Search

Updated: Oct 12



As we speak, Google is rolling out updates, which they have announced in their usual downplayed way.


The September 2022 Core Update was described as a series of changes with the broad objective of cracking down on SEO-first content created to rank well, instead of responding to human user needs.


No real surprises there, as the important thing to keep in mind is that Google is constantly updating their algorithm; in fact, thousands of algorithm updates launch every year. Some updates aren’t that significant SEO-wise, but they can affect your site’s visibility, and that’s no different for 2022 updates.


Overall, Google’s aim is to provide quality and relevant content to their users, and that determines how websites are ranked.


A broad core update is actually a change to the ‘core’ search ranking algorithms and systems. But the algorithm is, in fact, a collection of algorithms that interpret the signals from a webpage, such as keywords and links, to rank the content that answers a search query.


So, while Google notoriously reveals as little as possible about its magic formula, it could be that it’s tweaking one, two, or all of its algorithms, and we can assume - mostly - it will affect all types of content, in all regions, in all languages, the intent is not to penalise but promote great web pages.


2022 Core Update rollouts commenced in May, with Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public for Search, announcing on the 25th:


"Several times per year, we make substantial improvements to our overall ranking processes, which we refer to as core updates. Core updates are designed to increase the overall relevancy of our search results and make them more helpful and useful for everyone. Today, we're releasing our May 2022 core update. It will take about 1-2 weeks to fully roll out."


Now that we are in September, what does it all mean?


Since the initial Core Update for 2022 in May, there have been several key updates to the algorithms that targeted various aspects of search, it’s best to backtrack and review.


May 2022


The broad core update in May, announced via Twitter, was the first core algorithm update in six months. However, in true Google form, they gave nothing away pre-launch, with part of the announcement on the blog stating enigmatically:


“... Some sites may note drops or gains during them. We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix, and we want to ensure they don't try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.”


Post rollout, Search Engine Roundtable reported there was a ton of volatility in rankings in the first 24 hours, and the writer went so far to say it was “one of the bigger core updates or Google algorithm updates we've seen in some time - at least in terms of the SEO impact.”


His data-centric report on Search Engine Land demonstrated the volatility rankings across various industry sectors, as well as a comparison to the November 2021 core update post-rollout results.


July 2022


The Product Review Update commenced on July 27 and was completed on August 2nd. It was a significant change for e-commerce sites. (It should be noted that there was a prior product review algorithm update in March this year also.)


The July update reportedly enables Google to identify high-quality reviews that come from people with demonstrated expertise and first-hand research about products. Criteria such as benefits and pitfalls, performance, product update differences, competitor comparisons and supporting information such as images, audio and video were prioritised in review search. Google also released documentation on best practice for writing high-quality product reviews.


August 2022


Google's Helpful Content Update began on August 25th and it took aim at websites that have high amounts of unhelpful or unsatisfactory content, that was written primarily for search engines, not humans.


It’s all about the user or customer experience and was in response to users' frustration of landing on ‘SEO content’ - or pages that are overly optimised to influence search engines specifically - over pages that actually tell them what they need to know or helpful content. It’s meant to devalue content that is overly optimised to influence search engines.


It’s putting people first, explained as “an ongoing effort to reduce low-quality content and make it easier to find content that feels authentic and useful in search.”


September 2022


At the time of writing this, the September 2022 Core Update that commenced on September 12th was still rolling out, plus Google released another September 2022 Product Review Update, which was late, originally scheduled for August.


While the judges are still out on the impact of the September core update, there is a lot of chatter about ranking fluctuations and where everything will land. The chatter is mainly in relation to which update is actually going to have the most impact.


Most experts don’t assume that it will be the core update as thus far it appears to be not causing as much moving and shaking as the May update, which took mere days to show extreme volatility to rankings.


However, there’s a lot of conjecture about the most recent product review update that’s happening and the recent helpful content update and its effect working in unison with these September update rollouts. Current SERP volatility can be checked live at Semrush.


In relation to the question of whether the current core update will enhance the helpful content update to greater effect, Danny Sullivan (again) tweeted:


Ah, the enduring riddles.


Action Plan


Remember, the core updates are designed to mix up the SERP rankings. Sites that the search giant finds offer greater value to the user query will benefit from the update.


