With Google updates, advancing AI capabilities, and possible new search engine players entering the field, this is no time to be uninformed. Fortunately, this latest update is packed with studies, tips, and announcements about all of these urgent issues and more.
First, you’ll get a knowledge boost from four fresh data studies. The studies cover what an analysis of 10,000 results can tell you, what consumers really think of generative AI, what the last Google update did to SERPs, and what 9 years of data can tell you about Google’s future.
Then, you’ll pick up a few new skills from the guides. They cover some top use cases for ChatGPT, best SEO practices for paywalls, and an analysis of whether AI has “killed” affiliate marketing.
The latest news closes out the roundup. Catch up on Google’s latest update announcements, the surprising effects of Lighthouse 10, Google’s new best link practices, and reports of search cooperation with Apple.
Affiliate SEO: We Analysed 10,000 Search Results to See Who Ranks
Glen Allsopp brings you some insights his team picked up after analyzing about ten thousand affiliate-product SERPs. As he states early on, his team wanted to see: Are ‘general’ sites like Forbes completely taking over, or do single-niche affiliate sites still rank well?
His team initially spent weeks hand-collecting keywords that point to physical products. They refined their list by focusing on confirmed product keywords like:
- Best electric toothbrush
- Gifts for best friends
- Best pregnancy pillow
The team found some dramatic results. First, of the top 100 most represented websites, just 5 were independent brands. In a graphic included in the article, you can see a sample of these supersites, including sources like Amazon, NYTimes, Forbes, and Tech Radar.
Next, his team found that for many results, independent affiliates didn’t appear at all. Many results pages were split between major publishers. For example, Forbes alone had first-page rankings for 2,047 of the 10,000 key phrases.
The news isn’t all bad for independent affiliates. Glen and the team found that the independent affiliates that did stand out were getting around 1.3 million visits a month.
The rest of the study includes pages and pages of facts and insights for affiliates about featured snippets, the speed at which you can develop an independent affiliate site, and the viability of niche sites compared to other types.
Both established and independent publishers will have to reckon with AI. In the next study, you’ll learn what consumers say about it.
New Data: What Consumers Really Think About Generative AI
Kevin Indig brings you this look at the consumer view of AI. He wanted to explore the rates of user trust, adoption, and usage to better understand how online buyers were dealing with the changes.
This turned into an official survey that approached more than 1,000 participants.
These participants were then surveyed on a number of AI-related questions, including:
- How familiar are you with the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Technology “ChatGPT”?
- Have you used the ChatGPT AI Platform?
- Have you used a chatbot powered by GPT or similar technology in the past? (ex. DALL-E)
- For what purposes have you used the “ChatGPT” Platform?
- How much do you trust the answers provided by GPT technology?
While the study is filled with statistics developed from the data, the general trend is that consumers are adopting AI technology very quickly. Already 70% of people report using it, and those who use it seem to be highly encouraged to use it additional times.
Respondents used Chat GPT for an interesting collection of tasks, including creative writing, problem-solving, and math. Those polled also seemed to consider it relatively trustworthy as a source of information. 70%+ found AI outputs at least a little credible.
Check out the full study to learn more about how normal customers are responding to AI. In the next piece, you’ll need to go back to caring about what search engines think. You’ll get a breakdown of how the Helpful Content System update landed.
How Google’s Latest ‘Helpful Content System’ Update Is Impacting SERP’s
Lily Ray brings you this detailed breakdown of Google’s latest updates, in a piece adapted from her PubCon Austin 2023 presentation. Lily focuses on this update in particular because, as she argues in the piece, it may have a significantly larger impact than everyone expected.
She starts by pointing out that the Helpful Content Update also shipped with another new feature—a sitewide signal she calls the “unhelpful content classifier.” This signal sniffs out content that doesn’t break rules but provides low added value or is not particularly helpful (in other words, SEO spam).
Lily suggests the possibility that this signal is the early version of a detection system that may be used to spot and penalize AI content.
As further evidence, she lays out who was most affected by the update. She lists the following sites as getting a surprising amount of attention from the update—
- Lyric sites
- Grammar sites
- Product manuals
- Aggregator sites
- Guitar chord
A common factor with this set of sites is that they have problems creating unique content. The right guitar chords are always the right guitar chords, for example. That all of them were hit suggests that the update targeted otherwise good content that was simply too plentiful online.
How might that targeting ability be used in the future?
As Lily states in closing, Google is not necessarily hostile to AI. The latest messaging on AI suggests that Google does not object to it if…
- It is original and high-quality
- It demonstrates E-E-A-T
- It satisfies the Helpful Content System
- It doesn’t propagate misinformation
- It isn’t created with the primary purpose of manipulating search results
These moves may simply reflect Google unwillingness to let users be buried under a slew of freshly-generated AI results.
While we’re on the subject of higher-quality AI content, that’s the focus of the very first guide of the month.
