Episode 33 - Backlinks, 404s, and Search Annotations

Where queries are weird, advice is controversial, and everything depends.

Last SEO Weekly for a month as I embark on parental leave to spend time with my all-time favorite entity, my 4-month-old daughter. We’re going to be rendering her diaper and optimizing crawling. I’m leaving you with a fantastic episode though.

Do checklists do more harm than good? What are the challenges of gendered language in search results? 

In this week’s episode, we cover what to do when you have more backlinks than other results but you’re not ranking higher, does Google prefer 404s or 410s, and new Pros and Cons search Annotations.


Host: Garrett Sussman | Demand Generation Manager 

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Show notes / References:

Google/SERP Updates:

Google Search ranking updates

It looks like Google will now be documenting the core and topic-specific algorithm updates in one place. Starting from January 13th, 2020, they’ve included the beginning and end of each rollout along with a link to the initial announcement.

Source HTML vs. Rendered HTML | Search Central Lightning Talks – Martin Splitt

In his Search Central Lightning Talk, Martin Splitt explains how Google renders your HTML and how that’s different from your source HTML. He explains the technical processes so non-developer SEOs can understand how that might impact the crawling of their site.

Twitter Threads/Tweets:

SEO checklists do more harm than good – Alex Harford

When you’re getting started in SEO, checklists can help you create repeatable processes for audits, recommendations, and improvements. Sometimes SEOs can use them as a crutch. When you’re looking to scale, it’s tempting to depend on the cookie-cutter plug-and-play nature of checklists, but every site is different and if you’re too reliant on a strict checklist, you’re going to miss a lot of issues and problems. Alex also points out that they’re not a solution for prioritization.

Should you purposely allow indexing of internal search results pages? – Bill Hartzer

Bill Hartzer posed the question about indexing internal search results on Twitter, but it might be more than meets the eye. Glenn Gabe found the documentation where Google still tells SEOs to use your robot.txt file to prevent crawling search results. The general consensus is that ‘it depends,’ but in essence, you’d need to highly curate and it’s a long-term risk that can be pulled out from under you at any time. 

The challenges of gendered language for women and non-binary individuals – Myriam Jessier

Myriam address some of the unfortunate implications of gendered romance languages and search. In certain situations, like the word ‘expert,’ the results might be skewed male due to the gendered version of the word. Google should be more effective addressing that in the SERPs and provide a more inclusive, equal set of results regardless of geographic location or language.

General SEO:

Writing for Humans and Robots: The New Rules of Content Style – Maddy Osman

What? Maddy Osman has written an epic 355-page guide on writing helpful human-focused copy that’s easily consumed and optimized for search engines. Everyone wins! It’s available for pre-order on Kindle and will be released on July 18th.

According to the description the book covers:

  • Intentionally choosing words.
  • Writing compelling titles and descriptive subheadings.
  • Formatting and improving readability for lists, links, images, and numbers.
  • Telling stories in content.
  • Using foundational references like the AP style guide to customize your unique brand writing style guide.
  • Understanding search intent as an important part of your content strategy.
  • Establishing a writing process for content creation that includes researching, outlining, drafting, and editing.

5 Reasons for an Impression Spike in Google Search Console (With Barely Any, Or Zero Clicks) – Brodie Clark

Brodie Clark breaks down the bittersweet experience of seeing your pages soar in impressions, yet deliver minimal traffic. Why does that happen?

Some offending culprits:

  • Internal Sitelinks
  • Images in Image Packs
  • Images in Knowledge Panels
  • Links in Tweet Carousels
  • Web Stories in the Visual Stories Unit

Reason number 5445131 why some SEOs destroy the reputation of SEO – Gianluca Fiorelli

Gianluca shares a cautionary Black Hat tale where a scammy Italian link builder tricked Government agencies to include information on their websites by pretending to be another agency. They then snuck their own PBN links into the copy and generated high-value backlinks. Sketchy (and still not punished)!

