The hosts started the show by discussing the lawsuit Google filed against a company promising Page 1 rankings. Other topics discussed include duplicate website content, the impact of backlinks on ranking, Google algorithms to detect & demote AI-altered plagiarized content, HTTP/3 as a factor in ranking, and much more!
Noteworthy links from this episode:
- Google files lawsuit against company falsely promising Page 1 rankings
- Google: 60% Of The Internet Is Duplicate
- Google: Links Have A Lot Less Significant Impact For Ranking Today
- Google: We Have Algorithms To Detect & Demote AI Altered Plagiarized Content
- Report spam, paid links, or malware
- Google: HTTP/3 Likely Won’t Help Your SEO
- Google: A Page’s Content Does Not Need To Be Indexed For That Page To Be Indexed
Transcription of Episode 442
Ross: Hello, and welcome to SEO 101 on WMR. FM episode number 442. This is Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and my co-host is my company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte.
How’s it going today, bud?
Scott: Oh, it’s going super duper. You know that the holidays are getting close, the kids are excited, I’m excited, let’s be honest. Last year’s holiday break was kind of a bust because we all got COVID in our house, and we’re hoping for a good Christmas this year. So good. We’re getting excited. Ready for it.
Ross: I was just saying I feel I’ve got a little ticking time bomb above me waiting to get COVID, I haven’t gotten it yet. Even my son just came home sick.
Scott: Well, that’s tomorrow. There’s your day tomorrow – COVID.
Google files lawsuit against company falsely promising Page 1 rankings
Ross: Yeah, well, at least I’m vaxxed to the max. I’m sure it’ll be a short lived one. But anywho. Let’s jump into some non-SEO news. This is pretty interesting, although it’s kind of SEO, but I’m glad to hear this. Google has filed a lawsuit against the company falsely promising page one rankings. But not just that, they’ve sold fake reviews, positive and negative. They tried to extort businesses to pay for their business, either that or their business listings would be deactivated, and marked permanently closed, and positive reviews will be hidden, and promising the first page rankings. This is a good thing that Google is going after these guys. Finally, I mean, how long has this been happening, probably forever. This one must have just really irked them to get them to take this kind of level of attack and stance.
Scott: I was scanning through the court filings which are like reading Greek to me, right? This is so confusing. But I noticed that part there. And they referenced this company’s logos that they were using, which all look very similar to Google, like they’re trying to impersonate Google on top of all this bad stuff. It’s no wonder that they really got targeted here. And Google was saying that they were getting hundreds and hundreds of people reporting that this company is a scam. So that certainly piqued their interest for sure. I don’t remember Google ever doing this for another company, going after anybody before but maybe it’s happened. But if not, at any rate, it’s good that they’re setting precedents.
Ross: I think they have. I don’t remember. It was a long time ago, if they ever did. Maybe it was another search engine. We’ve been doing this too long.
Scott: Somebody did it to someone.
Ross: I know there has been a number of… there’s always ongoing court cases against SEOs or with SEO relation to it. But I think it’s become so commonplace, unfortunately, that there’s no really big news about it.
Scott: Let’s hope this scares away a few scammers or scares some of the legit SEOs out there who still manage to put “We guarantee first page rankings and first place rankings” because Google won’t go after somebody for just saying that, I don’t think but…
Ross: As long as you state that… I mean, they don’t recommend it. It’s certainly against the guidelines to say that, but if you do, better honor your guarantee, I guess.
Scott: Fair enough.
Ross: I’ve got enough gray hairs. That would just be too much. Because frankly, we can’t control Google so why would we do that? We’re doing a good job, but that’s a lot of stress.
Ross: Alright into the SEO news. Why don’t you take this one?
