Episode 177 contains the notable Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Sep 4-8, 2023.

1. Google August 2023 Core Update – Google has confirmed that the August 2023 core update, which began rolling out on August 22, 2023, has completed on Sept 7, 2023. This is the second core update of 2023, following the March 2023 core update.

FYI: Core updates are major changes to Google’s search algorithm that aim to improve the quality of search results. They are not focused on any particular kind of content or website, and they can affect rankings for a wide variety of websites. 

The early SEO industry chatter suggested this update was a fairly impactful update compared to previous core updates. The exact impact of the August 2023 core update is still unknown. Google stressed that pages impacted by core updates aren’t necessarily flawed. According to Google, this update focused on improving Google’s overall content assessment. As always, Google advised site owners to focus on quality content as a response to fluctuations in search rankings. Sites that are experiencing a dip should consider conducting an audit to understand which pages were most impacted and for what types of searches. Google also cautioned that improving your website content may not lead to an immediate change in rankings.

2. Google Updates Helpful Content Guidelines: Self-Assess Your Content & Remove Unhelpful Content – Google recently updated its documentation on the helpful content system, designed to identify and demote low-quality content from search results. The updated documentation now states that website owners should self-assess their content to determine if it is helpful to visitors. If website owners find their content unhelpful, they are encouraged to remove it.

Marie Haynes asked Danny Sullivan, the Google Search Liaison:”Google’s documentation on the helpful content system talks about recovering by “removing unhelpful content” in order to get the unhelpful content classification removed. Any chance we could get more clarity on this? Do you mean: 

-remove parts of pages that contain large amounts of text readers will likely skip over? 

-remove entire pages that offer little original value?
-perhaps both?

Does a site need to remove unhelpful content published in the past in order to recover? Or could they focus on simply producing content that is helpful and original from this point onwards. Would that be enough?”

Danny replied: “People should self-assess their content to understand if they believe it will be helpful to visitors. Keep content on pages or entire pages or whatever they believe is helpful. Get rid of things that aren’t, if they’re looking critically at them as a visitor.

I know that Google does not provide specific guidance on what constitutes unhelpful content. However, the documentation does provide some general examples, such as content that is plagiarized, spammy, or irrelevant to the user’s search intent.

Website owners concerned about their content being labeled as unhelpful should carefully review their pages or enlist the help of a trusted third party. How do you all go about assessing if your content is helpful or not?

3. Google Sites: Not Ideal for SEO – Google Sites is a free website builder that allows users to create and publish websites without coding knowledge. The Google site is a hosted website builder that’s free and published under a sites.google.com domain, although one can opt to use an actual domain name. 

Now, Google’s John Mueller shared additional details on Google Sites and SEO after someone asked him why Google did not index his Google site. Here is what John replied:

Taking a step back, websites created on Google Sites can and do get indexed in Google Search. However, the URLs used in Google Sites are hard to track since the public version can differ from the URL you see when logged in. To be blunt, while it’s technically indexable, it’s not ideal for SEO purposes and can be complex for tracking in Search Console. If SEO is your primary consideration, exploring other options and checking the pros and cons before committing might be worthwhile. For performance tracking in the Search Console, you could also use your domain name for the Google Sites content. Using your domain name makes it easier to migrate, should you choose, and allows you to verify ownership of the whole domain for Search Console.

P.S: The Google Sites service is popular with link spammers who create links on Google subdomains in a tactic called “Google Stacking.” The idea behind Google Stacking is that spammers generate a page of links on Google Sheets, Google Docs, etc., and then interlink them all from a Google Sites. Google Stacking is based on the mistaken belief that there’s “authority” and “trust” in Google subdomains that is transferred over to the spammer sites through links. Of course, that’s wishful thinking. There’s no such thing used by Google called “trust” or “authority” that gets transferred from one site to another through links.

4. The Best Way to Do Paid Guest Posting (According to Google) – Whether paid or unpaid, guest posts are an old tactic. In 2014, Google’s Matt Cutts wrote a blog post telling SEO practitioners to “put a fork in it,” since guest blogging does not work anymore.

The same year Google issued a series of penalties on guest blogging platforms. But these days, Google doesn’t hand out penalties like it used to. Google stops the links from passing PageRank. That makes it hard to know whether the guest post is working. So people keep guest posting because the penalty feedback isn’t there.

During the September 2023 Google SEO Office Hours, an individual asked: “Most websites only offer the option to purchase a “guest post” (to gain a backlink) from them nowadays. Is this against Google’s guidelines if I’m writing valuable content?

John Mueller answered: “It sounds like you’re already on the right track.

Yes, using guest posts for links is against our spam policies. In particular, it’s important that these links are qualified in a way that signal that they don’t affect search results.

You can do this with the rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored attributes on links. It’s fine to use advertising to promote your site, but the links should be blocked as mentioned.

So, Paid Guest Posts with links are advertisements as far as Google is concerned. Failure to label advertisements is not only misleading to readers but may also violate laws that prohibit misleading advertisements.