Ross & Scott started the show with news on Drupal vulnerabilities. They then did a rundown of the many Google updates in the last few months. Other topics discussed: Google testing “More Like This” snippet feature, Google Search Console missing data, Google Local Search ranking bug, spiking Google Business Profile suspensions, and much more!



Noteworthy links from this episode:


Transcription of Episode 439


Ross: Hello, and welcome to SEO 101 on WMR. FM episode number 439. This is Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my co-host is my company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte.

Well, it’s been a bit of a break there, bud.

Scott:   A little bit, but not too bad. We’re here now.

Ross:   Yes, I was off speaking at a Dental Conference on SEO. I gotta say, it was a mistake to have an intermediate SEO section at a dental conference. Having six show up, and most of them looking baffled no matter how hard I made it simple.

Scott:   Just the wrong crowd.

Ross:   It is. But hey, live and learn. The problem is… I guess, I’ll be able to make use of it some other way, but that was a lot of work to create that presentation. So it’s a bit bitter, but still a lot of fun. That was only one of them. I got a basic one, which had quite a bit of attendance. It was neat to have a little press out there with our First Dentist on there and such, which is the other business, by the way, for our new listeners. The other part of our company, I guess we’d call it, to make it simple, that focuses only on dental marketing. Anyhoo, lots has been going on. We’ve had nothing but great weather around here. No, we don’t talk about that much but that’s also the reason we’re not working a lot, or at least getting the podcast on much is, we’re trying to get outside. It’s been unseasonable here to put it mildly. Warmest ever, in fact, I think there was an article today saying Death Valley has had more rain than we had in three months.

Scott:   Well, have we ever had any? I don’t think, where I am.

Ross:   Yeah, that helps. Which is historical. It’s absolutely insane. Well, let’s jump right into this with some non-SEO news that, you know, I was chuckling when Scott posted this, but it really is important. And a very excellent segue, which we’ll get to in a sec. So, what have you got here, Scott?


Critical High Severity Vulnerability with Drupal

Scott:   So if you’re using Drupal, then you need to pay attention to this. Honestly, I don’t know what the market share for Drupal is, we don’t have any clients that currently use it. We’ve had the odd one here, there. But it hasn’t been a big part of our war chest… I don’t know a lot about Drupal. But anyway, there are two critical high severity vulnerabilities, that’s what Drupal is calling them. The first high severity critical vulnerability, that’s a lot of words, vulnerability in Twig, which is a third party templating engine, and this vulnerability (I knew nothing about Twig but there we go). This vulnerability allows an attacker to use the file system loader to access sensitive files. So these days, that’s like, that sounds pretty critical. Actually, I think it deserves all four of those big words. The fix is relatively simple. If you’re using Drupal 9.3, you should update to version

Ross:  We’re not going to go through all that.

Scott:   We’re not? Oh great. And if you’ve got 9.4, update that one as well. The other moderate vulnerability, less important, but you still want to do it, it creates an access bypass vulnerability for publishers using the S3 file system module. So again, if you’re using Drupal 7.whatever, upgrade that as well to the patch that fixes this vulnerability. So get on that.

Ross:   If you’re using Drupal, it’s leaking like a sieve. Just fix, fix, fix and move to WordPress.

Scott:   You know, if you led off with that, I wouldn’t have had to say all that stuff.

Ross:   Yeah. I didn’t think you would. Anyway, I thought that the good segue here is that these systems are unnecessarily complex. We’ve used Drupal before, we’ve used Joomla before, and other ones as well. And frankly, you know, I see some business reasoning for using them. But WordPress has gotten so advanced, and has a much more stable workforce I find, and it’s a little more simplistic to work with, with a lot of the complexity you need. Anyway, that’s a quick pitch there. It’s something we work with all the time and we kind of despise working on these other systems. We do it, but we don’t like it and for good reason. I think a lot of them are just sort of falling out of date and maybe have a smaller programming community to keep them running.

Ross:   Let’s get right into SEO news here. Wow, have there been a lot of Google updates in the last few months. Let’s do a quick run through. You got some dates here, I noticed.


