The Internet has made an incredible amount of progress since Google was first presented to the world. In the early days, there were only a handful of websites competing for the first ranking positions in the search engine.


Today, there are more than 1.5 billion websites on the Internet, with each trying its best to be visible. However, sometimes this mission can be nearly impossible. 


Search Engine Optimization (SEO) became a science in itself, a new field of study in the IT and marketing departments. One position higher in the ranking hierarchy can drastically boost the incoming organic traffic.


There’s the already well-known saying that expresses the importance of site ranking: “If it’s not on the first page, it doesn’t exist.” 


Google’s Evolving Ranking Algorithm

Google is constantly changing the ranking algorithm and adapting to the new trends while also establishing new guidelines for publishers.


In the past five years, Google has increased the frequency of ranking changes and amplified each impact. From adopting a mobile-first policy where rankings are established in accordance with the mobile website to a new update that is changing the rules for some of the biggest content providers— news websites. 


Google Search was built to provide everyone access to information on the web, and with tens of thousands of web pages, hundreds of hours of video, thousands of tweets, and news stories published every minute of the day, it’s increasingly difficult to filter through that content and find the most beneficial results. With news in particular, Google aims to show a diversity of articles and sources to give users as much context and insight as possible.   


With the most recent changes, Google tries to shift the focus to original content and reporting, an endeavor that requires significant time, effort, and resources by the publishers. The changes will help original content rank better, stay up longer, and increase visibility in the search results. 


Some stories can also be both critically important in the impact they can have on our world and difficult to put together, requiring reporters to engage in deep investigative pursuits to dig up facts and sources. These are among the reasons why we aim to support these industry efforts and help people get access to the most authoritative reporting,” according to Google. 


How SEO Changes Effect Publishers

The recent SEO changes are driving publishers, bloggers, and content creators all across the world to write original content. It’s no longer enough to recycle the same ever-green topics that have been popular for years, but rather capture what is relevant, trending and valuable to audiences.


Many news articles, investigations, exclusive interviews, or other work can be so notable that they generate interest and follow-up coverage from other publications. And in other cases, many stories cover a single news development, with all of them published around the same time. This can make it difficult for users to find the story that kicked everything off.


While we typically show the latest and most comprehensive version of a story in news results, we’ve made changes to our products globally to highlight articles that we identify as significant original reporting. Such articles may stay in a highly visible position longer. This prominence allows users to view the original reporting while also looking at more recent articles alongside it.


There is no absolute definition of original reporting, nor is there an absolute standard for establishing how original a given article is. It can mean different things to different newsrooms and publishers at different times, so our efforts will constantly evolve as we work to understand the life cycle of a story,” Google states in their new guidelines. 


Google uses algorithms to sort through everything they find on the web and organize content in a way that is helpful. Those algorithms are composed of hundreds of different signals that are constantly updated and improved.


To tune and validate their algorithms and help systems understand the authoritativeness of individual pages, Google has more than 10,000 raters around the world evaluating their work. This feedback doesn’t change the ranking of the specific results they’re reviewing, but rather it is used to evaluate and improve algorithms in a way that applies to all results. 


The principles that guide how they operate are mapped out in Google’s search rater guidelines, a public document that allows raters to better understand and assess the unique characteristics of content that appears in search results.


According to the new guidelines, the “very high quality” rating is for original news reporting “that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it. Original, in-depth, and investigative reporting requires a high level of skill, time, and effort.” In addition, Google also strives to consider the publisher’s overall reputation for original reporting. 


Many other kinds of websites have reputations as well. For example, you might find that a newspaper (with an associated website) has won journalistic awards. Prestigious awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize award, or a history of high-quality original reporting are strong evidence of positive reputation.”


How Publishers Can Adapt to the New SEO Rules

In order to benefit from these changes, publishers should find original topics to write about. SEO is no longer about repeating the same keywords over and over again or stuffing the trending headings at the beginning of the article. Instead, try to focus on what your users would actually want to read and what they’d be interested in.


Write your content in an original voice by speaking like you are sharing a story. Use visuals, images, graphs, and headings inside the article, and, most importantly, a natural language to express what you are trying to convey to your readers.

Content SEO is the art of storytelling in a way relevant to your target audience. However, it’s not enough to use SEO just for your content. It needs to be accompanied by technical optimizations to your websites in order for Google’s crawler to take your page into consideration.


Loading speed, security, mobile-friendliness, accessibility, user experience, UI, and ease to navigate are all elements that can highly impact your rankings. This is the reason why Google released different tools for publishers to audit their websites, such as Pagespeed Insights and Lighthouse


For most websites, there are amazing opportunities for improvement, to enhance the user journey, and to optimize the chances the website will rank. Analytics firms such as Cognetik can really make a difference by leveraging data and using it to provide an immersive experience for readers.

About the author

Sebastian Stan

Sebastian is a journalist and digital strategist with years of experience in the news industry, social media, content creation and management, and digital analytics.

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