The Overit SEO Brief Episode 7 | More Updates from Google and a Partnership with Reddit


Welcome back to the Overit SEO Brief! This Brief is covering Q1 2024. We’ll touch upon some important news and notes in the world of Search since our last Brief, and later we’ll dip into our mailbag, answering questions sent in by you, the viewers. 

Email us your questions at: [email protected]

As always, if you like what you see, be sure to subscribe on YouTube and use the form to the right to sign up for email notifications. Let’s get started with some news and notes!

Google Updates Their SEO Starter Guide

Google recently updated their SEO Starter Guide. This document was first released in 2008, a few years after Google’s ascendance as the world’s most popular search engine. The 2nd version wasn’t updated and released until 2017, and this most recent update marks the 3rd version of the document.

In this iteration, the document is just HALF the size of its predecessor, and is geared primarily towards SEO beginners. It covers the most common areas that beginners should focus on and eliminates a lot of material that is either redundant, no longer as relevant, or that’s an intermediate to advanced SEO topic. Google reduced the size of several different sections, occasionally linking out to a standalone document on that topic for further reference and more in-depth information.

Google has also added a section addressing things beginners should NOT focus on, which includes some common SEO misconceptions or concepts that just aren’t critical for beginners in 2024. This document is something a LOT of SEOs have reviewed during their careers, particularly when they were beginners. It’s good to see Google updating and streamlining the document. If you haven’t ever reviewed Google’s SEO Starter Guide, you should definitely check it out.  

Google Makes Changes To The Quality Raters Program

Google also recently made some changes to its Quality Rater program. The Quality Rater program consists of independent human raters who use specific Quality Rater Guidelines to assess and grade the quality of various Google Search Results. 

These Quality Rater evaluations are NOT used directly within Google’s algorithm and are not ranking factors, which are both common misconceptions. However, Google uses them to help evaluate their search ranking systems and they provide valuable feedback that Google engineers can use in improving these systems over time. 

The first change was an update to the Guidelines themselves. The changes were fairly minor, but they were the first update to the document since Q4 2022. Like the SEO Starter Guide, the Quality Rater Guidelines are an important document that a lot of SEOs will encounter during their career, so it’s good to see Google maintaining it. 

The other big change was that Google ended its Quality Rater contract with Appen, a consulting company that recently provided Quality Raters to Google. The contract is set to expire at the end of March. Appen did NOT hold an exclusive contract with Google and there are other companies Google contracts with for the Quality Rater program, but Appen was one of the larger and well known companies in this space. We’re not sure how this will all shake out, but the Quality Rater program itself is not going away, and we’ll update you as we learn anything new about the program.

Google Partners with Reddit in $60 Million Annual Deal

Google also recently announced a new corporate partnership with Reddit that’s worth $60 million annually for Reddit. The new arrangement will result in Google surfacing more Reddit content within their search results and facilitating searcher discovery and engagement within Reddit threads. 

The deal will also provide Google valuable prioritized access to Reddit’s Data API, which Google can use in a variety of ways, including as training sets for their Machine Learning and AI models. In turn, Reddit gets a new revenue stream, more visibility on the biggest search engine, and access to Google’s own cutting edge AI technologies. 

We identified Reddit as one of the big winners during one of the more recent Helpful Content Updates, so this partnership with Reddit isn’t surprising. In Google’s press release they specifically mentioned the increase in users appending “reddit” to their search queries as a motivating factor for Reddit’s increased visibility in their search results. 

For content-focused SEOs and marketing teams, this increases the importance of Reddit and the greater conversations taking place there. Besides vertical specific competitors, many websites will now have to compete with Reddit for Page 1 visibility and Reddit is going to serve as an overall benchmark for content quality, relevancy and authority for a wide range of topics.

Now let’s dive into our mailbag. This Brief’s question comes from Blair in Poughkeepsie, who asks… 

“What is an XML Sitemap, and do I need one for my website?”

Blair, that’s a great question, and one we seem to get every year. In a nutshell, an XML Sitemap is a specific kind of file that Google and other search engines can use to discover pages on your website for the purposes of crawling and indexing them. 

The very first step toward search engine visibility is URL discovery, and Google has a few different ways they can find pages on your website. One way is they can crawl the actual links on your website, both from the navigational menus and internal links within the content. Another way is they can follow links from outside 3rd party websites, or backlinks, that point to pages on your site. For many websites, these methods are more than sufficient for Google to find and index your relevant content.

However, there are additional methods one can use to facilitate URL discovery and one of them is an XML Sitemap. XML here stands for “Extensible Markup Language” and it’s both a markup language, like HTML is, and a specific file format. 

XML Sitemaps are structured data files that consist of a list of pages and other accompanying information about those pages. Think of it as an address book or directory, one that Google can use to see all of the available pages on your website. Organizations don’t NEED an XML Sitemap, and they are in no way ranking factors, but it’s also never a bad idea to have one. 

There are many tools to create or export structured data as XML Sitemaps and many Content Management Systems automatically generate XML Sitemaps or have quick and easy plugins to manage this for you.  If you don’t have an XML Sitemap for your website, we think that’s a pretty quick and easy SEO win, definitely some low hanging fruit worth utilizing. 

That’s it for this SEO Brief. We hope that helps and we’ll see you in Q2!