Generative AI

Google To Prioritize AI Overviews Ads Over Organic Search via @sejournal, @martinibuster

Speakers at Google’s Marketing Live event demonstrated how they will utilize user search queries and AI Overviews content to show interactive shopping ads that will push organic search results even lower, stating that Google is “focused on opening up new opportunities for your business.”Google: We’re Not Building A Better Search Engine
The first speaker, Philipp Schindler, SVP & Chief Business Officer at Google, said out loud what Googlers normally don’t when he said that the purpose of search results is to show advertising.
He made the remark in the context of a new AI video tool that will help YouTube creators make more content.
At the 18:19 minute mark of the event, Schindler boasted:
“We’ve been collaborating with some really talented film makers, musicians and artists, and the results have been simply incredible. Soon we’ll bring video to shorts, opening up a whole new world of creative possibilities for you and your brands. Just imagine every creator with the power of AI in their pocket.
So what does all of this mean for you? More creators creating more quality content attracts more viewers, which means more reach, engagement and ROI for you. We’re not just building a better search engine or a better YouTube. We’re focused on opening up new opportunities for your business.”

The statement that Google is using AI Overviews and Search to build reach and ROI for advertisers is not the only one. The next two speakers made the same point.
Search And Shopping Ads In AI Overviews
The next speaker was Vidhya Srinivasan, VP/GM, Advertising at Google. She begins by describing how search experiences will drive traffic to websites. Then quickly switches gear to show how interactive advertising will push organic search listings literally beyond the view of users who are making the search queries.
At the 30 minute mark of the video, Srinivasan explained:
“AI overviews will appear in search results when they are particularly helpful beyond what search offers today. As we continue to test and evolve the search experience, we are going to stay super focused on sending valuable traffic to publishers and creators. But then, more avenues for user exploration leads to more choice and more choice leads to more opportunities for advertisers.
You may have noticed that we already show ads above and below AI overviews. These ads are matched to the user’s search query. We will now start testing, Search and Shopping ads ads in AI overviews for users in the US.
What is also new with this is we are going to match these ads not just to the query context, but also to the information within the AI Overviews. And, as always, ads will be clearly labeled.”
1. AI Overviews – No Organic Listings

2. Scroll Down For Shopping Ads

She next went on to describe an example of wrinkled clothes while traveling and turning to Google Search to find ways to prevent the wrinkles. She shows a search activity for travel hacks and shows how organic search results are pushed beneath the AI Overviews feature and new Search and Shopping ads that contain product images and pop out far more than any search results do.
She explained how the new AI Overviews shopping ads will be there to convert searchers:
“With the AI overview, I quickly found some common travel hacks that sounded promising. As I browsed the many options that showed up, I found a really nice fix, a wrinkle release spray that I’d never heard of before. So perfect. I want to try that.
Now, with this feature, I can just click on this ad right away, right there, and buy it.
So as you can see, we’re just making it easier and faster for consumers so that they can take action right away. So this is just one example of how we are using Gen AI. There are many more, and we’re going to start with more applications in search ads.”
3. Targeted Ads Based On AI Overviews

Google Search Is The Bait
Google search engineers are using the most advanced technology and data to create the most useful search results of any time in Google’s history, this is the best it’s ever been. But according to the people who are really in charge at Google, the purpose of Search is not “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” but to build more “reach, engagement and ROI” for advertisers. Sam Altman was right to call what Google is doing dystopian.
SEOs Were Social Engineered
Social engineering is the management of people’s behavior in order to get them to perform a certain way.  Google got a huge chunk of the web ecosystem bought into concepts like Core Web Vitals and also Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness in order to satisfy users that Google apparently never intended for them.
It’s not the fault of the Googlers who put their hearts into perfecting search. They do a good job. But it’s clear that Google’s mission is no longer to make information accessible and useful. Perhaps what can only feel like a dystopian horror, Google succeeded in social-engineering the search community and publishers to focus on creating  helpful content so that those on the advertising side can use it to build more ROI for advertisers.
It’s not just SEOs and publishers that were used for the benefit of advertisers.
Watch the Google Marketing Live Keynote 2024
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Featured Image by Shutterstock/pikselstock

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How To Use Header Tags: SEO Best Practices via @sejournal, @amelioratethis

