landing pages really helps grow those rankings rather than just trying to cover a bit of everything all at once. It's really having those targeted landing pages. Again, I think it's kind of a golden rule of SEO. Most people kind of gather that already, but when it comes to a site as big as independent.co.uk, or even thedailymail.co.uk, there's so much stuff to be talking about and so many topics. The fact that they've kind of consciously gone to that effort, has seemed to really pay off of them with this kind of update.

Mark: I'll let our kind of listeners read through Multi's thread themselves, but the last kind of thing I want to touch on that he brought up is a lot of the kind of Wikipedia style reference websites. We were quite volatile with a lot, seeing dips as well. He's going to come up with the theory here that this may be, because Google's getting slightly better at intent matching. It's finding like you said, these more specific pages have been set up, rather than using. I agree with this, sometimes it leans on these kinds of trustworthy, but very generic sites is almost like a plan B, a backup.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: I'm not sure what they're asking, but I really trust this site and I'll put it out there. I do actually remember, I think we covered it together, perhaps one of the core updates, maybe last year, where we did see an increase in dictionary sites and such.

Jack: Yeah, that came up in a previous SYSTRIX data piece.

Mark: Yeah. It did, didn't it? So I'm not surprised that we see these ebbs and flows again as they're trying to improve the algorithm.

Jack: Yeah. So again, diving into more of the SYSTRIX data here, there's some really interesting screenshots from looking at some of the retail options here in the UK. As we know, UK retail stuff sees a lot of volatility and we've talked about the winners and losers in that industry quite a lot, but particularly looking at the serve comparison feature on SISTRIX, which I really love. You can see kind of green arrows where things are moving up, red arrows where things are moving down and a gray arrow where things stay similar. You can basically compare where you are appearing on the SERP from one date to the next, for a particular keyword. So taking the example Steve has here is corner sofa and comparing that from the 26th of May to the 31st of May 2022, you can really see a lot of shifts from everyone from Dun Elm to Sofology, Furniture Village, The Range, Wayfair, Ikea, all the massive names here in the UK. There is significant changes in that top 20, to say the least. There is movers and shakers, both pop positive and negative across the board. Of course, we have some winners and losers diving in across the UK. So looking at the top 10 winners and losers for the May 2022 core update, the winners are going to be disappointing for UK based eCommerce companies. The latest boost kind of solidifies the position of the massive sites such as Etsy, Amazon, eBay, all that kind of stuff. Yeah, looking at the top 10, unsurprisingly eBay is up there at number two, ebay.co.uk, and number one, Amazon.co.uk. Unsurprising.

Mark: Never heard of it.

Jack: Then coming through, you've got Etsy at number three, amazon.com at number four, ASOS, Argos, House of Fraser, Very, Zalando and Gumtree rounding up the top 10 there for the winners. Then going over to the losers side of things. Again, focusing on the retail side of things here in the UK, I just mentioned Dunelm as one of the biggest losers, poor Dunelm. I was planning on going there over the weekend, last weekend and I didn't. So maybe I'm contributing to that factor. Screwfix, John Lewis, Hobbycraft, Home Base, AO Debenhams, Superdrug, not on the high street and Wayfair rounding out the top 10 there as well.

Jack: So yeah, I think taking the kind of snapshot and analyzing the data there. From a UK retail perspective, it is always interesting to see how this is affecting, we touched on it with the product, review update not too long ago, and it's going to be a thing we're going to come back to many times, because it is such an interesting way to get a glimpse into what is happening in the industry as a whole and get a glimpse into kind of the data behind these broad core updates.

Jack: So yeah, I highly recommend all the links for all this stuff will be in the show notes, of course, search.withcandour.co.uk. There'll be the links there for the SISTRIX blog post by Steve and the link to Malthe's Twitter thread there as well.

Jack: So something I spotted thanks to our friend Saijo George, over at TLDR marketing. Thank you as always. Highly recommend that, I've been able to mention it a couple of times before on the show as maybe one of the best marketing newsletters. It's one of the few I subscribed to. One I really recommend to a lot of people to get your daily dose of SEO, PBC, and marketing knowledge. He highlighted something that we've kind of touched on a few times, and I know something you've directly experimented with and tried and tested, Mark, thinking about PAA data. So people also ask data and how it can be used for spam sites and specifically this example from an AMA on Reddit, talking about how it could be used for keyword research. Do you want to dive into this a little bit? You've got firsthand experience with some spam site testing and experiments. I know you've been running, we've touched on it a couple of times and I like just get a little update from you and your spam site and how it's getting along.

