A statement released by Google’s Search Liaison highlights the necessity for a more precise definition of “people-first” content for publishers.
The report from Search Liaison underscores the prevalence of large publishers in search results. It suggests the potential utility of a “helpful content tool” to assess content alignment with Google’s standards.
Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, has provided insight into his approach to conveying public feedback to Google’s internal teams.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Sullivan shared images of a document submitted to Google’s search team, shedding light on his user interactions. This document encapsulated their perspectives, concerns, and suggestions.
This rare glimpse into Google’s internal processes demonstrates the company’s acknowledgment of the significant challenges publishers face after recent core updates.
Furthermore, this insight underscores the need for Google to enhance its communication of guidelines to publishers and provide a more precise definition of what it entails to produce “people-first” content.
Critical Concern #1: Defining “People-First” Content
A significant issue that numerous users have raised, as mentioned by Sullivan, revolves around the problem of producing “people-first content” that genuinely serves users rather than primarily catering to Google’s algorithms.
Sullivan emphasizes that many content creators desire visibility on Google and are inclined to tailor their content to please the search engine. However, comprehending that the most effective way to gain favor with Google is to create content without fixating on Google itself can be a challenging concept to grasp.
As a potential solution, Sullivan recommends that the Google Search team explore innovative methods of conveying this message, suggesting that “…it would be beneficial for us to invest effort in approaching this from fresh angles and reiterating this guidance.”
Furthermore, Sullivan proposes that Google reconsider its guidance concerning publishers comparing themselves to top-ranked sites in search results. He says, “We must also acknowledge that our search results serve as a practical reference. People often examine them to discern what approaches are successful or what they can emulate. Our existing guidance even encourages individuals to evaluate their content against other pages within our results – a practice that may require adjustment. To put it differently, searching and analyzing the websites that surface can provide valuable insights into what our systems consider helpful. Nevertheless, it’s essential to acknowledge that our systems are not infallible. So, if you come across a website that appears to be deviating from our guidelines, its success may not be sustainable in the long run.”
Critical Concern #2: Dominance of Large Publishers in Search Outcomes
Another significant issue shared with the Google Search team is the dominance of large publishers in search results.
It has been observed that certain publishers possess the ability to create content on diverse topics and achieve high rankings in Google Search. Sullivan highlights that this phenomenon has given rise to what is commonly called “parasite SEO.”
He notes that users have consistently raised concerns about prominent publishers who appear free to cover various topics and still receive favorable search rankings.
In a related context, the notion of “parasite SEO” arises, whereby certain websites lease themselves out to third parties, and content published on these sites attains rankings that might not secure on different platforms.
It is crucial to distinguish this phenomenon from the success of larger websites that feature original content, although it may not always align with the “people-first” principle. Sullivan underscores that these two aspects are, at times, conflated and intermingled in discussions.
Critical Concern #3: The Absence of a ‘Helpful Content Tool’
Another significant concern for Sullivan is addressing misconceptions regarding Google’s definition of “helpful content.”
To address this, he proposes the development of a tool aimed at evaluating whether a publisher’s content aligns with Google’s criteria for “helpful content.”
Sullivan suggests the need for a “helpful content tool” that can assist users in gaining a clearer understanding of what Google defines as “helpful content.” Such a tool could also help users identify if a particular webpage or website has been affected by the “helpful content” update.
He highlights instances where publishers have expressed concerns that even a single page featuring “unhelpful” content might lead to a decline in their search rankings. Some publishers fear that content deemed “off-topic” about their website’s primary subject matter could negatively impact their entire site’s performance.
These concerns persist despite Google’s guidelines specifying that a website needs to have “relatively high amounts” of unhelpful content to be adversely affected, with specific content elements carrying more weight than others.
Sullivan observes that Google’s ambiguous guidance is creating unnecessary anxiety among publishers who are unsure about which pages to remove to align with Google’s standards if any at all.
“They are still determining whether there are large portions of content they should consider eliminating, how to pinpoint those areas, and so on. Some are concerned that content simply due to its age might not serve a purpose. Others fret over the belief that if people are not accessing their content through search, it may not be valuable. However, they also regard it as archival content that they are reluctant to discard. We certainly do not want individuals to discard content solely because it’s older.”
Mere aging of content does not inherently render it unhelpful. According to Sullivan, content is deemed unhelpful when it wasn’t initially created with the primary focus on serving people.
Sullivan’s report underscores Google’s dedication to enhancing search results by integrating user feedback.
Enhanced transparency in communication and the introduction of content evaluation tools can assist publishers in adapting to Google’s continuously evolving algorithm.
There is a persistent call for greater clarity regarding the definition of “helpful” content, a crucial request from websites striving to cater to their audiences rather than algorithms.
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