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11 Ways to Build a Google Algorithm Update Resistant SEO Strategy



11 Ways to Build a Google Algorithm Update Resistant SEO Strategy

Google’s algorithm updates can make it feel as though the search engine is punishing publishers for mysterious reasons.

Website rankings are never guaranteed.

Even so, you can improve the stability of your rankings and formulate a more Google algorithm update-resistant SEO strategy with these 11 tips.

1. User Intent Is Just The Beginning

User intent is important but it’s just a starting point for creating content that makes money day after day after day, regardless of algorithms.

User intent is one ingredient out of several for creating algorithm-resistant webpages.

It’s the beans in your burrito — the cheese on your pizza. It gives flavor to your content.

The reason identifying user intent is important is because it puts you in the mindset of putting the user (not keywords) as your foremost consideration.

And that’s where great SEO strategies begin.

2. Make Site Visitors The Center Of Your Universe

One psychological writing trick that works fantastically for creating webpages is to write content in a way that mirrors the visitor’s need to see things through the lens of how they are affected.

Site visitors only relate to pages that relate to them.

I know a smart pay-per-click marketer who creates landing pages that fit every visitor so well his webpages are practically mirrors.

One of the many things this person did was to create landing pages that sniffed if a site visitor was using an Android or Apple device. The webpage would next swap in an “Apple Friendly” or “Android Friendly” icon to the webpage.

He did that because A/B testing proved that his audience converted at a slightly higher rate with those icons on the webpage. Such a silly thing, right?

Readers are focused on how a webpage topic affects them. When the site visitor hits a webpage the world stops revolving around the sun. It revolves around the site visitor, even if they are at an ecommerce store.

Do customers care why Apple created their own CPU chip?

No. They just want to hear about how it’s going to exceed their expectations and turn them all into heroes.

Zappos became popular because they made it easy to return the shoes. Their customer service was so good because they treated their customers like people who only care about their own needs.

What users want to see increasingly has to do with how your site, service, product, or information impacts their life.

3. Authoritative Means More Than Just Links

There is no authority metric at Google, and yet Google says it wants to rank authoritative content.

Part of determining whether something is authoritative has to do with language.

For example, sometime after Google Hummingbird, Google appeared to have begun introducing language-related features into the search results pages (SERPs).

I noticed that Google began ranking university research pages for a two-word phrase that software companies used to rank for.

The commercial webpages all had links to their sites, far more than these university webpages about research.

All of the commercial pages were banished from the first two pages of the SERPs except for one. That commercial webpage had the word “research” in the content of the webpage.

The .edu university webpages weren’t ranking because they had .edu magic or because of links.

For a short period of time, Google associated this two-word phrase with a type of topic (research) and chose to rank only pages that featured research, which at the time mostly consisted of university webpages.

Today, Google mostly ranks informational webpages for that two-word keyword phrase. In other words, informational content is authoritative for this two-word keyword phrase.

Links are the traditional measure of authority. Sites with more links are authoritative.

But language can be a signal of authority, too. This is evidenced in search results where the words that are used influence what is ranked more than the influence of links.

Links used to be the overwhelming deciding factor that powered webpages to the top of the SERPs.  That is no longer the case.

Now it’s like natural language processing decides which race a webpage is going to run in and sometimes that race is on page two of the search results, depending on the user intent and what qualifies as authoritative for that type of content.

For some queries, informational content is going to race on Track 1 (analogous to the top half of the SERPs) and pages with commercial intent might qualify for Track 2 (analogous to the bottom half of those SERPs).

No matter how many links that commercial page may acquire, its content will never be authoritative enough to rank at the top for that keyword phrase topic.

To wrap up, what I want to do is introduce the idea that content can be authoritative in a way that has to do with the topic.

Users signal to Google (via their choices and activities) what kind of content is relevant to them. Content can either be authoritative for what users are looking for or not authoritative, regardless of links, based just on the content alone.

4. Comprehensive Content vs. Treating Visitors Like They’re 5 Years Old

When people think of authority, they sometimes think of being comprehensive, bigger, and at an intermediate level.

Stay with me, because authority and authoritativeness could be about understanding what users want and giving them what they want in the form that they want it.

Sometimes it’s in the form of a baby bottle. Sometimes authoritative means explaining it as if the site visitors were a 5-year-old.

