The latest on Gemini | Changes to Merchant Center in GSC | Community observations on August Core Update

published11 days ago
16 min read

Search News You Can Use. Ep. 303

Hello everyone! Hope you like this new version of newsletter. Instead of reporting on everything that’s happening in SEO, I’ve covered the bits I found most interesting and important for the industry to know. It’s still a lot!

I’ve shared below about some of the changes I’m making to newsletter, including renaming the paid “Subscriber Content” to Marie’s thoughts. Because all of you are subscribers. My paid newsletter subscription and business have gone through a lot of changes over the years. I’ve explained more in Marie’s Thoughts. I’ll be publishing this episode publicly soon.

You’ll see newsletter continue to evolve over the next while as I figure out what is helpful to you, and doable for me. There are so many interesting things happening in Search, and especially in AI that I’m learning how and what to focus on.

Thank you for your patience as I figure this out!

In this week's episode, the news on Gemini from Dr. Hassabis' interview is the most fascinating to me.

Important news about Google

Here’s what I found most interesting about Google this week:

Changes to GSC + Merchant Center

Google announced changes to Search Console + Merchant Center. They talk about changes that can help you “increase clicks” and “improve rankings of products”, although the suggestions seem simple to me. One example was that you should add a return cost.

Still, I think that any site that deals with products should be learning as much as they can about Merchant Center. I write a lot on it, but don’t really know who is the expert on this topic. Here’s a challenge for someone who is reading this newsletter…learn about your experiences with Merchant Center and blog about them. The industry can use more people sharing insight here.


More things to know this week include:

There is a new GBP reinstatement process. Ben Fisher’s The New Reinstatement Process for Suspended Google Business Profiles Improvements and Dangers looks like a must-read for all local SEO’s.

How Scaled Localization Drives High Authority PR Coverage

(Nicole DeLeon and the team at North Star Inbound sponsored this episode. Please do check them out, as they've had good success getting media coverage. I’m experimenting with monetizing newsletter - I need to figure out how to mark these links as sponsored/nofollowed from within Convertkit’s interface!)

Hey SNYCU fans!

Today, let's dive into the power of scaled localization for boosting your coverage in digital PR. Scaled localization is digital PR’s version of the “near me” keyword modifier.

You know how "dentist near me" is way more valuable than just "dentist Austin," right? Let me explain simple localization and its importance in digital PR. An Austin reporter cares more about a story that shows how national trends are impacting the Austin area than she does about one that doesn’t. She always needs to tie her stories back to the people in her community. So if you’re pitching something that doesn’t, there’s a very low chance she’ll cover it.

Scaled localization is when you create a story that has dozens of local angles so that it can be credibly pitched to hundreds of local reporters. Take this study on the top neighborhood complaints in America. Here, we analyzed a huge data set of 58,735 posts and 354,972 comments on the Nextdoor app in 50 of America’s biggest cities. Then, we looked at over 200 keywords representing common community issues.

This approach allowed us to produce multiple rankings tailored to cities across the US, grabbing the attention of reporters in various places.

Our media relations team could craft precise outreach campaigns with rich data for multiple cities and topics—again and again and again. 😄

The result? We earned 66 placements, with 33 of them boasting a Domain Authority of 80 or higher. Notable placements were the Miami Herald, The Baltimore Business Journal, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The San Antonio Current, and The Houston Chronicle. 🚀


Hope these insights help. For more tips, follow me here. To explore our work further, reach out here.

August Core Update has finished

I’ve yet to thoroughly dig into this one yet. I’ve got a bunch of sites I monitor that are up nicely and will be sharing soon about some specifics - possibly in next week’s Marie’s Thoughts. Here’s what the community is seeing so far:

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Keith (Minted Empire)
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6:2 PM • Sep 10, 2023
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Dr. Pete Meyers
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There was a major shake-up on Google right before the August Core Update, and it seems to be tied to a substantial drop in indented results -- https://moz.com/blog/google-indented-results-update via @moz
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August 18 Algo Update: The Cyclone Before the...
Dr. Peter Meyers discusses a volatile SERP with reference to a reduction of inde...
10:38 AM • Sep 5, 2023
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Gael Breton
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10/ How many affiliate sites were affected negatively by recent Google core updates? "only" 25%.
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Gael Breton
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9/ Is networking, joining events and masterminds correlated with higher earnings? Yes, a lot.
12:50 PM • Sep 4, 2023
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Some thoughts from Vlad Rappoport in our discussion on the core update at the Search Bar:

Read more on the Search Bar

Why is everyone talking about Outlook India?

There are a lot of tweets about this website lately. Here’s my understanding of why.

