Google says they will automatically set up Google Analytics 4 for anyone who hasn’t done so, but it comes with serious caveats you must be aware of. Also, AI chat is all over the news right now; for a good reason, it is changing how we work! Ross and Scott discuss the latest information on AI for SEO and the teased releases of AI for search from Bing and Google.

Noteworthy links from this episode: 


Ross: Hello, and welcome to SEO 101 on WMR.FM Episode number 445. This is Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing, and my co-host is my company’s Senior SEO, Scott Van Achte. Are you having a good day?

Scott: I am. I’m having a great February day. Whatever that means.

Ross: Me too. So, I just took the dog for a late walk, which was grand. It’s beautiful out.

So, this is the year of AI. If you’re unaware of all the stuff happening in AI for SEO and AI in the whole world, you’re under a rock. You can just get out from under it. It’s pretty crazy. What’s going on? 

And with that in mind, holy smokes, we have lots to share, but let’s start with some non-SEO. Well, it is Google News, and it is essential to SEO.

Why don’t you kick it off?

Google is Automatically Creating GA4 Properties

Scott: Yeah, we’ve been talking a lot about Google Analytics 4 and how much everybody, I shouldn’t say everybody, how much I wouldn’t say I like it. Not that I hate it, but I hate that they force us to change and say goodbye to the old Universal Analytics.

Anyways, suppose you are one of those people who has been procrastinating setting up Google Analytics 4. In that case, Google has decided to do this automatically unless you opt-out. 

So, if you have Universal Analytics, you don’t know how to upgrade, you don’t want to learn, you don’t care, whatever, at least someday when you do care, and you come back to it, and you see that UA is gone, your GA4 data will be auto-created and be there for you. 

Many people have already set it up, and some might not care, but at least it’s there. I don’t know. It’s nice. I feel like they’re doing this because there are going to be people that don’t even know about it, and then in a year from now, because they don’t check their analytics data very often, they’re going to log into their account and be like, “Where’s all my data?” Well, now they’ll have data.

Ross: Well, will they, though? Do they still have to add the code?

Scott: No, because Google reuses the same code, they’ll reuse the same tag, and you can do that now when you set up GA 4 and attribute the existing code because the only thing that changes in the code is the ID number to the account.

Ross: Oh, I’m happy they did more implementations, and I thought it was a completely different code.

Scott: For some people, you could go into setup GA 4 and say, “Just do this automatically,” click a button, and I can’t remember the words they use, but essentially, you’re reusing the same code to do it. 

So, suppose you want to do advanced features and things that change it a bit, but at least I’ll have the basics because I know, guaranteed in a year and a half from now, two years. In that case, we’ll get a new client, and they’re going to be, “Oh, yeah, I have Google Analytics, here’s my login info, or-I just granted you admin or whatever, we’ll go in, and it’ll be empty or would have been empty,” but now it won’t be. 

Ross: But you must remember, it depends on how much they will care about this implementation. Hopefully, they will care, but there are settings in there that will allow you to keep the data longer, your active data, and I bet you, they won’t put this in there by default. 

You can have it specify many, many, many months versus, what is the default two months? Why can you no longer access the raw data in two months? It’ll be only what they’ve kept after the fact. 

Still, way better than nothing, but that’s a pretty important feature, and it’s a simple change in the settings for anyone who knows where to look. So, I would not trust Google to look out for you.

Scott: Yeah, if you’re listening to this, you know well enough that you should set this up for yourself. The real advantage here does come to the small, small businesses that don’t pay attention to this, and they knew at one point enough to set up Analytics, and that’s as far as they got. 

So, there’ll be benefits for the small guys. But, on the other hand, if you’re a big business or value your stats, do it yourself.

Ross: Yeah. It says here if you don’t do it yourself, Google, it says, may create a GA 4 property for you with basic settings, which may not meet your specific needs.

Scott: Exactly. “May,” I won’t cover them if they forget you. 

Ross: That’s not a quote from Google. It looks like it’s from whoever wrote this article at Search Engine Land, but maybe they’re just covering their butt with the “may,” which I can’t blame them.

Scott: I would do it if I say they will, and then a year from now, Bob comes over to me like, “They didn’t do it! You told me”. I didn’t say anything. Yeah, yeah, I get it.

Ross: Yeah. I’ve been looking into a lot of education, an education craze right now, because there’s so much happening, and I’m learning a lot about AI. I’m learning a lot about GA 4, and I do see the advantages of GA 4. I wouldn’t say I like being forced into anything that’s I’ve never liked being forced into anything, but in this case, it’s just a bit insulting for them to do this. I’m glad they finally made this notation that they have this connection. You can still get the data, a type of data accumulating. The question is… When?