Helpful Content Update: Aug 25-Sept 9

Scott:   So we talked a bit about the helpful content update that happened last month, the end of August into the beginning of September, that rolled out and everybody was worried about it, and then not much happened. So really, the gist of that update is to create helpful content for your visitors. I mean, it’s not rocket science, really. If your content is focused on SEO and focused on bots, it’s not going to do well. If it’s focused on your end user, you’re going to be okay. And that’s probably why we didn’t see a lot of disruption amongst our clients, because we don’t have a lot of ridiculous spammy content. So if you do, you will have probably been hurt by that.


Core Update: Sept 12-26

Scott:   There was also a core update that launched September 12th, and ran through to the 26th. As with most core updates, we don’t generally see a lot of disruption. I mean, you do sometimes, but again, it all comes back down to having a… it’s kind of the same, it doesn’t even matter, have a quality website with well-written content, and you’ll survive almost all of these updates. So that content rolled out, I didn’t hear much about people getting annoyed with that update, we didn’t see much disruption in our clients either. There’s a little bit about it on Search Engine Land, and all those guys. And you know, not a lot of talk about it, which is always interesting, it’s usually a good sign that it didn’t disrupt things too much.


Product Review Update: Sept 20-26

Scott:   Then at the end of September, yet another product review update, these are kind of turning into a monthly thing these days. We did have one client that came to us, we did a bit of consulting with them in September. They have a product review website and they were hurt quite badly by, I think it was the August update, or maybe the one right before that and this most recent update, well presumably, it was the most recent update that helped them. They’ve recovered, although it could have been part of the core update, because it’s all happening at the same time.

Ross:   And we mentioned him in the last show, hoping that this very thing would happen. I think, in this case, he was wise to jump on this and get active. Sometimes we just say, wait, wait, wait. In his case, he lost everything in terms of traffic so he kind of couldn’t wait because it looked pretty severe. He did secure an audit from us and we went through his whole site, and you definitely found issues that hey, you know, he’s gonna benefit from working on those, and he’s going to end up with a better site. So I think it’s a win-win for him. He’s got his rankings back, anyway, I do think it was probably partly because of what you were doing and a mixture of a number of things.

Scott:   It was kind of interesting, because he didn’t see the issue and when I went through and I did the audit on his website, it was really clear that everything the product review update stands for, he was kind of against it. His reviews didn’t read how they should these days. It was really obvious just to look at which actually, surprisingly made it hard to write up the recommendations because it was weird. Anyway, I sent it to him and he immediately understood and he got it right away, and he probably would have figured it out on his own. Some people might have, but you don’t. Sometimes you need that extra set of eyes to look at it from an impartial view.

Ross:   Exactly. I think that’s the case for any business owner. I personally have my own coach, I don’t hire a marketing company, but she has helped me with my own messaging. Even though I can help other clients with messaging, I can’t seem to do my own. Actually, I should note, our new website is up. For those business owners out there who like to be behind the scenes, you may understand my reluctance, but it took years for me to agree to being kind of the face of the company. I guess that’s always been the case, but in this case, it’s now front and center on the homepage, to put it mildly. Anyway we’re hoping that that resonates a bit better and who knows, we’ll see, but if you want to check it out, you can see some of our latest marketing techniques there. I think there’s a little more SEO to be done but at least it’s better.

Anyway I got off track there. Let’s jump right into the next bit here which I really enjoyed. It was a link building request/extortion posted to our Facebook SEO 101 community by Kamran. This is… wow. All you’d say is wow. It starts off, it’s kind of like the most pathetic request for links ever. It says “My client needing backlinks urgently. So sir, I requesting that you give me a do follow permanent backlink on your blog. When you are done please sending me email to confirming” and he gives a link to this site. “Oh, please also create a five star Google My Business and Trustpilot review too” I’m like “what the..” and then the kicker then starts. “If I do not see a backlink in one week, I am creating 1 million toxic blog comments spam and redirecting to..” Anyway, he’s extorting him. Of course, I think it’s an absolute farce. Just suppose a person put the link to their website that this guy wants to create, that he wants to backlink to, plus he gave his own business name. If this company that has requested this backlink actually hired this supposedly Bangladesh company to build links for them, they’re fools, absolute fools, because they’re gonna get destroyed if Google sees this. But it’s also very possible that this is a negative SEO tactic. I mean, think about it. If you send this threat to people and include the link that you want people to link to, that site that you’re requesting links to is going to get some pretty bad negative press. And potentially could end up on the bad side of Google. I would hope that Google is going to look into this a little further and not be hasty, just in case. Again, it is negative SEO, someone’s trying to hurt that website. But I don’t know, I have no idea how that stuff is addressed. Either way, it sucks to see extortion like this. I’m certain there are people that fall for this. I’ve long since given up believing that all people are smart. Reasonable, unfortunately. Anyway, I thought it was a good share. So thank you, Kamran.

