In a World With AI, Are Small Businesses Getting Priced Out of SEO?

In a World With AI, Are Small Businesses Getting Priced Out of SEO?

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In a World With AI, Are Small Businesses Getting Priced Out of SEO?
Technology changes quickly, and lately it seems like it’s been changing faster than ever before. While artificial intelligence has been a part of that technological landscape for many years in varying forms, it’s been making headlines lately because of the release of ChatGPT and other generative AI programs. Now, it’s begun to change the landscape of SEO.

How Does AI Play a Role in Google’s SERP Rankings?

Google has used AI in its algorithm for a long time. So how is AI only recently changing the SEO landscape? The answer has to do with the newer generative AI like ChatGPT. Google has started to include responses from its own generative AI platform, Bard, at the top of search engine results pages. This takes up a lot of real estate on the SERP. Users have to scroll down to see any search results at all, even the very first result. This means that the value of that top spot isn’t what it used to be. For those ranked lower on the SERP, there’s a chance users may never scroll down that far.

Who Is Google’s Algorithm Ranking the Highest?

There are many signals that Google’s algorithm pays attention to when it comes to determining search rankings. User interaction is a major one. Google’s search algorithm looks at such signals as clicks, bounce rate, dwell time, and more; websites that not only attract users to click the link but then also remain on the site for longer tend to end up higher in the SERP rankings. In theory, this means that really good content that is the most helpful to users should rank at the top. However, it often ends up being those with the highest ad spend in practice.

How Does Media Spend Impact Google’s SERP Rankings?

Larger companies with bigger budgets for ad and media spend are going to be more visible. Users will therefore recognize these brands more readily, leading them to more frequently click on links belonging to brands they already know and trust. This means that it can be difficult for new or smaller brands to compete; Google shows users what they expect and want to see, which can mean that it shows more popular content and may not leave room for brands that can’t pay to gain that same level of popularity via advertising.

Is Google Favoring Bigger Brands in SEO?

When asked this question, Amanda Shaffer, the founder and CEO of BrainVine, responded:

“The short answer is that it’s complicated, primarily because there’s more than one type of SEO these days. However, within the current landscape and in the more traditional sense of how SEO has functioned during the last decade, the answer is mostly yes.”

 

Amanda Shaffer, Founder & CEO of BrainVine

How Can Smaller Brands Compete in the Modern SEO Landscape?

Even if smaller or newer brands may find themselves priced out of the typical SEO landscape thanks to larger brands and AI taking up the bulk of the SERP real estate, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still options. Local SEO, in which you focus on building a brand within your local area, can be a good option because bigger companies may be focusing on a larger scale. Another option is YouTube; even with generative AI added to SERPs, YouTube videos are often featured prominently at the top. Growing a YouTube channel could be a way to compete for space at the top of a search engine results page.

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How Do Google Core Updates Affect SEO?

How Do Google Core Updates Affect SEO?

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Google often releases core updates to its algorithm in order to either address a problem or to improve the relevance and quality of search results for users. With Google changing how its search algorithm works so frequently, there can be some disruptions to SEO. But how, exactly, do core updates affect SEO and what can you do about it?

Do Core Updates Change SERP Rankings?

The short answer is that yes, an update can impact your rankings. It doesn’t always; in many cases, rankings may stay the same if your content still meets Google’s requirements for high quality. However, because the core update may reassess what Google considers to be top quality, rankings may decrease or even increase, depending on how your content matches up with the new qualifications.

What Does It Mean If Your Rankings Decrease After a Core Update?

Each core update just means that Google is adjusting how it ranks content in order to better match users with the best possible search results. In some cases, you may have ranked higher on a keyword that didn’t quite match your content as well and now you rank better for other, more suitable keywords. In other cases, you may need to revisit your content quality and update accordingly to meet Google’s standards.

What Can You Do If Your Rankings Drop After a Core Update?

Whether there’s something you can do or not will depend on the core update. If there’s a specific action you can take to restore your rankings to what they were before the update, Google will let you know. For example, when it switched to mobile-first indexing, optimizing for mobile devices first was something Google announced that you could do to improve your rankings. Sometimes, however, there’s nothing specific and Google will announce that along with the core update.

