April’s latest and significant Google product review update is discussed along with the announcement that Google is building a new search engine codenamed Project Magi.The hosts discuss the recent changes to the search landscape… most notably that Bing is in the news more often. This full episode continues with more search engine news worthy of your time.
Noteworthy links from this episode:
- SMX Advanced
- Google releases April 2023 reviews update
- Google Building All New Search Engine
- Bing Chat To Be Able To Process Book Size Documents
- Google shows shipping and return information in the search results
- Google: Video must be main content to appear as thumbnail
- Bing on Private Domain Registration & SEO
- Google Removing Mobile Friendly Test
- Google FAQ Snippets Drop For Many Sites On April 5th
- Google webspam report: SpamBrain caught 5x more spam
- Google Business Profile Manager Search & Dashboard Bug Hiding Businesses
Ross: Hello, and welcome to SEO 101 on WMR.FM Episode number 448. This is Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing, and my co-host is my company’s Senior SEO, Scott Van Achte. We missed the last episode because you were lounging, Weren’t you?
Scott: You know, I didn’t want to go to Mexico. I didn’t. My wife made me, and I didn’t want to drink all that tequila and sit in the sun, and it was all against my will.
Ross: Yeah, you’re a die-hard worker.
Scott: But I escaped. I dug a tunnel and came back to Canada. I escaped. We’re good.
Ross: You got a little wet. These are a few sponsors. So awesome. Okay, well, let’s jump right into this. Because Holy smokes, we got lots to share today.
What are you going to start with?
Scott:Let’s start with a fast and easy SMX Advanced that is coming back in June; it is free. Please do it. But I will make one suggestion about SMX Advanced in previous years; I would book the days off work and do it, like, do the live online stuff and get it done in two days.
Last year, I said, I would be smarter about this. And I will do one or two sessions a day or a week or whatever and do it over time. That didn’t go so well. I saw one or two sessions because work, life, and all get in the way, and you procrastinate. And then, before long, it just doesn’t happen.
So my recommendation is if you’re anything like me, God help you. But also, book a day or two off and sit through the sessions in one long stretch, and you probably get the most out of it. But it’s always free. And it’s back. And I hope to be there.
Ross: Is it all online?
Scott: It’s all online like last year; everything will be available on demand afterward. Same as last year, if anyone attended and, you know, even if you’re not an SEO, if you’re trying to learn a little bit here and there, like check it out, see what their sections we’ll be and find ones that seem the most important to you.
I mean, I always learn something. It doesn’t matter how much you know, you’re going to learn something. So it’s, it’s worth it.
Ross: And I bet they’ll be looking for a drinking game. Wait for the comments and stuff where people are asking questions, and don’t just drink every time you hear someone says “It depends”.
Scott: You will only last for a while. You will last one session.
Ross: Especially if it’s on Google. Oh, well, it’s going to be interesting. That’s for sure.
Scott: I’m with you. I’ve only been to one, years ago, in person. And it was fun and not. I don’t know; there were a lot of good aspects to it.
Ross: We’re not the most socially driven people. So it was good enough. In terms of seeing some of my old colleagues and stuff, I do like that. I do like the rush I get when I get back. I usually have lots of good ideas. It’s nice to get a refresh.
Typically, those have fallen off the wagon quickly because I got sucked back into my daily grind. But I have learned a lot through those conferences.
Scott: It can spark ideas. Even if you don’t learn anything. It sparks ideas and ways of thinking, and you can look at things from a different perspective sometimes. So they help.
Google Releases April 2023 Reviews Update
Ross: I think so. All right. So now into the SEO news. Google has released an update to reviews see April 23, April 2023 reviews update. This is an interesting one. The article on the Search Roundtables was excellent. But the most interesting thing was that it went beyond product reviews and the ones that were reviewed weren’t necessarily just the classic review pages.
There were also people who were like one site that took a hit that was talking about some of the best places to travel to. So it wasn’t so much a product review as a review-esque website, and it took a hit. Google’s cracking down pretty hard. What else did you take out of that?
Scott: Before you know, it was your standard Amazon review site, so it didn’t affect, but it involved a lot of people. Still, you know, this certainly broadens out a lot like any of these new updates designed to evaluate reviews on articles, posts, pages, anything about products, services, things, brands, media, like TV shows, movies, businesses, you name it, if you’re reviewing or comparing to, of anything, you could be affected by this update.