Header tags are a fundamental element of web design and SEO, influencing user experience and search rankings.While often overlooked, these HTML tags provide a hierarchical structure to content, enhancing readability and navigation for human visitors.
At the same time, header tags offer semantic signals that help search engines better understand context and key topics.
Google’s guidance reinforces the need to use header tags strategically.
John Mueller, a Google Search Advocate, has stated that header elements are a “really strong signal” that informs Google’s understanding of a page’s topics.
As Google emphasizes rewarding high-quality user experiences, optimizing header tags presents an opportunity to align with best practices for human visitors and search crawlers.
This article outlines how to use header tags, from enhancing content structure and scannability to targeting opportunities for featured snippet displays.
We also explore techniques for incorporating relevant keywords and maintaining consistent formatting.
By implementing these recommendations, websites can provide a better experience while potentially boosting visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs).
What Is A Header Tag?
Header tags are HTML tags that tell a browser what styling it should use to display a piece of text on a webpage.
If we looked up the HTML for the heading above, it’d look something like this:
What is a Header Tag?
Like headings in print content, header tags are used to title or introduce the content below them. HTML header tags follow a hierarchy from to .

H1 tags denote the most important text, such as the central theme or title.
H2 and H3 tags are commonly used as subheadings.
H4, H5, and H6 tags provide further structure within those subsections.

Header tags are helpful for users and search engines. For your users, they give them a preview of the content they’re about to read.
For search engines like Google, header tags provide context and a hierarchy for your page. Think of header tags as chapter titles in a book.
Give them a quick scan, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it’s about.
How Many Header Tags Are Supported?
HTML supports six levels of header tags, ranging from to .
The tag is typically used for the main heading or title of a page, while and tags are commonly employed for subheadings.
The remaining tags, , , and , can provide further structure within subsections.
Now, let’s get to the best practices.
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1. Use Header Tags To Provide Structure
Header tags help create a logical structure for your content, making it easier for users and search engines to navigate.
Treat your H1 as the main title, H2s as chapters, and H3s to H6s as subsections within each chapter.
When planning your article or landing page, consider the main ideas you want your visitors to take away. These main ideas should form the basis of your header tags and help you create a clear outline.
2. Break Up Blocks Of Text With Subheadings
Break up long blocks of text with relevant subheadings to enhance readability. This makes your content more user-friendly and helps search engines identify covered topics.
A scannable article is positioned to perform well in search engines because Google rewards user-friendly content.
Additionally, scannable articles are commonly shared on social media, which can increase the likelihood of earning natural backlinks.
3. Include Keywords In Your Header Tags
Include your target keywords in header tags where appropriate, but avoid overusing them. Focus on creating informative and engaging headers that accurately reflect the content below them.
While keywords are essential, it’s important not to force them in at the expense of readability.
Google uses header tags to gather context for your page, so incorporate keywords naturally.
Always prioritize creating value and avoid keyword stuffing, which can lead to a poor experience and potential penalties.
4. Optimize For Featured Snippets
Carefully crafted header tags can increase your chances of winning featured snippets.
Here’s how.
Paragraph Featured Snippets
To optimize for paragraph-featured snippets, identify a relevant long-tail keyword and use it in your H2.
Then, directly below the H2, provide a clear and concise answer to the query, placing the text within paragraph tags.
This structure helps Google identify and extract the information it needs.
For example, Search Engine Journal won this featured snippet for “How to remove default search engine in Chrome?” in part thanks to its keyword-optimized H2:
Screenshot from search for [how to remove default search engine in chrome], Google, April 2024
Screenshot from search for [how to remove default search engine in chrome], Google, April 2024
List Featured Snippets
To optimize for list featured snippets, use subheadings (H2 to H6) to outline different items or steps in a process.
Google can pull from these subheadings to create a bulleted or numbered list in the featured snippet, increasing your visibility and driving more traffic to your site.
Here’s an example.
When you search for [how to relieve migraine fast], Google creates a list of answers using the H2s from this WebMD article.
Screenshot from search for [how to relieve migraine fast], Google, April 2024
Screenshot from WebMD, April 2024
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5. Only Use One H1
While multiple H1s are technically allowed, using only one H1 per page is best. This maintains a clear hierarchy and avoids confusion for users and search engines.
Using multiple H1s can make your page appear disorganized. Instead, reserve the H1 tag for your main title and use H2 to H6 tags for subheadings.
To ensure your site doesn’t have multiple H1s, run your domain through a crawler tool like Screaming Frog and check the H1 tab to identify any pages with missing or numerous H1s.
Screenshot from Screaming Frog, April 2024
The same report is available for H2s.
6. Keep Your Header Tags Consistent
Ensure your header tags follow a consistent style and format throughout your website.
This includes using the same case (title or sentence case), keeping them concise, and limiting their length to around 70 characters.
Consistency in your header tags contributes to a better experience and helps establish a cohesive brand image.
When deciding on a format, consider your target audience and the tone of your content. Once you’ve chosen a style, apply it consistently across all your pages.
In addition to maintaining a consistent format, keep your header tags concise and to the point.
Treat them like mini-titles for the following section of text, and avoid using them to stuff keywords or write lengthy paragraphs.
7. Make Your Header Tags Interesting
Write interesting, engaging header tags that entice readers to continue reading your content.
Pay special attention to your H1, as it can decide whether visitors stay on your page or bounce back to the search results.
A compelling H1 should communicate the main topic of your page and align with the user’s search intent.
Take the time to brainstorm and refine your header tags, ensuring they accurately reflect the content and entice users to keep reading.
Why Header Tags Are Important For SEO
Header tags play a role in SEO by enhancing user experience, providing context to search engines, and increasing the chances of securing featured snippets.
This can potentially lead to better rankings, increased visibility, and higher engagement rates.
Descriptive headings allow readers to skim and jump to relevant sections.
For search crawlers, headers give semantic cues about the context and priority of page content.
Don’t underestimate the SEO power of header tags. Make them a top priority when optimizing your content.
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Featured image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

