Episode 187 contains the Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Nov 13-17, 2023.

1. Danny Sullivan’s Insights on Google’s Ranking Misconceptions – In a recent presentation, Google’s Danny Sullivan addressed a common misunderstanding in the SEO community regarding how search rankings work. He emphasized that the SEO industry might be misinterpreting Google’s guidance and documentation. A key example Sullivan provided was the widespread adoption of author pages and bylines, based on the belief that Google’s algorithm prioritizes these elements. However, Sullivan clarified that Google does not specifically look for author pages.

The main point of Sullivan’s presentation was the gap between Google’s communication and the SEO community’s interpretation. He acknowledged that Google needs to improve how it conveys its expectations for successful content. Sullivan urged SEO professionals to focus on creating ‘people-first’ content, emphasizing the importance of trustworthiness and reliability in content, rather than specific elements like author pages.

Sullivan also highlighted the challenge in communicating what Google looks for in content. He explained that Google’s guidance is often interpreted too literally, leading to misconceptions about the ranking algorithm. For instance, when Google advises assessing a webpage’s trustworthiness, it does not mean the algorithm is specifically looking for features like author pages. Instead, it’s about evaluating the content broadly for trust factors.

The presentation led to a significant shift in how SEOs should approach Google’s documentation. Sullivan presented examples of how certain parts of Google’s advice are cherry-picked and misinterpreted as direct ranking factors. He encouraged more critical thinking and a closer examination of what is being advised, distinguishing between opinions and actual Google statements.

Sullivan concluded by revealing that much of Google’s recent update documentation is a reiteration of decades-old advice. The core message has always been about creating helpful, people-first content. The difference now lies in the advanced technology like AI and machine learning, making it plausible that these long-standing principles are integrated into Google’s algorithm.

P.s: For business owners, this insight from Danny Sullivan is crucial. It suggests a shift from focusing on specific SEO tactics to prioritizing the overall quality and trustworthiness of your content. Understanding that Google values ‘people-first’ content can guide you in developing a more effective and sustainable SEO strategy, ensuring your website not only ranks well but also genuinely serves your audience’s needs.

2. GoogleSafety – Google’s New Crawler – Google has updated its official list of crawlers, adding details about a previously undocumented and somewhat mysterious crawler. This update is particularly relevant for website owners and digital marketers who need to understand how Google interacts with their sites.

Understanding Crawlers: Crawlers, also known as bots or spiders, are tools used by search engines like Google to collect information from websites. This process is crucial for indexing and ranking websites in search results. There are different types of crawlers, each serving a specific purpose.

  • Common Crawlers: These are primarily used for indexing various types of content. Some are also employed for search testing tools, internal Google product team use, and AI-related crawling.
  • User-Triggered Fetchers: Triggered by user actions, these bots are used for tasks like fetching feeds or site verification.
  • Special-Case Crawlers: These are used for unique purposes, such as mobile ads, webpage quality checks, or push notification messages via Google APIs. They do not follow the global user agent directives in robots.txt marked with an asterisk.

The GoogleSafety Crawler: The newly documented crawler is known as the “GoogleSafety” user agent. It plays a critical role in Google’s process of identifying malware and is unique among special-case crawlers. Unlike others, the GoogleSafety crawler completely ignores all robots.txt directives. Its primary function is to crawl for malware in publicly posted links on Google properties. The full agent string for this crawler is “GoogleSafety.”

3. Google’s Hidden Gems Ranking System – Google has introduced the “Hidden Gems” ranking system, a significant update aimed at promoting authentic content buried within forums, social media, and blog posts. This update is distinct from the Helpful Content Update and has been part of Google’s core updates for a few months. The Hidden Gems algorithm is designed to identify content that offers personal insights and experiences, which might have been challenging to find in search results previously.

The Hidden Gems update is not a classification system but rather a method to highlight content perceived as especially helpful. This content often resides in unexpected places, such as comments in forum threads, posts on lesser-known blogs, or articles with unique expertise on a topic. Google’s approach with this update is to make these valuable pieces of content more accessible to users.

Initially, there was some confusion about whether this update was live and its relation to the Helpful Content Update. However, Brad Kellett, Senior Director on Google Search Product and Engineering, clarified that Hidden Gems is its own algorithm and ranking system, separate from the Helpful Content Update. This initiative is part of a series of ongoing updates, not just a single change.

4. Google Search Console Introduces New Robots.txt Report – Google has announced a significant update to its Search Console with the introduction of a new robots.txt report. This new feature replaces the older robots.txt tester tool. The report is designed to provide webmasters with detailed insights into the robots.txt files found for the top 20 hosts on their site. It includes information about the last time these files were crawled by Google and highlights any warnings or errors encountered during the process.

This update is particularly important for business owners and digital marketers who rely on Google Search Console to monitor and optimize their website’s performance in search results. The robots.txt file plays a crucial role in controlling how search engines crawl and index a website’s content. By providing a more comprehensive report, Google aims to make it easier for site owners to identify and fix issues that could affect their site’s visibility and ranking in search results.