Scott: I think they said in March. The article noted that in March, Google would start creating these accounts independently.

Ross: Okay, how long will it take? Because you remember, when yours is finally implemented, the data start accumulating. You have nothing behind that. Nothing from there on is square one. So, the sooner you implement it, the sooner you will have data you can use for historical reference. Big stuff is, and it must be undersold. 

Anyways, it is relatively easy to run GA 4 but more complicated. One thing is that much of the event tracking is automated now. It doesn’t require you to add code to specific events. It’s just automatically tracked as an event. Of course, it’s up to you to classify it as a goal or anything like that, but that is pretty sweet because one of the frustrations in our business is when we’re setting up goal tracking and all this stuff for websites, we have to have our developer Denis go in and make all the changes, and this and that to different links. Well, this is automated now. 

So, it has lots of advantages. We will ultimately be happy with it, but it will be a rough ride.

Scott: If we fast forward a year from now, we’ll be like, okay, it was worth it. Hopefully, we will feel that way a year from now, but we probably will.

Ross: It won’t be worth it when we have to deal with people’s websites with no back. Historical data we can market with, that’s going to be, it’d be longer than a year that we’re cursing its name.

Scott: In 10 years from now.

Google Lay-offs

Ross: In other news, Google has laid off 12,000 staff. What is that in terms of its portion? Did it have it in the article? 

Scott: They did say,t 6%, not even 10%, 6%, and employees just showed up, and they had been locked out of everything. Could you imagine? I’m going to be mad if you do that to me. One day, I came to log onto my computer and got a message saying, “You’re fired.” Like, what? Whatever, because you made billions in profit, but not enough billions.

Ross: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it’s that’s just it. I think. I saw a joke somewhere where someone had searched or used ChatGPT. Maybe, it was even Bard? It was very ironic. But they said, “Why did Google need to lay off these people?” And it said, “Well, actually, Google is very profitable and even turned a profit, you know, maybe they’re being cautious.” I need to remember what it was. But it was like… SOBs. 

Scott: Yeah, well, if I read the charts right, their profit in the fourth quarter was something like $15 billion of profit at the end of the day. So yeah, “Let’s lay off a bunch of people” I don’t get it. I wouldn’t like it. These are humans. So what? That’s another show and rant, but it irks me. It just makes me so mad. Oh, you know, if you’re losing money, sure, you do what you must do to survive, but just making certain shareholders are happy is all it is. That’s all they live for.

Ross: That’s why I cringe when anyone goes public. Anyone that runs a business I like goes public. It’s pretty much the death toll. 

Microsoft is Investing Billions Into Open AI and Chat GPT

Ross: Alright, so SEO news, Microsoft is investing billions into openAI and ChatGPT. So, they bought a stake in it. It’s exciting, I’m curious if this article was the one I read the other day, but it’s fascinating how self-serving and brilliant the purchase or release was. Did they buy it? They invested, and it is supported. 

Anyways. The deal was more like credits. You get credits to use Azure Cloud to do all of this. Our AI number crunching is enormous because there was considerable money. They said it was like two cents for every AI query done. That would add up fast, very fast. It takes a lot of power. It’s certainly not environmentally friendly, all this AI stuff. 

Microsoft invested in it by just giving them credits in Azure, their cloud computing system, which means that chat GPT is using Azure, and then when they need extra, they have to pay Microsoft for it. It’s brilliant. Anyway, it’s a perfect partnership, and Microsoft, we were talking about this. Scott and I are tentatively excited that Google could lose some market share. It would be so wonderful if Bing took off more, and we’d have, you know, maybe they are in the 20% at least realm of traffic. That’d be fantastic! I hate just having Google.

Scott: Yeah, all our eggs are in one basket and have been for, I hate the cliche, sorry, and have been for, 15 years. I remember the last time a competitor had a sizable chunk of that market share. So it’s been more than a decade, for sure.

Ross: 20 years, almost. 

Scott: Yeah, when I started, that was 20 years ago, we cared about Lycos and AltaVista, and all the web, ask Jeeves, and Google had a sizable share even then, but I feel like it was 50%, maybe, maybe like 50% small, but I feel like it was perhaps in that realm, you know, like 40% to 60% range. So, other stuff mattered.

Ross: 15 years or so? Yeah. It’s odd because this is my 26th year, and Google was technically born the year after I started or the year I started in ’97. So, I didn’t hear anything about them, and when I did, I laughed at the name until probably 1999. I don’t know. 

It took a while to take hold and push everyone out. Sadly, they did. So, we’re hoping, hoping, hoping, and with that note, we did check out the new Bing. They’ve got a few teasers of how their chat system will be built and how it will look. 

