Episode 188 contains the Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Nov 20-24, 2023.

1. Overlooked Details That Make or Break Your SEO – Search engines look at many factors when determining how to rank web pages in search results. While flashy new SEO trends come and go, focusing on foundational website quality and technical basics tends to pay off more in the long run. Google’s John Mueller, Martin Splitt, and Gary Illyes recently delved into the concept of site quality in a podcast, offering valuable insights for business owners and digital marketers. Their discussion demystifies site quality, emphasizing its simplicity and practicality.

  • Site Quality is Not Complex: The Google experts encourage reading site quality documentation, asserting that understanding and achieving site quality is not as complicated as it may seem. Gary Illyes remarks, “It’s not rocket science,” suggesting that the basics of site quality are accessible to everyone.
  • No Specific Tools for Site Quality: Unlike technical issues, there are no direct tools to measure site quality. Traffic metrics may indicate changes, but they don’t pinpoint specific quality issues. This means business owners need to assess their content’s effectiveness and relevance themselves.
  • Reframing the Approach: Illyes advises reframing the problem by focusing on whether a page delivers what it promises to users. This user-centric approach is key to improving site quality. It’s about creating content that helps users achieve their goals.
  • Quality in Terms of Value Addition: Adding value is crucial for site quality. In competitive search queries, it’s not enough to be relevant; your content must offer something unique and valuable that stands out from what’s already available. Mueller explains that simply replicating what’s in the search results doesn’t add value. Instead, aim for content that exceeds the existing baseline.
  • Breaking into Competitive SERPs: Illyes suggests an indirect approach to compete in tough SERPs. Choose realistic battles and focus on areas where you can genuinely offer something different and better.

In summary, Google’s experts highlight the importance of user-focused content, uniqueness, and value addition in achieving site quality. For business owners, this means focusing on creating content that genuinely helps users and offers something beyond what’s already out there.

2. Master the SEO Basics: Google’s Advice for Effective Website Optimization – In the ever-evolving world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it’s easy to get caught up in the latest trends and advanced tactics. However, Google’s Search Relations team, featuring Martin Splitt, Gary Illyes, and John Mueller, emphasized the importance of mastering basic technical SEO issues first. This advice is particularly relevant for business owners who might not be deeply versed in the intricacies of SEO.

Technical SEO involves optimizing the architecture and infrastructure of a website to enhance its crawling and indexing by search engines. This is crucial because, no matter how innovative your SEO strategies are, if search engines like Google can’t properly crawl or render your site, your efforts won’t yield the desired results. Illyes highlights the importance of ensuring that your content is accessible and useful, as these are key factors that Google considers.

Another significant point discussed is the common misconception that high traffic automatically means high-quality pages. Mueller advises looking beyond just traffic metrics and focusing on user engagement and satisfaction. These are more accurate indicators of a page’s usefulness and quality. It’s important to focus on relevant queries and track lower-level pages to better understand a site’s performance.

The key to creating high-quality content is to focus on what helps people achieve their goals when they visit your page. This could mean providing comprehensive answers to common questions, solving problems, or sharing engaging stories. Illyes suggests that quality might be simpler than most think – it’s about writing content that genuinely helps your audience.

For business owners, the takeaway is clear: before diving into complex SEO strategies, ensure that your website’s technical foundation is solid. Also, prioritize creating content that is not just high in volume but high in value to your audience. By focusing on these areas, you can significantly improve your website’s SEO performance.

3. Rethinking SEO Success: Beyond Traffic Metrics – In episode 66 of Google’s “Search Off the Record” podcast, Google’s John Mueller and Martin Splitt discussed a crucial aspect of SEO: the real value of traffic metrics. The conversation highlighted a common misconception in the SEO community—equating high traffic with success. While many SEO professionals boast about traffic increases, Mueller and Splitt emphasized the importance of focusing on more meaningful goals, like conversions and business impact.