For ecommerce, authoritative could be a webpage that helps the user make a choice and doesn’t assume that they know what all the jargon is.

Authoritative Content Can Be Many Things

For example, a site visitor could have the user intent of, “I’m dumb, what does XYZ mean?” In that case, authoritative content means content that is at the, “I have no idea” beginner’s level.

This may be particularly true for sites that are reviewing things that involve technical jargon.

A site that’s doing a round-up summary of top ten budget products might choose to focus on a quick and easy-to-understand summary that doesn’t have to explain the jargon.

In the full review webpage, it can have an explainer in a sidebar or tool-tips to explain the jargon.

I’m not saying that people are dumb. What I am saying is that sometimes it works out best to write content as if your site visitors lack intelligence because that’s the level many people may be operating at for a particular topic.

Seeing that there is a virtually inexhaustible supply of people who need to have things carefully explained, it can make for a winning strategy for long-term ranking success.

5. Let The Search Results Be Your Guide… To A Certain Extent

In general, it’s best to let the search results be your guide. There is value in trying to understand why Google is ranking certain webpages.

But understanding why a page might be ranking does not mean the next step is to copy those pages.

One way to research the search engine results pages is to map out the keywords and intents to the top ten ranked webpages, especially the top three. Those are the most important.

This is where current SEO practices can be improved.

Top Two Strategies That Can Be Improved

Imitate Top-Ranked Sites?

The general practice is to copy or emulate what the top-ranked sites are already doing except to “do it better.”

The idea is that if the top-ranked sites have XYZ factors in common then it is presumed that those XYZ factors are what Google wants to see on a webpage in order to rank it for a given keyword phrase.

Common sense, right?

Outlier is a word from the field of statistics. When webpages hold certain factors in common then those pages are said to be normal. The webpages that are different are called outliers.

For the purpose of analyzing the search results, if your webpage doesn’t have the same word count, keywords, phrases, and topics than the top-ranked sites contain, then that webpage is considered a statistical outlier.

Search analysis software will recommend the changes to be made so that the outlier page more closely conforms to what is currently ranked.

The problem with this approach is the underlying assumption that Google will rank content with the qualities that exist on webpages that are already ranked in the search results.

That’s a huge assumption with no logical basis.

Of course, another site that is statistically an outlier can outrank the top three ranked pages.

For example, I’ve ranked webpages higher than existing pages by doing things like explaining more or being easier to understand or including diagrams and original photos – and using keywords that the competition wasn’t using.

My pages ended up having not only a different keyword mix but the content, in general, was designed to better answer the question inherent in the search query.

That’s the difference between focusing on keywords and focusing on the search query.

In my opinion, it’s far better to understand the search query than to analyze webpages to identify Factors XYZ that may or may not have anything to do with why those pages are ranking.

The past several years of updates have been focused on better understanding what search queries mean and understanding what pages users want to see, in addition to other things.

So doesn’t it make sense to focus on better understanding what search queries mean and addressing that with your content in a way that’s easy for people (and search engines) to understand?

Analyzing the search results is a good thing to do in order to learn what the user intent is.

The next step should be to take that information and bring your best game to fulfilling the need that’s inherent in that user intent.

Create Pages That Are Bigger and Better?

The second strategy is creating content that’s better or simply more than the content of top-ranked competitors.

They’re both about beating the competition by imitating the competitors’ content but making it (vaguely) “better” or simply longer or more up to date.

So if they have 2,000 words of content, you publish 3,000 words of content.

And if they have a top ten list, outrank them with a top 100 list.

The concept is similar to a set-piece in a comedy where a clearly deranged man communicates his strategy for outselling a famous 8-Minute Abs video by creating a video called 7-Minute Abs.

Just because the content is longer or has more of what the competitor has doesn’t automatically make it better or inherently easier to rank or obtain links to it.

It still has to be useful.

So rather than focusing on vague recommendations of being ten times better or more concrete but completely random recommendation to be more than your competitor, how about just being useful?

Back to Search Results as a Guide

Mining the search results in a quest to understand why Google is ranking webpages will not produce useful information.

What you can possibly understand is the user intent and what I call the Latent Question that is inherent in every search query.

