The SEO landscape is always evolving and the beginning of 2023 has been no different! While not every update or enhancement is relevant to every business, there are trends and topics that have applications to many, if not all, BrightEdge customers. Here are the things that have happened in the last month that are important for all BrightEdge customers to be thinking about as they execute their SEO programs.
Helpful Content Update Rollout Complete
Google recently completed the implementation of its "Helpful Content Update" on January 12, 2023. This update was first announced in August 2022, with the aim of reducing search results content that lacked original value. Google’s guidelines are to avoid content that is either unoriginal or derivative as not being "helpful" and the update took several months to roll out globally. Some websites experienced changes in rankings during this time, however, if you were following Google's content guidelines, your site should not have been negatively affected. The update emphasizes the importance of creating unique and valuable content for your website.
Why this matters: As artificial intelligence-generated content becomes increasingly prevalent, it is likely that Google will implement new measures to ensure that its search results provide maximum value to users. One such measure could be the identification of particularly useful content through flagging mechanisms. By doing so, Google can continue to promote the relevance and reliability of its search results, providing a superior user experience.
AI Generated Content
The introduction of ChatGPT has generated widespread interest in the potential of AI technology. In the past month, we have explored the implications of ChatGPT for SEO. One of its main uses is the generation of human-like content at scale, which can positively impact SEO results. However, as with any new technology, it is important to consider the potential challenges when integrating ChatGPT into your workflow. Firstly, it should be noted that ChatGPT's training data only extends up until 2021, which means it may not accurately reflect more recent developments. Secondly, it is possible that the content generated by ChatGPT may not meet plagiarism standards and may contain inaccuracies, which has been a concern for some early adopters. Despite these considerations, we encourage BrightEdge customers to experiment with ChatGPT and find innovative ways to utilize the platform.
Why this matters: The buzz surrounding the launch of ChatGPT has brought attention to the capabilities of AI technology. At BrightEdge, we have already incorporated AI and similar functionality into our platform. However, with the increased accessibility provided by ChatGPT, it's likely that more organizations will adopt the technology and leverage its functionality to automate manual tasks at scale. This development could result in an increasingly competitive content landscape in search results.
E Added to E-A-T in December
Google uses E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) to determine positive experiences in search results. E-A-T means the content should show clear expertise on the subject, provide authority and credibility, and be a trustworthy resource. Google's algorithms are designed to measure these elements, and the company uses human editors with its Quality Raters Guidelines to assess website quality. This year, Google added an extra "E" for Experience, referring to whether the content demonstrates experience with the subject. This may be an attempt to distinguish between AI-generated content without direct experience and content written by humans with first-hand, original experience.
Why this matters: The use of AI in content creation should prioritize quality over quantity. Content that shows experience with the subject builds credibility and provides better context. Despite the ease of creating large amounts of content with AI, it's essential to maintain the human element.
Google Is Automatically Configuring GA4
Starting in March 2023, Google will configure a GA4 property for users who haven't set up one with basic settings. This move is motivated by Google's plan to stop collecting data on Universal Analytics accounts in July and to cease housing Universal Analytics data in December 2023. To maintain continuity, marketers need to find an alternative solution to house their historical data. The automatic configuration of GA4 properties will use existing Universal Analytics data such as conversion events, Google Ads links, and website tags.
Why this matters: BrightEdge is prepared to make the transition from Universal Analytics to GA4 smooth for marketers. Google is proactively setting up GA4 accounts and porting over goals and configurations, which should simplify the process. However, the move from Universal Analytics to GA4 is significant, as the reporting interfaces and integrations are different and will need to be reconfigured. Google's actions suggest that they are serious about this migration.
Google Knowledge Panel - Recent Images
Google has added a new feature to some of its knowledge panels in the form of a "recent images" photo carousel. This displays recent photos taken and published for relevant searches, like events. Brands with a knowledge panel or targeting specific events should make sure their images have structured markup and their articles feature recent images to take advantage of this feature.
Why this matters: Google's emphasis on recent content in search results presents both a challenge and an opportunity for brands. The increasing competition in SEO creates an entry point for competitors to become more visible in a brand's space, however, it also offers brands a new way to stay prominent in search result pages by promoting recent photos in their knowledge panels.
Google Answers How Long it Takes to Recover
During a recent Google SEO office-hours session, a question was raised regarding the time it takes to recover from an algorithmic penalty for poor quality content. Google replied that the evaluation process after cleaning up low quality content can take several months and emphasized the importance of fixing as much of the low-quality content as possible. Although algorithmic penalties are not a common occurrence, this response highlights the significance of following Google's guidelines for content quality. The office-hours session did not provide a comprehensive list of content that may result in penalties but stressed that poor quality content or content that does not meet advertiser guidelines could be penalized.
Why this matters: The exact time it takes to recover from an algorithmic penalty has never been specified, but this month it has been indicated that it is not a quick process. Google will take several months to reevaluate a website after cleaning up low-quality content. It's crucial to follow Google's guidelines for content creation to avoid suffering from an algorithmic penalty and experiencing poor organic results for an extended period.
Google Stresses Multiple Date Signals
A user flagged a mistake to Google in their news feed and upon receipt, Google has emphasized the importance of using multiple date signals on webpages to ensure the correct date is displayed in search results. This is crucial in maintaining the credibility and reliability of a website, as inaccurate or outdated dates can lead to confusion and deter potential visitors. Both Google and publishers have a role to play in ensuring the correct date is displayed in SERPs.
Google's search liaison, Danny Sullivan, links to Google's documentation on influencing byline dates in search results which states that Google does not rely on a single date factor, but instead uses several factors to determine the best estimate of when a page was published or updated. This is why it's crucial for publishers to follow Google's best practices for article dates to help Google algorithms accurately locate and process the information.
The best practices for article dates in Google search results include using the <time> element, the lastmod tag, the pubdate tag, and the article:published_time tag. In addition to these HTML tags, keeping content fresh can also increase the likelihood of Google displaying the correct date. Publishers should also avoid confusing signals, such as displaying multiple dates on the same page, and instead follow Google's guidance of having one clear, visible date and time between the headline and the article text.
While Google is working on improving its ability to detect and display article dates, it's still recommended for publishers to follow these best practices. Ensuring the correct date is displayed in search results is crucial in maintaining the credibility and reliability of a website, and ultimately, attracting potential visitors.
Why this matters: As we scale up content production, it's important to provide clear signals to Google regarding the publication date of the content. This helps Google understand when the content was created and avoids any misunderstandings. This is crucial in ensuring that your content is properly indexed and receives the visibility it deserves.
The Continuous Scroll feature has been fully implemented for all desktop searches, allowing users to seamlessly scroll through search listings up to the 60th result, rather than having to click on individual pages. Google’s position is that this could potentially improve how users engage with lower ranking organic results because scrolling is easier than clicking to a second page. The feature itself is being refined ongoing because new developments and features are continuing to be uncovered deeper in the site. This change does not affect BrightEdge's rank tracking methodology, as the number of results remains unchanged. To align with Google's approach in Search Console, this feature is designed to deliver a more comprehensive Search Engine Results Page (SERP) to users, potentially boosting traffic for pages with lower rankings. Although users are likely to continue clicking on the top results with most clicks concentrated in the top 5-10, this underscores the significance of keeping an eye on both classic and blended rank data.
Why this matters: This could potentially impact traffic in a positive way for organizations that have significant second and third page rankings that would not have otherwise received any visibility. Now, with continuous scroll, users could potentially click on results they may not have otherwise seen. It is important that brands are aware of where this is happening so they can assess how the change impacts their landscape.