There was a lot of instability in search results for Google throughout July, although we never had a confirmed algorithm update. But there were definitely a few big updates in Google land that we need to update you for the month. Of course some AI news, some analytics news, and everything in between. There’s only a couple big things to track for July, so let’s jump in.
GA4 Here to Stay
Honestly, I didn’t think it would actually happen. But it did, and Universal Analytics is no more. Google enforced the GA4 takeover on July 1st as the primary source of collecting data. And people had a lot of feelings about it.
we held a funeral for Universal Analytics.
how’s your Friday? pic.twitter.com/rXnMjFPxHJ
— MRS Digital (@MRSDigital) June 30, 2023
A moment of silence for universal analytics. You served honorably and will be missed. Your replacement is a clown show. pic.twitter.com/nLD5vUUm8O
— Jeromy Sonne (@JeromySonne) July 1, 2023
Goodbye, Universal Analytics! 😞
It’s a strange feeling heading into the weekend, knowing that by Monday, it won’t work anymore.
I first used it back in 2015. When I started as a PPC rookie.
— Alfred Simon (@AlfredSimon) June 30, 2023
Google said UA will shut down in stages with some still being able to see new data. And you have until July 1st of next year, 2024, to actually export all data and historical reports before it’s erased altogether. You can read Google’s announcement here. But again, if you haven’t migrated to GA4, there are tons of guides and information on the internet. Figuring out how to get all the information you used to get easily through UA, might take a little longer. But rest assured, we’re all on the same journey as marketers trying to figure it out.
AI Content Fallout
We all knew this extreme pendulum swing to embracing AI content would start to go the other direction. Most marketers have embraced AI in one way or another. And now search engines are starting to comment on quality and how this content interacts with their algorithm for SEO performance.
Multiple comments from Google and in their other policies, show the need for human-created content that can be easily distinguished from AI-generated content. In fact, Google’s Search Liaison Danny Sullivan said on Twitter that “There’s lots of AI content on the web that doesn’t rank well and isn’t well received… AI content has no magic ranking powers.”
It’s still not correct that AI content will be “well-received by search engines,” at least for us. There’s lots of AI content on the web that doesn’t rank well and hence isn’t well received. AI content has no magic ranking powers. If *content* is helpful, then it might succeed.
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) July 18, 2023
Whether AI content ranks better than human-created content and will actually impact rankings is yet to be seen because it takes several months to move the rankings needle in most cases. However, I’ve said since we started to see the rise of AI content a year ago that AI and successful content meet is with marketers. You will always need a human eye and a content expert to input the right keywords, make sure grammar and sentence structure make sense, and so many other things that make content stand out. From personal experience, I know these AI tools aren’t perfect, and a piece of content started through AI, but optimized with a strong content marketer is still a very strong force to be reckoned with.
AI Content & Product Ratings
Google is also taking these AI updates and trends seriously. They’ve updated their Product Ratings policies specifically around AI-generated content in reviews. And a violation of their new policies can result in disapproval, warnings, or account suspension.
The guidelines say, “Automated Content: We don’t allow reviews that are primarily generated by an automated program or artificial intelligence application. If you have identified such content, it should be marked as spam in your feed using the <is_spam> attribute.”
Google’s existing Product Rating guidelines continue to focus on authenticity, legality, and ethical reviews on the Google platform. This could mean reviews on Google Business Profiles for certain businesses. It also continuously works to comment and fight against spam.
These new policies take effect on August 28th, 2023.
Site Names Support
In late July, Google also updated its support for site names in search results. In an update on Google Search Central, they outline that they now support subdomains on all devices in English, French, German, and Japanese.
What does that mean, essentially you can now have an alternate or preferred site name shown in results. The best way to do that is to indicate the site name in structured data. But now, you can also add alternateName property if for example preferred site name isn’t available for use. It allows for the Google bot to consider other options if your preferred choice isn’t selected due to other sites using the same name.