The show was packed with recent important updates starting with the critical update to Chrome and Edge. Ross & Scott also discussed the Google Search ranking volatility, Google’s URL Parameters tool, recycling attribute for GMB profiles, the impact of product inventory on your search visibility, and much more!

Noteworthy links from this episode:


Transcription of Episode 429

Ross: Hello, and welcome to SEO 101 on WMR.FM episode number 429. This is Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my co-host is my company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte. Having a good day, bud? 
Scott: I’m having a great day. I’m just getting lots done and just pluggin’ through life, I guess. 
Ross: Yeah, there’s a lot happening right now, trying to keep things going. Staff moving this way and that way, so I’m having to find new ones and waah. A bunch of it, I don’t like. 
Scott: Life is chaotic right now, not just from a work perspective, which is total chaos in and of itself. But then my kids are in like, a million different activities. They’re all in conflicting schedules and now my wife’s gone for three days, and I have to deal with everything. I’m just gonna have some kind of a nervous breakdown. I don’t make as good of a mom as she does. So you know, I just gotta power through. 
Ross: Well, and also, a sort of segue into something more serious, Ukraine is certainly a mess. You know, we don’t talk politics but thankfully, this is something we can get into  because this is just a mess, mess, mess. It’s horrifying and it’s hit close to home for us. Denis, our web developer, has been with us, I was thinking he must be with us for 15 years or so, he finally escaped one of the Russian-occupied territories. We managed to help him get to a new location in Czechoslovakia, and he’s now working again. Family’s still left in the Ukraine and are close to all the horror. It’s just a difficult time. It’s so weird to be able to watch all of it happen in social media, on the news. One of the biggest contrasting things I find, I’m not going to go into this in depth or anything, but is just how different the news can be versus what’s happening. Not “fake news” garbage. That’s all paranoia, but it’s more on the different takes on it. Some things don’t really get into specific parts of the news. It’s just like they leave it out. I’ve been finding some of the non-US, non-Canadian, non-Britain newscasts to be more interesting and more unbiased. Anyway, it’s been revealing, and that’s only possible because of the internet and how free everyone is to post. Citizens are posting so you see things a little raw, unfortunately, but you get to see what’s really happening. It’s a fascinating world we’re living in, as scary as it is too. Anyway, we’re really happy that Denis is back and safe. I just hope for his parents to get out of Mykolayiv, which is where they are right now, which is under shelling right now. Can’t believe what’s going on.
Critical Chrome / Edge Update
Ross: Next up, not a segue really, there’s a critical Chrome and Edge update, something we’ve discussed recently, and actually got all our staff to update on. In this case, there’ll be a link in our show notes to it, but Malwarebytes talks about it. They exploit some vulnerabilities involved. It’s a very important update. Anyone who’s using Chrome, probably has already done the update. Or if you haven’t, you’ll see a little update request in the top right of your Chrome browser. Edge doesn’t seem to do a good job of announcing it. I think it just must do it behind the scenes, go to Windows, and just does it without asking. Because I never saw the request. I just know mine’s updated. 
Scott: I think we should point out to listeners too that Edge is actually an internet browser that is put up by Microsoft. Not a lot of people know what that is because nobody uses that, I don’t think. 
Ross: They know what Internet Explorer is, which is again, something that is a bit antiquated. But you know, it’s amazing how many people use these things. Edge has a huge following now because it’s faster than Chrome. 
Scott: Yeah, they surprisingly do. It’s definitely grown, I kind of lied a little bit about how nobody uses it. Sorry, Bill. 
Ross: But these are important because you can get hacked very easily if you don’t keep up on top of these updates. So, don’t ignore them. We in fact, had to deal with one of our clients having a password issue, losing quite a bit of access. So whether it was exactly because of that, we don’t know. But it was the same timing so it was a little suspicious.
Immense Google Search Ranking Volatility
Ross: Let’s jump into the SEO news. Immense Google search ranking volatility, what’s this about?
Scott: Yeah, there’s a lot happening right now. This is just happening in the past couple hours. Although, when you listen to this, it’s going to be old news, maybe. There’s maybe a big update happening right now, or it could be the tail end of the product review update. But it does sound like the update is maybe more widespread than what the product review update might cover. We don’t know a lot about it right now but Barry Schwartz had reported that all the various tracking tools that report on the search weather, I guess, you could say, are kind of off the charts today with chaos happening. We don’t know a lot about it yet. It’s so new, it’s only like hours- new. But if you’re seeing craziness happen then it could be related to this update. I went through and checked literally every single one of my clients, and I don’t see any signs of anything crazy. It’s always that way, isn’t it? Just once, I’d like to see something go nuts with our clients, hopefully in the good direction, and be able to learn more directly from it. Because right now, I’m stuck looking at other articles and trying to figure out what’s going on. But keep a close eye on how your sites are ranking and what your traffic is like over the start of April here, because this is a big update. Like it might be, it might be rolling out for a couple weeks possibly. It’s hard to say but it’s happening right now. 
