Even for those who work daily in search engine optimisation, its really difficult to determine which of the many algorithms and their respective updates may have contributed to a sharp drop in Impressions & Position in Google Search Console, Analytics or SERPs. More often that not:
- You may survive one algorithm launch and then get nailed by its next update
- Or get hurt by the initial algorithm release but recover somewhat after the next update
There are now so many algorithms & updates, compounded by expiry of some and mergers of others. And then, there are somewhat newish concepts such as E-E-A-T – which are now starting to impact anyone who has ignored previous exhortations to write for readers and not fro search engines. That is another one of those Google changes that were announced well beforehand… but as usual was light on specific explanations of how, why, what when and where the impact would hit some/most/all websites etc.
And sometimes, more than one thing happens at once! Such as the big December 2022 “Helpful Content” update at the same time as Google made significant changes to its Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG) for search. Adding in the extra “E” to E-A-T…
Dec- March Algorithms
Helpful Content: August and December 2022 Google released 2 consecutive algorithm updates referred to as “Helpful Content updates. The stated aim was to demote content that was written specifically to rank on search engines rather than written to help people.
Product Reviews: They also pushed out 3 three Product Reviews updates which were aimed at low-quality, heavily optimised product review sites that provided very little in terms of authentic and original information to readers.
Spam Content: There was an October 2022 Spam Content update, where Google used SpamBrain, a form of artificial intelligence, to better detect spam and not rank it in Google Search. This didn’t target content written by normal people for normal purposes. There’s a corresponding dip in Impressions in October in the chart below, indicating a possible issue with content quality.
Link Spam: On December 14, 2022, Google launched a Link Spam update, using SpamBrain AI to detect and neutralise link spam. It did seem to have an impact on links and rankings.
How “see” if you got pinged by an algorithm?
Sometimes its pretty obvious that something bad happened! In this example below, the site hit a brick wall on the 15th of March 2023.
A quick search for “google algorithm March 2023” gives an indication of what transpired on or about that period of time that might have impacted this website.
In the instance above:
- The October 2022 Spam update appears to have impacted the site, at least briefly
- The “broad core update” seems to have hurt the site in mid-March
- By the end of March / early April, a rebound occurred…
- Followed by a slow decline over May, June and July…
April 12, 2023 Reviews Update:
Google began rolling out the “Reviews” update which assesses articles, blog posts, web pages and other types of standalone content written with the intention of recommendations, opinions or evaluations.
May 10 2023 Helpful Content:
Google said updates to its “Helpful Content” system will steadily roll out over the coming months. These changes are designed to make it easier for searchers to “locate and explore diverse perspectives.”
June 2023 Fluctuations:
Significant volatility but no confirmed algorithms. Google Ranking Algorithm updates – June-2023
July 2023 Core Update:
Another crucial aspect of the July 2023 updates was the emphasis on Core Web Vitals. These metrics, which measure a site’s performance, became a more prominent ranking factor: Understanding Googles July 2023 algorithm-updates
How to turn things around?
The site owner connected to the Search Console “Performance” graphic above contacted me for help in late June 2023. We immediately began addressing all potential issues that could be contributing to the decline in rankings. That included end to end assessments and revisions after auditing the site with using multiple audit tools: SEMRUSH, Sitechecker and Website Auditor which found the following:
- Technical SEO issues – of which there were many: long redirect chains, broken links etc.
- And pages with internal links that were then redirected.
- Very low Page Speed Insights scores – bloated video and images etc, no caching implemented
- Inadvertent keyword spam on many pages
- 20+ percent content duplication, and excessive common content too.
- An About page with nothing about the company itself – E-E-A-T deficient…
The Search Console “Performance Chart” above showed that the average position hit its lowest point on 7th July. As we began eliminating all the issues listed above, the average position line turned upward and has trended that way ever since. Albeit with the usual “bobbles” as the work continued on the live site, in the face of continuing Google upgrades.
While addressing the technical deficiencies, it seemed wise to also address underlying potential issues. Much of the site’s content was more focused on keywords than it was on Topics, so consideration of content quality was essential.
What is E-E-A-T. and what does it do?
E-E-A-T is a part of the Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines for search. The QRG documents were significantly updated in December 2022. Previously EAT – the extra E was added to incorporate “Experience” – preceding the initial E-A-T acronym which was: Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.
The addition of “experience” indicates that content quality can also be assessed by determining the degree to which content creators have real-world hand’s on experience in the Topic they’ve written about. With the revision of E-A-T to E-E-A-T, Google also says that “trustworthiness” is the “most important member of the E-E-A-T concept.”
In the revised QRG document Google gives multiple examples of these important concepts, including:
- Evaluating the reputation of websites and content contributors.
- The extent to which E-E-A-T matters and how it should be evaluated.
The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab: 10 guidelines for building web credibility was based on 3 years of research with over 4,500 participants.
- Make it easy to verify the accuracy of the information on your site.
- Show that there’s a real organisation behind your site.
- Highlight the expertise in your organisation and in the content and services you provide.
- Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site.
- Make it easy to contact you.
- Design your site so it looks professional (or is appropriate for your purpose).
- Make your site easy to use – and useful.
- Update your site’s content often (at least show it’s been reviewed recently).
- Use restraint with any promotional content (e.g., ads, offers).
- Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem.
– Stanford Web Credibility Research
The guidelines reinforce Google’s webmaster guidelines which basically urge content writers to “write for your users and not for search engines.”
