The Technical & On-Page SEO Strategies Thomas Jepsen Sees Google Rewarding After Analyzing 1,000+ Sites
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Curious to hear expert SEO advice and insights that are both actionable and potentially controversial?
Thomas Jepsen joins the Niche Pursuits podcast today to share insights and findings from 12 years of SEO experience, some of which may differ from what you typically hear on topics like:
- Topical authority
- And structured data
Overall, it's a thought-provoking discussion covering a wide range of topics regarding on-page, off-page, and technical SEO concerns.
Thomas explores the secrets behind low DR, high traffic websites and how they can be used as models for content structure.
Sharing the importance of internal linking, recommending Link Whisper to quickly help improve crawlability and avoid orphan pages.
He shares a glimpse into his site audit process, including understanding clients' goals, analyzing their websites and competitors, and presenting his findings.
He also addresses issues of bloat – like tags, category pages, and thin content pages being indexed. Shares insights into indexation issues found in Google Search Console, like crawled currently not indexed, discovered currently not indexed, and duplicate pages.
And advises when it's best to delete or improve the content that doesn't drive organic traffic or impressions from any keywords in Ahrefs.
You'll also learn about the Google Sandbox and its connection to core updates, link accumulation, and quality content creation.
In a nutshell, Jepsen's expertise on website quality and optimization offers indispensable knowledge for website owners and SEO professionals alike. In the age of AI he emphasizes the importance of white-hat practices, believing high-quality content, natural links, and internal linking to enhance crawlability and site structure, will help. And don't overlook indexation issues – delete or improve content that fails to drive organic traffic or keywords.
Don't miss out on the latest episode – your website's success may depend on it![toc
Topics Thomas Jepsen Covers
- His experience in lead generation and the mattress niche
- Why he got into technical audits
- Getting VC funding to help his site
- Disavow links
- What is 'good' AI content
- What is 'bad' content
- Following successful examples
- Ways to mitigate risk when using AI
- Indexation and bloat
- Whether to index category pages
- The importance of internal linking
- The minimums of a legitimate website
- Thoughts on E-A-T
- What GSC reports to focus on
- When to delete, update, or add new content
- How to get the quickest wins from existing content
- Thoughts on schema and topical authority
- And more...
Links & Resources
- Thomas Jepsen (@JepsenThomas) / Twitter
- Link Whisper: Best WordPress Internal Linking Plugin
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider Website Crawler
- Ahrefs - SEO Tools & Resources To Grow Your Search Traffic
This Episode is Sponsored by Search Intelligence
Watch The Interview
Jared: All right. Welcome back to the Niche Pursuits Podcast. My name is Jared Bauman. Today we're joined by Thomas Jepsen. Thomas, welcome.
Thomas: Thank you for having me.
Jared: It is going to be a good day. We're gonna get really deep into the technical aspects of websites. Uh, I have been looking forward to this one for a while.
You and I have connected on Twitter, and I've been following along with your technical know-how and deep times. So, uh, I'm just gonna pepper you with questions today and I'm excited to learn from you. Why don't you, um, before we get into all the technical stuff that, that, that you do right now, why don't you give us some backstory on who you are and, um, kind of your history in, in website.
Thomas: Sure. Uh, I was, uh, pretty bored in high school, 17, 18 years old kind of thing, and somehow ended up doing surveys online. Found out that that was not a great way to make money. Somehow ended up, uh, coming across SEO and started building websites. Ended up ranking kind of bottom off of page one from memory from Matches, Tuppers and.
Was generating some accent revenue, uh, back in the time when accent was really the thing to do. Uh, moved from Belgium where I grew up to Denmark. Got a job in, in a online marketing agency while I was also in school at the same time, uh, started putting up a lead gen site and home improvement so people would come to my site.
And, um, then they'd put in their contact information and say what kind of home improvement project it is that they wanted it. Um, and then I would sell that information to partners like Networks and Home Advisor and, uh, got my master's and basically moved over to, to the US about, you know, two months or so after I graduated.
And had my site, I was doing about 20, 21,000 a month in, in revenue all of a sudden fall by 85% overnight basically. And um, so that was kind of juggling that I'd just gotten my visa, which, which was tied to my companies. All of a sudden, I'm in a significantly different financial situation. Um, raise money for vc.
Got my green card, kind of recovered that site. Uh, ended up selling it profitably. Got some money out of that, and, um, raised money for, uh, for a different project and kind of working on, on some different stuff now and doing, doing SEO audits. But basically I've been doing SEO to one to some extent for about 12 years now.
Jared: You have, uh, I mean quite the, the layered history there. I mean, you've worked in, uh, the mattress field, which is a known difficult field to work websites through. Uh, and if, you know, if you don't know that those stories, they're, they're readily available online. You've, um, you've worked in lead gen, which is, which is fascinating.
