The hosts started the show with Google’s release of a super basic video on SEO. They also talked about the July 2022 product review algorithm update, the Google indexing issue last July 15, new automated messaging through the Business Profile FAQ section, a Google Review scam, and more!



Noteworthy links from this episode:


Transcription of Episode 436


Ross: Hello, and welcome to SEO 101 on WMR. FM episode number 436. This is Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my co-host is my company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte. 

How are you enjoying it? It’s quite the summer we got so far here. 
Scott:   You know, I complained a lot about the weather not that long ago and I’m not complaining anymore.   
Ross:    It’s hot now so that’s good. That’s as far as you go with the weather but it was good hanging out with you. I mentioned that last show, I think, and now we’re keeping busy during the holidays..  not holidays, but it always feels like a holiday. It should be a holiday. I know, I control that but I’m still not going to do it. 
Scott:   Come on, we can have July and August off. Let’s start. We’re gonna record the show and then we’re off for six weeks. If I just say it on the air, does that not make it official?   
Ross:    Our team will be on skeleton crew for July and August. Don’t ask any questions, but your work will be done.
Scott:   Yeah, there we go. And if you’re a client, just ignore all that. 
Ross: They won’t know. We’ll use AI to automate our answers.  
Scott:   Well, we’ll get there. It’ll just be like what we’ll talk about in a minute under Local. There’s a similar thing that’s coming up.   
Ross:    True. I almost feel like we talked about that recently. 
Google Super Basic Video On SEO
Ross: But anyway, let’s jump right into SEO news. There’s no non-SEO news today. This is kind of funny. Google has been doing this lately. Well, Google has recently released.. (and this is quoting from Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Roundtable) a ‘super basic video on SEO.’ Now, I watched it and I agree, it is super basic. It’s their way of giving people a crash course in the very basics of SEO. Of course, they don’t say basic, “this is SEO,” because that’s what they believe SEO should be. There’s really nothing else to it. I’m insulted, but whatever, who cares. Even they know there’s more to it. For the average person, the average layman, they should just be creating great content, which is the essence of what they’re talking about. As well as making a title tag, using Google Trends to find out what people want to read, making sure the content you create is based on that, that kind of stuff. It’s not rocket science, the way they’ve done it. It’s only four minutes long. So they’re not going overboard. But you know, recently they created that course too, for people to learn SEO, which was a bit of a shocker. I don’t know anyone yet who’s done it. I can’t imagine it’s excellent by any stretch, because aside from maybe some of the advanced issues that we do run into, there wouldn’t be much of that. I think they’d be mainly leaning on ensuring proper layer content, maybe using markup? I don’t know. I guess we should do it just to see. What do you think? We have all the time in the world, right? 
Scott:   Yeah, I’m bored lately. So anyway, it could be a fun project, though. Absolutely could be a fun project. 
Ross:    At least check it out. I’d like to see what they’re saying, not because I think it’s gonna have any impact on our clients at all. There’s nothing that’s going to be surprising to any of us because well, we know what they use for their search rater guidelines, all these different things, it’s not going to be that great, but I wouldn’t mind knowing. So why not? Put it on my late year schedule.   
July 2022 Product Review Update Rolling Out
Ross:    Alright. So what’s next? Looks like another review. 
Scott:   I was just saying before we started recording, it’s funny how we get these Google updates that are live and happening literally as we’re recording. It’s like it just started out about an hour ago for us. On July 27, there is the July 2022 Product Review update. So this is, I believe, the fourth installment of the product review updates since it started early last year. Like I said, it’s happening right now. So there’s not really a lot to report about it just yet. And if you don’t have a website that publishes product reviews, it shouldn’t affect you really at all. As usual, it’ll take about two to three weeks to roll out. And yeah, so there you go. If you have a product review site, and you’re seeing some fluctuation in your rankings, hopefully for the better. That is what’s happening.   
Ross:   The gist of it is simple. If you drop in rankings, it’s not because of the penalty. It’s because they’re trying to surface higher quality product review sites. This is right out of Google’s mouth. You know, it’s not a penalty, it’ll feel like one but it’s not. It’s just that you’re being bumped down because they feel others are better. And it’ll be interesting to see how good they are at picking those out. I imagine that’s why they’re doing so much testing with it right now, or putting it out so carefully, or fingers crossed, they are actually trying to do it carefully. 
Scott:   Well, two to three weeks. At least, they’re not just dumping the whole thing in one shot and seeing what sticks. 
