October 10, 2019 - by Robert Carter
There was a time when it was enough to put up a website and call it a day, but that time is long behind us. Research from BrightEdge shows that search engines now drive more than 70% of revenues for B2B organizations. So if we want audiences to find us, we have to go through Google and its ever-changing search algorithm. The good news is that there are several opportunities for knowledge-based organizations to harness Google’s 2019 core updates and significantly improve their rank with expert content.
Every year, Google implements hundreds of updates to the Google algorithm to deliver an exceptional search experience. From the knowledge panel to Google News, each update they release is designed to help users find the highest-quality content in the shortest amount of time. And who better to deliver quality content than knowledge-based organizations?
Organizations in healthcare, higher education and professional services are perfectly suited to dominate Google search results with their expertise. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between valuable expert assets and how we present them online. The reality is that anyone who publishes content needs to have some knowledge about how Google surfaces information to audiences. Because when we look closely at Google’s core updates in 2019, there are several opportunities for expert content to shine.
To help you get started, we’re breaking down the most recent changes to the Google algorithm and how you can leverage these changes with your expertise marketing.
Recent Changes to the Google Algorithm
Google is continually refining its algorithm – to the tune of 3,234 updates in 2018 alone. In addition to daily tweaks, Google also releases core updates every year which affect the broader algorithm. Understanding these changes not only helps us explain fluctuations in our data, but it also enables us to better position our experts and their content through Google.
While the secret to Google’s algorithm is under lock and key, SEO specialists analyze their previous traffic in an attempt to decode any significant changes. They’ll monitor webpage performance against the new algorithm, track patterns in the data and then share their findings community channels. In combination with Google’s verified changes, these sources help us identify how a core update is impacting the overall search experience.
In 2019, there have been three core updates to the Google algorithm:
- March 2019 Core Update: While Google formally announced that they would be updating the algorithm, they stated that the changes would affect the broader search experience rather than a specific topic. There is some speculation amongst SEO Specialists that webpages for high-stakes topics like health and finance had the most significant losses. This aligns with Google’s focus on E-A-T and YMYL – which we delve into below.
- June 2019 Core Update: The June 2019 Core Update centred around site diversity, which aims to provide users with a greater selection on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Google shared that, in most cases, they would restrict SERP results to two listings per website (with some exceptions). For example, a restaurant search will now return a better mix of webpages from sites like Yelp, Open Table or Door Dash rather than ten listings from a single domain.
- September 2019 Core Update: The most recent update to the Google algorithm started rolling out at the end of September and is currently being monitored by SEO Specialists. While the data is still being analyzed, SEO Specialists noted increases for rich media websites like Spotify and YouTube who are using featured snippets to boost their rank. User-focused eCommerce websites like Amazon and Walmart have also seen positive results.
What are E-A-T and YMYL?
In addition to their core updates, Google has also published the Quality Raters’ Guidelines (QRG), which helps us understand Google’s vision for their search experience. This 167-page living document is used by human search evaluators to evaluate how well the Google algorithm is performing.
But as publishers, this document also gives us cues about factors influencing Google’s updates and how to deliver high-quality content. According to Google’s VP of Search, Ben Gomes, “[The QRG] don’t tell you how the algorithm is ranking results, but they fundamentally show what the algorithm should do.”
The Quality Raters’ Guidelines focus on three key concepts related to Purpose, Topics and Expertise:
- Beneficial Purpose: Google has updated the QRG to put additional emphasis on the purpose of a webpage. Specifically, they highlight that “websites and pages should be created to help users.” Whether it’s entertainment or information, Google’s advice is to have a purpose and focus on providing the best possible user experience.
- Your-Money-or-Your-Life (YMYL): When we talk about YMYL content, we’re talking about high-stakes topics that “could potentially impact a person’s happiness, health, safety, or financial stability,” such as health, finance, government, shopping, groups of people, and news. Because YMYL content can have profound effects on audiences, Google favours websites that show proven expertise in a specific area – which aligns perfectly with the core principles of expertise marketing.
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T): Synonymous with Page Quality, E-A-T is Google’s way of qualifying YMYL content and a central topic in the Quality Raters Guidelines. It questions the credentials, reputation and honesty associated with the content, as well as the author and publishing domain. In fact, Google’s emphasis on E-A-T shows just how vital expertise marketing is to knowledge-based organizations. A well-designed expertise marketing program will naturally improve expert page rank on Google, as well as on your website and in newsrooms.
SEO for Google News
When we think about Google, we automatically default to the main SERP, but they also offer audiences more refined ways to search for specific types of content. Organizations operating in knowledge-based industries would be wise to consider how their experts and their expert content are listed on the Google News page.
Updates to the Google News results page use artificial intelligence (A.I.) to surface specific news stories to specific users. Google’s News Engineering and Product Lead, Trystan Upstill, said that the new platform “uses a new set of AI techniques to take a constant flow of information as it hits the web, analyze it in real-time and organize it into storylines.” The idea is that, over time, Google will learn user habits and then provide audiences with front-page news tailored to their interests.
With this in mind, knowledge-based organizations will need to take extra care when it comes to presenting news articles to audiences. News content should use clear and concise headlines that reflect the keywords being used by audiences. It should also include rich media like photos and videos, as well as external links for further learning. And like everything on Google, news content should use structured data, like the article schema, to highlight content in Google’s knowledge panel. Ultimately, it’s about looking at Google’s results page the way users do and delivering against those expectations.
Leveraging Google’s Expertise
As the undisputed leader of the digital era, Google has a deep understanding of how users behave and what they’re interested in online. They process more than 70,000 searches per second and capture detailed user information at every turn. So, when we set out to attract audiences to our organizations, it only makes sense that we take our own advice and follow cues from the experts.
While SEO can seem intimidating, the Google algorithm is designed to deliver high-quality content – which is exactly what we aim to do with expertise marketing. If we pay attention to how the Google algorithm changes, we can maximize the potential of expert content and reach untapped audiences who are already looking for expertise online. We know that Google has shown a consistent preference for expert content. The question is which organizations are ready to take action.
How is your organization presenting its experts to take advantage of these changes and boost your content in search? We’d love to hear from you.