Episode 179 contains the important Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Sep 18-22, 2023.

1. YouTube’s New AI-Powered Tools! – YouTube is stepping up its game with a slew of innovative creator tools, including groundbreaking generative AI features. Unveiled at the “Made On” showcase event, the platform introduced the “Dream Screen” generative AI tool, allowing creators to integrate AI-generated video and image backgrounds into their YouTube Shorts. This tool aligns YouTube with the latest creative trends, matching efforts by platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram.

Additionally, YouTube is launching “YouTube Create,” a free video editing app reminiscent of TikTok’s CapCut. This app offers a suite of editing tools, including audio cleanup, auto captions in multiple languages, filters, transitions, and direct publishing options. Initially tested in India and Singapore, it’s now expanding to more regions and is currently available for Android users.

To further fuel creativity, YouTube is introducing an AI ideas generator. By inputting a topic, creators receive content suggestions and even a downloadable content outline. While this tool offers inspiration, it’s essential to use it as a guide rather than a strict blueprint to maintain originality.

Other notable features include an automatic dubbing tool for content translation and an assistive search in creator music. These tools aim to simplify the content creation process, allowing creators to focus on their unique vision.

2. Google’s New Report To Spot Checkout Issues on 🛒 E-commerce Sites! – Google has introduced the “Checkout Journey Report” to assist brands in pinpointing checkout challenges on their e-commerce platforms. This report showcases the number and percentage of users who initiate and progress through the checkout stages. It adopts a closed funnel method, focusing on users who start at the ‘begin checkout’ phase. The report is instrumental in identifying and resolving bottlenecks, enhancing the shopping experience, and potentially boosting sales. To access this report, brands need to integrate specific e-commerce events into their platforms. Google emphasizes the value of this tool, stating it offers a “clear picture of the number and percentage of users” progressing through the checkout funnel. By identifying drop-offs, brands can address issues like high shipping costs or mandatory logins that may deter customers.

3. Google’s GA4 Transition Shocker: What Advertisers Need to Know! – Google’s recent automated transition from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4 (GA4) has taken many advertisers by surprise. Intended to simplify the shift to GA4, these automatic changes have instead led to confusion. Google Ads Liaison Ginny Marvin explained on X (formerly Twitter): “Some advertisers have noticed our system making changes to GA4 conversion actions in their Google Ads accounts. This is the conversion swapping piece of the Setup Assistant migration process with the turndown of Universal Analytics. With the turndown process taking some time, we understand that some advertisers may be caught off guard with these changes being made now and apologize for the confusion.” She explained that the changes aim to “map UA conversion to GA4 conversion settings for bidding & avoid duplicate measurement.”

According to a Google help page, not all Universal Analytics settings have a clear GA4 counterpart. Hence, the automated migration process might not consistently deliver the same choices that users would make.  That’s why Google advises manually migrating your Universal Analytics settings to GA4 to maintain control over your configurations. Google reaffirmed that a new GA4 property will automatically be created if users do nothing, and Universal Analytics configurations will be copied to this new GA4 property. 

If you didn’t opt out in time and don’t want your automatically configured GA4 property, then simply follow these steps:

  1. Click on ‘Admin’ in your account. 
  2. Select your Universal Analytics property. 
  3. In the “Property” column, click GA4 Setup Assistant. 
  4. Click on “Disconnect” next to your “Connected property”. 

You can check for any changes made to your GA4 property by going to the “Change History” section. Automatic migration changes will be marked as “System (Migration)” in the “Changed by” column.

4. Microsoft Advertising Announces Generative AI Tools For Advertisers – Microsoft Advertising has announced a range of new generative AI tools aimed at revolutionizing search and advertising. They are:

  1. Compare and Decide Ads: A new ad format for Bing chat, allowing users to compare products based on their preferences. The new format will allow online shoppers to compare different products using criteria they find most valuable. Compare and Decide Ads will run across all verticals that have relevant feed data, including retail, travel and auto. Microsoft is planning to launch Compare and Decide Ads in close beta in early 2024.
  2. Ads for Chat API: Partnerships with Snapchat and Axel Springer to integrate sponsored links and connect with millions of users. Snapchat’s My AI chatbot, which has been used by more than 150 million people worldwide, leverages the tech to serve Sponsored Links in relevant content and experiences that “feel natural to the content flow”. Microsoft has said it will continue evolving its API offering based on the feedback of its advertisers and partners. Looking to the future, the tech giant is planning to welcome more partners and support their chat experience needs.

Copilot for Microsoft Ads: Specifically designed for advertisers and agencies, Copilot is a new tool that leverages AI to generate recommendations for product images, headlines, and descriptions. To use it, simply describe the content you need, like an image, and Copilot will generate suggestions based on your description. Microsoft is currently testing the new tool on a handful of advertisers but plans to bring it to open beta in the next few months.

