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14 Mobile Optimization Best Practices You Need To Know

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14 Mobile Optimization Best Practices You Need To Know

It has been a while since Google began rolling out its mobile-first index.

When this was first announced, SEO professionals were scurrying everywhere to ensure that their site was in compliance with Google’s Core Web Vitals and best practice mobile development guidelines.

Optimizing for the mobile web is an entirely comprehensive sub-field within SEO, requiring specialist-level knowledge and its own best practices in order to be successful.

So much so, that many industries require a full, quality implementation of their website on mobile. And not everyone measures up.

In many cases, sometimes most sites fall short in fulfilling their goal to be compliant.

Clearly, this is a mistake because of the fact that mobile design is such a prevalent part of our digital society:

  • 96% of Americans aged 18-29 own a smartphone.
  • As of 2020, there were over 3.6 billion users who used a smartphone device worldwide. There will be 4.3 billion by 2023.
  • In 2020, mobile users spent 90% of their time in apps as opposed to mobile browsers.
  • Google accounts for 93.22% of the mobile search market share in the United States in 2021.
  • Initial mobile search result on Google tends to achieve a 26.9% organic CTR (click-through rate).

In order to take advantage of the absolute best possible online presence, you must optimize for many different types of devices and screen resolutions. Not just for desktops.

And now, Google is rolling out their desktop page experience update. But that update is beyond the scope of this article, although it does play into page experience overall.

To achieve the absolute best mobile implementation, it’s important to ensure that you create a mobile site that is in compliance with these best practices, and that also creates opportunities to increase your Core Web Vitals numbers.

By using a responsive design and not an m-dot subdomain, observing best practices with image creation and optimization, and observing compression and minification, you can achieve a quality mobile site that reaches as many people within your audience as possible.

That is where your mobile site is going to be successful.

1. Make Sure All Content Is The Same On Desktop & Mobile

The idea behind this best practice is to avoid duplicate content and accusations of cloaking.

To be safe, always make sure that all content is the same on the desktop version of your site as it is on mobile.

One of the best techniques to use to make sure this happens is responsive design.

Responsive design, for those who don’t know, involves creating a style sheet that uses “media queries” to automatically transition designs between a wide variety of platforms and devices.

If you want to squeeze out all possible speed and make your design lean and mean, consider looking into CSS sprites to reduce server-side requests.

2. Above The Fold Isn’t Gone Entirely

It’s important to remember that in a mobile environment, where things scroll endlessly, above the fold is not gone entirely.

It is still preferable to have at least some of the text content above the fold on a mobile design, to show someone that there is a reason to scroll.

The psychological benefits and desires of wanting to see what you offer are not gone entirely, so you do still have to optimize for this somewhat on many different mobile devices.

3. Use A ‘Top Down’ Development Approach

A “from the top-down” development approach means that you consider all potential consequences of each decision made in a design from start to finish.

You develop for mobile-first, rather than desktop-first, and then tacking on a mobile design after. This development approach is ideal because you don’t introduce issues into the final design.

Here’s an example: You create a desktop website. About three-quarters of the way through the process, you decide that you want to create a mobile site on top of it.

You create the mockup. But, after coding the mockup and moving throughout the transitions, you find a bug here. And you find a bug there. Then you find a bug over there. This is because the bottom-up approach does not work and causes scope creep.

This is the phenomenon where unseen issues crop up at the last minute, causing unforeseen bugs and increases in hours that were not originally provided for when the project was originally scoped out.

The truth is, if the top-down approach for mobile responsive design were considered straight from the beginning, these bugs and things that need to be worked out would not be popping up at the end, causing this dreaded issue.

4. Don’t Focus Exclusively On The Mobile Consumer, Though

As mobile and desktop merge, so too are the goals and desires of the users of these platforms.

When you focus on what your user wishes to achieve based on the platform, you create a holistic approach that reaches customers through your website more effectively.

Whether a user is purchasing a product or performing research on the services you provide, the blend of user goals and client acquisitions of the business will continue.

So much so, that specifically focusing on these ideals and values will become less necessary.

Not less important, mind you, just less necessary as this blend of mobile and desktop continues.

5. Use Responsive Design Techniques

The days of separate m-dot websites (m.example.com) are over.

There is no possible redeemable reason to use such an implementation in the mobile-first era.

The structure can be very messy, with multiple URLs creating duplicate content issues if they are not properly optimized.

There are many techniques available to ensure that an effective transition is completed, but otherwise, m-dot implementations have gone the way of the dodo with the advent of new technologies.

