Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, raised some eyebrows over the weekend by saying that “major changes” are coming to Google’s search results. 

The statement came during a live talk, where Sullivan reportedly told the crowd to “buckle up” because major changes were on the way.

As the public voice for Google’s Search team, Sullivan is uniquely positioned to speak on what the search engine’s developers are working on behind the scenes. For businesses, this means that he is one of the only people who can give advance notice about upcoming shifts to search results that could impact your online visibility and sales. 

What Did Sullivan Say?

Since it wasn’t livestreamed or recorded, there’s been some discussion about exactly what Sullivan told the crowd. Posts on X agree on a few details though. 

While attendees agree Sullivan specifically used the phrase “buckle up”, a few users provided longer versions of the quote that paint a slightly different picture. 

One person, Andy Simpson, says the entire quote was “There’s so much coming that I don’t want to say to buckle up because that makes you freak out because if you’re doing good stuff, it’s not going to be an issue for you.”

This is likely the case, as Sullivan has since clarified:

“I was talking about various things people have raised where they want to see our results improve, or where they think ‘sure, you fixed this but what about….’ And that these things all correspond to improvements we have in the works. That there’s so much coming that I don’t want to say buckle up, because those who are making good, people-first content should be fine. But that said, there’s a lot of improvements on the way.”

Either way, it is important for businesses to take note of these statements and watch their site’s search results performance for any signs of major shifts in the near future. 

Think using blogs to get to the top of the search engines is a thing of the past? Don’t be so quick to ditch your brand’s blog because a new study suggests that blog posts are the most common type of content found in the top 5 Google search results (excluding homepages). 

Even with low-quality AI-generated blog content on the rise, BrightEdge says that blogs are the leading type of content returned by Google – a strong indication that blogs with well-crafted content are one of the strongest search engine optimization tools available to brands today. 

About The Study

For the study, BrightEdge analyzed results for a dataset of 10,000 keywords of varying intent across 10 specific industries:

  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Retail
  • Software
  • Higher Education
  • Real Estate
  • Advertising and Marketing
  • Manufacturing
  • Travel and Hospitality
  • Industrial

Using data collected during August of this year, the study then analyzed the content types of 23,785 pages ranking in the top 10 search positions. 

While the leading type of page found in the top search results were homepages, these were excluded because these are essentially the default type of page Google returns when it believes a site may be relevant but it does not know which specific page to recommend.

Once homepages have been accounted for and excluded, the leading type of content in top search results was blog posts – accounting for 19% of the top 10 search results. When you narrow the focus to just the top 5 search results, that climbs to 23% of search results. 

The Takeaway

Many brands have been moving away from traditional brand blogs because of a misguided notion that blogs were becoming irrelevant compared to more interactive or visual media like videos or user-generated content. This trend has only accelerated with the recent surge in lower-quality content pumped out by generative AI systems. 

As Jim Yu, founder of BrightEdge and executive chairman says, however, well-maintained blogs are still an essential tool for raising the visibility of your brand and educating consumers:

“The future is not just AI – it’s AI and human symbiosis. AI can inform and assist, but human creativity, expertise and skill sets are necessary to add the voice and trust of your brand. Success lies in the fusion of AI and human expertise throughout any content creation process,” 

Brands struggling to make progress in this area should likely re-evaluate their content and ensure their strategy is focused on delivering relevant, useful, and interesting information to your target market. 

Google is launching an exciting new ad format called Demand Gen Campaigns which uses the latest AI tools to create highly targeted video and image ads for YouTube, as well as Google’s other platforms. 

The new ad product is designed to motivate advertisers to invest more outside of social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram – Google Ads’ biggest competitors. 

What Are Demand Gen Campaigns?

Demand Gen Campaigns are video ads up to 15 seconds long, primarily intended to run as pre- or mid-roll YouTube placements. However, the company says the ads will show in other places as well, including as image carousels on mobile and bumper ads.. 

Most importantly, Demand Gen includes a suite of creative tools to help deliver messages and ads that are tailored for your audience. 

The ad product also generates “lookalike” audiences filled with potential new customers who match your existing customers. 

As with most Google Ad formats, advertisers can manage a wide range of ad delivery and budget options, allowing you to deliver more clicks, traffic, and conversions. 

Demand Gen Helps Target Shifting Audiences

stats about Demand Gen Campaignss

Google says that Demand Gen Campaigns are intended to help businesses reach consumers during a time when shopping habits are quickly changing.

The company cites recent surveys that show viewers typically split their time on social media between traditional platforms like Facebook and Instagram with others like YouTube. 

