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Adam Di Frisco Staying On Top of Google’s Algorithmic Changes with Adam Di Frisco
Search Agent

Is your website struggling to maintain its visibility in search results post-Google’s core update? It’s time to revamp your SEO approach and prioritize user-centric strategies. SEO expert Adam Di Frisco helps us unravel the key insights and tactics for navigating Google’s latest algorithm changes, from enhancing content quality to diversifying your SEO strategy across various SERP features.

Staying On Top of Google’s Algorithmic Changes Summary

Key Takeaways

  • Impact of Google’s Algorithm Updates: Understanding and adapting to Google’s latest algorithm changes is crucial for SEO success. Discover how these updates influence content ranking and what businesses can do to stay ahead.
  • The Role of AI in Content Creation: Find out how AI-generated content is shaping the SEO landscape and the importance of creating content that is not only SEO-friendly but also genuinely helpful and engaging to the audience.
  • User-Centric SEO Strategies: Make the shift towards user-centric SEO strategies. It’s no longer just about keywords and backlinks; providing real value to users is key to achieving and maintaining high search rankings.
  • Adaptability and Continuous Learning: The SEO field is constantly evolving, and staying informed about the latest trends and best practices is essential. Marketers need to be adaptable and continually educate themselves to stay competitive.
  • Strategic Content Creation: Strategic content creation needs to align with SEO goals. It’s about understanding what the audience is looking for and crafting content that meets those needs while also being optimized for search engines.

Staying On Top of Google’s Algorithmic Changes Episode Transcript

Rich: My next guest is a senior digital marketing strategist at digital marketing agency, Atigro. His marketing career started in China, where he was a part time adventure tour guide, and spent the rest of his time in the office organically growing the number of leads through SEO, content strategies, email marketing, web design, and social media management, both in Mandarin Chinese and English.

After returning to the US, he has worked with organizations and websites of all sizes and industries, implementing SEO strategies that continually gain visibility, convert website visitors into leads and withstand the constantly changing goalposts of search engine algorithms. Today, we’re going to be talking about the recent changes to Google algorithms and its impact on your search visibility, and everything else SEO, with Adam Di Frisco. Adam, welcome to the podcast.

Adam: Yeah. Thank you, Rich. Appreciate it. Happy to be here.

Rich: I’ve been told that Mandarin Chinese is not easy to master, either spoken or written. When did you learn the language?

Adam: Yeah, so I started learning back in college. I took a couple of classes and was really interested in it, picked it up pretty fast. But moving there, and I lived there for about five years, so that was when it really, you don’t have an option when you’re living over there.

Rich: Sure. It’s hard to tell how tall you are. as we’re just on zoom, but how tall are you? And did that impact the way that people around you saw you?

Adam: I’m a solid 5’11 on a good day. And yeah, definitely impacted, I got some job offers just based on height. It’s a great time.

Rich: All right. One last question about your time in China. How would you say ‘The Agents of Change’ in Mandarin Chinese?

Adam: Ooh, Agents of Change. (speaks Mandarin Chinese)

Rich: Love it. All right, we’re going to work on that. I’ll learn to say it. I’ll just listen to it over and over again.

Alright, onto SEO. I wanted to ask you about some recent changes at Google. But for anybody who’s not eyeball deep in the SEO world, can you explain to us what Google’s updates are, and why Google keeps changing the rules on this?

Adam: Yeah Google’s algorithm, it’s interesting. It’s part of our job to study these algorithms and know how they work. They have hundreds of unconfirmed, they’re not public with every algorithm update, they’re constantly tweaking their search algorithm to give their searchers what they think is a better experience. So there’s tons and tons throughout the year that we don’t know about.

But every now and then, there are big algorithm updates. So a lot of times we call these ‘core updates’. And recently this March, there was a big core update. So that’s when they come out in the public, they tell everyone, hey, we’re updating our algorithm, it’s going to take two to three weeks to roll out. Here’s what you should know about it. And as SEOs, it’s our jobs to go in and understand all of their updates to their algorithm, and how we can adapt and come out on the right side and not get punished by the algorithm update.

Rich: All right. So let’s talk about that 2024 core update and spam update, I’ve heard it called. As website owners and content creators, what does this mean to us? How does it affect us, and how do you recommend that we change our approach moving forward?