ChatGPT for SEO: 9 Best Use Cases (And 4 Suboptimal Ones)
Si Quan Ong and the Ahrefs team have narrowed down (what they argue are) the best AI chat use cases for SEO. In the guide, they list and explain each of these use cases to you—focusing on the specific needs of SEOs.
They suggest that ChatGPT may have a valuable part to play in SEO operations in roles such as…
- Finding seed keywords
- Automating the production of small amounts of code
- Generating headlines
- Generating outlines
- Producing short segments of content
- And more
For each of these use cases, you’ll be given some great advice for how to use ChatGPT to pull them off. Each description is filled with lists of prompts and images of the bot in action to show you how to get the desired result.
After listing some high-potential use cases, the team also treats you to a list of situations where they feel ChatGPT is not used effectively. These include—
- Long-form content creation
- Keyword research
- Search intent classification
- Local SEO
Check out the full guide to find out why they think ChatGPT can’t handle these tasks satisfactorily and what might change in the future. Next, you’ll be treated to a highly practical guide for getting the best SEO around paywalls.
Best Practices for Paywalls and SEO
Barry Adams brings this warning to the growing number of online publishers who are experimenting with subscription services. As he points out, the SEO rules can change when you apply a paywall to your sites. He has some ideas for your implementation.
First, he breaks down the four different types of paywalls that you can create for your sites. These are—
- Hard paywall
- Metered Paywall
- Dynamic Paywall
For each of these paywalls, he tells you how users are impacted and what to expect. After that he starts to explain how paywalls interact with Googles.
As it so happens, Google has already engaged with paywall publishers, and they’ve released some recommendations.
Google recommend metering and lead-in content as paywall solutions. Google has increased options for seeing past these forms. Also, Barry recommends that you use structured data to let Google know it is reviewing paywalled content.
Check out the guide for a complete set of guidelines for doing SEO around paywalls. For the final guide of the month, you’ll get one affiliate’s prediction of a future under AI.
Did AI Just Kill Affiliate Marketing?
Greg Elfrink starts with a question that’s hard to ignore. He asks not is AI dangerous, but if it has already killed at least one market. It’s a long and detailed argument, but Greg takes you through his vision for the long-term impact of AI.
He explores many ideas across the entire piece and defends the following personal predictions—
- SEO will change significantly over the 2-5 year term
- LLM AI can’t replace (current) search due to the economics of deploying an AI this way
- LLM has produced a significant and notable number of “bad reactions” to search queries
- Content site owners have a lot to gain by embracing AI
- This is a better time than ever to buy an affiliate site if you can use it
The last note may sound optimistic, but it’s something else. He argues that this may be one of the last windows for people to break into affiliate marketing. Soon, it will be significantly easier for anyone to produce enough content to populate a large site. The age and authority you can claim now will significantly increase in value.
He closes with some advice about building a brand right now so that AI will be less of a threat. That closes out the guides for this week, and it’s time to jump into the news. First, you’ll learn about one of the latest updates to hit Google.
Google Unwraps February 2023 Product Reviews Update With Language Support
Barry Schwartz brings us this breakdown of Google’s most recent product review update. This one hit around February 21, 2023. Google provided a timeline of two weeks for the update, and it has been announced to be complete as of March 7th.
The update arrived for more languages than usual, and rolled out for English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish at the same time.
Google did not provide many details for the update, but testing since its arrival has shown that this update was more volatile than many previous ones. Analysis of the effects is still ongoing, and may be covered in future roundups. For now, let’s look at some good news for SEOs.
Lighthouse 10 Improves PageSpeed Insights Scores For 90% Of Pages
Roger Montti brings you these surprising results from the release of Lighthouse 10. For those who are not familiar, Lighthouse is a free web auditing tool released by Google Chrome. It scores web developers to drive them to resolve UX issues and other design problems.
These scores were considered as part of the core web vitals, meaning even if you didn’t use Lighthouse, you could still be affected by it.
The most recent update changed the scores used by Lighthouse, along with the way they were evaluated. As a result, nearly half of all pages automatically received a score update.
This happened because the newer scoring system places more weight on factors that are easier to achieve. Many websites were already in compliance, so they don’t need to make any changes to enjoy the benefits of this update.
These aren’t the only rules Google is changing. In the last piece of the roundup, you’ll learn what Google has to say about the best link practices right now.
Google Publishes New Link Best Practices
Barry Schwartz brings you this look at Google’s recent expansions of the best practices for links. As he points out, this is a document that originally began as instructions for creating crawlable links. Now, it spans to cover many more topics.
Barry takes you through the new sections and gives you a review of the new information that each one covers. You’ll get a summary of everything you’ll learn in the new sections about—
- Crawlable links
- Anchor text placement
- Writing anchor text
- Internal links
- External links
Checkout Google’s latest release to find out more. That’s all for now. Come back for another update to find out what new things we’ve learned about AI, Google Updates, and all the topics SEOs care about.
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