In a significant move that will impact websites using SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy to drive readership, Google is about to launch its biggest search algorithm update in ten years, called the “helpful content update.” This update will target websites that have a relatively high amount of unsatisfying or unhelpful content, where the content has been written for search engines rather than humans.

Through this update, Google aims to establish high-quality search results emanating from sources with high site authority. Mainstream and digital news organisations welcomed the update, noting that it will improve discoverability for their editorial content as Google endeavours to improve the content experience for users of its search engine.

Featured snippet

In an announcement earlier this month, Google said that it has rolled out some changes to the algorithm for “Google’s featured snippet,” in order to establish high-quality results from credible authorities to be the “featured snippet.” A featured snippet is the small information card that is highlighted at the very top of a user’s search result, with the aim of literally answering the query entered by the user. Therefore, if a user asks for the name of Bihar’s Chief Minister, the featured snippet on the top will showcase “Nitish Kumar” in bold, as well as link the card to the corresponding article from which the algorithm generated the result.

From a user perspective, these snippets appear extra trustworthy since they are featured at the top of the page. Even though this information is algorithmically created without being parsed by any human curators. Google has introduced a new AI model, “Multitask Unified Model,” with the aim of making these results more credible by cross-referencing them against other high-quality search results.

As more people start to get their information from the internet, it becomes imperative for news sites and other content sites to be discoverable and featured on top of these search engines. Increasingly, even print organisations are endeavouring to have a strong digital arm. This is why stiff competition from websites that purely write for SEO rather than creating content or credible and well researched news has been to the detriment of such organisations.

News organisations welcome move

This is why news organisations welcomed Google’s initiative to drive credible results to the forefront with open arms. A top editor for a major digital news organisation noted, “It is clear that Google is giving preference to websites with high site authority to provide information. A website generates high site authority by regularly writing about the topic (which the user is searching for), having back-references for the author (which means authors also have a record of writing about the topic) and producing backlinks. Google’s algorithm will prioritise these parameters. This will allow our organisation’s editorial team to focus on our job of providing credible and consistent news rather than chasing the trends. What we want is for our website to be featured if users are searching for topics relevant to our coverage—this change will ensure that.”

Similarly, another head of a print media organisation noted, “This will allow our organisation to focus on news relevant to the reader and not chase trends in order to boost our discoverability in general to ensure we are well featured.”

SEO expert, Malhar Barai, explained the impact of Google’s implementing the new search algorithm as follows: “For media publishing, the focus again would be on E-A-T and the structure of the content (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness). If the content aligns to search patterns in different languages, then there is a better chance of discovery.”

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