Mark: Yeah. We just running experiment based on kind of a lot of things we've observed testing really how, what I want to get out of it is seeing how Google is currently reacting to kind of scraped and amalgamated bits of websites put together because historically they've been pretty good at not ranking it. The theory that I put forward during the talks we've done on the zero volume keyword stuff, is that because of the combination of things like passage indexing, but understanding queries better, and improved indexing crawling of the web, that there is a whole kind of empty playing field of, if you answer a question very specifically, Google can understand the query that matches up to that. It will probably rank even if the content isn't great. I decided to test this on a brand new domain with literally like putting just two or three links to it.

It's not going to be a link based thing. Don't expect it to rank for any kind of head terms. It's been live about four or five weeks now, and I've been monitoring it in search console dangerously and Bing as well. Bing has certainly been more eager. As well, to give you some context, this isn't a huge site like millions of pages. I think at the moment, it's like 10, 15,000 pages that have been generated over the period of a month. Bing, I think, has indexed about six or 7,000 of these pages and has already sent five, 600 visitors in the first few weeks of the site being live. Google's sort of behaving in a similar way in that it seems to be quite happy indexing all of the content. It's still got a whole bunch in the whole crawl discovered, but haven't bothered indexing yet, but not saying that it's crawled and decided not to index them yet.

I think Google's indexed about four, 5,000 of those pages, which is still for a new domain with zero original content on it, way more than I expected Google to take up. I think without checking right now, it's given us about 250, 300 clicks from Google. So in total from just being on Google, it's around about a thousand visitors in the first month, in the tens of thousands of search impressions for basically a site that was like zero effort. That's just growing and growing and I'm interested to see obviously... I haven't got ads or anything on it. I'm not particularly interested in that. I'm just interested in seeing how that's reacting, because we've seen the big version of these sites with like millions of pages and some have come into kind of the community eye and obviously drawn attention. We talked about the ones that got penalties, that after about three, four, five months. I'm interested to see as well, if any of the core update stuff tackles these kinds of sites?

Jack: Yeah. Again, they've touched on spam stuff quite a lot in the recent updates and it is something, I think the fact that so many of us in the industry and in the community are experimenting with this kind of stuff. I'm pretty sure Google is aware of that.

Mark: Right.

Jack: If we know about it, then they know about it. So yeah, I think the guys over at Google are definitely going to be aware and trying to kind of necessarily quell and quash this necessarily, but they're definitely aware of this stuff going on. The fact that, as you said earlier, Mark, the quote from Google is like, just make quality content and everything will be fine. It's like, yeah, but you can churn out rubbish and also get indexed and great rankings and get more clicks than some legitimate sites do. It's interesting.

Going through to this kind of thread on Reddit here, what these guys have been doing is taking that kind of scraped people also last stated those really long tail search terms, churning out articles like a few 1,000 articles, letting the site mature. So they use an aged domain, unlike what you've done, Mark, using a brand new domain, they will take an older one and then basically run it through a script that they've written in Python using Google search console data, analyzing the keywords, and then picking out some sort of like, just under a 100 or so, sort of in the 10's or the 100's, and getting legit writers to work on a legit white hat site to then create those and basically using it as like a little testing bed for keyword research essentially. Then using that data to do legit white hat SEO, which I think is an interesting way of doing it, but I'm intrigued to see how again, thinking about how this is going to work long term and all that kind of stuff.

Mark: Yeah. I think it's interesting. You see this quite a lot for people that are breaking Google's guidelines, they tend to have legit sites as well, on the side. What I find interesting about this is, again, going back to the zero volume keyword research stuff, we know that there are search terms with hundreds of monthly searches that still come up as zero on all the tools, right?

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: So this is essentially what they're using, is spam sites to find. So they're saying quite openly, okay, I've got media vine on these sites, I've got a program background. He says he runs over 50 of these sites that are just people also ask question, answer sites. Like you say, when he finds keywords that rank and get volume, he actually removes those questions from those spam sites and puts them on here.

Jack: Makes them legitimate essentially.

Mark: Yeah.

Jack: Legitimizes them.

Mark: That's a smart thing to do. He's also included some fun facts, which is that last week's update, the May 2022 core update, boosted black hat PAA sites, according to what people I know are saying, and my experiences. Google is doing a great job as always. Sunglasses. Smiley face.

Jack: There you go.

