Welcome to your March 2023 SEO news recap! Last month, we shared the latest news related to AI for SEO, video SEO best practices, and more. In this month’s update, we’ll share details on the latest Google algorithm updates, clarification on what Google Bard is used for, the latest news on ChatGPT and Bing, and more.
Google Rolls Out March 2023 Broad Core Update
Google released its March 2023 broad core update on March 15, 2023. This is the first core update of the year and the first in over six months.
The rollout is expected to take up to two weeks to complete. Google advises website owners not to take any specific actions to recover from a negative rankings impact following a core update, as it may not indicate any problems with the pages.
Google provides some guidance for core updates to consider if a site is negatively impacted. This update follows the recent February 2023 product reviews update and the December 2022 link spam update.
Google’s February 2023 Product Reviews Update
An update to Google’s Product Reviews System (previously referred to as periodic Product Reviews Updates) places heavier emphasis on quality and expands to cover more than just English.
On February 21, 2023, the update was announced via Twitter, with 10 new supported languages named: Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish. The rollout completed on March 7th.
In addition to the new language support capabilities, Google’s developers have integrated additional ranking factors for product review content that seem to mirror the E-E-A-T signals of experience and expertise.
Updated language on the Produce Reviews System page states that content will be rewarded when it “provides insightful analysis and original research and is written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well,” rather than simply summarizing the product and/or its features.
This impact has generated high volatility in search rankings over the past month or so, even leading many SEOs to suspect that the update began to take effect before its official announcement. If your site includes review content, you may want to check out Google’s guidance for writing high-quality product reviews.
Google Bard Is Not Search
In early March, Google’s product lead for Bard, Jack Krawczyk, clarified in an all-hands meeting that Bard is not a search tool. Instead, it is an experimental AI service that helps users explore their creativity and curiosity. However, users can still try to use Bard like search.
At that time, Google was testing Bard internally under the name “Search It.” Krawczyk explained that they are working on generating associated queries and relaying user confidence to direct them towards non-search results.
Then, on March 21st, Google began its slow roll-out of Bard to users in the US and UK. If you’re interested in joining the waitlist, visit bard.google.com and sign up with your personal Google account. Google workspace accounts are not currently supported.
Bing Chat’s Fast Moves
Things are moving quickly in the world of Bing Chat. In late February, Bing updated its mobile app for iOS and Android to include Bing AI Chat, and the new features include voice chat by popular demand. Two days later, Microsoft launched version 96 of the chat bot, promising fewer cases of refusing to reply and instances of hallucinations.
Bing Chat AI uses a technology called Prometheus to combine Bing Search index and ranking system with OpenAI’s ChatGPT models to understand a user query, find an appropriate answer, and deliver that information to the user.
Just minutes after Microsoft announced the new version of ChatGPT to the public on March 15th, Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi confirmed that Bing had already been using GPT-4 for five weeks.
In March, Microsoft also raised the Bing Chat limits from 15 to 150 and began testing an optimization in “balanced mode” to improve performance, “resulting in shorter, quicker responses,” according to Mehdi.
Future updates hinted at by Microsoft Bing CEO Mikhail Parakhin potentially include replacing top answers, featured answers, and knowledge answers with Bing Chat answers. AI technology is changing rapidly, so there will be more to come as more users are able to try using Bard and Bing Chat.
Google’s John Mueller Questions ChatGPT Content’s Purpose
In a humorous series of tweets and responses, John Mueller answered SEO content questions with his own thought-provoking questions.
When asked if ChatGPT could be used to rewrite a site’s own content, he asked why the content would need to be rewritten, adding, “Is it bad?”
Asked by another Twitter user if he could use ChatGPT to improve a translation of his copy to English, Mueller wondered why that translation would be necessary. He also challenged the idea that using ChatGPT automatically means you’re creating quality content.
In the end, Mueller’s point seemed to be that you shouldn’t assume that using AI technology necessarily implies the quality of your content will be improved somehow. Whether created by a large language model or a human, Google’s definition of good-quality, helpful content hasn’t changed.
Google Asks for BBB Link in Business Profile Verification Workflow
Google is requesting businesses to provide a link to their Better Business Bureau (BBB) listing page during the verification process for their Google Business Profile. This change was discovered by a user on Twitter, who posted a screenshot of the new step in the verification workflow.
Google does not explicitly publish its search ranking factors but has previously stated that it does not use or care about BBB for organic web rankings. However, in previous versions of the Search Quality Raters Guidelines, it specifically used BBB in its examples of a high- vs. low-quality site. Our recommendation is to add your link to BBB to your Google profile if you have one.
New Linking Best Practices
In February, Google published a new help document called Link Best Practices for Google, which details how to make links crawlable, how to write well-crafted anchor (link) text, where to use anchor text, how to use internal links in your content, and information about linking out externally. In the document, there are concrete examples of what to do and not do in each case.
GSC User & Permissions Management Changes
Google Search Console’s user and permissions management section has new features, which should make it easier to control who has access to your data. These changes include the ability to switch delegated owners’ permissions levels, easily remove verified owners, see your property’s verification tokens for all users, and see ownership events history.
Google: Disavow Files Are Rarely Needed
Google spokespeople John Mueller and Gary Illyes have recently reiterated that unless a company is dealing with a manual action from Google, disavow files are no longer necessary. In fact, Illyes stated that it could hurt more than help.
Google has been saying for some time now that their systems have become very good at ignoring spammy links, eliminating the need for disavow files in most cases.
Tying It All Together: March 2023 SEO News Recap
We hope you gained some valuable insights from this March 2023 SEO news recap! According to ROI Revolution’s 2023 State of Digital Marketing Survey, around half of digital marketers say that changes to the SEO landscape are a top concern for their business. At ROI Revolution, our experts stay on top of the constant shifts so that you can spend your time focusing on your core objectives instead of trying to stay up to speed. To explore the wins we can uncover for your business through SEO, send a message to our team.
- Google, Google Search Status Dashboard.
- Google Search Central, Google Search’s core updates and your website.
- Google Search Central, Google Search’s product reviews system and your website.
- Twitter, Tweet from @googlesearchc.
- Search Engine Land, An SEO guide to understanding E-E-A-T.
- Google Search Central, Write high quality product reviews.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Google Reminds Employees: “Bard Is Not Search”.
- Search Engine Journal, Google Launches Bard AI Chatbot To Compete With ChatGPT.
- Google, Bard Experiment.
- Search Engine Roundtable, New Bing AI Chat Now On Mobile With Voice Search.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Bing Chat AI v96 Live: Less Hallucinations & More Responses.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Prometheus: Why Bing AI Chat Is So Fast & Up-To-Date.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Bing Has Been Using OpenAI’s New GPT-4 For Five-Weeks.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Bing Sidebar In Stable Edge Browser & Bing Chat Limits Increase With Quicker Responses.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Bing Search Featured Answers Might Be Replaced By Bing Chat Answers.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Google’s John Mueller On Rewriting Your Content With ChatGPT.
- Google Search Central, Creating helpful, reliable, people-first content.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Google Business Profile Verification Steps Asking For Better Business Bureau Link.
- Search Engine Land, Google publishes new link best practices.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Google Search Console Updates Users & Permissions Controls.
- Search Engine Roundtable, Google Double Downs On Not Using Link Disavow Files In A Bigger Way.