April 30, 2023, marked 30 years since we met the World Wide Web for the first time.
Three decades on, the internet is only evolving more quickly, and success in the digital marketplace requires you to keep up with all of the latest updates and changes.
There have been considerable changes to search, social platforms, and SEO thus far in 2023. April was no exception, with significant news emerging about Google’s SERP experience, the proliferation of AI, and other meaningful developments.
Understanding each of these updates and how they fit into the bigger picture is key to informing quality decision-making and charting the best course for your organization. To save you valuable time, we’ve compiled this list of the most important digital marketing and SEO updates from April 2023.
If it’s been a while since you caught up on the latest online adaptations, check out our list of SEO updates from Q1 2023.
Without further ado, here’s what you need to know about how the web changed in April and what these updates mean for your digital marketing campaigns.
Although millions have experimented with the preview versions of AI-powered search tools like Google Bard and the new Microsoft Bing, these emerging tools are far from full-fledged. Even so, it’s clear that AI is already proving to be a disruptive force in search and beyond.
At some point in May—odds are, during the annual Google I/O developers conference—Google expects to debut new search tools which leverage AI ahead of the release of even more AI features coming this fall.
Developed under the moniker “Magi,” the aim and value of these forthcoming tools remain unclear. However, they’re expected to expand on Bard’s ability to converse, delivering a more personalized search experience.
While a team of 160 Google employees is working on these new Magi features, it’s been reported that there’s something even more transformative in the works: a brand-new Google search engine.
What do we know about this new search engine? Not much.
There’s no release timeline, and reports indicate it’s still in the early stages of development. However, it’s believed that AI will play a central role in anticipating user needs based in part on their previous searches.
As usual, there’s massive interest in what Google will do next since it could permanently change how the world searches—not to mention how we approach digital marketing, including the all-important SEO.
Frankly, Google had better hope they can release something transformational this year because Microsoft already has, and the new Bing search market share is making waves.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI has seen ChatGPT take Bing to new heights that none of us could’ve imagined, while Google’s Bard is very publicly lagging behind.
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Bard’s stumbles aren’t the only bad news Google is dealing with as 2023 wears on.
In April, reports circulated that Samsung is deciding whether to pivot away from Google as the default search engine on its devices, replacing it instead with the new and improved Bing.
If the clear differences in performance between Bing Chat and Bard weren’t enough to give the industry pause about the future of Google’s search dominance, the potential evaporation of this $3 billion Samsung contract should do it.
Despite their differences, companies like Samsung, Apple, and Google all have to do the same thing to remain competitive: deliver the greatest value possible to the end user.
Currently, Bing’s future looks bright, while there’s a cloud over Bard, creating more uncertainty than Google has faced in recent memory.
Naturally, Samsung wants its devices to provide everything customers need. We’d all like to live in a world where our default browser offers the ideal combination of functionality and privacy, and device manufacturers see the value in being able to take us there.
It’s also worth noting that Google’s contract with Apple, worth $20 billion, is up for renewal this year.
Officially, Samsung hasn’t said anything about the rumored potential switch, but Google clearly has some ground to make up. The AI disruption is well underway, and Microsoft’s behemoth investment in OpenAI is already delivering significant returns.
As we watch AI burst onto the scene in real-time, we’re also seeing a number of problems with this revolutionary tech—areas where it does too much or doesn’t do enough.
April saw plenty of discussion regarding an open letter released at the end of March by the Future of Life Institute and signed by tech notables such as Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak. This letter called for a 6-month pause on the development of certain AI systems.
AI chatbots have become astonishingly capable, and there’s quite a bit of trepidation about how they could run amok on their own or be abused by bad actors. In particular, there’s a raging debate about what constitutes art as more AI-generated images begin to circulate.
Many news publishers, governments, and ordinary citizens worldwide are also on edge about how generative AI may contribute to the glut of online disinformation.
However, people raised similar concerns when the web entered the public domain 30 years ago. And, just like during the emergence of the internet, much of the world has greeted AI chatbots with crickets—there’s been virtually no proactive legislative work to establish guardrails for AI systems and their development.
One notable exception is in the European Union’s GDPR, which previously established some rules for AI tech. Italy’s data protection agency accused ChatGPT of violating those EU standards and briefly issued a ban in April before OpenAI made changes to satisfy the regulators.
But in Europe, ChatGPT isn’t out of the woods just yet. There’s new legislation coming down the pike in the form of the AI Act, as well as multiple ongoing investigations into OpenAI’s practices.
All this is to say we shouldn’t expect uniform availability of AI tools worldwide—at least, not until developers find a way to satisfy varying requirements.
Elon Musk’s Twitter venture is far from paying off, and the ongoing turmoil could diminish the value of the following you worked hard to build.