There’s some imagery of it. It’s fascinating to see. It is better, based on the reviews we’ve seen. One by Barry, who got to be there for one of the reveals. He said that the examples online were okay. The in-person reveal had far better examples and wowed everyone. 

So, but, and far, it’s far better than Bard, which is Google’s recent release of the particular least temporary tease, and Microsoft said it’s because they’ve been working on it for a long time. So, this is exciting. Finally, they have a leg up. Woohoo! Not that I love Microsoft doesn’t get me going on there, but I do love competition.

Scott: I could be persuaded to love them again. You know, we’ve been stuck with Google for so long. It’s time to mix it up a little, midlife crisis, and search here.

Ross: True. True. True. True. So now we jump more into AI. I’m sorry, everyone, if you’re bored of hearing about this, but it’s so powerful and being worked into the SEO as we speak. Has been for a while. StepForth owns at least 12 lifetime memberships to different AI systems because I was checking it up. So this is interesting, and it’s gotten so much better. It’s fascinating stuff. 

Google has Reiterated Its Guidance on AI-generated Content.

Ross: Anyway, Google has reiterated its guidance on AI-generated content. Write content for people. What a concept. Yeah. So, why don’t you tell us more about that?

Scott: Well, I don’t know as much about it as I really should, but yeah, generally, it was Danny Sullivan who said that their focus would be on the quality of content rather than how content is produced. So, we’ve been talking about that a lot. You know, like, that’s what it should be. Who cares? How the content came to be as long as it serves the purpose of the people? That sounds like an official speech there. 

So, it looked like Google is going to ban AI content, and we thought they might, and you have to put disclaimers on your site and maybe some meta tag that says content is AI-generated.

Ross: is Cloud settled yet? We’ll see.

Scott: Yeah, there’s a long way to go, but yeah, so Google’s got their rules, and they’re starting to give them a more practical take on how things should be.

Ross: Yeah. And AI will be an essential part of marketing. It’s just going to be, well, if you want to be careful, and I do advise that at StepForth, and that encompasses us, we will always be very cautious, especially about client work, we don’t do anything risky, because we want to be sleeping at night, we want to know that our clients are going to improve, no matter what storms may come. 

So, avoid getting too excited about AI and jump in, but test things. For example, if you need the beginning of your article, it suggests the starting of an article, and then it’ll give you some ideas that make you go, perfect!” It breaks that writing crunch when you’re trying to work.  

Now, that’s one straightforward way of doing it. Looking up stats and where sources are for specific stats might help. ChatGPT is entirely based on data from 2021 and earlier. So, it needs to be updated, be very careful about what you create with something like that.

Scott: Well, like what Google says, you should use AI to help you write better content, not to write content, and that’s important too. Using something other than an AI, generate hundreds of pages of content for your site and dump it up, then see what happens without editing or anything. 

Yeah, edit it, read through it, and change it. But it’s good for a starter template to get you going and save some time and help, like you said, get good sources of data and all that kind of stuff.

Ross: Well, and keep in mind, too, and a common pitfall is, and this is happening to students who are using it to write term papers, even if they get away with that, they aren’t getting away with the fact that a lot of the data might be wrong, or a lot of information is incorrect, This is not a studying system, you know, these AI models are just providing you what content they found, they’re not verifying it. 

Some postulations and everything people post or print for the school must be corrected. So, from the same standpoint, as a business, do you dare write with an AI about something you don’t know about? And you can’t read and go, Oh, this is wrong? 

Scott: A few weeks ago, we talked a bit and tried generating an article using Jasper. To create an essay, the only one we pay for? Yeah, exactly, generate an article about Google’s latest Algorithmic update, and it had a great little piece, well, you know, I think we’d be at the first 100 words or something, and it was good, about an update from two years ago. 

So, it was a further update. If you’re trying to use this for any real purpose, people will catch that, and it will backfire in a big way, or your site will look super dated.

Ross: Yeah, and it’s only working with what’s out there. To be cutting-edge, you need to be a thought leader. It does not help. It’s a good studying resource, like we’re saying, finding ways or finding sources of data, that kind of thing. Maybe quotations, that kind of stuff. 

Ross: Anyway, what I did like, though, I am trying to remember which one. I’ve read a few articles that talked about this, but I liked that they said that even if it was written entirely in AI, ensure you’ve added your data. 

First of all, you’ve edited it. Second, you’ve tried to add your voice to it. So, first of all, that will almost certainly remove the ability to be tracked as fake or AI-driven if you’ve edited it enough. Again, not saying you’re trying to bypass filters, but if you genuinely add your voice to it and your colloquialisms, that kind of stuff, it becomes yours, in effect. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it adds value, so keep that in mind. 