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Digital Experience

Optimizing Interaction To Next Paint (INP): A Step-By-Step Guide via @sejournal, @DebugBear

This post was sponsored by DebugBear. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.Keeping your website fast is important for user experience and SEO.
The Core Web Vitals initiative by Google provides a set of metrics to help you understand the performance of your website.
The three Core Web Vitals metrics are:

This post focuses on the recently introduced INP metric and what you can do to improve it.
In This Guide1. How Is Interaction To Next Paint Measured?2. How To Identify & Fix Slow INP Times3. How To Investigate High Input Delay4. How To Investigate High Presentation Delay5. Get The Data You Need To Improve Interaction To Next Paint
How Is Interaction To Next Paint Measured?
INP measures how quickly your website responds to user interactions – for example, a click on a button. More specifically, INP measures the time in milliseconds between the user input and when the browser has finished processing the interaction and is ready to display any visual updates on the page.
Your website needs to complete this process in under 200 milliseconds to get a “Good” score. Values over half a second are considered “Poor”. A poor score in a Core Web Vitals metric can negatively impact your search engine rankings.
Google collects INP data from real visitors on your website as part of the Chrome User Experience Report (CrUX). This CrUX data is what ultimately impacts rankings.

Image created by DebugBear, May 2024

How To Identify & Fix Slow INP Times
The factors causing poor Interaction to Next Paint can often be complex and hard to figure out. Follow this step-by-step guide to understand slow interactions on your website and find potential optimizations.
1. How To Identify A Page With Slow INP Times
Different pages on your website will have different Core Web Vitals scores. So you need to identify a slow page and then investigate what’s causing it to be slow.
Using Google Search Console
One easy way to check your INP scores is using the Core Web Vitals section in Google Search Console, which reports data based on the Google CrUX data we’ve discussed before.
By default, page URLs are grouped into URL groups that cover many different pages. Be careful here – not all pages might have the problem that Google is reporting. Instead, click on each URL group to see if URL-specific data is available for some pages and then focus on those.

Screenshot of Google Search Console, May 2024

Using A Real-User Monitoring (RUM) Service
Google won’t report Core Web Vitals data for every page on your website, and it only provides the raw measurements without any details to help you understand and fix the issues. To get that you can use a real-user monitoring tool like DebugBear.
Real-user monitoring works by installing an analytics snippet on your website that measures how fast your website is for your visitors. Once that’s set up you’ll have access to an Interaction to Next Paint dashboard like this:

Screenshot of the DebugBear Interaction to Next Paint dashboard, May 2024

You can identify pages you want to optimize in the list, hover over the URL, and click the funnel icon to look at data for that specific page only.
Image created by DebugBear, May 2024
2. Figure Out What Element Interactions Are Slow
Different visitors on the same page will have different experiences. A lot of that depends on how they interact with the page: if they click on a background image there’s no risk of the page suddenly freezing, but if they click on a button that starts some heavy processing then that’s more likely. And users in that second scenario will experience much higher INP.
To help with that, RUM data provides a breakdown of what page elements users interacted with and how big the interaction delays were.

Screenshot of the DebugBear INP Elements view, May 2024

The screenshot above shows different INP interactions sorted by how frequent these user interactions are. To make optimizations as easy as possible you’ll want to focus on a slow interaction that affects many users.
In DebugBear, you can click on the page element to add it to your filters and continue your investigation.
3. Identify What INP Component Contributes The Most To Slow Interactions
INP delays can be broken down into three different components:

Input Delay: Background code that blocks the interaction from being processed.
Processing Time: The time spent directly handling the interaction.
Presentation Delay: Displaying the visual updates to the screen.

