Create Trusted Content: Forget Clickbait, Learn from Google

Do we resort to clickbait, the style of headline writing that shocks users or deceives to score traffic? NO! See the evidence why not and prosper.


The online world is getting noisier. Consumer's attention is split between streaming services, blogs, YouTube special interest videos, video games, and social media. You might seem like your voice is getting drowned out. Every day, the world's population is growing. More people from underdeveloped countries are coming online adding their voice to the mix and potentially pushing down the ranking for your content.

Should we be concerned? What can we do? Do we resort to clickbait, the style of headline writing that shocks users or deceives them to get them to click on the headline for our content? I don't believe in unethical business practices, and I don't believe my clients should either. Luckily, Google has some good news for us.

The New Google Standard for Page Quality

The Google algorithm has changed over the years and it keeps evolving. The way users discover content also has changed. For example, users can now discover content on "Google Discover", the news feed of the Google Search app.

With Search, users enter a search term to find helpful information related to their query, but Discover takes a different approach. Instead of showing results in response to a query, Discover surfaces content primarily based on what Google's automated systems believe to be a good match with a user's interests

source: developers.google.com (Google Search Central Documentation)

Google Discover - Notice the articles near the top

Google says the criteria for content that appears there is the same as that for search in general. The new "rules" for good content on Google Discover sound like what a good newspaper Editor would consider for a print publication:

Ensure that you are posting outstanding and engaging content that you think users would find interesting. Especially consider the following:

  • Having page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion.
  • Avoiding tactics to artificially inflate engagement by using misleading or exaggerated details in preview content (title, snippets, images) to increase appeal, or by withholding crucial information required to understand what the content is about.
  • Avoiding tactics that manipulate appeal by catering to morbid curiosity, titillation, or outrage.
  • Having content that's timely for current interests, tells a story well, or provides unique insights.
  • Providing clear dates, bylines, information about authors, the publication, the publisher, company or network behind it, and contact information to better build trust and transparency with visitors.
  • Including compelling, high-quality images in your content, especially large images that are more likely to generate visits from Discover. Large images need to be at least 1200 px wide and enabled by the max-image-preview:large setting, or by using AMP. Avoid using a site logo as your image.
  • Our automated systems surface content in Discover from sites that have many individual pages that demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T). Those looking to improve E-A-T can consider some of the same questions we encourage site owners to consider for Search.

source: developers.google.com (Google Search Central Documentation)

If you notice, the first item says "Having page titles that capture the essence of the content, but in a non-clickbait fashion." I think that says it all. Don't deceive users. Now, I will say Google still ranks some clickbait content high in search, and that's because sometimes the source of the content is very strong or there may not be enough content written on the topic by others in industry. Also, some good content might be old. In light of those issues, on balance, sometimes clickbait articles can win. However, as more ethical players generate content, Google prefers to present ethical headlines.

Google Discover - Notice no clickbait articles here - just simple facts

We need to present this focus on non-clickbait headlines and trusted sources in context of recent elections. It is believed foreign governments had an influence in recent U.S. elections through social media and flagrant headlines. Facebook has implemented transparency information on Facebook business / fan pages.

Facebook states:

We believe that when you visit a Page or see an ad on Facebook it should be clear who it’s coming from ... These (changes) are designed to increase transparency and accountability, as well as prevent election interference ... Pages with large numbers of followers will need to be verified. Those who manage large Pages that do not clear the process will no longer be able to post.

source: fb.com (Meta Newsroom)

The world is trending in a more transparent direction.

Besides the trust and transparency aspect of the content site, Google will measure user experience based on if users "bounce" from the site. Google can tell if users are sent to a site from its search engine and leave the site shortly after. One strong reason users would leave a site would be that they expected something when clicking on the title of the link and received totally different content from what the title represented.

If you would like an assessment of content for your business as well as well as a deeper, in-person discussion of tactics to expand your reach, contact me, Ken Morico, Digital Marketing Consultant. Trust me, that's not click bait.



Ken Morico
Ken
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