And you know, I mean, I, you paint a clear picture. When I think of kind of the prime model of, of lead gen and selling leads, home advisor does come to mind. And Angie, what was Angie's List and now Angie and these kind of projects, Um, you've worked with large sites going up and large sites going down, and then you've sold a site and you've, you've raised several rounds of vc Boy, you're quite the well-rounded, uh, quite the well-rounded gentleman.
Well, thank you. Um, what became the focus for you on auditing sites like the technical know-how of websites, when did that develop? Because that's what you're kind of doing right now. Um,
Thomas: I mean, if, for one, I can't deny that the money is obviously appealing. Uh, but I, I've just looked at so many, so many different websites and I, for the longest time I we're all trying to reverse engineer what's going on and what's working and stuff.
Um, I, I can say that my, my Screaming Frog folder with where I save all my screaming Frog files is, is north of, uh, a thousand different domains by now. So I try and look for the patterns and figure out what could Google be doing. And I, I mean, one, one thing is what they're saying, but another thing is actually what they're rewarding.
And, um, so. Some natural level of curiosity. And then, then I saw that SEO was kind of taking off on Twitter and I decided to join that rap race, and then it kind of just followed very naturally to also start, started auditing sites. And that's kind of how I came about it.
Jared: It is funny how once you kind of put your mark down as as something that you do, it kind of just follows you, I, uh, One day.
I mean, my, my background is in photography. I was a professional photographer and ran several companies there. And then, you know, one day on Twitter in the SEO community, I kind of told the world that I have this background in photography and lo and behold, you know, a year later I'm kind of the, the photo guy on, uh, on SEO Twitter.
Nice. Which is fine. I like it. But, you know, I kind of left that behind me. Um, hey, so before I start just picking your brain on technical stuff, maybe. Walk us back to that website you had that you said was earning over $20,000 a month, took a huge hit, you recovered it somewhat like what were the, what were the problems with, with that site?
And, and then maybe just give us a story on how you recovered it and got it to, to the point of what you sold it for.
Thomas: Yeah. Uh, well, I mean, funny little side note is, uh, so I was writing my, my master thesis at the same time and I was also working at Price Waterhouse Coopers. Uh, guess I left that little part out, uh, doing online marketing for them and I had that contract with them, which was time limited.
It kind of ran its scores and my, my own website was taking off and I found out that getting a Visa as an entrepreneur was actually a possibility, so I kind of just let that run, run its course. Uh, then, then my, my graduate professor who was supervising my thesis, he, he looked at me after I defended. He says, Thomas, this is bad.
It's really bad. I can, uh, I can either barely pass you or I, or I can let you have a second go at it. And, you know, in my mind I'm like, I have a, I have a very profitable asset. And, um, uh, I'm not super keen on the whole school thing. I mean, I did okay. It just was never really a thing that, you know, really got me excited.
Um, but to talk about like the technical stuff behind it, um, I, I think the qa I, I was significantly less good at, at that point. And I, I basically, I hired a guy who, uh, who had a small team of riders. And so I put a lot of trust in this guy and basically didn't do my own QA on the content that came out and a pass copy escape.
But, uh, I found out when the site fell that, um, Uh, they've basically just been swapping words out of existing articles and put them in. And since it had passed Cup, he escaped the guy that I trusted. He, he hadn't nothing had stuck out to him, eater. And, um, on top of that, uh, I think I also just had a problem with bad links.
So it was, it was kinda, everything came together and Google said, we're not having this anymore. And, Um, so I basically cut, I want to say it was about two thirds of the websites. Had a bunch of it, re um, had a bunch of it just rewritten and, uh, what else did I do? I disavowed a bunch, tried getting rid of the links that I could, and, um, yeah, I had a, had a manual pen lifted and.
Um, then the whole VC route, the intention was basically acquiring different sites and merging them into that one, and then making it a home advisor competitor and selling it off. Um, and it never really necessarily fit the thesis of the vc. And, um, so we ended up figuring out that selling was probably, uh, the route to take and.
Then we went, well, I, I was working with one of the guys there, uh, heading out from it, but we sold the site for 300 grand. So it wasn't, it wasn't quite the private jet money that I was hoping for, but it was, it was a little, you know, a nice little accomplishment. And I took some home and they took a little bit home also.
Jared: Yeah. Yeah. Not, not Lambo money, but still a win and a success, and you can move on from,
Thomas: We ought just want Lambo money. Right.
Jared: I don't know if I'd spend mine on a Lambo, but I like the idea of Lambo money. Yeah. Yeah. Well, congratulations. That's, um, you know, that's still a win. Right? And, uh, and probably leads nicely into to what we're talking about today.