You should focus on which INP component is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time, and ensure you keep that in mind during your investigation.

Screenshot of the DebugBear INP Components, May 2024

In this scenario, Processing Time is the biggest contributor to the slow INP time for the set of pages you’re looking at, but you need to dig deeper to understand why.
High processing time indicates that there is code intercepting the user interaction and running slow performing code. If instead you saw a high input delay, that suggests that there are background tasks blocking the interaction from being processed, for example due to third-party scripts.
4. Check Which Scripts Are Contributing To Slow INP
Sometimes browsers report specific scripts that are contributing to a slow interaction. Your website likely contains both first-party and third-party scripts, both of which can contribute to slow INP times.
A RUM tool like DebugBear can collect and surface this data. The main thing you want to look at is whether you mostly see your own website code or code from third parties.

Screenshot of the INP Primary Script Domain Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

Tip: When you see a script, or source code function marked as “N/A”, this can indicate that the script comes from a different origin and has additional security restrictions that prevent RUM tools from capturing more detailed information.
This now begins to tell a story: it appears that analytics/third-party scripts are the biggest contributors to the slow INP times.
5. Identify Why Those Scripts Are Running
At this point, you now have a strong suspicion that most of the INP delay, at least on the pages and elements you’re looking at, is due to third-party scripts. But how can you tell whether those are general tracking scripts or if they actually have a role in handling the interaction?
DebugBear offers a breakdown that helps see why the code is running, called the INP Primary Script Invoker breakdown. That’s a bit of a mouthful – multiple different scripts can be involved in slowing down an interaction, and here you just see the biggest contributor. The “Invoker” is just a value that the browser reports about what caused this code to run.

Screenshot of the INP Primary Script Invoker Grouping in DebugBear, May 2024

The following invoker names are examples of page-wide event handlers:


You can see those a lot in the screenshot above, which tells you that the analytics script is tracking clicks anywhere on the page.
In contrast, if you saw invoker names like these that would indicate event handlers for a specific element on the page:


6. Review Specific Page Views
A lot of the data you’ve seen so far is aggregated. It’s now time to look at the individual INP events, to form a definitive conclusion about what’s causing slow INP in this example.
Real user monitoring tools like DebugBear generally offer a way to review specific user experiences. For example, you can see what browser they used, how big their screen is, and what element led to the slowest interaction.

Screenshot of a Page View in DebugBear Real User Monitoring, May 2024

As mentioned before, multiple scripts can contribute to overall slow INP. The INP Scripts section shows you the scripts that were run during the INP interaction:

Screenshot of the DebugBear INP script breakdown, May 2024

You can review each of these scripts in more detail to understand why they run and what’s causing them to take longer to finish.
7. Use The DevTools Profiler For More Information
Real user monitoring tools have access to a lot of data, but for performance and security reasons they can access nowhere near all the available data. That’s why it’s a good idea to also use Chrome DevTools to measure your page performance.
To debug INP in DevTools you can measure how the browser processes one of the slow interactions you’ve identified before. DevTools then shows you exactly how the browser is spending its time handling the interaction.

Screenshot of a performance profile in Chrome DevTools, May 2024

How You Might Resolve This Issue
In this example, you or your development team could resolve this issue by:

Working with the third-party script provider to optimize their script.
Removing the script if it is not essential to the website, or finding an alternative provider.
Adjusting how your own code interacts with the script

How To Investigate High Input Delay
In the previous example most of the INP time was spent running code in response to the interaction. But often the browser is already busy running other code when a user interaction happens. When investigating the INP components you’ll then see a high input delay value.
This can happen for various reasons, for example:

The user interacted with the website while it was still loading.
A scheduled task is running on the page, for example an ongoing animation.
The page is loading and rendering new content.

To understand what’s happening, you can review the invoker name and the INP scripts section of individual user experiences.