So a lot of the same rules apply like with product review updates, make sure your content is very unique and very authoritative and you have supporting data and all kinds of stuff to make sure that your reviews and comparisons are top-notch, and you should be fine.
I was thinking about this, and it’s like, “Wow, this can even affect us. This is one of these first weird reviews that could affect us because I’m sure if we go back into our StepForth blogs, we have a post or several posts over the years, comparing different SEO Tools comparing Xenu’ Link Sleuth with screaming frog, probably he’ll like old content, which I don’t think it’ll affect us because it’s older, historical content. Still, it’s the types of things we write about sometimes.
Ross: And if those are holding up our rankings, we’re in real trouble.
Scott: Exactly. In similar types of art, we might want to write an article in the future comparing Ahrefs with Semrush or something; that could happen. And then, you know, we have to consider this. Whereas before, we might not have to.
Ross: We wouldn’t have to do that because we’d be doing it from a thought leadership present position. For example, one of the sites that got hit when I mentioned, talked about the best things to do in different places or lovely places to travel got hit hard, possibly, because the AI detection score on the site was 100%.
So it’s not to say those analysis engines are perfect, but it does sound awfully like that website was driven entirely by AI. And there needs to be thought leadership there. It’s not a person who’s gone to the place and reviewed them or done the necessary things; they probably inhaled that information from other websites and put it there.
I’m sure you can get away with it sometimes. But ultimately, you want to do it. And if we were to do reviews, we would do it right because we want to ensure we’re looking good and present our best face forward. But those websites tend to be automatically generated from scratch if AI ultimately drives them. Who knows?
Scott : You know, one thing about AI, and this is not in our notes, but it happened to me last night, I was on Reddit, and I don’t know if you use Reddit much, but it can be a vast rabbit hole that goes into oblivion.
I stumbled on an article or post or whatever and they had used a chat GPT detection tool and thought, well, let’s see what happens for fun. They put in the US Constitution and pasted that into the tool to detect it, and it was 99% AI, the tool. And I know they traveled through time into the future and chatted GPT that wrote the Constitution and then went back.
It got me thinking, and I never looked at it from this perspective before, but technical documents, like any legal speech, instruction manuals, and user manuals. I bet, though, I haven’t tried them. But I bet they’ll all come up as AI-generated.
So I’d like to know how these tools and Google will get around that because there’s a legitimate reason for handwritten human-created content to look AI-like.
Ross: You mentioned lawyers, this is a tangent, but it’s interesting how they’re a perfect use case for AI. Not nearly perfect. Specific incidents wouldn’t work, but they’re piloting a program somewhere where a person, a human, will be in the court, but they’ll have an ear button, and the AI will tell them what to say.
Scott: Well, yeah,
Ross: But this person acts as the lawyer, but the lawyer is the AI because, I mean, it’s the lawyer, so I can’t say this with any certainty. Still, a fair portion of being a lawyer is remembering all the different laws and rejecting your clients.
So that’s just content. When it comes down to the trickier stuff, that will not work, but it’s really interesting, and that’s another example of where AI will make a difference.
Hopefully, for the positive, they won’t be charging $300 an hour for that.
Scott: So what you’re saying is when I go to court for my murder conviction, I’m kidding. I’ll get an AI earbud, I won’t even need a lawyer, AI can defend myself.
Ross: Let’s make sure it’s charged. If you hit it, the battery will die for sure.
Ross: Well, pretty interesting stuff. That update has hit many people hard in the review realm. Glenn Gabe has been posting a lot about this, and people are seeing a massive plummeting in rankings.
Not an excellent marketplace to be in. It’s quite the shake-up. It’s been a long haul; I have had positive results. So imagine it’s so rife with people doing crap that much money’s being lost.
Scott: On the flip side to that, though, many people out there do a good job and are being very handsomely rewarded for this as well. So those people that put in the effort they’re laughing right now.
Ross: And it’s one of the things I love about how we do our work for SEO; we don’t like to do the tricks, the stuff that will get in Google’s way and doesn’t follow their guidelines.
