Google’s Advice for Surviving Algorithm Changes
August 6, 2019
Now, what most people don’t know is Google doesn’t just push out a handful of algorithm changes per year.
They publish substantially more.
Just to give you an idea of how often Google changes, they had 3,200 algorithm changes in just 1 year.
You heard me right, 3,200 changes.
That’s a lot!
So instead of focusing on one algorithm update that you may read about, you need to focus on making your site compatible with Google’s core goal.
First I’ll go over the advice they are telling us all to follow… and then I’ll break down what it really means.
Google’s advice to SEOs
Just like most of their announcements, Google tends to be vague. But of course, they did mention that you should focus on content.
What’s interesting, though, is they did give a list of questions that you should ask yourself with your existing and new content.
But as I mentioned they are vague… so I decided to do something a bit unique. Next to each question that Google provides (in the color black), you’ll find my thoughts on what I think Google is trying to tell you (in the color orange).
Content and quality questions
- Does the content provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis? – Although Google doesn’t penalize for duplicate content, they are looking for new, fresh content. With over a billion blogs on the Internet, there is a lot of regurgitated content out there these days.
- Does the content provide a substantial, complete, or comprehensive description of the topic? – When a user performs a search, Google wants to give them what they are looking for with the least amount of work. They don’t want to have the user go to multiple sites to get their answer. Pages that are thorough and answer all parts of the user’s search query are more likely to rank. In other words, if you write thin content, it probably isn’t satisfactory for the searcher, which means you may not rank as high as you want.
- Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious? – Does your content have more to offer than what your competition is producing? Go above and beyond by providing additional analysis or drawing your own conclusions using additional data that may be helpful to the reader.
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality? – Don’t just copy and paste someone else’s content then link to them and provide a few lines of commentary. If you are going to reference someone else’s content, make sure you draw your own conclusions and the majority of the text on that page is unique and useful.
- Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content? – 8 out of 10 people read a headline and only 2 out of 10 people click through to read the rest. Your headlines not only need to be appealing, but they need to summarize the content. Don’t just focus on keywords or clickbait, focus on user experience with your headlines.
- Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature? – Google can tell if you are using clickbait as that typically causes a high bounce rate. If they see that people are going back to the SERP listing, it means that your content wasn’t up to par and you just used clickbait to trick searchers.
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend? – As Eric Schmidt, the ex-CEO of Google, once said, brands are the solution. Google prefers ranking brands, so don’t prioritize SEO. Focus first on your user. Make them love your content, your product, and your service.
- Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia, or book? – If you think your content is so great you are willing to print it out and hang it up on your wall, you have done a great job. If you are just creating content for the sake of it, people will be able to tell.
- Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page? – The best way to position yourself as an expert is to use data and cite your sources. In addition, if you are going to be an expert, make sure you have your name on the page and even link to your bio.
- If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognized as an authority on its topic? – Compared to your competition how are you seen? If you are more respected and more popular, it shows that you are potentially an expert. You should work on your brand queries as it will help get you more visibility.
- Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well? – Are you faking it or are you clearly an expert on this topic? Sure, I can research the law and write content about the law, but I am not a lawyer and it would be obvious. Write about what you know, and if you don’t know it, go learn it really well first before writing about it.
- Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors? – Creating fake news will hurt you. Don’t contribute false information to the web. If you write a few pieces with false information and Google catches on, it could potentially damage your whole site.
- Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life? – If someone does a search on Google and lands on your site, what will happen if they read your content? If they continue on to another site and continually researches, it means that they don’t trust you enough yet. Not only is it important for you to create amazing content, but you need to show the reader why you are a credible source and why they should pay attention to you instead of someone else in the space.
Presentation and production questions
- Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues? – Check your content for grammar and spelling errors. Once you do that, make sure your content is easy to read. For example, having a neon font color on a white background is hard to read.
- Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? – Spend time making sure the content you put out on the web is polished. From custom graphics and videos to images and podcasts, make sure the overall experience is great. Write good content isn’t enough as everyone is doing that these days.
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care? – Google wants individual pages to fully answer searchers questions. If someone is looking for an answer and you link out to a lot of other sites to explain your answer, then you aren’t creating the best experience. Focus on creating an amazing experience not only from a site level but from an individual page level too.
- Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? – Your website needs to load fast. Ads slow down a site and can ruin the user experience. Monetizing shouldn’t be the core focus of your site, instead, it should be to educate and help visitors.
- Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them? –Roughly 60% of searches on Google happen on mobile devices. Your content needs to be mobile and tablet friendly.
- Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results? – If you are trying to rank for a keyword, look at the top 10 pages that currently take up page 1 and make sure your content is better and more thorough than what is already ranking. If you don’t create something that is superior in quality, there is no reason for Google to place your site above the competition.
- Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines? – Don’t write content for search engines. Write for humans first as Google’s goal is to satisfy humans. Even in the short run if this means you won’t rank as high, that’s fine. Eventually, Google will figure it out and your content will rank higher over time as long as you are focusing on the end-user.
There were a few other things Google mentioned, such their quality guidelines, but there was one really important thing that they mentioned.
It’s also important to understand that search engines like Google do not understand content the way human beings do. Instead, we look for signals we can gather about content and understand how those correlate with how humans assess relevance.
Google’s wants to please you, not the version of you that is a marketer or an entrepreneur, but the version of you that uses Google on a daily basis.
When you perform a Google search, are you happy with the results?
If you aren’t, you aren’t going to tell Google with your words as there isn’t an easy way to do that. That’s why they look at signals, such as click-through-rates or how many people hit the back button so they can go back to Google and click on the next listing.
Instead of focusing on SEO, the real trick to winning is to focus on the user.
Go above and beyond and do what is best for them even if you feel it will hurt your rankings in the short run. Because in the long run, Google will figure it out and you should rank better if you are genuinely putting the user first and doing a better job than your competition.