Screenshot of the INP Component breakdown within DebugBear, May 2024

In this screenshot, you can see that a timer is running code that coincides with the start of a user interaction.
The script can be opened to reveal the exact code that is run:

Screenshot of INP script details in DebugBear, May 2024

The source code shown in the previous screenshot comes from a third-party user tracking script that is running on the page.
At this stage, you and your development team can continue with the INP workflow presented earlier in this article. For example, debugging with browser DevTools or contacting the third-party provider for support.
How To Investigate High Presentation Delay
Presentation delay tends to be more difficult to debug than input delay or processing time. Often it’s caused by browser behavior rather than a specific script. But as before, you still start by identifying a specific page and a specific interaction.
You can see an example interaction with high presentation delay here:

Screenshot of the an interaction with high presentation delay, May 2024

You see that this happens when the user enters text into a form field. In this example, many visitors pasted large amounts of text that the browser had to process.
Here the fix was to delay the processing, show a “Waiting…” message to the user, and then complete the processing later on. You can see how the INP score improves from May 3:

Screenshot of an Interaction to Next Paint timeline in DebugBear, May 2024

Get The Data You Need To Improve Interaction To Next Paint
Setting up real user monitoring helps you understand how users experience your website and what you can do to improve it. Try DebugBear now by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

Screenshot of the DebugBear Core Web Vitals dashboard, May 2024

Google’s CrUX data is aggregated over a 28-day period, which means that it’ll take a while before you notice a regression. With real-user monitoring you can see the impact of website changes right away and get alerted automatically when there’s a big change.
DebugBear monitors lab data, CrUX data, and real user data. That way you have all the data you need to optimize your Core Web Vitals in one place.
This article has been sponsored by DebugBear, and the views presented herein represent the sponsor’s perspective.
Ready to start optimizing your website? Sign up for DebugBear and get the data you need to deliver great user experiences.

Try DebugBear For Free

Image Credits
Featured Image: Image by Used with permission.

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Five ways criminals are using AI

Artificial intelligence has brought a big boost in productivity—to the criminal underworld.  Generative AI provides a new, powerful tool kit that allows malicious actors to

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Platforms & Apps

New Ecommerce Tools: May 21, 2024

This week’s list of new products from companies offering services to ecommerce and omnichannel merchants includes updates on tax compliance, accessibility, inventory, social media management, cross-channel order fulfillment, chargebacks, and direct-to-consumer management for perishable-goods brands.
Got an ecommerce product release? Email
New Tools for Merchants: May 21
Avalara expands partnership with Shopify to enable global tax compliance for merchants. Avalara, a provider of cloud-based tax compliance automation, has expanded its partnership with Shopify by joining the Shopify Tax Platform. According to Avalara, through the expanded partnership, Shopify merchants of any size can easily manage and automate global tax compliance. By joining the Shopify Tax Partner Platform, Avalara can now serve all Shopify customers with their global tax compliance requirements, including sales tax, value-added tax, exemption certificate management, 1099 and W-9 issuance, property tax, and more.
Zoovu releases tools for accessible ecommerce experiences. Zoovu, a developer of AI-powered ecommerce experiences, has released tools to create product discovery that comply with level AA of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.1. The features include making it easier to provide live video and audio captions, 4.5-to-1 contrast ratios to ensure text is readable by those with color blindness, up to 200% text resizing, and simpler navigation with consistent menus and buttons.
eBay launches feature to simplify listing resale clothing. eBay has launched a “resell on eBay” feature to simplify the process of listing pre-owned clothing. The feature will be integrated into Certilogo’s Secure by Design digital ID, which can be accessed by scanning a smart label on connected products. eBay plans to extend the resell service to more brands using Certilogo digital ID and make it a default feature of its Secure by Design technology.
Ecommerce startup Purple Dot raises $10 million to reduce unsold inventory. Purple Dot, an ecommerce pre-order and waitlist platform, has announced the closure of a $10 million Series A funding round led by European venture capital firm OpenOcean. Purple Dot’s pre-commerce solution enables brands to sell earlier, helping them reduce inventory risk and store less. Purple Dot states the cash will enable it to continue building the platform and expand its reach to more brands and industries.
Purple Dot
Astound Digital and Shopify partner to boost outcomes for retail brands. Astound Digital, a producer of digital experiences for brands, has announced a strategic partnership with Shopify. The partnership will combine Astound’s knowledge of retail and Shopify’s unified commerce offering aimed at helping retailers break down silos between channels such as D2C, B2B, and point of sale. The partnership includes training and certification on Astound’s capability to support customers beyond online commerce.
Mastercard and Salesforce announce an integration to transform transaction disputes. Mastercard and Salesforce have announced a new integration to speed up the resolution of transaction disputes and reduce associated costs. The partnership will integrate Salesforce’s Financial Services Cloud with Mastercard’s dispute resolution services, providing a powerful one-stop shop for intake, managing disputes, reporting, and preventing chargebacks. Mastercard’s services include Ethoca Alerts, which provides near real-time notifications when a financial institution raises a chargeback, and Ethoca Consumer Clarity, enabling purchase insights to issuer teams.
Highperformr secures $3.5 million to help B2B businesses amplify their social presence. Highperformr, a social AI platform for B2B businesses, has secured $3.5 million in seed funding and launched its product, Highperformr for Teams, designed to help B2B companies streamline their social media workflows. The funding round was led by Venture Highway, with participation from Neon, DeVC, and notable angel investors. The investment will be used to develop Highperformr’s native AI capabilities further and to build a distribution network.
Poshmark launches Promoted Closet marketing tool. Poshmark, a fashion resale marketplace with real-time social experiences, has launched Promoted Closet, a paid marketing tool to help sellers accelerate sales and drive engagement with their listings. Available in the U.S., Promoted Closet leverages machine learning to match shoppers’ search terms with promoted listings, ensuring relevancy and enhancing sellers’ ability to earn on Poshmark. Sellers can set a weekly budget and let it run, unlocking listing-level data reports, including impressions, clicks, and insights.
Gorgias raises $29 million for AI-powered customer experience for ecommerce. Gorgias, a customer experience platform for ecommerce brands, has announced $29 million in additional seed funding, led by SaaStr and Alven, with participation from Horsley Bridge, Amplify, Shopify, Sapphire, CRV, and Transpose Platform. Gorgias will utilize the funding to expand its suite of AI tools, including Automate for customer support. According to Gorgias, ecommerce brands can now exceed customer expectations with instant on-brand answers to customer questions.
CedCommerce launches MCF Connector, simplifying cross-channel order fulfillment. CedCommerce, a multichannel enabler, has launched MCF Connector to streamline cross-channel order fulfillment for non-Amazon sellers. Merchants can connect their Shopify, eBay, TikTok Shop, and custom platforms to MCF. This centralized platform allows for streamlined order and inventory management, eliminating the need to juggle multiple systems.
Grip launches Pulse, a next-generation order management system for perishable goods brands. Grip, a provider of perishable supply chain technology and fulfillment, has introduced Pulse, an order management system and multi-directional dashboard for ecommerce brands. Pulse offers features for D2C brands that ship frozen and refrigerated items, including real-time inventory management, batch number traceability, SKU-specific tracking, live carrier tracking data, and multi-directional updates with Shopify and other point-of-sale systems. Bands can monitor daily shipments, refrigerant usage, and inventory movement without custom middleware and spreadsheets.