So, I mean, let's, uh, let's, let's, let's, let's set the stage for websites and ranking in Google today. We're, we're doing this recording as we approach kind of mid 2023. Um, you know, 2022 is a landmark year of updates and different types of updates. But, you know, Google in general is, um, is, is is still a really a, a, a search engine, a crawl bot, and a a, a bunch of, you know, uh, ones and zeros really.
So bring us up to speed on some of the things to set us off on our course today. Some of the things that you are seeing in your audits that are consistent problems with websites. Um, and then we'll use that to kind of dovetail into a bunch of subtopics.
Thomas: Sure. Um, so my thesis is basically the last year, year and a half-ish.
Has really, for Google been the preparation for this whole AI thing. And I mean, I'm, I'm the first guy to say I'm tired of hearing about ai, but I, I also think they've had to be honest about it. In terms of just how they handle resources. So, um, from the standpoint of having to basically process anything that you and I and every, everyone else with a website says, needs to be indexed, they've had to figure out to much larger extent than previously, what is quality and how can we.
Ensure that we don't get, uh, repetitions of chow. And I mean, that wasn't even ai. There was just a bunch of scraping and a, and a site that came up. But I believe that, uh, especially, I mean, may in particular in particular, there were a bunch of sites that were hit and uh, December was also a big one, but. I really believe that what's been going on with these updates is, has just been like, how do we make sure we're not just floating bad AI content to the entire internet?
So there's been a lot of, uh, a lot of sites have been punished that probably shouldn't have been, but, but if, if I think they've been stepping up their game in terms of what they believe is quality content. Which also, uh, means I actually think now is a good time to be a Whitehead seo. But, um, to answer your question of what I commonly see in audits, I mean, honestly, it's a bunch of stuff.
Uh, there's still a lot of, I'm, I'm still a big believer in the DIS file. I know that Google's come out and said, You probably don't need to disavow, but let's remember that the verbiage in on the disavow page has not changed. It still says if you've been doing dodgy things, you should.
So it, it still has that, that cautious language around it on, on the page. Um, I mean, You know, generally speaking, I, I still see websites coming to me that just missed the mark in terms of, in terms of quality. Uh, when, and, and it's a broad thing, but whenever you, we all like to think that our website's great, but when you start comparing it to the Competi competition, it's like they may have large portions of very thin content or they may have, um, They may have decent content, but it's like the grammar just isn't there.
And in the world of, of like a lot of just small compounding things, uh, Google's still trying to surface the best stuff. And, uh, if, if you have bad grammar and you have bad structure and you have a lot of thin content and maybe you have, uh, you have some bad links from. From someone you worked with in the past and you totally forgot about it.
It's like these, these things just compound and, and you know, even eventually Google says Enough is enough. So, uh, I see large sections of websites that I don't think should be indexed just because it tracked down the average, average, uh, uh, quality of your overall website. So, It's, it's kind of brought the things that I see being wrong with the, with the websites coming to me.
Something you said
Jared: and I thought maybe I'd get your opinion on it and drawing a line between it. So you talked about AI content, you talked, obviously we have to touch on, AI comes up all the time now, but you talked about AI content, thin content, AI generated content. Yet we have had Google come out and say, Hey, AI is okay.
You know, it's fine. So what is the line between what I'll use in error quotes as AI content and then bad content? Because in theory, it seems like Google wants to reward good content regardless of if it's generated by AI or not. But in practice, AI content without additional work on it, can be looked at as thin, repetitive, and bad.
So, Help people understand, like, is there a line, are you starting to see a line in your audits and in the way that Google is interpreting AI versus bad content?
Thomas: I think, uh, I think it's important to remember what Google specifically said. They said, if you're just publishing content with the intention of saving money and just publishing, you know, cheap content and have that be.
What you're doing then that's bad. I think in part what Google is trying to do is trying to avoid getting sued. So they're, they're saying, oh, oh, we allow AI content for as long as it's good content. But I mean, don't tell me you're generating AI content because it's, or, or like to avoid, I mean, everyone's doing it to save money.
At, at the root of the cost, everyone using AI content is trying to save money. These are sophisticated language models trained on content. So I mean, by far and large, so it's just gonna be repeating what's already out there. And um, I mean, to this point I still. I still think, even when I have it generate anything and I try to fact check it, it still just comes out wrong way too often.
So if you can, if you can argue that I, I, I mean, I want to speak to the people that use AI content, not for the sake of, of saving money and. I, I just don't believe that's generally the case. So I, I think, I think Google just penalizes for AI content. But, um, and I, for a period of time, I, I tried, I tried, um, kind of telling that story that I, from a risk management perspective, I don't think it's a good idea to do extensively.
Uh, but everyone else is encouraging it. So if. If their side falls and they come to me and I make money off of it, I'm gonna be happy. Um, I mean, I hope, I hope no one's side falls. It sucks having to recover it, but I'm kind of, I'm kind of tired of trying to tell people I don't think it's a good idea.
