Google announced three major changes in its November 2023 Search Update.
Along with the rollout of Bard AI results in Google Search (though *still* not in the UK), these updates are likely to have a fairly big impact on the SEO industry.
But as some are not yet out of beta, and are only available in selected territories for now, we may not yet see them become a permanent fixture in Google SERPs on this side of the pond.
E-E-A-T UGC updates
As reported by several SEO experts (most notably for me, Lily Ray), there has been a huge shift in UGC (user generated content) sites seeing improved visibility in SERPs for the past few months, for better or worse…
Part of this can be attributed to the September rollout of the Helpful Content Update (HCU).
But another update was teased way back in May, known as ‘hidden gems’. While not rolled out at the time, or apparently as part of the HCU, this instead appears to have gradually been worked into its core algorithm.
So what does this mean for SEO?
This update aims to showcase more content from social media, blog posts, and forums that share personal insights and experiences.
At Browser Media, we have been banging the digital PR drum for years, focusing much of our efforts on building the authority of businesses in tandem with the personal profiles of their spokespersons. And with AI-generated content becoming more prevalent, it’s more important than ever to be able to trust that the person providing the information is knowledgeable about the subject in question.
Think about it – if you searched for ‘pros and cons of dental implants’, which search result would you trust more; a blog post written by a dentist who has been quoted in major news publications and someone active in writing articles and sharing relevant content on their social media channels… or a generic article published on a general interest website written by a faceless author who has no credentials?
It seems to me that Google is increasingly taking E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) into account, so it’s more important than ever to demonstrate that the content you produce ticks all the boxes.
Some great advice from James Brockbank over on Twitter:
Today’s Google announcement, ‘New ways to find just what you need on Search’ once again confirms two things:
– The importance of E-E-A-T and how this also applies to Discover.
– That Google is working hard to continue to better understand the people behind content and… pic.twitter.com/Rpmsh4oguw
— James Brockbank (@BrockbankJames) November 15, 2023
Also, a ‘Perspectives’ filter may be eligible to show for certain search results – though for now, only in the US.
Follow button in Google SERPs
Google will be introducing a ‘Follow’ button to SERPs, intending to deliver its users a more tailored and personalised search experience.
I can see this being helpful for marketers, as it can help to connect the dots between what Google deems to be relevant to a specific topic in a wider context.
In this example, you could create a content plan based around the articles deemed to be connected to a root keyword, and leverage this knowledge to capture traffic for supporting keywords by looking at the articles that are curated under the followed topic.
UK marketers will once again have to wait for this feature to be rolled out, as it’s only available in the US for now.
Notes in Google SERPs
I’m not sure what Google is thinking with this feature, known as Notes.
According to the announcement, ‘Notes will let people share their knowledge right on Search, helping others find the best answers for their weirdest or most wonderfully unique questions, and discover what’s most useful for them on the web.’
Notes will allow users to add their feedback and comments directly to the SERP. What could possibly go wrong?
The basic premise is that a user visits a web page, and then depending on how helpful or informative they found the content, go back to the SERPs to add a ‘Note’.
Question is, how many people will actually bother to visit the webpage, read it, and then provide useful information in the form of Notes, compared to how many people will use it to either spam Notes, leave negative comments, reference competitors, or just use them for plain old trolling? The additional feature that allows users to add AI generated images or stock images to Notes means that it is possible to falsify information visually, too.
Google has stated that it will utilise a mix of AI and human content moderators to remove these types of Notes, but how effective that will be is yet to be seen.
This is potentially a nightmare for brands. Imagine not only having to check for negative reviews and respond to them across the web and social media, but also on *any* SERP linked to its domain?
Another question is whether website owners are notified when a user publishes Notes on a SERP, or if they’ll need to keep an eye on this manually. Google has stated ‘In the months ahead, we’ll actively explore ways to provide site owners insights into notes on their content’ – with no clear indication of how they plan to execute this.
Thankfully, it’s only in beta. I’ll be interested to see how this develops over the next few weeks. Users in the US and India can try it out here.