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WordPress 6.5 Enhances SEO With ‘Lastmod’ Support via @sejournal, @MattGSouthern

WordPress has rolled out an update with version 6.5, introducing native support for the lastmod element in sitemaps.This move streamlines search engine crawl efficiency, potentially enhancing website visibility.
The announcement comes from Gary Illyes, a member of Google’s Search Relations team, who took to LinkedIn to commend the WordPress developer community for their efforts.
The Lastmod Element: A Key Signal for Crawlers
The lastmod metadata tag indicates the last significant modification date of a webpage, enabling search engine crawlers to prioritize and schedule crawls.
In Illyes’ words:
“The lastmod element in sitemaps is a signal that can help crawlers figure out how often to crawl your pages.”
By natively populating the lastmod field, WordPress 6.5 lets websites improve SEO efforts without additional manual configuration.
Illyes emphasizes that a “significant” change refers to updates that might matter to users and, consequently, to the website’s performance.
WordPress Community Collaboration
Lastmod support in WordPress 6.5 is possible due to the collaborative efforts of the developer community, spearheaded by Pascal Birchler.
Illyes acknowledged and praised their contributions, stating,
“If you’re on WordPress, since version 6.5, you have this field natively populated for you thanks to Pascal Birchler and the WordPress developer community.”
While applauding the new feature, Illyes urges website owners to upgrade their WordPress installations to take advantage of the lastmod support.
He adds:
“If you’re holding back on upgrading your WordPress installation, please bite the bullet and just do it (maybe once there are no plugin conflicts).”
As WordPress evolves, this update displays the platform’s commitment to complying with SEO best practices and providing users with needed tools.


What is the significance of the lastmod element in sitemaps?

The lastmod metadata tag signifies the most recent modification date of a webpage. This information allows search engine crawlers to prioritize and schedule page crawls efficiently.
By indicating the latest updates, the lastmod tag helps search engines focus on the most current content, potentially improving a site’s visibility in search results.

How does WordPress 6.5 support the lastmod element?

With the release of WordPress 6.5, native support for the lastmod element in sitemaps is now available. This means that WordPress automatically includes this metadata in sitemaps without requiring additional manual configuration by the user.
This enhancement helps website owners improve their SEO efforts seamlessly by ensuring search engines receive accurate and updated information about their webpages.

Why should website owners upgrade to WordPress 6.5?

