By Kaitie Frank
26 Mar 2024

Don’t Do Things For Google: Google Search Liaison Advises Pleasing People, Not Google


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In the wake of the 2024 March Core and Spam updates, sites are frantically trying to retain their rankings by implementing any “best practices” they can find. 

Google Search Liason Danny Sullivan says, please stop. 

In an X post, Lily Ray discovered that the March updates affected many sites with “pet” content. These sites also had an e-commerce component and were seemingly unaffected by the Helpful Content Update in September 2023. In response to that post, another X user offered a solution: 

“Add to cart, FTW.”

To which Lily Ray replied:

“Yeah... I'm wondering if integrating ecommerce is something that could help many HCU-affected sites recover over time. I realize this is much easier said than done... but it shows Google that your site does more than just affiliate/review content.”

Both Ray and Du Maine suggest that adding the cart feature to these e-commerce sites will help Google better understand the intent of these sites. This is where Sullivan steps in. In a long X post, Sullivan stated:

“I wouldn't recommend people start adding carts because it "shows Google" any more than I would recommend anyone do anything they think "shows Google" something… Doing things you think are just for Google is falling behind what our ranking systems are trying to reward rather than being in front of them.”

Sullivan claims he discovered a pattern with sites that don’t rank well. Often, these sites include:

  • Claims that an “expert” reviewed the content in the hopes the content will rank well;
  • A table of contents at the top of articles;
  • Content that has been “updated” even though the information is not;
  • An FAQ section to try to capture additional queries;
  • Distracting ads and other media that take away from the content.

Adding these elements to content isn't inherently bad. However, Sullivan states that if sites added these aspects to content to rank well instead of for readership, you’re doing SEO incorrectly. In fact, Google’s documentation states:

"We recommend that you focus on creating people-first content to be successful with Google Search, rather than search engine-first content made primarily to gain search engine rankings.”

Sullivan implores SEOs to write content based on what the audience likes instead of what SEOs think Google wants to see. He also advises taking “expert” opinions with a grain of salt, stating that showing users a satisfying experience is more important.

“But please. If you want to succeed, stop doing a lot of the things you've heard second, third, whatever that are supposed to "show Google" something and show your visitors a great, satisfying experience. That's how you show Google's ranking systems that you should do well.”

Sullivan also states that he aims to revise Google’s documentation to help people better understand what Google wants and to be patient with Google as they continue working on its ranking algorithm. 

Kaitie Frank

Kaitie is a copywriter and content writer for Page One Power who specializes in SEO-optimized content. She has written for various niches and prides herself in knowing random tidbits of information. In addition to putting words to paper, she indulges in physical fitness and telling her cat why he is, in fact, a good boy.