SEO News: February 2024 Roundup


Knock-knock, our next February 2024 SEO news edition is ready for your review. This February ended with many thought-provoking insights and enough news to make everyone’s heads spin. In this blog post, we’ll do a quick recap of this month’s most pressing SEO news. We’ll also discuss other relevant search shakeups you should know. 

Let’s jump in!

February’s 2024 SEO News Replay

The end of cache links in search

Google has retired cache links from search. These links previously allowed searchers to access archived copies of webpages through Google’s cache. The cached versions, which appeared as buttons in the “About this result” panel in search results, have officially disappeared.

When: Google confirmed this change on Feb 1, 2024. The search giant has been phasing out cache links over the past few months as part of their ongoing experimentations and changes to search results.

Why: Google states that cache links are no longer necessary due to today’s modern high-speed internet. Since users now rarely need to access cached pages due to connection problems, Google was pretty resolute about removing this feature.

Google: other sites can reap the SEO benefits of your syndicated content

Google says that when you syndicate content to other websites, those sites may get the SEO benefits instead of you, even if you have a canonical tag pointing back to your original version. 

When: Google provided guidance regarding the potential SEO implications of syndicated content on Jan 31, 2024.

Why: The reasoning behind this is two-fold: First, cross-domain canonical tags can sometimes make it challenging for Google to determine that your site is the content’s original source. Second, syndicated versions can vary enough from your original content that Google doesn’t see them as clean duplicates. This confusion can result in your partners earning higher ranking potential and SEO authority from your content, and not you.

Danny Sullivan reveals how to recover from Google’s HCU

Danny Sullivan provided guidance on reclaiming search rankings after being hit by Google’s Helpful Content Update (HCU), which rolled out 5 months ago.

When: Sullivan shared additional details about the helpful content classifier on Feb 9, 2024.

Why: Sullivan points out that a helpful content system continually ranks pages. This means that rankings can improve at any point when steps are regularly taken to improve content quality. There’s no fixed timeline. If content quality issues are addressed and stay fixed over time, Google may restore rankings that were lost as a result of those issues.

Competitors can connect their own LSA to your GBP to hijack leads

Competitors can hijack business leads by linking their own LSA ads to someone else’s Google Business Profile (GBP) without permission. This action displaces the owner’s GBP ads in search results.

When: Examples emerged on Feb 6, 2024. The loophole was first detected by a business owner called Knoxville Real Estate. The existence of this loophole prompted criticism from Ben Fisher, who argued that Google overlooked an unfair practice.

Why: This loophole let the unknown LSA account link their local search ads to Knoxville Real Estate’s own GBP. Google has been slow to respond, leading to lost ad traffic and data for the affected GBP owner. As of now, Google’s only suggested solution is to register a new GBP account. 

Surprise Google-Reddit $60M content deal

Reddit signed a $60 million-a-year deal with Google, granting the search giant access to user-generated content for AI training through its Data API. This surprised many, especially considering the almost half-year-long public disagreements between these two companies.

When: The content deal was announced on Feb 22, 2024.

Why: It all began with Reddit’s ranking boost after the 2023 August Core Update, which resulted in a spam dump in both Reddit and search results. Later, speculations arose about whether Google would remove Reddit or if Reddit would opt to block itself from indexing. That’s why the new content deal was so surprising to everyone. 

Moreover, this deal correlates to our recent SGE snippet research, which identifies Reddit as a leading source of SERP snippets.

Google Search Experiments: Interface and New Features

Google is constantly running experiments to refine and enhance the search experience. In Feb 2024, we noticed that Google tested many interface changes on both desktop and mobile SERPs. It also rolled out various features. Let’s recap.    

  • Google Search tests dedicated shopping menu 

Google Search continues its focus on ecommerce and shopping. For one, Google is experimenting with a specialized shopping menu in search results. This menu, which is visible in shopping search results, provides links to specific sub-areas, including Shopping home, Orders, Shopping settings, and Shopping help.

  • Coupon discounts accessible through direct copying from search

Google seems to have fully rolled out clippable coupons in its product search results. Users can easily copy discount codes from a product snippet with a visible coupon button. This feature, shared by Brodie Clark on Jan 30, 2024, was previously tested in variations and is now available in the US.

