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How to Keep Your Content Performing Under Google’s Latest Updates

Dylan Scacchetti Associate MarTech Director

Before the hotel room is booked, before the flights are paid for or the route is decided most trips start with a search. Most users start broad, angling to find a destination that aligns with their own specific needs and personal tastes. Other users are further along in the journey, and know exactly what they’re searching for, with a destination and a dream already in mind to plan out lodging for their trip, exciting things to do with the family, and curated itineraries focused on outdoor adventures.

Users are searching online now more than ever, so it may come as no surprise that travel-related searches are among the most popular on the web. For instance, BrightEdge observed a 67% increase in overall search volume when comparing 2023 to 2022 with travel being among the top three growth industries. Users want to travel, explore, and dream, with domestic travel slowly increasing back to pre-pandemic levels and international travel to Europe dramatically expanding.

Is AI Content Good for SEO?

Millions of users have embraced ChatGPT and Large-Language Models (LLMs). These products are good at what they do, and are effective at analyzing patterns within text to spit out predictive responses with astonishing accuracy. With such powerful tools comes the early adopters: People are using LLMs to create mass amounts of AI spam, more than the Internet has ever seen.

Generative AI now enables the mass production of low-quality content, causing the line between genuine content and spam to blur, according to The Register. This low-effort content is often heavily optimized for SEO, leveraging classic techniques like keyword stuffing, and is packed with affiliate links that have rapidly led to a decline in the quality of search results and, much to everyone’s frustrations, user value.

SEO Spam: Google versus AI Content

Catching AI content is like catching plankton with a butterfly net through seawater. While it might be possible, it certainly isn’t very likely. At first, Google announced that it has no plans to devalue content created by AI as long as it met user needs. This generous decision has, unsurprisingly, led to an influx in SEO AI spam, starting a game of cat-and-mouse where the mice are rapidly multiplying and the cat is getting tired.

What Did the March 2024 Core Update Focus on?

In an effort to improve user experience, Google began work on its ranking systems to reduce unoriginal and unhelpful content in its search results. Now with new AI tools adding to the issue, Google has increased its efforts with its March 2024 spam and core algorithm update

According to Google this update has two key parts:

1. Improved quality ranking

Google is refining its core ranking systems to better understand if webpages are unhelpful, have a poor user experience, or feel like they were created for search engines instead of people. These updates aim to reduce the amount of low-quality search results and send more traffic to helpful and high-quality sites. Google expects that the combination of this update along with its previous efforts will reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%.

Google is also doing its best to ensure relevancy is taken into account when delivering search results, like whenever a user appends “reddit” to a query while searching for online forums.

2. New spam policies

Google is now updating spam policies to address new and evolving practices that lead to unoriginal, low-quality content in search results. Spam policies are working to identify practices including the use of mass-produced, low-quality content to manipulate search engine rankings, site reputation abuse when a third-party uses the reputation of a host site to gain ranking benefits, and expired domain abuse when expired domains are repurposed with the goal of boosting content with historical backlinks.

While this is a good step in the right direction, it’s been noted by some in the SEO community that Google’s approach has been rather brute, with some webmasters seeing entire websites being de-indexed despite being created by a human.

SEO Tips to Keep Your Content Ranking for Your Travel Destination

Overall, this Google Core Update is a positive change to ensure users find valuable information from credible sources. While Google is cracking down on AI content, it can still be an effective tool for content creators and subject matter experts. Here are seven tips to ensure that your content will continue to rank in Google searches:

  1. Content strategy: Incorporate Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) into your content by using direct quotations and ensure authors are highlighted to boost signals for trustworthiness and expertise. Also, since LLMs cannot create factual statistics, support unique ideas with data that chatbots and search generative experiences can happily serve to users.
  2. Optimize for voice: Many of us have said, “Hey Siri, find a restaurant near me with good egg rolls” or some other specific food or cuisine type. Increasingly consumers are tapping into the convenience of voice search, so your content must be equally discoverable by voice prompts. This means including natural language queries in your content, writing at a third-grade reading level, and adding structured data (schema) to your website for voice assistants like Siri and Alexa.
  3. Take advantage of your own attractions: Searches for “things to do…” were among the top queries in 2023 and are among the top queries in 2024. Tap into specific and niche “Things to Do” centered around the major attractions and events that make your area unique. Be sure to offer inclusive activities for all ages and preferences like “Best Outdoor Hikes for Kids” or even “Best Places to Stay for Newly-Wed Couples.” To keep your users engaged, highlight nearby events and build out content that entices travelers to extend their stay.
  4. Get visible on Google My Business and Bing Places: Destination Marketing Organizations should also work with partners and local businesses to upload accurate business info and photos with helpful captions to their Google Business Profile. This is important because search engines and chatbots will naturally pull in these business listings in Map results for both Google and Bing. Also ensure partners are visible on TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Atlas Obscura as well!
  5. Pictures and images get engagement: Take photos of your destination! Chatbots and text-to-image models currently cannot create accurate and interesting representations of destinations without some extra effort (Photoshop, etc.) Unique and targeted creative will stand out against high-concept AI-generated content. Image thumbnails will be more eye-catching than meta descriptions into 2024, especially as models get better at understanding elements within a photo. That being said, don’t forget to include Alt Text. As websites evolve it’s clear that accessibility is more important than ever.
  6. Focus on videos as content: Short-form videos can be addictive, but they also establish trust in a quick and digestible way. A combination of short-and-long-form videos on your site that draw in real, experienced SMEs is ideal for pairing with content on your website for engagement.
  7. Invest in SEM: Lastly, search engine marketing (SEM) options, such as Google Ads, allow your business or organization to get in front of potential travelers and the exact moment they are searching for a destination or business like yours. SEM ads can also be updated or changed at any time to reach a specific audience or promote a specific event which can be beneficial if you don’t have the resources to optimize your website frequently. A balanced strategy of both SEO and SEM strengthens your online presence while driving traffic to your website.

Staying Human: AI Content Can Help You Thrive in Online Search

As the internet becomes more crowded with content and search engines evolve to keep up, it’s important to remember that, above all else, relevancy and quality is what helps a website rank. By focusing on human authenticity, leveraging emerging technologies responsibly, and prioritizing user experience, marketers and content creators can navigate these changes effectively, ensuring their digital presence not only survives but thrives in the ever-evolving world of online search. 

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