Scott:   He does say “best wishes” at the end. So the guy can’t be that bad. He’s got a little grain of niceness in there somewhere, right? I just love how he extorts him and says, “but if you do add the link, I’ll give you a reciprocal link and we’ll be friends” and all that kind of stuff.

Ross:  From a website, that’s likely gonna get completely trashed. Anyway, funny stuff.


Google testing “More Like This” Snippet Feature

Ross:  Alright, Google is testing a “More Like This” snippet feature. I saw this a while ago. When I first saw it, I thought it was ridiculous. As if we need any more to do on a search result. It just looks busy. But why don’t you fill us in?

Scott:   Yeah, so I haven’t seen this firsthand yet. But I think it was Barry that posted about this on Search Engine Roundtable. For some search snippets, to the right, you’ll see a little star icon. If you click on that star, a little pop up shows up down below. It’s called the More Like This box, with snippets containing links to other similar websites. So the example they give was probably a search for vertical blinds by the looks of it, then shows up, there’s a shameless plug for them. Maybe they should pay me now. And then in the More Like This box, there’s a bunch of links to Pinterest and Bob Vila and who knows what else. Do we need this? I mean, wouldn’t the ‘more like this’ just naturally be numbers 2/3/4 in the SERPs, like realistically, they should be. But I will say, if you’re one of the websites that show up in the More Like This box, that’s gold. If you’re the website that triggers it, well, that sucks for you, because it’s just drawing eyes away. So you know, I guess depending on where you stand, this is really cool and really terrible at the same time.

Ross:   Yeah, and I strongly suspect it won’t hold. I bet it’s just a test and it’s gonna evaporate. I just don’t see people…they may go “What the hell is this” and hover over it and see it. But I don’t suspect it will hold. Obviously, I’ve been wrong many times before over the last 400 episodes here but just the same, it doesn’t seem like something that would stick.

Scott:  Yeah, who could have guessed mobile was going to be a thing.

Ross:   Who would have guessed desktops are still around.

Scott:   I’m still using one, I’m sitting at it right now.

Ross:   You remember Decks?

Scott:   Yeah. Vaguely. 

Ross:   It was essentially a dock for your phone. You click it in and the phone would then take over the whole computer and you’d be able to run everything using the computer on your phone, but it’s strong and it’s powerful enough, you’d think. Anyway, some people swear by it. I think that is the future though, for sure. Slight tangent there but it’s pretty interesting.


Google Search Console Missing Data – Sept 21

Ross:   Alright, so the Google Search Console is missing data. Not again, shocker!

Scott:   We need to put this in as a standing note, there’s a bug in Search Console, ignore it. It’ll be fixed by tomorrow. It’s constant. The only reason I mentioned this one is it’s actually from September 21 but it’s been showing up in the headlines today. So I think Google just came forward with this information and tagged it in the performance report. So you might start to see it. Long story short, September 21 is missing data and Google is looking to backfill that data. So if you see a blip on that day, don’t panic. It’s just another bug that we talk about all the time. And it should be fixed by now or soon.

Ross:   Google engineers are like, “Ah, fine. Stop your whining. Yes, it was us.” At this point, do we just say, Google Search Console reports are accurate? Maybe that’s the news.

Scott:   You know, how much reliance should we be putting? How much should we trust these reports if there’s a bug every month? You know, I don’t know. Take it with a grain of salt as everything else. Don’t panic unless you see a trend.

Ross:   Yeah, and I would say that that’s why a lot of agencies like us, we use multiple sources so that we can see the correlation and sort of tune out the noise. Anyway, let’s take a quick break. When we get back we’re going to talk about some local SEO.

