Welcome to our May 2024 SEO News Recap! This month, we cover Google’s latest updates to the Knowledge Graph, an important update to how Google classifies video pages, Google’s enforcement of their site reputation abuse policy, and more.

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

Recovering from the Helpful Content Update: What to Expect

Many websites that were negatively impacted by the September 2023 Google Helpful Content Update have still not recovered, and Google’s John Mueller has shared more insights to help us understand why this may be. He shared that changes related to helpful content may take much longer than we expect to be reassessed – weeks, months, or even until the next update cycle. If you monitor a website’s Google Search Console account, you may have noticed that URL indexation has been taking longer than it used to, which tracks with Mueller’s statement.

Aside from reassessment taking longer, we also understand that “helpful content” is complex. “It’s not something that a website can just tweak overnight and be done with it,” John shared via LinkedIn, “it can require deep analysis to understand how to make a website relevant in a modern world, and significant work to implement those changes… These are not ‘recoveries’ in the sense that someone fixes a technical issue and they’re back on track – they are essentially changes in a business’s priorities (and, a business might choose not to do that).”

Essentially, recovering from the Helpful Content Update will take a lot of work, patience, and maybe another Google update. If you believe your site was hit by the Helpful Content Update, connect with ROI Revolution’s SEO team for a helpful assessment.

About Google’s 2024 E-E-A-T Knowledge Graph Update

Google’s latest updates to the Knowledge Graph are squarely focused on Person entities, based on changes observed by SEOs. For context, the Knowledge Vault, one of six verticals within the Knowledge Graph, is home to billions of facts and entities Google knows and understands. During the 2023-2024 Killer Whale Knowledge Vault update, the number of facts and entities in the Vault grew to 1,600B and 54B, respectively. The most notable growth was +38% for Person entities, specifically those that Google can clearly attribute credibility to: researchers, writers, academics, journalists, and the like.

This reinforces Google’s shift away from dependence on human-curated sources like Wikipedia and towards its entities model, which is based on proper nouns and their relationships.

The easiest way to get your own Person entity into the Knowledge Vault and secure your own Knowledge Panel is to clean up your digital footprint and ensure consistency across all the places you live on the web (websites, social media, publications, etc.). The tricky bit is maintaining your spot there; 20% of all Knowledge Vault entries are deleted. Our advice is to continue working on strengthening your E-E-A-T signals consistently, with the help of an SEO expert.

Google Deindexed Many Pages in February 2024

Gary Illyes from Google confirmed that the drops some SEOs saw in Google Search Console were real and not done by mistake. If you saw an increase in “crawled but not indexed” errors in GSC and a decrease in the number of indexed pages in February, it’s likely due to Google’s perception of your site changing. If that’s the case, be sure to check for technical issues, content quality, and matching Google’s intent for your top keywords.

Google is Deindexing Non-Obvious Video Pages

Have you noticed a spike in non-indexed videos in your Google Search Console account recently? Google has adjusted the way it classifies video pages, especially since it updated its guidelines in December 2023. Google’s John Mueller shared this advice via X: “It really needs to be a super-obvious video play-page, especially on mobile. I’ve seen folks tweak their HTML a bit too, to move the video elements/objects a bit more into the front & center. It shouldn’t be a random video that’s accessory to text, it should be primarily a video.”

So, how do we fix this? When reviewing your deindexed video URLs, ensure that the video lives above the fold in the mobile viewport since Google takes a mobile-first crawl approach. Analyze the other content on the page and ensure that it’s clear the video is the star of the show. Some SEOs also recommend adding VideoObject schema to send clearer signals about the element to Google.

Good News for Smaller Sites with Great Content

Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, revealed his findings after reviewing feedback and data from the March 2024 Core Algorithm Update. He acknowledged that Google has room for improvement and noted that Google could do better to recognize great content, especially when coming from smaller sites that are doing it well; however, he reminded us that it won’t happen overnight.

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai recently said in an interview, that they are “making progress, but it’s going to be an ongoing journey” as they work through the explosion of new content AI gives them.

Making sure your site’s content is high quality and helpful for your users is what will set you apart from the rest of your industry, regardless of your website’s size.

Google Begins Enforcing the Site Reputation Abuse Policy

Google’s site reputation abuse policy took effect on May 5th, and the next day, many sites that were breaking the rules quickly suffered the consequences, including mainstream publishers, like CNN and USA Today. Websites that receive manual actions will be alerted through Google Search Console.

As a reminder, the policy defines site reputation abuse as “when third-party pages are published with little or no first-party oversight or involvement, where the purpose is to manipulate Search rankings by taking advantage of the first-party site’s ranking signals.” This policy has nothing to do with linking. The initial enforcement is happening via manual actions, but Google has said that there will also be an algorithmic component later.

Within a week of the first wave of enforcement, sites that took immediate action to noindex or remove the pages in question were back in the index.

AI Overviews and Other New AI Products from Google

In mid-May, Google launched AI Overviews for users in the US. AI Overviews is a lighter version of Search Generative Experience (SGE), which has been available in Google Labs since last year. Unlike a featured snippet that links directly to the website it’s quoted from, an AI overview is an AI-generated response that is a culmination of answers from across the web. At this point, there are links to some of the websites that were used to source the answers underneath the response.

The public reaction to AI Overviews is less enthusiastic than Google probably expected. Between Google’s own Search forums and posts on X, there is no shortage of complaints about inaccurate and potentially dangerous answers. Users are looking for ways to opt out permanently. Eventually, users should be able to ask AI Overviews to simplify a response, but we wonder: will it survive long enough with public opinion already against it?

Other AI products that will be rolling out this year:

  • Multi-step reasoning capabilities that will allow users to ask more nuanced questions
  • The ability to plan and co-create plans with others
  • AI-organized search results that will categorize possible answers to a user’s query by perspectives and content types
  • Lens search with video, allowing users to ask a question while shooting a video. Google will be able to understand the question and reply with an AI-generated answer

For those who dislike AI Overviews and would like to return to the era of “ten blue links,” Google also launched the “Web” filter. It shows only text-based links and is now available worldwide. Under the search bar on Google’s main page, you might see “Web” as a filter option. If not, click on “More” to find it. Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan told X users this filter was created in response to feedback and requests for results with fewer search features shown.

Want to catch up with last month’s news? We shared the latest news on the end of the March core algorithm update, an important tip for site migrations, Google’s response to the Reddit controversy, and more. Check out April’s recap here.

Sources

ICYMI: Recent SEO blog posts