Website owners are encouraged to upgrade to WordPress 6.5 to use native lastmod support.
Upgrading ensures compatibility with the latest SEO practices and tools, providing users with a more effective and user-friendly platform. However, it is recommended to ensure no plugin conflicts before upgrading.

Featured Image: photosince/Shutterstock

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SEO Job Listings Reportedly Down 37% Year-Over-Year via @sejournal, @MattGSouthern

Job listings for SEO roles dropped 37% in the first quarter of 2024 compared to last year.Analysis by specialty job board compiled data from over 80,000 job listings posted by 4,700 employers in 2023 and early 2024.
The report cites the increasing use of AI in search as a critical factor impacting SEO hiring.
Mid-Level Roles Hardest Hit
While senior SEO positions saw a 3% year-over-year increase in Q1 2024 and entry-level roles rose 1%, mid-level SEO jobs experienced a 6% decline compared to Q1 2023.
Nick LeRoy, owner of, attributed this disparity to AI automation handling routine tasks. That suggests companies require experts capable of higher-level work.
He states:
“Tasks historically mapped to an entry-level position are now being done faster and cheaper with AI technology…
… These entry-level SEOs are now expected to have a base-level knowledge of search AND the soft skills to compete against their mid-level peers with 3+ years of experience.
… Companies want to “do more with less,” which means hiring cheap junior resources and paying for proven experience/results via senior SEOs.”
On a more positive note, LeRoy finds that remote SEO opportunities grew in Q1 2024 after dipping late last year.
Lack Of Salary Transparency
The SEO job report also highlighted the industry’s need for salary transparency.
Only 18% of job listings provide pay details, though there may be more wage disclosure as more states legally require it.
Economic Pressures
Alongside AI disruption, broader economic conditions appear to weigh on SEO employment.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the pullback in listings coincides with a slowing of job growth in the U.S. labor market.
The BLS recently reported that “employment was little changed over the month in major industries,” including professional and business services. SEO roles often fall under this sector.
6 Ways SEO Professionals Can Stay Competitive
As AI’s role in search grows, the most successful SEO professionals will likely be those who can combine technical mastery with strategic thinking, analytical skills, and a lifelong commitment to learning and professional development.
Here are some potential strategies to differentiate yourself in today’s job market:
1. Develop AI Expertise
With AI playing a prominent role in search, understanding and leveraging AI technologies will be critical.
Professionals utilizing AI tools like natural language processing, content generation, and semantic analysis will have a competitive edge.
2. Focus On Strategic SEO
As AI automates many technical and execution-based SEO tasks, employers will likely prioritize hiring SEOs with strategic abilities.
Professionals adept at competitive analysis, audience research, content strategy development, and conversion optimization may be in higher demand.
3. Build Analytics Prowess
With AI’s impact on search rankings and user behavior, the ability to extract insights from data will become even more valuable.
Expertise in analytics platforms, statistical analysis, data visualization, and communicating data-driven recommendations can set you apart from other candidates.
4. Specialization
While some SEO professionals take a generalist approach, increasing specialization within disciplines like local search, e-commerce, enterprise-level SEO, or a particular industry vertical could appeal more to potential employers.
5. Emphasize Soft Skills
As technical duties become automated, soft skills like communication, problem-solving, creativity, and adaptability may carry more weight in the hiring process.
SEO professionals who can collaborate across teams and articulate strategies can separate themselves.
6. Build A Personal Brand
Developing a solid personal brand through blogging, public speaking, publishing authoritative content, and engaging on social media can raise your profile. This increased visibility can lead to new job opportunities.
Parting Thoughts
While the short-term outlook is challenging, the role of the SEO professional is transforming, not disappearing.
Those able to adapt their value proposition and align with new demands can find viable career opportunities.

Featured Image: – Yuri A/Shutterstock

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Analytics & Data

7 Ways AI Took My Job [To The Next Level] via @sejournal, @CallRail

With AI-powered call attribution, you can gain valuable insights into which channels are driving the most conversions.How Call Attribution Works

Step 1: Assign – Select unique call tracking numbers to assign to each campaign or listing.
Step 2: Track – Potential customers see your ad or listing and call the associated phone number.
Step 3: Forward –The calls ring directly into your main business phone, regardless of which number they use.
Step 4: Analyze – Because they used one of your tracking numbers, you instantly know which ad or campaign inspired them to call.

