Regex Filter Template for GSC

Personal SEO notes: Keyword research with Google Search Console. Use this to find data exclusive to your site’s search data.

Simple Version


Over Complicated Version

(?i)^(who|what|where|when|why|how|was|did|do|is|are|does|if|can|could|should|would|will|did|do|is|are|won’t|were|weren’t|shouldn’t|couldn’t|cannot|can’t|didn’t|did not|does|doesn’t|wouldn’t|aren’t|won’t|wont|were|werent|shouldnt|couldnt|cant|didnt|doesnt|wouldont|arent|wont).(brand|name).

Google Says You Shouldn’t Buy Links but…

This is the 4-year ranking trend for an IT site whose top 200 links are NOTHING but paid and Wikipedia nofollow links and expired domains redirects. A lot of these high DR paid links are listed side by side with casino and write-for-you essay sites at the footer section.

Listen to experts, read Google guidelines, but always keep an open mind. Look at what’s working and what’s not in the SERP.

Not Your Standard SEO Advice (1/7): Page Speed & Distracting Ads

Google guideline and Google representatives say valid HTML matters, page speed is a crucial ranking factors, and distracting ads are a sign of low quality sites.

Yet, this page has 20+ errors and 70+ warning in Chrome browser inspection, failed horribly in various speed tests, comes with multiple annoying pop-up / pop-under ads – and they rank in multiple position 0’s and ranked for thousands of highly competitive search terms.

Page ranks more than 5,000 keywords.
Search traffic valued at $98,430 according to AHREFS estimation.
Page speed test results at GT Metrix.

SEO guidelines by Google and gurus are only for your reference. They are basic knowledge that serves, at max, as your foundation and can only carry you to a certain distance.

The best SEO thing you can do FOR YOURSELF is to monitor SERPs closely and run your own experiments.

Google Webmaster Conference Kuala Lumpur 2019

This was a rare chance for people in Malaysia to get answers from a Googlers, face-to-face, instead of Google the Search Engine.

  • When? August 02, 2019.
  • Where? Aloft Kuala Lumpur Central.
  • Who? Googlers from the search team including Gary Illyes, Stacie Chan, Lucian Teo, Takeaki Kanaya, Duy Nguyen, Anna Ogawa, Cherry Sireetorn Prommawin, and Aldrich Christopher.
  • Why? It’s a conference for website owners, digital marketers, web developers, and SEO professionals.
  • Event details:


There were 9 talk sessions and 1 Q&A / panel discussion in the fully-packed 7 hours event. Titles and topics covered were:

  1. Keynotes / welcomes – by Lucian Teo
  2. How search works – by Cherry Sireetorn
  3. What’s new in search – by Gary Illyes
  4. Search console – by Gary Illyes
  5. Partnering with Google Search and Assistant – by Stacie Chan
  6. Image Search – by Gary Illyes
  7. Towards a safer web – by Aldrich Christopher & Takeaki Kanaya
  8. SEO mythbusting – by Gary Illyes
  9. Let’s talk about links by Duy Nguyen

Key Takeaways

Per Googler’s on-stage talks and guidance

  • eCommerce spending in Asean is estimated to hit US$250 billion by year 2025.
  • Content is king.
  • Businesses should focus on its core and worry less about SEO
  • Rankings are tailored to moment. Search engine crawl, index, and rank content in real time.
  • HTTPS is a must – make use of free SSL like Let’s Encrypt .
  • Link out to trustable resources – it helps Google understand the web better and your site rankings.
  • Any links that are obtained with exchange of money should be “nofollow”.
  • Google human raters will check and compare search results before an core update goes live.
  • Speed up your site.
  • Google is working with other relevant orgs to standardize robots.txt
  • New sites discovered by Google will fall under mobile first indexing.
  • Google now renders a web page when crawling a website – just like how users would see the page on browser.
  • Javascript should be used in moderation.
  • Fun story – Facebook used up Google storage capacity when the two tech giants team up to test out hreflang implementation.
  • Use “hreflang” to gain more localised traffic, but prepare to lose traffic if you take it off.
  • Businesses are encouraged to control their online presence by claiming their knowledge panel and creating content on Google Posts and Cameos.
  • Use schema markup to help Google understand your website better – including the new FAQ and How-to markup.
  • You can now markup your videos with spreadsheets.
  • Make use of, one of Google’s latest acquisitions, to improve your brand visibility.

Q&A (in private and during panel discussion)

  • How users interact with content affects how Google understand intent (in real time); how Google understand intent affect how they serve their results in real time.
  • First meaningful content paint is what matters the most to Google in measuring speed.
  • When a website roll back to single-language from a multilingual setup, it will retain its (bigger) crawl budget for short term, which allow new pages get discovered quicker. This elevated crawl budget would be reduced and normalised based on the website size eventually.

Personal Thoughts

Met my school mates – Sebastian and Chik, during the event.

In overall I think it’s a well-organised event.

  • Plenty to networking opportunities with other digital marketers and developers.
  • Plenty of good food – breakfast, lunch, and two tea breaks, to whack throughout the session.
  • Plenty of clear guidance and tips for newbies and local businesses.

A few attendants I met mentioned their disappointment with the depth of the topics. In overall they thought what covered on stage were too basic and lack of insights.

(Biasa-lah.. Of course the Googlers are not here to teach us how to SEO and manipulate their system.)


20 Years of Google Search and Beyond

Can you believe it? Google is no longer a teenager. The big brother has turned 20 years old in 2018.

Here’s an interesting article, written by Google Search VP Ben Gomes, in conjunction to the company anniversary: Improving search for the next 20 years.