Today, the ideal implementation involves a responsive design. These designs use what are called media queries to define the display resolutions that the design will support.

Each separate resolution is what’s called a “breakpoint” in the design, or the point at which the responsive design transitions from one resolution to the next.

The benefit to using this kind of structure is that you do not run into the duplicate content issues that you would on an m-dot implementation.

Also, your mobile implementation will be on the latest technology.

6. Think ‘Code’ Instead Of ‘Images Everywhere’ To Increase Site Speed

Do you really need to use that two-color background as the 2-pixel wide by 1200-pixel high repeating background?

If you don’t, and you can code it instead, code it instead.

While something so small won’t make a major dent in site speed, the optimizations can add up as they are completed.

Next time you perform a site audit or otherwise create a website, think: “Do I really need this image here or can I simply code it instead?”

If the image really isn’t necessary, coding the object could help increase site speed exponentially, especially on-site designs that utilize an overabundance of graphics.

7. Customize WordPress For Mobile

There are many plug-ins available for WordPress.

So much so, that some even provide functionality for increased mobile compatibility.

The most useful plug-ins for this purpose are Duda Mobile, W3 Total Cache, as well as plug-ins for minifying HTML and CSS.

8. Don’t Use Intrusive Interstitials To Sell Your Product

Yes. We know. Your product is the greatest, most awesome thing to grace this planet. That’s why we are probably visiting your website and doing research on it before we buy.

But, we do not need to have an intrusive ad that blocks our activity throughout your site to bug us on the sale.

Where possible, keep the intrusive interstitials to a minimum, and keep the ads towards the bottom or off to the side with an option to click on the ad and remove it at the very least.

It is important to note that Google does penalize intrusive interstitials.

It is worth reading their developer guides along with their webmaster guidelines on this issue, as well as their blog post on this topic.

9. Check Your Site On Multiple Operating And Display Systems

Any SEO should know how to identify weaknesses in a website’s existing implementation, including where and how to find problems on various displays and devices.

You want to check your site on more than one operating system, as well as more than one display device. Doing this ensures that your site is compatible with as wide a range of displays and platforms as possible.

But, what if you cannot afford a thousand devices in order to check them?

This all comes down to a few applications. Yes! It’s possible to check these types of issues with more than one application.

Google’s Web Developer Chrome Extension

If you’re on a budget, using Google’s Web Developer Chrome Extension can help you examine how your site looks in many different screen sizes and resolutions.

It also offers the ability to see how your site looks through different device orientations, how touch inputs interact through simulation, and much more.

It’s also possible to use their debugging tool to examine a site’s code for problems.

BrowserStack

BrowserStack.com is a great tool for testing on many different browsers, operating systems, and display resolutions. They also have a Google Chrome extension you can take advantage of for this purpose.

You can test any site on over 2,000 real devices, browsers, and operating systems.

By having a paid account, you get unlimited access to their browser extension for testing.

Cross Browser Testing

CrossBrowserTesting.com is an alternative to BrowserStack that you can use for testing browsers and devices.

Offering more than 1,500 browsers and platforms for testing, its product offering is not short on what you can do.

Screenshot comparisons are possible with their tool, along with being able to simulate how your website behaves on real-world devices.

10. Follow Mobile Video Best Practices

Yes, there are mobile video SEO best practices! Google still needs to have some signals embedded on the page so its search engine better understands the video that’s on that page.

This article from Search Engine Journal’s own Matt Southern details Google’s five recommended video SEO best practices.

Things like on-page text, referral links, structured data, and video files are important.

There are also other things you want to watch out for as you create videos

For example, you want to make sure that your videos are accessible to the public. This means making sure that your YouTube privacy settings are set to public, and that you should have a Google-accessible webpage with that video.

With structured data, using the VideoObject data type on Schema.org is recommended.

Google recommends using the following mobile video best practices for a flawless mobile video implementation:

  • Using custom controls with a div root element, along with a video media element, and a div child element that is dedicated to video controls.
  • Using a play/pause video button.
  • Ensuring that the user can seek backward and forward.
  • Their comprehensive technical implementation of a mobile video is second to none and walks you through the process step-by-step.

As Google says:

“If the user’s primary reason for visiting is for video, this user experience must become immersive and re-engaging.”

