Algorithms might change, but good storytelling never goes out of style

By Sergio Sicheri

El Comercio Group

Lima, Perú


I recently mentioned that the Google algorithm benefitted different sports media around the world during the pandemic. It did not catch my attention when, in the last algorithm adjustment that started on May 25 of this year, some of them were hit in terms of traffic. Specifically, I am referring to Google Discover, which apparently raised a red flag for certain content that, at other times, positioned itself in said media.

Now all of us generating valuable audiences for media have questions: Does the algorithm reflect a fair change? Has the technical aspect been reinforced and protected based on the Core Web Vitals (CWV)? Is this change based on the fact that one of the most important sporting events of the year (World Cup Qatar 2022) is coming up?

We continue questioning ourselves.

Trying to beat the Google algorithm is difficult, but leaning into expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness is still important.
Trying to beat the Google algorithm is difficult, but leaning into expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness is still important.

The same answer to these specific questions might apply — “could be” — but it’s conditional. What we are clear about and can affirm is that the Google team has reinforced and continues to carve into SEO the expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT) it insists it is reinforcing.

We are talking about demonstrating on our sites and within content the experience each medium provides. This reinforces authorship or authority of our content, and it generates trust with any user. EAT is the trifecta through which Sergei Brin’s and Larry Page’s search engine will continue to stress out the media for the rest of the year.

How the algorithm is affecting media companies

Talking with some colleagues from the Grupo de Diarios de América (GDA), we have been able to corroborate that several sports media in South America have been affected by this latest algorithm adjustment that ended on June 9, a date noted by Google sources.

We were also able to exchange perspectives with global colleagues on this latest event. We spoke with Ignacio “Nacho” Delgado, who leads the SEO team of the Spanish group Unidad Editorial. He said the most outstanding thing was that “we have seen ourselves benefited in Spain with this latest algorithm change, but we have seen some of our South American audiences or markets hit.”

That same point was reaffirmed to me through LinkedIn messaging by Jorge Lara García, who is also an audience developer and SEO of “The algorithm change has been positive in Spain for our Web site,” he said.

Regardless of whether the sites are sports-related, those with the best rates in Google’s CWV had a consistently good balance and performance across their advertising strategy, and they provided a good user experience. They have not felt the bump like the brands or media that did not invest time in this or did not leave all the KPIs green within the technical priorities of the CWV.

On this last point, we must continue learning from Nordic colleagues such as Schibsted, specifically Aftonbladet, which has the incredible ability to develop user experiences and user interfaces in addition to working with high performance and SEO standards. And, the company also invests in good content, good journalism, and good stories.

Strong content is more important than the algorithm

As I’ve stated in the past, only by producing good editorial content will the media survive. That it is not a new formula.

Why do you think we still read and study works of art like “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” by Gay Talese, “The Emperor” by Ryszard Kapuscinski, or “Mescalito” by Hunter S. Thompson? These are incredible stories that keep our attention because the narrative is so rich, we can even smell the specific descriptions these stories contain. That’s what some media have really missed — yes, I mean that love by the reporter or journalist for his story. The same one that the character William showed us in the movie Almost Famous by Cameron Crowe.

Reporters should sit down to write an article with hundreds of notes, statements, and pieces of data. This is a point where they believe they already have too much information on a subject — so much that they don’t even know where to start. That’s when they’re really ready to start writing, editing, or narrating a story. When they arrive at that precise moment, they just have to put aside all the external, distracting media, have all their notes at hand, and, finally, just have to sit down to work.

Those who have begun to remove some journalists and media from the well-known formula are content creators. I’m not just referring to YouTubers, TikTokers, or influencers. This is also relevant to music creators like Claptone, who is known for house rhythms and who has created a whole machinery for the production of content, events, souvenirs, and more. There is speculation Claptone isn’t even a single DJ, but behind that Venetian mask there are several DJs who can create several different presentations around the world at the same time. Viewers see Claptone’s presentation, not a specific person’s presentation.

Moving to the popular urban genre are artists like Nicki Nicole from Argentina or the world-renowned Nicky Jam. They’ve learned to produce their own content. If you haven’t seen The Rockstar Show by Nicky Jam on social media, then you should check out why singers or soccer players like Kun Agüero on Twitch might no longer rely on traditional media.

Those of us who have been generating content for years and who work on capturing different valuable audiences cannot turn a blind eye to everything that has been happening in the world. We have to think about producing shows like La Resistencia, by Spanish comedian David Broncano, or reconnecting with younger audiences by telling them stories like the ones on the Vice podcast. In that sense, the formula is not new. It was known by Talese, Kapuscinski, and Thompson.

Perhaps some colleagues have forgotten this. It’s just a matter of thinking about why we pay for a Netflix, Disney+, or Star Plus subscription every month.

About Sergio Sicheri

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