Google: 60% Of The Internet Is Duplicate
Scott: This is just a small one that I found kind of interesting. Barry at Search Engine Roundtable reported that, Gary Illyes had said that at Google Search Central Live in Singapore, one of his slides said 60% of the internet is duplicate, which actually had me quite surprised, I mean, not super surprised, but I think it would be smaller. But then Gary replied to Barry’s post saying about 60% of reported statistics are missing context. So that was good, and then there was another update that gives a bit of word on how Gary defines duplicates. So this suddenly made 60% seem like, you know, not such a weird number to me. So he defines duplicate as protocol duplicates, HTTP versus HTTPS, or sites with triple W versus non-triple W or trailing slashes or not having a trailing slash, URLs with useless parameters, session IDs, that kind of stuff, which I don’t see a lot of session IDs anymore, but they’re still out there, I guess. And then other checksum duplications, which means whatever that means. So realistically, I mean, I’ve seen this happen when I’ve done audits where I’ve seen eight different versions of the homepage for one site because they’ve got all of these problems. If you factor that in, 60%, actually seems kind of small because there are a lot of sites that are duplicated across triple W and non triple W. I don’t know where it was going when I included this but I just found it kind of interesting. I would have thought maybe it would even be a little bit higher. I don’t know. But Google is dealing with a lot of duplicate stuff.
Ross: There’s a lot. But unfortunately, I’m not very surprised. There’s a lot of people out there trying to take the quick way out in terms of getting content done for their websites. So there’s that. But then there’s also, of course, what they’re talking about, which is the innocent duplicates, which is just really lack of technical expertise and understanding.
Scott: Yeah, absolutely. We fix a lot of the stuff with audits, we’re not fixing with audits, but we point them out with audits and then fix them on our client sites. And it’s definitely something that happens a lot. Not all of them at once. But definitely, we see that. There was one funny comment, one person that said that “Google is duplicating my content,” which is like, obviously, because you’re in the index. So, if you’re any of our clients’ competition, and you want to solve that, just go into Google and ask Google to delist your website in Search Console. And that problem will be solved. But only if you’re a competitor of one of our clients. If you’re my client, just ignore that.
Ross: Yeah, you know, some of these protocols that Gary noted, like HTTP versus HTTPS and triple W versus non triple W. Those are important not only because they put an extra step between a person searching, including Google, and your actual content. But they also have a bit of a,… well, essentially, that step also requires a little more time for any kind of authority to pass to the next page, or at least a little bit of authority is lost. I’m rambling. But the point of the matter is, this stuff isn’t only things that you want to fix from a pure visual and aesthetic perspective, but they help with SEO. In fact, when I was at a Mastermind, almost a month ago now, one of the really high end SEO auditors that were at this Mastermind said that he’s really frustrated with a particular hosting company, that would not remove a particular redirect, it’s just part of their system in their whole process where there is an extra step, no matter what you do, when you try to get to a particular website that’s hosted on their platform. And it’s just the way it is, and there was no way to remove it. So he pulled all his clients and moved them somewhere else, pretty extreme but, you know, when you’re down to the small details to beat out competitors, why not, you know, that can, according to him, make a difference in terms of rankings. I don’t think we’ve had anyone so competitive that we’d have to worry about that small issue. But there are moments.
Scott: No, you gotta do what you got to do. I’m just surprised the hosting company would allow a situation like that to even happen, you know, without any other packages that you could purchase or different environments, you could host it or something.
Ross: You know, it is such a minor issue for most websites, and I bet it’s so entrenched in their own systems. They’re like, “Sorry, this is the way we are. Move on, I guess” because they’re doing well. They’re not a small one. I won’t mention them just for the sake of headaches, but they have some work to do but it’s a low priority, I can tell.
Google: Links Have A Lot Less Significant Impact For Ranking Today
Ross: Google, well, more Google news. What a shock. Links have a lot less significant impact on ranking today. Well, I would imagine, I think we discussed this a little bit in the last show that there’s a certain truth to that. Anyway, Duy Nguyen, from Google Search Quality said during a Google Office Hours video that, ‘backlinks as a signal has a lot less significant impact compared to when Google search first started out many years ago.” I’d say duh.
Scott: I included this because we were talking about John Mueller saying he figures that backlinks will have less value in the future. So it kind of ties in nicely with that.
