Google Advises Struggling Sites to Focus on 3 Core Ranking Elements

June 11, 2024

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Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, provides invaluable SEO insights on how to help sites struggling because of the recent algorithm updates rank successfully.

Recent Google updates (like the Help Content Update in September 2023) have hit sites relying on organic traffic hard, leaving many owners wondering how to regain lost rankings.

Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, addressed these concerns on X, advising to focus on three specific areas. 

Danny’s advice to struggling site owners was:

  • Create high-quality content. 
  • Diversify your traffic sources. 
  • Build an audience.  

Okay, none of those our ground breaking, but because of recent algorithm updates, following his advice could be crucial for your site’s success.

Katie Caf Travel, on X,led the questions, asking how sites can recover from ranking drops caused by the Helpful Content Update if Google doesn`t rank them. 

Here’s the conversation and Danny’s advice:

Create great content

The conversation moved onto content, and while comedian George Jessel`s saying “give the people what they want” is as old as the hills, it’s as relevant now as ever.

Katie asked Danny if she was right to focus on content.

Sullivan gave this advise:

  • “Creating content that resonates with your anticipated readers is crucial.”

Danny also references recent advice from the CEO of iPullRank, Mike King, to support his point on creating quality content.

Sullivan’s reference:

  • “If you look at what @iPullRank wrote recently, after reviewing all the stuff that we’re supposedly doing (or not doing), I thought one of his concluding points was excellent advice.”

Mike King:

  • “Make Great Content and Promote it Well—I’m joking, but I’m also serious. Google has continued to give that advice and we balk at it as not actionable. For some SEOs, it’s just beyond their control. After reviewing these features that give Google its advantages, it is quite obvious that making better content and promoting it to audiences that it resonates with will yield the best impact on those measures. Measures of link and content features will certainly get you quite far, but if you really want to win in Google long term, you’re going to have to make things that continue to deserve to rank.”

But content isn`t the only ranking element at play.

Diversify your traffic sources 

Katie Caf’s frustration, born from lost traffic, was evident during the conversation; she also asked Danny if she should focus on off-site efforts to build readership.

Danny promptly replied, saying:

  • “As to the off-site effort question, I think from what I know from before I worked at Google Search, as well as my time being part of the search ranking team, is that one of the ways to be successful with Google Search is to think beyond it.”
  • “Great sites with content that people like receive traffic in many ways. People go to them directly. They come via email referrals. They arrive via links from other sites. They get social media mentions.
  • “This doesn’t mean you should get a bunch of social mentions, or a bunch of email mentions because these will somehow magically rank you better in Google (they don’t, from how I know things). It just means you’re likely building a normal site in the sense that it’s not just intended for Google but instead for people. And that’s what our ranking systems are trying to reward, good content made for people.”
  • It also means you’ve built a site that’s not dependent on any single source of traffic, which in my nearly 30 years of being involved in some way with online marketing, is a healthy good thing.

While creating multiple traffic sources is beneficial, it alone doesn’t guarantee your website’s SEO success. For that, Danny advises you also need to build an audience.

Build your audience

Danny’s no stranger to building sites from scratch, having worked with several before joining Google; possibly most noticeable is Search Engine Land, where he helped build it into the authoritative site it is today. 

Sullivan, a keen hiker, went on to explain the importance of building an audience using a personal example: 

Will the next algorithm update help?

Many of us affected by the recent Google algorithm update hope the next core update might help restore lost rankings. But it seems we shouldn’t hold our breath as Sullivan explained it might be Google’s issue: 

  • “It might also be that, as I said here, it’s us in some of these cases, not the sites, and that part of us releasing future updates is doing a better job in some of these cases.”

The takeaway is, don’t expect Google to solve the ranking problems its algorithm updates may have caused you!

What it all means for SEOs

SEO professionals and fellow site owners empathize with Katie Caf and are often equally frustrated by Google’s advice to increase traffic, I.E., “create helpful content.” 

The fact is, though, it’s our job to figure out what helpful content is, which type works for our target audience, and where to apply it.  

Danny finished the conversation by adding:

  • “Developing multiple ways to reach an audience is a good thing. It’s not difficult or expensive to have email lists or social accounts. It’s a long-standing marketing practice.”

It seems that for SEO purposes, Google is telling us to think beyond Google to triumph on Google Search. 

So, if you want to win in the Google rankings game, diversify your traffic sources, build a relevant audience, and create quality content that serves their needs.

Terry O'Toole

Terry O'Toole

Terry is a seasoned content marketing specialist with over six years of experience writing content that helps small businesses navigate where small businesses meet marketing - SEO, Social Media Marketing, etc. Terry has a proven track record of creating top-performing content in search results. When he is not writing content, Terry can be found on his boat in Italy or chilling in his villa in Spain.

SEO Power Plays

Read by 10,000+ world-class SEOs, CEOs, Founders, & Marketers. Strategy breakdown: monday.com's 77% traffic boost 🚀 + Industry news and expert tidbits every Wednesday 🔍 + in-depth SEO strategy tips every Sunday ✨