With AI-powered call tracking, gone are the days of wondering how your digital marketing efforts are tied to high-value inbound calls.
For agencies, this helps prove the real value of your services and extend the life of your client relationships.
2. AI Can Help You Save Time On Manually Reviewing Calls
Listening to and analyzing phone calls manually can be time-consuming and inefficient for agencies.
However, it’s an important part of understanding the customer experience and sales team performance.
With AI-powered call analysis tools, you get quality, keyword-tagged transcriptions with near-human-level accuracy.
Not only can this technology help you save over 50% of the time spent listening to phone calls, but it can also help you deliver actionable recommendations to clients and drive better results.
Conversation Intelligence, for instance, is trained on over 1.1M hours of voice data and enables real-time analysis for instantaneous results.
This advanced tool provides opportunities for you to improve your strategy through the following granular insights:

Spotting disparities in the industry-specific lingo your sales team uses, compared to the lingo your prospects are using to describe their business challenges and goals.
Identifying trends or gaps in your service offerings based on what your prospects are asking for.
Identifying frequently asked questions and other important topics to address through content marketing.
Setting goals for lead qualification — not just the quantity of leads generated for your business.

Conversational AI is perfectly suited to summarize the content of long conversations – however, the call summaries still require a human to read them and determine the main takeaways.
But if you work in a bustling small business, it’s unlikely you’d have the bandwidth for tasks such as call transcription, summaries, keyword spotting, or trend analysis.
Rather than displacing human labor, conversational AI is assisting businesses in taking on tasks that may have been overlooked and leveraging data that would otherwise remain untapped.
3. AI Can Help You Lower Cost Per Lead / Save Money On Tools & Ad Spend
Ever wonder why certain campaigns take off while others fall flat? It’s all in the data!
Even failed campaigns can offer invaluable insights into your client’s audience and messaging.
But if you can’t spot the underperformers quickly enough, you risk wasting your ad budget on ineffective tactics.
The quicker you can identify what’s working and what’s not, the quicker you can pivot and adjust your marketing strategy.
With AI-powered tools, agencies can access instant insights that enable them to reduce wasteful spending and improve overall campaign efficiency.
How To Deliver More Value With AI

Make a bigger impact in less time: AI-powered technology creates a force multiplier within your agency, allowing you to make more of an impact with the same level of inputs you’re already using.
Unlock actionable insights from call data: AI is revolutionizing the way companies leverage call data by enabling them to gain insights at scale. As a result, businesses can increase their ROI and deliver greater value to their clients by analyzing hundreds of calls efficiently.
Foster alignment with data-driven strategies: By analyzing customer conversations with AI, businesses can align their marketing strategy with data-driven recommendations, enhancing overall coherence. Additionally, the ability to create triggers based on specific phrases enables automated analysis and reporting, further streamlining the alignment process.
Drive effectiveness with rapid insights: Leveraging Conversation Intelligence enables agencies to deliver better insights faster, increase conversion rates, refine keyword strategies, and develop robust reporting capabilities.

With the right AI-powered tools, you can access the insights you need to ensure maximum ROI for your clients.
4. AI Can Help You Improve Overall Agency Efficiency
Are you spending too much valuable time on tasks that produce minimal results?
Many agencies find themselves bogged down by routine, administrative tasks that don’t contribute much to their bottom line.
But with AI automation, agencies can streamline their operations and redirect their energy towards more strategic endeavors.
From email scheduling and social media posting to data entry and report generation, AI can handle a wide array of tasks with precision and efficiency – giving you time to focus on high-impact activities that drive growth and deliver tangible results.
Ways Your Business Can Benefit From Automation

Automatically transcribe your calls to boost close rates: See how your team is handling difficult objections and ensure that they’re delivering your businessʼ value proposition in an effective manner.
Score calls based on quality and opportunity: Take the time-consuming work out of scoring your calls and determine which campaigns drive the best calls to your business.
Classify calls by your set criteria: Qualify, score, tag, or assign a value to the leads that meet your criteria, automatically.
Automatically redact sensitive information: Protect your customers by removing billing or personal information. Keep your data safe and secure through complete HIPAA compliance.
Monitor your teamsʼ performance: Use Conversation Intelligence as a valuable sales training tool to ensure your team doesn’t miss any key messaging marks.
Know your customersʼ needs: Identify conversation trends in your phone calls and stay privy to evolving customer needs.
Improve your digital marketing strategy: Use AI-powered insights to inform your digital marketing strategy and boost your online presence.

By automating mundane tasks, agencies can optimize workflows, increase productivity, and improve efficiency across the board.
Looking for 5 – 7? Download The Full Guide
Rather than fearing AI, the future belongs to those who embrace it.
By strategically combining human creativity with artificial intelligence, you can unlock capabilities that transcend what either could achieve alone.
Want to discover even more ways to level up your agency with AI?
Get the full guide here.

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