Mark: So yeah, I think that's just a really interesting kind of approach for that. I kind of feel a bit disappointed that if Google is somehow still rewarding these sites, or even more just, and I understand why that could be happening, but the greater gains people make from this, the more people are going to be attracted to it.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: It's not that complicated in terms of anyone that can code, can work out within a few days, how to set one of these sites up. It is creating a lot of crap on the internet, which isn't nice, because we all have to live there. The only upside is I guess, the bigger problem it gets, the higher it gets on Google's list to fix. I don't think it's going to be a particularly easy fix for them to do, because the content is going to be, the sites are going to look very similar to legit ones.

Jack: Yeah. It's very interesting. This technique of kind of legitimizing the spam is an interesting one for me. If you don't have that data and if Google is able to kind of stamp down all the rubbish and get rid of the spam, then this method kind of goes out of the window with trying to legitimize some of that stuff and turn it into actual SEO content and actual relevant content for users. It's an interesting thing. I don't know is something you've talked about with working with the developers and also asked as well and thinking about how people are using PAA data in very different ways now. Whether that is going through these kind of experiments or using it for keyword clusters and topic clusters and all that kind of stuff, content hubs on their sites. It's an interesting combination of stuff.

I'm fascinated to see where this goes and the fact that as the thread here on Reddit says, we're seeing boosts from core updates for this kind of stuff. That's got to stop at some point. That has to, we have to get to a critical mass of spam and rubbish on Google. You would hope, but yeah. Links for all this stuff, of course, are in the share notes that is through to a Reddit thread on the R/juststart. So Reddit. Some of you may know already it's for search marketing, affiliate marketing, all that kind of stuff. So yeah, links for all that at search.withcandour.co.uk.

Jack: Should we finish off with something quick and easy, Mark? But potentially very interesting. A tweet highlighted coming through here from Shalon Goodman, an interesting little experiment Google might be running on a side by side SERP feature. What we mean by that is it essentially looks like they're running a two-column version of a SERP. So you get your ads, you get your map packs, you get all your kind of stuff that you're expected to see taking up all that real estate at the top of the search page. Now on the right-hand side, there's a bunch of organic results leading into things like people also ask data as well. Very interesting. The fact that both Barry Schwartz and Danny Sullivan from Google have commented on this saying, I've not seen this before from Barry Schwartz.

Mark: It's new.

Jack: It's new. Then Danny saying “Yes, this is very likely we're running experiments.” So essentially confirming, but also not saying like, yeah, this is totally a new SERP feature we're all going to see soon. Google does this stuff all the time. We've covered this plenty of times. I know Bing do this all the time as well and the other search engines, play around with little bits like this all the time.

Mark: This is bold though. I mean-

Jack: This is big.

Mark: We normally cover or we see coverage where Google's changed. They've changed the font face slightly.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: Everyone talks about it. This is, they've just whacked another search result straight in there.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: I assume this is desktop only?

Jack: Yes.

Mark: Because-

Jack: I believe so.

Mark: You couldn't fit this on a mobile.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: That surprised me, because obviously the Google-

Jack: Mobile-first.

Mark: Mobile-first and then like, oh, we're doing stuff on the desktop only version. What do we call those rankings now? Is that like your position of three B?

Jack: Position three on the right, but two on the left.

Mark: Do we continue to scroll? Then the only plus side I could see was, oh wow, we've got classic organic results above the quote, unquote fold again, even though the fold isn't really a thing now, but yeah. I'm just not seeing ads.

Jack: Above the ads, above the map packs, above all the other stuff that you see on these kind of SERP features. I think it's kind of cool, from a kind of biased, purest SEO kind of thing. I'm not an ads kind of guy. So boo to all the PPC stuff, taking over my real estate on my search engine result pages. I think it's very interesting the fact that Google kind of really pushes a lot of that stuff. We talk about how much money they make from Google ads and all that kind of thing and how much they try and promote new SERP features, people using schema and markup and structured data to really get into utilizing their SERPs in various different ways. We've talked about indented results and tabbed meta descriptions. SISTRIX have a fantastic library of all the different SERP features, which I'll link to in the show notes as well, all these different kind of things. Then as you said, Mark, they essentially just chucking another SERP on their side as well.

Mark: Do you like it?

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: As a user?

Jack: Yeah. I was talking to our Search Specialist, Luke, the other day about how there's this kind of, I don't know, a lot of people think like, oh, these paid ads, because they're taking up real estate, they are negatively affecting my hard-earned organic rankings and all this kind of stuff. When in general, that doesn't often seem to be the case, because a lot of people, if you're going to click ads, you're going to click ads. It's often those kinds of less tech-savvy, less aware of SERP features and stuff like that, that will just click on an ad, your grandparents, your parents, all that kind of stuff.