Additionally, more than 90% of people said they had watched content from a specific creator or artist across multiple platforms and formats in the past year. 

These ads are designed to help pull users onto YouTube, which Google believes offers a more genuine connection with creators. 

The ads are intended to do this by using visually engaging ads that are highly tailored for specific audiences across the entire Google ecosystem.

Demand Gen Campaigns Will Replace Discovery Ads

Demand Gen ad campaigns started rolling out to advertisers worldwide earlier this week, and will be replacing Google’s current ad option for its Discovery feed. Discovery campaigns will be phased out sometime in early 2024.

X (previously known as Twitter) is partnering with Google Ads in an attempt to make up for the declining ad revenue seen by the company since its takeover by Elon Musk. 

In the near future, X will be included as part of the Google Display Network, making it possible for many of the ads run by Google Ads to appear on the social network.

Why Is X Partnering With Google?

Since the purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk last year, the company has seen an estimated 59% drop in ad revenue from the US. While numbers are not available globally, most analysts agree that this has dramatically hurt the social network’s profits 

Much of this reduction in ad revenue was sparked by Musk’s decisions to reduce moderation on the platform and to unban controversial accounts. Since then, advertisers have seen their ads appearing alongside increasingly objectionable content including hate speech, slurs, and nazi imagery. As you might expect, this has led many advertisers to completely stop advertising on the platform.

Can You Opt Out?

For brands concerned about potentially having ads shown alongside hateful or controversial media, it is important to know that you can choose to not have your ads shown on X or any other website. As a Google spokesperson told Ad Age:

“This is an opportunity for our advertisers to reach a broader audience, but as always they can choose what sites and apps their ads run on. Any publisher who participates in this type of partnership must abide by our publisher policies.”

For years, backlinks have been considered one of the most important ranking factors for ranking on Google’s search engine. In 2016, the company even confirmed as much when a search quality senior strategist said that the top ranking factors were links, content, and RankBrain.

According to new comments from Google’s Gary Illyes, an analysis for Google Search, things have changed since then. 

What Was Said

During a panel at Pubcon Pro, Illyes was asked directly whether links are still one of the top three ranking factors. In response, here is what he said:

“I think they are important, but I think people overestimate the importance of links. I don’t agree it’s in the top three. It hasn’t been for some time.”

Illyes even went as far as to say there are cases where sites have absolutely 0 links (internal or external), but consistently ranked in the top spot because they provided excellent content. 

The Lead Up

Gary Illyes isn’t the first person from Google to suggest that links have lost the SEO weight they used to carry. Last year, Dan Nguyen from the search quality team stated that links had lost their impact during a Google SEO Office Hours session:

“First, backlinks as a signal has a lot less significant impact compared to when Google Search first started out many years ago. We have robust ranking signals, hundreds of them, to make sure that we are able to rank the most relevant and useful results for all queries.’

Other major figures at Google, including Matt Cutts and John Mueller, have predicted this would happen for years. As far back as 2014, Cutts (a leading figure at Google at the time) said:

“I think backlinks still have many, many years left in them. But inevitably, what we’re trying to do is figure out how an expert user would say, this particular page matched their information needs. And sometimes backlinks matter for that. It’s helpful to find out what the reputation of the site or a page is. But, for the most part, people care about the quality of the content on that particular page. So I think over time, backlinks will become a little less important.”

Ultimately, this shift was bound to happen because search has become so much more complex. With each search, Google considers the intent behind the search, the actual query, and personal information to help tailor the search results for each user. With so much in flux, we have reached a point where the most important ranking signals may even differ based on the specific site that is trying to rank.

Google Business Profiles are an incredibly powerful tool for helping customers discover your business. Unfortunately, they also make it possible for those with more malicious intentions to find you, as the rising number of Google Business Profile robocall scams shows.

Hiya, a company that tracks phone fraud and scams, recently published data showing that scams targeting those with Google Business Profile listings (and other Google-related phone scams) have been on the rise over the past year. 

Through July, Hiya documented more than 17,000 reports of Google Business Profile scams. That breaks down to more than 2,000 scams being reported each month. 

How To Spot The Scam

The easiest way to know if you’ve been targeted by a scam like this is simply having received a robocall claiming to be from Google or a Google partner. Google does not use robocalls to verify or otherwise contact businesses.

While the company found more than 100 variations of the scam, it shared two of the most common voice recordings people have been receiving from scammers claiming to be “Google partners”:

“Business owners, your Google Business Profile has not been registered with Google. Please press 1 to be transferred to a business listing specialist to assist you in registering your Google Business Profile, or press 2 to be placed on the do not call list.”

