Happy Chinese New Year’s …
The Year of the Dragon is here 🐉
What does it mean for you?
Not much unless you actually celebrate it, like me 🎆
So I’m heading back to lots of family and food 😆
But you can continue scrolling and learning! 🔍️
Olaf Kopp offers his thoughts on how Google's search ranking system may be working today. He combines his own thoughts and research with information from Google patents and other resources to paint a comprehensive picture of how Google’s search engine works. It’s a lengthy article as he covers a lot, including:
The process steps for information retrieval, ranking, and knowledge discovery at Google.
The different types of Google indexes, such as classic search indexes, the Knowledge Graph, LLMs, vector indexes, and hybrid solutions.
How Google uses LLMs and vector indexes for organization and ranking.
How Vector Search and embedding vectors play a role in deep learning and semantic search.
My Take: If you’re into the technical / how-things-work stuff, this is definitely for you.
Barry Schwartz covers how Google is testing a new feature that allows users to search for web results only, similar to how they can filter for video or image results. This could potentially mean the return of the classic "ten blue links" for those who prefer it.
My Take: I think that this can be a good idea because it offers a clean search and possibly better search results (assuming it’s a slightly different algo in determining what’s show in this section. If they have a "Perspectives” tab, a “Web Results” tab makes complete sense.
In a world where SGE/AI isn’t going away and Google is still trying to squeeze out as much money as they can from ads, own tool revenues, affiliates, etc., this would clean up the SERPs.
Lana from Nightwatch dives into a large-scale study of SGE's effect on organic rankings. She suggests that while SGE will change the search landscape, it also offers new opportunities for optimization. Here are some of the key takeaways and tips from the article:
86% of keywords trigger SGE results, indicating its widespread impact.
Ecommerce queries are heavily affected by SGE, with 95% showing an SGE response.
SGE prefers to link to reviews and expert opinions over product pages. Pay close attention to adhering to EEAT.
Websites outside the first page of results have a chance to be featured in SGE snippets.
Optimize content for SGE by adding summaries, focusing on recent topics, and conducting specific SGE keyword research.
Technical adjustments are crucial, including optimizing multimedia elements, using schema markup, and ensuring fast page load times.
Kaitie Frank discusses Google's clarification that E-E-A-T is not a ranking factor in the new SEO starter guide that states E-E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor. But Google’s Liaison Danny Sullivan does say that it’s a concept used by their raters to help rate pages…
My Take: My attempt at clarity based on what the tweet and their Search Quality Rater Guidelines say:
E-E-A-T is not a ranking factor and there’s no “score”
E-E-A-T is a “concept” that Raters use to rate pages
Page Quality (PQ) Ratings are not numerical “scores”
PQ Ratings are: Lowest Quality Pages; Low, Medium, High, Highest (so again, no “scores”)
One Rater’s opinion will not change one specific page’s ranking
Ratings tell Google if the SERPs are delivering helpful content. if raters say pages are helpful or unhelpful, that affects the SERPs.
The SERPs adjust and then a specific page’s rankings adjusts.
Every deal with lawyers? That’s what it feels like when parsing the words. Don’t tell me “Ratings” and “Scores” are basically the same thing because you’re preaching to the choir.
Remember last week’s mixed messages with the SEO Starter Guide (below), this isn’t surprising either coming from Google:
Google says to write for users.
Google says that search engines are users.
Google says don't write for search engines.
Barry Schwartz is seeing signs of a new Google search ranking algorithm. The update started on Wednesday, Feb. 7th and is still ongoing on Thursday, Feb. 8th. There is increased chatter within the SEO industry and some tools are showing spikes in volatility. Some who have seen drops are climbing back up.
Danny Sullivan from Google explains the differences between ranking systems, signals, and factors. He compares signals and factors to fuel, while systems are like machines that use them. This analogy helps clarify the relationship between these elements in the context of Google's search algorithms.