You can read about this here:  Search Results Analysis: The Latent Question

6. Create Diversity In Your Promotional Strategy

It’s never a good idea to promote a site in one way. Anything that gets the word out is great. Do podcasts, write a book, be interviewed on YouTube, pop up on television, etc.

Be everywhere as much as possible so that how the site is promoted, how people learn about the site comes from many different areas.

This will help to build a strong foundation for the site that can overcome changes in the algorithm.

For example, if word of mouth signals somehow become important, a site that has focused on word of mouth type promotion will be ready for it.

7. Work To Prevent Link Rot

Link Rot occurs where links to a webpage are themselves losing links, thereby reducing the amount of influence they confer to your web page.

The solution to link rot is to maintain a link acquisition project, even if it’s a modest effort. This will help counter the natural process where links lose their value.

8. Website Promotion

Webpages must be promoted. A lack of promotion can cause a webpage to slowly and steadily lose reach, becoming unable to connect with the people who need to see the content.

Google’s John Mueller said:

“We use a ton of different factors when it comes to crawling, indexing and ranking.

So it’s really hard to say like, if I did this how would my site rank compared to when I do this. …those kinds of comparisons are kind of futile in general.

In practice though, when you’re building a website and you want to get it out there and you want to have people kind of go to the website and recognize what wonderful work that you’ve put in there, then promoting that appropriately definitely makes sense.

And that’s something you don’t have to do… by dropping links in different places.”

As Mueller said, it’s not just about having links added to webpages. It’s simply about letting people know the site is out there.

It can be through social media, by participating in Facebook Groups and forums, by local promotions, with cross-promotions with other businesses, and many other techniques.

Some call it brand building, where the name of a business becomes almost synonymous with a type of product or website.

9. Diversity Of Links

One of the reasons some sites bounce up and down in the search results is that there’s a weakness that sometimes has to do with a lack of diversity in the inbound links.

Anecdotal observations have noticed that sites that tend to sit at the top of the search results are the kind that has different kinds of links from different types of websites.

This may no longer be true with the advent of natural language processing (NLP) technologies that can put a stronger emphasis on content over links.

However, links continue to play a role – particularly the right kinds of links.

Setting aside the influence of NLP and focusing just on links, it may be helpful for a site to withstand changes in Google’s link algorithms by cultivating a diverse set of inbound links.

There are many kinds of links.

  • Resources links.
  • Links given in articles.
  • Links of recommendation given by bloggers.
  • Links in news articles.

It no longer matters if a link is blocked from being followed by a search engine using a link attribute called nofollow.

Google may choose to follow those links. Also, some links have value in building the popularity and awareness of a site.

10. Ranking Signals And E-A-T

There are many signals Google uses to rank a site. Google will even ignore links or spammy content in order to rank a site that is doing other things well.

Google’s John Mueller has said:

“A lot of times what will happen is also that our algorithms will recognize these kind of bad states and try to ignore them.

So we do that specifically with regards to links… where if we can recognize that they’re doing something really weird with links… then we can kind of ignore that and just focus on the good parts where we have reasonable signals that we can use for ranking.”

…we try to look at the bigger picture when it comes to search, to try to understand the relevance a little bit better.”

Read more: John Mueller on Why Google Ranks Sites with Spammy Links

So there are qualities to a site that can overcome spammy links or SEO. What these qualities are can only be speculated about.

But I suspect that it has to do with how expert, authoritative, and trustworthy the content and the webpage is in itself.

11. Stay Aware Of Changes

In order to build a site that’s resistant to algorithm changes, it’s important to be aware of all of the announced changes to Google’s algorithm. Changes such as passage ranking, BERT, and how Google ranks reviews are all important to keep up with.

Try to understand what the subtext to the algorithm change could be, but do it by asking: How does this algorithm change help users?

When it comes to interpreting what an algorithm means, don’t speculate on motives. That’s always a bad idea and never helps to form an actionable ranking strategy.

Instead, think about algorithm changes from the perspective of how the change might help a user.

For example, the passage ranking changes could be interpreted as a way to surface more content for users because it previously had a hard time with long pages with less than optimal SEO.

The recent changes to how Google ranks reviews could be interpreted as Google expanding the range of sites that need to be trustworthy and accurate.

This means that it may be useful to focus on those qualities of trustworthiness and accuracy. Or it could mean being more authentic.

Focusing on the steps outlined above can help you build a high-quality site that can withstand changes to Google’s algorithm.