As a result, when things like this hit, when our clients always succeed, they always end up on the positive side unless there’s some freak issue. But yeah, it’s safe to say they always succeed because they’ve been doing it right.
And I love that. It’s nice to see the playing field level out.
Google Building All New Search Engine
Ross: So here’s a big one. Google is building an all-new search engine – Project Magi. Leave it to them to make it all Final Fantasy-like anyway; it’s, of course, powered by none other than, AI.
It’s going to include brand-new features, it’s going to be more personalized, and it’s going to quote and anticipate users’ needs. We’ll see about that.
Bing is undoubtedly doing a lot of that right now, and we’ll talk about that next. There is no timeline for release, it’s in its early stages, and you can bet your bottom dollar that whatever is released will be released in careful stages.
Like you, I talked to Scott before this and discussed how this could change our industry, and we’ll talk more about that too.
But they will have to be careful; there are a lot of shareholders. A lot of shareholders out there are going to feel this if they don’t do it right.
I can’t even imagine how badly they could screw this up. What were some of the other parts of this project that will be included, Scott?
Scott: There were some new projects on the go. Will they be included as part of this? Are these other side projects that Google has on the go?
They’re working on Google Earth mapping technology changes, utilizing AI with that, and using AI to search for music through a conversation with a chatbot?
I will say a project called Jiffy, or Giffy if you will, GIFI. I know, that’s a long debate. How do you pronounce that?
But anyways, this project will use AI to generate images in Google image results; which kind of interesting, you do an image search? Are you just going to get AI-generated images randomly in the result live real-time? That could be good or bad. I still need to think about that. It could be interesting, for sure.
They have another project on the go called Tivoli Tutor. It would teach users a new language through open-ended AI text conversations, which is fantastic. I’d like to see how that goes and then they search along, which would also let users ask chatbot questions while surfing the web through Chrome.
Just all neat features that, you know, who knows, maybe these will be incorporated into the new search engine, perhaps it’ll be incorporated into the current search, or there’ll be standalone applications or plugins or extensions, who knows, but just some stuff Google’s working on.
Ross: It’s alarming reading about predictions from pretty intelligent people in our industry that have more time to think about this than I do.
They’re predicting that AI will completely change the landscape of SEO and more so than we ever thought.
Like, because it will be such a personalized search, we won’t see the classic listings, and it will be so personally driven that it will be very difficult to influence them.
So SEO it’s going to take a real hit. It will have to be re-engineered how we do SEO, and I’m okay with that. I love change to a degree.
But boy, we’re in the hot seat, man. This is going to be very interesting to see how this is going to play out.
I’m driving all of you guys in-house here to use new technologies to take us to the next level for some of our existing clients who are finding it more competitive ,but this is going to be again next level. It’s fascinating! And a little spooky at the same time.
Do you have any thoughts on where this might go?
Scott: You know, it’s hard to predict it, mainly because they still need a timeline, but we will see significant changes within the next couple of years. How fast they can roll something like this out; it’s a big deal.
I am curious because I couldn’t find any more precise definition if this project will be a standalone separate search engine or ultimately a replacement for what we see currently at Google?
You know, will they run side by side? Or is it going to be this all in at some point? I suspect they’ll run it on its own, maybe for a few years, and then it’ll just take over completely.
There may be some buffer where we can lean on the old while adapting to the new. I don’t know, it’s, it’s hard to say, but I love and hate it at the same time.
Ross: And because they have to follow so many more legal limitations and shareholder limitations, they’re going to be slower to innovate and struggle to innovate, even though they got all the minds there over the smaller startups.
It’s almost as certain as it can be that the search engine landscape will be much more competitive; there will be many more search engines that we’ll have to use for more specific tools.
One of them might be like an ancestry that’s focused entirely on history. Another one might be wholly focused on being a handyman, like all the stuff around your house. I mean, if they could concentrate these things on something more powerful than Google could do by itself,
Scott: All these different search verticals or something.
Ross: Exactly! Thanks.
Anyway, it’s cool and it’s going to be dramatic, the changes we’re going to see, and businesses that are all in on the search, will have to make sure they’re with a company that’s going to be on top of that, and I know we will; we have to be.
