This Week In SEO 103
Huge Penalties, Search Intent, AMP Gains, & More,, and Lose 80% of Search Visibility

Note* – These are NOT government sites

Holy sh*t this is brutal. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemies (unless they were my SERP competitor). In one smooth stroke, Google wiped millions of monthly visits from three SEO Giants.

Look at this carnage: traffic loss graph traffic loss graph traffic loss graph

Why did this happen? Who knows, but probably a Google manual penalty against sites that are misleading to visitors (none of these sites about government programs are official government sites, and Google probably doesn’t want to have a hand in misleading visitors, so it’s a preemptive slap before they’re slapped by regulators, maybe? That said, some of the sites are pretty up-front about not being official, but doubtful everyone pays attention to that…) — here’s the take:

Is there a government action behind this? Will the two domains be able to recover? Do the two companies even know this has happened?

Yes, there could be a technical explanation that we’ve missed so we advise caution. It is possible that the content inside the pages has been made invisible to Googlebots. But for two three companies, both running ‘ghost-like’ US government-related websites, to see the same pattern seems like too much of a co-incidence to us.

Definitely a story to keep an eye on.


Breaking Down Search Intent

from Supremacy’s Sketchbook Fridays

Search intent has always been important, but it really stepped into the spotlight in Q2/Q3 2018 when the “medic update” shook up the SERPs in a big way. Now, it pays not just to consider the search intent (which was best practices pre-Medic), but to constantly evaluate what Google considers the intent to be.

This post breaks down intent even further than the traditional buyer vs. informational and has some really smart things to say overall.

For instance, breaking down search intent classifications even further to pull “answer intent” from the broader “informational:”

Slightly different from research, there are quite a few searches where users don’t generally care about clicking into a result and researching it – they just want a quick answer. Good examples are definition boxes, answer boxes, calculator boxes, sports scores, and other SERPs that feature a non-featured snippet version of an answer box, as well as a very low click-through rate (CTR) on search results.

Highly recommended read–and apparently they have a tool coming out that helps identify search intent by keyword.


Does AMP Give SEO Ranking Benefits?

exclusive look at how to optimize a site for AMP

Google says AMP carries no SEO advantage, but Google says a lot of things…

What does the data say, though?

Stone Temple took a(n admittedly small) sample of AMP sites and ran some numbers:

Overall, 22 of the 26 websites (77%) experienced organic search gains on mobile. Other areas of improvement include SERP impressions and SERP click-through rates. A summary of the results across all 26 sites is as follows:

27.1% increase in organic traffic
33.8% increase in SERP impressions
15.3% higher SERP click-through rates

But were there rankings gains?

Yes, kind of–but the study’s author is reluctant to say it was due to AMP:

what we saw was that 23 of the 26 domains saw an increase in our Search Visibility score. 17 of these domains saw an increase of 15% or more, and the average change in Search Visibility across all 26 sites was a plus 47%.

This data suggests that there were some rankings gains during the time period. So that still leaves us with the question as to whether or not having an AMP implementation is a direct ranking factor. In spite of the above data, my belief is that the answer is that it’s not.

Check out this one for the full scope of the study.


Are Web Directories Still Relevant for SEO in 2019?

yes no

If they are high quality and relevant, yes.


Understanding Query Syntax

This is a very smart post for advanced SEOs only. I mean, go read it if you’re not an SEO but you’ll be like:



This is another post, essentially, on search intent:

It’s our job as search marketers to determine intent based on an analysis of query syntax. The old grouping of intent as informational, navigational or transactional are still kinda sorta valid but is overly simplistic given Google’s advances in this area.

Knowing that a term is informational only gets you so far. If you miss that the content desired by that query demands a list you could be creating long-form content that won’t satisfy intent and, therefore, is unlikely to rank well.

Query syntax describes intent that drives content composition and format.

I’m not gonna attempt to summarize this post here, but instead I will encourage you to go read the whole post.

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Sean Markey

Sean Markey

Obsessive consumer of SEO news and strategies, writes the This Week in SEO column. Loves playing drums and writing fiction. Bets you he can throw a football over them mountains.
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