For the next 20 years, Google wants to shift (to quote)…

  1. From answers to journeys,
  2. From queries to providing a queryless way to get to information, and
  3. From text to a more visual way of finding information.

All these sounds great. But… do read between the lines.

Every time Google says “First and foremost, we focus on the user….”, I get the feeling that something against the users’ interests is happening.

Be reminded that Google has been showing more and bigger ads in their search result pages repeatedly over the years. Read here, here, and here.

While Google is certainly serious about improving its users experience in overall. I suppose the shift in next 20 years also meant Google will

  1. Track users closer and collect even more data to improve product stickiness,
  2. Inject more suggestions in SERP (we have already seen a 35% surge in “people also ask” in July 2018) to better understand searchers’ intent; and then pushing more ads and product recommendations in the name of “improving user’s Google experience”, and
  3. Provide better Google image and video search suggestions (probably allow users to preview the videos on site?) to increase users time spent on Google.

Does that red ball in the movie Minority Report comes into mind?


How long can we survive Google domination?

If you wish to know how hard it is to please the almighty Google today, this is a good read.

In the name of “better user experience”, Google has been constantly exploiting small online businesses and pushing content publishers away.

Image credit: Dr. Peter J. Meyers

Knowledge graph. Live results. Snippet answers. Local Google results. Featured videos. Flight schedules.

Every new features being introduced in Google Search draws more internal links back to Google’s assets.

Good content, built with sweat and blood, by smaller publishers are being scrapped by force.

Many of us are creating more (and better) content to temporary solve the issue. But in the long run, there’s no escape from this downward spiral to 0% margin.

It takes good talent and lots of money to create good content.

Yes Google doesn’t owe us a living.

But quoting Dr. Peter J. Meyers  –

…the time has come for Google to stop and think about the pact that built their nearly hundred-billion-dollar ad empire.

After all – what’s there to search after all independent publishers are driven out of business?

My On-Page SEO Tips

In my recent guest post at, I talked about the three on-page optimisations, proven by case studies and SEO experiments, which will create an immediate impact on your Google rankings. They are:

1- Tweak your page for better SERP CTR,
2- Clean up site broken links and 404 errors, and
3- Get mobile friendly.

To get actionable tips fro each factors and dig into the case studies I used to prove my points, read:…/

Also, for more tips on improving your blog –

Google Penguin 4.0 articles you should be reading

Note: This got published on my newsletter first. I thought some of you can make use of this list, hence the post.

If you are keen to study Google Penguin 4.0 update at this early stage, this post will save you hours of searching.

I usually avoid analysing an update that early because 1- There’s hardly anything useful at this early stage. 2- It takes days or even weeks for Google to roll out a major update like this; so it’s meaningless to study current SERPs.

But hey – it’s Penguin.


Credit: Mike Rossi (source)
Credit: Mike Rossi (source)

The first time I heard about Penguin, that animal almost killed my business. It took me almost 3 years to crawl back where I was before everything fell off.

So… I search and read and search and read. And here are the articles I found worth reading.

Warning: Real Gold Mine Ahead


Let’s dig.

Penguin is now part of our core algorithm 
The official announcement from Google. Penguin is out.

Early thoughts on Penguin 4.0
Wise interpretation on Google’s announcement. The entire post is pure gold for those who want to quickly understand what means what. Also, I highly recommend the “A theory – New links are very important to build up TRUST” part.

Is Google Penguin 4.0 fully rolled out?
My answer: No. But I am not the expert. Read experts’ opinion in this one.

Penguin 4.0 update
Spot on observations and the usual rants by Aaron Wall / SEO Book.

Key takeaway #1:

“Things NOT said in Google’s announcement:

1- if it has been tested extensively over the past month
2- if the algorithm is just now rolling out or if it is already done rolling out
3- if the launch of a new version of Penguin rolled into the core ranking algorithm means old sites hit by the older versions of Penguin have recovered or will recover anytime soon.

Key takeaway #2:

“The trite advice [to handle Penguin updates] is to make quality content, focus on the user, and build a strong brand. It is getting harder to win in search period. And it is getting almost impossible to win in search by focusing on search as an isolated channel.”

Google Penguin doesn’t penalize for bad links – or does it?
Short answer – “Google Penguin no longer penalizes the site or specific pages but rather ignores/devalues the spammy links and thus the rankings are adjusted.”

Google says Penguin recoveries have started to roll out now
If you were penalized in the past, start looking.

Recent Reads

1. Search Metrics’ Domain Authority Consolidation: An Observation of consolidated its sub and root domain; search visibility took a great leap after. 

2. SEO Theory’s How to recover from Google Penguin in less than 60 minutes

Countering Penguin penalty is a business, NOT SEO, decision. You should recheck your business strategy if your site is hit by Penguin.

3. Inc’s Being very boring is going to make your very rich

Profitable niche is boring. Fashion, entertainment, food, and media – these fields are sexy but not easy to make money because of competition.

4. Webris’ Thinking about buying links? Read this first…

If you must buy links, do it the smart way. A reminder on best link buying practices (if there’s such thing).

5. Abhishek’s Does Wikipedia deserves such high ranks in search results?

Google bias towards Wiki proven in both author’s two machine-learning models. Wiki search visibility relies on relevant scores; rankings, however, does not rely on relevant scores. If a Wiki page is deemed relevant, it will rank high.

Dominating Google

Not too long ago I visited a Malaysia web company and the company chief editor told me – as if it’s the rule of nature – that if a blog ranks high on Google, it must be creditable and trustworthy.

I smiled. And we talked about something else.

I think he should understand how Google (and Internet) works better.

Perhaps Glen’s recent article about how 16 companies dominate Google SERPs a good place to start with.