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How Human Perspectives Guide Search Algorithms (This is the Key to High Search Rankings)

A recent update from the Google Webmaster Central Blog re-enforces what Google’s told us for the last several years. Their algorithms seek to reward high-quality content – from a human perspective.

Let’s be clear about this. Computer algorithms are what determine Google’s search engine results page (SERP). It would impossible for human beings to categorize and deliver online content the way search engines do.

But be clear about something else. If Google could somehow aggregate a perfect cross-section of actual human opinions and use that data to rank content, they would.

Put those things together and you have an important realization. While algorithms must do the work, the goal of the search engine engineers is to provide content that – as closely as possible – represents what a human assessment would be.

They are, in fact, constantly striving to “humanize” how the algorithm assesses and ranks content.

A window into their goals is provided in a recent blog about core updates. This confirms something any business with SEO goals must know.

There is no “trick” to ranking high today. No sneaky way to use keywords or clandestine tactic to generate links.

Google explicitly states that the algorithms seek to reward the best content. They suggest you self-assess your content by asking these questions:

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete, or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia, or book?

Most businesses realize that quality is the key to ranking, but there are a couple of things to really focus on. Let’s break those down.

Originality Beyond the Obvious

There are two things that will really help drive your content quality, both of which are stated explicitly by Google.

The first is that your content is original, including that you provide substantial additional value if you draw on other sources.

This is a problem area because there’s a lot of content that’s well-presented, hitting on many things that are considered “quality”. But much of it is derivative without adding additional value or perspective on the topic.

It’s easy to see why this happens. Businesses want to get something published so they research and find a good article that is, basically, the article they’d like to write.

So they “spin” the content, essentially re-writing the same article as the source material.

But no matter what else you do, Google isn’t looking to rank derivative, unoriginal content.

The second is that you should provide insightful analysis/information that is beyond the obvious.

This connects, of course, to originality. New insights that go beyond the obvious are rare because it requires that you delve into a topic with a unique perspective.

Developing a new take on a deep topic requires a lot of work in the writing process. You have to contemplate your ideas and draft versions of your posts.

Hard, time-consuming work few are willing to undertake. And like many things with content marketing, this is a good thing (for those who will make the effort).

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Writing that goes beyond the obvious is a competitive advantage.

Human Trust

Google tries to rank content from trustworthy, authoritative sources. It looks for the type of content you’d see in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia, or book.

To help with this, they use human search quality raters. These are people who provide feedback on search results. Their assessments (according to Google) are not used to determine rankings, but they provide data for the search engineers.

Central to this assessment is E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

E-A-T assesses things like the expertise of the author, reputation of the website, and having a satisfying amount of content suitable for the purpose of the page.

You can review the quality rater guidelines here.

One of the main takeaways is that it’s not worth it (for SEO, anyway) to create content about subjects you don’t actually know anything about. It’s not enough to choose a topic you’d like to rank for. You need to present some level of authority or experience that lets people know you’re worth listening to.

For some topics, such as your money or your life pages (YMYL), you may need to be an expert in the field. For example, it’s hard for a layperson to rank an article about oncology and cancer treatments.

But personal experience is a factor. A person with no formal training could rank an article on how to live with a family member diagnosed with cancer.

Businesses should stay in their area of expertise. Your topics will not only be more useful, but it’s also what you’ll rank for.

These guidelines show how Google uses human feedback to inform how the algorithm ranks pages.

The Content Bubble Is Bursting

Consider this point about content from Google:

Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?

Even today, how many businesses create “content marketing” for no other reason than to guess what might rank in search engines? It’s the glut that’s resulted in content shock.

The “content bubble” that once allowed sub-optimal, derivative content to rank is bursting. There is too much competition and Google is setting the bar too high.

Today, you have to create content that not only are you an expert in, but where you can find enough of a niche to be unique. You have to offer a trustworthy perspective that people can verify.

You’ll get the best search rankings because your content is the best.

Algorithms do the ranking, but only humans really know what’s best. Use that as your fundamental guide for content creation.

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