Episode 180 contains the important Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Sep 25-29, 2023.

1. Is Google Lying About Using Clicks in Rankings? A X-Googler Testimony – The debate over whether Google uses clicks as a direct ranking factor has taken a new turn. Eric Lehman, a former 17-year Google veteran who worked on search quality and ranking, recently testified in the ongoing U.S. vs. Google antitrust trial. Lehman stated that Google’s machine learning systems, BERT and MUM, are becoming more critical than user data for search rankings. He believes that Google will increasingly rely on machine learning to evaluate text rather than user data.

Lehman’s testimony has sparked controversy, especially among SEO experts, who have long questioned Google’s transparency about its ranking factors. Google’s Gary Illyes, at a recent AMA, confirmed that Google uses historical search data for its machine-learning algorithm, RankBrain. However, he clarified that clicks are not necessarily a direct ranking factor. Instead, they are used for evaluating experiments and personalization.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) also attempted to challenge Lehman’s statements by questioning Google’s advantage in using BERT over its competitors. Lehman clarified that Google’s edge comes from inventing BERT, not from its user data. The DOJ’s attempt to impeach Lehman’s testimony seemed to backfire, adding more credibility to his statements.

Lehman also touched on the sensitive topic of using clicks in search rankings. He mentioned that Google avoids confirming the use of user data in rankings to prevent people from thinking that SEO could be used to manipulate search results. This adds another layer of complexity to the ongoing debate.

In summary, while clicks may not serve as a direct ranking factor, they are part of a more complex system that includes machine learning algorithms and personalization. Lehman’s testimony has reignited the discussion about Google’s ranking factors, raising questions about the company’s transparency and the future of SEO.

2. 🚨 Is Google Playing Fair? What Business Owners Need to Know About Google’s Ad Revenue Tactics! –  You might be wondering why Google’s advertising tactics should matter to you. Well, Google is the go-to search engine for most people, and it’s where your business likely appears in search results. Recent revelations during the Federal Antitrust trial suggest that Google might be prioritizing its own revenue over user experience and fair competition. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Push for More Revenue: Leaked emails from Google Ads executives reveal a push to “shake the cushions” to find more revenue. They discussed injecting queries from Chrome and tweaking search rankings to hit revenue targets. This could mean that organic search results—where your business might appear—are being pushed down to make room for more ads.
  2. Questionable Ethics: High-ranking Google executives were caught discussing ways to artificially increase search queries to boost ad revenues. They even talked about the impact on Google’s stock price and their personal fortunes if they didn’t meet revenue goals. This raises questions about the integrity of Google’s search algorithms.
  3. Controversial Analogy: A senior Google executive likened the company’s search advertising business to selling drugs, stating that Google can “ignore users and focus on generating revenue from advertising.” This is alarming because it suggests that user experience is secondary to revenue generation.

So, why should you care? If Google is manipulating search results to boost its own revenue, it could affect where your business appears in those results. This could directly impact your visibility and, ultimately, your bottom line.

3. Google’s John Mueller Defends Official SEO Advice – Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a crucial aspect of your online presence that helps your website rank higher in search engines like Google. However, there’s a fine line between optimizing your site for Google and overdoing it.  John Mueller, Google’s official representative, defended the company’s ongoing support for SEOs through documentation, video content, and Q&A sessions. He acknowledges that while some people misuse this information to create “made-for-Google” sites, the majority benefit from it. Mueller states, “Yes, it’s also awkward that we’re writing how to do well in Google, explaining algorithms, giving technical tips, but even with a minority that abuses that, it doesn’t mean we should stop helping sites get the most out of search.”

He pointed out that Google aims to benefit the broader web community, not just those who are trying to game the system. While Google may withhold some details to prevent exploitation, most of their advice is rooted in common sense. 

In summary, Google claims that is committed to helping website owners understand how to optimize their sites effectively. They believe that the benefits of providing this information outweigh the risks of some people abusing it. As a business owner, it’s essential to stay updated on Google’s guidelines to ensure your website performs well in search results while adhering to best practices.

4. Google May Ignore Your High-Quality Website. Here’s What You Need to Know! – If you’ve ever wondered why your well-crafted website isn’t appearing in Google search results, you’re not alone. Google’s indexing process, which determines which pages show up in search results, has always been a bit of a mystery. Traditionally, Google has stated that if a page isn’t indexed, it’s likely because it doesn’t meet certain quality standards. However, a recent update from John Mueller of Google has thrown a curveball into this understanding.

John Mueller stated that even “high-quality pages aren’t guaranteed indexing.” In simpler terms, even if your website is top-notch, there’s no guarantee it will appear in Google search results. He emphasized that “pushing it through these tools doesn’t guarantee that they’ll stay or even become indexed.” This is a significant revelation because many business owners invest time and resources into creating high-quality content, assuming it will automatically be indexed by Google.

So, what does this mean for you as a business owner? First, understand that Google’s indexing is not perfect and is not always a reflection of your website’s quality. Second, while it’s crucial to maintain high-quality content, know that this alone won’t guarantee visibility on Google. Lastly, consider diversifying your online presence through other channels like social media to ensure you’re reaching your target audience.

5. Unlock the Full Potential of YouTube with New AI-Driven Campaigns and Analytics! –YouTube has globally launched Video View Campaigns (VVC), a new ad campaign type that uses AI to target audiences more efficiently. VVCs offer a variety of ad formats and have been shown to achieve 40% more views and 30% lower cost per view compared to traditional instream skippable CPV campaigns.

