Episode 199 contains the Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Feb 12 -16, 2024.

1. Google Updates Image Removal Process from Search Index – Google has  updated their guidelines regarding the removal of images from their search index. As of February 16, 2024, the updated guidance includes new details for both emergency and non-emergency situations, ensuring that you can swiftly address image removal needs. Properly managing these images can protect your brand’s reputation and ensure that only relevant and positive images are associated with your business in search results.

The guidance highlights various methods to remove images, covering scenarios where immediate action is required and where there is no direct access to the Content Delivery Network (CDN) or Content Management System (CMS) hosting the images. For urgent removals, Google recommends using the Removals Tool, which temporarily removes images from search results. However, it’s crucial to block or remove these images from your site to prevent them from reappearing after the removal request expires.

One common issue addressed is the inability to access images hosted on a CDN or through a CMS that doesn’t support indexing blocks. In such cases, deleting the images from your site may be necessary. Furthermore, Google has provided more detailed instructions on using robots.txt with wildcards for more effective control over which images are indexed. This update is essential for tailoring your site’s visibility and ensuring that unwanted or irrelevant images do not detract from your online presence.

Additionally, the update includes a caution regarding the use of the “noimageindex” robots tag. While this tag can prevent images on a specific page from being indexed, if those images appear on other pages, they might still be indexed. To fully block an image, the “noindex” X-Robots-Tag HTTP response header should be used.

2. Google Updates Canonical Tag Documentation – Canonical tags play a foundational role in SEO by helping prevent duplicate content issues. They signal to search engines which version of a page is preferred when similar content appears under multiple URLs. Proper use of these tags ensures that the right page gets indexed and ranked, leading to improved website visibility and user experience.

The essence of the update, based on Google’s adherence to RFC 6596 standards, is the emphasis on explicit use of rel=”canonical” annotations. Google specifies that the canonical tag is intended to identify the preferred version of a webpage among duplicates. This clarification does not change how Google processes these annotations but aims to make their intended use clearer.

A noteworthy addition to Google’s documentation is the guidance against using rel=”canonical” for non-duplicative purposes, such as indicating alternate versions of a page (e.g., in another language or for a different media type). Instead, Google recommends using rel=”alternate” for such cases. This adjustment highlights the importance of accurately using canonical and alternate tags to avoid confusion and ensure the correct page version is presented to search engine users.

3. A New Video Series for Learning Google Search – Google has launched a video series titled “How Search Works” on its Search Central YouTube channel, aimed at demystifying the complexities of Google Search. Spearheaded by Google engineer Gary Illyes, this initiative promises to offer a behind-the-scenes look into the operational intricacies of the world’s leading search engine. The series is designed to cater to a broad audience, including business owners, marketers, and even the general public, with the ultimate goal of boosting website visibility in Google’s search results.

The debut episode lays the groundwork for the series, with subsequent installments set to dive into practical strategies for improving your website’s search engine ranking. Illyes highlights the series’ technical focus, emphasizing its intent to equip viewers with the knowledge to enhance their site’s online presence. Central to the discussion are the fundamental processes of Google Search: crawling, indexing, and serving. These stages represent how Google discovers URLs, understands and stores webpage content, and finally, how it ranks and presents search results.

From the initial episode, Illyes stresses two pivotal insights. First, Google staunchly denies accepting payments for improved crawling frequency or search ranking positions. Illyes firmly states, “If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re wrong,” dismissing any misconceptions about pay-for-play in search rankings. Secondly, the quality of a website’s content is underscored as the cornerstone for securing a favorable spot in search results. The definition of “quality” content, as per Google’s standards, will be explored in future episodes, offering viewers a roadmap to achieve better visibility.

4. Google’s Guidance for Understanding Ranking Decline – In the dynamic landscape of search engine optimization (SEO), even the most authoritative websites can experience fluctuations in Google search rankings. This was the case for Wesley Copeland, owner of a gaming news website, who noticed a significant downturn in traffic and reached out to Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, for insights. On February 14, 2024, Sullivan responded with a practical blueprint for diagnosing and potentially reversing ranking declines, shedding light on the intricate dance of maintaining visibility in Google’s search results.

Sullivan’s advice centers on leveraging Google Search Console to dissect and understand the factors contributing to a site’s performance dip. He outlines a five-step process aimed at identifying where and why these declines might occur. This method starts with comparing the site’s metrics over recent months against a previous period, focusing on the Queries report sorted by click change. This analytical approach helps pinpoint significant decreases in clicks, providing a clearer picture of the site’s current standing in search rankings.

“If you’re still ranking in the top results, there’s probably nothing fundamental you have to correct,” Sullivan reassures, indicating that fluctuations can often be attributed to Google’s algorithmic changes rather than a decline in content quality or SEO efforts. He emphasizes that Google’s algorithms are designed to evolve, constantly refining how content is ranked and presented to users based on relevance and utility.

For business owners and SEO professionals, this conversation underscores the importance of regular performance reviews using tools like Google Search Console. It’s crucial to recognize that high search rankings are not static achievements but ongoing efforts that align with Google’s ever-changing criteria. Sullivan’s parting message offers both assurance and a dose of reality, suggesting that while fundamental issues may not be present, the variability in how content is displayed can impact site visibility over time.

The dialogue between Copeland and Sullivan se…