Google is readying a wide-reaching search engine update that it says will improve the quality and authenticity of results.
In a new blog post, the company describes a series of changes set to roll out in the coming months, the broad objective of which is to crack down on “SEO-first” content designed to perform well in search rankings instead of directly addressing the needs of human readers.
Similarly, Google will attempt to deprioritize unoriginal content and reporting, including information aggregators that do not themselves add value to the conversation, and promote product reviews that demonstrate clear first-hand expertise.
Quality over quantity
Google releases many thousands of updates for its search engine ranking system each year. Although most bring with them incremental improvements (and probably sometimes a dip in the quality of the results), the latest is expected to have a significant effect on the user experience.
In response to questions from TechRadar Pro, Google’s Danny Sullivan, whose job is to help the public better understand Search, explained that queries relating to shopping, entertainment and technology, as well as “how-to”-style searches, stand to benefit most.
“We typically announce ranking updates that will be noticeable, or we expect to be particularly felt by publishers,” he said.
“This is a meaningful ranking update to Search, and we’ll continue this work with more updates in this vein in the months ahead. Users should expect to see the helpfulness of search results evolve and improve over this time.”
Broadly, the aim is to minimize the frequency with which users are disappointed by search results, whether because the content is designed predominantly to generate clicks, or fails to provide the necessary information. Google says the update will yield a larger volume of results that contain “something you haven’t seen before”.
On the other side of the equation, the update is expected to have a material impact on publishers and content creators too. Sullivan told us that outlets already providing “original, helpful content” will probably be unaffected by the change, or may experience an increase in traffic. Others, however, will likely see their pages drop down the rankings.
“This update aggregates a variety of signals about the page and site to determine the ranking of a page, but you can primarily describe the content as helpful, and designed to help or inform people rather than rank well on search engines,” he added.
“Specific tactics creators can take into account with their content include clearly demonstrating first-hand experience or depth of knowledge with a topic, and giving your site (and content) a primary purpose or focus.”
That’s not to say that Google will penalize publishers following SEO best practices “to bring searchers additional value”; it’s about disincentivising clickbait, the quantity over quality approach, and shortcuts designed to game the system.
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Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.