If your site is dropping in ranking, address the content on those pages that are causing the problem. The only way to do that is make the content relevant to users, end of story.


The product review update is mainly for e-commerce sites that publish reviews. If this is you and you are seeing a drop (or rise) in your SERP ranking, this product review update is likely having an impact. If it’s a drop, fix your reviews.


Interestingly, the helpful content update wasn’t as fearsome as many expected, with main volatility occurring on September 8th, a day before rollout was complete.


In the aftermath of this update, if your rankings dropped, it’s recommended you revisit your penalised content and think of it as an opportunity. Review and ensure it’s of high quality and relevant, and unique. Make sure it’s about your audience, helpful, and available for Google to crawl.


Key Takeaways


In the wake of core and other Google algorithm updates - or in preparation moving ahead (which is smarter) - the best thing to do is follow Google’s guidelines.


However, we would be amiss should we not outline a few recommendations which we believe critical to SEO success. Things that are identified as simple yet extremely effective ways that Google considers fundamental to finding your content when it’s crawling to find content to answer user queries.


E-A-T = Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness.


Makes you feel like you're in the right hands? That’s exactly the point.


E-A-T refers to the 3 pillars of quality, and is one of the most important factors when Google is considering page quality ranking. It’s extremely important if your content, information and pages can impact someone’s health, safety, financial situation or future happiness, and Google refers to these sites as Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) pages.


Think of it like a user; if I’m looking for cute animal pics, it’s not so important. But if I’m trying to find out the best term deposit to put (part of) my lotto winnings into, it’s non-negotiable.


Even if your website and content isn’t YMYL critical, the E-A-T pillars are still relevant.


  • Expertise is to demonstrate a superior level of knowledge or skill in the content or information level. It’s evaluated at the content level, not the website, and Google is looking for content created by a subject expert.

  • Authority is about reputation, especially among other experts in the field and influencers in the industry. If the website or person is seen to be the go-to source of information about a specific subject - that’s authority. Yet it’s subjective and unique, much like Richard Branson may be an expert in business and aeroplanes, he has zero SEO authority. However, The Rolling Stones and the band members are the authority on Stones song lyrics.

  • Trust is about the website and its content; legitimacy, transparency and accuracy. It’s also about engagement with your users, the security of your site and your brand reputation.


So, is E-A-T a ranking factor? Well, yes and no - it's about quality, and quality ranking overall. Take it away, Danny Sullivan:


Structured Content (or Data)


Structured content and data can be explained in a few ways, but essentially, it makes it easier for search engines to find and understand your content to get it in front of user queries.


  • It’s content that’s planned, developed and connected, so it’s predictable and ready for any interface.

  • It breaks down content into small reasonable pieces and is organised and tagged with specific groups of text that connect back to the main content or topic it’s part of.

  • It’s any set of data that is organised and structured in a particular way on a web page.

  • It allows for the same pieces of content to be reused and repurposed across a website.

  • It’s standardised data using ‘mark-up’ language such as Schema.org.


Google uses structured data to understand the content on a page, as well as gather information about the web and the world in general. It also uses the data to enable special search result features.


Hubspot emphasises that it's an important factor to prepare for the future of search, particularly as the user experience gets more personalised and the answers to queries can be displayed directly on SERPS.


To understand more about the technical aspects of structured content and data, we recommend you refer to the experts:




Final Word


At the risk of stating the obvious, if you haven’t already been creating helpful or in-depth content, then it’s time to look at your website. Trying to game or dupe Google’s system by using exact search terms in headers and keyword stuffing is already bad practice; this and future updates are going to see your web pages take a massive visibility and rankings hit, if they haven’t already.


Changes won’t impact sites that are creating content with the audience in mind, with search as an afterthought or supporting factor in the process, it will elevate them.


Keep an eye on the search results, examine the patterns of the winners and losers post update/s, and apply strategies accordingly moving ahead.


Google’s broad core updates and other algorithmic updates will keep coming as they fine-tune even more personalised and user-centric digital experiences. If you want to stay above the fold on Page 1, there’s no way around it but to do the same.



Well let’s just clarify: if you don’t know the name Neil Patel, you are not in marketing - digital or otherwise - business or the tech space or you may just be an ostrich.


Neil Patel is to digital marketers, as Stephen King is to horror story fans, Harleys are to bikers, or TikTok is to influencers.