Either way, it’s been nerve-wracking, especially for those who have a lot of their income coming from search; many businesses have moved only to search and take and shut down their brick-and-mortar stores, especially during COVID, and they got to be a little worried about this, not that that will be immediate. It just got to keep on top of it. And we’ll do our best to keep you on top of it through the show.
It will run quickly, filling you in on everything twice a month, and watch places like Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Land, and keep an eye on what’s happening.
Bing Chat To Be Able To Process Book Size Documents
Ross: Now, this is cool! At the Search Engine Roundtable, I clicked on the Bing tab; Bing is more prevalent in the news, and maybe they got something happening. And lo and behold, there were a couple of things to add. Oh my god!
So, Bing Chat was able to process book-size documents, and this blew my mind! I will reread this before I say it, “If you open a paper in Microsoft Edge”, and this is noted by Ethan Mollick, who posted this on Twitter, “the Bing AI sidebar can read the PDF and you can ask it questions about the paper”
It reads quickly, book-size documents. That’s amazing! That is, we have yet to scratch the surface of how cool this will be for all of us; and annoying too. We only need Clippy in some places, but this is going to be cool! I can’t even imagine it from a pure research standpoint.
I use the example of ancestry. My wife’s more into it than me. I started off being the most Endo, but now she’s way off, and on another level, there’s a lot of documents we have to search for some reason, or we’re looking through old newspapers and going through all documents. If AI can read that better and find information for us faster. That’s going to be amazing! It’s a game-changer.
Scott: It’s going to be hugely time-saving for any research projects.
Ross: According to Mikhail Parakhin, there was some confusion before this, I should preface this that Ethan was unsure if it was just reading parts of the PDF or in just the first pages or the whole thing.
Well, Mikhail says “Currently it reads from the beginning up to (by now fairly large) context size. Soon we will be releasing the sliding-window-like processing that would allow operations (summarization, etc.) even on book-size documents. By the way, it doesn’t have to be a PDF – any document.”
Wow! That’s awesome and I love it! No, I’m not a big fan of Microsoft or Google. I’m a fan of what they can innovate, though. This is just amazing! This is the kind of thing they can launch now.
Google, you don’t see this in Chrome. They’re making leaps, fast, and leaving Google in the dust. It’s cool! I like seeing that.
Alright, what’s next?
Scott: I don’t know. I just clicked on the Yahoo tab, there’s not much there! Anyways, the headline is the most recent Yahoo headline from the beginning of February. So the survey says most think Yahoo won’t be able to compete in search. I could have told you that. Anyway, it’s okay.
Ross: Who knows, they’ll buy an AI startup and suddenly, they’ll be important again.
Scott: You never know, right? Maybe, they will be at the forefront again soon.
Google shows shipping and return information in the search results
Scott: Here’s a quick one; If you have a shopping website, Google is now displaying more information regarding shipping and return information in the search results. They did expand this a little bit and now they’ve expanded it further.
So this is as of April 17, shipping and return information in search results is starting to appear and it is in the US only, of course, right?
To be included in this, you must include shipping details and the property in your structured markup under Offers, and if you don’t have it, you will see it as a warning in Search Console starting on April 17.
That might start as a warning, but it doesn’t mean your products won’t be displayed anymore. It just means you won’t have that extra information appearing.
So, pretty straightforward stuff but something to be aware of. Add shipping details markup?
Ross: Well, it isn’t part of the sales process, they’re wise to include that. So, that’s great. I find it exceedingly frustrating and there’s a tool we use called Lucky Orange occasionally for looking at content on a site to see whether or not it’s the conversion elements and watching players play through the people’s mouse as they go over the page.
Anyway, one of the things is iit tracks our rage clicks and a rage click is when I’m going to find that shipping price. It’s like you have a calculator somewhere. I can put it in my post to find out if it’s worthwhile.
Scott: You may only want to go through some of the cart process, add all your information, billing information, and credit card information, and then find out what you must pay for shipping. Well, why don’t you like it that way?
Ross: I know, right? It is like 50% of the time, they ask you for all that contact info before you find out about shipping. I’m like, “No, I don’t want to do that”.
Scott: I get the zip or postal code shirt because I need to know where it’s going but that should be enough, right?
Ross: That should be enough. Honestly, they’re just trying to get the rest of it so they can send you spam.
Scott: When you click on the button every time, that says so and so wants to know your location. Do you allow or disallow?