Aside from the obvious, other mobile video SEO best practices include:

Making it as easy as possible for Google to actually find your videos. This means:

  • Using a video sitemap: If you don’t submit a video sitemap, Google may not be able to find your videos directly. A video sitemap makes it even easier for you to submit this sitemap in Google Search Console, which makes it even easier for Google to crawl and potentially index your videos.
  • Don’t use complex user actions or URL fragments: If these are used to load your videos, it’s possible that Google may not find your videos at all, because these things on your page are too complex for Google to understand.
  • Use an easily-identifiable HTML tag: Some of the valid ones include video, iframe, object, or embed. It’s easier for Google to identify videos when they are embedded within common tags.
  • Make sure your videos can actually be indexed. It happens: sometimes somebody may make a change to a robots.txt file that blocks video files from being crawled (through no fault of your own…hopefully). If your videos were being indexed, and now all of a sudden they are not, it’s worth taking a look at your robots.txt file to make sure they are not being blocked.
  • Use Google-supported thumbnail formats: There are also thumbnail best practices that you need to follow in the above Google web developer documentation

Mobile video SEO is not always as easy as one may think.

While not every single box needs to be checked, there are things that could be detrimental to your mobile video crawling and indexing if they are not.

11. Use Schema.org Structured Data

Schema.org structured data is important for not only identifying pages on your site that have special, structured information the search engines need to see but when the mobile index comes into full play, expect to see an increased reliance on Schema.

This is a concise, easy method of understanding information that can then be translated into rich snippets in the mobile search results.

But, either way, it is this author’s opinion that Schema structured data be used even on desktop implementations because it can help you appear in rich snippet results based on your targeted keyword. This can help enhance the visibility of your site when implemented correctly.

12. Don’t Block Supporting Scripts Like JavaScript, CSS, Or Things Like Images

This should be common sense when developing sites for any platform, whether desktop or mobile, but some people still do it.

It is important to make sure that supporting scripts for your mobile design is not blocked, because this blockage can result in issues like mobile soft 404s down the line. It can also result in desktop 404s.

But, if you block these files from being crawled by Google, they cannot crawl these files to see that your website works correctly.

When they can’t do this, this can result in lower rankings because they can’t fully understand your website.

13. Image Compression And Optimization

For the mobile web, image optimization is a critical component to get right. This means that you must ensure that images are properly optimized for all image sizes on all possible resolutions.

It’s not possible to create one image and ensure that it is viewable everywhere. Well, you can. But it will look distorted on resolutions it was not made for.

Instead, using holistic SEO best practices and making sure that you create images that are high quality at every resolution but also load quickly is something that is recommended.

This is why there are several responsive design best practices that Google recommends using in order to optimize your images for the mobile platform. They recommend the following:

  • Use relative image sizes. If you use relative image sizes, you end up preventing them from overflowing the container tag that houses the image.
  • Use inline images. It’s possible to reduce page speed by ensuring that inline images are used in order to reduce file requests. These should be used on pages that may not be used elsewhere on your site.
  • For higher DPI devices, use the srcset attribute for images. This helps you add more than one image file for different devices.
  • If you are doing e-commerce SEO, you may want to make your product images expandable. Customers may want to enlarge the image that they are potentially purchasing on their device in order to see it better. So, providing this option makes sense.

The trick to integrating images in your mobile optimizations is: Striking a balance between image size, loading them on a mobile device, and ensuring the right page speed without lowering image quality on any major device that your audience is searching for.

14. Optimize Overall Page Size

Page size is a major consideration for a mobile-friendly website. To be truly mobile-friendly, page size must load fast. To do this, optimizing the overall DOM size is necessary.

To do this effectively, you must take into consideration not only what I discuss in the above link, but also the following:

Don’t Use Unnecessary Custom Fonts

Using unnecessary custom fonts can complicate your page load process and increase the number of scripts that are required in order to process your page.

This translates to increased page load time and can increase your Core Web Vitals scores out of the desirable range.

Where possible, use system fonts instead and you can bring the impact that this causes down to a minimum.

Optimize Your Images

You also want to make sure that you optimize your images while preserving image quality. It’s not a professional result if someone arrives on your site and your image’s quality is grainy because of over-compression, you have not achieved the best result.

Ideally, you should be using image file sizes that are in line with what will produce the highest quality on the mobile devices that your site is optimized for while making sure that you don’t dip below that quality point.

This is a delicate balancing act and requires someone with expertise in optimizing images in order to arrive at the desired results.

Reduce The Amount Of Resources The Overall DOM And Critical Rendering Path Need

The more resources that your page needs in order to render, the higher your page download speed will be. You should never need more than 10 plugins (max) and three to four script files in order to process a webpage.

This author has seen situations where there are 160 plugins loading and the page file size is 10 MB. This is absolutely not where you want to be.

