Episode 206 contains the Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Apr 1-5, 2024.

1. Recovering from Google’s March 2024 Core Update – In the aftermath of Google’s March 2024 core update, many website owners, particularly small businesses, have felt the impact of significant traffic fluctuations. Google’s John Mueller provided some clarity and advice on how to address these changes, especially for those who’ve experienced a downturn in website performance.

The March 2024 update, one of Google’s regular adjustments to its core algorithm, has been especially notable for its complexity and the breadth of its impact. Core updates are comprehensive, affecting various parts of the search algorithm, including how sites are ranked and indexed based on content quality, user experience, and many other factors.

One key piece of advice that emerged from Mueller’s discussion is not to rush into making changes while an update is still rolling out. This is because the full effects and intentions of the update might not be immediately clear, and premature adjustments could inadvertently harm your site’s performance further. Mueller emphasized, however, that if there are clear areas for improvement on your site, especially those unrelated to the core update’s specific focus, it’s always a good time to address them.

For businesses that have noticed a decline in rankings or traffic, Mueller’s guidance focuses on long-term website health and user satisfaction. He suggests that optimizing your website for users—rather than search engines—is a critical strategy for recovery and future resilience. This approach, often termed “User Experience SEO,” prioritizes how content and site design affect the user’s interaction and satisfaction.

A specific area highlighted for attention was the use of paid links or aggressive link-building strategies, which can negatively impact your site’s ranking. If your site has been engaged in these practices, addressing them can be a step towards recovery.

Mueller also advises diversifying your traffic sources to reduce dependency on search engine rankings. Focusing on building value for users can help attract direct visits and recommendations, aligning with Google’s ultimate goal of rewarding sites that best serve their audience’s needs.

In summary, the March 2024 core update underscores the importance of maintaining a high-quality, user-focused website. Small business owners looking to recover from or thrive despite these updates should focus on:

  • Patiently assessing the full impact of the update before making significant changes.
  • Continuously improving site quality and user experience.
  • Addressing specific known issues, such as paid links, that could harm your site’s reputation with Google.
  • Building a more robust online presence that isn’t solely reliant on search engine traffic.

2. Google’s Approach to Canonical Pages – Google’s Gary Illyes shed light on the intricate process of how Google selects canonical webpages. Essentially, publishers and SEOs traditionally view canonicalization as a method to earmark the ‘original’ or the most ‘authoritative’ version of a webpage for ranking purposes. However, Google’s approach to canonicalization diverges significantly, focusing instead on deduplication – a method to identify and consolidate duplicate pages.

Illyes clarifies that Google’s primary aim in identifying a canonical page is to choose a version that best represents a set of duplicate pages based on collected signals. This involves a meticulous process where Google first determines if a page is a duplicate and then selects the most suitable version for indexing. This selection is critical as, typically, only canonical pages are displayed in search results.

Google uses a variety of signals to make this decision, ranging from straightforward indicators like site owner annotations (e.g., rel=canonical tags) to more complex ones such as the page’s overall significance on the internet. The importance of this process cannot be understated, as it directly impacts how content is presented in search results, especially for pages with multiple variants (e.g., product pages with different sizes or colors). Illyes’s discussion also touches on the concept of duplicate clustering, where Google groups similar content together, and the notion of “centerpiece” content, which refers to the main content of a page that helps in the deduplication process.

3. The Role of Content Quality in Google’s Indexing Process – Google’s Gary Illyes revealed key insights into how Google’s indexing process evaluates the quality of webpages. llyes’s discussion, aimed at demystifying the indexing stage, highlights the significant role content quality plays in determining a webpage’s crawl frequency and its ranking in search results.

The indexing process involves a comprehensive analysis of a page’s textual content, including tags, attributes, images, and videos. During this stage, Google assesses various signals to gauge the page’s quality. A critical takeaway for small business owners is the concept of ‘index selection’. This step decides whether a page makes it into Google’s index, a decision heavily influenced by the page’s quality and the signals collected during the initial assessment.

Illyes emphasizes that even if a webpage is technically sound, it might not be indexed if it doesn’t meet Google’s quality threshold. This underscores the importance of creating high-quality content that is not only relevant and informative but also engages the target audience effectively. Google has expressed an intention to conserve crawling resources by focusing on pages that warrant crawling, further stressing the need for content to meet high-quality standards.

In addition to quality assessment, Illyes also delved into Google’s approach to duplicate content, explaining the process of ‘duplicate clustering’. This involves grouping similar pages and selecting a single canonical version to represent the content in search results. The selection is based on the quality signals associated with each duplicate page, highlighting the importance of ensuring each piece of content is optimized to stand out.

Ensuring your content meets Google’s quality standards can significantly enhance your website’s visibility in search results. Here are actionable steps to align your content with these standards:

  • Content Creation: Focus on developing content that thoroughly addresses your audience’s needs and pain points. Tailor your content to reflect current search trends and demands.
  • Content Structure: Make your content user-friendly. Structure it in an easily navigable format, and consider implementing schema markup to aid Google in understanding the context of your content.
  • Content Refresh: Regularly update and refresh your content to keep it relevant and valuable, thereby improving your chances of being indexed and increasing your crawl frequency.

4. Navigating Google’s INP – Google has launched a tutorial aimed at helping website owners identify and rectify issues related to Interaction to Next Paint (INP), which has recently taken over from First Input Delay (FID) as a Core Web Vital. This shift signifies a new approach in assessing user experience on websites, placing a renewed emphasis on the speed and responsiveness …