SEO is on the precipice of perhaps its biggest shakeup ever. This roundup will get you up to speed on some of the most important research, guides, and news items around ChatGPT and other big changes.
You’ll get to see the data studies first. You’ll find out what the numbers say about whether AI has already replaced human writers and the results of Google’s first case study in years.
Then, you can learn from some fresh guides. They’ll teach you how to work with pillar pages and how to automate the dullest SEO tasks.
The last section contains the most unmissable headlines. You’ll get the latest details about the huge Yandex leak, an unconfirmed Google Update, AI detection tools, and more. Let’s jump in…
[Investigation] Has AI Already Replaced Human Writers?
Gael Breton brings you this dive into the world of AI content that’s already being placed on top sites. The investigation started with the CNET’s admission that they’ve published more than 75 AI-generated stories in recent history.
The investigation found the same byline or tech used for AI content on CNET was also appearing on other websites owned by the parent company, including sites like bankrate.com and creditcard.com.
As Gael points out, though, publishers don’t have to report using A.I. to create stories. Using tools (still in testing), he and the team found that it was highly likely that AI was being used on Forbes and across the internet provider reviews niche.
He also provides some analysis into how well A.I. articles are performing at bringing in human readers. See the whole article to find out how A.I. measures up against some of the site’s top authors.
Next, we have a surprise case study from Google years after the last one. It’s no surprise that Google likes people to follow the rules, but the results of this case study have some big implications for sites that rely on video.
How Vimeo Improved Video SEO for Their Customers
Google’s Search Central team brings you this case study into how Vimeo addressed one of their biggest challenges by applying Google’s best practices.
Vimeo’s problem was that they relied on their customers to handle the work of basic SEO, applying structured data, and submitting sitemaps. Customers weren’t doing this on their own, so many top videos by the service weren’t showing up in search.
By adopting Google’s best practices and baking them into the way the product worked, they were able to get around these problems. For example, they made the indexifembedded and VideoObject markup part of their rules, and now customers don’t have to do anything for videos to be indexable.
The complete case study contains additional advice on how Vimeo massively improved the searchability of all of its videos by applying the best practice rules without any complex SEO work.
It’s a solid analysis for any site that relies on videos and may offer you some clues to handle ranking problems.
That concludes the case studies, but there’s a great set of guides coming up. First, you’ll learn why pillar pages do better than blogs, and how to build yours to do the same.
Pillar Pages: Why and How You Should Add Them to Your Content Strategy
Lauren Fox brings you this guide into pillar pages and where they belong in your content strategy.
She defines a pillar page as one that comprehensively covers a broad topic. These are pages that are often thousands of words in length, and provide a complete overview as well as ways for readers to dive deeper into a topic.
As she points out early in the piece, research at her company has shown pillar pages outperform normal blog pages in generating traffic, backlinks, and even fresh subscriptions for features like newsletters.
She then goes on to explain how you can develop these pillar pages. You’ll learn how to develop them so that they improve your topical authority.
You’ll also find out some strategies for mapping supporting pages and creating pillar pages of your own.
You’ll have plenty of time to devote to thoughtful content by the time you’re done with the next guide. It teaches you how to automate some of the dullest SEO tasks.
How to Automate Dull SEO Task
Siew Ann Tan brings you these detailed descriptions of how to automate two different time-consuming SEO tasks. She takes you step-by-step through the work of automating the process of sending assignments to writers and verifying emails for outreach.
For the first task (sending assignments to writers), she lays out how to set up an Airtable database for writers and article data.
Then, she shows you how to use Zapier to automate different parts of the workflow—all the way to automating the creation of the docs writers will use for delivery.
She provides the same level of detail for the next task, describing how you can build a process that finds emails, checks them, and filters your list down to the valid ones in an automated flow.
Though this guide only explains two tasks, it can tell you a lot about how to build automated processes for other SEO work.
For now, you’re ready to move on to the news. Some major events have happened in the last month, starting with the infamous Yandex leak.
Yandex ‘Leak’ Reveals 1,922 Search Ranking Factors
Danny Goodwin brings you this story about one of the biggest stories in recent search history. Yandex was the subject of a massive leak on January 27th.
If you aren’t familiar, Yandex is currently the 4th largest search engine by global market share. A former employee is alleged to have leaked the entire source code repository onto a popular hacking site.
The original link contained 44.7GB of stolen files, including information on nearly 2000 different ranking factors.
There is already some great analysis. One thread from Alex Buraks dives deep into what these leaked facts can tell us about Google.
