Taylor Kurtz asserts that Google’s algorithm changes mean SEOs should avoid churning out content for the sake of it in 2023, and also focus on your customer experience.
Taylor says: “My advice for 2023 is twofold. One, I want to emphasise your website’s core vitals and performance. While it has recently become a primary ranking factor, it’s often neglected if you analyse your competitors. It has also been stated as a primary ranking factor by Google - not necessarily a tiebreaker - so it can be an easy win against your competitors.
But more importantly, when it comes to these core vitals like the Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay and Cumulative Layout Shift, with certain tools you can easily get in compliance with Google. When they give you direction on what they need, you might as well do those things. Hence, one of the top tips is to focus on your core vitals and your website’s performance - and share a good user experience.
Everyone talks about backlinks content, which is important. However, it all contributes to what Google really wants: websites that provide the most valuable information and the best user experience.”
What are the important elements within Core Web Vitals, maybe starting with the Largest Contentful Paint? How would you summarise that?
“Essentially, Google’s goal with this was to put metrics onto the user experience. The Largest Contentful Paint represents how long it takes for the biggest element or piece of content on your website to load, whether it be a video, a photo, an appointment, or an embed. Whatever it may be, Google wants that to load in two and a half seconds or less.
That can be easy to do, yet you’ll often see people loading images that would look like they are designed for an 8K TV. On the phone, viewers don’t need that kind of image. Hence, you can often use tools to identify what’s taking a long time on your site and make sure it loads more efficiently. That will certainly help with the Largest Contentful Paint. Cumulative Layout Shift, however, is where most people have had to put their efforts.
Essentially Google was trying to avoid scenarios where you are travelling, you’re looking for food and you find an interesting restaurant, you go to their website and see a ‘View Menu’ button, but as you click it, the rest of the website loads, and you end up clicking something else. That is the layout shift that Google wants to avoid, which most people spend their time addressing.
Either way, if you’re really into SEO and you’re on a micro level, your websites are probably already in compliance. For larger agencies or people without that level of detail, it’s something that Google highlighted as important, which you might want to comply with. If you are working with a good developer, that shouldn’t take so long.”
How would you summarise the Largest Contentful Paint, Cumulative Layout Shift, and First Input delay?
“Cumulative Layout Shift is a metric that Google wants to keep under 0.1 seconds. That being said, the First Input Delay is essentially how long it takes to get a response when you interact with the website or click on something. There, a lot of times, people focus on hosting problems. For example, you’ll have somebody that pays $3 a month, and they don’t even know who’s hosting their website. You’ll notice that every time someone clicks on anything, there’s a huge delay, because it takes a long time to get that response from the host.
Generally, those are the three vitals, and getting those in compliance will go a long way and set you up for long-term success.”
From an SEO perspective, how do we measure the impact of improving webpage performance? Can we say that if we increase the Page Speed loading by X%, our rankings will increase by X%?
“If you increase or improve your performance at all, there’s no chance you’ll go down because of that. Say you have a web page that does well and competes with four other pages. If you pay attention to these vitals, you will not necessarily jump over them. Rather, you will, by default, climb the rankings if they do nothing. It is thus not a reward for your efforts, but you are not being penalised for ignoring those details either.
Will your page get higher rankings if you have the same number of backlinks and website age and type of content compared with a competitor - but you’re doing a better job with website performance?
Most likely. So many factors go into it, so it is not a guarantee, but you can expect to see positive results for that.”
Why should SEOs not neglect content and relevance?
“John Mueller (who is considered the Google Search liaison for Google) in August 2021, went on Reddit. When talking about these core vitals around the time of the algorithm update, he said, ‘The algorithm of these core vitals are primary ranking factors. They are more than just the tiebreaker, but they do not replace relevance. At the end of the day, while we want a good user experience, if there’s nothing of value on your site, it doesn’t matter how fast it loads or how well it’s performing. When I land there, I don’t take anything away.’
Although it is such a cliche thing to say - ‘Content is king’. That’s never been more relevant than now. In mid to late 2022, Google announced and then released the next week what was called the “helpful content update.” Also, about ten years prior, the Panda update came out, which completely shifted the way people within SEO strategise content and set optimisation. It’s been said that this new update is expected to have the largest impact of any algorithm update since that time.