Ross: Dun – dun – dun. Depends when you’re listening to this. 
Scott: It happened 14 years ago today. Remember back in 2022? 
Ross: We’re on episode 2000. 
Scott: You know, it’s funny, I say that, because during the last recording, I almost wished people a future Merry Christmas just to try to be funny, and I thought that’d be stupid. Now it seems less stupid, so. 
Ross: It does. Did you cover both of those?
Google Product Review Update Smaller than December Update
Scott: No, I’m gonna move on a little bit more here. So let’s assume that it’s a different update from the product review update. If that’s the case, the product review update, which has been rolling out since mid-March and it’s just kind of wrapping up now or not. Now, I guess.
Ross: Not to confuse anyone. 
Scott: I had all my notes and then this other update got thrown in and threw a wrench at everything. But the product review update is reportedly smaller than the product review update from December, if it’s a different update. I just wanted to talk a little bit about that if you’ve got a product review site, this matters to you. If you don’t have a product review site, but you maybe review products on certain pages or something, that might matter a little bit. But these product review updates are periodic refreshes. So basically, that means if you’re hit by one of these updates, you have to wait for another one to recover from it. John Mueller noted last year that we could see this review update being baked into future core updates, but that’s not the case right now. If you were hurt by it, you’re just gonna have to wait, unfortunately. Hopefully, if you were hurt in December, you’re doing better now. I have a whole bunch of notes here and I’m not going to go through all of them because I feel like it might be overkill. But if you do have a product review website and you want to improve how you’re doing or recover it for a future update, if you were hurt, really the key is creating high quality, insightful reviews, showing expert knowledge, comparing the various products with other products, show and provide quantitative measurements, how they perform. If you’re reviewing a car, show actual gas mileage, not just the mileage that you might see in the manufacturer specs, so that kind of stuff. Just go really in depth, lots of media, make your reviews super, super valuable.
Ross: The key element of all of this is that it is unique. All these are your photos, your videos, you’re not copying from anyone, that is really the linchpin. When I looked at this originally, it just seemed like that was everything. I think many of these review sites were just enjoying sitting on the coattails of other sites that are doing great jobs and they’re just copying content and images. So yeah, be the one that creates the best photos, always uses their own content and, and really heads it up and tries different media. Not just one. Don’t be a one trick pony. Don’t just use images, do video, do audio, whatever you can and it will pay off. Which is good. It’s, once again, Google trying to make us work harder for the visibility that we have. They’re trying to make, really, all of these different things that used to work to make money easier to get, unfortunately, are now going out the window and they want you to work for it. The best part of this is that it does tend to flatten the competition out of it, you know. You’re going to have a better chance of competing and those who tried to be lazy about it just won’t succeed as well anymore, which is a relief. Because some of these sites were just churning, they were putting out websites, duplicating them, spinning them, using the same graphics, same images, all the stuff and just clogging Google with multiple sites with the same product, hoping they’re going to get a ranking. Well, that’s going to be a lot harder now and that’s, I think, good for all. Nevermind the environment, which is actually something that’s going to come up again in a little bit, but just think how much energy is used by Google to index those sites and consider them and then reevaluate them, etc, etc. When they’re just garbage. Yeah, we don’t need that. 
Scott: Absolutely. Those days of just regurgitating whatever you want and being successful are long over. 
Ross: Yeah. For the affiliate market, they’re going to be pining for the days because that was pretty easy money. 
Scott: Yeah, that’s a good point, like not just product review sites but I see a lot of these pointers applying heavily to the affiliate spaces. Because that’s essentially what an affiliate site is, it’s a review site of sorts, for the most part. 
Ross: Most of the time, because they try and find that middle ground, which gets people interested and makes them feel like they’re not just going to a sale site. You know, when people see a sale site, they take everything with many grains of salt, and don’t trust it. Whereas review sites, if they’re authentically built, can be really powerful. The ones that aren’t authentically built or just copies, you know, can trick people and no one likes to be tricked.
Google’s URL Parameters tool is going away
Ross: Alright, so another thing, Google’s URL parameter tool is going away. I think I heard about this a couple weeks ago, but maybe not. 