Just clicking “allow” should be enough to have them give you accurate shipping information. Well, depending on if you want to ship to where you are, yes, though. Fair enough.
Ross: All right. Well, let’s take a quick break and when we come back, we will talk about Google and video.
Ross: Welcome back to SEO 101 on WMR.FM. Hosted by myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing, and my company’s Senior SEO, Scott Van Achte.
Google: Video must be main content to appear as thumbnail
Ross: This is another Google News; the video must be the main content that appears thumbnail summary and summarizes quite well, but this is from Search Engine Land.
The change here is that previously, Google would occasionally show a video thumbnail beside your search listing. If the video was simply on the page, which was nice. It was one of the benefits of having video on the pages when we talk to clients.
Now the videos will only appear in the search listing if it is deemed as the page’s main content; that’s a shame, but whatever, maybe that’ll change.
But what does the main content mean? The quote here, do you know where he got the quote from?
Scott: Search Engine Land? But let me try to trace precisely who said that.
Ross: Who said it anyway, “Search determines if a video is the primary content on a web page based on several factors, including the location of a video on the page.”
Scott: That was by a Google spokesperson. So, that’s why I didn’t include it.
Ross: They didn’t even deserve their own name. Poor guy or gal or whatever.
Scott: Yeah, I feel bad for them. Yeah. I love how it doesn’t answer the question, though. They skirt around. So what is the main content? How do you determine it? It’s a mystery.
Ross: Location, a video on a page. So they don’t tell us too much because we could find something important.
Scott: What if you’ve got a video near the top of the page at scale to the full size, and it contains the main content for that page? It’s probably the primary video or the main;
Ross: There’s no other content from the page.
Scott: Yeah. If you got lots of content? Well, I don’t know. Common sense is enough. 50/50. I am trying to understand what that means.
Ross: Okay, well, okay. I’m going to repeat it, more Bing News!
Bing on Private Domain Registration & SEO
Scott: I know! This is like the best day of your life.
Ross: I know. It is. Okay, this is a private domain registration in SEO. When you register a domain, oftentimes, now, you’re given, I don’t even know why they do it for free, but like Namecheap, where I go to provide you with free WHOIS privacy. It must be a benefit to that.
It could be because it’s easier or harder for people to reach out to you and take you away from them. Anyways, there must be a benefit, because now it’s free. A benefit to the companies, part of it was, should we turn on privacy? Or does that affect SEO? That was one question from Michael Adediran. Sorry, I’m probably messing that up, Michael. But he wants to know, should we make the WHOIS information for our domain public to gain trust from Bing bots?
Kudos to him, first of all, for asking about Bing bots. Bing replied in a generalized way; shocking, I know, “Whether or not you should utilize Whois largely depends on your situation. If you are in the process of starting a website from the ground up. Neglecting the small details could be detrimental to your success. Whois data helps us establishing trust and gaining knowledge”
Scott: So, what does that mean?
Ross: Well, go to the article; it’s a funny reply. There’s a very follow-it-up, and he says, “Are you saying private domain registration has some sort of impact on Bing search rankings?” Fabrice Canel Anyway, I’m sorry, I’m messing with butchering that. I’m sure it’s French, but it says, “More than the meta keywords 😉 and less than most of everything else. When dealing with many new domains on a daily basis, having dependable ownership information (individual or organization) with a positive track record can assist our machine learning in building trust”.
Alright, so if you will, that means yes. If you’re new or freshly out there, making your domain information public is a good thing.
Scott: It does make sense because if you are a scammer and have 1000 scam websites out there, you’re going to hide that information.
You’re not going to tie that to a name. So if you’ve got your real name public, it adds some trust for me; no, humans are looking at that stuff. But if they did, I would trust somebody that said their name rather than, you know, had it all hidden.
Ross: I guess. I’m shocked. Does Bing not have register status like what Google does? Can’t they see that information? Either way? I don’t know.
Scott: That’s a good point.
Ross: Who knows? All right. Oh, this is big news. All right. Take the next one.
Google Removing Mobile Friendly Test
Scott: That’s almost big! It is. Yeah, Google’s removing the mobile-friendly test tool. So what that means is your site doesn’t have to be mobile-friendly. Nobody cares.