OutLook India is a well known news publisher. Some SEO’s have figured out they can do something they’ve called, “parasite SEO”. What they’re doing is purchasing a sponsored post, and then placing affiliate links in that post. It’s not really SEO…they’re not building links to their own properties. Rather, the links are pointing directly to their affiliate partners, with their affiliate tracking link.

It turns out the links have been incorrectly marked as “sposored” instead of “sponsored”, although really this shouldn’t change much in terms of their SEO value as they are nofollowed. Now that I think about it though, I wonder if Google’s systems would treat the posts differently if they clearly contained sponsored links?

Because Outlook India is an authoritative site, it tends to rank well for many queries. Lily Ray pointed out that the /outlook-spotlight/ folder where these sponsored posts are purchased appears to have declined significantly in visibility in conjunction with the core update. Google may already have acted here...either manually or algorithmically.

My first prediction is that we’ll soon see a bunch of folks on Twitter selling lists of other sites Google has yet to discover that you can use for “Parasite SEO”. My second prediction is that enough noise has been made publicly about this situation that Google will have plenty of examples to show SpamBrain, with the goal of detecting this type of tactic as manipulation.

Bizarre issue with Google incorrectly canonicalizing links

This issue may have impacted many sites on the web. From what I understand so far, it looks like Google may have incorrectly canonicalized pages saying they were duplicates when really they were not. It’s a complicated issue.

For more on this issue:

Twitter’s thread system is making it difficult to link to this, so here are screenshots of Rafa’s summary:

Here is Rafa’s thorough article with more of his observations on this:

Theory: Google Merchant Center Next and its relationship with the Canonical 12th July'23 issue

Perhaps related?

More SEO News & Info

Google published new info on how it handles multilingual searches. This update happened coincidental with the August core update - perhaps a part of it?

Fixing the new Core Web Vital, INP is unlikely to make a visible change in search rankings. (John Mueller on SER)

You can set a conversion value for your conversion right in GA4 in the same way you could in UA. (Brie Anderson on Twitter)

Here’s how to create a report with a chart showing organic visits to a URL in the past 30 days on GA4 (Dana DiTomaso on Youtube)

Both Brie and Dana have excellent GA4 courses that I recommend.

This tweet thread by Tony Hill is so good. He shares how he spruces up pages and improves rankings by adding information about trending topics. My thought: I really like this. He is doing two important things. First, if Google’s freshness system is involved in ranking results, he’s just improved his chances of ranking. Second, he’s adding information gain - writing information that goes beyond just covering the known facts on a topic. And he’s doing it in a way that users will be likely to find interesting because it’s a trending topic.

My new paid newsletter: Marie’s Thoughts

The more I learn about AI, the more I realize that our industry is about to go through significant change.

I’ve struggled to figure out what my role is as we go through this change. As most of you know, I no longer run an agency. I work on my own, wearing quite a few hats. Out of all them, the one I enjoy the most is writing this newsletter.

You'll notice some changes to newsletter, and they’re evolving as I learn what’s most helpful to you. I’m closing my consulting calendar for a bit to focus on this. Also, the paid “Subscriber Content” is now renamed to “Marie’s Thoughts”.

Much of it will be the same as it has been for the last few weeks. We've been digging into how Google’s systems are trained by quality rater feedback, how quality raters rate results as helpful or not helpful based on the guidance in the rater guidelines, and the importance of understanding the needs of the searcher and meeting those needs. Recently we've started to dig into the idea of providing information gain.

This week’s episode is a letter written to the SEO industry on how SGE powered by Gemini will completely change the game. I feel we are in for changes that are difficult to imagine. I don’t think any one of us can truly grasp what the industry is about to go through.

This first episode will be published publicly soon, so if you weren't already a paid subscriber, you'll still be able to see it. Or, you can join my evolving community, the Search Bar as Marie's thoughts are included there as well. If you’re already a paid member of my newsletter, this content replaces what we’ve been calling “Subscriber Content”. You don’t need to do anything to get the new newsletter.

If there is a particular part of newsletter that you enjoy and want to see more of, please do let me know by responding to this email!

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Marie's thoughts (paid newsletter)

A weekly email with thoughts on what I'm learning this week. I write on Google's algorithms and systems like the helpful... Read more

AI News

Demis Hassabis talks about Gemini

I thoroughly enjoyed this interview with Demis Hassabis, CEO and CoFounder of Google’s Deep Mind on Time. Here are some excerpts from the article

