Hi folks, welcome back to the Overit SEO Brief! This Brief is for Q1 2023. We’ll touch upon some important news and notes in the world of Search since our last Brief, and later we’re going to try something new, answering questions sent in by you, the viewers. As always, if you like what you see, be sure to subscribe and follow for more episodes or follow us on social.
AI adoption and Performance Continues to Explode
We predicted at the end of 2022 that this would be the year AI went mainstream, but even we underestimated just how rapidly it would take off.
Since then, Bing announced it was extending its partnership with OpenAI in a multi-year and multi-billion dollar investment, while Open AI announced the release of an even newer version of their GPT large language model, or LLM, now called GPT-4.
GPT-4 is an even more powerful LLM, trained on a much larger training set than GPT-3, with trillions of available parameters compared to GPT-3’s mere billions. If this dot represents the parameter size of GPT-3, THIS dot represents GPT-4. Microsoft has already integrated GPT-4 into Bing Search and is looking to integrate AI into other parts of their product base as well.
And to remind users of their commitment to AI, both Google and Facebook introduced their large language models to the public as well. Google announced plans for an AI chatbot called Bard, powered by their LamDa LLM and Facebook announced the release of their similarly sounding but different LLaMa model, which will begin to augment certain Facebook features.
While Overit still cautions marketing teams to fully vet, fact-check and proofread anything generated by a Large Language Model, we know that AI is going to change how a lot of us work and how we search in the future. We’ll continue to monitor the AI landscape for you as the technology develops.
Google Will Soon Auto-Migrate Universal Analytics Properties Over to GA4
In an email sent to Universal Analytics property owners, Google stated that starting this month, they will begin the process of setting up a new GA4 property based on any in Universal Analytics. If you haven’t yet set up a new GA4 property yet, or if you have set one up but haven’t linked it to the current Universal Analytics property yet, Google is soon going to do that for you. It appears Google still intends to sunset the Universal Analytics product in and around July of this year, so all of this could happen within the next few months.
If your organization is a bit under-resourced for GA4 at this time, this auto-migration could be quite helpful. It’s great Google is taking some initiative and lead there. But Overit cautions any Universal Analytics users who are tracking specific Goal Completions or custom Events within their UA properties.
While standard traffic and acquisition data should migrate smoothly enough, we’re not as confident in how any custom conversions or events might be replicated within GA4. If you’re currently tracking these 0utcome-based metrics, it’s still a good idea to manually set these up within GA4 yourselves, rather than assume they’ll be faithfully replicated by Google’s auto-migration.
If you have any questions regarding GA4, you can always reach out to us at Overit, and we can point you in the right direction.
The March 2023 Core Update Is Now Rolling Out.
Google just confirmed the release of their March 2023 Core Update. This is their first Core Update in the last 6 months, and the first one for 2023. Google stated they expected the rollout will take up to about 2 weeks to fully roll out, so you may not see any changes immediately. But be sure to revisit your rankings and overall search visibility in early April and see if this new Core Update had any impact on your organization’s website.
We covered the differences between minor algorithm changes and these more significant Core Updates in our very first SEO Brief, including how to handle any ranking or visibility changes that might result from a Core Update. If you have any questions or concerns about Core Updates, be sure to revisit that segment from Q3 2022 to get those insights and advice.
We’re trying something new here in the SEO Brief, with a From the Inbox segment. Our very first question comes from Melissa P from Albany, and she asks:
“My company is planning to redesign our website this year. Are there any SEO considerations or actions we need to be aware of before re-launching our website?”
That’s a great question, Melissa, and yes, there are a few different SEO considerations to keep in mind.
The first element to consider is what’s included within this redesign? Is it primarily a visual facelift, with mostly new colors, fonts, menu designs, but no new content? Or is the content being rewritten as well? Long ago web developers came up with Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, to help separate form and function on websites – meaning how websites look versus what they say, do, or offer for content.
If the redesign is primarily impacting just your CSS you may not need to do much at all, as these are not really what Google and other search engines consider within their ranking algorithms. Search engines are largely agnostic to the overall aesthetics of your website. So long as the design doesn’t negatively affect User Experience it doesn’t really impact search engine visibility.
However, if the content on the pages of your website is changing, whether or not the aesthetics are, then this definitely can impact your search engine visibility. What we recommend is to document all the different content changes for the pages on your site, and to archive or save older versions. This will let you compare the updated versions of pages to prior ones, particularly if you see visibility or ranking drops.
In these situations, what often happens is that important keywords have been removed from H1 or H2 heading tags, or meta tags, or the keywords are not as well integrated into the copy of the page as before. Google ranks web pages, not websites, so even when you rewrite an entire website, you may find that the SEO impact can vary quite a bit. Some pages might see improvements, others see neither lifts nor declines, and others might see visibility and traffic drops. Having the older versions of pages to go back and compare to will help you make further adjustments and edits to a website, even after a major rewrite.
And finally, if the actual URLs on your website are changing, then there are some very important steps to take before a relaunch, namely a Redirect Map. URLs are basically the internet addresses of your web pages. Even when the content on a page doesn’t change, if the page has changed locations within your site architecture, then you need to signal to both search engines and users there’s a new address. Otherwise, users might get lost, and search engine rankings can quickly vanish.
The way to do that is through 301 Redirects, which are instructions uploaded to the server that detail these changes. Each page that will move locations needs to be mapped out, so that the server knows where to send users instead. So, we recommend that you create and upload a full Redirect Map immediately prior to the re-launch, covering all of the different location changes.
This will ensure that users who try and go to the older page versions are properly sent to the new version, rather than the dreaded 404 page. And it’s the gold standard for maintaining your prior search engine visibility and ensuring it smoothly transfers over to the new page location.
If you have other questions about Redirects or anything else related to SEO that you want answered, be sure to drop them in the comments section below, or feel free to send an email to [email protected], and put SEO Brief in the subject line.
That’s it for this SEO Brief. We hope that helps, and we’ll see you in Q2!