What Should You Do If There’s Nothing To Fix After a Core Update?

If Google has announced that there’s nothing to fix after a core update, then you should focus on improving the quality of your content and your website. This can mean focusing on EAT principles in your written content as well as improving the technical SEO on your website for things like loading speed.

Do Google Core Updates Cause Ranking Volatility?

It’s possible that a core update could cause volatility in the search rankings as the algorithm adjusts to the new criteria. Rankings may not stay static and may change multiple times during the weeks that the update is being rolled out. If in the immediate aftermath of an update, your rankings aren’t what you’d expect, don’t panic. It may take some time for the rankings to settle after the gradual rollout of the update.

Can You Anticipate a Core Update’s Ranking Changes?

There’s no real way to anticipate the changes that Google will make ahead of time. However, there are things you can do to future-proof your SEO. Focus on producing quality content that will benefit and engage your users. If users find your content genuinely useful and keep coming back to it, then your rankings may more easily recover or may not be affected at all by an update. You should also regularly revisit your technical SEO to make sure that your site is keeping up with current expectations for load speed.

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What’s New With Google’s Helpful Content Update?

What’s New With Google’s Helpful Content Update?

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Google has released the September 2023 helpful content update. As with all search engine updates, it’s important to understand the changes being made and how these changes will affect your websites.

The helpful content update is expected to roll out over a two-week period from its initial release and will encompass revisions to Google’s helpful content system.
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What Is the Google Helpful Content System?

The helpful content system that Google utilizes is a system that’s designed to guide users to the most relevant, appropriate, and helpful content out there. Google is working towards polishing up this system and this update is meant to bring the search engine one step closer to that goal.

The primary focus of this system is to promote content that is knowledgeable and often written or reviewed by experts in the field. This update aims to push out quality websites while the less relevant sites get lower rankings.

What Will Google’s Update Improve?

When Google announced this new update, it mentioned that there would be an “improved classifier” for helpful content systems. A classifier is a machine learning algorithm that is used to assign a class label to data input. In other words, this helpful content update will improve these labels to push out the most relevant content associated with different search keywords and phrases.

How Does the Update Affect Third-Party Content?

Google has let their opinion on third-party content be known as early as 2019. They’ve expressed that while it’s not technically against their guidelines, hosting third-party content could affect the main site’s rankings. Because of this, Google has recommended against renting out subdomains or subfolders without close supervision from the main site.

With the new update, Google states, “If you host third-party content on your main site or in your subdomains, understand that such content may be included in site-wide signals we generate, such as the helpfulness of content.” They then go on to say that if the third-party content is independent of the main site’s purpose or has little to no supervision from the main site, they recommend blocking it from being indexed by Google. Google’s official guidance to having search engine success is to provide value-added content from your own efforts that reflect your brand.

Where Does AI-Written Content Fit In?

Previously, Google’s wording for the update read said that their aim was to “better ensure people see original helpful content written by people, for people in search results.” This gave the impression that websites that used AI to help write their content would not be as relevant to users.

However, Google adjusted its stance and now reads that it wants to ensure people see “original helpful content created for people in search results.” This solidifies the fact that content does not need to be written solely by humans to be considered helpful, allowing AI-written content to also appear in search results. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that AI-written content will rank as highly as human-written content, which can offer expertise and experience that AI doesn’t have.

What if Your Website Is Negatively Affected by This Update?

If you’ve seen a trend in your site being negatively affected by Google’s past helpful content updates, Google suggests self-assessing your content. Google asserts that if you’re producing helpful, original, and relevant content then there is no need to do anything in preparation for this update. On the contrary, Google believes that this update will benefit those who write helpful content since this update is designed to reward those helpful websites.

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What Are Ways You Can Make Your Content Helpful?

If your analytics are being affected by this update, then it may be time to polish up your website to become more helpful for users. There are many ways you can update your strategy and content to show Google’s helpful content system that your content is relevant to users.

Show Your Expertise

Google has been saying that it’s helpful to have your content written OR reviewed by an expert. This can mean hiring individuals who are specialized in that area to write and/or edit the content for your website. It should be obvious in the way the content is written that the individual has a certain expertise or enthusiasm for the content. The way that experts write about their special topics is noticeably different than how amateurs write about a topic.