“Hello. We’re calling from Online Listing Group because your Google Business listing needs attention. If your listing is not showing up properly, customers will not be able to contact you or find your location. If you are the business owner, press 1 now to verify or update your business. Press 9 to opt out.”

To avoid the risk of being taken advantage of by scammers, Google and Tulsa Marketing Online both recommend only working with marketing agencies that have a long-established track record of using approved strategies to boost your presence on the search engine.

Google is finally allowing brands to naturally add social media links within their Google Business Profiles. 

The move comes following years of frustration from website owners, as other search engines like Bing have allowed similar links and more advanced social media integration for years. 

Now, any business with a Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business profiles) can highlight their social channels easily within Google Search and Maps. 

This is especially important for businesses that use social channels to handle customer support, as well as making it easier for brands to connect with new potential customers on the platforms they are most active on. 

How It Works

Google quietly revealed the new feature in a support page that details exactly how to add links to your Google Business Profile and what limitations there are. 

To add social media links to your Google Business Profile, first log in and access your profile. From there, look for the option to ‘edit profile’ and select ‘business information’ followed by ‘contact’.

Here you will find a new section labeled ‘Social profiles’ where you can easily add one link per profile, including those on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter) or YouTube. 

In some cases, Google may automatically add links to social profiles on Google Business Profiles. If these are inaccurate or you would prefer to use different links, you can edit or remove links in the same area. 

While the feature is already available to many, Google says it is rolling out gradually to select regions.

For more, visit the support page for this new feature here.

Google is giving advertisers more control over where their ads appear in Search with two new features that have only been available to a small number of advertisers previously.

The company announced it will be bringing brand exclusions for Performance Max campaigns and broad match brand restrictions for all advertisers on Search. 

In the announcement, the company said that both pilot tests were “successful” and that bringing these tools to more advertisers would improve campaign performance. They also promise that using brand exclusions and restrictions will help improve reach by guaranteeing your ads are not appearing along controversial, irrelevant, or problematic search content.

Notably, these are one of the many new features on the platform which are being assisted with AI.

Google gave Search Engine Land two statements, one for each new ad feature:

“[Advertisers can] expand the reach of your brand campaigns with new brand restrictions for broad match. Broad match gives you the most relevant reach and conversions within your performance goals.”

“In the past, it may have been difficult to use broad match in campaigns with specific brand needs. That’s why we’re rolling out brand restrictions. This new feature will help you get the additional reach of broad match, while ensuring it is only matching to relevant brand traffic that you’ve specified.”

Just last week, Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, once again took to Twitter to dispel a longstanding myth about word counts and search engine optimization (SEO). 

The message reads:

“Reminder. The best word count needed to succeed in Google Search is … not a thing! It doesn’t exist. Write as long or short as needed for people who read your content.”

Sullivan also linked to long-existing help pages and included a screencap of a statement from these pages which says:

“Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t.)”

Of course, this is not a new message from Google. Still, many of the most popular SEO tools and experts still claim that anywhere between 300 to 1,500 words is ideal for ranking in Google search results. 

Incidentally, a day later Google’s John Mueller also responded to an SEO professional who argued there was “correlation between word count and outranking competition?” In a short but simple reply, Mueller said “Are you saying the top ranking pages should have the most words? That’s definitely not the case.”

Most likely, this myth of an ideal SEO word count will continue to persist so long as search engine optimization exists in its current form. Still, it is always good to get a clear reminder from major figures at Google that content should be as long as necessary to share valuable information to your audience – whether you can do that in a couple sentences or exhaustive multi-thousand-word content. 

Google is transitioning its popular e-commerce service Merchant Center to a new, easier-to-use tool called Merchant Center Next.

As announced during the recent Google Marketing Live 2023 event, Merchant Center Next is not only getting a fresh coat of paint, it is being upgraded to automate tedious processes like updating product data and delivering better insights.

What’s Changing

While the original Merchant Center made retailers manually set up a product feed and add details like pricing, imagery, and descriptions, Merchant Center Next will do all this automatically.

Once the tool pulls product data, retailers can edit or update information as they need.

If they desire, brands can also opt out of using the automated features.

Along with this, Merchant Center Next will contain a streamlined version of the current Performance tab, which will include a range of new details like:

  • Overview
  • Competitive visibility
  • Pricing
  • Demand
  • Non-product website results

Merchant Center Next will also allow retailers with multiple physical locations to manage their products at all locations in one view.

Coming in 2024, or Earlier

Some businesses have already been given access to Merchant Center Next, but it may be some time before everyone can use it. Currently, the service is expected to be completely rolled out in 2024.

Once Merchant Center Next is available, retailers already using Merchant Center will be notified.