You know, it's funny. I tell my client, I, I run a, a marketing agency for a day job, and I tell my clients a lot of times the term I use or the phrase I use, it works until it doesn't. Yeah. And you know, like a lot of the times what we're seeing right now isn't necessarily indicative of what's gonna work down the road.
And, you know, Google's been, uh, obviously all the way back to Panda and Penguin updates has been changing the way that they let the algorithm interpret things. So maybe let's, let's zero in on this. Okay. Like, give me, if you can, some bullet points. What is bad content to a bot, to a Google bot? Like, what are things that you are, you can do to your website that.
Trigger the bot for bad content.
Thomas: So I like to, I mean, the easiest answer is I like to look at sites that, uh, don't have a lot of authority. And, you know, people are gonna hate me for saying DR is a, is a measure of authority, but I believe it's, it's about the best proxy that we have. So I like to look at sites that have low DR and high traffic and a bunch of the case studies.
I. I, I publish on my Twitter. Uh, go off of that. Exactly. Um, but going off of that, whenever during keyword research, I like to structure content off of what is the lowest authority site that is ranking for the keyword I'm trying to target because Google's already declared that, that, um, that this site is obviously doing whatever the algorithms are rewarding.
So might as well just try and, I mean, not copy word for word, but like structurally try and copy what they're doing because they're clearly hitting the, the intent of the keyword. Um, but I mean, stuff like ma basically writing, uh, so that you're likely to pick up the feature snippet, I think is a good idea.
Um, you wanna make it as easy as possible for the, for the, but to actually understand what your content's about. So, if, if at, um, you know, the bottom of your site, you have, you know, very vague verbiage that answers the h one of the page title, Google has to spend more resources to actually figure out whether or not you, you actually answered the, uh, the search query.
And the same, I, I mean, it's, it's no different from the user. They'll have to scroll down and figure out like, where's the answer even to this question. So make, I mean, from a higher level, make it as easy as possible, uh, for Google to understand, you know, what's, what search intent are you trying to answer?
And then follow the people in the industry that are. Getting the best results with the least authority.
Jared: And so almost model your content off of these low DR. High traffic websites, which you can find, you know, an in and h ref or AEM rush for these kind of tools. Um, what if, um, you know, I mean, there's been.
Talk that with ai, a lot of the low competition and low authority or low competition keywords will start to be infiltrated with kind of some AI stuff. What can someone do to stand out from an AI approach and make their website sustain and you know, kind of survive updates going forward?
Thomas: I still believe that Google is gonna penalize.
Sites that they see as being mainly ai. Uh, I mean, but to answer your question, the, the higher the proportion of stuff that, that Google doesn't believe is ai, I think the better off you are. Um, people are talking about, you know, a bigger brand component to a site. I think that's a very valid point. Um, ideally if you can focus on.
And figure out angles that are more likely to have you actually get natural links to the site. I think that would be a very important component of it. Um, in my opinion, this is just stuff that, that the AI is gonna have a hard time replicating anyway, because if, if you can, if you can include stats and if you can include, uh, user surveys and.
And this sort of stuff. Uh, then, then that's also stuff that someone might be more, more inclined to actually link into. And Google's still very link driven. Um, whether or not that necessarily at scale applies to, to low competition keywords, it's a little bit hard to say, but my, I mean, my belief is still that, that, uh, even, even if a site puts up a million pages and unload.
Competition keywords, they're just, at some point it works and so it doesn't, and then, then they get penalized, and then it's still gonna be the human written responses that are gonna show up at the top.
Jared: Very good. Good, good. Uh, you said something earlier, this will be a bit of a transition, but you talked earlier about indexation and about bloat and so.
Let's talk about that topic, um, because I'm sure that comes up a decent amount in your site. Audits. Maybe give the listeners a little bit of an overview about what you mean when you're talking about a website, having poor indexation, the signs to see that, um, what it looks like to have bloat, why it's bad.
Maybe let's just take it from the top and then we'll, we'll kind of de uh, deep dive
Thomas: the topic. Yeah, sure. Uh, I, I feel especially starting, starting last year, everyone started complaining about having indexing issues on their side. And I, I can say I've never had indexing issues. I submit anything in search console and within three hours it shows up as indexed.
It shows up. Uh, so basically usually it, it within three, four minutes maybe it shows up as crawled. And then within about three, four hours, 2, 3, 4 hours kind of depending, it, it shows up as index. But I, again, I think it's a, I think it's a counter AI measure that they've had to, they have to spend significantly more resources if, if a site suddenly puts up a million pages.
Um, I, I believe that if your. If you try and make sure that you only have indexable on your website, what you believe actually should be generating clicks from Google and you are putting in the necessary, uh, quality, your editing your. You are running it through something like Grammarly and um, then over time Google learns that your, the average, uh, quality of your content is fairly high and then they reward you with, with also pretty rapid indexing.
