Chasing the algorithm: The content carrot and stick


Callum Pantling

Associate Content Strategist

3rd April 2024

~ 6 min read

Content created simply to rank on Google has been the norm in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for a long time. In fact in digital marketing, content creation can become quite the 'carrot and the stick' scenario with content being created purely to chase the algorithm. In a data-driven industry where Key Performance Indicators are massively important, this practice has become more common. 

However, with Google's more recent messaging presented in E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness), and its numerous Helpful Content Updates, there's some indication that creating content with the sole purpose of chasing algorithmic ranking features is becoming a thing of the past.

Why do we chase the algorithm?

The internet today is awash with a huge amount of content covering every topic you can think of. This presents an Everest-scale challenge for any business with a website looking to start creating content and hoping to rank for it - it’s this very environment that prompts the reasonable thought “how do I make my content rank highest?”.

For content creators, this challenge has often been met with detailed data-driven research to ensure that all content is keyword-driven and formatted to best please the algorithm that dictates rankings. Of course, this is a logical line of reasoning when operating in a system that has historically rewarded analytical over more creative thinking. However, the pendulum is beginning to swing in the other direction as the system matures and evolves.

Why chasing the algorithm can be harmful

Content creation is becoming a more complicated endeavour. Be it the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the rise of social and video platforms and crucially, what Google deems to be good content and how they alter the algorithm with that in mind.

The aforementioned analytical approach, while still valid as a key component of content creation, can no longer be the sole focus. The parameters in which content creators operate are changing and so now require a greater blend of both analytical and creative thinking. 

The key component that’s consistent in recent Google messaging is that content, above all, should make “visitors feel they've had a satisfying experience”. It isn’t as simple as ticking boxes and ensuring your copy is bursting with relevant keywords.

Google wants to reward content that benefits the user and place less value on content that is deemed ‘unhelpful’. This means the copy that's created must provide insightful and authoritative information instead of simply being ‘SEO-optimised’.

What does Google say about content?

Helpful Content Updates

In August 2022 Google announced the first ‘Helpful Content Update’ which aimed to reward users by serving them content that is more original, helpful and relatable. This effectively was Google's way of showing how they intend to mitigate the potential damage caused by an influx of AI content that was forecasted with the advent of open-source AI models like ChatGPT.

Google’s messaging centres around aiming to serve content written by people, for people, with the hope of ensuring that search results are beneficial to consumers, and provide new insights and information. 

This idea of new insightful content being crucial has continued to be championed by Google over the past years, emphasising how it can be hurtful to your site to host “content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to people”.

With this in mind, it seems that content should be created in a way that is not only SEO-optimised, but also provides a good user experience and new insights. Presenting clear value to the consumer that they’re unable to get from other sources is the goal, and should be the drive when looking to start creating content.

What is E-E-A-T?

E-E-A-T is Google's method for evaluating whether they are serving helpful and relevant information in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Originally only E-A-T in December 2022, Google added an additional E for Expertise to further define the parameters that dictate what qualifies as good content.

This addition further reinforces Google's stance that content shouldn't just be made for the sake of it. It should be created, first and foremost, to offer a good experience to consumers by being entertaining, informative or fresh.


Experience refers to whether the writer has real, first-hand experience of the topic at hand. The idea behind this is to ensure that the content Google is ranking contains reliable and trustworthy information. As Google look to humanise content moving forward, being able to demonstrate clear experience will continue to gain importance.


Expertise, while very similar to Experience, does have some key differences that warrant its inclusion. Google is looking for the writer of the piece to demonstrate clear expertise in this topic - be it a host of prior content around similar topics, or the writer being renowned and possibly award-winning in their field. 

Again, this common theme of building trust and sending those signals to Google is apparent as they aim to ensure that the algorithm is serving the best content to a user.


A huge takeaway from E-E-A-T is that around Authorship and its growing importance to content. In a move that looks to be a direct response to the recent explosion of AI-generated content, Google has placed greater importance on experts contributing to the content.

This means that to signal that your content is trustworthy and provides meaningful new insights, Google is looking for signs that content is being written, edited or contributed to by experts in the topic field. 

With that in mind, we can infer that using external experts with a digital footprint of being a proven expert in their field can boost the content you create. Author bio pages and simply ensuring an author is listed as having written the piece also will help send the correct signals to Google that your content is expert-driven and trustworthy.

The importance of this is growing as it helps to set apart content from possible AI-generated pieces, which offer nothing new and risk flooding search results with regurgitated and unhelpful content.


Trustworthiness is effectively the metaphorical content glue that binds the prior three pillars together. The idea is that you'll begin building trust by following Google's E-E-A-T guidelines. Determining how Google ranks your site's trustworthiness is far more complex than the previous pillars as it takes into account much more, including things like the reliability of the written information to even the technical trustworthiness of your site. 

In summary, Google has laid out what they deem to be good content and that these four pillars are the backbone of that idea. In theory, if you follow their guidance you should see the results down the line.

What is good content?

We’ve heard what Google has said, but how should we be applying this to our content creation, strategy and process? Well, it's all in the approach. Content requires us to consider the reader to a greater degree and set out from the beginning to create quality content that people will gain a lot from, and not simply tick boxes.

Consider new ways to provide value to the user, whether it's incorporating commentary from an authoritative individual, or using data to provide new insights and angles on topics that have yet to be explored. 

Of course, we should consider the fundamentals of content creation, as gearing your content format towards SERP features is still absolutely relevant. However, it must be done in tandem with the notion that content needs to benefit the user.

In many ways, this movement is freeing, as it allows content creators to shake off some of the shackles that felt all but necessary to rank. For the first time in years, Google is signalling that it values well-curated content over generic buzzword pieces.

Now is the time to stop chasing the carrot on the stick - and start growing your valuable content carrots. Reach out to our brilliant SEO team for further assistance! 

Sign up to Croud’s Digital Digest

Get Croud's monthly newsletter, which is packed with the latest news from Croud from across the globe, along with updates and commentary around the latest developments in the digital marketing space.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.