Mackerel Media’s Search and Digital Marketing Roundup – May 2024

It’s not just the weather that’s been warming up this May. There have been some exciting developments in the world of SEO and digital marketing, including advancements in AI search and major revelations from recent Google API leaks.

Google Gets Creative with AI

One of the latest developments is that Google is incorporating generative AI in their search results. This new search enhancement uses Google’s Gemini AI model to generate an overview answer to a user’s search query, based on information from multiple sources. Users can adjust the level of detail that the AI provides, and Google plans to introduce new AI generated categories such as dining and food recipes, holiday plans, book recommendations and more.


However, that is not to say there hasn’t been some teething problems, and some concerns have been raised about the validity of the suggestions generated by AI in search. One concern is that AI generated overviews could lead to a decrease in website click-through rates. However, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has claimed that there has been an increase in click-through rates on results with AI overviews than without.

The AI overview has also led to incorrect information being generated such as adding glue to pizza sauce to keep cheese from sliding off the crust which was cited from an old Reddit post. Google AI also suggested that eating at least one small rock a day is recommended, as they used the satire site TheOnion as a source of factual information.

Considering that both Google and OpenAI have signed deals with Reddit to use their data to train their AI models, we are sure to see much more diverse and incorrect information being served to users until their system is more refined.

(June 1st Update: It is now being reported that Google has since rolled back its AI search feature due to concerns over inaccurate and unreliable AI-generated overviews. Google has stated that whilst they are making adjustments to improve the AI overviews, they have no intention of removing this feature in the future.)


Google Search’s Secrets Exposed

May also brought one of the biggest SEO shake-ups of the last few years. An anonymous source (later identified as Erfan Azimi) shared thousands of leaked Google API documents with Rand Fishkin, one of the most well-known SEO experts and former CEO and co-founder of Moz. This leaked source, which Google subsequently acknowledged as authentic, contained the many ways that Google collects and uses data in its search ranking algorithms.

Some of the key revelations from this leaked report was that Google tracks Chrome browser activity and user behaviour to determine the most popular and important URLs on a site. This conflicts with what they have said in the past that they likely don’t use Chrome data for ranking

Mike King, who was one of the first people to really explore these leaks in depth, stated that ultimately it is important to keep building content that users want to visit, engage with, click on and want to link to. 

On a lighter note, sometimes we just want to search the internet without all the extra bells and whistles. Fortunately, on the 14th of May, Google introduced a new ‘web’ search option, which only displays text-based links in search results. 

This option filters out any AI suggestions and other visual mediums such as videos, images, local business listings, shopping products, knowledge panels, featured snippets and top-stories. Currently, this option is only visible if you click ‘More’ first, and then choose ‘Web’, or by scrolling right on Mobile search. 

Whilst there is hope that this change will improve the quality of results and overall SERP visibility, the extra step of selecting the ‘Web’ option may be a detriment to how often it is actually used.