Twitter’s issues go beyond which celebrities have to pay for the iconic blue check mark or which users are allowed to tweet more each month. Twitter could inadvertently cede its position as a digital town square by trying to charge for API access, forcing users, businesses, and government agencies to interact elsewhere.
There’s been a lot of discussion among developers regarding Twitter’s three tier levels for API access—free, basic, and enterprise—and who’s been priced out of the platform. It’s difficult to ignore the proportion of the developer community that has elected to cease supporting Twitter.
It’s not just startups, either. Notably, New York’s MTA declined Twitter’s ask for $50,000 monthly to maintain its operations on the platform. Instead, the MTA said it would stop posting information such as service alerts on Twitter, directing users to other sources for time-sensitive updates.
While Google, Microsoft, and Samsung are investing heavily to deliver greater value for their users and customers, Twitter is seeing strained relationships that could hurt the platform’s user base and lead digital marketers to place less emphasis on building a robust following.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty of interest in Jack Dorsey’s Twitter clone, Bluesky Social. Though still in its infancy and available on an invite-only basis, there’s a real possibility that Bluesky could emerge as stout competition for Twitter—no longer the digital darling it was in the 2010s.
SpamBrain has come a long way since its launch, and in April, Google released its Webspam Report 2022.
In an effort to deliver a spam-free search experience, Google did a lot of work on SpamBrain last year, and that work seems to be paying dividends.
Google announced that SpamBrain detected five times more spam sites in 2022 than in the year prior and 200 times more than when it first launched. The search engine said that thanks to SpamBrain, 99% of Google searches were spam-free in 2022.
Last year saw SpamBrain upgraded to handle different types of abuse, including link spam and hacked spam, with significant progress on both fronts. Google said SpamBrain also contributed to spam detection at crawling time, preventing bad pages from being indexed in the first place.
Additionally, Google introduced solutions to thwart scams in 2022. Year over year, Google saw a 50% reduction in clicks on spam sites.
Beyond SpamBrain itself, Google updated its spam policies to cover the most widespread forms of spam and abuse, which could cause violating sites to fall out of SERPs entirely. Google also provided further examples of harmful behavior to help site owners ensure they aren’t publishing bad content.
Using AI to generate content for your site? Google says that’s fine and doesn’t qualify as spam, so long as you aren’t using AI “for the primary purpose of manipulating search rankings.” However, if that’s what you’re doing, expect to find yourself in violation of Google’s policy prohibiting such content.
April 25 marked the end of Google’s April 2023 reviews update rollout, which could cause ranking fluctuations for review sites. If your site doesn’t feature reviews or has exclusively third-party reviews (including user-generated reviews), you don’t have anything to worry about.
It’s important to note that Google’s revised reviews system doesn’t just apply to products. The system looks at any first-party content that evaluates places, services, media, and more.
Google’s reviews system evaluates individual pages, but for review-oriented sites, the system would look at the entire site.
The overarching takeaway from this update is that you are unlikely to see dips if your site is publishing the helpful content Google wants to rank highly. Quality content is quality content, whether it’s a news article, film review, or a how-to guide, and Google is continually working to improve its algorithm so this type of content shows up at the top of SERPs.
If your site was negatively impacted by the April reviews update, it’s time to take a close look at your tactics and review what Google’s Helpful Content Update means for digital marketers.
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If you’re a Google Ads or Google Analytics user, expect to see some older attribution models put out to pasture.
Four rules-based attribution models will sunset starting in September:
If you’re still using them, you should know you’re in a small minority of users. Google says less than 3% of Google Ads conversions use these four models, and marketers usually see a 6% increase in conversions upon switching to the data-driven attribution model.
As of May, these models are already unavailable for new conversion actions in GA4, and the same will be true for Google Ads beginning in June. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since Google publicized its intent to shift to data-driven attribution almost two years ago.
As with GA4 replacing Universal Analytics, the fact that these attribution models are going away—not to mention the fact that almost no one uses them—should tell you something.
There’s a better way to track and interpret the data that matters most to your brand.
If you’re still using Universal Analytics or one of these four attribution models, it’s time to evolve. And if you haven’t gotten started with GA4, here’s the complete Google Analytics 4 guide to Google’s next-generation measurement solution.
You can’t say Meta doesn’t listen to feedback.
Finally, one of the features Instagram users have been clamoring for is available for all business and creator accounts. As long as your app is up to date, you can add as many as five links in your profile bio.
There’s a lot going on at Instagram lately, with new tools emerging frequently as well as new types of ads.
Now, most of us can say goodbye to Linktreek, thanks to this expanded linking ability announced by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month.
Keeping up with the latest digital marketing changes and SEO updates is the first step to staying ahead of the competition. But you need more than reliable sources—you need an ROI-focused SEO strategy that will drive growth and propel your business to search engine dominance.
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