Sullivan Shares Internal Documents On How Google Search Listen To SEO Feedback

Nov 6, 2023 - 7:21 am 15 by

Danny Sullivan Feedback To Search Team

On Friday, Danny Sullivan, Google's Search Liaison, shared on X some internal documents showing how he complies some of the feedback from SEOs online and then prepares that feedback to share with the Google Search teams.

He has done this a couple of times before, in terms of publicly showcasing how he provides feedback to the internal Google Search teams. In fact, the photo above is from 2018's snippet review team where Sullivan provided a lot of feedback to that team from SEOs and searchers. Danny Sullivan also shared examples from the internal Google ranking fair of notes and presentations he put together from SEOs and searchers for consideration in future Google Search changes.

In his new post on X, Danny showed how he is providing feedback to the search team on the helpful content update, parasite SEO, writing for Google and not users, improving Google's documentation, and a wild idea to provide a tool to us to tell us what is considered helpful content.

Here is that tweet:

Here is what the document says:

I'll begin with something that's not really a concern they have but the core cause of problems. Everyone is doing things for us. all If you tell someone to make people-first content, it's not uncommon they fall back into thinking how they show us - Google - that it's people first. "So you're saying I should have an author bio to rank better?" No! They should have bios because their own readers would expect that!

This is probably the fundamental stumbling block so many have. It's also understandable. They want to be found on Google, so they want to please Google, and the concept that the best way to please us is to actually not think about us is difficult to grasp. But it would be well worth the effort for us to find new ways to approach this and reiterate this guidance.

We also need to recognize that our search results are, indeed, an effective part of our documentation. 9 People do look at them to see what works - or what they can get away with. Our guidance even encourages people to compare themselves to other pages in our results - something we probably need to amend to say something like I covered in this post:

Do a search, look at the sites that come up. Those are what our systems find helpful. That said, the systems aren't perfect. So if you see a site that seems to be doing things against our guidelines, it might not be successful in the future.

Over and over, people noted large publishers that seem like they can write about anything and get rewarded. A compilation of such complaints is here.

One key tweet in part is this:

Related is the idea that "parasite SEO" site win, sites that lease themselves out to third-parties and then content ranks on these sites that would never succeed on a different. This is different from big sites winning for original (but not necessarily people-first) content, but the two get conflated.

Can we have a helpful content tool?

As mentioned above, there's a desire (such as here and here) for some type of tool or examples to help people better understand what we mean by helpful content or something that identifies if a page or site has been impacted by the helpful content update.

For those asking if they've been impacted, I tend to give the advice we already say on our page - if we said there was a helpful content update and you saw an impact, yes, that was from it. So look at what page might have dropped and assess from there.

I also floated the idea of taking our self-assessment questions and turning them into an interactive tool (this is a very rough idea of how that might work) Possibly, we could begin sharing some actual examples (such as here) or generic/stylized examples like this:

I've had publishers worried that one single page of whatever "unhelpful" content is will cause them to drop in rankings. Some are fearful they can't have anything that's "off-topic" for what their blog or site is about. Some think even having a part of a page be unhelpful might doom their entire site. All this is despite our page saying that a site needs to have "relatively high amounts" of unhelpful content to be impacted and that things are weighted.

Some of the engagement may be helping. Certainly there's more we can probably do. But even the more calm people are confused. They don't know if there are swathes of content they should drop, how to identify that, or what. Some worry that content just being "old" isn't useful. Others worry that if people aren't coming to their content from search, then it's clearly not helpful - and yet, they view it as archival content they don't want to get rid of.

We certainly don't want people dropping content just because it's older. It's something I reiterated in my in-person talk. I stressed it's more about dealing with content that wasn't created for people-first. But it remains a hard concept for some to grasp.

Here are more posts on this after some feedback:

Here is some of the feedback from the SEO community on this post:

Here are screenshots of those notes in case they go missing in the future:

Google Search Notes

Google Search Notes2

Google Search Notes3

Google Search Notes4

It is good to see Google taking our feedback and at least discussing it internally.

Forum discussion at X.

 

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