Ross: Yeah, we did talk about that last time. He notes that link building campaigns are essentially spam, which is complete BS. Anyway, “link building campaigns, which are essentially link spam, according to our spam policy. We have many algorithms capable of detecting unnatural links at scale and nullifying them. This means that spammers of SEOs or SEOs spending money on links truly have no way of knowing if the money they spent on link building is actually worth it or not, since it’s really likely they’re just wasting money building all these spammy links and they were already nullified by our systems as soon as we see them.”
Scott: I love that. To a degree, some of that’s true. But what I don’t like is that it’s a blanket statement for all link building. And there are very ethical white hat,.. you know, speaking to your hat that you’re wearing right now, good ways to build links that are not spam. So it’s like he’s kind of ignoring that fact, right? If you go out there, there are lots of bad ways to build links that are super spammy.
Ross: Just remember, this is actually a black hat.
Scott: Sorry, what?
Ross: It says SEO in white on a white hat, but that’s black hat on white background.
Scott: I didn’t get that. I totally get it now. It’s hidden text that’s why I couldn’t see it.
Ross: For everyone who can’t see, I’m wearing this hat. It’s got SEO emblazoned on it but the SEO is also white. I get people rolling their eyes, “Oh, he’s wearing a white hat.” Well, actually, it’s a black hat, and I just love that John gave it to me. It’s fun.
Scott: Oh, I feel so slow now. I feel slow. I should have picked that up an hour ago.
Ross: All right, man. I don’t expect anything less.
Scott: I am what I am, right?
Ross: So yeah, it’s a ridiculous blanket statement from Google, which is not unusual. And hey, I get it. He has to say what he has to say. Fact is, sorry, guys, Google, you’re full of it. They work really well. I don’t see you ever getting it out. It’s just a simple fact that links are a really good indicator of authority. Most of the time, it’s genuine. And even if they’re built, they are only built when someone actually accepts them, because they looked at your site, the really garbage ones you guys can figure out. Absolutely. People who are spending money on garbage, they shouldn’t get any benefit back. Anyway, that’s my little speech to Google.
Scott: I thought you’d like that one. Actually, I thought you’d have something to say.
Ross: I love those. I definitely love getting a little rant off, because it’s just…they’re very preachy. They think we should follow everything they say.
Google: We Have Algorithms To Detect & Demote AI Altered Plagiarized Content
Ross: I was just showing Scott how cool Jasper.ai is. This is a good lead in here. It says Google: we have algorithms to detect and demote AI-altered, plagiarized content, which is good. If it’s plagiarized, it should be detected. I believe this is when people are spinning using AI. So they take content on a site, they use AI to, which is just machine learning in this case, to look at the content and then spin it much better than they would have before. For listeners who don’t know, spinning has been around for a long time but it was never very technical. We just tried to reformat the words, move things around, but keep the same concept on the page. And people would try to get rankings for it without any effort and it worked for a long time, then Google figured that out pretty easily. AI introduces a lot more difficult, more and more difficult footprint for them to detect, but they claim they can now. They said scraping content, even with some modification, is against their spam policy. Google has many algorithms to go after such behaviors and demote sites scraping content from other sites. He also invites people to notify them if you find any so that they can take action.
Ross: Now, when Scott and I were playing with Jasper.ai and I was showing him just how amazing it is. There are other tools out there, I’m only mentioning Jasper because it’s the one we have and I think it’s probably the best out there. You can literally start a sentence and then tell Jasper to finish it and it’ll just keep going and going and going as long as you keep pressing the button and it writes absurdly well. Yes, we both agreed we’d have to proof it. But big deal. I mean, I did an article the other day, I wrote the main sections of it, then I tried Jasper to get it to write other components of it and it blew my socks off. It was really well done. I largely kept it, just a few tweaks here and there. That shaved an hour off easily from my writing.
