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Diggity Marketing SEO News Roundup — May 2024


As we roll into May, SEO is quickly becoming less predictable than ever. This roundup will help you catch up with the big controversies, changes, and predictions for the future.

You’ll start by getting a briefing on a big fight that went down. Some people are charging that Google Search has been “killed,” and Google has a response for them. You’ll get both sides and the chance to make up your own mind.

After that, you’ll get the facts from a block of great case studies. Is AI content detectable? What does the March Core Update do now that the dust has settled? Is 3500% traffic growth possible, and how?

At the end, several big news items are covered to help you catch up on everything happening. Google has a new reputation abuse policy you need to comply with, AI is being used in knowledge panels, and new AI paywall options may be coming.

The Man Who Killed Google Search

(Tag: News/Discussion)

Tech journalist Ed Zitron brings you a piece in which he claims to track Google’s death through the rise and fall of some highly influential characters at the company.

Man Who Killed Google Search
Throughout the piece, he argues that Google has deliberately pursued a course that would worsen its results. He compares the timelines of Google’s hirings and firings and shows how they coincide with court-released email chains and new updates that left big changes.

The facts that he compiles (though he admits that some connections require speculation) paint a picture of a Search that was once independent of the ad side of the business but may now be completely ruled by it.

He makes his case comprehensively. The complete story, with all the characters, events, and timelines, will take about 15 minutes to read. It’s an interesting read and may leave you feeling like you’ve just finished a heist movie.

This reporting did not go unnoticed by Google. After a major SEO covered the issue on his Twitter (X) account and various SEO News sites, Google posted a complete response. Next, you’ll learn what Google had to say.

Google’s PR Team Sent Me the Following Response to the Claim on the Man at Google Who Killed Google Search

(Tag: News/Discussion)

Barry Schwartz brings you this look into a Google response delivered to him after he pushed this report on his social media profiles. The response came in the form of a letter that challenged several claims that Ed made in his piece.

First, Google challenged a connection that Ed had made between an email exchange and the rollback of some search changes. They dispute that there was a rollback and that improvement was continuous.

Second, they stated that the organic results in Search are not affected by ad systems. They quote some of Ben Gomes’ testimony from the trial, claiming that the increased context shows a slightly different story.

Finally, they provide some recent court testimony from Jerry Dischler, showing that Google keeps the search and ad teams separate. Jerry said, “The search team is only accelerating monetization velocity to the extent that they tell the ads team about…new research.

This is a pretty short response to the full list of charges that Ed covered in his first piece. Google may be preparing a more substantial response. Ed Zitron has released a response to Google’s response. You can read that here.

For now, we’re moving on until this story has more developments. Next, you can jump into the month’s big case studies and research pieces. I’ll start by studying whether Google’s algorithm can detect AI.

Is AI Content Detectable? And does Google even Care?

(Tag: Case Study)

Can the Google algorithm detect if content is written by AI? In this recent video I released, I argue that it doesn’t, and Google doesn’t even necessarily care. You’ll find all the evidence I gathered here, along with some predictions for the future of AI content.

First, I review some of the research that has already been done. Notably, ChatGPT performed some early research that found that people could only tell the difference between AI and real writing in 50% of cases.

However, that wasn’t the research that interested me in the topic. My own experiences during the March Core Update were what made me interested in studying this. During that update, I was shocked to see my AI sites were doing great. That made me consider how hard Google was even trying.

Shortly afterward, Gary Elias came out and said Google doesn’t take issue with AI content. After seeing many AI sites get hit (not mine), it was obvious that something was going on. My belief is that Google punishes low-quality content. How does it target them? My theory is with humans.

Yes, I believe that a real human—in the same way as a content rater—is watching these Twitter accounts and YouTube channels and giving the information they learn directly to Google. This seems likely because many SEOs got their entire portfolios nuked.

That reaction scared a lot of SEOs off of AI content, and I think that may have been the intended effect. However, Google didn’t have, or claim to have, a real way to catch these people (except when they’re telling on themselves on video).

As my video shows, significant growth is still possible with AI content. There are a lot of humanizing touches you can add that don’t appear to be attracting penalties. Next, you’ll get one of the deepest breakdowns yet available in the past March Core Update.

March Core Update Analysis with Lily Ray (Ep. 334)

(Tag: Case Study)

The March Core Updated has finally ended. Lily Ray joined the Authority Hacker Podcast to discuss everything she discovered about who this update affected and how.

In a far-ranging discussion, Lily and host Gael Breton discussed the significant visibility changes in popular tools like Ahrefs and Semrush and how the fluctuating numbers don’t tell the complete story. They talked about how it’s possible to keep and even improve ranking while losing traffic to new search features and SGE.

They can’t avoid discussing the growing lack of trust between Google and webmasters who no longer feel they can trust Google’s recommendations. Gael suggests that SEO could be less effective for improvement than channels like YouTube, social media, or even email marketing.

Check out the complete discussion for one of the most comprehensive breakdowns of the new update yet available, complete with some fresh data. Next, I want to share another personal case study with you. It shows you that some massive growth is still possible.

Case Study: A User-First SEO Strategy That Generated +3700% More Traffic in < 12 Months

(Tag: Case Study)

Google claims that it rewards websites with helpful user-first content. Some SEOs are skeptical about listening to Google about what ranks, but I think this much can be proven by data. In fact, I think I proved it myself.

My case study revolved around a recent client. The client was in the medical niche and offered various drug rehabilitative services in countries worldwide.


