It’s Google’s world, we’re just living in it.
That’s how it can feel when Google releases one of its infamous core updates. The search giant always tells you that it has updated its black box of an algorithm, but never exactly how.
Even though the latest core update was released back in March, we’re only just now beginning to understand the winners and losers of the update — and what content marketers and PR types need to do to stay on top of those all-important search engine results pages.
SEMrush found that the amount of fluctuation in search rankings was “significant,” especially in the arts and entertainment and shopping categories.
PR Daily sat down with Derek Chew, founder and CEO of Full Moon Digital, a Florida-based digital media agency, to talk about what the update means for PR pros and how to stay on Google’s good side.
Chew cautioned against being overly concerned about these changes, though you may see your position on SERPs rising or falling.
“This is more of an enhancement on Google’s focus and kind of, commitment to ongoing quality improvements on the results, more than anything else.”
Chase the user, not the algorithm
Everything Chew said can be boiled down to thinking about the user, whether that’s the words they’ll read, the images they’ll see or the speed at which the site loads.
“Ultimately, the interaction between the user on Google search engines and the content, whether it’s video written content, images, that engagement metric is really what Google is gonna use to deem relevant,” Chew explained.
In general, that falls into two key buckets. There’s the content we consume and the experience we have while we consume it.
“Google, from day one, has always said: create content, we love content. That’s how we really deliver relevance and information to our users,” Chew said.
And if you’re being honest with yourself, you probably know if you’re falling into a content mill mentality that isn’t delivering the best possible experience to your reader.
But what does it mean to have good content?
Chew recommends making sure you have content that’s original to you and not replicated far and wide across the internet. Don’t overly stuff it with keywords and remember that link farms fell out of favor long ago.
That sounds simple, but as generative AI like Chat GPT and Google’s own Bard continue to gain steam, Chew foresees a point at which vast waves of AI-generated content could create bot-run “automated content farms” that swamp the internet in duplicative, lousy content.
Still, Chew notes that Google hasn’t forbidden AI-created content — at least not yet. And with its emphasis on its Bard product, the company will have to make some difficult decisions about how it feeds its search product. But for now, Chew says we’re in the very earliest stages of learning what AI can do in this space.
“I think there’s so much more use for AI than beyond what people are talking about just on SEO content. I think that’s just the literally the ground zero of everything.”
And before you go too crazy with AI, take everything back to the fundamentals of good SEO. While often this is technical SEO that goes beyond your average PR pro’s purview, you can still be a strong advocate for best practices within your organization.
“Before going into trying to figure out the fancy stuff, there’s a lot of opportunities to just really handle the core. Right?” Chew said. “And that’s really what Google’s gonna start with, do you have your basics optimized?”
And for most of us in the PR industry, that means creating awesome content for our newsrooms, brand journalism initiatives or other materials posted to our websites. Make sure your content is interesting, original and in service to the reader, not a search engine’s algorithmic wims.
“You’re gonna get higher engagement. Your content will seem to carry more weight and authority. So over time, all those signals is what Google is going to look for to serve the audience the best content that results they can.”