Um, I mean, common issues I usually see is stuff like category pages that, uh, that are indexed, tech pages that are indexed. Can be stuff like missing canonical text that all of a sudden, um, mean, mean that Google treating well, literally a hundred percent duplicate or con content as individual URLs. All of this, uh, when, so these pages that I believe should be know index.
Because they, they don't really, they don't add much for, uh, if, if a user find them in, in, in search, I believe that they should be no index. So that, uh, so that you show Google some level of consideration towards the resources that they are spending to process your site. And as the consequence, they're more le, well, not necessarily lenient, but they're gonna reward you additionally as a consequence.
Jared: A lot of people leave their category pages indexed, right? So, yeah. I'm, I'm going right. I'm gonna poke the bear here because I know that we're gonna get some comments on YouTube that are gonna go both ways here, but, um, why would I index my category page? And to your point, you don't like category page index.
Why would I not index it? And, sorry, what? I have to ask the differences here between a no index and a no follow, and does any of this matter? Yeah.
Thomas: Um, so if in my opinion, category pages, they serve a very valid purpose in terms of making it easier for Google to crawl the, uh, the website. But I would much rather see that website say, improve their internal linking and solve the issue that way because, uh, if, if, depending on how you have the category pages set up, all of the sudden, I mean, in extreme scenarios, I've seen category and tech pages make up more than 50% of the overall indexable pages.
So I'd ra uh, I'd much rather you try and improve crawlability through improved internal links. But if you are bent on keeping the category pages, I would very much en encourage you to at least make sure that they show more posts per page. Because by doing so, you're also going to be decreasing the overall number of necessary pages that are created as a consequence.
Um, so that's, that's a little bit of a workaround, although that would not be my. Honest, honestly, recommendation. So, um, but I, I mean, I use Link Whisper and, um, I, I think it's, I think it's great for the purpose of just making sure you don't have orphan pages and, um, making it super easy for you to, to see if you do have, uh, orphan pages and stuff.
Um, and, and look, the search console is there for a reason. So go through what you have indexed and honestly question yourself and ask yourself whether or not all the pages you're seeing, whether or not they, they do serve some purpose. I
Jared: like your take on that. So thank you for clarifying. I think there's something there for everyone.
Um, and certainly I think the overarching opinion of better internal linking does minimize the need for that category page to deep link to some article you had from. Uh, three years ago and keep it surfaced on the, on the, uh, on the crawl depth there. Um, let's, uh, I, oh, I want to go to some of the Google search console stuff you mentioned, but I wanna hold off, I have just kind of one more question around this, uh, this, this bloat topic, right?
You talked about tags and, uh, category pages, sometimes being a, a high significant number of the total overall index pages. That's a problem. What do you think about some of these other. Pages that are a little thinner. So I'm thinking author pages, I'm thinking like a privacy page, a disclaimer page, our whatever site maps, like these pages that don't really have a lot of unique content, but we need 'em or we have them as part of the native taxonomy.
Like what do we do with those? And what are your, what do you see it, um, being the right way for it to those pages?
But I think they're important in, in terms of proving that you're a valid website and, uh, some level of consideration for your user. I think there. I mean, across the pages that I've, uh, across a thousand pages in my Screaming Frog folder, what, what I commonly saw, even, even if I couldn't, uh, necessarily point to, you know, one or two other specific reasons why sites were doing pretty well.
So don't think that you're gonna get penalized, uh, on the basis of it. Also, just because in terms of. The proportion of effective pages relative to your, the overall indexed amount of pages on your site is just gonna be very, very small. Um, so even if I, I mean, I, I'm not a big believer in it. Uh, I, I think it's way too easy to, to spoof.
You can easily, um, you can easily use a AI image generator in order to get a. Get a picture of someone and you can, uh, you can then put up a nice little LinkedIn and link to it. And if, if you go in once or twice a week and start adding people, all of a sudden you have 200 connections. I think it is too easy to just spoof.
That it can't be a significant ranking factor, but I'm kind of in line with Cal Roof, uh, in terms of if it doesn't take you a whole bunch of time to do, why not do it? So that's for, I mean, despite me not believing in it, it's like, might as well do it just in case it has, you know, a little bit of icing.
Jared: It's really funny to hear you talk about eat, because we had Kyle on a couple months ago. Well, maybe longer than a couple months ago now. And he kind of walked through all the different ways to check the box, as you say. And his case was, Hey, every legitimate business needs to do these things be a legitimate business.
And so I even said at one point, I'm like, okay, so you gotta be a real person. He's like, well, I didn't say you had to be a real person. It's very easy to not be a real, I just said you had to do all these things.