To be the most effective, this author’s opinion is that pages on a WordPress site should never exceed 150-250 KB – on average – and should not include more than five to seven resources max (CSS, external font if needed, an ad file, a JavaScript file, and three plugins). If you require more, then you may not be as optimized as you think.

And, don’t underestimate the savings that utilizing system fonts over external web fonts will save you.

Minify Your Pages

The process of minification on your pages involves compressing your files in order to save space and reduce their overall page load times as a result.

Using minification as a process will help you get rid of unwanted white space in your code, and compress that code so that it takes up the absolute least possible space necessary.

Ideally, the best process will involve no plugins. You would want to hire a developer to manually minify your pages.

If you’re already overloaded with plugins, adding another one to minify your pages is a bad idea. In these cases, you would want to use a professional-level developer in order to ensure the best result.

If you have minimal plugins already, then using a professional developer for this task will help you achieve even better page load times and Core Web Vitals scores.

If you absolutely must use a plugin, just be sure to use it as a temporary measure until you can have a professional developer go in and manually minify your code.

Mobile-First Is Here; The Need For Implementation Has Reached Critical Mass

With the arrival of Google’s mobile-first index, implementing your cross-platform, cross-device, cross-compatible website has now reached massive priority.

This means that the longer you delay, the more that not having just a mobile implementation, but not having the right mobile implementation is going to cost you in many ways.

Not just rankings.

If you haven’t yet made the jump to mobile, why not?

More Resources:


Featured Image: Dragana Gordic/Shutterstock



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How To Become an SEO Expert in 4 Steps

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General SEO

With 74.1% of SEOs charging clients upwards of $500 per month for their services, there’s a clear financial incentive to get good at SEO. But with no colleges offering degrees in the topic, it’s down to you to carve your own path in the industry.

There are many ways to do this; some take longer than others.

In this post, I’ll share how I’d go from zero to SEO pro if I had to do it all over again. 

1. Take a beginner SEO course

Understanding what search engine optimization really is and how it works is the first state of affairs. While you can do this by reading endless blog posts or watching YouTube videos, I wouldn’t recommend that approach for a few reasons:

  • It’s hard to know where to start
  • It’s hard to join the dots
  • It’s hard to know who to trust

You can solve all of these problems by taking a structured course like our SEO course for beginners. It’s completely free (no signup required), consists of 14 short video lessons (2 hours total length), and covers:

  • What SEO is and why it’s important
  • How to do keyword research
  • How to optimize pages for keywords
  • How to build links (and why you need them)
  • Technical SEO best practices

Here’s the first lesson to get you started:

Lesson 1: SEO Basics: What is SEO and Why is it Important? Watch now

2. Make a website and try to rank it

It doesn’t matter how many books you read about golf, you’re never going to win a tournament without picking up a set of clubs and practicing. It’s the same with SEO. The theory is important, but there’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty and trying to rank a site.

If you don’t have a site already, you can get up and running fairly quickly with any major website platform. Some will set you back a few bucks, but they handle SEO basics out of the box. This saves you time sweating the small stuff.

As for what kind of site you should create, I recommend a simple hobby blog. 

Here’s a simple food blog I set up in <10 minutes: 

A blog that I set up in just a few minutes. It's nothing special, but it does the jobA blog that I set up in just a few minutes. It's nothing special, but it does the job

Once you’re set-up, you’re ready to start practicing and honing your SEO skills. Specifically, doing keyword research to find topics, writing and optimizing content about them, and (possibly) building a few backlinks.

For example, according to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, the keyword “neopolitan pizza dough recipe” has a monthly traffic potential of 4.4K as well as a relatively low Keyword Difficulty (KD) score:

Keyword metrics for "neopolitan pizza dough" via Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerKeyword metrics for "neopolitan pizza dough" via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Even better, there’s a weak website (DR 16) in the top three positions—so this should definitely be quite an easy topic to rank for.

Page from a low-DR website ranking in the top 3. This indicates an easy-to-rank-for keywordPage from a low-DR website ranking in the top 3. This indicates an easy-to-rank-for keyword

Given that most of the top-ranking posts have at least a few backlinks, a page about this topic would also likely need at least a few backlinks to compete. Check out the resources below to learn how to build these.

3. Get an entry-level job

It’s unlikely that your hobby blog is going to pay the bills, so it’s time to use the work you’ve done so far to get a job in SEO. Here are a few benefits of doing this: 

  • Get paid to learn. This isn’t the case when you’re home alone reading blog posts and watching videos or working on your own site.
  • Get deeper hands-on experience. Agencies work with all kinds of businesses, which means you’ll get to build experience with all kinds of sites, from blogs to ecommerce. 
  • Build your reputation. Future clients or employers are more likely to take you seriously if you’ve worked for a reputable SEO agency. 