  • Google tests “Results from the web” and “More results from the web” sections

As questioned by Barry Schwartz, it’s redundant to set standard web results apart, especially when core Google searches come from the web by default. This testing may serve to differentiate traditional web page results from the new AI-generated answers added by Google.

  • Google tests Web Results filter

If you’re waiting for the classic search with “ten blue links” to come back, your prayers have been answered—sort of. Google is testing its addition of the Web Results filter tab at the top search bar (located next to Images, Videos, and News). If launched, this will allow users to view traditional search snippets on web pages, along with other specialized result formats.

  • Google tests new “Up-and-coming stores” carousel

The “Up-and-coming stores” box features different stores that you can check out. It appears to be a new addition to Google’s search offerings. The swipeable mobile carousel is designed to showcase niche, “up-and-coming” ecommerce sites to users. This looks like another one of Google’s attempts to fight the monopoly of big brands in SERPs.

LinkedIn post on up-and-coming snippets
  • Fewer Web Stories in Google images

The Web Stories carousel, which was previously shown in some search results, now displays stories in a single row instead of a grid layout. Google removed Web Stories from Images and updated the Search results carousel in response to heavy abuse by spammers.

Web stories in Google Search
  • Google tests simplified version of SGE without side card carousel on desktop

Google is experimenting with its simplified SGE interface. This one does not include a side card carousel on its desktop results. Normally, card answers appear on the right side of the desktop SGE results. But in this test, it simply displays central search results, resulting in a cleaner look.

  • Google is testing a new mobile search bar design

The redesign displays search feature buttons like images, videos, news, shopping, maps, etc., on a light blue background with rounded edges. It makes secondary search options more visible on the main search interface.

  • Google tests its display of restaurant price ranges in local listings

It looks like Google is testing the inclusion of more accurate pricing ranges in its local pack listings. Instead of dollar signs, which indicate how expensive restaurants are, some restaurants now show an estimated price range per person, like “$10 to $20”.

  • Google rolled out a new “Shop with Google AI” feature in search

Google had announced this feature back in November. The “Shop with Google AI” feature generates clothing images based on verbal descriptions. It then provides links to similar real products. Users can currently access it through the Google Search app after logging into their Gmail account.

  • Google is testing its addition of a “Forums” item in the search bar menu

When clicked, it shows search results from discussion forums like Reddit, Hacker News, and other forums. This matches Google’s recent shift in focus to showcasing more user-generated content in search results, as noted by Barry Schwartz on Feb 19, 2024.

  • Google experimented with a new carousel called “Most-read articles”

Notable figures in SEO like Barry Scwartz, Brodie Clark, and several others spotted this feature on Feb 23, 2024. Google must be using some form of click data to determine the most-read articles to display.

Tidbits 

Google revamps the SEO starter guide

The updated Google SEO starter guide currently focuses on core search essentials impacting visibility and rankings. They made the guide easier to understand by clarifying and organizing things better.

Specific changes:

  • Excluded complex topics like site navigation and breadcrumb tips
  • Removed mentions of 404 pages. Said its focus was on helping users instead.
  • Provided detailed advice to users on helping Google find and understand site content
  • Linked to their separate guide on site promotion
  • Clearly highlighted: “No quick SEO fixes – rankings take time.”
  • Added basics, like fixing duplicate content and video SEO fundamentals
  • Explained what beginning SEOs should focus on
  • Described common SEO myths to ignore 

The simplified guide sticks to beginner basics. It offers advice on issues that Google cares about when ranking sites. The guide is very direct; there are no tricks or fast solutions. Its goal is to teach beginners the key building blocks of SEO in the most simple and succinct way possible.

Chromium’s micro payment concept: An alternative monetization system for websites

The developers from Chromium, the open source engine powering the Google Chrome browser and others, have announced their concept for micropayments. In this payment model, users would have digital wallets, and sites would have a plugin that automatically takes tiny amounts (as low as $0.00000001 currently) from those wallets whenever they view page content. This would allow sites to earn money even from users who don’t interact with content or click on subscriptions. In short, this gives sites an alternative to cluttering their pages with ads. 

That’s it for February’s SEO newsy-news. Stay tuned for our next edition of SEO news in March!





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