Google ANYTHING to do with Digital Marketing, and he’ll be front and centre, above the fold, maybe multiple times, on the search engine results page (SERP).

So who is he? Well for the uninitiated, Neil Patel, aka, The SEO Guy, is the classic overachiever. Which kind of answers the title of this blog.


Here’s his list of accolades and accomplishments:


  • New York Times bestselling author.

  • The Wall Street Journal refers to him as one of the internet's top influencers.

  • President Obama recognised him as a top 100 entrepreneur under 30-years.

  • United Nations called him a top 100 entrepreneur under 35-years.

  • Forbes named him as one of the top 10 marketers (2016-17).

  • Entrepreneur Magazine says he’s created one of the top 100 companies.

  • His blog about marketing generates 3 million hits per month.

  • His Marketing School podcast has over 1 million listeners per month.

  • His YouTube channel about marketing has over 10 million views.

  • He has almost 1 million Facebook fans, nearly 500k LinkedIn and almost 500k Twitter followers.

  • Ubersuggest - his free keyword tool - is one of the most popular SEO tools generating keywords on the web.

  • He has helped multiple Fortune 500 companies grow through marketing, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Viacom, General Motors, SalesForce, Airbnb, Zappos, NBC, and Thomson Reuters - just to name a few.

  • He’s spoken at over 300 conferences including major growth marketing conferences and business conferences for major companies including Facebook (as says his LinkedIn About section).

  • He’s the founder of CrazyEgg, KISSmetrics, and HelloBar - all platforms geared towards data and growth for your website.

  • He is the leader of The Angels & Investors Network.

  • He charges between USD$30-50k to speak for your audience.

  • He’s a self-made millionaire whose current net worth is about USD$30 million.


It's an impressive list, but there's more to the story.


How did it all start?


Neil was born in India, but his parents migrated to the US when he was 2. He was raised in Orange County, California and from an early age was fascinated by business and making money. Throughout school he had a number of limited money making ventures, but the lack of success served to motivate him more.


He met his sister’s boss, an Oracle consultant, and started investigating how Monster.com worked, which led him to launch a website called Advice Monkey. He was not even 18. One thing led to another - it’s complex - but in short he had to learn about marketing to promote his website as he didn’t want to pay someone else to do it.


So he studied, worked helping others build websites, developed his understanding of search engines, and started CrazyEgg. They say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, and the rest is history.


He’s not going anywhere.


Neil Patel fundamentally teaches people about marketing on the internet. He does it rather freely - mostly - and because he has marketed his own brand and expertise so well, and his teachings work, people listen.


He is currently working on expanding his global digital marketing agency, Neil Patel Marketing and Ubersuggest. He currently has agencies in the US, Brazil and India, and the UK and Australian agencies are taking off - he freely admits that global expansion is his next move.

Digital marketing, SEO, search engine algorithms, the changing landscape of business, technology innovations, and the impending arrival of the metaverse, means there will be a consistent and ongoing need for his expertise.


In 2016, Patel told Forbes magazine about his love of television, and that he watches a lot of it. His main interests are international news to find out how the world works, finance news to learn how people think and, of course, the market performance, and reality TV (including Kardashians, Shark Tank and American Idol) to learn about pop culture and trends.


He admits he’s a little obsessed with life and business, and he analyses EVERYTHING so he can make sure that the way he is spending his time is offering a solid return on investment.


Funny that!



Google has announced its plan to expire the current version of Google Analytics, known as Universal Analytics (UA) in July 2023. What does that mean for the average business owner trying to understand analytics and the stories they tell about our businesses?


Let’s clarify - Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is here. It actually launched in October 2020, when it came out of beta-testing, which means that any property entered into GA3 after that defaults to the new platform.


GA4 brings with it functionality that UA doesn’t have, and as Google explained, a next generation approach to “privacy-first” tracking, cross-channel measurement and AI based predictive data all in one clever bundle.


So what does this actually mean?


GA4 has the capabilities that future-proof the way that data is collected and stored, and will operate in compliance with progressively tighter privacy laws.

Privacy-Centric


Privacy-first is GA4's response to issues that UA often experienced as a result of cookie consent options implemented by privacy protection laws such as the CDPR. These laws gave consumers more control over the personal information that business analytics collect about them, in the case of browsers and websites, via their whole IP address. The blocking of cookies in some cases led to the reduced stability of analytics.