5. Microsoft Gives Websites More Control Over Content in Bing Chat – Microsoft has introduced new options for publishers to have more control over their content usage in Bing’s AI-powered chatbot feature. This move comes after publishers expressed concerns about their content being used without permission in Bing Chat. To address these concerns, Microsoft now allows webmasters to use meta tags like “nocache” and “noarchive” to limit or block content in Bing Chat. However, it’s important to note that content blocked from Bing Chat will still be visible in regular Bing search results. Fabrice Canel, Principal Program Manager at Microsoft, emphasized that the company is committed to maintaining open communication with publishers and ensuring that they have control over their content.

6. Wix Integrates with IndexNow for Lightning-Fast Updates! – IndexNow offers a method for website owners to promptly inform search engines about content modifications. IndexNow was covered in Episode#90 after it was released by Microsoft to make it easier for a WordPress site to automate the submission of URLs from WordPress sites to the multiple search engines without the need to register and verify your site with them.

Now Wix, a widely-used website publishing platform, has integrated IndexNow, a Microsoft-backed indexing initiative. This significant update means that over 60 million Wix websites can now swiftly update their content changes in search engine results. Users don’t need to take any action as this feature is enabled by default. Recently, more than 60 million sites have been publishing over 14 billion URLs daily to the IndexNow API. The integration aims to provide Wix users with efficient SEO solutions, making website promotion faster and more straightforward.

7. Microsoft Bing Bids Goodbye to Disavow Links Tool! – Bing has announced its decision to remove the “disavow links tool” from Bing Webmaster Tools. Fabrice Canel from Bing stated that due to the advancements in Bing’s algorithms and artificial intelligence capabilities, there’s no longer a need for users to disavow bad links. Bing’s AI can now efficiently differentiate between natural and unnatural links, disregarding the latter without affecting the former. Interestingly, while Google has been contemplating the removal of its disavow tool for years, Bing has taken the lead in both introducing and now retiring the tool. Fabrice said Bing will be “removing the disavow links feature and associated API in October 2023.”

So what exactly does a link disavow do? It is a request for Search Engines to ignore links to your domain. If the link disavow is successful, it won’t be counted for or against you when determining ranking in the search results. More information on this from SemRush here.

P.S: Bing beat Google to launching the disavow tool in June 2012 and now Bing is beating Google in sunsetting the disavow tool. And we have covered in the past that backlinks are no longer helpful in getting to the top of the search results. I guess this indirectly proves that backlinking as a SEO strategy is no longer effective.

8. Microsoft Adds New Functionalities To Bing Webmaster Tools – Microsoft has introduced a new performance report in Bing Webmaster Tools, which now includes data that Bing hadn’t previously reported. While in the past, Bing only displayed web search and crawling data, the updated report now provides metrics on Bing images, videos, news, knowledge panels, and chat data. However, users cannot filter solely by Bing chat data; it’s combined with web data. This update enhances Bing web data by merging web and chat clicks and impressions. The report also offers performance data for various new verticals. Fabrice Canel from Microsoft highlighted the new features and mentioned that the integration aims to give SEO professionals deeper insights into their website’s performance on Bing.

9. Unlock Better Site Visibility with Bing’s New Sitemap Reporting Features! – Bing Webmaster Tools has rolled out enhanced sitemap reporting features aimed at improving website index coverage and user experience. These new features provide webmasters with a deeper understanding of how Bing indexes their sites. Key enhancements include a page that displays all submitted and organically discovered sitemaps, complete with submission dates, status reports, last crawl dates, and a count of URLs found. The update also offers a detailed breakdown of the indexing status for URLs. By utilizing these features, webmasters can ensure their sitemaps are accurate, current, and relevant, leading to better site visibility on Bing and an improved user experience.

10. Microsoft Advertising Introduces Video & CTV Ads – Microsoft Advertising has introduced video and connected TV (CTV) ads to its platform. This new feature allows advertisers to set up online video and CTV ad campaigns directly within the Microsoft Advertising platform. These ads will be displayed on popular streaming platforms such as Max, Hulu, and Bloomberg, as well as on websites like MSN, Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Leveraging billions of unique first-party data points exclusive to Microsoft, advertisers can target their ideal audience more effectively. The platform uses powerful signals from online searches and combines them with Microsoft’s vast audience intelligence data, including search activity, content interests, demographics, and more. This ensures that brands can present their message to high-value audiences at the right moment. The process of creating video ads is straightforward, and businesses of all sizes have already reported success during the pilot phase.

11. Google’s U-Turn: From Denying Ad Auction Manipulation to Admitting It! – In a recently resurfaced clip from SMX Advanced 2015, Google’s Jerry Dischler firmly stated, “we are not manipulating search results or manipulating the ad auction in order to increase profits.” However, during the 2023 federal antitrust trial, Dischler’s stance shifted as he revealed that Google frequently alters its ad auctions without notifying advertisers, potentially increasing ad costs by up to 10%. This revelation has raised concerns about Google’s transparency and reliability, especially since its trustworthiness was already under scrutiny. The 2015 clip was brought back to light by Andy Taylor, VP of Research at Tinuiti, who had long suspected Google’s manipulation of ad prices. Google’s justification for these tweaks? Meeting revenue targets set for Wall Street.