Video View Campaigns (VVC) are a new type of YouTube ad campaign that leverages artificial intelligence to target audiences more precisely. Unlike traditional instream skippable CPV campaigns, VVCs combine various ad formats like skippable instream ads, in-feed ads, and shorts ads to maximize reach and engagement. The AI-driven approach ensures that ads are served to the most relevant audiences at the right time, leading to 40% more views and 30% lower cost per view on average.

On the non-ads front, YouTube has rolled out a new analytics features that offer insights into why subscribers cancel their memberships through exit surveys and how new and returning viewers engage with the channel content. This data can be invaluable for fine-tuning your content strategy and making improvements to retain your most valuable audience. YouTube has also introduced new data cards that provide context on total member counts and which videos are driving more subscriptions. 

6. Google’s 2023 Helpful Content Update Rollout Complete – Google has completed its September 2023 Helpful Content Update, aimed at improving the quality of search results. The update, which rolled out from September 14 to September 28, brings several key changes:

  1. Machine-Generated Content: Google has softened its stance on AI-generated content, making it more consistent with other guidelines on creating useful material.
  2. Third-Party Content: The update advises against hosting third-party content on a website’s primary domain or subdomain unless it is closely related to the main site’s purpose.

  3. Traffic Recovery: Google offers new advice for websites that have experienced traffic loss due to the update, suggesting they identify and remove or replace unhelpful content.

7. The Mystery Behind Google Discover Traffic Fluctuations: What You Need to Know! – Google Discover is a personalized content feed that shows articles, videos, and other content you might be interested in, right on Google’s mobile homepage. It’s a significant source of organic traffic and plays a crucial role in the SEO landscape. Google has recently updated its Discover documentation to shed light on why traffic from Google Discover may experience fluctuations. The update outlines three key reasons:

  1. Changing Interests: Google Discover aims to show content that aligns with a user’s interests, which are partly determined by their search activity. If a user’s interests change, the content displayed in their Discover feed will also change, affecting traffic for publishers.
  2. Content Types: Google Discover adjusts the types of content it displays to better match what users are looking for. This includes a variety of topics like sports, health, entertainment, and lifestyle.
  3. Updates to Google Search Algorithms: Since Discover is an extension of Google Search, any updates to the search algorithms can also affect Discover traffic.

Google also emphasized that Discover traffic is less predictable compared to keyword-driven search traffic. Therefore, it should be considered supplemental to your main search traffic. The tech giant warned against relying solely on Discover traffic for your site, stating that changes in traffic may not always be related to the quality or frequency of your published content.

8. Microsoft’s Billion-Dollar Bid for Bing Rejected by Apple: Is Google the Real Culprit? – Microsoft recently attempted to sell its search engine, Bing, to Apple but faced rejection despite offering a deal that was financially superior to Google’s existing agreement with Apple. Mikhail Parakhin, Microsoft’s CEO of Advertising and Web Services, revealed that the company offered Apple more than 100% of the revenue or gross profit to make Bing the default search engine on Apple devices. This offer was allegedly higher than what Google was offering, which was around 60% of the revenue.

The revelation came during the federal antitrust trial, where Parakhin claimed that Microsoft was willing to incur a “several billion dollar loss” in the short term, viewing it as a justified investment for the long-term benefits of being the default search engine on Apple devices. Despite this, Apple chose to stick with Google, raising questions about whether the decision was solely based on financial considerations or if other factors were at play.

Interestingly, Microsoft also approached Samsung with a similar proposal to make Bing the default search engine on its products. However, these discussions were also shut down in their early stages, with Samsung indicating that a deal wouldn’t be worth discussing due to their existing contract with Google.

Parakhin summed up the situation by stating, “We were just big enough to play but probably not big enough to win.” This raises questions about the influence Google holds over these tech giants and whether its dominance in the search engine market is stifling competition. The case underscores the importance and high stakes involved in securing default search engine status, as companies are willing to incur significant losses for the position.

My $0.02: I use Bing occasionally, and the quality of results I receive from Bing is often sub-par when I compare it with Google. I usually start my search journey with Bing only to switch to Google out of frustration. So I’m unsurprised that Apple and Samsung declined Bing’s offer despite dangling a more significant payment.

9. 🚀 Unlock the Secrets of SEO with Google’s New “SEO Made Easy” YouTube Series! – Google has launched a new YouTube series called “SEO Made Easy” aimed at helping both beginners and experienced website owners optimize their sites for better search engine performance. The first episode, hosted by Martin Splitt from Google’s Search Relations Team, focuses on using structured data to customize how a website’s name appears in Google’s search results. The series promises to offer practical tips and actionable insights, such as using Google Search Console for quick wins and implementing lazy loading for better page experience.

10. Google’s New Crawler: Control How Google’s AI Interacts with Your Website! – Google has introduced a new crawler called “GoogleExtended” that allows website owners to manage how their content interacts with Google’s Bard and Vertex AI generative APIs. This feature gives site administrators the ability to specify whether they want their site’s content to be used for improving these AI models. The “GoogleExtended” user agent can be added to a site’s robots.txt file to either allow or disallow Google’s AI from scraping the site’s content. This move comes as part of a broader trend to give web publishers more control over their data and how it’s used in AI training, especially as discussions around AI regulation intensify.

11. Relaunched ChatGPT “Browse With Bing” Plugin Now Respects Robots.txt – OpenAI has relaunched the “Browse with Bing” feature in ChatGPT. The “Browse with Bing” feature allows chatGPT to access real-time, authoritative information from the internet, which is crucial for staying updated in today’s fast-paced world.

Previously, OpenAI had disabled this feature due to concerns about accessing content behind paywalls. However, the relaunch comes with significant improvements. The AI now respects “robots.txt” protocols, which means it only accesses content that websites allow. This is a win-win situation for both content owners and users like you, ensuring ethical and responsible browsing.