GA4, with these privacy laws front and centre, now anonymises IP addresses by default permanently. Only part of the IP address is collected that is relevant to tracking the experience or events over than the user. The privacy-centric design works well with or without cookies and ensures its compliance with privacy laws.


X-Channel Measurement


GA4 capabilities of cross-channel measurement also work well when users shift between devices and platforms. The App + Web system that it’s built on, released in 2019, focusses on tracking across apps, software and a website. It’s about the understanding of the customer journey across devices, not just individual metrics across devices, pages and segments.


This supports the new way that GA4 presents the data around ‘events’, as opposed to ‘sessions’ and ‘hits' in the UA model. It’s about tracking the user journey, the events and interactions that take place from initial visit to conversion.


In addition to automated event tracking (‘first_visit’ or ‘session_start’) GA4 offers Enhanced Measurement enabling the collection of more events such as ‘video_start’ or ‘file-download’, as well as additional parameters within these events. Unlike ‘event tracking’ in UA, editing, correcting and fine-tuning of event tracking can be undertaken through the GA4 tools, without having to edit on-site code.


Machine Learning: AI Powered Insights and Predictions.


Sure it’s still in its infancy, but machine-learning processing of data measurement in GA4 enables it to fill in the gaps of missing data. Using modelling that’s extrapolated from existing data, it makes intelligent assumptions about website traffic and user behaviour, when users or browsers block cookies or engage data collection permissions.


AI powered insights don’t have to rely on ‘hits’ from every page, they offer predictive data and trends for better understanding of customer behaviour. They uncover patterns and connections that may have been missed.


A New Look


The interface of GA4 is also very different. The overhaul gives the platform new, simpler navigation and is more user-friendly.

The default reporting includes Life cycle and User collections which centre around the customer journey. It also offers a simpler holistic view of real-time data with improved visuals and tables. Interactions with the data have also been upgraded; it is dynamic and more intuitive when looking at comparative data sets such as between devices.


Next Steps


July 2023 will see UA stop processing new data, and in October 2023 it will cease processing data completely. Importantly, even though the existing data will remain within UA for 6 months, GA4 is forward-facing, and there is no capability to pull the data across from UA.


GA4 is being touted by the experts as the analytics tool we need now and for the future, and many recommend that you start collecting data with the tool now.


It’s still in its initial design phase, and will undoubtedly experience more UI changes moving ahead.


Google recommends parallel tracking is the best way to move forward on their own website.

Setting up GA4 right now alongside UA will help machine learning and AI accuracy in GA4 moving ahead as it improves, and will assist in getting to know and understand GA4’s full capabilities.It will also offer time to import data from non-website sources that are relevant to your analytics now, before making the full transition.


The recommended course of action for existing Google Analytics users is to dual tag your pages. That is if you already have an existing Google Analytics 3 property tracking data, continue to track data in that property, but also create a new Google Analytics 4 property and start collecting data in that property simultaneously.

If you are using older tracking code (like analytics.js) you’ll need to upgrade to gtag.js, or talk to your tag management tool vendor about modifying your GA installation to begin dual tagging.

Using both platforms simultaneously means you get all the benefits of both as bugs and functionality issues are fixed in future updates.

What if I don’t upgrade?


For now, nothing will change, but you won’t benefit from the new functionality that’s getting rolled out. Dual tagging gives you historical data when GA4 becomes your primary property type, and the old version is laid to rest.


Also, the new naming conventions and event types that Google recommends will make your setup future proof as the new features rollout, ignoring action now means you’ll miss out.


Many brands are implementing the upgrade now, so the question is really how soon should you upgrade?


Google’s Property Migration tool is here.


This helps you nominate primary GA3 properties that you want to migrate setup configuration for GA4. It should save you time to make the transition easier.

So the bottom line is while you don’t need to action anything right now - to take advantage of the new innovations, you may want to - or risk having to play catch up.


It can be overwhelming but it doesn't need to feel that way if you have a partner who has your back. At The Big Smoke+ we are dedicated to carrying the burden of digital marketing responsibility so you can focus on what you do best - growing your business! Book a complimentary audit call with us today to see if we are a good fit!


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