Refresh Content if You’re Going To Republish

A common mistake made by content creators is re-uploading content from years ago to make their website feel more “fresh”. However, Google is familiar with this strategy and it is not beneficial for you. If you plan on re-uploading blogs or webpages, be sure that you’re also refreshing that content so it stays relevant. If you aren’t substantially changing the content and are just putting an updated date on an outdated piece of content, you might be hurting your website more than helping it.

Only Remove Irrelevant Older Content

While it’s important to clean up your website for relevancy’s sake, it’s important that you aren’t removing or adding content just to make your website “look fresh.” Google has gone on record to say that this doesn’t necessarily help to increase your search rankings. Instead, you should focus on analyzing your existing content and making sure that it’s relevant to your audience and suits your site’s purpose and mission. You can remove older content if it no longer works for your site.

What Should We Expect From Google?

This September 2023 helpful content update is making changes to how content is provided to its users. Earlier this year in May, Google said that a helpful content system update would be released to improve how it ranks results in searches with a greater focus on content with unique expertise and experience. While minor improvements can be seen in this update, Google says, “This work is still continuing and is not part of this particular update. We’ll share more about our work in this area in the future.” This is a promise from Google that better optimization to push out more helpful content with unique expertise and experience will be seen in the future.

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What Should You Know About Google’s August 2023 Core Update?

What Should You Know About Google’s August 2023 Core Update?

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What Should You Know About Google’s August 2023 Core Update

Google has announced that its new core search engine update will begin rolling out in August 2023. This process may take up to two weeks to fully complete. It’s essential to take this time to understand what this core update entails and what it could mean for you and your SEO strategy.

What Are Google’s Core Updates?

Oftentimes, Google’s core updates don’t target specific pain points. Instead, they wish to improve relevant search results as well as increase performance throughout the search engine. This update can cause formerly lower-ranked websites to rank higher, leading to more visibility than before. Because of this, higher-ranked websites may see a slip in their rank and visibility.

via GIPHY

How Will This Update Affect Your Search Rankings?

The thing about Google’s core updates is that there’s really no telling if there will be any effect at all. There is a chance your website could come out of this unscathed, or, on the opposite end, your website might receive more visibility. While there is a chance for a positive outcome, it’s also important to be ready for your website to be affected negatively as well. Google warns that many websites might experience a decline in visibility and user interaction.

If you notice a drop in your website’s views and interactions, Google recommends looking at your content rather than assuming it’s a technical issue. The core update reflects Google’s goal to push out more relevant content to the users, so it’s important that your content is optimized accordingly.

What Are Ways You Can Prepare for Google’s Core Update?

If you see a decline in your website’s performance, Google has some recommendations for you.

via GIPHY

Have You Checked Your Analytics?

You’ll want to take a closer look at your web pages that aren’t performing well. This will help you determine what things you should focus on throughout your website and compare these pages to other pages you have that perform well.

When Should You Update Your SEO Strategy?

You might want to go through another round of SEO research after this core update. SEO words and terms that you’ve relied on in the past might not be leading viewers to your page anymore. You want to see what search terms are being used to access your page and pages similar to yours. It’s always good practice to update SEO frequently, but it’s even more important to do so after a core update.

Does Google Offer SEO Tips?

Google has a help page with FAQs to help you optimize your website’s content. You can spend some time comparing your content with their resources in order to make the new update work for you.

Will You Recover Lost Rankings?

It can’t always be determined if a website can recover from lost rankings. Google is constantly changing its algorithms and updating its search engine for better results. It could be possible that Google releases minor updates that will positively benefit your website, but it could also be the opposite. If you were to recover your lost rankings, it could be over the course of several months.

How Can You Improve Your Website?

It’s important that, as this update comes out, you continue to stay patient and focus on improving your website’s quality. This can entail updating old pages, archiving less relevant pages, and going through more research. It’s important to understand that this will have continuous changes as time goes on, so looking for a quick fix will only be beneficial for a small period of time. Working through the kinks is hard, but in order to ensure your website’s success, it’s necessary.

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