Scott: I was a bit… I don’t know, maybe even scared when we tested that. We put in some random sentence and it’s spat out like, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear to you I’d been Punked or something you know, you were just pulling it from an article you had already written yourself because it was perfect. I think there was one statistic or one data point in the whole I don’t know 200-300 words that was not even wrong, but just off a little bit. Other than that, you wouldn’t know. That’s the internet in 10 years from now, it’s all just going to be AI. It’s gonna be crazy.
Ross: Yeah. The one place it falls flat is… and this is good, we don’t want it to be able to do everything… is any kind of user…let’s call it product reviews, when you’re talking about a particular product, and you’re providing personal experience and input, it can’t read your mind. Thank goodness. So, you know, you’re still going to have to write that kind of content, it might be able to support you a couple times, you might want to try and go, yeah, no, remove that and just do it yourself. But between that and your personal opinions, unless Jasper has already digested similar information online, it won’t be able to output anything, it can’t think. It’s not truly AI. ‘AI’ is thrown around like nobody’s business. I don’t think any of it is AI, it’s machine learning technology and brilliant technology, but it’s not AI. AI is actually a brain that can think and do things that potentially seem human and in a way that these things just can’t do.
Scott: Yeah, they’re just not quite cognitive.
Ross: I’m not very good at explaining but there’s some really good tutorials online about the difference between machine learning and AI, and you’ll be fascinated by this but you’ll also be annoyed now because every time you see ‘AI’ thrown around, you’re gonna be like “That is not AI.” I mean, 10 years from now, AI is gonna look a lot different than machine learning out there.
Scott: I’ve got a webcam set up to catch Arnold Schwarzenegger when he appears naked in my front yard. Anyway, stupid lame Terminator reference, I guess.
Ross: Well, if you haven’t looked online for a funny thing here, look at some of the deep fakes with Arnold Schwarzenegger. They’re priceless.
Scott: I saw one the other day. It was something, that’s for sure.
Ross: They’re so funny. One of them was a bunch from a very popular movie about brides, or was it bridesmaids. I can’t remember. There were all a bunch of women around the table normally, but they were all deep fakes to being either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Michael J. Fox, or Owen Wilson. Oh, my God, it was priceless. The voice has changed, everything.
Scott: Man, you combine deep fakes with this AI content development, like Jasper and all this stuff into one writing package and how long until an AI is President or Prime Minister. We wouldn’t even know. It’s gonna happen. That’s gonna happen someday.
Ross: The conspiracy theorists out there are going to have way too much ammunition. Way too much. We’re going to need an AI, a real AI that specifically goes out and detects the lies.
Scott: It’s just getting crazy.
Ross: Alright, let’s take a quick break. When we come back, we have some Mueller files and quite a few more stories.
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. Well, what is next here, bud?
Google: HTTP/3 Likely Won’t Help Your SEO
Scott: Yeah, so just a little bit of information about HTTP/3. So John Mueller, I think this was on Twitter, I honestly can’t remember where this was now. But somewhere, he had said that “Google doesn’t use HTTP/3 as a factor in ranking at the moment. As far as I know, we don’t use it in crawling either. In terms of performance, I suspect the gains users see from using HTTP/3 would not be enough to significantly…” (again suggesting that maybe it does a little bit affect the core web vitals) “… affect the core web vitals, which are the metrics that we use in the page experience ranking factor. While making a faster server is always a good idea. I doubt you’d see a direct connection with SEO only from using HTTP/3.” So this is kind of interesting to me, because I didn’t really, I’ve never really thought about HTTP/3 at all. So first, I’ll just give you a few advantages of it over HTTP/2, and then I’ve got a thought here. So the advantages are it’s faster, the transmission is more stable, there’s reduced latency, there’s better handling of packet errors and built in encryption, and a bunch of other technical stuff that I won’t get into because I don’t even understand it myself. But it’s better. It’s better and faster, faster is really the key thing there. So when I read this, I was like, “Oh, I never really think about that as a factor, maybe I should be checking it when I do audits as a client on HTTP/3,” because obviously, it’ll matter at some point. So out of curiosity, I checked a whole bunch of my clients, I found a tool you can find at https://http3check.net/ and I ran a bunch of our clients, then I ran some of my own personal sites through it to see what it will come up with. Everything was HTTP/3, all of it, which didn’t really surprise me but it did, because I hadn’t really thought of it before. And I thought, well, maybe this is something I should recommend to my clients so they upgrade to this. And it’s already all done.
