Episode 205 contains the Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Mar 25-29, 2024.

1. Google’s Guidance On Helpful Content Update – Google’s Search Liaison recently addressed concerns about the Helpful Content Update (HCU), providing clear guidance for content creators facing ranking changes. Announced on March 25, 2024, this advice aims to dispel misconceptions and offer recovery strategies. Unlike earlier perceptions of the HCU affecting entire domains, Google now evaluates content on a page-by-page basis, focusing on the helpfulness of each page independently. This means that having some unhelpful content doesn’t penalize an entire site, allowing helpful pages to be recognized individually.

The clarification that the HCU is not a single signal but part of Google’s complex ranking system highlights the need for creators to focus on producing genuinely helpful content. The emphasis is on the quality and relevance of content, rather than on trying to manipulate rankings through a single algorithmic factor.

For those noticing ranking drops, Google suggests a thoughtful review of the content in question, urging creators to focus on its relevance and usefulness to users. Such decreases in visibility might indicate Google’s preference for more pertinent content options, not necessarily a penalty against the site.

Google has also introduced a new FAQ page to help publishers understand how to align their content with HCU principles, especially for content that has lost traffic following the update. By adhering to these guidelines and prioritizing user experience, website owners and SEO experts can better navigate the post-HCU search landscape.

2. Rethinking BackLink Importance in SEO – John Mueller of Google indicated in a Reddit discussion that solely focusing on increasing backlink counts might not be the most effective strategy for marketers anymore. This change is part of Google’s consistent effort over the past six months to update its stance on the role of links in SEO, suggesting a more comprehensive change in the valuation of links.

The discussion was initiated by questions regarding the variation in backlink counts reported by different SEO tools, like Ahrefs and Google Search Console. Mueller pointed out that due to the varied methodologies of web crawling and indexing across these tools, discrepancies in link counts are natural. He stressed that concentrating on the sheer number of backlinks might divert marketers from improving their website’s quality or relevance.

Mueller further encouraged marketers to focus on other website aspects that could more significantly affect SEO success. He mentioned that search engines are now using more advanced methods, like sitemaps, for content discovery and evaluation, reducing dependency on backlinks for website ranking.

This conversation is in line with recent adjustments in Google’s guidelines and statements from Google representatives such as Gary Illyes, indicating a reduced emphasis on backlinks as a ranking factor. The removal of the term “important” from Google’s description of links as a ranking signal confirms this trend.

For business owners and digital marketers, this shift highlights the need for a more holistic SEO approach that extends beyond backlink building. Concentrating on content quality, user experience, and technical SEO elements, while keeping abreast of Google’s algorithm updates, is crucial for maintaining a competitive edge in the digital arena.

3. Core Web Vitals: A Ranking Factor That Requires Balanced Attention – On March 29, 2024, in episode 71 of Google’s “Search Off The Record” podcast shed light on the complex role of Core Web Vitals (CWV) in SEO, making it clear that excelling in CWV scores alone does not ensure higher search visibility. This episode, featuring insights from Google engineers including Rick Viscomi, a web performance lead, and Lizzi Sassman, a senior technical writer, emphasized the importance of focusing on real-world user experiences over merely achieving high CWV scores.

The conversation revealed a common misunderstanding among developers and marketers who prioritize CWV scores without considering actual user satisfaction. An eye-opening example shared was Google’s own page experience documentation, which scored only 45 out of 100, illustrating that achieving top CWV scores is not crucial for success.

John Mueller, explained that while CWV metrics do influence Google’s ranking algorithms, slight improvements in these metrics may not significantly impact search rankings. He advised against focusing too much on CWV at the expense of other SEO priorities, as CWV is only one aspect of a comprehensive ranking system.

The podcast also advocated for a holistic approach to web performance, suggesting improvements in CWV should be part of a broader strategy to enhance the overall user experience. This includes focusing on content quality and website design, aiming for a balanced effort that enhances user satisfaction and engagement.

This discussion serves as a reminder that Core Web Vitals, while important, should not detract from other essential aspects of SEO like content relevance and user engagement. A well-rounded approach that prioritizes a superior user experience overall is crucial for long-term success in search engine rankings.

4. Quality Over Quantity: Google’s Stance on Content and Indexing – Again from episode 71 of the “Search Off The Record” podcast episode with Google’s Gary Illyes, Lizzi Sassman, and guest Dave Smart, a key SEO principle was highlighted: the significant impact of content quality on Google’s crawling and indexing frequency. The discussion emphasized a shift towards prioritizing content quality over quantity, a stance Google has consistently maintained. This approach contradicts the belief that merely increasing content production will lead to better rankings or more rapid indexing.

John Mueller from Google further clarified this point on LinkedIn, addressing a misconception among website owners that boosting content volume could signal a site’s quality to Google, thus improving crawl rates. Mueller likened this to the futile effort of making children prefer kale over ice cream by increasing kale consumption, humorously illustrating that quality cannot be replaced with quantity.

Google and Bing’s spokespeople have consistently stated that the frequency of content publication is not a ranking signal. This clarifies that producing more content does not automatically enhance a site’s search visibility or ranking. Bing’s Fabrice Canel supported this by advising a “less is more” strategy, suggesting that focusing on creating high-quality content is a more efficient use of crawl budgets and can result in higher quality traffic from search engines. Moreover, publishing repetitive content could negatively impact a site’s crawl allocation, underlining the need for original and valuable content.

For business owners in the digital marketing field, this underscores a critical message: investing in content quality, rather than quantity, is more likely to improve SEO performance. As user experience and content value become increasingly important, tailoring digital strategies to meet these expectations is key for sustained success in search engine rankings.

5. Google’s Plea to SEOs: Focus on Your Visitors, Not Just on Rankings – On March 2…