Last updated on January 10, 2022.

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Welcome to episode #28 of the SEO Newsletter.

👉 This is a special edition that is packed with lots of SEO tips, SEO news, and SEO resources. 👈

If you haven’t already, make sure to follow me on Twitter. I will be sharing more useful SEO tips there soon. 

📰 Top SEO News

A lot of interesting things have been happening in the SEO industry over the last month. Here is what I have selected for you.

Record-high search volatility in December

2021 was the most fruitful year when it comes to the number of Google updates. According to the Semrush data, December was the most volatile month of 2021. Has your site experienced a lot of fluctuations in December? You are not alone. My advice is to NOT to be reactive but instead take a step back and look at a bigger picture.

December 2021 Google Product Reviews Update fully rolled out

The December Google Product Reviews Update has been fully rolled out. This is the second update of this type, the first one taking place in April 2021. You can learn more about the Google Product Reviews Update in my extensive article. 

Updates to Google Search Console reports

1) Google announces an update to its logging system for Google News to make it more accurate. As a result, you can see a reduction in the number of impressions in the performance report for Google News. 

2) “Search Console has changed the way that it evaluates and reports errors in Product structured data. As a result, you may see changes in the number of Product entities and issues reported for your property, as well as a change in the severity of some issues from errors to warnings.”

There is no difference between nofollow, UGC, and sponsored links for SEO

In case you were wondering, John Mueller confirms that there is practically no SEO difference between rel="nofollow", rel="ugc", and rel="sponsored" link attributes for SEO. Basically, they all carry the same message that you do not endorse the page to which you link.

Google Search News (Dec ‘21) – Google ranking algorithms updates, interactive Schecklist, and more!

In this December episode of Google Search News, John Mueller goes over recent developments in the Google Search world, such as Google Search Central documentation, recent updates to Google ranking algorithms, Google Search Console updates, mobile-first indexing update, and more. 

January 2022 Google webmaster report

If it wasn’t for Barry, we would all get lost in the world of SEO news. Make sure to read the monthly Google webmaster report where he recaps all the more and less important Google SEO news from the past month. There is really a lot of super interesting news for December 2021. 

The not-so SEO checklist for 2022

In this Search Engine Watch article, the best-selling author, Kris Jones debunks SEO myths and dishes out logical advice on the three things you should not do in 2022, one of them being that you shouldn’t assume your affiliate product review site is in trouble.  

Google author’s take on 2021

“It’s that time of year again: writing a blog post about what happened during the year, and the aspirations for the year to come. Since writing is hard, we asked the Googlers who’ve authored for the Search Central Blog in 2021 to collaborate with us again, and to reflect on what was memorable and what they’re excited about for 2022.”  

SEO in 2022 by Majestic

Majestic asked SIXTY-SIX! of the world’s leading SEOs (including me) to share their number one actionable tip for 2022. Check out the Majestic SEO book, or simply watch the entire list of 66 videos to stay one step ahead of your competitor in 2022. 

📍 Local SEO 

Google confirms the November 2021 Google Local Search Update

Search experts, such as Barry Schwartz, noticed a lot of changes and fluctuations regarding local search results in early December. However, it wasn’t until the 15th of December that Google officially confirmed that indeed their November 2021 Local Search Update had concluded. Google recommends you check their article on how to improve your local ranking of Google

Google moves local pack results to the top and the map to the right

As Barry Schwartz notes, Google has confirmed it is moving the local pack results to the top and the map on the right of those local results on desktop search. Do you like this change?

How Google Reviews Impact Map Pack & Organic Search Rankings

Google reviews are a great tool for not only converting searchers to customers but helping you rank higher, as well. In this SEJ article, you will learn more about how Google reviews can and do impact your map pack and organic search rankings. 

⚙️ SEO Tools 

Sitebulb [Main Sponsor] 🌳🌳🌳

The SEOSLY newsletter is kindly sponsored by Sitebulb, an amazing desktop-based SEO crawler. The SEOSLY newsletter subscribers can get an extended 60-day free trial of Sitebulb (no credit card information required). 

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Did you hear about the climate-positive SEO auditing initiative from Sitebulb? 

“Every month we invest in projects to offset the carbon footprint of the Sitebulb team, and the energy used by our users’ computers when running SEO audits. We also plant trees for every person that takes a free Sitebulb trial or subscribes to our newsletter.”

🌳 If you try Sitebulb, the team will plant trees!
🌳 If you subscribe to their newsletter, they will plant trees!
🌳 If you purchase Sitebulb, they will plant even more trees.

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If you are new to Sitebulb, here is the full guide on how to audit your site using Sitebulb in case you want to learn more. 

☝️ SEO Tips 

And here are the SEO tips for you.

#1: You can ignore “toxic” links that many SEO tools alert you about
If you have been in SEO for at least some time, it’s not uncommon to see many SEO tools alert you about “toxic” links and advising you to disavow them. The best use of your time is, however, to simply ignore them. Check this tweet where John Mueller comments on that. 

#2: Keyword density is NOT a ranking factor (a reminder)
“So it is now 2022 and some folks are asking if keyword density is an SEO Google search ranking factor. The answer is still no, according to John Mueller, a Search Advocate at Google.” Barry nicely summarizes this topic here. 

#3: Be careful when migrating to a new domain and dropping AMP at the same time
An interesting site migration case was discussed during one of the latest SEO office hours. The issue is that after migrating to a new domain and dropping AMP, the site stopped ranking in Google Top Stories where it always ranked well. With that in mind, you may be super cautious of this type of migration.