Featured image: Shutterstock/Fonstra

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4 Tactics for High-Quality Backlinks That Move the Needle [+ Examples]



Many popular link building tactics produce low-quality links that don’t improve SEO performance.

Even if these techniques make an impact, it’s often for a short time, and Google can easily devalue them down the line. 

Here are four tactics for building high-quality links that help you stay ahead of your competition, expose your brand to new audiences, and are less likely to be devalued in future algorithm updates. 

Digital PR is the process of creating content that appeals to journalists and promoting it to them. 

If they like the content, they’ll write a feature about it or include it in a piece they’re writing. This can land you many high-quality backlinks from big sites and news publications for free.


In the months following ChatGPT’s release, Fery Kaszoni and his team at Search Intelligence compiled statistics about Open AI’s popularity since launching ChatGPT and compared it to other popular platforms like Instagram and TikTok. 

The result? 60+ free link placements, including mentions on Yahoo News (DR 92), The Wrap (DR 84), and Time magazine (DR 92). 

A few examples of backlinks earned by a piece of content about Open AI’s popularity since launching ChatGPT

In another campaign, Fery and his team calculated how much money beloved video characters would earn in real life. This campaign earned 20+ free links including a DR89 link from British newspaper, The Daily Express. 

Example of a high-DR like from Daily ExpressExample of a high-DR like from Daily Express

How to do it 

Successful Digital PR requires some creativity, but this is the process in a nutshell: 

  1. Find a trending topic 
  2. Create relevant newsworthy content around that topic 
  3. Tell journalists about it 

For example, AI has been a major topic of conversation in all industries since it launched. Any new data or insights about it would go well in news cycles while it remains a topic of interest. 

Once you have a topic, you need to come up with interesting content ideas that are relevant to your business.

The best topics for digital PRThe best topics for digital PR

This is the hard part. It’s really a case of brainstorming ideas until you land on something you think could be interesting. 

For example, here are a few random content ideas for a company that sells furniture online: 

  • Have AI refurnish rooms from popular TV shows in new styles. 
  • Have AI design a new item of furniture, create it, and sell it. 
  • Ask 100 interior designers if they’re worried about AI taking their jobs, share the data. 

After you find your winning idea, create the content, give it an attention-grabbing headline, and write a press release about the most interesting insights. 

Then, promote your content to journalists. You can try services like Roxhill or Muck Rack to find journalists who might be interested in your content. 

You can also use a tool like Ahrefs’ Content Explorer to find sites that have recently published content about your topic and reach out to them. 

Here’s how to do that: 

  1. Enter your topic into Content Explorer 
  2. Filter for pages published in the last 90 days 
  3. Filter for pages on DR70+ websites (big sites that you probably want links from) 

For example, if we do this for the topic of “chatgpt,” we see thousands of well-known websites that have recently published about ChatGPT including Business Insider, Tech Republic, and Wired. 

Finding websites that recently published about a topic with Content ExplorerFinding websites that recently published about a topic with Content Explorer

Data journalism is a way of enhancing or creating newsworthy content by analyzing unique data sets. It can fall under digital PR, though it typically requires more detailed research. 

This technique works because reporters love a good statistic they can either quote or write an opinion piece about. Be the source of such data, and you can earn many high-quality links anytime your data becomes relevant to trending news topics. 


Data journalism can be quite simple. For example, in another case study from Search Intelligence, Fery’s team used Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer as a data source for a cybersecurity PR campaign. 

The study reveals the top UK banks where customers seek help with fraud, allowing journalists to report on which banks are more secure than others. 

The data fuelling these insights is keyword search volume. That’s it. 

Ahrefs' data that fuelled a cybersecurity PR campaignAhrefs' data that fuelled a cybersecurity PR campaign

This method doesn’t take very long, doesn’t need a data scientist and can very easily be replicated in other industries where search popularity can unearth interesting insights. 

In another example (and perhaps one of our all time favorites), marketing firm Yard created a data study comparing the CO2 emissions of various celebrities and ranking the worst offenders. 

Data study on the C02 emissions of celebritiesData study on the C02 emissions of celebrities

If you follow celebrity news, there’s no way you missed reports of Taylor Swift’s private jet emissions being among the highest compared to other celebrities. 