The goal has always been content. However, Google now says it needs to be helpful and authoritative content intended to share and educate. What differentiates this update is that it’s called a site-wide update. Typically, when Google releases any significant update, if you have a page that’s not meeting whatever standards, it would fall in the rankings. With the helpful content update, Google said that if you have an unfavourable ratio of content considered unhelpful, your whole site will get penalised. That’s what makes it dramatic - because so many people and companies are dedicated to churning out boilerplate content. Therefore, Google is trying to emphasise and reward those that provide valuable and helpful information instead.
Like John Mueller said, focusing on those core vitals is an easy win because you can get all those in compliance in less than a week. Then you don’t even have to worry about it for years. However, that still doesn’t replace the relevance or impact of content, specifically when Google is now prioritising quality. Google actually put out some guidelines and checklists along with that in August 2022. If you looked through it and they mostly applied to your website, you might be at risk. It covered issues like clickbait, summarising people’s content, answering questions, etc.
Basically, it’s trying to tackle people who write content to manipulate and please search engines. They want it to be written for people, not the algorithm.”
Does that mean that Google expects your website to be a niche specialist and focus on specific content moving forward?
“There are several ways to go about it. You would often go through the site, either using a tool like Screaming Frog to crawl every page or going through the Google Search Console. Then, find the pages that have generated little or no clicks in the past 12 months and decide whether they are still relevant to your niche. From there, you will have three choices: rewrite the article, get rid of it, or redirect it to another page.
The other option is to add the noindex feature. That way, if you are concerned about a page that is not generating traffic but is still great to have on the site, you could add a noindex tag in the source code. When Google crawls it, they don’t factor that into the index.
I have seen clients that have been producing content for over ten years, yet when you go back and look at blogs written in 2010/2011, the style of writing and the intent behind it has changed. A lot of times, the information is now outdated too. That becomes an excellent opportunity to refresh your content and boost yourself as an authority. Content remains king, so it is even more important to write with authority and be the expert in 2023.”
Is there any particular style or structure of the content that Google prefers now?
“Google had that checklist of things to avoid/red flags, and one of them was writing for targets like the length. The general mindset has always been that longer is better, based on the fact that you are trying to be the expert here. You want to have more information than any of the other pages out there and leave no stone unturned.
At the same time, if you want to rank for a keyword, you don’t want to see who’s ranking in the top five and take an average word count. That would simply be writing for search engines, which Google does not want.
You should consider the question/topic you are writing about and whether you can address it in 100 words or 2,000. Overall, the goal is to be the foremost source of information. Google will consider whether, after checking out your content, the reader leaves to find out more information. Therefore, ensure all the content is valuable and doesn’t leave people wanting more.”
How do you select which keywords to target?
“A lot of it is client-dependent. You may get a client that produces Wagyu beef and, of course, they want to rank number one for ‘Wagyu beef’, which is the broadest competitive term in their market. You’ll go through that and also find out what other search terms or industries represent the kind of audience you would like to attract, and then pull up more specific keywords related to Wagyu beef from there.
Are there very specific questions like, ‘What is marbled beef?’ Though that’s a much more specific question, you can rank for that in a much shorter time. And that process has a snowball effect on where we want to go as we build up authority.
So when picking keywords, consider what the client wants, but also do more research to find less frequently searched terms where you can quickly capture the first spot or featured snippets, and continue to generate relevant traffic.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What is seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“We are now going to have a huge focus on content, however, producing the content is one of the most time-consuming things, especially if you don’t want to pay for a content writer. What many people do is find the best page on the topic they want to write, then copy the entire text into AI tools which can rewrite them in any format - and they don’t have to worry about plagiarism checkers. This process can be quite tempting, especially with the amount of time you can save. In reality, it’s all the same. You’re not adding any new information, just rephrasing everything.
Google is not stupid; its algorithm is improving daily. It relies on AI, and as that gets more sophisticated, it will pick up on trends and patterns created by this artificial rewriting software. While it is tempting, the risk is too high. Before, the biggest risk was the page that didn’t perform. Now, when you have a page deemed unhelpful, your whole site is falling in the rankings because of the new algorithm.
Essentially, the practice is one of those black hat tactics that give you short-term success but doesn’t pay long-term dividends. At the end of the day, all the time you save will come back to bite when you are stressed because the website got penalised.
The tools are great and do a good job. If its whole purpose is personal, then no one will know, but if you’re trying to manipulate search engines, that is the main issue that Google’s new updates try to capture and avoid. It may work today and tomorrow but, eventually, it will catch up with those doing it and possibly have significant consequences.”
Taylor Kurtz is the Owner of Crush The Rankings, and you can find him over at crushtherankings.com.
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