No, it means it’s still critically important that your site be mobile-friendly. Still, Google wants to help you a little bit less in figuring out if it is or not, but you know, rather than a tool.
Well, they figured adding a section on their page experience or a section on page experience was better. So they’re helpful content guides and they’ve revised their page about page experience. That doesn’t help.
Ross: They’re probably doing that because they pushed it out there; they made this a big deal. And now, there are tons of tools and even GT metrics; all these guys have a built-in.
So there is little of a point in being there.
Scott: It’s fair enough. I don’t like them taking it away simply because I use it for website audits. And when I do a website audit, it’s just a quick, dirty, easy way to see if a page is mobile-friendly.
It’s likely accurate and now I have to do something different. I have to change, which is simple enough and takes no more time. It just has to change. I wouldn’t say I like change. It makes me angry and I wouldn’t say I like it when Google cancels things and they do it every time and every SEO 101. We rant about canceling something.
Google FAQ Snippets Drop For Many Sites On April 5th
Ross: OK let’s go through the last few here. They got a deadline here. Google FAQ snippets dropped for many sites on April 5; that does suck.
This report from Glenn Gabe via Twitter appears to have begun reducing FAQ snippets in search of the most notable reductions found in mobile.
This, for all we know, could be testing. They may have found FAQ snippets were being less used. But, interestingly, we’re seeing less of those right now. I will still be on board; everyone else should be as well. And in marking up their FAQ snippets with schema markup and giving Google every opportunity to identify and list them.
Google webspam report: SpamBrain caught 5x more spam
Ross: Keep it up and this I found funny, Google web spam, spam brain caught five times more spam in 2022 versus 2021 and 200 times more spam compared to 2018.
It’s funny because Google says 99% of visits to Google search for spam free. How do they know what that means?
Scott: Why did they serve it? If they knew it, they wouldn’t have served it.
Ross: Exactly. And have they been serving SPAM for a long time? Yes, they have.
Scott: They may serve spam on purpose as a test to 1% of visitors. I don’t know.
Ross: I need to find out where they get the stuff from, but there are a few other stats that we need help getting into. But, the point is, they’re getting more spam and we are seeing that I see it better. It depends on your search, though.
Sometimes they need help understanding what you’re searching for and then that gets weird. You get stupid results.
Google Business Profile Manager Search & Dashboard Bug Hiding Businesses
There’s a Google and then the local SEO realm; the Google Business Profile Manager search and dashboard bug that’s hiding businesses.
Now, the quick and the short of this is, if you’re using your Google Business Profile Manager to manage your locations and location URL, that’s the only reason you’d be using it. Don’t bother anymore. Just go to the business and search the business name in Google Search, and you’ll find them, and if you’ve got the rights to edit, that’ll appear.
You don’t need to use Google Business Profile Manager anymore.
The news here is that if you are, sometimes things are hidden, even though you have the right to use them and it’s just because it’s being deprecated. Clearly, Google business profiles are different because the manager is no longer getting any updates and troubleshooting. It’s just going by the wayside and you want to whip off this quickly.
Scott: Last one. The last one is simple. They did announce this, and oh, seven, that you should block your search result pages for internal searches.
So if someone’s on your website, they search, that result pages should be blocked by Google. If they are not stopped at the very least, John Mueller went on a Reddit rant, saying at least block those that don’t serve any results. Otherwise, it can be an infinite crawl of everything and the worst-case scenario, if you have to keep some indexed, limit those to a limited set of hand-selected URLs for a specific product type or something definite that acts more like a category page. But generally, the verdict stands to block your search result pages.
Ross: Awesome! I can only get it’s funny; this Google or John went on a rant. I’m surprised he’s always in our rants; the stuff he must have to deal with. I mean, dude, he has to be stressed out.
I’m dealing with many people, and from a Google perspective must be tough.
Anyway, on behalf of myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing, and my co-host is my company’s Senior SEO, Scott Van Achte, thank you for joining us today!
Do you have any questions you’d like to share with us, please feel free to post them on our Facebook Group that can easily be found by searching SEO 101 podcast on Facebook.
It’s been quiet there. We’d love to see your questions, and I will proudly air them on the show.
Have a great week, and remember to tune into future episodes twice a month on WMR.FM.
Scott: Thanks for listening, everybody!