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Create content that ranks & resonates, with SEO expert Mordy Oberstein

Four tips for writing content and building up your brand based on the latest search and user insights.

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5 min read

Every marketer and web creator knows that the client wants to see their new site at the top of the Google search results. And despite enlisting SEO specialists and the best keyword research tools, this has been getting monumentally more difficult.

Then in January 2024, we were hit with a new study by German researchers, “Is Google Getting Worse?” The research confirmed “significant amounts [of] spam” and “simplified, repetitive, and potentially AI-generated content” across results pages of the leading search engines.

Or, as Wix’s Head of SEO Mordy Oberstein describes it, “There have been a lot of complaints about the quality of the Google results—[complaints] that Google started to reward sites that didn't deserve to be rewarded and it started to downgrade sites that deserve to be ranking high.” 

As much as Google’s forever-changing algorithm can create complexities, the study’s findings point to changing content patterns and the increasing challenges of AI-generated content. “It’s a reaction to content trends,” Oberstein says, referring to Google’s current unpredictability. “Some of the websites who [are] complaining about this don’t really understand what good content is.” 

So, what exactly is good content? Below, Oberstein offers his two cents on how to create content that not only has the potential to rank but also resonates with site visitors.

01. Users want first-person expertise, so lean into real experiences from real people.

For years we've been indulging in tightly cropped, brightly lit, self-recorded videos on platforms like TikTok and Instagram that feature talking heads reviewing products or sharing “you’ll never believe what happened” stories. And while these types of first-hand experience videos are on the rise, they are well outside the reach of Google.

According to Oberstein, “Search engines are going to need to address that trend of the user looking for actual firsthand knowledge.”

“I think Google has been the most vocally proactive about that,” he adds. But even though Google has started taking steps to surface first-hand experience content by elevating forum-based sites on search engine results pages (SERPs), the search results are arguably lower quality.

Where has that gotten us? 

“It’s a lot of rank volatility,” notes Oberstein. “You have Google throwing in Reddit, downgrading websites and moving things around as they try to adjust to showing firsthand experience on the results page.” 

Despite the volatility, marketers and site creators can rest assured that Google’s ongoing optimizations to prioritize quality, first-person content are indeed working. As observed in the German study, the “positive effects of the ranker updates” are evident.

As algorithms continue to evolve, now’s the time to prioritize first-person expertise in your content strategy, advises Oberstein. “Get ahead of this trend,” he says. “Google is going to figure this out, and you want to be in a place where you’re aligned with how they’ve figured this out.” Be creative with quotes, user-generated videos, testimonials, webinar cutdowns and more formats that feature real people. Notice in the video below that the on-camera speaker is simultaneously building a website on Wix Studio, thus demonstrating his first-hand experience.

02. Users prefer conversational content, not that marketing mumbo jumbo.

Consider the all too familiar ads flaunting things like “the ultimate moisturizer to transform your skin and revolutionize your daily routine.” Does this sound like a conversation with your friend, or like a branding brainstorming session?

“[Marketers] are used to defaulting towards a marketing terminology that [they] feel resonates with the user but sounds less organic,” says Oberstein. But in actuality, he continues, consumers “[want] to see something that's a bit more differentiated with an actual human touch to it.” 

And even while your potential customers seek more authentic content, the German study found an uptick in less authentic or conversational content, such as sites with “lower-quality, possibly mass-produced, or even AI-generated content.” 

The opportunity is clear for brands to stand out and break through this clutter by embracing an authentic human tone. “A conversational tone differentiates you from something AI,” says Oberstein. “Being more conversational also helps people feel more connected to the expertise and the first-hand knowledge.” Case in point: the casual tone of Mark Zuckerberg’s at-home, stream-of-consciousness product review.

But don’t rush to dismiss AI writing tools, which are still powerful companions when paired with thorough human guidance and editing. (Read more on how agencies can harness AI for creativity.) With or without AI assistance, writers should put authenticity at the heart of content creation. Think: conversational headlines, blog articles and videos that leverage first-hand experiences. Start by talking to your customers and listening to how they speak about your products or services. Mimic their lingo and enlist your biggest enthusiasts as ambassadors to create content from their perspectives. In this video about websites on tablets, web designer Brad Hussey references “warm bread with fresh butter on top” to describe the feeling of a good site experience—positive wording we all can relate to. 

03. Marketers need to narrow their target audiences and tailor their content accordingly.

To date, many marketers are still fixated on bringing top-of-funnel traffic to their sites through their content. Looking ahead (and following Google’s announcements), Oberstein predicts that this high level of top-of-funnel traffic will start to decline. “[We’re] going to see a reduction of web traffic overall and I think that's normal,” he says, pointing to Google’s wider rollout of its new Search Generative Experience (SGE).

Referencing Google’s announcement, Oberstein hypothesizes that SGE will surface more targeted information in order to drive users to more targeted pages. “Letting SGE give you a little bit of information and serve you entry points to the particular journeys you want to go down and explore, SGE is going to try to forward you to more specific information and as specific as possible.” 

In effect, users who land on your page will be more primed and relevant, and with higher intent. This is assuming, of course, that your site has the very specific content that prospects and SGE are looking for. 

By mining more deeply for granular insights on a more precise audience, marketers can own a niche and create more targeted content. Take a look at your current site and content, and conduct some research in your customers’ communities and with search keywords. How can you refine your offering for a more specific persona, intent or use case? 

04. Sites need to diversify their traffic sources and focus on brand building. 

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that Google is volatile. Relying exclusively on Google leaves your site at the whim of Google’s ranking algorithm updates—which often come without any warning. “We’re talking six updates in a four-month span, which is insane,” says Oberstein, reflecting on the last several months of 2023. “So it’s a lot of rank volatility, a lot of ranking shifting as Google tries to adjust.”

Chart showing the timing of each Google Search ranking update made in 2023.
All Google Search updates in 2023. Source: Search Engine Roundtable.

While Google will still be an essential traffic driver, you’ll want to have other channels or keywords you can lean on to continue bringing people to your site. As Oberstein recommends, “If you see volatility, you need to diversify how you’re going to handle that.” This can include: 

  • Expanding the number of search keywords your content targets

  • Identifying long-tail keywords that are more precise and targeted 

  • Creating social media content for brand awareness and product education

  • Leveraging emerging niche communities for grassroots brand and trust-building

  • Sponsoring placements in relevant media for a credibility halo effect

At the end of the day, a strong and trusted brand has the best chance of weathering sudden changes in search engine traffic. 

“Focus on branding—on being a recognizable brand and a trusted brand that people think about when they’re looking for a product or service that’s related to your business,” advises Oberstein. “Be grassroots, be organic, be involved in the communities and niches in a real way that doesn’t require tons of spending.” 

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