The podcast shed light on the tendency of SEOs to prioritize traffic statistics over Return on Investment (ROI) or the actual impact on earnings. Mueller speculated that this might be due to the delayed effects of SEO efforts on tangible business results. He pointed out that while traffic data is useful, it can be misleading if not analyzed in the context of its relevance and contribution to business goals.

The discussion also touched on the different types of traffic and their varying values. Not all traffic contributes equally to sales or brand building; some may be irrelevant or non-converting. Therefore, understanding the nature of the traffic and its actual impact on sales or business growth is crucial.

Mueller and Splitt’s conversation serves as a reminder for SEO professionals to align their strategies with broader business objectives, rather than just chasing traffic numbers. It calls for a more nuanced approach to SEO, where the success is measured not just by the quantity of traffic, but by its quality and contribution to the business’s bottom line.

4. Google Clarifies the SEO Value of 404 Pages – Google recently shed light on the SEO implications of 404 error pages, offering valuable insights for business owners and digital marketers. A 404 error occurs when a page on a website cannot be found. Contrary to common belief, these pages can have a positive impact on a site’s SEO if managed correctly.

Google’s John Mueller explained that 404 pages are a normal part of the web. They signal to search engines that a page no longer exists, which is crucial for maintaining a clean and up-to-date site structure. Importantly, 404 errors do not directly harm a site’s overall ranking in search results.

For business owners, this means that occasional 404 errors are not a cause for alarm. However, it’s important to monitor these errors and ensure they are appropriate. For instance, if a product is no longer available, a 404 page is suitable. But if the page has moved, a 301 redirect to the new location is better for both users and search engines.

Understanding the role of 404 pages in SEO is vital for maintaining a healthy website. It’s about balancing user experience and search engine signals. Regularly checking for 404 errors and addressing them appropriately can contribute to a more effective online presence.

This insight from Google highlights the importance of website maintenance and understanding the nuances of SEO. It’s a reminder that not all errors are detrimental and that proper management of these pages can support a site’s SEO strategy.

5. AI in Content Creation: A Tool, Not a Threat – Google Search Relations team, including Martin Splitt, Gary Illyes, and John Mueller, discussed the role of AI in content creation. They view AI as a valuable aid to human creativity, not a replacement. The team emphasized that AI is excellent for certain tasks but not a catch-all solution. They humorously noted how technology, like Google Plus, can quickly become outdated, highlighting the rapid evolution of tech.

The Google team believes AI can be particularly useful for overcoming writer’s block or meeting tight deadlines. AI tools can suggest frameworks, phrases, and variations to speed up the writing process. However, they stressed that AI should be used responsibly and as a complement to human creativity, not as a substitute. This perspective encourages a balanced approach to AI in content creation, viewing it as a tool to enhance human efforts rather than overshadow them.

Key Takeaways:

  • AI as a Creative Aid: AI is seen as a tool to enhance human creativity, especially useful in overcoming writer’s block or accelerating the writing process.
  • Balanced Perspective: The Google team advocates for a responsible use of AI, emphasizing its role as a supplement to human creativity rather than a replacement.
  • Rapid Technological Evolution: The discussion also touches on the fast-paced nature of technology, using Google Plus as an example of how quickly tech can become outdated.

6. Google’s Guidance On SEO Tools – Google’s John Mueller addressed a query regarding the use of SEO tools for content writing, specifically in the context of a Vietnamese travel agency blog. The question revolved around whether to include Vietnamese accents in keywords, as suggested by an SEO tool, considering the primary audience comprised American and Australian tourists unlikely to use these accents in searches.

Mueller’s response emphasized the importance of writing in the language of the audience, particularly for headers and body text. He advised not to depend entirely on SEO tools for writing guidance but to conduct independent research. Mueller suggested examining the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) with and without accents (e.g., “quảng binh” vs. “quang binh”) to understand better what ranks higher and is more relevant to the target audience.