Scott: It’s pretty new. I don’t know how many people are still using the parameter tool. I haven’t really used it for a while now and I don’t think many people do. It’s actually found in the legacy tools in Google Search Console. Effectively, it’s used… if you have a dynamic site that has a lot of different parameters showing up in your URLs, you can go into Google and say, “ignore this one, index that one,” and give Google rules on how to treat those parameters. Google says that the tool offers very low value with only about 1% of the configurations being useful for crawling, and it’s time to go. So if you do still use it, and you go in there and tell Google what areas of your site to ignore, it is time to switch that over to your robots.txt. So you can apply rules to robots.txt that effectively do the exact same thing. Even to an extent Hreflang, I didn’t realize you could use a parameter tool for language and country specifications and stuff. I’ve never noticed that, but according to Google, Hreflang is a good alternative so you must be able to. So make sure Hreflang is in good condition and make sure your robots.txt is applying any rules you want that would be applicable there. Because as of April 26, that tool will be gone forever. 
Ross: I’m afraid there are just too many little acronyms there to unpack. I’m sorry for any newbies there. Hreflang, robots.txt, there’s a lot there. This isn’t expert stuff, but it isn’t 101. However, it is very important for many of our listeners who have been at this a while. So glad you shared it.
New Google Search Label For Highly Cited Sources 
Ross: I just brought this up, because I’m really fascinated by this. But again, this is one you add, and I hadn’t seen this. New Google Search label for highly cited sources. Sounds cool. 
Scott: Yeah. So I have not seen this in the wild yet and it could be we’re in Canada and Google likes to put us on the back burner. What people are seeing..this was over on Search Engine Journal, Matt Southern posted this in the tail end of March, actually. Some news stories and articles and things in Google are getting this little label attributed to it, it says “highly cited.” If you’ve got a top story on your website, and people are citing it, and you are fortunate enough to get that ‘highly cited’ banner across your listing, that could have a huge impact, I would think, on your click through rates and traffic to your site. I’m not sure what the thresholds are on making that happen. Matt doesn’t really mention that or if he even knows at this point, probably. But it’s just really  here to help searchers identify pages that other news publishers consider relevant. Anyway, hopefully we’ll see more of this.
Ross: Yeah, it’s made me think about the recent purchase of, I think it’s, 9% of Twitter by Elon Musk. It’s now controlling interest. He has control over Twitter in terms of shares. So he can try to make it more ethical, allow people to edit tweets, all this stuff, pretty interesting. All this is in the same vein, to hopefully improve the quality of the content that’s coming out of it and improve the ethics of Twitter. 
Scott: Can you imagine, you’re used to using a tool, a website, whatever, and you really want to see a change made and they’re not doing it, so you just buy the company and make the change yourself? Like, it’s only 9 percent, but still, you know what I mean, to have pockets like that. I don’t know, I’d be like, “Oh, McDonald’s is mad at me but I don’t have the money to buy McDonald’s to make better fries.” I’m trying to think of a company that maybe I could buy it, but there aren’t any so. 
Ross: It’s absolutely mind blowing that this guy is so… I’ll use the word ‘unique.’ My wife thinks he’s absolutely stark-raving mad, but he lives in a 600 square foot trailer. In one of those mini homes. Grimes, whatever his girlfriend or wife, I don’t know, someone he had the kids with, and they were eating like macaroni and cheese every night for a week. 
Scott: Really? 
Ross: Oh, yeah, he does not spend any money on himself.
Scott: I’d be spending all my money on myself. 
Ross: There’s rumors that he’ll be the first trillionaire but I mean, if he’s not spending it, no wonder. 
Scott: No kidding. As far as I know, he doesn’t really do much philanthropic work. Like he’s not much of a philanthropist, is he? I’ve never really heard of any news. 
Ross: I think he is, but I can’t spell off what they are. I don’t know why I think he is, but I think he is because he seems to be quite an ethical dude, from what I’ve seen. I’m no big fan but that’s what I’ve seen. I’ve been impressed with what he said so far. Certain things are crazy. Anyway, it’s not the Elon Musk show, but I just wanted to share that because that was interesting. 
Scott: I will add though, there are a lot of changes that I’d like to see made on Facebook. So Elon, if you’re listening, if you could just buy Facebook and then reach out to me and I’ll let you know what to do there because Mark is just ignoring my angry posts.
Ross: He doesn’t listen to the show enough to care.
Scott: No kidding. 
Ross: Let’s take a quick break, when we come back, we got some local SEO, Mueller files, and well there’s a lot, it’s been a busy time. We’ll be right back. 
Welcome back to SEO 101 on WMR.FM. Hosted by myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte.