Adam: Yeah. So there’s actually two updates rolling out simultaneously. There’s the spam update, and there’s the core update. And there’s different updates to both, little nuances. But in general, it’s a big focus on content. There’s a lot that has to do with content involved with both of those updates.

The biggest impact that we’re seeing is, they’re calling it ‘scalable content’, how you scale your content. So in other words, if you’re using AI to copy and paste from ChatGPT articles and you’re pushing out 10 articles a day that haven’t been edited or touched, just straight from ChatGPT or some other AI tool, we’re seeing these sites drop out of the rankings very fast. So a lot of it is how you’re scaling your content. Are you doing it in a helpful way, or are you doing it just to rank on search engines? So that’s the big takeaway from this core update so far.

Rich: So would you say if in the last 6 to 18 months, if we’ve been relying heavily on AI created content and maybe haven’t been…. I man, there’s a lot of benefits to AI, obviously, we’ve talked about them on the show. But if we’ve been using it in a way where we’re just hitting ‘publish’ and then copy and past it over, we should expect to see some negative impact from that. What do you think we should do? Should we go back and fix the posts that we’ve already done that might be of this lower quality content? Or should we just move forward and only be using AI as an assistant, and not the final creator of our content?

Adam: Yeah, I think it depends on a couple of things. It depends on the severity of how hard you were hit. There’s a couple of different ways that you can know if you’ve been hit.

The first one you can get if you’re logged into Google Search Console, which you should be paying attention to. But they will notify you if you’ve gotten a manual action. So if they’re calling out and saying we’re detecting, I think they use the word ‘gibberish’ in their text when it’s reporting you as a manual action. But if you got a manual action, you know it’s serious. Depending on the scenario, I’d have to look at it, but my gut would tell me go in with a machete and not what surgeons use. A little scalpel, that’s what I’m trying to say.

So a lot of times, especially if it’s very severe, if you have hundreds of thousands of web pages that are straight AI content without any editing or touching up. Even if there was some minor editing, depending on how Google’s algorithm is now looking at this, it could still deem it as unhelpful content. So in that case, it’s a big recovery project. All of a sudden you’re changing from ongoing SEO to SEO penalty recovery. So that is very serious if you get a manual action.

The other case, and this update as we’re talking right now, it’s still rolling out. I believe it started March 5th, and they said 2 to 3 weeks. If you start seeing your rankings and traffic drop in that range, you can be pretty sure that it has to do with something in this update. Whether it’s the AI content aspect, whether it’s something a little more obviously spammy. Domain abuse is another big one where people buy old domains and then try to put unrelated content on it, but you can know it has something to do with that.

So in that case, if you’re just dropping, then you could look at it at a case-by-case basis. And be honest with yourself. Have I been using AI to just spit out content, or have we just been using it to help? And then you can assess from there.

Rich: Adam, do you feel that this is a strictly anti-AI, generative AI approach, or is this just targeting all low-quality content, much of which might be AI generated? Do you have a sense of that?

Adam: Absolutely. Google in the beginning, they weren’t very clear. But as of right now, they’re very clear about this. Crappy content is crappy content. So to Google, in their eyes, and they’ve said this and all their documentation, it doesn’t matter how it’s generated. Bad is bad.

And another quality of straight AI content, is that it’s not very unique. By nature, it’s not very unique. So for Google, uniqueness is a huge part of what they’re looking for in what they classify as helpful content. So it’s not so much the AI aspect, you can have very bad content without AI as well.

Rich: Okay. And one thing you mentioned was ‘manual action’. So what is a manual action? When I hear it, it sounds like somebody from Google is reaching out to me and being like, “Rich, your content sucks.” But I’m guessing it’s not exactly that. How do we know if we’ve had a manual action against us?

Adam: Sure. Yeah, so you will get that alert in Google search console. You’ll probably get an email in whatever your Google search console is hooked up to You you’ll get an email and it’ll say you’ve received a manual penalty. And really what it is, is you know that a human has had eyes on your website and has said this is breaking one or more of our guidelines. And it’ll tell you what guideline you are breaking in that alert that you get.

Rich: All right, let’s segue away from strictly around core updates, and just talk about SEO and content creation a little bit more generally. Because I think a lot of the people who are listening may not be having hundreds of thousands of pages. They might see a little dip. They probably haven’t been just trying to crank out as much content as possible. If we’re trying to create content that resonates with our audience, where do you recommend that we get started with new ideas?