July 15 Google Indexing Issue
Ross:    Exactly. There has been a Google indexing issue. I heard about this. They had it fixed the same day, didn’t they? In the morning? 
Scott:   Yeah, the next morning, it was just under 24 hours. I wanted to include it. It’s kind of old, though. It’s not super old news but it could become relevant for some people out there. This happened on July 15, it was fixed early on the 16th. If you have a news-oriented website, it’s probably affected you the most. Google was not indexing new content on that day and so there were a lot of delays in getting content indexed. If you have a really active blog, or a site where you’re really pumping out a lot of content, you might look back at your analytics and see a dip in traffic on July 15 and wonder “What’s going on? Why is Google not spidering that day? Why am I not getting any traffic? What’s happening?” Well, don’t panic, don’t try fixing your site, it has nothing to do with you, it was just a good chance that it was related to this indexing issue on that one day. So I wanted to include it so anyone that hears this and then looks at their analytics and sees that drop, or sees a potential drop, you’ve got a reference point there.   
Ross:    I wonder how many of our listeners are that intense about monitoring such things. It’ll be interesting to know. If you are a person that monitors the indexation of your site quite often, you know. Out of curiosity, just post it to our Facebook group. I would be really interested to see who you are, what you do, and then we can get a discussion going about that kind of thing. Because it does imply a level of interest in SEO, and an importance in your website and I’m just fascinated to see who you are and what you do. So just an offer there, we can have a little chat.   
Google showing return period on some product search results
Ross:    Now, this is interesting. Google is showing a return period on some product search results. What this means, essentially, is when you’re looking at product search results in Google, it’s going to show the product, show the price, and then below that it will say the return date. So essentially the return policy. One example would be 15-day returns, another would be 30-day returns. I think it’s a great idea. Frankly, I don’t use Google’s product search thing but probably because I’m in Canada, and I don’t find it very relevant. But if I was in the States, I think it’d be really interesting because it’s a pretty important factor. If you’re having something mailed to you. You need to know that you can get it back to them quickly or within the return period. So I think it’s interesting they’ve added that in and a benefit. To those who use it. I wonder how much benefit there is, I don’t know whether or not they really buy anything directly from the site. But at least it’ll be another simple way for people to get to the content they like and the products they like.   
Scott:   We’ll be curious to see how it does affect click through rates. Because I feel like if you have a good return policy, it could have a positive impact on your click through. I think if you have your product listed, and there’s your competitor listed, and you’ve got basically the same product and the same terms, but you have a 30-day return policy, they have a 15-. I mean, if I’m buying and that’s the main differentiator, I’m going with a 30. Why wouldn’t you? 
Ross:    Yeah, if all things were equal, which it never is, because I’d be looking at reviews.   
Scott:   One example might be with big box stores, let’s say you’re looking at Walmart and Best Buy, and you want to buy a Logitech mouse. It’s the exact same model that everybody has, it’s the exact same price at both stores. But Walmart lets you have a couple extra weeks to return it which is, as this random example, might actually be true compared to Best Buy. So if you’re a small business where you know you’ve got your own created product or some niche, I don’t think it will really have much of an impact but I think it will have an impact for big box and any sort of mass produced product being sold by a major retailer. 
Ross:    Well, even smaller retailers. Essentially, if your return policy is longer, you may earn the first review, they might review your products, your page first, like you said, the click through rate. So I think that would be a benefit. There’s more research to be done when it’s vendors you don’t know about or anything like that. But I think it could still be quite interesting. Anyway, a nice addition. Let’s take a quick break when we get back we’re going to talk about some local SEO and some Mueller files. 
Ross:    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. Remember, we have a show notes newsletter where you can sign up for at where you won’t miss a single link, and you can refresh your memory of a past show at any time.   
Ross:    Alright, what is up next? 
Google adds automated messaging through Business Profiles frequently asked questions
Scott:   We’ve got Google adding some automated messaging through their business profiles FAQ. Now you can add up to 10 FAQs and have the answers automated when people send you a message through Google Business Profile, and the messaging section. So you know, a little automation probably can’t hurt. Although, to be honest, I hate it when I’m doing a chat with a website, and I get an automated canned response rather than a real person, that drives me crazy. But there are definitely some benefits there. 
Ross:    Wonder if they’re gonna allow you to embed that. I’m trying to see if you can put it on your website. That would be a smart move for them. 
Scott:   Make a widget out of it or something?   