StepForth celebrates 25 years in business 
Ross: I was thinking about this and I still haven’t figured out what to do about it but it’s StepForth’s 25th year. I can’t really believe that. That’s how long the business has been around. 
Scott: I didn’t know that. 
Ross: Yeah. Should we create a fancy logo? I don’t know what to do. I always dreamed of it being a big party but this is not the time for that. Anyway, pretty cool. Just came out of the blue in my brain, but… 25 years. 
Scott: I’ll drive down Saturday to see, we’ll go out for a beer. 
Ross: There we go. You’re on.
New Recycling Attribute For Google Business Profiles
Ross: Alright, well, let’s jump into some local SEO here. I thought this was pretty cool. Google business profiles, occasionally, they add little features for businesses to show how they differentiate themselves. One of them is that you can add different categories or tags to them such as ‘woman-led company,’ or ‘responsible…’ I forget the other ones. That’s the one I see the most. But this new addition is, there’s a recycling attribute. And this new attribute allows you to place on your page or within your profile, what kind of recycling your business may do. Now, it is not available for every type of business and it is so new that there’s not a lot of clarity in which ones will get this access. But if you do get it, use it. Hell if you recycle the batteries in your store, use it. I definitely recycle our batteries. I don’t throw them out. So that’s something I would add there. It’s another icon that appears under your profile, which makes that much bigger. It shows that you are updating on a regular basis which Google loves. It also shows a certain amount of responsibility which you know, we may take for granted but perhaps prospective client and customer or patient doesn’t, and consider that. They think it’s amazing and that’s one small step towards you being chosen versus your competitor. So very cool. I think it’s a nice thing to be added. I hope it stays, you never know.
Google Looked Into An Eco-Friendly Search Ranking Boost
Scott: It kind of segues nicely into a bit of a conversation on Twitter recently. This is something I almost skimmed past but then I started thinking about it, I thought it might be worth discussing. That is, John Mueller was asked via Twitter, if Google started boosting companies that are kinder to the environment and search results, that’d be an impactful update, wouldn’t it? And yes, it would but John’s response was, “We have looked at this, and we have looked at some of the options here. I think it would be pretty neat. However, it’s tricky. What would you use for metrics?” What kind of got me here is that he said they’ve looked at options here. So they’ve actually considered rewarding websites and businesses who do environmentally beneficial things. If they’ve talked about it, I wouldn’t be surprised if a future update somehow incorporates that. Even as John had said that it would be tricky, like, what would you use for metrics? That’s probably one of the biggest reasons they have and what would you use for metrics? How would you verify all of that, but you know, if Google enforced something like that, and gave you just a couple bonus points in your rankings, for putting solar panels on your roof. Or a tiebreaker for just adding solar panels to your roof, or incorporating some kind of recycling program, like your batteries or whatever, I don’t know, that would have wide reaching effects around the world. Maybe it’s time, let everybody be as environmentally responsible as you can and maybe you’ll get a ranking boost for it someday, I don’t know.
Ross: Well, the other one I could see being really awesome is if they had some kind of a community. I don’t know what you would call it.. community effort ranking…some way for everyone to…Maybe make it a static piece of the business profile. So something that if it didn’t fill it out, it would still show, but it just wouldn’t have any next to it, which would be a bit of a mark against them. But something like ‘How do you sponsor your community? Or how do you give back’ and just have something that you put in there. Maybe, every year we do this particular fundraiser or we sponsor our church nearby, or whatever. It would just be nice to have people get a little bit of pressure to do more in their communities, it’d be kind of cool. They wouldn’t really have to police it, I’m sure there’d be idiots out there who’ll try to game it, whatever, it wouldn’t necessarily be a ranking factor, it’s just a consideration factor for prospects, I think that’d be a really nice addition. It’s a good dovetail into this. Again, they would not have to qualify so they wouldn’t need metrics.
Google: Out Of Stock Products May Impact Search Visibility
Ross: Anyway, the next step here is.. Google: out of stock products may impact search visibility. This is a Search Engine Journal article, and I thought it was very worth adding because many of our listeners have e-commerce sites and many of them may have items that go out of stock. This is kind of fascinating. They’re treating out of stock URLs or out of stock products as soft 404s. If you have a 404, it means the page is no longer there. You’re telling Google that a soft 404 is when you redirect someone from what should really be, there’s nothing here –  page 404 to another page. So you’re kind of trying to cheat things a little bit by giving them something. That’s not a bad, horrible thing but Google considers that a soft 404 and generally treated differently, if not just discounted. They do believe that, when they noticed this, that this will impact your search visibility, it was more of a discussion with Mueller. We’ll just bring it up here. Mueller is discussing and he says “It doesn’t have to be the case, in particular. If you have a lot of information about that product, any one of those pages. Then that page can still be quite relevant for people who are searching for a specific product. So it’s not necessarily that something goes out of stock and that page disappears in Search, it still could show up, in other words. The point of that matter is though, that when something is out of stock, we will assume it’s more like a soft 404 error, where we will drop that URL from the search results as well. Theoretically, it could affect the visibility in search if something goes out of stock.” Again, the reason why I wanna bring this up is it’s theoretical. Someone brought it up, and he did a great job of responding. This is something I’d never even considered would be the case. I figured that Google would know, by looking at the schema on a page that it’s embedded that there isn’t any stock and they would discount it to a degree but I didn’t realize a soft 404 seems pretty intense response. What are your thoughts?