What Google’s AI Features will look like in Search

Ross: There’s also a published picture of what Google’s AI features will look like in Search. It’ll be in our show notes Newsletter, which I’m sorry we’re a bit behind. Unfortunately, I don’t have my assistant anymore. She moved on to another job, which is sad. She was a great help. We miss you, Carlyn. 

Anyway, it is coming soon, and there will be a link to the provided image of what it’ll look like if it still needs to be launched by then, and we’ll see how this turns out. I like it, but it could be good. 

Using GPT-3 to Write Search Console Regex Commands

Ross: Finally, Lily Ray, one of the more prominent people in the industry these days, she’s been tapped quite regularly by the press to talk about AI and stuff. And anyway, she says one of the things that she’s been using ChatGPT for, and it’s been a game changer, is having it write Regex commands for Google Search Console. 

That means it is a type of code you can use to command Google Search Console to give you information that it doesn’t already provide or in a different format you may want. Very cool! That would be fun to play with because I can’t write Regex at this stage, which I should get around to learning. But, unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance, and if it can do it for me and provide me with what I’m looking for, that will be unique, and that’s a great example of AI making life easier.

Scott: You know, it would be cool. I’m sure I can do it. Now, I should look into it. Every day, I use Excel a lot. Sometimes they have to do bizarre things in Excel, like finding weird data and doing complicated “if” and “else” type statements, and I don’t do it often. But, still, sometimes it comes up where I’ve got this big dump of data, and I need to play around, and there’s no out-of-the-box solution. So then, you know, you’re screwing around with code, and you eventually get it. But, still, do it verbally to Excel, and now that Bing is, you know, and Microsoft is onboard with all this, there was talk with open AI and all that Bing integrated into the word at some point too. 

We’re going backward here, but it will be like that. I’ll be able to go into Excel, click on a cell, and say, “Make this equal to all the cells that are this, but not that but this,” but you know, in some stupid, complicated search query in Excel.

Ross: One of my favorite jokes around right now. Hey, you never know. It could happen. It indeed could happen in this weird world, and I’m dating myself, but here but remember Clippy?

Scott: Yes, I remember Clippy.

Ross: Clippy was a little. I couldn’t call it AI. But it was a little help person clip, a paper clip that would appear in early versions of Microsoft Office, and it was universally hated. Well, some jokes will come back, but true AI will drive it, but a word of what I had embraced would be awesome.

Scott: The worst part about Clippy was as you go to settings and turn off Clippy, then Clippy will return. He was relentless. You could not kill that. It was a zombie, man. Zombie AI.

Ross: Yeah, but it would be great if you could say, “Hey, Clippy, I want to filter it this way” It’s, you know, if it’s not happening now. It’s coming.

Scott: I think it will, 100%.

Ross: Yeah, All right, so let’s jump into something non-AI. I know. It’s amazing. What’s going on with podcasts?

Scott: Sorry, I had to mute for a second there to cough. Nobody wants to hear me cough. Yeah. 

Google Search Podcast Carousel is Going Away on February 13

Scott: So, the podcast carousel that appears in search results is going to be gone in the middle of February. So, if you’ve been searching for podcasts a lot in Search, and you rely on that carousel to help you find stuff, Google’s taking it away, and likewise, if you have a podcast, I don’t know if I know anybody with a podcast. Are there any out there? Oh, us. You will probably see fewer podcasts and less organic traffic from Search to your podcast if you appeared well in that carousel in the first place. 

So, if you see reduced organic traffic to your podcasts, don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. You didn’t break anything. Google doesn’t want to share it anymore, and it’s nothing personal.

Ross: So that’s a failed attempt, I don’t know. I never used it. But no, I never really used it. The results never blew me away. 

Scott: Yeah, I don’t generally search for podcasts, and when I do listen to podcasts, I know what podcast I want. I don’t look for new ones. It isn’t a big deal, but it might be for some people.

Ross: But if people were doing that, they wouldn’t do it from their actual podcasting app. Yeah, Spotify or Apple, or Google Podcasts, but it’s not a regular search. 

Now if they had incorporated better or better do a better job of incorporating Shownotes and stuff, then you could search it, and then that would appear as the podcast and the episode. So that could be out there. I didn’t notice it. That would be cool!

We never know. We talk about many different things that we don’t put in our description, but it would be valid information for people to jump into, and then you could jump right into that podcast at that segment and listen. 

I’d be okay with that. That’d be great, it bypasses some advertising, but the purpose of this broadcast is different. It’s about creating goodwill and providing great info. 