As he points out, these companies share a RankBrain function, PageRank, and the use of text algorithms. Yandex is also staffed by many ex-Googlers and, according to some Russian sources, requires you to use the same strategies to succeed at ranking.
Beyond the standard ranking factors you’d expect, Danny highlights some of the strange ones that have been uncovered so far. Factors like the number of unique visitors and the total percentage of organic traffic play a role, for example.
SEOs have only just begun to play with this trove of data. Expect to see many more details about it in an upcoming roundup. For now, you may have seen some volatility in late January. Was it caused by an unconfirmed Google Update?
Unconfirmed Google Update Impacting Product Reviews Sites on Thursday, January 26th?
Barry Schwartz brings you this look at a possible update. The mystery is yet to be solved, but you won’t want to miss the facts if you’re in the widely-affected product review niche.
Around January 26th, site owners in the product review niche in particular began to chatter about strange dips and jumps that they were seeing in their analytics. Glenn Gabe recorded some shocking surges and drops in a twitter thread a few days later.
Glenn was insistent in several messages with followers that Google was pushing some kind of site-level algorithm change. He claimed that his experience documenting these domains let him know that this was not some post-holiday adjustment.
Barry expands on Glenn’s graphs with graphs from all of the major Google tracking tools. Mozcast, SEMrush, RankRanger and others all consistently found that something big was happening that day.
By February 5th, SEOs in the comments were again reporting big fluctuations. Google has still not provided any guidance or admitted to any changes. With changes as recent as the 5th, whatever this is may still be rolling out.
The next big news story works as a companion piece to the A.I. writer study you saw at the top. It’s the announcement of an A.I content detection tool—by the makers of ChatGPT.
OpenAI Releases Tool to Detect Ai-Written Content
Matt G. Southern brings you this release announcement from OpenAI, the team behind the popular ChatGPT utility. They have released their own AI detection tool as a measure against people using their product for misinformation campaigns or academic fraud.
Early testing has shown that the tool is effective at identifying AI text about 25% of the time. That may sound not sound great, but it’s not only OpenAI that has struggled with identifying AI content. It only estimated human-written text as AI about 10% of the time.
If you want to start playing with this tool right now, you can here.
Matt takes you through the process of putting text into the classifier and then interpreting the results. Based on the percentage, you’ll get a message telling you that the text is likely AI, unlikely AI, or something in between.
Matt’s own testing found that the tool has some limitations. He generated text using ChatGPT and then instantly fed that text into this tool. The tool judged that the text, generated only moments ago, was “possibly” written by AI.
Does this tool have a way to go? Is it using the wrong methodology? Or is it just really hard to detect AI writing? This doesn’t seem to be a reliable way to detect AI writing yet. More effective tools may be available in the future.
Your future may contain some surprising faces from the past. Yahoo is announcing that they are jumping back into search.
Yahoo Returning to Search
The twitter team for Yahoo brings you this cryptic announcement about upcoming search services. In the tweet (reproduced in whole), the company claims:
Just popping in to remind everyone that we did search before it was cool.
BRB making it cool again.
Yahoo’s search services have never gone away, and is still accessible at the original address: https://search.yahoo.com.
They are not a service that many searchers would consider, falling well behind rivals like Google and Bing. This announcement may signal the introduction of new technologies or partnerships with existing
So far, there are no details to share about what Yahoo is going to offer.
This announcement follows recent news from Apple that they are developing their own search functions. Yahoo’s pivot also comes at a time when Google has been facing a significant number of challenges, including layoffs, public criticism about search, and regulatory pressure.
Speaking of regulatory pressure, in the final news piece of the month, Google is now facing down an anti-trust suit.
Antitrust Suit: US Department of Justice Targets Google’s Advertising Business
Johannes Beus brings you this announcement on the US DOJ and the anti-trust suit it is bringing against Google over advertisement practices.
As Johannes points out, this is not the first time that Google has been targeted on this issue. In the past, fines from both the US and the EU have only left the company with manageable fines. However, this time appears different because of the number of states involved and the severity of the accusations.
The complaint, signed by the DOJ and eight other states, accuses Google of monopolizing the digital advertising market. It demands that Google divest as an entity from the Google Ad Manager Suite.
Dan Taylor of Google has already issued a public response (released Jan 24th) on where the company disagrees with the DOJ. He presents evidence of high competition in the industry.
This is only the beginning of a possibly long saga for Google as it is also facing down invigorated competitors. Watch the drama unfold by checking into future roundup updates!
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