Google says they reward websites with engaging content, but what does that mean?
Bryan: I think Google has been saying that they’re pushing for more user experience in ranking. For example, you know you can generate articles with AI nowadays, right? So, there’s pushback, according to some people. Google pushes back on those types of articles because they want more engaging content or more human content. So, from how I understand it, it’s like they’re saying that they do use user interaction or something like that. So, I don’t know.
David: Yeah, so I think there’s a language ambiguity here. Google does encourage us to produce engaging content. But that doesn’t mean content that is using engagement metrics off Google Analytics. Or Crumb, for that matter. Right? When Google says you should have engaging content, it’s not saying content with no bounce rate or large time onsite. Right? That’s not what it means. It’s trying to say, “Hey, rather than try to optimize a page for keywords, and use a 20% keyword density, make it engaging.” They’re trying to say to make it interesting and unique, and helpful, and informative, and authoritative with expertise. That’s what they mean by engaging. They’re not talking about engagement metrics. That’s the confusion of their choice of words here. So, yes, Google wants engaging content, but that isn’t measured by time on page, bounce rates, engagement rates, and stuff like that. That’s not how they’re measuring that. They’re just trying to say to get over keywords. Stop trying to spam content, and just produce good content. That’s what they mean by that. They do not mean metrics that might be construed as engagement metrics.
Dave: But then how, for the helpful content update, do they determine if somebody’s content is really, really helpful?
David: Right? So, they have several machine-learned algorithms, like the BERT update and Rank Brain. They are able, at this point, to judge the veracity of articles.
Dave: So, they’re actually looking at the content itself on your website.
David: Right. This is in direct response to, and I don’t want to get political here, but a direct response to the presidential election of 2016 in the United States. Google had a really hard time when people would produce fake news, and Google as an algorithm would respond and say, oh, here’s someone who confirms this conspiracy theory. And so, Google made a very, very, very strong effort to improve its algorithm’s ability to judge the veracity and identify conspiracy theories. They applied this to medical concepts. So now, they’re in not just medical, but it’s your money or your life content, right? You’ve heard this term before. When it’s anything that affects your money or your life, Google puts you under higher scrutiny. And so, their machine-learned algorithm, at this point, can judge veracity. And can cross-reference sources to know the accuracy of it. That is what they’re talking about.
Dave: Well, what if you come out with some contrary opinion that’s different? And you’ve got your data that’s different from 500 other websites out there?
David: You’re going to have a hard time.
David: You are.
Dave: So, really, I think we have to think about the SEO as a game, right? Because you’re trying to get higher and higher on the search results on Google. That’s what you’re really trying to do. Do you want to be helpful? Of course, you want to do all that kind of stuff, but you have to be helpful in the right way so that you get good results.
David: Right. And this is where the philosopher in me comes out. Yeah, whose truth is Google’s AI judging? Right? What if there is an unconventional medical theory that, in a few years, will be proven? Absolutely true. But for now, it isn’t within the mainstream of medical thinking. Theoretically, Google’s algorithm would suppress that. Now, we might argue that for the time being, since that’s where the mega medical consensus is, that’s probably where the algorithm should go. And then, hopefully, as different alternative medical things are getting care, stability, and great acceptance, the algorithm will shift. But, I mean, epistemology is one of the areas of philosophy that I’m most interested in. And I won’t bore you with the epistemological questions, but epistemology is the idea of how we know what we think we know. And machine-learned algorithms, unfortunately, have a really bad track record of being racist and presuppositional. And that is a limitation of this. So, we are fighting those things. But there are ways to fight them and ways that we can address them, right? And this is where we talk about things like your money and your life and understanding whether our industry fits within that category. Also, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, EAT, as it relates to websites. And let’s not devalue link-building as a function of that, as well. Other credible websites linking to yours give your website credibility. So, I think Bryan, we’re having a really interesting conversation about ranking factors and things like that, but the most important lesson from this, I hope, is that SEO is not trying to trick Google. We’re not trying to find the secret sauce that allows us to trick things. If we take the time to do the research and write good quality, unique content, that is only going to help us. If we’re trying to focus on one aspect of engaging content, let’s say we only focus on bounce rate. There are things you can do to make the bounce rate better. That won’t necessarily produce good stuff for the people who are visiting you. And so, rather than try to say, I’m going to look with laser focus at any one metric, not that you’re doing that, Bryan, but just that we need to get away from a philosophy of SEO that’s about trying to game the system and just focus on doing good for our clients and for our clients’ customers. And if we have that philosophy of SEO, then we don’t have to worry about the latest Google algorithm update or if Google is really using engagement metrics to measure the success of SEO-ranked websites. If we’ve taken the time to produce good quality content on the website, great. People are going to engage with that. Right? And even if they are using that, and I’m totally wrong, I’ve still won that battle because I took the time to write good stuff. Right?
David: And so, rather than chase rumor and conjecture, taking the time to produce good quality stuff on your website is always going to pay off, rather than trying to figure out what the secret sauce is.
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