1. Facebook Retires ‘Instant Articles’ – Originally launched in 2015, Instant Articles were designed to provide publishers with a more engaging, fast-loading way to present their articles on Facebook, helping to maximize reader engagement within the app. As reported by Axios, Meta’s ending support for Instant Articles as it works to better align with user preferences, which, increasingly, see video being its most engaging content format.

2. TikTok Adds Photo Mode – Now TikTok has copied Instagram (perhaps in retaliation for IG copying all of its stuff) and launched  a new ‘Photo Mode’ for still images in the app. Photo Mode looks exactly like Instagram, with users able to post carousels of still images that users can scroll through in the app. Per TikTok:

“Photo Mode allows you to share carousel posts of still images that automatically display one after another. You can add music to soundtrack the images, which viewers can swipe through at their own pace.”

3. YouTube Launches @handles For Channels – YouTube’s moving more into line with other social networks with the addition of @handles for channels, which will make it easier to drive traffic to your profile, and promote your channel in the app.

“Handles are a new unique identifier (example @youtubecreators) & ALL YouTube channels will have one. Your unique @handle will help people find & interact with you & your YouTube channel. And because handles are unique (unlike channel names), it’s easy to confirm if you’re engaging with the right person or not.”

Your @handle, which will be unique to your channel (unlike Channel names), will directly connect people to your content, like it does on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, etc. @handles will also function as a unique channel URL, providing another branding opportunity. Up till now, custom channel URLs have only been available to creators with 100 subscriptions, but now, YouTube’s making the option available to all users in the app. @handles will also make it easier and faster to mention channels in comments, community posts and video descriptions.

“For example, creators can be shouted out in a mention in comments or tagged in the title of a recent collab, helping them increase visibility and reach with new audiences.”

Part of the idea here is to better promote channels, in alignment with habitual trends, with a key consideration likely being Shorts and helping to maximize Shorts channel growth by making it easier to follow creators. Another element that YouTube’s looking to tackle is the rise of copycat channels, where scammers create channels that look similar to popular YouTubers’, often by using the same channel name. By ensuring that each channel has a unique @handle, which they can promote direct, that will make it harder to create replica channels, and trick users with uploads and scams.

4. Google Data Studio Is Now Looker Studio – Google launched Data Studio in March 2016 as part of the enterprise Google Analytics 360 suite, with a free version that lets you turn your data into informative, easy-to-read, easy-to-share, and fully customizable dashboards and reports. There are easy-to-use drag-and-drop features to customize reports from various data sources, including Search Console, Google Analytics, Google Ads, and much more. 

Now Google has renamed the popular analytics and data platform from Google Data Studio to Looker Studio. Google wrote “starting today, Data Studio is now Looker Studio.” “With this complete enterprise business intelligence suite, we will help you go beyond dashboards and infuse your workflows and applications with the intelligence needed to help make data-driven decisions,” Google added.

Google also announced a Pro, paid, version of Looker Studio named Looker Studio Pro. Google said that the Pro version will get new enterprise management features, team collaboration capabilities, and SLAs. Google said that is just the first release and the company has “developed a roadmap of capabilities, starting with Dataplex integration for data lineage and metadata visibility, that our enterprise customers have been asking for.”

You can learn more about this change on the Google blog.

5. Google Swaps Title Tags With Site Names For Mobile Homepage Results – Google is now only showing the generic site name in mobile search results that are for the entire website, such as for the home page. Google is using site names in order to make it easier for users to identify the specific website in the search results. Here is what Google published in the official announcement:  

“Today, Search is introducing site names on mobile search results to make it easier to identify the website that’s associated with each result…”

This new feature is available in the English, French, Japanese, and German languages and will begin showing up in other languages over the next few months. 

Google is recommending the use of the WebSite structured data type because Google is using the WebSite structured data type, specifically the “name” property, to understand what the site name of a website is. So it is best that your site has the following:

  1. WebSite structured data
  2. Title tag
  3. Headings (H1, H2, etc.)
  4. Open Graph Protocol meta data, specifically the og:site_name

You can read the official announcement here and the Search Central Documentation here

6. Google Renames Webmaster Guidelines To Search Essentials & Some Changes – Google has renamed the Google Webmaster Guidelines to Google Search Essentials. The name change is Google’s ongoing efforts to remove the term “webmaster” so that these tools and documentation do not narrow the focus to just “webmasters,” but expands it to publishers, site owners, developers, creators, and so on. Google also changed the overall format, added clearer terms and examples and also tried to simplify them for easier consumption. Google explained they updated the:

  • Technical requirements: It is a new section to help people understand how to publish content in a format that Google can index and access. 
  • Spam policies: Google updated its guidance for its policies against spam, to help site owners avoid creating content that isn’t helpful for people using Google Search. Google explained that most of the content in these spam policies has already existed on Google Search Central in the “Quality Guidelines”, Google did make a few additions to provide clearer guidance and concrete examples for issues like deceptive behavior, link spam, online harassment, and scam and fraud. 
  • Key best practices: Google published new guidance with key best practices that people can consider when creating sites, to create content that serves people and will help a site be more easily found through Google Search.