Mark: I would like to interject here if I can?

Jack: As a parent.

Mark: With some data.

Jack: Okay.

Mark: Actually some data. So if you're in the UK, there's a yearly Ofcom report, it's called Media and Attitudes or something like that. You'll find it if you Google “Ofcom Media and Attitudes”. Almost every year that I've read that, they include a sample of adults and say like 13, 14-year-olds, asking them questions about ads online. This shocked me, which was, I have to recall this, the last time I checked, which I think was 2020 or 2021. The last one I read, the last report. In the UK it was only 49%, I believe. Or it was below 50% of adults. So those over 18 surveyed, could reliably identify what was an ad and what was not on Google. Interestingly with I think it was 13 to 15-year-olds, younger, it went as low as I think it was 35% couldn't identify, which were ads and which were not, because my assumption was, hey, it's all the oldies.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: Accidentally clicking on the ads.

Jack: I think it's the people who haven't been educated in this. So you've got the generations before the internet. Why would they know the difference in SERP features if they don't work directly in a tech industry or an SEO industry? Then if you're 13 or 14, do you learn this stuff at school now as a man in his thirties? I'm like, oh God, kids learning about SERP features? Are there like SEO GCSEs? Is that a thing? There seems to be degrees in like everything these days. You can do a degree in surfing if you want to or whatever. Not to disparage surfers, no problems with the surfers, but it's this fascinating thing of yeah. Then there's that sweet spot of, I hate to say, us, the millennials and the current-

Mark: Geriatric millennial.

Jack: Yes. You're a geriatric millennial. I am a box standard millennial, basically, a man in his early 30's.

Mark: Standard millennials.

Jack: Standard millennial. That's me. Yeah. Going through and thinking about, I remember a time before the internet, but I grew up using the internet from my teenage years. I remember having a school computer and all that kind of stuff and trying to download photos and it taking ages and hearing that noise of the modem that you hear at the beginning of the show, every time in our theme song. I wonder if there is that kind of sweet spot where we are in our sort of like post teens, early 20's, through to early to mid-40s, maybe that is this kind of grew up, but we're educated in the internet kind of age? Whereas people like my parents in their 60s can barely use Amazon and wouldn't be able to tell the difference between an ad and on an organic result if you literally paid them. Again, if you haven't been taught that and you're young enough to not know the difference, maybe that's that kind of ven diagram of you just don't know yet.

Mark: Yeah. I have a theory that overlaps with that, which is that when I started using internet, it was much more Wild Westy, a lot less regulation. There were ads on search engines, but 99 times out of a 100, the ads would take you to awful websites. Just bad websites. Right? Just rubbish.

Jack: Not say for work stuff.

Mark: Well just even stuff I didn't want.

Jack: Spam.

Mark: Yeah. I learned that to get what I need to get, I need to skip the ads.

Jack: That's a really good and me too, I have the exact same -

Mark: However, it's very expensive to run Google ads nowadays.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: You absolutely cannot run Google ads on a long term basis if your site is bad.

Jack: Yeah.

Mark: Therefore, I think now younger people can Google stuff. They can click on the first thing they see. Generally, they all go to a good website. So they never learn to be burned of, oh, I need to avoid this, because why would you? Again, it's the path of least resistance, right? Yeah. You just click on the first thing you see, you get something good, brilliant. Job's done. Rather than-

Jack: If it answers your question or solves your problem, then who cares?

Mark: Rather than oh, I clicked on, oh, it's rubbish. Oh, I need to scroll down a bit more. Oh, I see. It has a tiny label on it that says, add, I need to avoid that. That's my theory.

Jack: Very interesting. Yeah.

Mark: I don't like it. The double thing, but I don't like change. I don't think it's going to stay.

Jack: You're showing you are showing the geriatric side of you being a millennial, though, Mark.

Mark: Don't like change. Too much change for me. Google, stick to the typeface changes. That's okay.

Jack: Too much page space, too much room on my screen. Well, like I said, we will link to Shalon Goodman's tweet in the show notes. Do go to search.withcander.co.uk. There, you can find all the show notes and the full transcript for this as well.

Jack: That is all the time we have for this week. We'll be back next week, which is Monday the 13th of June. We might have the update from the Apple search engine stuff that will be happening probably as you are listening to this. So hopefully we'll be back next week with some more news about the Apple news search engine and Mark and I will be back next week to talk all more PPC and SEO news. Until then, thank you much for listening and have a lovely week.

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