Let’s take a quick break, and we’ll come back. We will talk about a new indexing report update on Google Search Console.

Ross: Welcome back to SEO 101 on WMR.FM, hosted by myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing, and my company Sr SEO, Scott Van Achte. So you are most enmeshed in Google Search Console. So what’s all this about?

Google Search Console Video Indexing

Scott: It’s just a minor update that many people will like.

So, a while back, Google added the ability to see video indexing. So, you can see which videos were indexed and which weren’t and get a hint for why videos weren’t indexed if they weren’t. And Google has added a new overlay to that, allowing you to see video impressions in Search. 

So, now you get the little chart that shows how many pages you’ve got, and a little blue, fancy squiggly blue line that shows you how your impressions are coming along, just to when you go to the report in Search constantly, you check a little checkbox that says View Impressions. 

Nothing overly fancy, but indeed excellent for trending your video impressions over time. And I love anything like this that they can add to show progress. Yeah, that’s cool, and the best part is it works in Canada. No, I couldn’t believe it! I saw it. Let’s check this out, and it worked, like what blew me away. It was awesome!

Ross: People are excited when anything happens with Canadians quickly. We were always at the end of the release schedule.

Scott: And not only Google search, like Netflix releases and stuff, like come on, but you also got the brand new season, whatever. I want it in Canada. Come on. So, yeah, it’s the same.

Google Maps Remove Policy-abiding Reviews from Local Guides

Ross: But all right. So Google Maps is once again screwing local businesses by removing policy-abiding reviews. 

So there’s nothing wrong with these reviews, but they’re being plopped just out there being removed, and it’s frustrating and held on by many businesses. 

It’s interesting, I talked with a friend, and he’s a colleague in SEO. So he’s deeply entangled in a large, large business with hundreds of locations and probably generated over 600 reviews in different locations. 

He was six times the average competitor, Google removed half of them for no particular reason, and he had to go to them and say, “Look, guys, there was nothing wrong with these. We have a big business, and we get a lot of clients, and they’re reviewing us legitimately.”

They ultimately got it back, but it just goes to show that it’s a strange world out there in terms of Google’s impression of reviews and how they manage them, and they are so vital to people who are shopping. 

You need to know what these businesses are about if you have 600 and the other guys are at 100. That’s a significant improvement. It’s huge. Anyway, they’re working to reinstate them over the next few weeks. 

Scott, you provided a great link here. In our show notes, we will include how to submit a request to have them reinstated if they don’t get reinstated, and you found that in the Search Engine Land article, right?

Scott: Yeah, it was in the SEO land—Search Engine Land article and the Shownotes.

Ross: So, what’s next year?

Google Business Profiles Removing Emojis & Special Characters

Scott: Yeah, so this is, I’ve never seen this happen before, but Google business profiles are removing emojis and special characters from business names. 

And I’m curious if I’ve ever seen an emoji in a business name in a Google business profile, and I’m wondering if I have. But, still, they’re also removing special characters like trademarks and things like that. So, those, I don’t think I’ve seen those, but if you’ve got those in your name, you know, the R in there, Google might remove it, and that might be not good if you have to have it in your name. 

Some special characters should be permitted, but I don’t see any reason to have an emoji.

Ross: No, that’s probably a wise idea. Many gray-area businesses will throw locksmiths out there because they were infamous initially. For doing creepy things with it and generally beating each other up. I use those because I can see how it would stand out in a search result, and it looks cheesy to me, but then again, it could look innovative and exciting to others. 

So who knows? It could make a difference. Either way, it’s on the way out. I’d like to know how quickly nothing happens with Google business profiles. Unless, well, no, Google just cut a lot of staff. So, I don’t expect things to ramp up faster for it.

Scott: While they are editing a whole bunch of people’s business names because of emoji removals, they will probably change a bunch accidentally that don’t have emojis. They’ll break a bunch as well, and we’ll talk about it in the next SEO 101 or the one after that about the 1000s of business names that have been broken for no reason. It always goes that way.

Ross: Well, if you have any information you want to share on the show, you’ve seen some extraordinary use cases for AI. Well, we always invite questions. Please do go to our Facebook Group, SEO 101, on WMR.FM. You can search, find it quickly, and post it there. We’d love to have it, use cases of AI and SEO because I’m fascinated by it, and all of us should be because it will be a big deal. 

Well, on behalf of myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing, and my company’s Senior SEO, Scott Van Achte, thank you for joining us today. Have a great week, and remember to tune into future episodes twice a month on WMR.FM.

Scott: Great. Thank you for listening, everybody!