#4: Quality of all language versions of your site matters
Google’s John Mueller confirmed on the December 31st SEO hangout that if you have multiple versions of your site (on the same domain name), and one version is deemed high quality by Google and the other version is deemed low quality by Google – the low-quality version can negatively impact the high-quality version. “

#5: 100,000 URLs should not impact the crawl budget
As Barry Schwartz notes, “Google’s John Mueller said a site with 100,000 URLs usually won’t be enough to impact crawl budget. Your site and number of pages should be larger to where you might run into an issue with Google’s crawl budget.” Check my crawl budget optimization guide to learn more about this topic.

#6: Are backlinks mandatory to rank in search? Nope.
When asked this question on Twitter, John Mueller answers “nope”. Of course, you should not treat it like the final answer because – as everything in SEO – it depends. The takeaway for you is that it is possible to rank without links but don’t forget that links still are one of the most important (confirmed) ranking factors. 

#7: Words in the URL slug do not matter for SEO
This is the topic that comes back every so often. John Mueller stated that words in the URL have zero or close to zero effect for Google. However, I would still use them for the sake of users who do see the URL (i.e. desktop users).

#8: Google will not penalize you for not nofollowing your affiliate links
In one of the December Google SEO office hours, John Mueller answers a question of whether a site can get penalized for failing to nofollow affiliate links (or marking them as sponsored). This is a best practice to do that but you won’t get penalized if you don’t. 

#9: Google does not index part of a page unless it’s embedded content
Google passage ranking (at first wrongly labeled at Google passage indexing) was at first wrongly interpreted that Google will be able to index only parts (or passages) of a page. John Mueller clarifies that Google indeed separately indexes embedded content only.

#10: Human-readable lists of links or HTML sitemaps are not necessary for SEO if Google is able to normally crawl your site
In the Google Search Central documentation on sitemaps, Google recommends providing an HTML sitemap of pages on the site. John Mueller – asked if this is necessary for a small site – states that you do not need to worry about that as long as Google can normally crawl your site. 

If you want even more tips, check my list of 60+ SEO tips I have prepared for you. 

🤓 Don’t Miss These SEO Resources 

100 things to know about Google Core Updates by Marie Haynes (MUST-SEE)

In this video, Marie Haynes is sharing 100 things that will help you understand Google core updates. Marie is probably one of the greatest SEO experts on earth. We are all lucky that she wants to share her wisdom with us. Make sure to watch this.

22 smart Google SEO tips for 2022

In this episode of Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus Shepard shares his top 22 tips to be successful in SEO in 2022. Make sure to check this out! The tips include, among others, A/B testing, FAQ schema, internal link optimization, deep linking, and more!

Domains lightning round #AskGooglebot

In this lightning episode of AskGooglebot, John Mueller answers several questions about domains, such as if .com domains are better, if you should have www or non-www domains, if you can rank internationally with a ccTLD, and more.

Web Almanac SEO Chapter

You definitely want to read the SEO chapter of the Web Almanac that covers the latest SEO developments and recaps the most important SEO concepts. 

The past, present, and future of robots.txt

In this episode of Search Off the Record, Gary, Lizzi, and Martin from the Google Search team are joined by special guest David Price, a Product Counsel for Google. They discuss human-initiated crawl requests vs. bot-initiated crawl requests, the robots.txt file, and more! This is a really cool episode!

Landing Page SEO Best Practices & Tips For Success

With so many Google updates, landing page optimization has changed. In this article from SEJ, you will learn how to improve your landing page SEO and conversions.

Most “Types” of Content Marketing Are Nonsense. Here Are 5 That Actually Make Sense

In this article from Ahrefs, you will learn whymost popular types of content marketing, such as infographics, e-books, whitepapers, slide decks, etc. may actually be nonsense and learn about 5 types that actually make sense. 

14 top reasons why Google isn’t indexing your site

Do you think Google is having a hard time indexing your website? Check out these 14 search indexing issues and how to solve them. This is a really good list!

15 Newsletter Growth Tips: How I Grew #SEOFOMO from +1K to 17K Subscribers within 2 Years 

Aleyda Solis shares how she managed to massively grow her SEO newsletter. “A couple of years ago I re-took my SEO newsletter that had 1.7K subscribers and grew it to be now 17K subscribers and one of the “go to” SEO newsletters in the industry. These are the insights, learnings, and tips from the journey, so you can apply them too.” 

📢  Other Announcements

As you probably noticed there was no SEO newsletter in December. That’s because I have been involved in a lot of new projects and have been transitioning to my new role as the Director of SEO at Market JD and planning out the content strategy for SEOSLY. New cool things are coming soon.

Anyway, the newsletter is back is my goal is to send it every Monday.

🙏  Please note that I am getting hundreds of messages and I am not always able to respond to all of you quickly. Please be patient. I will get back to you. I am doing my best.

See you next week!


Olga Zarzeczna is a senior SEO specialist with 8+ years of experience. She has been doing SEO for both the biggest brands in the world and small businesses. She has done more than 150+ SEO audits so far. Olga has completed SEO courses and degrees at universities, such as UC Davis, University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins University. She also completed Moz Academy! And, of course, has Google certifications. She keeps learning SEO and loves it. Olga is also a Google Product Expert specializing in areas, such as Google Search and Google Webmasters.