Episode 196 contains the Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Jan 22-26, 2024.

1. Google’s SEO Starter Guide Update: Streamlining for Clarity and Efficiency – Google is currently reworking its popular SEO Starter Guide, initially released in 2010 and updated in 2017 to significantly streamline the guide, making it more accessible and relevant for today’s website owners.

The current SEO Starter Guide, which is about 8,500 words, will be reduced to less than half its size in the upcoming revision. Lizzi Sassman from Google mentioned that the new guide would be a little over 3,000 words. This reduction is achieved by cutting out repetitive and redundant information, aiming to eliminate duplication and streamline the content.

Key aspects of the updated guide include:

  • Focus on Modern Users: The guide will be more concise, focusing on general concepts rather than detailed technical instructions. This change reflects the rise of user-friendly content management systems like WordPress and Wix, which have simplified many aspects of SEO.
  • Elimination of Redundancy: The new guide aims to avoid duplicating information available in more extensive resources on Google’s Search Central site. It will serve as a one-stop introductory resource for SEO basics.
  • Potential Impact on Guide’s Ranking: Gary Illyes from Google speculated that the guide’s ranking in Google search results might drop due to the reduced word count. However, the emphasis is on making the guide more user-friendly rather than maintaining its length for ranking purposes.
  • Feedback-Driven Revision: John Mueller of Google highlighted that reader feedback has been instrumental in reshaping the guide. The goal is to make it more suitable for modern websites and accessible to those new to SEO.

This updated guide will be a valuable resource for understanding the fundamentals of SEO in a more digestible format. It will provide clear, impactful advice without overwhelming readers with excessive details or outdated practices.

2. Google’s Stance: No Guaranteed Traffic in SEO – A recent statement by Google’s John Mueller on January 17, 2024, has sparked attention among business owners and SEO professionals. The essence of Mueller’s statement is that no one, not even experts, can guarantee increased traffic to a website as a result of specific changes. This was in response to an inquiry about whether removing certain parameters from a website would lead to an increase in traffic. Mueller’s unequivocal response was, “Nobody can guarantee you traffic, sorry.”

This highlights a crucial aspect of digital marketing – the unpredictability and non-guaranteed nature of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO involves optimizing your website to rank higher in search engine results, ideally increasing visibility and traffic. However, the algorithms that search engines use are complex and constantly evolving. This makes it challenging to predict exactly how changes to a website will impact its traffic.

Many SEO professionals use estimates and formulas to predict the ROI (Return on Investment) of making specific changes to a website. They might estimate that improving rankings could lead to increased clicks and potentially more revenue. However, these are just estimates and should not be considered guaranteed outcomes. The digital marketing landscape is dynamic, and what works today might not work tomorrow.

3.  Google’s Stance on HTML Structure for SEO Rankings – It’s crucial to understand the factors that influence your website’s visibility on search engines like Google. One common area of focus is the structure of a website’s HTML code. On January 26, 2024, an insightful update was shared regarding Google’s stance on this matter, which is particularly relevant for those managing their own websites or working with digital marketing professionals.

Gary Illyes from Google clarified on the latest episode of the ‘Search Off The Record’ podcast that the HTML structure of web pages does not significantly impact search rankings. This revelation addresses a common misconception among website owners and SEO specialists who often prioritize meticulous HTML structuring in the hopes of boosting their search rankings.

Illyes emphasized the value of diversity in website designs and structures, suggesting that if every website had the same HTML structure, the internet would become monotonous. He acknowledged that while basic elements like headings, title tags, and well-organized paragraphs are beneficial, obsessing over the intricate details of HTML structuring is largely unnecessary for SEO purposes.

In 2018, John Mueller of Google also remarked that while a clear content structure is helpful for users, it does not directly influence ranking. This reinforces the idea that user experience should be the primary focus rather than the complexity of HTML structure.

Furthermore, Google has stated that overusing elements like H1 tags or constantly rearranging them has little to no effect on a site’s ranking. This information is especially useful for small business owners who might be allocating resources to fine-tune HTML structures under the assumption that it significantly impacts SEO.

In summary, while maintaining a basic, user-friendly HTML structure is important, overemphasizing its complexity does not yield significant benefits in terms of SEO rankings. Business owners are advised to focus on creating valuable content and a pleasant user experience, rather than getting caught up in the intricacies of HTML coding for SEO purposes.

4. Google Bot Does Not Read Content Within HTML Comments – On January 25, 2024 Google’s John Mueller clarified that HTML comments, which are parts of the website code not visible to users but can contain notes or additional information for developers, were believed by some to influence Google’s understanding of a site’s content. However, John Mueller clarified that Googlebot, the search engine’s crawling software, does not read or utilize the content within these HTML comments for indexing or ranking purposes. This clarification came as a response to a query on Reddit, where an individual inquired about the potential benefits of including content in HTML comments to enhance text recognition from images on their website.

Mueller’s response underlines an essential principle of web content creation: the importance of putting content directly on web pages, rather than in hidden elements like HTML comments. For business owners, this insight is particularly valuable. It emphasizes the need to focus on creating high-quality, visible content that users and search engines can easily access and understand. This approach not only ensures better engagement with potential customers but also aligns with Google’s guidelines for optimal website performance in search results.

Business owners should stay away from gimmicks and instead prioritize content that adds real value to their website visitors, as this is what Google’s algorithms are designed to recognize and reward in search rankings. This update reiterates the ongoing need for transparency and user-centric strategies in digital marketing practices.