John Mueller News on Content and Ranking
There are often heated debates on social media about the best ways to create content. On his official Twitter account and other social media, John Mueller, a Google analyst, answers questions of SEO specialists about how to create quality content and what factors influence the ranking of pages in search results.
Content 2020: What should SEO Optimizers Pay Attention to?
1. Text Volume
A question from a user on Reddit created a discussion thread. He asked John Mueller what service he could use to count the number of words on each page in the SERP. The Google analyst replied that the length of the text is not a ranking factor, and you should not complicate your work:
A similar discussion erupted on Twitter:
On Twitter, Mueller says that top content does not have to contain many words; it all depends on the topic and usefulness of the article for the reader. If you search for more complex topics, you can find a large number of articles starting from 8 thousand words. Thus, a short article, of 1,000 words, may appear in the TOP-10.
Some optimizers refer to the research by Backlinko published in April 2020. It was revealed that the average number of words in the text on the first page of Google is 1,447. However, this indicates a correlation, not causation. Thus, most likely, it is just a coincidence.
One may assume that it is possible to ignore the number of words completely when creating content, but John’s tweet says that this factor should be used as a guide.
The length of your text should be such that the reader does not have additional questions and the desire to see a similar article from competitors. For example, you cannot write a short article on a US History topic. But to answer the question: “What is the most expensive restaurant in New York,” a couple of sentences describing the prices and advantages of several establishments will be enough.
To determine the conventionally ideal length of text on a page, you need to consider the following factors:
- Whether the page is informational or is it a product card.
- Do you create content for transactional requests?
It is also worth considering the intent of users. The content must meet the needs of the audience. For example, they are looking for information or want to make a purchase. In the second case, it is still worth limiting the number of words, revealing the essence of the product or answering the queries: “Where to buy …? What is the price…?” Informational content can be voluminous – this will not affect its ranking in any way if only the length of the text is taken into account.
To summarize, there is no optimal word count for an article. Google recommends determining how voluminous the text will be based on its subject. You create content primarily for users, not bots, so focus on your audience, their basic needs, and preferences.
2. Completeness of the Content
In the search system guidelines about how to create good content, it is mentioned that the text should be well structured and contain as much detail as possible. That is, the completeness of its content determines the quality of an article.
The same is stated in the guide about assessing the quality of web page content. The document contains about 30 mentions that the article should contain the maximum amount of useful data, provable facts, and research. Therefore, many authors tend to add as much detail as possible, which increases the volume of the text. That is supported by a tweet from Mueller’s opponent:
It can be assumed that a large number of pages containing 1,200-1,500 words of text appeared due to an inaccurate understanding of the operation of the BERT algorithm; more related information can be read in more detail in the article Google BERT Update. It is proven by a response to Mueller from one of the users:
The user believes that the search engine gives preference to pages containing large volumes of the content, as it is more informative and, therefore, useful. The Google analyst denied the information and recommended they better study the algorithms of BERT:
On March 6, 2020, there was a hangout of an analyst with webmasters. It was devoted to the creation of quality content. In Mueller’s news, it was once again stated that authors know their audience and their needs better than Google, so they know better how to generate content. Mueller also talked about several factors that are important for a page to rank high in search results.
One of the comments in the video to look at when creating a content plan:
Conduct research with focus groups, communicate more with your users. This is the only way you can understand what quality content is for your site. Feedback will give you more information than Google. After all, quality is a subjective concept, so only the publisher can determine this value.
After the BERT, Neural Matching, and Rank Brain algorithms have been released, for the articles to have good behavioral factors, be guided by the latest trends, study consumer insights. Analysis of the competitors’ content strategy will also provide useful information about what is popular among the target audience. But do not copy their actions; use the data as a guide.
Another recommendation is to create content that is not only relevant but also engaging. For example, it is better to design a website selling hand-made toys in bright colors, and there should be more images and less text. But if you have a resource for providing legal assistance, then you need voluminous articles with links to other authoritative sources.
That does not mean that you need to try to fit a lot of facts that seem unnecessary to the reader in one article. One article should cover one question. Do not take Google’s comprehensive content guidelines literally.
3. Freshness of the Content
After the release of the Caffeine algorithm, the search engine ranks updated or recently published content better. It led to the fact that many SEO specialists began to replace old articles with new ones to increase the ranking of a site.
Some experts even began to copy the content strategy of their more successful competitors in pursuit of new ideas. On Twitter, Mueller commented on this tactic:
The Caffeine algorithm was primarily aimed at enabling users to find more relevant data faster. Therefore, new and updated content appears in the search results faster. It seems that sites that update content more often should rank better. Mueller has neither refuted nor confirmed this conclusion:
Based on Mueller’s latest tweet, we can conclude that you do not need to update several pages on the site every day or create many new ones. The main thing is to make sure that the information on the page is not outdated. Otherwise, it needs to be updated. Read more in the related article Republishing Content.
Also, there has been no confirmation from Google that old, reliable content is losing rankings. In his interview in 2019, Mueller said this, and there has been no new data until now.
4. Content Relevance
In his interview dated March 6, 2020, Mueller emphasized that Google strives to make search results as relevant as possible. All the latest updates are aimed at this. Here is John’s comment during the hangout:
We are constantly testing search results. This is the only way we can be sure that we are offering users relevant results. Moreover, the preferences and expectations of the audience change over time. We need to be ready for this.
Google is carrying out research in the search console. We are testing new features and analyzing how they affect user behavior.
Analyze your target audience. Check which queries are the most popular on your site. And generate new content based on this data.
View the content of the site pages. The information on them must correspond to the search queries. If the bounce rate is high, then it is worth updating the content per user expectations. For example, your page is displayed by a search engine for a request “How much do wedding stylist services cost in New York?” But you write about the types of services and do not give a clear answer about the price. The person will simply close the tab and go to a competitors’ site.
5. Authoritativeness and Reliability of the Site
According to John Mueller and Bill Slawski, the authoritativeness of the resource plays a secondary role; the main thing is to focus on the needs of your target audience. For example, Google will consider the CDC site authoritative if a user is looking for how to treat bronchitis. But, logically, that the search engine will not show the resource when you ask where to have lunch today.
Another question arises. How does Google rank sites if the pages contain similar information? Who does the search engine prefer? In this case, the authority of the site plays an important role. If it has a quality link profile and is referenced by trust resources, then this site has an undeniable advantage.
It is worth targeting the audience, testing different types of content to understand what resonates the most. Follow the EAT guidelines for evaluating the quality of sites and gradually build quality link mass with the help of guest posting.
6. Grammar and Punctuation Mistakes
If you analyze the search results, in the TOP-10, you are unlikely to find pages with poor grammar and spelling. Therefore, some SEO specialists believe that well-written text improves page rankings. Mueller replied that the search engine will not count the number of errors and underestimate the ranking of the site if any:
Although the search engine does not take into account grammar and spelling, users are unlikely to read such an article. It will significantly worsen the behavioral factors of the page, which will lead to lower site rankings.
Always check articles before posting. Most often, editors do this before publishing material.
So, when creating content, focus on the needs and expectations of users. Experiment a lot with topics, look for the optimal format that will resonate. Write succinctly, concisely, and to the point – and you will be able to achieve good behavioral indicators, which will positively affect the ranking results in the future.