Our strategy at the start was to target service-related keywords. This client primarily focused on informational keywords, which was not working for them. They also lacked CTAs in most content and failed to take advantage of an earned reputation for expertise.

To address these problems, we developed a user-first content plan. First, we verified the intent of all the most important keywords. In the complete guide in my link, you’ll see screenshots of how the team and I used tools like Ahrefs to find everything we needed for the next step.

We analyzed content types, structures, and gaps using what we knew about the keywords. I used ChatGPT for a significant part of this step. My prompts and outputs for collecting this information are in my guide. I also provide the complete steps I used to have the content crawled with Google’s Indexing API as soon as possible.

Beyond that, the human-centered improvements spread across the entire website. We added buttons to emphasize user actions and placed well-located CTAs everywhere, from the footer to the meta descriptions.

I think the quality and variety of CTAs are hugely important to our results here, so I also went into plenty of additional detail about how to design more effective ones.

At the end of 12 months, organic traffic grew by 3,773.46% from 1,040 to 40,284 monthly sessions. This is also true for the site’s overall keyword visibility. They’re now ranking for 10,792 keywords within the top 100 positions.

This is also true for the site’s overall keyword visibility. They’re now ranking for 10,792 keywords within the top 100 positions. Check out the complete guide for tips on how you can do this yourself.

Next, a somber video has attracted a lot of attention in the SEO community. It’s the heartfelt plea of an independent site owner who feels trapped by recent Google decisions.

Google Is Killing Us (& Other Independent Sites)

(Tag: News/Discussion)

Brandon Saltalamacchia of the Retro Dodo company brings you this plea on behalf of independent websites that use Google as their primary source of traffic.

You may remember the name Retro Dodo because it was something of an SEO success story. It launched as a community for retro gamers featuring everything from unboxing videos to long for reviews. Only a year ago, it grew to 50k in revenue.

Now, Google considers his content not to be “helpful.” That’s the source of the penalty that he’s facing now. He charges that Google doesn’t have any motivation to help him because their income is mostly coming from other sources.

Reddit, a site awarded massive amounts of visibility in recent updates, currently has a large deal with Google. The large forum community site receives 60m a year to let Google train its AI models on Reddit content.

That’s not the only problem. As Brandon points out, many new search features have been created to eliminate the need for independent sites. Perhaps most tragically of all, all of the AI features replacing his site seem to have been trained on it. They draw facts from research and interviews that he created.

Brandom claims that he won’t be creating that content anymore because he can no longer afford it. The site is now nearly invisible in search results. 90% of all of his traffic has vanished in about seven months.

The video ends on a sad note. Like many publishing sites, he seems to be running out of options but is hoping for some community support to keep the brand alive. With all that to think about, you’re ready to jump into some of the big headlines closing out our roundup. First, Google has a new reputation abuse policy.

Reminder: New Google Search Reputation Abuse Policy Starts Soon

(Tag: News/Discussion)

Danny Goodwin brings you this look at Google’s new search spam policy that arrived on May 5th. As Google warned us in advance, this change is coming to address some recent problems with spam that have created a lot of drama for Google.

New Google Search Reputation

The spam being targeted here is “reputation abuse.” If you need a quick reminder, that’s what happens when sites host low-quality content provided by third parties. The idea is that the third parties will able to piggyback on the ranking power of the larger websites.

The Google announcement clarifies that this measure is not intended to stop sites from hosting third-party content. For example, some third-party content (even guest posts) serves the site’s users. For example, bringing in an expert to write about a post close to your audience wouldn’t be considered abusive.

The announcement included details about multiple enforcement mechanisms. Google plans to use both automated and manual actions against this abuse in the near future. Consider the warning I made in the AI detection research above—many people getting caught are just telling on themselves in YouTube videos.

Next, Google has also announced that AI is writing some knowledge panels. Could this present another problem for site owners?

Google AI Writing Some Search Knowledge Panels

(Tag: News/Discussion)

Barry Schwartz brings you this look at AI overviews recently appearing in search results. As he points out, AI has had some relationship with knowledge panels for a while. This may simply be the first time that Google has chosen to make its test panels public.

For now, “AI overviews are experimental” appears on AI-generated knowledge graphs. The article includes a small link where you can learn more about this, and it provides some great examples of how it appears in search engine results.

There’s not much we can tell you about this one yet, though the staying power of new search features has proven reliable in Google’s recent history. For now, you’re ready to take on the final news piece of the day. Google AI may be going behind a paywall.

Google Looks to AI Paywall Option, Claims Report

(Tag: News/Discussion)

As the BBC reported, Google is considering charging for premium content generated by artificial intelligence. This may be part of a major upcoming renovation of Google’s business model. In addition to AI, several parts of Google’s core product are expected to end up behind a paywall.

google premium charges meme

Company representatives have claimed that the search engine will remain free of charge and continue to be supported by ads. An ad-free search is not one of the new products being considered at this time.

Other than that, Google has been tight-lipped about the kind of benefits subscribers could see. They are believed to be related to Gemini and other life—enhancement services that AI may be capable of (for example, VA duties, scheduling, etc.)

We may know more in the future, but for now, that concludes this month’s roundup. Check back next time to get more big news about AI, core updates, and everything happening in search.


Article by

Matt Diggity

Matt is the founder of Diggity Marketing, LeadSpring, The Search Initiative, The Affiliate Lab, and the Chiang Mai SEO Conference. He actually does SEO too.

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"One of the most effective SEOs I've ever met"- Cyrus Sheppard

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