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.


Google Business Profile Suspensions Spiking

Ross:   So a little local SEO, it’s been a while since we’ve discussed this much. It’s been a section that’s just been overwhelmed by Google updates, I think. I’ll go with one I posted here, Google business profiles suspensions are spiking as of the last three weeks. What does this mean? Well, if you’ve got a local business profile, they used to be called Google My Business Listings, they’re now called the Google business profile. And if you are one of these poor saps, what you might have done is just gone in and simply updated your hours, added a different category, something really innocuous, and all of a sudden, your listing is completely suspended and disappears. No explanation, no responses to anything, you follow all the rules, fill out all the details and request help, nothing. Crickets. It’s pretty awful. In my opinion, Google should be responding to stuff. There is absolutely no excuse. Zero. Whether it’s “Hi, you screwed up. This is why eff off.” You know, if a person does something really dumb, fine. You know, they’re spamming. But a lot of these people insist they’re not, whether or not that’s true or not, who knows. But I imagine there are some that weren’t, and really just had a fine profile, but for some reason, stepped on Google’s foot, something tiny, and bam, they’re gone. And the question is, it’s so rampant right now, whether or not it’s a bug. Who knows? Again, it’s all in a bit of a vacuum. We don’t have all the details. Joy Hawkins mentioned that there is a lot of buzz among agencies that this is also happening to their clients. Knock on wood. So far, we have not experienced that. The ones where we have clients who may be doing something gray, you know, that are not exactly following every rule. Unfortunately, that’s the odd client. I’ll probably recommend they don’t go and update anything for a little bit here until we see what’s going on. Anyway, it’s very important, this is happening across three different countries too, it’s not just US or Canada or anything like that. It is going on and you should be aware. Now you posted something about a local search ranking bug.


Google Local Search Ranking Bug Fix Rolling Out

Scott:   Yes. Speaking about, we need a Google vaccine for all these Google bugs. I’m gonna get one, I’m gonna apply today. Yeah, so in September, it was looking like there was a ranking update to Google Local for ads within sort of the local area pack there, local maps. And they were expecting, I think Barry reported about an update. Well, it looks like that was actually probably a bug. Go figure,right? Service area businesses were starting to drop out of Google Maps and organic results were not affected. So that’s good. People were starting to think it was an update, they’re freaking out a little bit but as of the end of September, these rankings have started to come back. So you know, if you were one of these service area businesses that saw your map listing tank in September, if it has not returned by now, you might have something else going on. If you saw it drop and come back. It’s probably part of that bug. And pretty sure it’s unrelated to the one Ross just talked about with the suspensions, but maybe, maybe it’s all just one crazy crazy bug all tied to the core update or something. Who knows.

Ross:   One annoying cricket got in there.

Scott:  One annoying cricket?

Ross:   Why not? You know, it’s always a cockroach. I figured I’d hate the cricket this time.

Scott:   They’re supposed to be clean rooms but there must be a crack in the wall somewhere.


What to do with old Event Pages

Ross:   Yeah, exactly. Alright, let’s jump into some Mueller files here. You know, these are always kind of fun to mention, but they are very short. Because, frankly, it’s a lot of common questions. The first one is “What do you do with old event pages?” This is probably the most interesting one, honestly. If you have an event page on your website, and that event is now finished, and you don’t plan on repeating it, it’s done. Delete it, redirect it somewhere else that’s suitable. That’s  John’s recommendation. If it is recurring, though, keep it under the same URL and update it each time. Let’s say you’re having a jamboree. Well, it’s done. then you post “Next year, jamboree is  happening in 2023 in the month of this (day to be announced) and then you can have a mailing list you could sign up for to be notified. That’s simple. Always keep it in the same URL. That way that URL builds authority over time and makes it simple for people to bookmark. Nice and clean.

Scott:   Do people still say jamboree?


Avoid Changing URLs for SEO reasons

Ross:  You know what, I don’t know. Probably. Yeah. He recommends also in terms of changing URLs for SEO reasons, don’t do it. He says, if you change URLs, you’re shooting yourself in the foot for a while for no visible gain. Change URLs for real reasons, not for handwavy “good for SEO reasons.”

Handwavy, that’s John’s words, not mine.