As a quality indicator, E-E-A-T seems perfectly sensible to me. We all tend to trust service providers who are both qualified and experienced. Unless you’re a Trump supporter, in which case experts, friends and family, community and faith leaders rank lower than faith in The Donald who scores 72% in a recent poll of trustworthiness. Figure that out…
Google gives a good analogy in the Google Search Central Blog post explaining that if you want to find income tax information, you’d prefer to read content written by an accountant. The taxation advisor or accountant is the preferred source because they have Experience, Expertise & Authority on the topic, so we can Trust what they tell us.
Google wants to provide accurate information to its users, so to gain sustained traction in SERPs and get your site to the top spots, you need to demonstrate E-E-A-T.
By itself E-E-A-T is not a specific ranking factor – rather, its a set of building blocks towards a goal of having your content recognised as valuable because you are deemed worthy of trust.
And that will sustain your SERPs rankings over time…
How to improve your E-E-A-T profile?
The first way to build your authority and credibility is with an in-depth About Us page. Like the author profiles previously use this as an opportunity to go deep on the experiences and expertise of your team. Talk about the history of your site and the authority you have built over your time in the niche.
Collectively, these efforts also establish your TRUSTWORTHINESS…
Reference Source: Fat Joe – E-E-A-T + Google’s Content Guidelines Are Vital For SEO
Re-imagining your About Us page.
For most websites providing products and services, the About Us page is the first place to start. There’s no room for complacency, warm fuzzies or sales pitches. Be real here! Google’s trying to determine the following:
- Experience: how long have you been doing what you do?
- Expertise: how good are you at doing it, what are your relevant qualifications. What do your customers say?
- Authority: can be assessed by the quality of your experience and expertise, and the calibre of the content you’ve produced. Therefore, ensuring that all of your content can be attributed to you is likely to be helpful.
- Trustworthiness: are you a real person with a real photo, name, address & telephone number? Or are you a mysterious “behind the scenes” figure with no discernible references to you?
Re-imagining your Contact Us page.
Trustworthiness is not a new concept. Years ago there was the “would you buy a used car from this person” assessment that Google suggested you address in your website. And the YMYL “your money or your life” assessment for sites focused on loans & finances, medical and health.
Human nature being what it is, most people completely ignored that advice to establish your credentials. You need to be explicit about yourself and your business here too:
- Phone number – hyperlink it so it initiates a call from a mobile device
Add a Contact form and your Email Address hyperlink the email address so it automatically loads the email client on a viewers device.
This is also important to attaining good Local Search results. If you’re a service area business and don’t provide goods or services at your home / premises, then your full address is not essential. But adding your suburb, city, region & country is more likely to be helpful than not.
- If you do provide services at your address, show the full address AND a Google map which can in turn be used to load driving instructions on a mobile device.
- Add Local Business / Organisation schema data to your website’s Home, About & Contact Us pages.
The Helpful Content Algorithm
Google’s helpful content update algorithm is designed to identify “content that appears to have been written to rank really well in mainstream search engines instead of a focus on helping, educating & informing its readers.”
The Helpful Content algorithm update intends to help a searcher locate high-quality content. Google’s overall intention is to reward the highest quality content that is written for and by humans to help readers looking for good information.
We are all irked when we land on an unhelpful web page that ranks well in search due to expert keyword targeting with the intent of top rankings. This type of content is “search engines 1st” rather than “readers 1st” content.
The HC algorithm intends to:
- Demote search engine 1st websites
- Promote helpful websites intended primarily for human readers, with high-grade content written by humans…
Google states that “this will be an “ongoing effort to reduce low-quality website content in Search Engine Results Pages.” This will progressively make it easier to find authentic and useful content in the top of your search results.
What YOU need to do
- Begin by carefully reading each page and post with a critical eye. Eliminate keyword stuffing, spelling and grammar errors, sentence structure and layouts. I use the WP Proofreader plugin to check my pages and posts for basic errors.
- Assess if your page or post is actually written as a Topic with adequate content that identifies an issue, explains the options and provides examples and solutions for your readers.
- Ensure that your page is ordered in a logical and coherent way. Use hierarchical headings to separate sections and to facilitate skim reading.
- Ensure the content is up to date – and doesn’t refer to old techniques, tactics and strategies that have been superseded by new ways of doing things.
- If its a large post, consider inserting a Table of Contents block in the top of the page.
- Use Siteliner.com to identify the ratios of unique, common and duplicated content. Reduce duplicate and common content to the “median” level or better.
- Find & fix the technical errors: broken links, load speed issues, long redirect chains, canonical & HTTPS problems.
Updating your Content and Showing its Last Modified Date
You really should show readers and search engines how current a page or post is. This is important as it contributes to E-E-A-T.
Now that you’ve got your About & Contact Us pages sorted out and all your content updated, you need to show search engines and visitors alike that it is current, and who wrote it...
By default WP Last Modified Info will automatically add a link to the Author as defined within WordPress… which does work well on a multi-user site where several people write the content. In that case, having a robust Author Profile with links to your social profiles, bio description and contact data is great. This gets you all the credit you deserve…
But if its a single author site, you’ve likely already deactivated the Author Archives etc and your Author Profile is probably redirected to the Home page… But is not “game over” quite yet…
How to connect Your Content to You?
If you’ve built youtself a nifty About Us page for your business enterprise, you can also use the WP Last Modified Info plugin to add a link to your About Us page and use your name as the anchor text. That way, you are listed as the Author of every page/post and the attribution goes to you on your About Us page… As per this example:
My assumption is that the extra links to the About Us page throughout the website will also help transfer “page rank” to it, giving you an enhanced possibility of increasing rankings for keywords within the page. At the same time, links outward from About Us to internal pages will also help boost those pages or posts too.
- SEJ: Google EEAT guide -seo-394191
- SEMRUSH: EAT and YMYL – new Google search guidelines on quality content
- SEJ: Google launches August 2023 core update/
Page last updated on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 by the author Ben Kemp