It’s not often that Google offers specific advice on how to rank well in its search engine.
So when they do, we listen.
Google recently published a guide on its Webmasters Blog titled “What webmasters should know about Google’s “core updates”. And it’s something that everyone in SEO and digital marketing should read and consider.
What Does the Guide Say?
Danny Sullivan, Google’s Public Liaison for Search and the author of the blog post, starts by reminding us that Google’s algorithm is continuously updated. Some changes are minor while others (like the core updates they release throughout the year) have a bigger and more noticeable impact.
He emphasises that Google algorithm updates are designed to provide better and more accurate results to users rather than penalising or rewarding individual websites directly.
So if your rankings drop or surge after a core update, you didn’t necessarily do anything bad or good. It’s simply Google reassessing whether your website is less relevant or more relevant than others.
He makes a great analogy to help us understand this better. He likens these core updates to changes in your list of top films of all time. A film you love now might be in your top five list, but it could later go down or be replaced by another better movie that you watched later. Or it could also go up in your list after re-watching it and liking it even more than before.
Google’s core updates, he says, works similarly. With each core update, search results are rearranged according to what it determines to be better for the user’s search.
The great news for website owners and digital marketers is that unlike movies, you can continually change and improve your website to provide what your users are looking for.
The Main Point of the Guide: Focus on Your Content
In the blog post, Danny Sullivan reminds us that Google’s algorithm seeks to reward the best content for their users. He reiterates that Google’s mission is “to present relevant and authoritative content to searchers”.
So it’s no surprise that his biggest advice for adapting to Google’s core updates is to focus on your content and make sure it’s the best it can be for your users.
To do this, he recommends assessing your website content by asking yourself a variety of questions in different focus areas.
Content and Quality Questions
These are questions that can help you determine how useful and helpful your content actually is to your users.
Some of the questions he recommends asking include:
- Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
- Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
Key takeaway: Create content that’s genuinely original, insightful, and helpful to your users.
These questions will help you determine how trustworthy and credible your content is. He recommends asking:
- Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it?
- Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
- Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
- Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?
Key takeaway: If you weren’t the owner of your website and had no affiliation with your business whatsoever, would you trust the content that’s on your site?
Presentation and Production Questions
These questions relate to how your website content is displayed and how easy it is to use for your users. Remember that improving your site’s user experience is crucial to the success of your online marketing (i.e. more conversions, lower bounce rates). So you need to make sure your website offers a smooth and positive user experience.
Some of the questions Danny Sullivan recommends asking yourself include:
- Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
- Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?
- Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
Also, as Roger Montti writes in Search Engine Journal in his analysis of this Google guide, it’s not enough to make your website mobile-friendly. You also need to make sure it’s easy to read and navigate on smaller screens, providing the right layout and font sizes to make reading a breeze.
Key takeaway: Make sure your website content is easy to use and read in both mobile and desktop versions.
These questions are designed to help you determine how relevant and useful your website compared to other websites. He recommends asking yourself:
- Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- 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?
Key takeaway: Don’t create content that ‘games’ the Google algorithm. Instead, focus on creating content that your users will find useful and valuable.
Aside from the recommended questions above, Danny Sullivan also advises in the guide to:
- Get third-party feedback. Get honest feedback from people you trust or from qualified third parties who are not affiliated with your site. This will give you an objective evaluation of your website.
- Perform regular site audits. If your rankings have dropped (or increased), make an audit of what happened. Check what pages were affected for different searches and look for reasons why this happened.
- Refer to Google’s search quality rater guidelines. Review these guidelines to understand what Google looks for when evaluating and ranking websites.
- Remember E-A-T. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness – things that Google confirmed they look for when assessing the quality and relevance of web pages.
Is Your Website Ready for Google’s Core Updates?
Knowing that Google regularly updates its algorithm may seem concerning as far as your SEO and search rankings are concerned.
But it shouldn’t be if you’re creating content that benefits your users. This is what your users want, which is ultimately what Google wants too.
The good thing in all this is that you can keep improving your content for your users. Just as Google continually refines its search algorithm, so should you continually refine your website to provide the content your users are looking for.
The best way to future-proof your website, therefore, is to always put your users and their needs first.
Need help improving your website and aligning it with Google’s guidelines? Have a chat with our team to find out how we can help.