Scott:   Yeah, that’s up there with jamboree.

Ross:   Notes about the URL changes. Obviously, don’t change them without a very good reason. They will all have a short-term negative impact on rankings, sometimes long-term and redirects are critical. When you change URLs, that’s a no brainer. We’ve said this multiple times, many, many, many times over the years. If you ever update or launch a new website, redirects are everything. Because that new website is likely to have completely new addresses for every single page. Well, if Google knew that old site, and perhaps you’ve got rankings for those old URLs, well, they better be pointing to the new place, their new home. Otherwise, it’s going to just vaporize and you’re going to have to start from scratch for a lot of your rankings. Unfortunately, we see this well, more often than we’d expect. And then we get the fun job of having to restore those rankings as soon as possible. It’s a sad state,

Scott:   This whole URL changing thing has a place in my heart, because I can’t count how many times I’ve had clients change URLs on me. And then, you know, I get my SEO notices, or I’m doing reporting or whatever and I suddenly see things have tanked. I’m like “What is going on? ” I look and the pages are gone, and they’re not redirected. It’s just chaos and then the clients, not always, sometimes they’re really understanding and they know that they goofed, and sometimes they get angry about it, and, you know, not my fault. Depending on the scope of the contract, you don’t always see this stuff right away. I mean, if it’s a big client that we’re working on all the time, I might see it maybe even that day. But if it’s a smaller contract, like we have a few contracts that are just quarterly, people just want us to dip in every now and then. In that case, it could be months before you notice that there’s a problem and by then, redirects are only going to do so much and it’s going to be a long term problem. So don’t change your URL unless you have a really good reason. If you think you have a really good reason, ask your SEO first to make sure it is actually a good reason because it might not be.

Ross:   Yeah, and I’d like to add that quarterly SEO is not a good idea. I have said that so many times to these existing clients that have it, but that’s just all they want. But I don’t want them to go without anything, so we’re there to help. But oh my gosh, not a good idea. There’s just too many things that can go wrong or right that they don’t take advantage of through that time period when we’re not working or even looking at it. Bad news.


Ross:   Google, there is no percentage to measure duplicate content. This is something that’s come up over the years. Someone said, “Is there a percentage that represents duplicate content? For example, should we be trying to make sure pages are at least 72.6% unique than other pages on our site? Does Google even measure it?” In fact, the person who asked Is Bill Hartzer. John Mueller says “There is no number (also how do you measure it anyway?)” If there is a number, it’s probably an ‘it depends’ number.

Scott:   It’s always “It depends.” I get this question quite a bit, which is why I included it. Clients ask me how much originality needs to be on these pages. If you were looking at the page, and you’re not sure, then you need more. You have to look at the page and know, is there a reason for this page to exist? And if there is, then you probably have enough original content on it. If it’s content that’s duplicated everywhere, why do you have it? Is it for SEO purposes? Because if it is, it’s not working anymore. That worked 15 years ago, but it’s not working today. There’s no hard fast number of how much text or how much it would have to be unique. Does that text serve a valuable purpose supporting whatever that page is in existence for.

Ross:  Yeah, if you’re worrying about it, it’s probably because you designed it from an SEO perspective versus a person. Not all the time, but often, and especially when you’re talking about location-based landing pages. Perhaps you want to be found in this city, or this borough, or whatever. So you’ve created a page that’s focused on that. And then another one for the different one and another one for… Well, oftentimes, they use the same text, but just update a word or two, that just doesn’t work. I mean, you might get through it. Don’t get me wrong, I have to admit there are ones I’ve seen who do work, but it shouldn’t. So I would say don’t keep that up. If you can afford it. It’s better to have completely unique content on each one. It’s really not that hard to do and it’ll be well worth your time.

Ross:   Alright, why don’t you take this question we got from Errol.

Scott:   Yeah. So Errol left a comment and I’m not going to post his question here. But the gist of it was he had noticed in Google Search Console, “currently not indexed” and he wondered what does that even really mean? So I thought I’d kind of quickly go over the main reasons why you’ll see in the performance report that are in the pages index versus not index. And what these reasons mean, some of them are pretty obvious, some maybe not so much. 