To find job opportunities, start by signing up for SEO newsletters like SEO Jobs and SEOFOMO. Both of these send weekly emails and feature remote job opportunities: 

SEO jobs in SEOFOMO newsletterSEO jobs in SEOFOMO newsletter

You can also go the traditional route and search job sites for entry-level positions. The kinds of jobs you’re looking for will usually have “Junior” in their titles or at least mention that it’s a junior position in their description.

Junior SEO job listing exampleJunior SEO job listing example

Beyond that, you can search for SEO agencies in your local area and check their careers pages. 

Even if there are no entry-level positions listed here, it’s still worth emailing and asking if there are any upcoming openings. Make sure to mention any SEO success you’ve had with your website and where you’re at in your journey so far.

This might seem pushy, but many agencies actually encourage this—such as Rise at Seven:

Call for alternative roles from Rise at SevenCall for alternative roles from Rise at Seven

Here’s a quick email template to get you started:

Subject: Junior SEO position?

Hey folks,

Do you have any upcoming openings for junior SEOs?

I’ve been learning SEO for [number] months, but I’m looking to take my knowledge to the next level. So far, I’ve taken Ahrefs’ Beginner SEO course and started my own blog about [topic]—which I’ve had some success with. It’s only [number] months old but already ranks for [number] keywords and gets an estimated [number] monthly search visits according to Ahrefs.

[Ahrefs screenshot]

I checked your careers page and didn’t see any junior positions there, but I was hoping you might consider me for any upcoming positions? I’m super enthusiastic, hard-working, and eager to learn.

Let me know.

[Name]

You can pull all the numbers and screenshots you need by creating a free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools account and verifying your website.

4. Specialize and hone your skills

SEO is a broad industry. It’s impossible to be an expert at every aspect of it, so you should niche down and hone your skills in the area that interests you the most. You should have a reasonable idea of what this is from working on your own site and in an agency.

For example, link building was the area that interested me the most, so that’s where I focused on deepening my knowledge. As a result, I became what’s known as a “t-shaped SEO”—someone with broad skills across all things SEO but deep knowledge in one area.

T-shaped SEOT-shaped SEO
What a t-shaped SEO looks like

Marie Haynes is another great example of a t-shaped SEO. She specializes in Google penalty recovery. She doesn’t build links or do on-page SEO. She audits websites with traffic drops and helps their owners recover.

In terms of how to build your knowledge in your chosen area, here are a few ideas:

Here are a few SEOs I’d recommend following and their (rough) specialties:

Final thoughts

K Anders Ericsson famously theorized that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a new skill. Can it take less? Possibly. But the point is this: becoming an SEO expert is not an overnight process.

I’d even argue that it’s a somewhat unattainable goal because no matter how much you know, there’s always more to learn. That’s part of the fun, though. SEO is a fast-moving industry that keeps you on your toes, but it’s a very rewarding one, too. 

Here are a few stats to prove it:

  • 74.1% of SEOs charge clients upwards of $500 per month for their services (source)
  • $49,211 median annual salary (source)
  • ~$74k average salary for self-employed SEOs (source)

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A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

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A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

Today, ChatGPT celebrates one year since its launch in research preview.

From its humble beginnings, ChatGPT has continually pushed the boundaries of what we perceive as possible with generative AI for almost any task.

In this article, we take a journey through the past year, highlighting the significant milestones and updates that have shaped ChatGPT into the versatile and powerful tool it is today.

ChatGPT: From Research Preview To Customizable GPTs

This story unfolds over the course of nearly a year, beginning on November 30, when OpenAI announced the launch of its research preview of ChatGPT.

As users began to offer feedback, improvements began to arrive.

Before the holiday, on December 15, 2022, ChatGPT received general performance enhancements and new features for managing conversation history.

Screenshot from ChatGPT, December 2022ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

As the calendar turned to January 9, 2023, ChatGPT saw improvements in factuality, and a notable feature was added to halt response generation mid-conversation, addressing user feedback and enhancing control.

Just a few weeks later, on January 30, the model was further upgraded for enhanced factuality and mathematical capabilities, broadening its scope of expertise.

February 2023 was a landmark month. On February 9, ChatGPT Plus was introduced, bringing new features and a faster ‘Turbo’ version to Plus users.