Thomas: So, uh, a funny, a funny little side note here. Um, I put up a, uh, figured why not test this stuff out?
I put up, uh, LinkedIn with a AI image, um, so that I would have some level of validity answering hero queries. Uh, that LinkedIn profile actually gets invited to job interviews, so I'm not
Jared: surprised. I'm not surprised. Yeah. Well, um, I have e on my list or e e a T, but, um, uh, before we move on from some of this indexation stuff, you talked about going into Google Search Console, and I wanted to circle back on this.
You talked about how you're, you haven't had many problems with sites experiencing indexing problems when you go into search console. Um, a lot of people have, I wanted to get. Y from the, from someone who's a, an expert because this man, this is confusing. When you go in and if you haven't done this, lemme just give a little overview.
If you go into Google Search Console and look at your website at, at what you kind of advise people do, like you need to have that. You need to understand what Google is indexing, what they aren't indexing, but they also have a whole area where they surface problems or things that they've identified as problematic and that you should.
Fix and repair. They also have this interesting language they use around indexation and could you help explain for people what it means, but also what to do about each of these? There's crawled, currently not indexed. There's discovered currently not indexed, and then there's duplicate, and then Google chose a different canonical url.
I know they're not all perfectly related, but can we. Just talk to people about where these are problems, how many of them are problems, and how to go about correcting some of these errors they'll see in gsc.
Thomas: Sure. Um, crawl currently not index sometimes is a problem. Kind of depends on what, what's being reported.
Uh, feeds are usually be reported in there, but if, if you look in the H C T P, um, response error, I mean, WordPress makes sure to actually tell Google which kind of file it is. So, so feeds out, just ignore if they are, uh, showing up in, in that section. But if you start seeing that a bunch of the pages that you actually think should be indexed are showing up in currently not indexed, that to me is an issue.
Um, Because that to me means that Google actually went to the page and, and figured like, Hey, um, you know, for whatever reason we just chose to not, uh, index this. So when that's the situation, I would look at whether or not you have generally, uh, quality issues. Discovered currently not indexed. That's a big red flag for me because I mean, in order to even have stuff indexed in, in Google, you have to uh, you have to get it crawled.
And so if, if Google's saying, Hey, we know it's out there, we chose to not even go and visit it like, That's a big red flag. So that I would be super concerned with it. Um, duplicate. I mean, that's also a red flag. That's could be issues with canonical tax. It, it could be, um, you are accidentally uploading the same thing twice different URLs.
So in that case, you really have to actually go in and inspect what's going on. Uh, so. It, it really takes some digging into what's, what's the root cause of the issue and what are the actual pages being, uh, being served and how do, I mean, is, is there a reason they're not showing up? What could be the reason?
Are we just missing the mark entirely on where, where this piece of content should be at? So it, it's, Uh, honestly, a range of issues that, that, uh, could be coming up from, from, uh, the indexing report.
Jared: If I, if I were summarizing it sounds like duplicate, uh, sorry. Uh, discovered not indexed is a in is indicative of a, of a probably a sitewide problem.
Yeah. A way that Google looks at your whole site, whereas crawled, not indexes. Perhaps a little bit more URL specific. Yeah. Good. Okay. Um. Let's see. So taking this indexation issue to a higher level, when you're evaluating your website and you're using different indexation tools and tips like what you've talked about, when do you make a case for deleting some of the content?
You talked about how on your site to recover it, you deleted, I think you said like two thirds of the content along with some other things. What is a case or what are the cases for someone to delete content? Versus update it versus, um, you know, publish more content instead. Yeah,
Thomas: generally my recommendation is always, if you keep publishing content, but you see both traffic and keywords falling in at drafts, then you need to figure out what's going on before you add more content, because clearly what you're doing is not helping you.
Um, yeah, it kind of sucks, but that's, that's reality. Um, I am of believe that the stricter you can be about what you index better. So in, in my opinion, if, if a page is supposed to, uh, if it's supposed to drive organic traffic and it doesn't even get impressions, doesn't show up for any. Keywords in air drafts or in search console, then you need to either improve it or delete it.
And I mean, look, I, I'm, I'm not gonna lie, I've, I've definitely missed the mark myself and this a bunch of times. But, um, with that said, you know, continuously monitor content that you push out, uh, make it a habit a month in. To actually go back and see how is the content doing? But on, on the, on the question of should you improve or should you delete content, uh, I think it's important to realize that if you have serious, serious index load, it takes about three months to actually get these pages out of the index.
Whereas I can get pages reindexed significantly faster. So let's. Let's say you have a, uh, site, we had about 600 pages index, and you know, in the span of two months, you can probably improve about 200 of these pages if you, if you remove the bottom third of it and you update the 200 pages that remain, that are performing the worst, that.