12. Google Ads Updates Misrepresentation Policy – Google has announced an update to its “Misleading Representation Policy” set to take effect on November 21, 2023. The key change involves the removal of “non-fulfillment of a product or service due to lack of qualifications” from the Misleading Representation category. Instead, this will now fall under the “Unacceptable Business Practices Policy.” It’s crucial for advertisers to stay informed about these changes, as violations can lead to the immediate suspension of Google Ads accounts. This policy update aims to ensure that ads and websites do not mislead users by omitting essential product details or presenting false information.

13. Google Ads’ New Indicator: What It Means for Manual Bidding! – Google Ads has introduced a “limited by bid strategy” indicator. This was first spotted by digital marketing expert Anthony Higman on an enhanced manual CPC campaign. The notification raised eyebrows in the PPC community, leading Google to clarify its purpose. The indicator suggests when a campaign might achieve better conversion value with a value-based bidding strategy.  Ginny Marvin, Google’s Ads Liaison, said, “This is a relatively new indicator that may appear when the system determines the campaign can get more conv value at a similar ROAS or convs at the target CPA with a value-based bidding strategy. You can review the recommendation, but no action is required.” Some advertisers fear this might hint at Google Ads moving away from manual CPC, which could be problematic for certain industries. On the other hand, some experts believe this feature could be beneficial for smart campaigns.

14. Google’s Take on CSS Pseudo-Elements: What You Need to Know! 🔍 – Google recently advised against adding significant content or symbols using the ‘before’ or ‘after’ CSS pseudo-elements. Such content might not be indexed on your pages. This isn’t a change in how Google Search operates but a clarification in their documentation. Google emphasized that while these pseudo-elements can be used for decorative purposes, essential content placed within them might not be indexed. This update is crucial for web developers and SEO professionals to ensure their content is accessible and indexed correctly by search engines.

15. Google: Links No Longer A Top Three Ranking Signal – In a recent revelation at PubCon, Gary Illyes from Google’s search team stated that links are no longer among the top three ranking signals used by Google Search. Over the past few years, Google has been subtly reducing the emphasis on links in its ranking algorithm. Illyes was quoted during his Q&A session at PubCon, highlighting that many might overestimate the importance of links. He mentioned, “I don’t agree that it’s the top 3, and it hasn’t been for some time. The top ranking factor is content.” This shift aligns with previous statements from Google’s search quality team, suggesting that backlinks have a diminished impact compared to the early days of Google Search. The evolving perspective on links underscores the increasing importance of content quality in search rankings.

16. Google’s Top Factor in 🔍 Search Indexing! – In a recent “Search Off the Record” podcast episode, Google’s John Mueller and Gary Illyes emphasized that the quality of content is the main factor guiding Google’s indexing and crawling choices. Even though top-notch content doesn’t ensure the highest rankings, it significantly affects Google’s engagement with websites.

Illyes stressed that quality is crucial across all search systems, affecting everything from sitemaps to rankings. He said, “Quality affects pretty much everything that the Search systems do. The most important is quality. It’s always quality. And I think externally, people don’t necessarily want to believe it, but the quality, that’s the biggest driver for most of the indexing and crawling decisions that we make.” This discussion highlighted that Google uses quality indicators to decide which URLs to crawl. When Google determines the number of URLs to crawl on a site, it organizes them based on anticipated quality.

The quality of a website can influence how it’s crawled, even for newer sites. For instance, when Google finds a new page via sitemaps, it assesses the quality of previously crawled pages to decide if the new page should be crawled. Illyes pointed out that different website sections might have varying quality levels. If a section consistently offers excellent content, it might be treated differently than another section known for subpar content. Conversely, sections with persistent low-quality content might be crawled less. He used user-generated content (UGC) as an example, noting that if a UGC section consistently has poor content, it might affect Google’s crawling approach for that section.

Illyes assured listeners that it’s possible to enhance their site’s quality, even if it once had inferior content. He suggests that site owners delete poor content to improve the overall site quality. Doing so can positively shift Google’s view of the site, potentially affecting its crawling and indexing strategies.

During the chat, Illyes also addressed some common SEO myths. He clarified that duplicate content isn’t always problematic, and affiliate links are fine as long as they’re accompanied by unique and valuable content. This principle applies to translated content too, though manual checks of machine translations are advised.

On the topic of affiliate sites, Illyes emphasized that the focus isn’t solely on the affiliate link. He mentioned, “If a product is reviewed, pictures are taken, and unique content is created, it counts as high-quality content.”