So one of them is 1. Discovered / not indexed. So quite simply, those are pages Google has seen the URL for but has not actually crawled the page. They may have stopped crawling your site due to crawl budget reasons or who knows, but they know about your page. They will come back and look at it. There’s nothing you need to do. Although if you really want to expedite it, you might want to work on some inbound links to that page, or maybe link to it from other pages within your site to help emphasize its importance. Otherwise, you’re good. Just wait.

Another reason they give is an 2. Alternate/canonical. Again, it kind of makes sense. If you have a canonical tag on a page that points to another page as the main, Google doesn’t want to index it. So as long as your use of the canonical tag is correct, chances are your page will be listed as not indexed for that reason. And rightfully so, it shouldn’t be if it’s essentially a duplicate.

Another good reason that shows up is 3. Page with redirect. Again, if you’re redirecting URL, no reason for it to be indexed, it doesn’t technically exist. So that is pretty self explanatory.

The one that I think gets people mad, including one of our clients who actually emailed me last week wondering like, “What is this all about, I need more information” is 4. Crawled / not indexed. That’s the one which is a little bit vague. So Google’s explanation is that the page was crawled by Google but not indexed, it may or may not be indexed in the future, no need to resubmit it for crawling. So that tells you nothing. From my experience, this tends to happen if a page has very low quality, if it has a lot of duplicate content through your site, which we’re just talking about. In the case of our client, for the pages that he had showing up there. They were almost exact duplicates of multiple other pages on the site. And I won’t get into why his website actually makes sense for it to be like that but it created massive amounts of duplicate content and those pages are crawled but not indexed. Make sure you’ve got unique content, you know, good inbound links if you need to give the page a reason to exist.

Then the other reason you might see a page not indexed is 5.Excluded / no index, which is you have told Google somewhere to not index the page. So if you want that page indexed, and Google hasn’t listed it here, something is happening on your website to tell Google not to do it. So take a look at your meta robots, take a look at your robots.txt. If it’s still open, you might have something else going on, like in your htaccess, or a server setting, which is unlikely if it’s accidental, but that’s where you look for that. So hopefully, that clears things up a little bit. If anyone out there had a bit of confusion there, drop a follow-up question on our Facebook group.

Ross:   Awesome, great tips. That’s the stuff that you look into in depth when you’re doing our comprehensive audits. It’s very important to have this stuff reviewed. Oftentimes, we find portions of sites have been blocked or are orphaned. In other words, there’s just no simple or easy way for Google to find the content. And you can find that and fix it. Rankings can explode from simple changes like that. So keep in mind, there is a good reason for audits, I know that there are a lot of crap companies out there that pitch audits as its number one thing to do right off the bat. And I don’t really believe it because I’ve seen the results from some of them…well, I’ve seen the reports, they’re a waste of time and money. A proper audit, dare I say, from a company like ours, that’s based on an authentic wish to make things better for you and hopefully, build a great relationship and future business with you. Those work amazingly well. So do keep that in mind. 

On another note, I was debating whether or not I should say this, but we have a pretty amazing thing going on right now, we are celebrating our 25th anniversary for the first time. Believe it or not, we haven’t had one before. What we’re offering is for anyone, and this includes existing clients, who want a new service, one they’ve not tried before, that could be an audit, could be a competitor analysis, could be anything along those lines of research or SEO in those areas, we’re offering 25% off. Now, this is only going to happen, I’m going to give this notice till the end of October. In this particular offer, if you’d like it, please do reach out and schedule a free strategy call on our website, which will be with me. So we’ll talk and mention that deal, and I’ll make sure to honor it. And it is only for the first, it’s not like you can book for SEO for a whole year, you get 25% off all year. No, it’s for the initial work. But it is still a phenomenal deal and we’re never offering it again. We’ve never ever had a deal like this, not even close. It’s exciting, but you know, it’s worthwhile, 25 years is nothing to sneeze at, and we’re proud of it. So hopefully you’ll take us up on it and I’ll get to meet a few more of our awesome listeners.

Ross:   Well, with that said, 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 where you don’t have to miss a single link and you can refresh your memory of a past show at any time. Have a great week and remember to tune in to future episodes which air twice a month on WMR.FM

Scott:   Great. Thanks for listening everybody.