2023 has proven to be a transformative year for digital marketing and SEO, and September kept the trend moving.
From increasingly capable AI tools to the integration of commerce and content, the world of digital marketing and SEO is rapidly changing.
It’s crucial that you keep up with the latest developments and adapt accordingly to achieve the website visibility, conversion rates, and ROI your enterprise business needs to drive revenue and scale.
Here’s what you need to know about how digital marketing evolved in September 2023.
From September 14 to 28, Google rolled out a Helpful Content Update with three key changes:
In its updated form, Google’s guidance emphasizes the importance of helpful content created for people—as opposed to search engines—but removed a previous reference to content created by people, opening the door for marketers to more widely leverage AI tools for content creation.
It’s common practice to use the ranking power of a main site to give subdomain content a lift. However, Google now seeks to prevent third-party content from being indexed if it’s “largely independent of the main site’s purpose or produced without close supervision or the involvement of the primary site.”
Google’s self-assessment guidance—which you should use to evaluate your site’s content to ensure optimal performance under the Helpful Content System—saw three changes in September 2023.
Are you seeing traffic decreases in the wake of this latest update? If so, Google recommends you use the self-assessment guide to “fix or remove any [content] that seems unhelpful.”
It really is that simple.
And remember, quality is the “biggest driver for most of the indexing and crawling decisions” Google makes, according to Gary Illyes of Google’s Search Relations team, who drove the point home on a recent podcast.
The takeaway for marketers: Don’t distract yourself with tricks, hacks, or quick fixes. Meaningful CTRs, more conversions, and exponential revenue growth all start with high-quality, helpful content. Accept no substitutes.
TikTok Shop launched in September, integrating with major eCommerce platforms such as Shopify and WooCommerce, marking a major expansion of the TikTok universe.
It offers users multiple ways to discover new products, including a Shop tab for brands, which features a product showcase complete with reviews and direct purchase options.
Of course, sellers need logistics to deliver on their conversions. Fulfilled by TikTok rounds out the Shop platform with storage, packing, and shipping support.
On top of all that, a TikTok affiliate program gives creators an opportunity to promote TikTok Shop products and earn commissions.
Questions over data privacy will persist, but there’s no question that the U.S. launch of TikTok Shop heralds a new era of digital customer engagement.
Whether you’ve read about one or more of the high-profile lawsuits against Google or seen Hollywood strikes on the news, it’s tough to miss the multi-faceted concerns surrounding the rise of AI and its implementation.
With considerable value yet to be realized, the marketplace has been waiting for solutions that will allow enterprises to leverage the power of AI while also avoiding the pitfalls.
Enter an exciting newcomer: Explore Generative AI by Getty Images.
Released in September, this new text-prompt-to-image generative AI feature delivers commercially safe images with unlimited indemnification.
Crucially, Getty Images trained this new tool on its library of licensed creative content so brands can use these AI-generated images without fear of reprisal.
In the future, Meta also plans to throw its hat in the AI creation ring by releasing a new conversational AI assistant: Meta AI.
Meta AI will be available on Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp, allowing users to use text prompts for photorealistic image generation while also leveraging a Microsoft Bing integration to provide real-time answers.
It’s just one element of Meta’s broader AI offerings, which include celebrity chatbots, AI tools for image editing, and more.
The most valuable eCommerce platforms are those that provide tools for businesses to work more efficiently without sacrificing quality.
As you might imagine, there’s a race among these platforms to integrate generative AI to capture or preserve market share.
Thanks to Amazon’s new generative AI capabilities, sellers no longer have to expend critical bandwidth creating unique product names and descriptions. With a brief prompt and a few keywords, Amazon’s new tool uses large language models to complete this work.
This isn’t the only way Amazon hopes to augment its platform using AI. In September, Amazon invested $4 billion in the AI startup, Anthropic, to advance next-generation AI technology.
The partnership is already proving beneficial to some large Amazon Web Services customers and is sure to result in better apps and new customer experiences. Stay tuned.
ChatGPT’s Plus and Enterprise users gained access to new features geared toward making the OpenAI tool more intuitive.
The recent upgrade, which allows users to show images to ChatGPT and have two-way conversations, will make the generative AI tool much more practical and better suited for everyday use.
On top of that, September saw the introduction of GPT-4 with Vision, also known as GPT-4V, which features image input capabilities.
From reading handwriting to creating website code and analyzing memes, GPT-4V made a serious impression on users. Unsurprisingly, GPT-4V can also create product descriptions and Amazon listings based on images.
Notably, OpenAI has been slowly rolling out this new functionality with safety and potentially risky applications in mind. GPT-4V has been confirmed to hallucinate, so as with all AI-generated content, you must review it before publishing.
The GPT-4V rollout to paid users is set to continue into mid-October.
September was truly a month of AI releases and launches for digital marketing and SEO. Not to be left out, Microsoft introduced several generative AI updates for its advertising and search platforms.
Microsoft Advertising now features a Copilot to help make marketing work more efficient by recommending product titles, descriptions, and images.
Copilot is for more than ad work, though. As a unified AI assistant, it integrates across all Microsoft products, including Bing, Microsoft 365, and Windows 11.
In November, Microsoft 365 Chat will emerge as a new AI assistant for enterprises that aims to bolster workplace productivity by working across various apps.
Also forthcoming from Microsoft is Compare and Decide Ads. With a closed beta coming in early 2024, this feature will collate ad data into a user-friendly format that makes it easy for shoppers to evaluate their options.
Will that mean less traffic and fewer clicks for websites? Possibly, but don’t expect to see serious impacts until Google—where the vast majority of the world searches—rolls out something similar.
Even so, you can bet that we’ll see compounding changes with the accelerating proliferation of AI in SEO.
Did you enjoy the How-To rich results in Search? Have you used schema to rank pages for this type of rich result?
Bad news: Google has removed How-To rich results from both mobile and desktop. The result type is officially deprecated.
Google’s goal is to “provide a cleaner and more consistent search experience.” To this end, Google also limits the visibility of FAQ rich results.
While arguably delivering an improved UX for searchers, recent moves like this continue to prove frustrating for digital marketers. Even so, we have no choice but to adapt to Google’s evolving guidance. While How-To and FAQ pages are still valuable for users, don’t count on them to catapult you to the top of the rankings via rich results any longer.
Google takes its role of serving quality, relevant ads to its users seriously. After all, were Google to allow deceptive or misleading advertising across its platforms, trust would plummet, causing a decline in Google’s market share.
As such, Google can’t afford to tolerate advertisers who don’t deliver on their promises to customers. That’s why the search giant is turning up the heat when it comes to non-fulfillment.
On November 21, Google Ads will no longer handle “non-fulfillment and non-delivery of products or services due to a lack of qualifications” under the existing Misleading representation policy.
Instead, non-fulfillment and non-delivery violations will be addressed under the Unacceptable business practices policy. That means this type of violation will result in immediate suspension of the Google Ads account in question, without warning, along with a permanent ban from Google Ads.
Of course, any advertiser errantly impacted can submit an appeal and give Google their side of the story.
If your organization steers clear of this type of issue—as it should—you don’t have anything to worry about.
But if you’re flirting with the line here and there, it’s time to take a hard look at your business practices and shape up if you want to maintain your Google Ads presence.
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