Just a few of the thousands of posts about Taylor Swift's jet emissions following a successful data journalism campaignJust a few of the thousands of posts about Taylor Swift's jet emissions following a successful data journalism campaign

Every single one of these news stories originated from the data study. 

When the study was first released, it went viral and earned links from almost 2,000 referring domains within the first month. 

But that’s not all. 

This topic trended in news cycles again when rumours spread that Taylor Swift attended a Jets game to bury the original negative publicity about her private jet usage, earning Yard a well-deserved second round of links. 

Google Trends data for "taylor swift jet" Google Trends data for "taylor swift jet"

Today, this post has 1,861 links from 1,155 referring domains, 77% of them are dofollow, and 38.4% are higher than DR 60. 

DR distribution of backlinks to the celebrity C02 emissions content pieceDR distribution of backlinks to the celebrity C02 emissions content piece

Talk about drool-worthy results! That’s high-quality link building done right. 

How to do it 

Successful data journalism is similar to digital PR but relies on the intriguing, data-backed insights you can unearth. 

In a nutshell, the process looks like this: 

  1. Find a data-driven content angle that gets links and media attention 
  2. Gather data to provide new or updated insights on the topic 
  3. Tell journalists about your findings 

Start by considering “your money or your life” content angles that everyday folk care about. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking too narrow or pitching ideas only a small demographic may understand. 

For instance, cybersecurity is not a sexy topic journalists or their readers will likely care about. There’s also not a high degree of literacy about the topic among the general population. 

But everyone cares about whether their bank is secure and how safe their money is. 

This concept needs no explanation and that’s exactly why data that helps answer the question “how safe is your bank?” worked exceptionally well as a link building tactic in the example above. 

You can also use Content Explorer to gather more ideas like: 

  • Evergreen yet stale topics that you can update with more recent data 
  • Data you can visualize better or repurpose into a different content format 
  • Trending angles in other industries you can apply to your industry 

For example, on the topic of ChatGPT, we found Rand Fishkin’s post claiming usage has declined 29% between May and August 2023 and that 30% of its usage is by programmers. 

Finding content ideas in Content ExplorerFinding content ideas in Content Explorer

You don’t need original ideas to succeed. If you’ve got the data to back it up, you can easily take the angles of a “useage patterns” or “most popular audience segments” and apply them to popular tools in your industry. 

Some decent data sources you can start with include: 

  • Search data: Like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer for uncovering interesting search patterns. 
  • Historical data: Like Google Trends for highlighting growth or decline patterns over time. 
  • Scientific research: Like on Google Scholar or in specific research journals. 
  • Public niche data: For instance, Yard’s study used the CelebrityJets Twitter page. 
  • Proprietary data: From within your (or your client’s) organization. 

When you find an interesting insight or pattern worth sharing, write a press release about it and share it with journalists who frequently report on the topic. 

Statistics pages are curated lists of facts and figures in a particular industry. These pages attract evergreen links for as long as the statistics remain relevant. 

It’s one of our favorite link building tactics. Here’s how we’ve used it quite successfully over the years. 


We first launched a detailed list of SEO statistics in 2020 and it has been naturally earning high-quality links ever since. 

Backlinks over time to our SEO statistics pageBacklinks over time to our SEO statistics page

Currently, the page has: 

  • 5,787 backlinks
  • 2,282 referring domains 
  • 82% “dofollow” links 
  • 37.7% from DR 60+ websites

While we used some outreach techniques in the early days, most of the success has come from the page’s ability to maintain top position rankings for competitive keywords.

Rankings for our SEO statistics pageRankings for our SEO statistics page

Do it right, and this tactic remains wildly effective for earning links naturally for many years. 

How to do it 

Start by entering a few broad topics related to your website into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. For example, we might enter the following for Ahrefs: 

  • SEO
  • Content marketing
  • Link building

Then navigate to the Matching Terms report and apply the inclusion filter for things like stats, statistics, facts, or figures. Make sure your filter is set to include any of these phrases. 

Then it’s just a matter of checking out the results to find a relevant topic you want to write about. 

We went for “SEO statistics”: 

Finding statistics keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerFinding statistics keywords in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Once you pick your topic, it’s a just matter of curating linkworthy stats and publishing them on a page. 