This was followed closely on February 13 with updates to the free plan’s performance and the international availability of ChatGPT Plus, featuring a faster version for Plus users.

March 14, 2023, marked a pivotal moment with the introduction of GPT-4 to ChatGPT Plus subscribers.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, March 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

This new model featured advanced reasoning, complex instruction handling, and increased creativity.

Less than ten days later, on March 23, experimental AI plugins, including browsing and Code Interpreter capabilities, were made available to selected users.

On May 3, users gained the ability to turn off chat history and export data.

Plus users received early access to experimental web browsing and third-party plugins on May 12.

On May 24, the iOS app expanded to more countries with new features like shared links, Bing web browsing, and the option to turn off chat history on iOS.

June and July 2023 were filled with updates enhancing mobile app experiences and introducing new features.

The mobile app was updated with browsing features on June 22, and the browsing feature itself underwent temporary removal for improvements on July 3.

The Code Interpreter feature rolled out in beta to Plus users on July 6.

Plus customers enjoyed increased message limits for GPT-4 from July 19, and custom instructions became available in beta to Plus users the next day.

July 25 saw the Android version of the ChatGPT app launch in selected countries.

As summer progressed, August 3 brought several small updates enhancing the user experience.

Custom instructions were extended to free users in most regions by August 21.

The month concluded with the launch of ChatGPT Enterprise on August 28, offering advanced features and security for enterprise users.

Entering autumn, September 11 witnessed limited language support in the web interface.

Voice and image input capabilities in beta were introduced on September 25, further expanding ChatGPT’s interactive abilities.

An updated version of web browsing rolled out to Plus users on September 27.

The fourth quarter of 2023 began with integrating DALL·E 3 in beta on October 16, allowing for image generation from text prompts.

The browsing feature moved out of beta for Plus and Enterprise users on October 17.

Customizable versions of ChatGPT, called GPTs, were introduced for specific tasks on November 6 at OpenAI’s DevDay.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, November 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

On November 21, the voice feature in ChatGPT was made available to all users, rounding off a year of significant advancements and broadening the horizons of AI interaction.

And here, we have ChatGPT today, with a sidebar full of GPTs.

ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAIScreenshot from ChatGPT, November 2023ChatGPT At One: A Year Of AI Developments From OpenAI

Looking Ahead: What’s Next For ChatGPT

The past year has been a testament to continuous innovation, but it is merely the prologue to a future rich with potential.

The upcoming year promises incremental improvements and leaps in AI capabilities, user experience, and integrative technologies that could redefine our interaction with digital assistants.

With a community of users and developers growing stronger and more diverse, the evolution of ChatGPT is poised to surpass expectations and challenge the boundaries of today’s AI landscape.

As we step into this next chapter, the possibilities are as limitless as generative AI continues to advance.


Featured image: photosince/Shutterstock



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Is AI Going To E-E-A-T Your Experience For Breakfast? The LinkedIn Example

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Is AI Going To E-E-A-T Your Experience For Breakfast? The LinkedIn Example

Are LinkedIn’s collaborative articles part of SEO strategies nowadays?

More to the point, should they be?

The search landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, blurring the lines between search engines and where searches occur.

Following the explosive adoption of AI in content marketing and the most recent Google HCU, core, and spam updates, we’re looking at a very different picture now in search versus 12 months ago.

User-generated and community-led content seems to be met with renewed favourability by the algorithm (theoretically, mirroring what people reward, too).

LinkedIn’s freshly launched “collaborative articles” seem to be a perfect sign of our times: content that combines authority (thanks to LinkedIn’s authority), AI-generated content, and user-generated content.

What could go wrong?

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What are “collaborative articles” on LinkedIn?
  • Why am I discussing them in the context of SEO?
  • The main issues with collaborative articles.
  • How is Google treating them?
  • How they can impact your organic performance.

What Are LinkedIn Collaborative Articles?

First launched in March 2023, LinkedIn says about collaborative articles:

“These articles begin as AI-powered conversation starters, developed with our editorial team, but they aren’t complete without insights from our members. A select group of experts have been invited to contribute their own ideas, examples and experiences within the articles.“

Essentially, each of these articles starts as a collection of AI-generated answers to FAQs/prompts around any given topic. Under each of these sections, community members can add their own perspectives, insights, and advice.

What’s in it for contributors? To earn, ultimately, a “Top Voice” badge on their profile.

The articles are indexable and are all placed under the same folder (https://www.linkedin.com/advice/).

They look like this:

Screenshot from LinkedIn, November 2023LinkedIn content

On the left-hand side, there are always FAQs relevant to the topic answered by AI.