However, the removal of the older robots.txt tester tool has been met with mixed reactions. While some users appreciate the new report’s enhanced capabilities, others miss the simplicity and familiarity of the previous tool. It’s worth noting that Bing still offers a robots.txt tester, which might be a useful alternative for those who prefer the older format.

5. Google’s $18 Billion Secret: Paying Apple for Safari Search Dominance –  In a surprising revelation during the federal antitrust trial, Google CEO Sundar Pichai confirmed that Google pays Apple a significant 36% of its Safari search revenue. This payment, amounting to a staggering $18 billion, is in exchange for Google maintaining its status as the default search engine on all Apple devices. This disclosure came to light when Google’s final witness, Kevin Murphy, inadvertently mentioned the figure during the trial.

This information is crucial for business owners to understand the competitive dynamics of the digital market. Google, often touted as the superior search engine, spends billions to secure its default position on Apple devices. This raises questions about Google’s dominance in the search engine market and whether it’s due to quality or strategic financial agreements.

The implications of this revelation are significant. The Department of Justice (DOJ) argues that this agreement between Google and Apple demonstrates Google’s efforts to unlawfully control search and advertising markets. If the DOJ’s case succeeds, it could lead to a court order halting Google’s practices, potentially even breaking up the company. This outcome could have a profound impact on the digital marketing landscape, affecting how businesses strategize their online presence and advertising.

6. Google’s Take on Topical Authority –  In the realm of SEO, the term “topical authority” has been a buzzword, often causing confusion among professionals and business owners alike. Google’s John Mueller recently addressed this topic, providing clarity and a refreshing perspective.

The concept of topical authority emerged from the SEO community’s interpretation of Google’s approach to authoritativeness. It suggests that by creating and interlinking content around a specific topic, a website can gain ‘topical authority’ in Google’s eyes. Imagine a website dedicated to sustainable living. This site regularly publishes in-depth articles, blogs, guides, and videos on topics like eco-friendly home practices, sustainable products, renewable energy, and environmental conservation. Over time, the website becomes a go-to resource for information on sustainable living. However, Mueller’s advice is straightforward: don’t worry about it.

The key takeaway from Mueller’s response and the article is that while Google does look for signs of authoritativeness, there’s no specific ‘topical authority’ metric or score. Good content naturally gains authority due to its quality and relevance to user queries. The idea of linking related articles for the sake of gaining topical authority is overthinking what is essentially a basic best practice in content organization and site architecture.

In conclusion, the concept of topical authority, while rooted in valid SEO practices, is not a revolutionary tactic. It’s a common-sense approach to creating and organizing quality content. As Mueller suggests, rather than getting caught up in buzzwords, focus on the fundamentals of good SEO practices.

7. Google Introduces New Structured Data for Educational Videos – Google has introduced a new type of structured data markup specifically designed for educational videos. This markup, based on schema.org metadata, allows site owners to specify the educational level, concepts, and skills their videos cover. The primary goal of this update is to enhance Google Search’s ability to understand and categorize educational video content more effectively, thereby providing users with more relevant search results.

The new structured data for learning videos enables Google to display rich snippets in search results. These snippets can include information like the target education level and the type of video, such as an overview or a solution-focused piece. This feature is currently available in English on Google Search globally, both on desktop and mobile platforms. It appears for searches related to academic learning and educational content.

For implementation, publishers with content management systems (CMS) can integrate structured data plugins to add this markup more easily. Those using JavaScript-based websites can generate the schema.org metadata through coding. Google emphasizes the importance of following best practices for implementation, such as adding the required schema.org properties based on the video format and using Google’s structured data testing tool for validation.

The technical requirements for this feature include a minimum video duration of 30 seconds, and the videos must be publicly accessible without any login or subscription barriers. The structured data must be present on the page where users can view the video directly.

8. Google Search Console Adds Learning Video Rich Results Data –  Google has enhanced its Search Console by adding a new feature for learning video rich results. Learning videos are specifically designed for students and teachers, encompassing a range of educational levels and covering various concepts and skills. In June 2022, Google introduced new rich results for these learning videos, which include details like the educational level and the skills or concepts taught in the video.

The latest update in Google Search Console allows users to track the performance of these learning videos as a search appearance in the performance reports. This means that content creators can now get detailed insights into how their educational videos are performing in Google searches. The inclusion of learning video rich results in performance reports is a step forward in understanding the impact and reach of educational content on the web.