The key takeaway from Mueller’s advice is the significance of not relying solely on SEO tools. These tools are based on the current knowledge and trends in SEO, which can be limited and sometimes outdated. They were developed based on what SEOs believed to be effective at the time, such as keyword densities and reciprocal linking strategies, which eventually became less effective.

Mueller’s guidance underscores the dynamic nature of SEO and the need for writers and marketers to use their judgment and stay updated with current best practices. While SEO tools can provide valuable insights, they should not dictate content creation. Instead, a balance between tool-guided insights and personal research and understanding of the audience should drive content strategy.

This advice is particularly relevant for small business owners and digital marketing enthusiasts who aim to create content that resonates with their audience while also performing well in search engines. Understanding the limitations of SEO tools and the importance of audience-centric content can lead to more effective and engaging digital marketing strategies.

7. Follower Count: Not a Google Search Ranking Factor – There’s a common belief among some digital marketers and business owners that a higher number of followers on social media platforms like Twitter or Instagram could positively influence their Google search rankings. This assumption stems from the idea that social signals, such as likes and followers, might be interpreted by Google as indicators of a site’s popularity or credibility.

Google has explicitly stated that follower counts on social media are not a factor in determining search rankings. This clarification is significant because it helps refocus SEO strategies on more impactful practices. Google’s search algorithms are complex and take into account numerous factors, but social media follower counts are not among them.

For small business owners and digital marketing enthusiasts, this information is vital. It means that while having a robust social media presence can be beneficial for brand awareness and customer engagement, it does not directly contribute to how well your website ranks in Google searches. Therefore, efforts should be more strategically directed towards proven SEO practices like content quality, website optimization, and building authoritative backlinks.

Key Takeaways:

  • Social media is valuable for engagement and brand presence, not for SEO in terms of follower counts.
  • Focus on creating high-quality, relevant content and optimizing your website for a better user experience.
  • Building a strong backlink profile from reputable sources can significantly impact your Google search rankings.

Understanding what does and does not impact your website’s ranking in search results is key to effective SEO. This clarification from Google serves as a reminder to focus on the core aspects of SEO that genuinely make a difference, rather than misconceptions like the impact of social media follower counts.

8. Google to Remove Crawl Rate Tool from Search Console in 2024 – Google has announced that it will be deprecating the Crawl Rate Limiter legacy tool within Google Search Console on January 8, 2024. This decision comes as Google believes the tool has become less useful due to advancements in its crawling logic and the availability of other tools for publishers.

The Crawl Rate Limiter allowed website owners to communicate to Google how often to crawl their site. It was particularly useful for sites experiencing server load issues due to frequent crawling by Googlebot. However, Google has improved its crawling algorithms to automatically adjust based on a site’s server response. For instance, if a site consistently returns HTTP 500 status codes or if the response time significantly increases, Googlebot will automatically slow down its crawling.

Gary Illyes from Google explained that the tool’s usefulness has diminished over time. He noted that the tool’s effect on crawling speed was slow and it was rarely used. With its removal, Google will set a new minimum crawling speed, which will be comparable to the old crawl rate limits, especially for sites with low search interest.

For website owners experiencing issues with Googlebot crawling, Google recommends referring to a specific help document and using a report form to communicate any concerns.

As a business owner, it’s crucial to stay informed about changes in Google’s tools and services, as they can impact your website’s visibility and performance. The removal of the Crawl Rate Limiter tool signifies Google’s confidence in its automated systems to manage site crawling efficiently. However, it also means that you should be more vigilant about monitoring your site’s performance and be ready to use alternative methods to communicate any crawling-related issues to Google.

9. Google Removes Key Robots.txt FAQs – Google recently removed its Robots.txt FAQ help document from its search developer documentation. This change has raised questions among webmasters and SEO professionals about the implications for website crawling and indexing.

Robots.txt is a file used by websites to communicate with web crawlers about which parts of the site should or should not be processed or scanned. Google’s FAQ page on this topic was a valuable resource for understanding how to use this file effectively. Its removal means that some specific guidance and clarifications are no longer directly available from Google.

Key Takeaways from the Removed FAQs:

  • A website doesn’t necessarily need a Robots.txt file; without it, Googlebot will generally crawl and index the site normally.
  • The Robots.txt file is recommended for controlling crawler traffic to prevent server issues, not for hiding private content.
  • For controlling how individual pages appear in search results, use the Robots meta tag or X-Robots-Tag HTTP header.
  • Changes in the Robots.txt file can take up to a day to be reflected in Google’s cache and subsequently affect search results.
  • Blocking Google from crawling a page using Robots.txt doesn’t guarantee removal from search results. For explicit blocking, use the ‘noindex’ tag.

As a business owner, it’s important to understand that while the specific FAQs are no longer available, the fundamental principles of using Robots.txt remain unchanged. It’s crucial to ensure that your website’s Robots.txt file is correctly configured to guide search engines effectively. Remember, incorrect or unsupported rules in this file are typically ignored by crawlers, so accuracy is key.

The removal of the Robots.txt FAQs by Google underscores the dynamic nature of SEO and the importance of staying informed about best practices. Business owners should consult with SEO professionals or refer to updated resources to ensure their website’s Robots.txt file aligns with their digital marketing goals.

10. Google Ads to Update Location Asset Requirements: What You Need to Know – Google Ads is set to update its location asset requirements in December. A location asset in Google Ads is a feature that allows advertisers to include specific location details, like addresses and phone numbers, in their ads. This is particularly useful for businesses with physical locations, as it helps potential customers find them easily.

The upcoming change aims to clarify which types of location assets are not allowed, helping advertisers better understand the restrictions. The update will specifically address locations that are closed, not recognized by Google, or do not match the business running the ad. Additionally, assets with products or services that do not match the specified location will be disallowed.

This update is significant for business owners and digital marketers. Using location assets effectively in ads can significantly boost a business’s visibility and conversion potential. However, not adhering to these updated requirements could result in leaving out vital details, potentially harming your return on investment.

11. Microsoft Advertising’s Last-Minute Shopper Insights – As the holiday shopping season reaches its peak, Microsoft Advertising’s Festive Season Marketing Playbook offers valuable insights for advertisers to capitalize on consumer spending. Here’s a concise summary:

  • Timing of Revenue Peaks: Despite some advertisers not yet seeing a peak in revenue, historical trends show significant spikes around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year, a 3-4% increase in holiday spending in the US is anticipated, potentially reaching up to $966.6 billion. The UK and Germany are also expected to see similar high spending, highlighting the global impact of the season.
  • Shift in Consumer Behavior: A notable trend this year is the increased emphasis on deal-seeking. Over two-thirds of US shoppers are spending more time looking for coupons and deals, especially around the Cyber5 period (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Sunday, and Cyber Monday). Advertisers need to adapt to this trend and align their strategies accordingly.
  • The Central Role of Search in Purchasing Decisions: Search remains a crucial component in guiding both online and in-store purchases. It’s a pivotal tool for discovering new retailers, conducting pre-purchase research, and comparing prices. For example, Gen X consumers heavily rely on search to find the best prices. In the EMEA region, deal-seekers spend 33% more time searching than average shoppers, offering a significant opportunity for targeted advertising.
  • Post-Cyber5 Opportunities: Search volumes remain high even after the Cyber5 period, presenting a continued opportunity for advertisers. Many holiday clicks and conversions happen during Cyber5 with lower cost per acquisition (CPA), so maintaining active advertising campaigns during this period can yield substantial benefits.
  • Planning for Returns: The post-holiday return period is another critical aspect for businesses. Search volumes for returns peak shortly after Christmas and continue into the new year. Preparing for this influx and adjusting marketing strategies can help mitigate potential losses and maintain customer satisfaction.
  • Strategic Holiday Planning Checklist: Microsoft suggests launching campaigns early, using remarketing and dynamic search ads, emphasizing value messages, leveraging AI for personalized offerings, and utilizing store support for profitable online growth.