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Search Updates – February ’23 Changes

It’s that time again; this month’s search roundup from MRS has arrived. Although a slightly slower month compared to January, February still brought many changes you need to be aware of, from new Google Ads Performance Max features to changes to Search Console’s users and permissions.

Bard – the ChatGPT rival from Google

robot types on a keyboard

Yes, ChatGPT is still dominating conversation in the world of search. But with Microsoft leading the conversation with their integration of ChatGPT and their search engine, Bing, since February, it looks like Google is entering the game. Their player? Bard, or experimental conversational AI service powered by Google’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA).

On the 6th of February, Google announced their own AI chatbot designed to “combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models”. Google also disclosed their intentions to continue to use AI to influence and benefit their everyday products, too.

But hasn’t Google been utilising AI in their search function for a while now? So what?

This announcement may be a knee-jerk reaction to the increasing popularity of ChatGPT, and Google isn’t the only one getting nervous. Baidu, China’s search engine of choice, has responded by integrating their own version of ChatGPT, Ernie Bot, with their search functionality.

With Bard released in February 2023 in its initial stages for a select few in Beta, and Ernie Bot set to be released in March, watch this space for more developments in the ongoing chatbot debate, including when Bard AI will be released for the public. There is no official release date for the public just yet, but we may expect an update mid-March.

Favicon & Site Name Arrive to UK Desktop SERPs

It looks like updated desktop SERPs may have made their way to the UK, and are finally appearing for the team at MRS. See the little icon and site name above the URL? That’s the new addition. The desktop version has been tested in America since the end of 2022, but it looks like it may have made its way over the pond:

Google search with results - scheenshot

With this change rolling out and set to be worldwide in a matter of time, it’s more important than ever that your website name and favicon are up to date. Not sure how to update them? Learn how to change your site name and favicon in SERPs as the change rolls out.

New Features Arrive for Performance Max

Announced in an exciting update from Google at the end of the month, new features are coming to Google Ads Performance Max Campaigns. Google’s revealed their intentions:

“We’re introducing new ways for you to optimize and prove the incremental value of your Performance Max campaigns: improve performance on Search inventory, grow ROI with higher-impact video creative, measure conversion uplift and get deeper reporting”.

Here’s what you need to know:

Brand Exclusions

In response to feedback from advertisers, campaign-level brand exclusions are ‘coming soon’ for increased control. Brand exclusions mean that your Performance Max campaigns won’t “serve for branded queries you wish to avoid on Search and Shopping inventory won’t be served”. These exclusions also aim to help blocked traffic from brand misspellings or brand searches in another language.

Video Creation Tools

To improve video ads, video creation tools are now integrated into Performance Max campaign setup and editing workflows. This means you can create higher-quality video ads with ease.

Page Feeds

Page feeds to Performance Max will also land in a few months. This feature will help you to send traffic to a specific set of landing page URLs on your site, which you can group by theme for a specific campaign or asset group for ultimate ease.

Improved Reporting

Changes to Performance Max will also aim to improve reporting and insights too. This update means you’ll be able to view conversions, conversion value, cost and other handy metrics at asset group level.

To read the full update, see Google’s announcement.

Search Console Users and Permissions Receives an Update

guy looking at his phone

February also brought the announcement of updates coming for Google Search Console (GSC) users. On the 22nd of February, Google announced via their Search Central blog that they would be updating Search Console’s user permissions.

This update is to “incorporate functionality related to ownership and user management. Historically, these functionalities were only available in the previous Webmaster Tools experience”.

Put simply, this update will see Search Console ownership return to the classic Webmasters method with delegated and verified ownership.

According to Google’s documentation, the new user management features include:

  • Distinguishing between verified and delegated owners
  • Easier, immediate removal of verified owners (no need to remove their ownership token)
  • Ability to change delegated owners’ permissions levels (owner, full, restricted)
  • Ability to see your property’s verification tokens for all current and previous users and specifically see tokens leftover by previous owners
  • Ownership events history

The benefit? This update will make the management of ownership and permissions far simpler for agencies and clients alike, smoothing the process for all involved. Win-win.

Google Ads Announce Changes to Location Targeting Settings

On the 27th of February, Google Ads Liaison Ginny Marvin announced via Twitter Google’s plan to ‘simplify and align’ campaign location targeting settings across campaign types:

So, what are the changes to watch out for?

Changes to Location Targeting Settings

To Be Removed Reason 
Search interest: People searching for your target locations Very low adoption rates.   
Presence or interest: People in, regularly in, or who’ve shown interest in your excluded locations Many found this confusing and noticed low performance impact.  

It is worth noting that despite these changes, ‘Presence or interest’ or ‘Presence’ will remain an option to target, and you’ll still be able to exclude people in your excluded locations.

The good news is that Google has been testing these changes and getting a feel for how advertisers currently use these options and subsequent performance impact, and these changes should simplify targeting for many paid search marketers.

These changes are due in March 2023, so advertisers should prepare to change their targeting settings where needed.

Stay in the Know with MRS Digital

Don’t fall behind the industry’s goings-on. Stay up to date with the very latest updates in the world of search with MRS Digital. Get in touch with the team today if you need help with your search visibility.

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