Adam: Yeah, so this is something we’ve been focusing on a lot lately. And I have a lot of clients who are much smaller businesses, small websites. For example, one of them installs flooring in commercial areas like commercial kitchens. That’s all he does, install the flooring. And we’ve been working with him for a good number of years now. And at some point, you start to think how much content can you push out about laying down floor and commercial kitchens?

So the classic approach is doing your keyword research and all of that normal stuff. But we started to branch out a little bit, especially since those helpful content systems started to come into play, to think about how we can be most helpful to our users. So in our minds, what do the users find helpful? What are they looking for?

So something that we’ve been doing is listening a lot closer to our audience and using that as a starting point. Instead of looking at what’s already out there, just simply look at what your audience is looking for, what are they searching for, and trying to address that as best as you can.

Rich: That makes a lot of sense. Of course, assuming that we have an audience, assuming that we have a customer base at this point. Let’s say we’re just getting started and we don’t have that customer base to talk to. Where else might we turn for ideas on the type of content we should be creating for our websites?

Adam: For sure. Yeah, that’s a really common issue. I tell people all the time, go to your form fills, your phone calls, but if you have none of those, then where do you start, right? And a lot of this is going to overlap. You had a recent podcast guest on, Joe Zappa, what a brilliant guy, by the way. It’s going to overlap a lot with what he was talking about as well. So finding where your audience is active in the digital space.

As a side note, we’re seeing Reddit start to pop up a lot more in search results right now. I don’t know how long that’ll last, but it’s happening right now. Google’s servicing a lot of that, and it’s a wealth of information. And it can be a little tricky to find, to separate the noise from what is actually important to your audience. But finding out where they live online, whether that’s Reddit, or Twitter, or LinkedIn, finding out the words that they use, what questions that they have that don’t have good answers.

If you see a question pop up on Reddit and it has no responses and a ton of upvotes and people saying, “Uh, I’m confused on this as well.” It’s a great piece of content waiting for you that you can put on your website.

Rich: Yeah, I see a lot. I spend a lot of time on Reddit. It’s actually one of my favorite social media channels. I don’t think of it as social media, and often I’ll just see somebody just type in ‘following’ as a comment so that they get alerted to when somebody actually gives a really good answer. Or even just putting in a period, just literally a period and no other comment, just so that they can stay on top of that. It’s maybe, do a search for the word ‘following’ and you might actually find some good stuff in there.

Now it’s interesting that you bring up Reddit, because Reddit right now is going through this IPO, And I wonder if you have any thoughts about how this might impact it? Because you’re right, I do see reddit’s results in Google quite a bit. There’s this IPO going on right now, I know how a lot of Redditors feel about suddenly being the center of attention and losing control of the site. Do you think that we’re going to continue to see this kind of content created on Reddit and see it in the search engines, or is this just a momentary time capsule that we’re looking at?

Adam: That’s a really good question. I would love to know the answer. I don’t think there’s any way to really know. I think there’s a lot of talk a lot of guesses out there right now with what’s going to happen All I can tell you is it’s been a trend for a very long time of people typing in “keyword plus Reddit” on Google, and that’s a trend that they’ve seen for years and years.

People want, in certain cases, opinions from other people, and Google understands that. But it seems, at least in my personal opinion, that they’ve turned that dial up a little too much. So now you’re getting it in cases where you might not want to see five Reddit results back-to-back in the search results. So I don’t know what’s going to happen with it, but it is going to be interesting. It’s definitely something that marketers should have their eye on.

Rich: All right, now for people who run e-commerce stores, I’ve heard that many of them are complaining that they’re being outranked by Reddit and similar forums. What approach might they take to win back some of that search traffic and the audience?

Adam: Yeah, for sure it’s a fair argument because there’s a lot of things that you build a website, you try to make it helpful. You try to give your audience all the information and it doesn’t matter, because you’re getting outranked by user753 who’s talking about your tool and his homebrew or whatever it may be. So it is really frustrating.