Ross: It’s not so much the hosting though, it’s your browser.
Scott: Is it more browser? I thought it was more about the server on the server level?
Ross: As far as I know, no. I was looking it up too, it says “HTTP/3 is supported by 75% of web browsers.” So maybe it’s because we’re doing it from Chrome? I don’t know, we’re both learning as we talk here.
Scott: Maybe it’s a combination of the two. At any rate, if you don’t have it, do it. I guess that’s my takeaway here.
Ross: “It has a lower latency and loads more quickly in real world usage when compared with previous versions. In some cases over three times faster than with HTTP 1.1. Which remains the only HTTP version deployed by many websites.” There you go. So it’s just the hosting. So three times faster is not a bad thing.
Scott: No, and the way I look at it, if it’s faster, do it, that’s a good enough reason right there with nothing else in play. The fact that John says it’s not a factor at the moment, and he says “it’s not enough to significantly affect things” tells me it probably does play a role already. And if not, it will soon, like it’s small, like a tiny, little bit but it just benefits everybody. So if you’re not set up for it, do it. I was already set up on my sites and had no idea. So there you go, it’s that easy. You see, it just happens apparently.
Google: A Page’s Content Does Not Need To Be Indexed For That Page To Be Indexed
Ross: So the next one here is going to really bend and break a few brains. And it’s okay. We have to jump into the odd thing here that’s a little confusing. Again, another Mueller file here “A page’s content does not need to be indexed for that page to be indexed.”
Ooh. Dun dun dun. Alright, so we’re gonna need one of those little soundboards.
Well, the way I thought was the simplest way to describe this was that if you had a page that Google had crawled, that said, ‘no index’ on it, or is it ‘no index’? I guess so. Google would look at it, consider it and maybe decide that should be in the index, but then would follow your command and not show the index. Is that making sense, Scott? I think I got that right.
Scott: What’s the expression, clear as mud? So yeah, so their examples were Google will know of a URL, the URL will exist and they can include that URL in the index without actually looking at the on-page content. The reason they don’t look at the content could be because you tell Google not to look at the content. It could be because the URL is actually redirecting, but they know the redirect exists. And other reasons…I thought I had written another one down here, but apparently I did not. It’s weird. It just kind of helps illustrate how strange Google can be, if the URL has no content, why would they even index the URL, but I guess, then they’ll come back. They can check the URL for content in the future, all that kind of stuff. And what kind of resonated with me is it kind of aligned with something that happened to us a while ago. We had a client years ago, and before they came to us, they had changed websites. They took their old domain, and they 301 redirected it to their new domain, which is what you’re supposed to do. And for whatever reason, there were about six or seven pages from their old domain that we could not get out of the index. We’ve tried excluding them, we tried blocking them, we did everything possible and they kept showing up. If you did a site command search for that old domain, it showed up for years. And we haven’t had this client for years. They left us a long time ago now. And actually, before we recorded, I did a site command for their old site, it still shows up in the index. It’s been redirected for probably a decade now with no content. It should not be there and the removal submission thing has been done multiple times. Well I don’t know how recently but when we were around, we did it because we wanted it out of there. It doesn’t appear to be affecting their rankings for their new site, their new site still… well, it might be now again, I don’t know when we were with them, it wasn’t…
Ross: I know the one you’re talking about now, it was so frustrating.
Scott: Oh, there’s like nothing we could do. And I seem to remember I had John Carcutt, I talked to him about it at one point. His advice was stuff I had already done. I think I’ve even…it might have been Matt Cutts that was around at the time, tweeted him for advice, and he never got back to me. So who knows? But they’re not a client anymore. I’d reach out to Muller directly and be like, “What do you think about this?” Maybe I will anyway because I’m curious.