Ross:    Yeah. Because I mean, then they’d be…well, they already are technically, by doing this, kind of stepping in the zone of chatbots for websites and FAQ bots, that kind of thing. I’ve configured one for a client before and recently, and it was a lot of work. It’s very useful. No, not everyone’s gonna love it but it is very useful. And for the people who have very common questions, it’s a good thing to have. Anyway, we’ll see what happens. Right now, it’s a 40 character limit for the question and 500 for the answer. Plus, you can include links, which is a nice surprise as well. We’ll see how that pans out. It’s for Google Maps and Google Business Profiles. 
Scott:   Those links will definitely be follow-able links for SEO, right?   
Ross:    Of course. If you get those links from Google, Google’s gonna favor you. 
Scott:   Can you imagine getting links from Google? Domain authority of 100. PageRank 10.  If that was a little hole in their algorithm, that’d be hilarious. 
Google 1 Star Restaurant Review Scam
Ross:    I read about this the other day and I was horrified but frankly, not that surprised. So there’s a Google one star restaurant review scam. Essentially what people are doing, all the most wonderful people in the world. They put in a negative review and they say, “I will remove this or update it to be positive if you give me a gift card.” And the negative review is one star. Now if people don’t do that, they will leave it there and legitimately won’t look good. Now, Google has been notified of this. So if you do receive anything like that, forward it to Google. Let them know. They will then remove that particular review, which is a good thing. I thought it was interesting. One of them said that their common reason for doing this, at least their explanation, is  “I live in a poor country. This is the only way I know of to make money to feed my family.” I’m not saying it’s impossible, if that’s the case, but it’s unlikely. I’m sure there’s better things they can be doing. 
Scott:   Scammers aren’t dumb. And they’re saying that because it’s clearly working in some instances, and they’re not getting a return of the occasional business owner. They’re getting a lot of returns on this and making a lot of money. And, yeah, there’s no sob story. These guys are making a lot of money. They’re not trying to feed their family. Not that that would justify it. 
Ross:    Can you imagine how many people they’ve hired to leave one star reviews and then reach out? It’s like a farm again. It’s amazing, the economies that Google sets up. 
Scott:   For anyone out there that knows who Mark Rober is, he’s a YouTuber, ex NASA guy, and I won’t go too much into detail on this. But he got together with some hackers, like reverse hackers who hacked the hackers. They infiltrated a bunch of call centers in India. I don’t know if you saw that or not. It kind of touches base on some of this sort of stuff. And it’s unbelievably fascinating. Like one call center, I think they said it was making  like $6 million a month scamming people. There’s just a lot to it. I can’t go into the show, because it’s just too intense. But look it up if you’re interested in that. And I bet it’s call centers like that that are leaving these one star reviews. It’s just part of their arsenal of scams.   
Ross:    I’m sure there’s think tanks thinking up the next dozen scams. They’re working on those and they’re getting noticed, it’s gonna start to decline, their abilities to make that work, and the next one will come up. 
Scott:   It’s kind of sad if you think about it, because the people that are creating these scams and running it, to be honest, are brilliant to be able to do it and pull it off, and they’re hacking. It’s bad, obviously, they shouldn’t do it. But they’ve got to be pretty smart people to do it. And if they took all that power and put it into something productive and not illegal and scamming, I’m sure they could come up with some good stuff out there.   
Ross:    You know, it wouldn’t be as easy.  
Scott:   I guess  
Ross:    In their minds, anyway. 
Scott:    I don’t know. It’s just frustrating.   
Ross:    Different upbringings, perhaps? Who knows?   
Google Maps May Remove Selfies, Blurry Or Poor Quality Images
Ross:    This is an appreciated update to Google Maps. They are apparently, but at least, may remove selfies, blurry or poor quality images. Now, this is not, in my experience, a big issue. I haven’t seen a lot of them. I have seen ones that looked kind of awful. Like, part of the image has the actual shop in it. The rest of it doesn’t. Kind of like “Why did you post this?” They’re doing it because they’re gonna get a local profile boost or they’re a local quality rater. What’s the word for it? A local guide.   
Scott:   Local guide. Yeah, they want the points. Five points for a photo. 
Ross:  That’s right. So that’s usually why, I think. Anyway, glad to hear they’re gonna be removing those. Hopefully, they’ll start paying attention to who’s putting them up. 
Scott:   If they start filtering out those images…  Am I muted? 
Ross:    No, I’m just saying, you’re really one of them. 