John Mueller from Google answers a question about what happens to the signals associated with syndicated content when Google chooses the partner as the canonical instead of the original content publisher. He explains that if a page is recognized as canonical by Google, it is likely to be rewarded by their ranking systems. Mueller also mentions Google's policy on cross-domain canonicals and recommends using the meta noindex tag on the partner site to block Google from indexing the site entirely.
Google seems to have a bug with hyphens in XML sitemap file names. If you're using hyphens in your XML sitemap file name on Google Search Console, you might run into a "couldn't fetch" error. You could be getting the error if you’re using "/sitemap-10.xml" instead of "/sitemap10.xml.”
Google has made updates to its Web Stories documentation, specifying where these stories can appear in search results. The company stated that Web Stories will no longer show up in Google Image Search or the carousel view, and made changes to where they will appear within Google Search.
Kristina Azarenko three unexpected technical SEO issues and how to resolve them. The first issue revolves around buttons vs links. The second issue focuses on using CSS background images instead of indexable images and their impact on ranking. The third issue discusses how humans view websites vs how Google sees them.
Adam Riemer discusses how knowledge panels on search engines like Yahoo and Bing can sometimes be affiliate links. This can impact SEO tracking and analytics reporting. He provides examples and suggests ways to fill in the gaps in attribution reports.
Google clarified its "Google-Extended" crawler documentation and provided clearer guidance on controlling content access for use in AI model training. The update reassures publishers that blocking the Google-Extended user agent will not impact a site's inclusion or ranking in Google Search.
Barry Schwartz shares his experience with Bing Deep Search, Microsoft's new feature that promises a "deeper and richer exploration of the web." After testing it out, Schwartz finds that the results are slow and sometimes incomplete. He includes screenshots to show the features and limitations of Bing Deep Search. Glenn Gabe also tested it and agrees that it's terrible and unusable in its current form.
Danny Sullivan and John Mueller send internal newsletters to Google staff. John supposedly sends his on a weekly basis, while Danny recently shared a screenshot of his (below). I guess it’s a good sign to know that our voices on social media reach the Google Search teams.
Ryan Law discusses the drawbacks of using AI-generated content for businesses. He highlights that there is a risk of receiving a Google penalty for publishing AI content at scale, as evidenced by the recent “SEO heist” case. He also explains that AI content is mediocre and lacks nuance or personal experiences.
He argues that AI content cannot effectively build a brand or generate sales because it lacks trust, and it is easily replicable by competitors. He suggests AI content should be used sparingly and supplemented with content created by real people with unique perspectives.
Vince Nero shares the different types of press releases and how to craft an effective one. He provides templates and examples for product or brand launches, company news, event announcements, and data-driven reports.
He also breaks down the key elements of a press release, including the headline, dateline, lead-in, key facts, quote, call-to-action, boilerplate, contact information, and additional media.
Backlinko’s comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to get started with affiliate marketing. The article discusses the basics of affiliate marketing, the roles of key players in the ecosystem, the benefits and appeal of affiliate marketing, and different payment models.
It also provides insights on setting the right foundations for a successful affiliate marketing business, including identifying your niche and performing keyword research.
Kate Knibbs at Wired highlights the rise of AI-generated content and domain squatting, focusing on the case of an individual named Vujinović Vujo, who runs multiple websites with AI-generated articles and content.
Vujo has acquired various domains, including websites associated with famous individuals or brands, and turned them into content mills generating ad revenue. He readily admits to “using AI to create sh*tty content on the internet to earn money…who wants his kid to have a nicer childhood than he did.”
If you don’t have a Wired subscription, you can try something like 12ft.io to read the article.
Google Bard has now been rebranded as Gemini, with new features and improvements. Here are the key takeaways from the announcement:
Gemini includes a mobile app and a new experience called Gemini Advanced, which gives users access to Ultra 1.0, their newest AI model.
Gemini Advanced can handle complex tasks like coding, logical reasoning, and brainstorming creative projects.
The new Gemini app allows users to access Gemini on their phones, typing, talking, or even adding images for assistance while on the go.
Gemini Advanced is available as part of the new Google One AI Premium Plan for $19.99/month, starting with a two-month free trial. In addition, AI Premium subscribers will soon be able to use Gemini in Gmail, Docs, Slides, Sheets and Meet (formerly known as Duet AI).