But you can use it to your advantage in a sense that you can see how the audience is talking about this topic. I’ll give you an example. I have a bunch of test sites that I like to play with, but one of them is all about opera. And I saw one link on Reddit that was pointing to my site. It was a statistics page about the most performed operas, and somebody linked, “Here, I found this stat” and linked my test website. And underneath there were tons of comments about, what’s the source of this? Yeah, this isn’t verified. No, this is garbage. This is inaccurate. So that told me that I have to change my webpage content to make it more clear that this is actual verifiable information.

So we don’t know if Reddit is going to stay on the top of the search results, if they’re going to continue to outrank you, or if after this update they’re going to drop out. So the only thing that we can do is make our content better. Keep working to make it helpful for your users and your audience. And a lot of times, Reddit can actually be used to play off of what people are saying to work towards that goal. So it’s an interesting balance there.

Rich: I wonder if for some businesses, it wouldn’t make sense to have a stronger presence on Reddit. Where if people are talking about your product or service regularly often enough, that being there and talking about it might not be a bad idea.

Also, if Google is serving up Reddit answers, being a trusted author, being somebody who provides a lot of answers, could lead a lot more people to your content and ultimately to your business or website.

Adam: Absolutely. I try to stay within my SEO bounds, and I’m a little bit afraid to suggest, “Hey, why don’t you make a Reddit account?” Because I know brands on Reddit, it can be a tricky thing to balance. You don’t want to be too, salesy. You want to really mold into the audience there. But yes, I think that’s a great direction.

Rich: Similarly I’ve spoken with some website owners that don’t have e-commerce. They’ve created tons of valuable content over the years. They used to do really well at the search engines. And now when people are searching for their products or their solutions, like a shower replacement system or motorcycle handlebar replacements, Google is only showing shopping ads and search ads. Basically, they’re being pushed off the first page, and people selling similar products but who have e commerce on the website, have pushed them off the homepage. Outside of adding e-commerce to your site, do you have any advice for those types of site owners?

Adam: Yeah, I’ve worked a lot with sites who have had this issue. And I think a lot of times SEO, we think of it as those traditional blue links, that traditional results. In reality, Google’s always changing how you can gain visibility, whether it’s those product cards you mentioned whether it’s Google business profiles in the map pack, trying to rank in the map pack.

So looking at the result pages in your industry and what kind of – we call them SERP features – what kind of SERP features are appearing on the searches that are relevant to your industry, and gaining visibility wherever you can. Because we can’t change Google, but we can adapt our strategy to try to gain every inch of visibility that we can.

So try setting up, if you’re e-commerce, setting up your Google merchant center. Make sure you are in those product cards. If you’re a local business, making sure that you’re in the map pack and ranking high in the map pack. They’re different kind of sectors of SEO, but anytime you can gain visibility, you should take advantage of that.

Rich: Is there any other advice as you see these core updates coming through and the rise of AI, the pushback against some generative AI content, what are you telling your clients for the rest of 2024? What should people be focused on if they’re looking to regain or maintain or grow their search visibility and traffic?

Adam: Be helpful. It’s my main message for 2024. Let me think about rankings, and data, and title tags, and canonicals, and keyword density, and all of those things. As business owners and kind of high-level marketers, focus on just being helpful. What is your audience expecting to find when they land on your page? When they’re finding that piece of content, what are they going to look for after? And then feature that on the page.

Make it a really good experience with helpful content that answers their question without a bunch of fluff. Things like keyword stuffing, they have their moment. Straight AI content right on the website, had their moment. You see them soar, they outrank competition and then they drop. It works until it doesn’t. But what always works is actually being helpful, spending time on your website, and not just trying to scale it as fast as you can.

Rich: Great advice. It was great advice in 1997, it’s great advice today. It’ll probably be great advice in 20 years.

Adam, this has been great. If people want to learn more about you, learn more about your agency, where can we send them online?

Adam: Yeah. So my agency is Atigro, A T I G R O dot com. And then to find me, I’m very active on Twitter and LinkedIn. So Twitter is @di_friscoseo, and LinkedIn, just type in my name and you’ll find me.

Rich: Awesome. Adam, this is great. Thank you so much for showing up today.

Adam: Awesome. Thank you, Rich. Appreciate it.


Show Notes:

Adam Di Frisco is a digital marketing strategist that’s passionate about seeing brands flourish as a result of his keyword, competitor, and technical research. For the latest and most updated news on Google SERP changes or tips on turning your website into a lead-generating machine, head over to his website, and connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 25+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.