Scott: Yeah, it is intense. Unless Google is back in there spidering frequently enough, that as soon as that item is back in stock, they can flag it as in stock. If I think about it from a shopper’s perspective, I’m trying to buy something, I click on the link for the widget, go to the page, and it’s not in stock. It’s frustrating. You have to go back and find another website that has the thing in stock. But at the same time, I mean, could you be penalized for that. Like let’s say it’s an item that you commonly rank really well for, you sell a lot of them, you have to be out of stock, now Google flags as a 404, you lose that ranking. How quickly do you get that ranking back, when you’re back in stock? I guess that’s the real key. Is this going to be a long term loss? Or are you just gonna be hit short term, and even when it’s out of stock from a business owner perspective, you still want that traffic. Maybe you can serve up an alternate product that’s equally as good. But you’re not given that opportunity to direct the customer to something else. 
Ross: I hope they don’t discount that option because that, I think, is a better experience. Although I have heard debates around that. 
Scott: Well, yeah.
Ross: John Carcutt & I had that discussion many times. You know, which is the best way to go? Same thing with WordPress content. You know, something’s removed, what do you do with it? It’s definitely different, there are schools of thought on it. But I personally like an experience where I’m not getting a 404 or if I do get a 404, there’s an immediate recommendation below where I could go, that’s a better place. I guess that’s more ideal. That’s for experience, not very much for SEO.
Google Does Not Care If You Outsource Content As Long As It Is Quality
Ross: Anyway, Google does not care if you outsource content, as long as it is quality. Pretty much the title says it all, isn’t it? 
Scott: Yeah, and we can just stop there. The only reason I like to include these little things is they’re short, they’re simple, and they give us a little bit of insight into Google. We kind of knew this already anyway, but John was asked, “How much does it matter if a publisher is outsourcing content for scalability reasons, versus having content created by staff or staff writers?” And John’s response was really quite simple. He says, “I don’t think for the most part,…” (He says “I don’t think,” like you don’t know?) “I don’t think for the most part that we differentiate, it’s more about the quality of the content overall, which is true”
Ross: I think he has to get used to saying ‘I don’t think’ simply because there’s always ‘depends.’ In this case, I don’t see how there is, but he’s being careful. 
Scott: Exactly, right. He does go on to clarify the statement a little bit by saying that “it would be different if you’re aggregating content from other websites, which is something we could pick up on.” Which is very true. If you’re aggregating content, then you’ve got potential, like duplication things and, not that you get a penalty, per se, but you’re not necessarily going to get a lot of attention for Google and a lot of ranking love, if you’re just regurgitating content. Unless it makes sense to aggregate some of that content, which is really common for shopping sites, where they’ve got 100 sites, 1000 sites that all sell the exact same product. You tend to get a lot of aggregation from those types of things. But anyways, yes, hire your outsourcers, outsource, get it written by whoever you can, you need it. 
Ross: Yeah, just get it done well, and put an authority building plan together, something we do on a regular basis, and they work really, really well. They’re based on content that has been proven to have worked. Why reinvent the wheel, it’s something I say a lot, but it’s true. Look for content that’s excelled in your industry, and create your own version of it. I’m not saying copy. I’m actually saying, you know, put your own spin on it, or take the idea and take it a step further, but just do awesome content. Again, outsourcing is fine. We do it occasionally. We mostly have our own writers, but occasionally we need someone who’s an expert in a specific topic, and we definitely outsource to them. Anyway, I know we have a question coming up, but I think we’re going to put that off to the next show and we’re a little bit long today.
Ross: On behalf of myself Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte, thank you for joining us today. Remember, we have a show notes newsletter, you can sign up for it at Don’t miss a single link and refresh your memory of a past show at any time. Have a great weekend and remember to tune in to future episodes, which air every week on WMR.FM.
Scott: Great. Thank you for listening, everybody. 

Mueller Files: