Episode 192 contains the Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Dec 18-22, 2023.

1. Site Structure Strategy – Understanding the basics of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can significantly enhance your online presence. Gary Illyes from Google has recently shed light on the importance of using a hierarchical site structure for SEO, a strategy crucial for making your website more accessible and understandable to both users and search engines.

Illyes explains two types of site structures: hierarchical and flat. A flat site structure links every page directly from the home page, making each page just one click away. This approach was popular when sites relied heavily on web directories and reciprocal linking. However, as Google reduced the influence of PageRank as a ranking factor, the flat structure became less relevant.

In contrast, a hierarchical site structure organizes content from general to specific. The home page covers the most general topic, with links to categories, subcategories, and individual pages that delve into more specific topics. This structure not only makes it easier for users to navigate your site but also helps search engines understand and categorize your content effectively.

A hierarchical structure offers several advantages:

  • Improved User Experience: It makes it easier for visitors to find what they’re looking for, enhancing their overall experience on your site.
  • Better SEO: By clearly categorizing your content, search engines can more easily index and rank your pages.
  • Flexibility: It allows you to create distinct sections on your site, like a news section, which can be crawled and indexed differently by search engines.

The choice between a hierarchical and a flat structure depends on your site’s size and complexity. For larger sites with diverse content, a hierarchical structure is more beneficial. It allows for better organization and easier management of different content sections. He explained, “hierarchical structure will allow you to do funky stuff on just one section and will also allow search engines to potentially treat different sections differently. Especially when it comes to crawling. For example, having news section for newsy content and archives for old content would allow search engines to crawl news faster than the other directory. If you put everything in one directory that’s not really possible.

For small business owners, adopting a hierarchical site structure, as suggested by Gary Illyes from Google, can significantly improve your website’s SEO performance. It’s not just about organizing content; it’s about making your site more accessible and relevant to both your audience and search engines. By implementing this structure, you can enhance user experience, improve search rankings, and ultimately drive more traffic to your site.

2. Decoding the Dec 21 Spam Attack: Key Lessons to Elevate Your SEO Strategy! – On December 21, 2023, Google’s search results were overwhelmed by a massive spam attack. This event highlights the vulnerability of search engines to spam tactics and the potential impact on businesses relying on online visibility.

The attack involved numerous domains ranking for hundreds of thousands of keywords, indicating a large-scale operation. The spam was first noticed when almost all top search results for specific queries, like “Craigslist used auto parts,” turned out to be spam, except for a few legitimate listings.

The spam sites exploited three main opportunities within Google’s ranking system:

  • Local Search Algorithm: This algorithm is more permissive, allowing local businesses to rank without many links. Spammers used this to their advantage, targeting local search queries.
  • Longtail Keywords: These are low-volume, specific phrases. Due to their low competition, it’s easier for spammers to rank in these areas.
  • New Domain Advantage: Google gives new sites a short period of ‘benefit of the doubt’ to rank in search results. Many spam domains were newly registered, exploiting this window.

The effectiveness of this technique lies in the different algorithms Google uses for local and non-local searches. Local search algorithms are more lenient, allowing these spam sites to rank with minimal effort. he December 21, 2023, spam attack on Google’s search results offers valuable insights for business owners looking to enhance their SEO strategies. This incident, where numerous domains ranked for an unusually high number of keywords, sheds light on the vulnerabilities and opportunities within Google’s ranking system.

Key Learnings from the Spam Attack

  • Exploiting Low-Competition Areas: The spam attack targeted low-competition keywords, particularly in local search and longtail queries. For legitimate businesses, this highlights the potential of focusing on niche, specific keywords where competition is lower, increasing the chances of ranking higher.
  • Understanding Google’s Algorithms: The spammers took advantage of the local search algorithm’s leniency and the initial ranking boost given to new domains. This underscores the importance of understanding how different SEO factors work, including the impact of new content and the specific requirements of local SEO.
  • The Power of Longtail Keywords: The attack successfully utilized longtail keywords, which are specific and often less targeted by major competitors. For businesses, incorporating longtail keywords into their SEO strategy can capture niche markets and attract highly targeted traffic.