On the right-hand side is where the contributions by community members get posted. Users can react to each contribution in the same way as to any LinkedIn post on their feed.

How Easy Is It To Contribute And Earn A Badge For Your Insights?

Pretty easy.

I first got invited to contribute on September 19, 2023 – though I had already found a way to contribute a few weeks before this.

Exclusive LinkedIn group of expertsScreenshot from LinkedIn, November 2023Exclusive LinkedIn group of experts

My notifications included updates from connections who had contributed to an article.

By clicking on these, I was transferred to the article and was able to contribute to it, too (as well as additional articles, linked at the bottom).

I wanted to test how hard it was to earn a Top SEO Voice badge. Eight article contributions later (around three to four hours of my time), I had earned three.

LinkedIn profileLinkedIn profile

Community top voice badgeScreenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023Community top voice badge

How? Apparently, simply by earning likes for my contributions.

A Mix Of Brilliance, Fuzzy Editorial Rules, And Weird Uncle Bob

Collaborative articles sound great in principle – a win-win for both sides.

  • LinkedIn struck a bullseye: creating and scaling content (theoretically) oozing with E-E-A-T, with minimal investment.
  • Users benefit from building their personal brand (and their company’s) for a fragment of the effort and cost this usually takes. The smartest ones complement their on-site content strategy with this off-site golden ticket.

What isn’t clear from LinkedIn’s Help Center is what this editorial mix of AI and human input looks like.

Things like:

  • How much involvement do the editors have before the topic is put to the community?
  • Are they only determining and refining the prompts?
  • Are they editing the AI-generated responses?
  • More importantly, what involvement (if any) do they have after they unleash the original AI-generated piece into the world?
  • And more.

I think of this content like weird Uncle Bob, always joining the family gatherings with his usual, unoriginal conversation starters. Only, this time, he’s come bearing gifts.

Do you engage? Or do you proceed to consume as many canapés as possible, pretending you haven’t seen him yet?

Why Am I Talking About LinkedIn Articles And SEO?

When I first posted about LinkedIn’s articles, it was the end of September. Semrush showed clear evidence of their impact and potential in Search. (Disclosure: I work for Semrush.)

Only six months after their launch, LinkedIn articles were on a visible, consistent upward trend.

  • They were already driving 792.5K organic visits a month. (This was a 75% jump in August.)
  • They ranked for 811,700 keywords.
  • Their pages were ranking in the top 10 for 78,000 of them.
  • For 123,700 of them, they appeared in a SERP feature, such as People Also Ask and Featured Snippets.
  • Almost 72% of the keywords had informational intent, followed by commercial keywords (22%).

Here’s a screenshot with some of the top keywords for which these pages ranked at the top:

Semrush US databaseScreenshot from Semrush US database, desktop, September 2023Semrush US database

Now, take the page that held the Featured Snippet for competitive queries like “how to enter bios” (monthly search volume of 5,400 and keyword difficulty of 84, based on Semrush data).

It came in ahead of pages on Tom’s Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, or Reddit.

LinkedIn computer hardware installation collaborative articleLinkedIn computer hardware installation collaborative article

collaborative article exampleScreenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023collaborative article example

See anything weird? Even at the time of writing this post, this collaborative article had precisely zero (0) contributions.

This means a page with 100% AI-generated content (and unclear interference of human editors) was rewarded with the Featured Snippet against highly authoritative and relevant domains and pages.

A Sea Of Opportunity Or A Storm Ready To Break Out?

Let’s consider these articles in the context of Google’s guidelines for creating helpful, reliable, people-first content and its Search Quality Rater Guidelines.

Of particular importance here, I believe, is the most recently added “E” in “E-E-A-T,” which takes experience into account, alongside expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

For so many of these articles to have been ranking so well must mean that they were meeting the guidelines and proving helpful and reliable for content consumers.

After all, they rely on “a select group of experts to contribute their own ideas, examples and experiences within the articles,” so they must be worthy of strong organic performances, right?

Possibly. (I’ve yet to see such an example, but I want to believe somewhere in the thousands of pages these do exist).

But, based on what I’ve seen, there are too many examples of poor-quality content to justify such big rewards in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The common issues I’ve spotted:

1. Misinformation

I can’t tell how much vetting or editing there is going on behind the scenes, but the amount of misinformation in some collaborative articles is alarming. This goes for AI-generated content and community contributions alike.

I don’t really envy the task of fact-checking what LinkedIn describes as “thousands of collaborative articles on 2,500+ skills.” Still, if it’s quality and helpfulness we’re concerned with here, I’d start brewing my coffee a little stronger if I were LinkedIn.