9. YouTube Mandates Tags for AI-Generated Videos – YouTube is introducing new tagging requirements for AI-generated content to enhance transparency and viewer awareness. Over the coming months, creators will be required to disclose when their content is synthetic, especially if it realistically depicts events or actions that didn’t actually happen. This includes AI-generated videos that might show someone saying or doing something they never did. While AI-generated animations are acceptable, realistic depictions of people and events must be tagged. Non-compliance could lead to penalties like content removal, suspension from monetization, or even account suspension. YouTube will also automatically tag content created with its own AI tools. Additionally, the platform is adding new removal request processes for individuals and musicians whose likenesses are used in AI creations. This move aligns with YouTube’s efforts in music discovery and generative AI music creation, working with record labels to set parameters for AI-generated music. Both Meta and TikTok have also implemented similar tags for AI-generated content, reflecting a growing trend in the industry for transparency in the use of generative AI tools.

10. YouTube Easing the Copyright Claims Process for Creators – YouTube is enhancing its copyright claims process to better support content creators. This update aims to reduce the burden of multiple claims and provide more effective solutions for creators to manage their content in compliance with copyright laws.

The key change involves the notification system for copyright claims. Instead of receiving separate emails for each claim, creators will now get a single notification encompassing all claims. This consolidated approach not only streamlines communication but also includes clear steps for resolving the issues. For instance, if a video violates copyright due to its soundtrack, creators can now easily access YouTube’s copyright-free music library, Creator Music, to find a suitable replacement.

This improvement is part of YouTube’s ongoing efforts to refine its automated detection system, which has significantly reduced false claims. Additionally, YouTube has introduced an educational approach for repeat violators, offering guidance to prevent future violations. Creators can also utilize a pre-publish check to identify potential copyright issues before their content goes live.

These enhancements reflect YouTube’s commitment to creating a more creator-friendly environment. By simplifying the copyright claims process and providing accessible tools for compliance, YouTube is helping creators and brands navigate copyright regulations more effectively.

11. Maximize Your TikTok Ad Impact: New Metrics Unveiled! – TikTok is enhancing its advertising analytics with a new measurement metric, the Engaged View-Through Attribution (EVTA). This metric aims to provide a deeper understanding of how TikTok ads influence user conversions. EVTA tracks conversions that occur after a user views an ad for at least six seconds, even if they don’t click on it, and then makes a purchase within seven days. This approach acknowledges that the path from ad exposure to conversion isn’t always direct.

TikTok’s introduction of EVTA is part of its broader effort to improve conversion tracking. The platform recognizes that traditional last-click attribution methods often undervalued TikTok’s role in driving purchases. A recent report revealed that these methods underestimate TikTok conversions by 73%, missing 79% of purchases influenced by the platform. EVTA, combined with other recent ad measurement tools, offers a more comprehensive view of how TikTok ads lead to customer engagement and sales.

12. Meta Partners with Amazon for Seamless Shopping on Facebook and Instagram – Meta has struck a significant deal with Amazon that will allow Facebook and Instagram users to purchase Amazon products directly within these apps. The integration is designed to facilitate one-click purchases by linking Instagram and Amazon accounts, offering a seamless shopping experience without leaving the social media app.

The new feature will display real-time pricing, Prime eligibility, delivery estimates, and product details on select Amazon product ads within Facebook and Instagram. This development, while not entirely groundbreaking, as in-app purchases are already possible, marks a significant step in enhancing the convenience and efficiency of social media shopping.

A crucial aspect of this partnership is the data integration between Meta and Amazon. The agreement involves sharing limited in-app activity data to show more relevant product ads based on user engagement. However, it’s important to note that Amazon will not share specific shopping actions like purchases, product views, or searches with Meta. This means the data exchange is somewhat restricted, focusing mainly on improving ad targeting rather than creating a comprehensive data-sharing ecosystem.

Despite the limited data flow, this collaboration could drive more engagement with Amazon ads on Facebook and Instagram. It also aligns with Meta’s ongoing efforts to boost in-app shopping activities. While Meta has scaled back some of its e-commerce initiatives, like livestream shopping and dedicated shopping tabs, this partnership with Amazon, which boasts over 167 million Prime subscribers in the U.S., could open new avenues for in-app shopping.

13. Microsoft Advertising’s New Alert System for Policy Violations – Microsoft Advertising has enhanced its policy violation notification process, aiming to inform customers more promptly when their ads, keywords, or product offers are disapproved. This change involves sending more frequent email alerts, often within 24 hours of a violation. These emails, titled “Notice of Violation of Policy: Ad or Ad Component,” detail the rejected content and provide insights into which accounts under a manager’s customer account are affected.

The emails link directly to the Microsoft Advertising campaign interface, allowing advertisers to view specifics on disapprovals. If advertisers choose not to modify the disallowed content, no action is needed. However, for those wishing to have their content reconsidered, edits must be made to comply with policy standards before requesting an appeal.

Common violations highlighted by Microsoft include misleading product claims, inappropriate content, counterfeit goods, and gambling/alcohol promotions. The tighter policies aim to decrease such violations but may also restrict advertising potential in certain cases. This initiative is part of Microsoft’s broader effort to increase transparency and safety across its products and services. The rise in email notifications suggests an increase in policy violations, indicating a more rigorous approval process to catch and address these issues.