Applying These Insights to Your SEO Strategy

  • Focus on Local SEO: If you’re a local business, optimize for local search queries. Ensure your business is listed accurately on Google My Business, and use local keywords in your website’s content.
  • Leverage Long Tail Keywords: Conduct thorough keyword research to identify longtail keywords relevant to your business. These keywords can drive targeted traffic and are generally easier to rank for.
  • Monitor New Trends and Updates: Stay informed about the latest SEO trends and Google algorithm updates. Understanding these changes can help you adapt your strategies effectively.
  • Diversify Your Online Presence: Don’t rely solely on organic search rankings. Utilize social media, email marketing, and other channels to build a robust online presence.

3. Is Your Company Blog Google News Worthy? – Google’s John Mueller addressed a crucial question: Can company blogs be eligible for Google News? This is particularly relevant for small business owners seeking to expand their reach and visibility online.

Mueller clarified that while he works on search, which is somewhat separate from Google News, there’s nothing in Google News content policies specifically excluding company blogs. This opens up an opportunity for business blogs to be featured, provided they meet certain criteria.

To be considered for Google News, your blog content must adhere to specific guidelines. These include:

  • Clear Dates and Bylines: Each article should have a visible publication date and author byline.
  • Author, Publication, and Publisher Information: Details about the authors, the publication, and the company or network behind the content are essential.
  • Contact Information: Providing contact details adds credibility and transparency to your content.

While Google can automatically discover news content, being proactive can increase your chances. You can submit your blog URL for consideration through Google’s Publisher Center. This step is crucial for small business owners looking to leverage their company blog for greater visibility.

FYI: Google News does feature content from company blogs. For instance, GridinSoft company’s blog and Adobe’s company webpage have been shown in Google News. This demonstrates that while dedicated news sites are more common, company blogs that publish news are also considered.

For small business owners, this information is a game-changer. It means that your company blog has the potential to be featured in Google News, provided it meets Google’s content policies. This can lead to increased exposure, traffic, and potentially, a steady stream of advertising income. It’s an opportunity to elevate your content strategy and expand your digital footprint in a meaningful way.

4. Perfect SEO Isn’t a Reality for Your Business – Google’s John Mueller in his last SEO office hours of December 2023, where he stated, “no SEO is perfect.” This insight is particularly relevant for business owners who may feel overwhelmed by the constantly evolving landscape of SEO.

SEO is an ever-changing field, influenced by the continuous evolution of the internet, search engines, and user behavior. This fluidity means that what works today in SEO might not be as effective tomorrow. The technical elements like structured data and quality considerations are always in flux, making the idea of achieving ‘perfect’ SEO unattainable.

Despite the impossibility of perfect SEO, Mueller emphasizes the importance of engaging in SEO practices. The goal isn’t to achieve perfection but to adapt and evolve with the changes. SEO remains a crucial element in enhancing online visibility, driving traffic, and improving user engagement.

Key Takeaways for Business Owners

  • Adaptability is Key: Stay informed about the latest SEO trends and algorithm updates. Being adaptable in your SEO strategy is more valuable than striving for perfection.
  • Focus on Quality and Relevance: Instead of chasing perfection, concentrate on creating high-quality, relevant content that resonates with your audience and adheres to SEO best practices.
  • Continuous Learning and Improvement: SEO is a journey, not a destination. Regularly review and update your SEO strategies to align with current best practices and user preferences.
  • Don’t Be Discouraged: The complexity of SEO can be daunting, but don’t let the pursuit of perfection discourage you. Even small, consistent efforts in SEO can yield significant benefits over time.

For small business owners, understanding that ‘no SEO is perfect’ can be liberating. It shifts the focus from chasing an unattainable goal to developing a flexible, quality-focused approach that grows with your business and the digital landscape. Embracing this mindset allows you to navigate the complexities of SEO with more confidence and less stress, ultimately leading to a more robust and effective online presence.

5. Does a Double Slash in URLs Affect Your SEO? – Google’s Gary Illyes addressed a common query: does a double forward slash in a URL affect a website’s SEO? 

Double forward slashes in URLs often result from coding issues in the CMS (Content Management System) or the .htaccess file. This can lead to the creation of duplicate webpages that differ only in their URL structure. Resolving this issue isn’t as simple as rewriting the URL to remove the extra slash; the root cause must be identified and corrected.