7. Google Announces Search Central Live Conference – Google announced live conference series called Search Central Live previously known as Webmaster Conference. The conference is scheduled for November 24, 2022 in Singapore. Registration for a limited amount of seats is currently open until November 15th, with ticket confirmation set to begin on November 17. Admission to the event is free. Per Google:

“Before you buy your transcontinental plane ticket, keep in mind that we do plan to have more of these events in the future, and some might be closer to your base. Stay tuned for these updates on the Search Central Live event page or on Twitter.”

Here is the official announcement.

8. Microsoft Bing Launches Image Creator – An AI Image Generator – Microsoft has launched Image Creator – an AI image generator to its Bing search engine, which enables users to create digital art from text input. Let’s say a picture of a Shiba Inu as an astronaut would go perfectly with a blog post you’re writing. You turn to the search engines for a free-to-use image, but you can’t find one that matches your criteria. With the new Image Creator tool coming to Microsoft Bing, you can generate the exact image you need by inputting descriptive text.

Image Creator is powered by DALL-E 2 image generator technology developed by OpenAI. Microsoft says Image Creator can assist searchers with creating images that don’t exist yet.

9. Google’s Stance On The Use Of AI Images – Google’s John Mueller and Lizzi Sassman discussed the topic of using AI Images on your site in Episode 48 of the Search Off The Record podcast. Although autogenerated text content is prohibited/limited for ranking in Google Search, surprisingly there was no similar prohibition or caveat discussed about AI generated images and ranking in Google Images.

10. Google Updates Image Structured Data – Google has added three new structured data properties to be used with the ImageObject type in order to add support for credit, copyright and image creator information via structured data. Google’s developer support changelog states:

“Added support for image credits to the Image Metadata structured data documentation. Previously, you could only provide image credit information with IPTC photo metadata. When you specify image metadata, Google Images can show more details about the image, such as who the creator is, how people can use an image, and credit information. ”

This is what the new structured data types are for, according to Schema.org:

  • creditText – Text that can be used to credit person(s) and/or organization(s) associated with a published Creative Work.
  • creator – The creator/author of this CreativeWork. This is the same as the Author property for CreativeWork.
  • copyrightNotice – Text of a notice appropriate for describing the copyright aspects of this Creative Work, ideally indicating the owner of the copyright for the Work.”

11. Google’s Advice On How to Write Good Alt Text – The purpose of alternative text (alt text) in images is to provide audiences with screen readers a way to understand the images. In Episode 48 of the Search Off The Record podcast, John Muller and Lizzi Sassman gave the following advice on how to write Good Alt text:

“Imagine that you’re reading the web page aloud over the phone to someone who needs to understand the page. This should help you decide what (if any) information or function the images have. If they appear to have no informative value and aren’t links or buttons, it’s probably safe to treat them as decorative.

From an SEO point of view, my recommendation is always to provide context for the image as well in the alt text. So if you have a picture of a beach, don’t just be like, ‘Oh, this is a photo of a beach.’ But rather like, ‘This is the beach before the chemical spill happened.’ And… Because it’s very different context if someone is searching for a beach for a holiday, it’s like, ‘Oh, I want to see a beautiful beach. I’ll go there on vacation.’ And if you notice, well actually, this is before the chemical spill happened, then it’s like, ‘Well, maybe like that would lend itself to different kinds of Search queries.’

Because ultimately, when you’re talking about Image Search, it’s not that people want an image, but rather they want information which is attached to that image. They want kind of to understand a specific topic to find some information. And that additional context is something that you can provide in the alt text. And that’s something that they might be searching for. And if they’re searching for it, then make it easy for them to find that.”

12. 3 New Examples From Google On How To Write Product Reviews – There has been a lot of confusion about the types of sites that may be impacted by the product reviews algorithm updates. This algorithm was designed to look at sites that offer product reviews, not necessarily e-commerce sites that have reviews on the product listing pages. So Google has added three new examples to the top of the “how to write product reviews” help document, clarifying more types of sites that may be impacted by the product reviews algorithm updates. The 3 example are:

  • An expert staff member of a merchant that guides shoppers between competing products.
  • A blogger that provides independent opinions of products.
  • An editorial staff member at a news or other publishing site.

These examples provide additional guidance on what types of sites may be impacted by this set of algorithm updates. 

In short, it is about content where someone is doing a review of a product, either as a comparison or a deeper dive into a specific product. This can include merchant sites, shopper guides, bloggers that share their opinion, news or publishing sites doing reviews, and more.

As Alan Kent of Google recently said on Twitter “a merchant’s product page with user reviews is not considered a “product review page” in this context.”

Google also recently clarified that structured data may help Google identify product review-type content, but it is one of many ways Google identifies such content. Danny Sullivan wrote, “as for structured data, it might help us better identify if something is a product review, but we do not solely depend on it.”