Scott:   I am one of them. But I’m posting useful photos. I want to get up to level eight, I’m level 7. I need like a million points now. It’s impossible.   
Ross:    I’m level 7 too. It’s been forever since I’ve been level 7. It takes forever to get past that.   
Scott:   I think you need like an extra 10,000 points or something, that’s like 2000 photos. So I’m just gonna go to McDonald’s after work and take 2000 photos. I’m just gonna walk around the building. 
Ross:    Here’s the first french fry, the second…   
Scott:   Hey, perfect.  Different french fry. I don’t know why I want to be level eight. Like, honestly, who cares? It means nothing, just fake internet points that don’t help you in real life. But I don’t know. 
Ross:    I’m probably wrong, but I believe there was a point where level 8 back when it was new, would get you invited to the Googleplex or you’d be part of the people who might be, for their tours and stuff and they pay for everything. 
Scott:   And now I want to do it. I’m going to McDonald’s for sure now. Part of this update makes me wonder what will happen if they’re going retroactively and removing all these bad photos from, you know, who knows how far back? Are those people that posted them gonna lose the points for that? 
Ross:    Be worried, Scott.   
Scott:   Oh, I’m gonna be back to level six. I only post good photos, come on.   
Ross:    Of course you do. It’s all subjective though.   
Scott:   They’re artsy. 
Google: There Is No Objective Way To Count Links
Ross:    Now for the Mueller file. Someone asked about counting links and whether or not the data within Google Search Console is… not just how relevant or how good a quality it is. I don’t wanna go into the actual question. But the point is, John Mueller said, “Don’t focus on the number of links any particular tool shows — there is no “correct” way to count links, interpretations vary wildly.” “Think of links as a way that people can reach your site, not as a metric of its own. The number of links any tool shows is not a ranking factor.” And that is something that’s been widely known amongst SEOs. Every single dang tool has a different count of links. Yes, there will be some overlap. But the net is massive, it is so unbelievably massive that when they scan the net, there’s no way they can cover it all. Each one starts at a different point. So they may go and find different branches and different links. That’s why actually, at one point, we had our own tool that a friend of ours passed along to us because he was tired of running it. That took all of the different link reports from different products, and then mash them together and then check each one of them. That was the time consuming, expensive part to make sure they all existed, and then outputted a final one, which was pretty comprehensive. But you know, that’s a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of work. And there’s now products out there that do that, I’m sure, already. Not specifically that but the point is, that was probably 8 years ago, at least, maybe 10. Now, I can’t even imagine how many links you’d have to scour for a big site, it would be insane, and costly. Don’t worry about it. If you want to get into backlinks, you want to see just how you’re doing, the only tool I can really heartily recommend, because I know they focus specifically on it, is Link Research Tools, you’re just going to need to take a bit of a loan out to run it. No offense to the guys there. We did pay for a while, but it was so expensive. Again, I see why, that is a lot of computing power. They had some really unique and ingenious tools, I guess I would say, that were very unique. They just did a great job. That’s another thing. There’s some definite IP there that they had to protect and get paid for.   
Ross:    Anyway, the long and the short of it is don’t focus on the number of links. Just focus on creating great content, which Google loves to say all the time. We do too, when I’m talking to clients, it is important. It is really what it comes down to. The only way you’re going to differentiate yourself from another business is two ways, ensuring that you have an excellent product/service, and then an obvious differentiator that is impressive. But then content, make great content. Google can’t determine you’ve got a great product, maybe they can through a few signals here and there but it’s still not nearly what they can do, what a person can do when they’re researching it, but they can tell if your content is well written and unique and has legs, you know, it’s gotten reviews, it’s been shared, it’s been commented on. There are links pointing to it from popular places. You know, there’s lots of content there. There are a lot of signals there that can be helpful.   
Ross:    Alright, we have a question. Fire away. 
Scott:  Yeah. So I originally was going to read the question and I feel like reading it, I can understand it. But to read it out loud and listen to it, might be a bit difficult to follow. So I’m going to kind of paraphrase it and reword it completely. Sorry, Dale. So Dale Olorenshaw from our Facebook group had an e-commerce client, and they’re worried about canonical tags and on product pages across different categories. So if you have a product that fits into multiple categories, and ultimately falls under different URLs, you have a category-one/productPage, category-two/productPage, and all those product pages are the same across multiple categories. What is the solution here? Should I place a canonical tag on all the category pages? Are all the product pages under different categories pointing to one singular product page? The short answer is yes, you should pick the one category page that makes sense to have indexed and point your canonicals there. There is a caveat, and I believe Brenda Malone in our Facebook group also pointed this out that Google looks at canonical tags as a suggestion and they won’t necessarily do exactly as you tell them to do. The canonical tag is the correct one, the way to go because you do want those pages spidered. But if it’s critically important that those other pages are not indexed, you may want to block them or update content on them or do some other things there. But from the sounds of it, yes. Put the canonical tag as you mentioned in your question, and you should be okay.   