In my opinion, it is gonna be the way that you achieve, uh, results the absolute quickest because you're taking advantage of, of removing parts of the content and thereby, uh, moving, moving the goal post on what's, what's the average, uh, content quality. But at the same time, you're just, you're taking advantage of the fact that Google Re-Index is stuff quicker than they.
Uh, remove it from the actual index. Mm-hmm. That's, um,
Jared: that's a good, that's, that's a good practical way for people to use, to think through and go about a large, yeah, I call it a large scale problem, but just, you know, an overall site quality issue. Um, with regards to indexation, last question on indexation with regards to it as it relates to a new site.
I mean, I think the most common DM I get on Twitter is, Hey, why isn't this ranking. And my question before I even look is, when did you publish it and how old is the site? And 90% of the time they come back and they said, I published it, you know, a month ago, and the site's three months old. I'm like, well, chances are it's, you know, you're still in what we call the sandbox, these sorts of things.
So before I kind of get in too far, like new sites, um, Google Sandbox, taking a long time for Google to start to give you some love. Any thoughts on that? Any tips for how to get out of that period faster? Or how to get Google to crawl your site consistently quicker?
Thomas: I believe that if you have a three months old website that still has indexing issues, it's a quality issue.
But I believe what we think of as Sandbox is basically the lack of having been been through a core update. Um, And then it just takes time. I mean, you have to actually sit down and write content before Google starts rewarding you. Um, because when, when your site has 20 pages and your competitor has 2000, it's like, well, there is kind of reason why you're not being rewarded to the same extent they are.
It's like, uh, You know, the domain age may not be a, as such a ranking factor, but they accumulate some links and you don't have any links and you've not been through a core update and Google's not really assigned you the, the appropriate scores for how to reward the content and whatnot. So I really think sandbox is, is just like a lack of a core update, generally speaking.
Jared: Okay. Good take. Okay, good. I'll just tell 'em that from now. One Thomas said, Core update. Um, hey, uh, as we transition, uh, I thought I'd get your take on structured data and, and schema. Um, and if you know, I mean, again, I'm, I'm guessing you kind of check for these things, or at least observe these things in your audits and, and, you know, um, where does that play a role in inside success these days?
Thomas: I think it's good. I think it, it's good from the standpoint that you're making it easier for Google to process what's on the page. Uh, with that said, I don't think it's a long-term beneficial thing, or I mean, outside of the fact that in, in the SES you might gain a little bit more real estate, but I, I don't think it's a, uh, like, oh, we're gonna reward this side with, you know, an additional 50% traffic.
I do think you potentially just see, see a little bit quicker results, but, um, the way I see it is, Structured data is very much a SEO kind of tool. And in, in Google's nature, they would love for hobbyists to be the hobbyist and experts to be the ones, um, actually answering queries. So why should they reward, you know, a site with something that is so SEO specific as.
As, uh, as structured data when a hobbyist might in fact provide a much better answer, but just not know that structured data exists. Before we
Jared: kind of start to wrap up here, I want to wade my way into another controversial topic since we've already covered a couple of them and get your take on, you know, this idea of, uh, of topical authority.
Uh, Uh, cornerstone content, supporting content, creating topical clusters. Is it needed, is it not? Uh, it's, it's certainly something that a lot of people talk about nowadays and, um, certainly this is the kind of stuff that has to show its rear its ugly head one way or the other in audits, uh, or at least I'm hoping.
So maybe you can give us more definitive stances on this and, uh, and gives people some guidance on where to go with the, with the topic.
Thomas: My point of view is that it, that topical authority is not a thing, and I know a lot of your listeners are gonna hate me for it, but I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna take the hater if it's needed.
But with, with that said, if you, I believe that you're basically assigned a certain score, uh, on, on a page that you're publishing on, on the basis of, you know, all the different things on your website. How. The average, uh, quality of your overall website. So, but with that said, I believe that internal links are just super important.
So it's not that I'm discouraging, you know, you writing clusters of content because you put, you put something up. Let's say you're assigned a score of one, uh, for that piece of content. When, when you put up a different topic and you link to that, Some of the, some of the tiers from that other page is then being passed on.
So I believe it's more of a mathematical, you know, link tiers being passed between pages more so than it necessarily being like, oh, you covered stuff in, like, fairly extensively on the top or on, like, in a cluster of topics. Um, I mean, I, I do believe that, you know, The quality of a specific page needs to be high, and you need to cover that in depth and stuff.
Um, but I, I have a, I have a site that publishes content in lots of different niches and, you know, I'll, I'll put, I'll put content up in, on one topic and then I'll put content up on a vastly different topic and, and I just don't see them actually being treated differently and, Um, but I mean, I like the idea of topical authority because I think it kind of helps steer beginners in the right direction of like focusing more on quality and being, just being a aware of quality and, you know, you're, you're starting out and you, you spread too thin and all of a sudden it's like nothing you put up is actually of quality.
