SEO news recap - Magnifying glass sitting on top of computer keyboard.

Welcome to our January 2024 SEO News Recap! In December, we shared the latest on recent core algorithm updates, Bing Chat, how Google is using AI to understand videos, and more.

This month, we have the latest news on brand new Google Search capabilities, how breakthroughs in AI are changing organic search, what Google thinks about AI-generated imagery, and much more.

Jump to each January 2024 SEO News Recap news topic using the links below:

Google SGE Testing “Some Products to Consider” Carousel

The Search Generative Experience (SGE) is still in beta testing, which means that our experiences with SGE may vary by the day as Google figures out what works best for its users.

The latest new feature is a carousel that displays products and allows users to engage with different vendors with the Google Shopping graph.

Google’s new “Some Products to Consider” carousel.
Google’s new “Some Products to Consider” carousel. (Source)

Whether this feature sticks around is yet to be seen – but it does support indications that SGE is evolving to be more shopping-focused. It’s important for ecommerce sites to be forward-thinking in their SEO strategies.

Google Announces Two New Ways to Search

On January 17th, Google introduced two new ways to search: Circle to Search and a new multi-search experience.

With Circle to Search, you can use an Android phone screen to search from any app. All you have to do is circle, highlight, scribble, or tap on the part of an image or video that shows what you want to search for.

Google’s new “Circle to Search” feature.
Google’s new “Circle to Search” feature. (Source)

Google’s example shows a dog wearing goggles while swimming in a pool. When the user circles the goggles, a Google Lens search box automatically appears on the phone screen to produce search results.

Circle to Search will be rolled out on January 31st on select premium Android smartphones.

Multisearch in Google Lens was introduced in 2022, and it just got an upgrade thanks to breakthroughs in generative AI and the testing Google has been doing with SGE.

If you have the Google app on an Android or iOS phone, you can use Lens to take a photo of anything and add your question to the search. The result will give you an AI-powered answer.

For example, if you take a photo of a board game and ask, “How do you play this?” Google will give you an overview of the game and links to find more details.

At the end of the blog post, Google added that moving forward, it will continue to introduce helpful applications of generative AI from the SGE experiment in Search Labs into search results pages.

AI will continue to play an important role in Google search experiences. To dive deeper, explore our article on Using AI for SEO.

“Refine This Search” Filter Is Live!

Another test that Google seems to have made live for all users is the “refine this search” filter.

When searching a query, users may now see a filter in the upper left corner of the results. Clicking on it will open an overlay with additional ways to narrow down the results and more easily find what you’re looking for.

Here are two screenshots as an example:

Refined filter capabilities in Google Search
Refined filter capabilities in Google Search.

Clicking on the filter icon results in the options below:

“Refine your search” pop-up in Google Search.
“Refine your search” pop-up in Google Search.

As Google continues to add new ways for users to find what they want faster, the ROI Revolution SEO experts will continue to stay on top of ways to show up in those search results. To start a conversation about how you can grow through SEO, send a message to our team today.

A Googler’s Take on AI-Generated Imagery

Google Search Advocate John Mueller shared a string of thoughts and insights about the use of AI-generated imagery, drawing comparisons to stock photography and emphasizing the importance of the user’s experience with a website.

Here are the highlights:

  • For ecommerce product photography, authentic photographs are essential to provide an accurate representation of what the consumer is purchasing.
  • For general content embellishment, stock photography and AI-generated images are comparable.
  • Any images on your site should be relevant to the subject matter, of good quality, and professional. They should indicate a level of effort and care to the user. Otherwise, they can be perceived as untrustworthy (AI or not).
  • Ask yourself, “What would the user expect here?” when deciding which type of imagery to incorporate. If the user would typically expect to see a stock photo in similar scenarios, swapping in AI-generated content is probably fine.
  • Consider what would elevate your user’s experience with your site. Mueller expressed a personal desire for more augmented reality (AR) experiences, like 3D modeling that allows you to “see” a product in your own environment.

As usual, it’s all about the user. Advice like John’s shouldn’t discourage the use of new tools like DALL-E, but can serve as a reminder to not get lazy and to continue to pursue innovation.

Google Clarifies How Snippet Content Is Generated

Recent updates to the Google Search Central how-to article on controlling your snippets in search results clarify that the snippets (below in green) are primarily generated using the page content.

Example of snippet content in Google Search results.
Example of snippet content in Google Search results.

Google elaborated:

“The previous wording incorrectly implied that structured data and the meta description HTML element are the primary sources for snippets.”

Essentially, you can designate what you want displayed in the snippet, but Google will ultimately review the page and determine what is most appropriate for the contents of the page.

If your website pages have a clear, overt purpose and you’re not trying to be deceptive with your meta descriptions, this change shouldn’t negatively impact your snippets.

There’s No Such Thing as Perfect SEO

Due to search engines constantly changing, a website’s SEO can never truly be “perfect,” says Google’s John Mueller.

Your SEO should evolve over time to match the ever-changing ways users are searching and how search results are being displayed. But just because it can’t be perfect doesn’t mean you can’t still strive for excellence!

Structure Large Sites Hierarchically for Quicker Crawling

Google’s Gary Illyes says large sites may benefit from a hierarchical category structure because site owners can easily make changes to one section at a time. It also makes it easier for search engines to treat sections of your site differently.

This could be useful if you have recent news in addition to older, archived content, Gary says. Search engines would be able to crawl the recent news more quickly than the other directory.

How to Recover from a Japanese Keyword Hack

In a forum discussion on Reddit, John Mueller explained to a victim of the Japanese keyword hack that it’s a common attack and shared steps to take to recover from it.

The hack earned its name from hackers automatically finding vulnerable websites and using the site search feature to inject thousands of pages of foreign language spam (usually Japanese or Chinese) into a site’s CMS.

If you’re a victim of this hack, Mueller says you should do the following:

  1. Ensure your site’s main pages are cleaned up quickly.
  2. Understand how the attackers did it.
  3. Shut down that vulnerability.
  4. Let Google do its thing.

He suggested blocking the site search results from indexing by using robots.txt or the noindex directive.

Mueller added that there’s no need to file a disavow file for the links they created because Google will ignore them anyway. Old pages will eventually drop out of the index on their own. Just focus on your site’s content and make sure it’s worth ranking.

Related Resource: Avoid Website Exploits via Internal Site Search Results Pages

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Book a Meeting to Discover How You Can Grow With SEO

If that seems like a lot of January 2024 SEO news to you, well… we have news for you. This is nothing out of the ordinary. Google is constantly refining its algorithms, and even the biggest brands struggle to stay on top of all the changes.

The great news is, ROI Revolution has a team of passionate SEO experts who are dedicated to helping brands reach their full potential – without having to increase their ad spend – through SEO.

To discover how you can grow with SEO, book a meeting with our team today.