Gary Illyes clarified that from a technical SEO perspective, having double slashes in a URL is not problematic. According to RFC 3986, section 3, a forward slash is a standard separator in URLs and can appear multiple times, even consecutively. However, from a usability standpoint, double slashes are not ideal. They could potentially confuse users and some web crawlers.

The usability of a website is crucial because it can affect user satisfaction and, indirectly, the site’s popularity and visibility. If a site is difficult to navigate or understand, it may deter users and reduce the likelihood of being recommended or linked to by other sites. Similarly, anything that causes confusion for web crawlers can directly impact SEO. It’s essential for a site to be easily crawlable and understandable.

To avoid potential issues:

  • Regularly check your website for double slashes and other URL anomalies.
  • Consult with an htaccess expert or a developer to identify and fix the source of the problem.
  • Use tools like Screaming Frog to pinpoint where the double forward slash issue starts, providing clues to the underlying technical issue.

For small business owners, understanding and addressing these seemingly minor details can make a significant difference in SEO performance. While Google may be able to navigate through such issues, relying on this is not a best practice. Proactively managing your site’s technical health ensures a better user experience and optimizes your site for search engines.

6. DBAs Now Accepted for Advertiser Verification! – Google Ads has made a change to its Advertiser Verification Program and now accepts DBAs (Doing Business As) or trade names for verification. This development is particularly important for small business owners who often operate under trade names or DBAs.

Previously, the Google Ads Advertiser Verification Program required advertisers to use their legal business names for verification. This posed a challenge for many businesses that operate under a DBA or a trade name different from their legal name. With this update, Google Ads acknowledges the common practice of using DBAs and adapts its verification process accordingly.

Implications for Business Owners

  • Broader Accessibility: This change makes the verification process more accessible to a wider range of businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises that commonly use DBAs.
  • Brand Consistency: Businesses can now maintain brand consistency across their advertising and legal documentation. This is crucial for brand recognition and trust among consumers.
  • Simplified Verification Process: The inclusion of DBAs simplifies the verification process for many businesses, reducing the administrative burden and potential confusion.

To be verified under a DBA or trade name, the legal document submitted for verification must include both the legal name and the DBA/trade name. This ensures that Google can accurately associate the trade name with the legal entity behind it.

7. Reservation Campaigns in YouTube Ads – YouTube/Google Ads has simplified the process of setting up reservation video campaigns, a type of advertising that offers fixed-rate impressions, ideal for brand awareness and product promotions.

Reservation campaigns are a form of advertising where ad placements are purchased in advance at a fixed rate, typically on a cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) basis. Unlike auction-based ads, where placements are bid on in real-time, reservation campaigns guarantee ad placement, making them ideal for high-impact advertising and ensuring visibility for crucial campaigns.

Key Features of the New System

  • Self-Service Options: Advertisers can now easily set up reservation video campaigns through Google Ads, streamlining the process of buying high-visibility ad placements like YouTube Select lineups and Masthead.
  • Enhanced Targeting Options: The update includes advanced targeting capabilities, such as YouTube Select topic and interest-based targeting, along with demographic targeting, allowing advertisers to reach their desired audience more precisely.
  • Access to Premier Content: Advertisers gain access to prominent placements like the YouTube Masthead and premier content via YouTube Select, ensuring a broader audience reach.
  • Diverse Ad Formats: The system offers various ad formats, including non-skippable in-stream ads and bumper ads, catering to different campaign needs and audience preferences.

Benefits for Business Owners

  • Greater Control and Visibility: With fixed-rate impressions and guaranteed placements, reservation campaigns offer more control over ad impressions and higher visibility for your brand.
  • Targeted Reach: The expanded targeting options enable businesses to tailor their campaigns more effectively, reaching the right audience with relevant content.
  • Efficiency and Flexibility: The streamlined process saves time and effort, allowing businesses to focus more on the creative aspects and strategy of their campaigns.

For small business owners, Google’s update to reservation video campaigns on YouTube simplifies the process of creating impactful brand awareness and product promotion campaigns, leveraging YouTube’s vast audience. Familiarizing yourself with this new system and aligning your campaigns with Google’s policies will be key to maximizing your brand’s exposure on one of the world’s most popular video platforms.