In today’s digital landscape, online content creation and search engine optimization (SEO) are of paramount importance for websites. Offering content that aligns with the needs of internet users and is reliable and user-friendly is the key to establishing a successful digital presence. Therefore, search engine guidelines provided by Google help content creators and websites adhere to best practices.
Google provides SEO guidelines that define the best practices applicable to websites. However, these guidelines evolve over time. In this article, we will delve into the fundamental differences between Google’s old and new SEO guidelines, particularly focusing on “Helpful Content.”
The old guidelines emphasized “creating user-centric, reliable, and helpful content,” while the new guidelines concentrate on the principle of “creating content that is helpful, reliable, and primarily for people.” These changes signify a shift in how content creators and websites need to rethink their strategies.
In this article, we will extensively explore the key differences between these two approaches and how they affect everything from content creation to SEO. Additionally, we will discuss the strategies that websites should adopt to create user-focused and reliable content.
Let’s uncover how Google’s SEO game has changed and how content creators can adapt to these changes. Here are the striking differences between old and new SEO guidelines:
Focus on Content and Purpose
Old Approach (User-Centric): The old guidelines directed content creation towards users and their needs. This approach stressed shaping content based on the information users are seeking and the problems they aim to solve. Meeting user expectations and providing them with valuable information was the primary goal.
New Approach (Primarily for People): The new guidelines highlight that content creation should primarily serve people. This approach underscores that content should be created not only to boost search engine rankings but also to meet the needs of users and deliver real value. Content should answer people’s questions, inform them, and provide them with benefits.
The difference between these two approaches lies in where the focus should be while creating content. The old approach leaned towards user satisfaction and needs, while the new approach prioritizes meeting the requirements of people and aims to keep content free from manipulative SEO tactics.
Content and Quality Evaluation
Another significant difference between old and new guidelines is in the evaluation of content and quality. Both approaches include questions to determine the quality of content, but there are some distinctions.
Old Approach (User-Centric): The old guidelines evaluated content by focusing on how it assisted users. For instance, it asked questions like whether the content provided original information, research, or analysis, if it offered a comprehensive explanation of the topic, if it presented informative analysis or intriguing facts, and whether it added value and uniqueness when referencing other sources. It also emphasized that the content’s title or page title should effectively summarize the topic.
New Approach (Primarily for People): The new guidelines take a broader perspective when evaluating content, with a particular emphasis on how it benefits people. It assesses whether the content provides substantial value compared to other search results. Additionally, it considers quality issues such as writing errors or style problems.
This difference underscores the importance of content quality and user experience. The old approach was more content-centric, while the new approach places greater emphasis on creating content that is not only informative but also engaging, shareable, and superior to others.
Another crucial difference between old and new guidelines relates to the questions used to assess expertise in content.
Old Approach (User-Centric): The old guidelines evaluated the expertise of content by examining how it drew from sources and the credibility of those sources. It emphasized that content should clearly cite sources, provide evidence of expertise, and offer information about the author or publication for credibility.
New Approach (Primarily for People): The new guidelines take a more comprehensive approach to assessing expertise. They consider how well the content demonstrates in-depth knowledge and expertise on the topic. The content is expected to reflect that the creator has a deep understanding of the subject matter. Additionally, it places a higher bar on verifiability.
This difference highlights that content creators should not only cite sources but also possess a profound understanding of the topic and enrich their content with this expertise. The content is expected to meet a higher standard in terms of reliability and expertise.
Providing a Page Experience
Another significant distinction between old and new guidelines is the focus on page experience.
Old Approach (User-Centric): The old guidelines acknowledged the importance of page experience but primarily focused on specific recommendations for content quality and user experience. Factors such as page loading speed, mobile compatibility, and user-friendly design were deemed important.
New Approach (Primarily for People): The new guidelines take a more comprehensive approach to page experience. They expect content creators not only to focus on content quality and technical compliance but also to ensure that users have a satisfying experience on the page. When users visit a page, they should easily find information, access it quickly, and navigate comfortably.
This difference emphasizes that content creators should not only concentrate on content but also on factors like page design, speed, and usability. The new approach considers user satisfaction and a pleasant browsing experience as equally significant.