Ross:    The other caveat I’d put in there is, if each of those categories offer a different use for the same product,… let’s just call it a widget. Maybe the widget can be used in BMWs, maybe the same widget can be used in a tractor, and the same widget can be used in bearings (hey, we know a client that’s got the bearings, one of our own), and maybe a bearing that could also be used in a bike. Well, those are different use cases and each of those pages deserve their own custom written content for those use cases. And that’s perfectly okay. They won’t be duplicated, though. And so this question, we kind of moved, if you did it, right. So just saying, there are options and reasons for having unique content when it’s the same product. 
Scott:   Well, another thing to note too, and I don’t know, I wouldn’t change your URL structure unless it’s brand new, or you’re still in development. But often now, because the domain name and URL string keywords in there don’t really matter too much. So even eliminating the category from the URL completely, and then you only have one product page ever, might be the right solution. It may not always be. Again, it’s the age-old, ‘it depends’ situation, but maybe something to consider in your case and just eliminate those category pages altogether. But please, whatever you do, don’t just eliminate them and redirect them and then message us back “This 20 year old site that these well established URLs are all crashing now.” I don’t have enough information to give you a 100% answer, but that may be a solution. 
Ross:    It’ll always depend because we’re not actually working on this task for you. Alright, one addition, I’d like to put out something we’ve learned or something we came up against with a client recently. Sometimes we get some interesting questions and interesting scenarios. This one was very simple, but very unique in that it seems so simple. Apparently, the Ahrefs site auditing tool. So Ahrefs is a tool out there that helps with SEO, or at least doing research, told our client that he needed to have proper title meta tags on his 404 pages, and he got a little stressed out. They’re like, “Oh, my God, is this important?” No. Just make sure you go to the 404 page and that it’s working. Sure, you can do things to make them a little better. But by all means, put that at the low, low, low point of any task. You certainly don’t need a unique one for each one, just ‘page not found’ or ‘sorry, nothing here, let’s find a better place for you,’ you know, something like that. I mean, just you can be campy with it, have fun with it. The point of the matter is, these audit tools do a good job, generally. If it’s a good  company that they’re based with, but not everything should be treated equally. And you know, definitely don’t stress over such things. If there’s a major issue, then usually we’ll tell you and I’m betting that did not say that was a major issue. 
Scott:   You know, that brings up a good point where these various tools while they have their place, and they’re very useful for a lot of cases, they don’t necessarily replace having an actual SEO work on your site, because you need someone to interpret that data and understand what that data means. Sometimes a non-issue can look like a really big issue if you don’t understand it, or you don’t know it. Or also the tools make mistakes. I can’t remember what it was, there was an issue with Moz. And I was with tech support constantly with them, trying to figure out why certain issues kept appearing. It was saying there were like 5000 errors in a certain way. I can’t remember what the issue was, but there were no errors, there were no problems. Then it turned out to be a problem with the architecture that the site was using, that Moz couldn’t get around. So it was finding errors where there weren’t any. The client was freaking out about it like “Why are there all these problems.” Well, there aren’t, there just aren’t. And we’ve talked to tech support, and the client might not know that, to talk to tech support and try to track down what’s going on here. In that case, it was something Moz couldn’t fix. It was kind of… I wish I had better… because it was quite a few years ago. I don’t recall exactly. But at any rate, the tools aren’t perfect. And if you don’t know that, you rely on them and you make changes that you shouldn’t make, potentially. 
Ross:    Half the time it’s context.   
Scott:   Yeah, absolutely.   
Ross:    It’s how your site was built, what your focuses are, what really matters. All these things, which those tools do not do a good job of. They’re meant to do sort of a good, but vanilla job of auditing. They can’t think that critically, or I think. Well, I’m sure there’s a few that are trying but not yet.   
Well 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. If you have any questions you’d like to share with us, please feel free to post them on our Facebook group easily found by searching SEO101 Podcast on Facebook. Have a great week and remember to tune in to future episodes which air twice a month on WMR.FM. 
Scott:   Awesome, thanks everybody!