  • “The model will be “multimodal,” meaning it is trained on—and can input and output—not just text but other forms of media, like images."
  • “Hassabis sees this as only one step in a larger pursuit of “artificial general intelligence” (AGI) that he believes could unlock scientific advances and reshape the world for the better—so long as humanity avoids the serious risks that could come from its unchecked development. “
  • DeepMind has done a lot of multimodal (text + image and video) work in the past. Gemini is several improvements on top of that.
  • “You should think of Gemini as a series of models rather than a single model.”
  • Reinforcement learning can help models get significantly better. “Perhaps fact-checking what [the model is] about to output, by checking with Google search as a tool, or checking in [the model’s] episodic memory banks, which maybe store facts. I think these could be good ways to get that accuracy even better.”
  • DeepMind did great work with Sparrow and used this to get a 10% error rate down to 1%.
  • Dr. Hassabis signed the letter many AI leaders warning about the risks of AI. He now says he’s “optimistic about the situation as it is at the moment.” He says UK and US government officials are “pretty up to speed now.”
  • Google is following DeepMind’s principles of moving boldly and responsibly. “we’re all very focused on delivering the benefits of this amazing technology to the world in a thoughtful, scientific, responsible way. It doesn’t mean we’ll never make any mistakes, because it’s such a new technology. It’s moving so fast. But we want to minimize that, and maximize the benefits.”
  • The Frontier Model Forum involves leading companies (Microsoft, Anthropic, Google, and OpenAI) coming together to do more AI safety research. I got the impression that Dr. Hassabis felt good about how Google is advancing AI responsibly - to mitigate the chance of AI being used for harmful purposes.

More AI Info

  • Meta is Developing a New, More Powerful AI System as Technology Race Escalates. Glenn Gabe shared this WSJ article that shares how Meta is developing its own AI system to compete with OpenAI and Google. “Meta expects to start training the new AI system, known as a large language model, in early 2024.” My thought: I am wondering what we need to know about things we have shared on Facebook in the past and whether they are included in model training.
  • Twitter / X updated its privacy policy to say “based on your consent, we may collect and use your biometric information.” And also, “we may use the information we collect and publicly available information to help train our machine learning or artificial intelligence models.” It is hard to grasp that everything we’ve written on publicly available social media could be used to train AI systems.
  • Sundar Pichai: Questions, shrugs and what comes next: A quarter century of change. Pichai reminds us that Larry Page and Sergy Brin first wrote down Google’s mission: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” He says, “Google has been investing in AI since almost the beginning. We were one of the first to use machine learning in our products, starting in the early 2000’s.” He then talks about the breakthroughs they had in using neural networks. “Now generative AI is helping us reimagine our core products in exciting ways - from our new Search Generative Experience (SGE) to “Help me Write” in Gmail.”

    He says, “Over time, AI will be the biggest technological shift we see in our lifetimes. It’s bigger than the shift from desktop computing to mobile, and it may be bigger than the internet itself. It’s a fundamental rewiring of technology and an incredible accelerant of human ingenuity.”
  • Claude now has a pro version. I’ll be signing up for this this week.
  • Here’s an example of someone using ChatGPT to make money on the stock market.
  • YouTube begins verifying videos by UK doctors to tackle health misinformation
  • There is a Canva Plugin for ChatGPT. I want to try this out soon! I have been using ChatGPT’s Advanced Data Analysis (formerly code interpreter) with commands like “resize this to 300px x 300px” and “make this a jpg”.
  • Japan’s government will start using ChatGPT for clerical work and analysis.

Templates may soon be added to ChatGPT.

A bunch more tweets that I found interesting. (Oh boy, I hope this tweet embedding function works ok!)

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Khushal Bherwani
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@b4k_khushal
4:36 AM • Sep 9, 2023
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Linus
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Ben Fisher
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12:48 PM • Sep 6, 2023
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video preview

SEO Jobs

Thanks to Nick LeRoy at SEOJobs for providing these. This section isn’t sponsored, I just think Nick is doing a great thing here with this service. He sends me jobs so I don’t need to gather them! This first one looks interesting.

SEO Specialist ~ TikTok ~ $128k – $244k ~ San Jose, CA

SEO Consultant / Manager ~ Flow SEO ~ 45k to 55k EUR ~ Remote (WW)

SEO Manager ~ Mockingbird ~ $65000 ~ Remote (US)

SEO and Content Manager ~ Nursa ~ $86-145k ~ Remote (US)

SEO Specialist ~ Scopic ~ Remote (WW)


Funny story. It was our anniversary this weekend. The doorbell rang and a man was there delivering beautiful flowers. It turns out he was at the wrong house and they were for the neighbour 😂. All good, we had a great anniversary regardless!

Hope you like this new format of newsletter and thanks again for bearing with me as I figure out the details.

Marie

Creating Helpful Content

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Based on many hours of studying the QRG, Google's published information and patents, and strategizing with hundreds of website owners.

$150

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Search News You Can Use

Stay up to date with what's happening in Search and AI. Each week I write a whole bunch about the things I found to be important, interesting and helpful for my friends in the SEO industry. Hope you find it helpful!

Read more from Search News You Can Use