While you can earn some seed links with early outreach efforts, long term success comes down to keeping your content updated with the latest data. That’s the best way to compound performance year on year, earning many high-quality links with no ongoing outreach needed. 

Relationship-based link building prioritizes long-term relationships with journalists, writers, and editors. 

It is an effective addition to digital PR campaigns as you can shortcut the time it takes to find the right people to distribute your content. 

Better yet, you can be a journalist’s first point of call when they write a story on topics you or your clients are experts in. 


Imagine having journalists contact you asking to feature your clients in upcoming stories. That’s exactly what growth marketing firm, EngineRoom, has achieved.

A journalist from Mamamia (DR 78) made a call out on Sourcebottle, the Australian equivalent of HARO, seeking expert advice on immigration law. EngineRoom’s link building expert, Don Milne, responded and won the story along with a high-quality link. 

Example of a backlink built with relationship-based link buildingExample of a backlink built with relationship-based link building

Then, the real magic started. 

Instead of ending things there, Don also shared a client list with the journalist in case they ever wanted to collaborate on future stories again. 

Sure enough, a few weeks later, the journalist reached out, asking to connect with another client in the drug rehab space to develop a story on heroin addiction. The client is featured in about 30% of the completed article with detailed quotes from the founder and (of course) a link back to their website. 

Example of a backlink built with relationship-based link buildingExample of a backlink built with relationship-based link building

No pitching. No outreach. Just a genuine partnership and collaboration now earning multiple high-quality links for their clients. 

How to do it 

This technique is all about the follow-up after you collaborate on your first story with a journalist. 

If getting the first foot in the door is where you’re stuck, you can check out our detailed guide on relationship-based link building by Irina Maltseva, the former Head of Marketing at Hunter. 

Once you get that first story, make sure you keep the relationship going. 

If you have a list of websites or clients you represent, create a professional document with a mini bio about each client. Make sure it’s also easily searchable for writers in a hurry and makes your contact details clear and easy to access. 

Then, share it with journalists, writers, and editors you collaborate with so they can refer to it in the future if they need an expert on a specific topic for their content. 

Final thoughts

Earning high-quality backlinks can be much easier than many people realize and cheaper too! All the examples shared in this post earned free link placements on high-authority websites and with minimal outreach. 

These techniques have more staying power. They are also far less likely to be seen as “link manipulation” or devalued in future Google updates. 

And, if you get your content angle just right, they also have the potential to be earning links many months, if not years, down the track! 

Got questions? Ping me on LinkedIn.

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Google To Curb Microtargeting In Consumer Finance Ads




Google To Curb Microtargeting In Consumer Finance Ads

Google is updating its policy limiting personalized advertising to include more restrictions on ads related to consumer financial products and services.

Google’s personalized ads policy prohibits targeting users based on sensitive categories like race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Over the years, Google has continued updating the policy to introduce new limitations. The latest update to restrict consumer finance ads is part of Google’s ongoing efforts to refine its ad targeting practices.

What’s Changing?

Google will update its personalized ads policy in February 2024 to prevent advertisers from targeting audiences for credit and banking ads based on sensitive factors like gender, age, parental status, marital status, or zip code.

Google’s current policy prohibiting “Credit in personalized ads” will be renamed “Consumer finance in personalized ads” under the changes.

Google’s new policy will state:

“In the United States and Canada, the following sensitive interest categories cannot be targeted to audiences based on gender, age, parental status, marital status, or ZIP code.

Offers relating to credit or products or services related to credit lending, banking products and services, or certain financial planning and management services.”

Google provided examples, including “credit cards and loans including home loans, car loans, appliance loans, short-term loans,” as well as “banking and checking accounts” and “debt management products.”

When Does The New Policy Take Effect?

The updated limitations on personalized advertising will take effect on February 28, 2024, with full enforcement expected within six weeks.

Google said advertisers in violation will receive a warning at least seven days before any account suspension.

According to Google, the policy change aims to protect users’ privacy better and prevent discrimination in financial services advertising.

However, the company will still allow generalized ads for credit and banking products that do not use sensitive personal data for targeting.

What Do Advertisers Need To Do?

Google will begin enforcing the updated restrictions in late February 2024 but advises advertisers to review their campaigns for compliance issues sooner.

Advertisers should carefully check their ad targeting settings, remove improper personalization based on sensitive categories, and adhere to the revised policy requirements.