At the moment, it feels a little too much like a free-for-all.

Here are some examples of topics like SEO or content marketing.

misinformation example 1misinformation example 1

misinformation example 2misinformation example 2

misinformation example 3Screenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023misinformation example 3

2. Thin Content

To a degree, some contributions seem to do nothing more than mirror the points made in the original AI-generated piece.

For example, are these contributions enough to warrant a high level of “experience” in these articles?

thin content example 1thin content example 1

thin content example 2Screenshots from LinkedIn, November 2023thin content example 2

The irony to think that some of these contributions may have also been generated by AI…

3. Missing Information

While many examples don’t provide new or unique perspectives, some articles simply don’t provide…any perspectives at all.

This piece about analytical reasoning ranked in the top 10 for 128 keywords when I first looked into it last September (down to 80 in October).

Missing Information exampleScreenshot from LinkedIn, November 2023Missing Information example

It even held the Featured Snippet for competitive keywords like “inductive reasoning examples” for a while (5.4K monthly searches in the US), although it had no contributions on this subsection.

Most of its sections remain empty, so we’re talking about mainly AI-generated content.

Does this mean that Google really doesn’t care whether your content comes from humans or AI?

I’m not convinced.

How Have The Recent Google Updates Impacted This Content?

After August and October 2023 Google core updates (at the time of writing, the November 2023 Google core update is rolling out), the September 2023 helpful content update, and the October 2023 spam update, the performance of this section seems to be declining.

According to Semrush data:

Semrush data Screenshot from Semrush, November 2023Semrush data
  • Organic traffic to these pages was down to 453,000 (a 43% drop from September, bringing their performance close to August levels).
  • They ranked for 465,100 keywords (down by 43% MoM).
  • Keywords in the Top 10 dropped by 33% (51,900 vs 78,000 in September).
  • Keywords in the top 10 accounted for 161,800 visits (vs 287,200 in September, down by 44% MoM).

The LinkedIn domain doesn’t seem to have been impacted negatively overall.

Semrush dataScreenshot from Semrush, November 2023Semrush data

Is this a sign that Google has already picked up the weaknesses in this content and has started balancing actual usefulness versus the overall domain authority that might have propelled it originally?

Will we see it declining further in the coming months? Or are there better things to come for this feature?

Should You Already Be On The Bandwagon If You’re In SEO?

I was on the side of caution before the Google algorithm updates of the past couple of months.

Now, I’d be even more hesitant to invest a substantial part of my resources towards baking this content into my strategy.

As with any other new, third-party feature (or platform – does anyone remember Threads?), it’s always a case of balancing being an early adopter with avoiding over-investment. At least while being unclear on the benefits.

Collaborative articles are a relatively fresh, experimental, external feature you have minimal control over as part of your SEO strategy.

Now, we also have signs from Google that this content may not be as “cool” as we initially thought.

This Is What I’d Do

That’s not to say it’s not worth trying some small-scale experiments.

Or, maybe, use it as part of promoting your own personal brand (but I’ve yet to see any data around the impact of the “Top Voice” badges on perceived value).

Treat this content as you would any other owned content.

  • Follow Google’s guidelines.
  • Add genuine value for your audience.
  • Add your own unique perspective.
  • Highlight gaps and misinformation.

Experience shows us that when tactics get abused, and the user experience suffers, Google eventually steps in (from guest blogging to parasite SEO, most recently).

It might make algorithmic tweaks when launching updates, launch a new system, or hand out manual actions – the point is that you don’t know how things will progress. Only LinkedIn and Google have control over that.

As things stand, I can easily see any of the below potential outcomes:

  • This content becomes the AI equivalent of the content farms of the pre-Panda age, leading to Google clamping down on its search performance.
  • LinkedIn’s editors stepping in more for quality control (provided LinkedIn deems the investment worthwhile).
  • LinkedIn starts pushing its initiative much more to encourage participation and engagement. (This could be what makes the difference between a dead content farm and Reddit-like value.)

Anything could happen. I believe the next few months will give us a clearer picture.

What’s Next For AI And Its Role In SEO And Social Media?

When it comes to content creation, I think it’s safe to say that AI isn’t quite ready to E-E-A-T your experience for breakfast. Yet.

We can probably expect more of these kinds of movements from social media platforms and forums in the coming months, moving more toward mixing AI with human experience.

What do you think is next for LinkedIn’s collaborative articles? Let me know on LinkedIn!

More resources:


Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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