Content and Quality Questions
One more difference between old and new guidelines is the evaluation of content and quality.
Old Approach (User-Centric): The old guidelines primarily focused on core questions when assessing content quality. Specifically, they looked into whether the content was original, provided an in-depth and comprehensive coverage of the topic, offered explanatory analysis or interesting insights, and added value and uniqueness when referencing other sources. The content’s title or page title was expected to effectively summarize the topic.
New Approach (Primarily for People): The new guidelines include similar questions for evaluating content quality but place a stronger emphasis on them. They expect content not only to present information but also to stimulate readers to share, recommend, or bookmark it. Additionally, the content is expected to offer more value compared to similar content.
This difference underscores that content creators should aim not only to inform but also to engage, shareable, and superior to others. The new approach encourages content to go beyond the task of simply presenting information.
Old and new guidelines differ in terms of questions used to assess content expertise and reliability.
Old Approach (User-Centric): The old guidelines emphasized the need for content to cite sources clearly and provide evidence of expertise. They also required information about the author or publisher to establish credibility.
New Approach (Primarily for People): The new guidelines take a more comprehensive view of evaluating expertise. They consider whether the content reflects in-depth knowledge and expertise in the topic. Content creators are expected to demonstrate a profound understanding of the subject matter. Additionally, it raises the bar for verifiability.
This difference highlights that content creators should not only cite sources but also possess a deep understanding of the topic. Content should be enriched with this expertise, and the content’s reliability and expertise should meet a higher standard.
Helpful Content-Focused vs. Search Engine-Focused Content
This section addresses a significant difference between old and new guidelines.
Old Approach (User-Centric): The old guidelines stressed that content should primarily be created for users. The purpose of content should be to enhance people’s access to and understanding of information, solve their problems, or provide intriguing insights. Content creation should not be driven solely by the aim of manipulating search engine rankings but should genuinely meet users’ needs.
New Approach (Primarily for People): The new guidelines encourage content to primarily serve people’s needs but also acknowledge the importance of improving search engine rankings. This approach focuses on ensuring that content not only addresses user needs but also performs better in search results. However, it encourages achieving this through enhancing content quality and helpfulness, rather than manipulating rankings.
This difference emphasizes that content creators should enrich their content not only to satisfy search engines but, more importantly, to meet the needs of users and provide genuine value. Over the long term, content that prioritizes user needs is more likely to improve search engine rankings.
E-A-T and Quality Rater Guidelines
This section examines how old and new guidelines approach the concept of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) and how quality rater guidelines have evolved.
Old Approach (User-Centric): The old guidelines recognized the importance of content aligning with E-A-T principles but did not define them as rigorously. Content was expected to be reliable and informative, but these factors were not explicitly outlined.
New Approach (Primarily for People): The new guidelines provide a clearer definition of E-A-T and delve into a more detailed assessment of how content aligns with these principles. They place a significant emphasis on evaluating content based on experience, expertise, and trustworthiness. Additionally, the quality rater guidelines are more detailed, providing a more precise evaluation of content’s alignment with the E-A-T concept.
This difference underscores the importance of content creators aligning their content with E-A-T principles and making sure their content is trustworthy and beneficial to users. It also highlights that Google’s quality raters evaluate content more rigorously, and this evaluation impacts rankings.
In this article, we’ve explored the fundamental differences between Google’s old and new content guidelines. Both sets of guidelines advise content creators to produce user-centric, reliable, and helpful content, but there are distinctions in approach and detail.
The old guidelines emphasized the importance of content that caters to user needs, while the new guidelines suggest a greater focus on creating content primarily for people. The intention to provide assistance through content is prominent in both cases, but the new guidelines emphasize evaluating content in terms of experience, expertise, and trustworthiness in greater detail.
Moreover, the quality rater guidelines and the concept of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) receive more significant emphasis in the new guidelines. Content creators need to understand Google’s current content guidelines and optimize their content accordingly. Content that prioritizes serving people’s needs and is enriched with expertise is more likely to improve search engine rankings in the long run.