Ross: It is dumbfounding. Honestly, I don’t get it when that happens. We had an example and it has kept me up at night. A client, they’re no longer a client. And this happens, I mean, 26 years now we’ve been in business. Of course, you get instances where you just weren’t able to help, unfortunately. Our track record is excellent but it happens. And this particular one, we redid their website, all to the specs we would do on any other website that I’ve done, that exceeded well for us. Everything about it seemed perfect. They were ranking but they weren’t getting leads. We went through the site, couldn’t figure out if anything was wrong. We checked the forms, we checked everything. I just didn’t know what to say. I mean, it feels like you have to go and walk into their office and take over their computer and look at everything. I don’t know, there was just something wrong and we have no idea what it was. They switched to go to a new company and somehow everything was fixed. I had techs that had been doing it for years working on websites for years trying to figure that out. No one had a clue what was wrong. Everything worked. I guess sometimes… I don’t know. Sometimes Google seems like a blackbox. I mean, yes, it looks like it was ranking, maybe there’s something that we couldn’t see.
Scott: It kind of reminds me of back in my college days when we did some programming. I can’t program worth beans now but I did some programming. If you have a comma in the wrong spot, everything breaks. There was a comma somewhere, that little comma that nobody could find or some little bug or something maybe. It’s so frustrating when that sort of thing happens and we just go crazy.
Ross: Well, we went above and beyond and still couldn’t get a gun done. So I’m glad they found someone to help them out. Wish them the absolute best. Alright, we’ve got a couple more minutes left here. And we can answer a question from Kani, “On Shopify and I noticed that since I migrated to a new theme that when you do a brand search that Google no longer shows my home page but a different page in the search result. What is the best way to fix this?” Alright, so what I’m gathering is just to simplify it, his homepage is not showing up. Another page is showing up after he does a big migration. I think you put down some good tips here so why don’t you run them.
Scott: It’s tough to know for sure, without knowing what the website is, and all those other particulars, but this is where I would start.
- First, I would ask: Is your homepage still indexable? Make sure there are no blocks in the robots meta or robots.txt. Switching to a new theme on Shopify shouldn’t block your homepage. But again, check that because you never know, I don’t know what the new theme is like. Maybe you’ve just told Google don’t index us anymore. So they picked another page.
- Make sure the URL for your home page is the same. Again, this shouldn’t happen but it could. For example, did Shopify suddenly add you know, example.com/index, or /home or slash/whatever. And now that page has to become indexed and your old homepage doesn’t exist anymore. Again, unlikely, but check it, it could happen and that could cause Google to then rank a different page for all your brand searches.
- Then I would also ask, did any of your content on your old homepage change? Maybe previous to the switch it was really brand heavy, lots of mentions of your brand and now it isn’t, like maybe in your title tags? Maybe they just say ‘home’ now, whereas it used to say your brand name. Maybe it’s your contact page? Yeah, maybe your contact page is ranking because you got your brand name on it.
Scott: If everything is exactly exactly the same…I guess it wouldn’t be because your theme is different, but if all the content is exactly the same, and nothing’s blocked, it’s a bit of a mystery. So I would ask, and I’ll put this on Facebook, if you don’t hear this, is to just let me know the URL or private message me and I’ll take a quick peek, because I’m actually curious. I’m curious why this would happen. And typically, when things like this happen, it is one of the things I said about or it’s something obvious, but maybe not. And it’s hard to answer that without seeing the website and actually knowing what I’m supposed to be looking for. But I hope that helps in some way.
Ross: I’d be interested to hear what happens there, Kani. We love those little puzzles. For the most part of the example I shared before, we figure them out pretty quickly. It feels good to help out. So if there’s a way we can, let us know.
Ross: Alright, well, thank you everyone. On behalf of myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing and the company’s senior SEO, Scott Van Achte, thanks 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 SEO 101 Podcast on Facebook, just like Kani did. 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.