How to Work With Zero Search Volume Keywords: A Process for Finding & Leveraging Low to No-Volume SEO Keywords – Tory Gray

With Zero Search Volume Keywords continuing to be a popular topic in the world of SEO, Tory reached out to a bunch of brilliant SEOs and curated a list of ways to tease out keywords that actually generate traffic but might not be ‘valued’ by SEO tools. 

  • Some opportunities can be found via:
  • Related searches
  • Google Search Console Reports
  • PAA
  • Google Autocomplete

Backlinks Built but the Rank has Tanked – Danielle Antosz

What can you do to outrank a site with fewer links?

  • Kill spam links
  • Solve users’ problems
  • Look at the SERPs; adjust for search intent
  • Target Featured Snippets
  • Optimize on-page SEO
  • Improve info architecture

Pros & cons and other SERP annotations give us clues to creating great content! – Marie Haynes

Dr. Marie Haynes shines a list on how Google is starting to surface “Pros and Cons” as an annotation beneath an organic listing. It’s a nice enhancement on the SERPs. Simone De Palma shares the patents behind the feature and how it’s pulled from the n-grams of reviews and then put through sentiment analysis.

Those in the Local SEO space are most likely already familiar with this type of annotation in the form of ‘justifications’ which was covered by Myriam Ellis last year on the Moz blog.

11 Google Sheets formulas SEOs should know – Jackie Chu

Do you prefer to work in Google Sheets over Excel? (I do). Jackie Chu has provided the basics for your SEO needs. 

She delivers formulas and use cases for: 

  • Keyword Management
  • Internationalization
  • Content URL Management
  • Dashboard design/presentations

Technical SEO Articles:

Does Google treat 404 and 410 response codes differently? The Technical Experiment – Oliver Sissons

Not a big deal, but in 2010, John Muller said that 410s can be quicker and more permanent than 404s to get URLs removed from indexes. 410 gives crawlers the ‘heads up’ that the content was intentionally deleted.

“Hypothesized that deleted URLs that returned a 410 response code would be recrawled less frequently and removed from Google’s index quicker than deleted URLs returning a 404 response code.

An analysis of the Google Search Console API data looking at our sample of 119 test web pages shows that 404’s are, on average, crawled 49.6% more often than 410’s.”

The data from this study does suggest that if you want Google to recrawl a removed URL as infrequently as possible, you should go with a 410 response code over a 404 one.

Why doesn’t my website appear in some regions or countries? – Gemma Fontané via OnCrawl

Gemma provides detailed investigative techniques for diagnosing why you might not be appearing in a certain country. She covers:

  1. Content too generic: the importance of focusing
  2. Non-geolocated content
  3. Transcribe, do not translate
  4. Hreflang configuration
  5. Geolocate in Google Search Console
  6. Sitemap errors 
  7. Internal linking: in all your versions 
  8. Local servers VS CDN
  9. Links. Otherwise, why would users think you are worth it?
  10. E-A-T: become the main expert on your topic
  11. Market research: who are the main players in each area?


FREE Hobo SEO Checklist & Task Manager (V1 .1) – Shaun Anderson

Check out this great spreadsheet checklist from Hobo Web covering everything from technical SEO to on-page SEO to user experience.

14 Best Free Chrome Extensions for SEOs (Tried & Tested) – Nick Churick – Ahrefs

Nick Churick identified 14 great free chrome SEO extensions to use for a variety of processes and information research.


Chima Mmeje – Earn Brand Authority with Topic Clusters

Chima joined us on the first Rankable episode of the season. If you missed it, check out her take on copycat content, zero-click SERPs, and the best approach to building topic clusters.

Cindy Krum – Google is Squeezing the SERPs with MUM

Next week, we’re being joined by Cindy Krum to discuss entity first indexing and how MUM is replacing organic results with search enhancements.

Join Garrett Sussman each week as he pulls out all of the biggest and smallest stories from the past week that touch the world of SEO.

Get the scoop on what’s happening to Google, game-changing strategies for SEOs, and the people that you should have on your SEO radar.

Garrett Sussman

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