So I think that's more so why I pushed the message of like topical authority.
Jared: Maybe to close out, I wanna ask you about internal links, uh, cuz I haven't actually asked you about it, but you've brought it up a lot. Right. When we've talked about category pages, you said, eh, I'd prefer you do a better job of internal linking.
When I ask about topical authorities, you say, eh, I just prefer you do a better job of internal linking. So let's talk about internal linking. What's the significance of it? It seems like it plays a really large role for you and what you see successful sites doing.
Thomas: Yeah. Um, I mean, for one, it shows consideration that you're trying to create a cohesive website.
And in my opinion, that's what Google should ideally be rewarding. That everything should be about cohesiveness. So if, if within an article you can show, oh, I mean, I'm writing this, but I also have other supporting stuff that shows a level of consideration towards the, towards the content. So it's, it is more along those lines and I, I just, I mean, over and over and over, I see sites doing well with internal links just tend to also do pretty well in the ses.
Um, and like that's more so, you know, my line of thinking on the topic. Okay.
Jared: Well, let's talk about your site audits and let, let's talk about how you, you know, what, what you, what you do in a site audit. Um, both, so if people are interested, they can reach out to you, but also, so if, uh, people kinda wanna learn more about what's important in an audit, they can kind of, you know, glean a bit about, about how you do them.
Thomas: Yeah. Um, I traditionally have a initial call with, with a customer or client I'm working with to learn more about the site. For a couple of different reasons. Uh, give me a broader perspective on what's been going on, but also to sort of gauge where they're at in terms of white hat versus black hat. Uh, because, you know, it, it, it helps understand the, the person who's created the website and like word consideration for quality they've had.
Um, when, when, so when I've had that and I have a bunch of questions, um, that I ask, usually I just let them talk for a bit and then we kind of discover a bunch of stuff that I probably naturally wouldn't have asked them about. Um, and then I ha I have questions that I cover. Um, and, and then when I understand, you know, where they're coming from and where they actually want to be going and how they best see that we reach the goal that they're trying to reach, you know, that's when we say, okay, nice to meet you.
And we wrap it up and then I go back to the drawing board and actually look over all this stuff and, um, you know, for one look at, look at their website, and then also compare it to some of the competitors and. Um, then I have the findings, uh, session, which is usually about an hour. Um, talk about, you know, everything that came up.
I have a, I have a spreadsheet that I sh or a presentation that I go through with them, answer initial questions from them, uh, walked them through my line of thinking. Try and, you know, in, in case, in case I feel they were substantially missing the mark. On quality. I'm also trying to actually get buy-in from them so that, you know, uh, I can make sure it's not just an audit and then nothing happens.
Um, and uh, yeah, when, when that's been done, I usually say, Hey, you know, clearly we, everyone forgets stuff when, when you have a scheduled meeting, if. If you need help afterwards, I'm pretty generous with answering questions and um, that's how I tend to do it. So it's, it's, you know, there's a bunch of standardized stuff that I go through and then also I try and make sure that I figure out what it is they want to achieve and help them best do.
Jared: a, not a one size fits all sort of approach it sounds like. Um, where can people follow along with what you're doing or get in touch with you?
Thomas: Um, Twitter is the best channel. Uh, it's my, my username is Jepson Thomas. That's j e p s e n, Thomas. So, um, yeah, Dana Spelling and everyone always asks me to spell it.
Uh, I don't have a newsletter. I don't really feel like taking on more projects right now. I might have changed my mind in the future, but Twitter's definitely the way to go about finding me.
Jared: Yeah, you, you're a good follow too. You published a lot of really interesting kind of case studies or deep dives on different sites.
You're seeing why they're working, what didn't work, that sort of stuff. So I can, uh, I can vouch for that. So, well, Thomas, that was fun. I mean, uh, we could have gone on for another hour, so, so maybe, uh, down the road, we'll, we'll do a part two, but that was really fun. Thanks for coming on board and sharing your knowledge from all the different, you know, near thousand websites that you've, uh, you've analyzed.
Thomas: Yeah, definitely appreciate it. Just clarification, I'm, I'm not, I'm not claiming I audited a thousand sites, but I've at least run Screaming Frog on a thousand sites.
Jared: Well, I mean, running Screaming Frog, I basically checks the box, doesn't it?
Thomas: Fair enough. Fair enough. I would, I would hope to set the bar a little bit higher.
Jared: Little bit higher. Good point. Good point. Yeah, that would be, uh, that'd be setting the bar pretty low, so. Fair enough. Fair enough. Um, Hey, thanks so much Thomas and uh, look forward to connecting with you again soon. Appreciate
Thomas: you stopping. Yeah, I appreciate him. I appreciate him.
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