13. Google Still Does Not Use HTML Lang Attribute – Google’s John Mueller https://twitter.com/JohnMu/status/1577945097693532166re-confirmed that Google Search does not use the HTML lang attribute. He said many screen readers do and Microsoft Bing might use it as well, but Google Search still does not.

This is a similar statement to what he said several years ago in a video response – “We don’t use that at all. So we use the hreflang links if you have that if you have different language versions. But the language attribute within the HTML markup is something we don’t use at all. We’ve found that this language markup is something that is almost always wrong. So we tend to ignore that.”

14. Google: SEO Is A Long Game – We all know that ranking well for competitive terms in Google Search is not as easy, or even a fraction as easy, as it was two decades ago. This is because of many variables including but not limited to Google’s algorithms getting better and there being a lot more competition.

John Mueller of Google responded to a complaint about SEO being too hard for news businesses to even bother trying. The question was “is SEO dead? I mean, starting with a new website these days it is basically impossible to outrank high authority websites. So many high DA showing up in the SERP. What can we do with a new website?”

John’s response was solid, he said “If you mean it should be trivial to out-rank long-existing, legitimate businesses with some SEO tricks, then yes, that kind of SEO is long dead. It’s not enough to throw some keywords on a page to make it useful to users.”

But that does not mean SEO is dead or you should give up and not try to start a competing business with others. You just need to take the time and effort to compete. The same logic applies to offline success as it does with online success. You can’t just start a new brand of soda and expect to compete with Pepsi or Cola overnight, it takes time, resources, marketing and a good product.

15. Google: Do This To Get New Content Indexed Quickly – Google’s John Mueller said that pinging Google that your sitemap file has been updated can help Google index your new content quickly. He said it is simply Google practice to ping Google with when your sitemap file is updated.

Of course, this does not guarantee indexing. Google still does not index everything, so just because you might ping Google about a new URL, it does not mean Google will index it.

John Mueller wrote on Twitter “Pinging a sitemap is a bit different than just providing it in the robots.txt — by pinging, you’re actively flagging a change in the sitemap file. If you’re keen on having new content indexed quickly, that’s a good practice.”

According to Google developers guide “Google doesn’t check a sitemap every time a site is crawled; a sitemap is checked only the first time that we notice it, and thereafter only when you ping us to let us know that it’s changed. Alert Google about a sitemap only when it’s new or updated; don’t submit or ping unchanged sitemaps multiple times.”

To use the ping tool, send a GET request in your browser or the command line to google.com, specifying the full URL of the sitemap. Make sure that the sitemap file is accessible. E.g: https://www.google.com/ping?sitemap=FULL_URL_OF_SITEMAP

16. Google Ads Launches Content Suitability Center – Google has launched a new content suitability center in Google Ads where you can manage your suitability settings for all campaigns on YouTube and the Google Display Network.

Google wrote, “previously, managing suitability settings was done in multiple, segregated sections of Google Ads and the experience differed across Google platforms.” “This led to a time-consuming and cumbersome implementation process, along with misconceptions and misuse of the controls. While exclusions can be helpful tools, brands also want to be mindful of the types of content they choose to exclude. Over-exclusion can negatively impact your cost and reach. It can also unintentionally exclude great, brand-safe content or content relevant to diverse communities,” Google added.

When you enter the new suitability center in Google Ads, you can now select one of the three inventory modes. Inventory modes “cater to your preferences for various sensitive themes, such as profanity, sexual suggestiveness and violence,” Google explained. You can fine-tune additional exclusions from that point. Once you have designated your preferences at the account level, Google Ads will now automatically apply these settings to your future campaigns.

17. Google Ads Will Remove Some Content Targeting In YouTube Conversion Campaigns In 2023 – A major benefit of YouTube ads has been the powerful targeting options, many of which will now be removed early next year according to a Google Ads help article. The help article, “Optimize your Video campaign for more conversions” contains a content targeting section that recommends avoiding the addition of content targeting (by keywords, topics or placements) in campaigns.

These content targeting options are beloved by many advertisers due to the granularity they provide. Placements could target YouTube Channels, specific videos, video lineups, URLs, Apps, or collections.

With the current targeting, advertisers could match ads to channels/videos to deliver more customized messages to audiences. This change will effectively put an end to the hyper-targeting that made YouTube so appealing for ad dollars.

Another major blow is the loss of keyword targeting on the self-proclaimed 2nd largest search engine in the world. The removal of query targeting on a (video) search engine hurts.

While keywords on YouTube haven’t historically been as powerful as traditional search, it has been a way for advertisers to help answer queries with their video content. There is no doubt that advertisers will need to get more creative in order to hit their target audience.

Advertisers running YouTube content targeting campaigns that leverage keywords, topics or placements will have the targeting removed.

If you are running ads using content targeting options, you should stay tuned to updates as those targeting settings will be automatically removed from your campaigns. With less targeting, you’ll reach a larger audience and may spend more on less qualified users.