Gemini Advanced is available in over 150 countries and territories in English, with more languages to come.
My Take: Seems like everyone is going with $20 as the base plan. Gemini will let you use it with their apps. Copilot Pro’s plan will let you use it with Microsoft 365 apps, but you still need a separate 365 plan that starts at $70/year.
Meta will start labeling AI-generated images on the Facebook, Instagram, and Threads platforms. As digital content increasingly blurs the line between reality and AI creations, Meta is working with industry partners to establish common technical standards for identifying AI content.
Meta's team just rolled out Code Llama 70B, a large language model tailored for coding. This latest iteration, designed to simplify and enhance coding tasks, is now the flagship of the Code Llama series, is capable of generating and understanding code across multiple languages. There’s also a variation optimized for Python.
Google's Q4 Earnings Report highlights the growing role of AI in search. The report shows 13% revenue growth for Alphabet, driven by the integration of AI across Search, YouTube, and Cloud offerings. SEO and advertising professionals are advised to monitor the impacts of AI integration on search results and adapt strategies to leverage AI-powered ad products.
Vince Nero shares 15 white hat link building tactics that Google loves and why it's important. Then he dives into specific tactics such as pitching data studies, creating infographics, generating interactive content, building links to resource pages, and replacing broken links. These tactics are explained in detail and include tips on how to pitch them to increase your chances of success.
Susie Marino shares a comprehensive list of the recommended image and video sizes for various social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. Plus, there are free templates available for download.
My Take: Lots of great lists and images in the article to save and use when you’re doing your social media posts, like this one:
Michael Stelzner discusses the importance of having an organic social marketing strategy in today's crowded digital landscape. He emphasizes the need for brands to foster genuine engagement and loyalty by building authentic relationships with their followers.
He shares insights from Jenny Li Fowler, director of Social Media Strategy at MIT, on developing a successful social media strategy using the "6 Ms of Social Media" that focuses on defining your mission and goals, crafting compelling messages, documenting processes, evaluating each social media platform, and tracking and revising metrics.
Laurin Bobo covers the importance of optimizing your marketing mix to connect with the Boomer demographic. It covers various channels, including search, social media, television, email, in-person and virtual events, mobile game advertising, and direct mail. She says not to underestimate the tech-savviness of baby boomers and the opportunities to engage with them online.
Zhenya Zerkalenkov explains the concept of SEO benchmarking and why it is important to track key benchmarks for your website's success. He emphasizes the importance of setting your own custom benchmarks tailored to your unique needs and goals, rather than solely relying on industry benchmarks.
SEO benchmarks are specific metrics used to measure your website's search engine performance, such as organic traffic, keyword rankings, impressions and clicks, bounce rate, returning visitors, average engagement time, conversion rate, referring domains, domain authority score, and share of voice.
Bruce Clay explains what bounce rate is and why it's important for SEO and website optimization. Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors who leave a webpage or website quickly after visiting it.
He discusses how to measure and improve bounce rate, as well as its impact on conversions. He also provides strategies such as optimizing website speed, enhancing user interface and experience, implementing clear call-to-actions, and more.
Lily Ray discusses the domains that experienced significant losses in SEO visibility in 2023 due to various updates, such as Core Updates, Reviews Updates, Spam Updates, and the September Helpful Content Update.
She covers a list of the top 200 losing domains, with a focus on the biggest visibility losers in categories like travel, e-commerce, product reviews, and more. Some of the key takeaways:
The biggest percentage losses came from travel and destination review sites.
She suggests Google's expanded definition of "Reviews" content affected websites reviewing places and destinations.
Sites like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Best Buy gained visibility for high-volume keywords.
Based on audits that the Amsive SEO team did, they noticed these trends that Google’s algorithm were demoting:
Aggressive advertisements, poor UX and excessive affiliate links
Generic content lacking true E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness)
Stock photography instead of original images
Too many pages targeting SEO-driven keywords
Lack of branding
Anonymous or unclear authors
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