Failure to follow the rules could lead to account suspension after an initial warning. Google will work with advertisers to ensure a smooth transition during the ramp-up period over the next six months.

Featured Image: SurfsUp/Shutterstock

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Google Discusses Fixing 404 Errors From Inbound Links




Google Discusses Fixing 404 Errors From Inbound Links

Google’s John Mueller responded to a thread in Reddit about finding and fixing inbound broken links, offering a nuanced insight that some broken links are worth finding and fixing and others are not.

Reddit Question About Inbound Broken Links

Someone asked on Reddit if there’s a way to find broken links for free.

This is the question:

“Is it possible to locate broken links in a similar manner to identifying expired domain names?”

The person asking the question clarified if this was a question about an inbound broken link from an external site.

John Mueller Explains How To Find 404 Errors To Fix

John Mueller responded:

“If you want to see which links to your website are broken & “relevant”, you can look at the analytics of your 404 page and check the referrers there, filtering out your domain.

This brings up those which actually get traffic, which is probably a good proxy.

If you have access to your server logs, you could get it in a bit more detail + see which ones search engine bots crawl.

It’s a bit of technical work, but no external tools needed, and likely a better estimation of what’s useful to fix/redirect.”

In his response, John Mueller answers the question on how to find 404 responses caused by broken inbound links and identify what’s “useful to fix” or to “redirect.”

Mueller Advises On When Not To “Fix” 404 Pages

John Mueller next offered advice on when it doesn’t make sense to not fix a 404 page.

Mueller explained:

“Keep in mind that you don’t have to fix 404 pages, having things go away is normal & fine.

The SEO ‘value’ of bringing a 404 back is probably less than the work you put into it.”

Some 404s Should Be Fixed And Some Don’t Need Fixing

John Mueller said that there are situations where a 404 error generated from an inbound link is easy to fix and suggested ways to find those errors and fix them.

Mueller also said that there are some cases where it’s basically a waste of time.

What wasn’t mentioned was what the difference was between the two and this may have caused some confusion.

Inbound Broken Links To Existing Webpages

There are times when another sites links into your site but uses the wrong URL. Traffic from the broken link on the outside site will generate a 404 response code on your site.

These kinds of links are easy to find and useful to fix.

There are other situations when an outside site will link to the correct webpage but the webpage URL changed and the 301 redirect is missing.

Those kinds of inbound broken links are also easy to find and useful to fix. If in doubt, read our guide on when to redirect URLs.

In both of those cases the inbound broken links to the existing webpages will generate a 404 response and this will show up in server logs, Google Search Console and in plugins like the Redirection WordPress plugin.

If the site is on WordPress and it’s using the Redirection plugin, identifying the problem is easy because the Redirection plugin offers a report of all 404 responses with all the necessary information for diagnosing and fixing the problem.

In the case where the Redirection plugin isn’t used one can also hand code an .htaccess rule for handling the redirect.

Lastly, one can contact the other website that’s generating the broken link and ask them to fix it. There’s always a small chance that the other site might decide to remove the link altogether. So it might be easier and faster to just fix it on your side.

Whichever approach is taken to fix the external inbound broken link, finding and fixing these issues is relatively simple.

Inbound Broken Links To Removed Pages

There are other situations where an old webpage was removed for a legitimate reason, like an event passed or a service is no longer offered.

In that case it makes sense to just show a 404 response code because that’s one of the reasons why a 404 response should be shown. It’s not a bad thing to show a 404 response.

Some people might want to get some value from the inbound link and create a new webpage to stand in for the missing page.

But that might not be useful because the link is for something that is irrelevant and of no use because the reason for the page no longer exists.

Even if you create a new reason, it’s possible that some of that link equity might flow to the page but it’s useless because the topic of that inbound link is totally irrelevant to anyting but the expired reason.

Redirecting the missing page to the home page is a strategy that some people use to benefit from the link to a page that no longer exists. But Google treats those links as Soft 404s, which then passes no benefit.

These are the cases that John Mueller was probably referring to when he said:

“…you don’t have to fix 404 pages, having things go away is normal & fine.

The SEO ‘value’ of bringing a 404 back is probably less than the work you put into it.”

Mueller is right, there are some pages that should be gone and totally removed from a website and the proper server response for those pages should be a 404 error response.

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