SEO

57 SEO Insights From Google’s John Mueller

This comprehensive collection of insights from Google Search Advocate John Mueller will help you brush up on your SEO knowledge.

As Google’s Search Advocate, John Mueller shares so many SEO insights that keeping up would be a full-time job.

Mueller helps SEO professionals every week by answering their questions in a live Q&A session. Many of the tips you’ll find on this page came from office-hours hangouts.

This roundup also includes key takeaways from Mueller’s less frequent search explainer videos.

Each of these bite-sized pieces of Google insider knowledge is organized by category, beginning with ranking factors.

Here’s a list of top tips you might have missed.

1. Google does not have 200 or more ranking factors

Google has previously stated that its algorithm considers 200+ factors when ranking content.

Google is officially abandoning that figure, claiming it is deceptive and gives the wrong impression of how its algorithms work.

“… we’ve kind of moved away from the over 200 ranking signals number, because it feels like even having a number like that is kind of misleading in the sense that, Oh Google has a spreadsheet with all of the ranking signals and they can just sort them by importance and tell me which ones they are. And that’s definitely not the case.”

2. The Number of Backlinks Doesn’t Matter

Google is unconcerned about the total number of links pointing to a website.

A single high-quality link from a relevant website can have a greater impact than millions of low-quality links.

“… you could go off and create millions of links across millions of websites if you wanted to, and we could just ignore them all.

Or there could be one really good link from one website out there that is, for us, a really important sign that we should treat this website as something that is relevant because it has that one link… So the total number essentially is completely irrelevant.”

3. Changing the Dates Won’t Help Your Rankings

Changing the publishing dates on webpages without making any significant changes will not help you rank higher in Google search results.

“I don’t think it would change anything with regards to search, and we definitely wouldn’t rank those pages differently in search just because you’re changing the date and time on a page.”

4. Duplicate content is not a ranking factor

In terms of search rankings, duplicate content has no negative impact on a site. Google handles the situation by displaying one version of the content while ignoring the others.

“So if you have the same content on multiple pages then we won’t show all of these pages. We’ll try to pick one of them and show that. So it’s not that there’s any negative signal associated with that. In a lot of cases that’s kind of normal that you have some amount of shared content across some of the pages.”

5. Presentation Has the Potential to Influence Rankings

A website’s visual presentation can affect its visibility in search results.

“Sometimes those small differences do play a role in regards to how people perceive your website. If, for example, you have something that is on a financial topic and people come to you and say “well your information is okay but it’s presented in a way that looks very amateurish,” – then that could reflect how your website is perceived. And in the long run could reflect something that is visible in search as well.”

6. Customer Feedback Is Not A Ranking Factor

Google’s algorithms do not use customer reviews to rank web search results.

They are employed in local search rankings but not in organic web search rankings.

“As far as I know we don’t use the number of customers or reviews when it comes to web search, with regards to ranking. Sometimes we do pull that information out and we might show it as kind of a rich result in the search results.”

7. Ranking changes may take up to a month to take effect

It may take up to a month for changes to appear in Google’s search results after a site’s quality issues have been resolved.

“How long that takes… yeah… it’s hard to say… it’s really hard to say… to re-crawl that across a larger site that can take a bit of time, especially if you make bigger changes like across everything if you change the structure of your website.

I would assume something like that, just purely from a technical point of view would take… I don’t know… maybe a month.”

8. Removing blog comments may have an impact on rankings

Blog comments are indexed by Google just like other content, which means they could help web pages rank in search results.

As a result, removing all blog comments from a site may affect its rankings.

“I think it’s ultimately up to you. From our point of view we do see comments as a part of the content. We do also, in many cases, recognize that this is actually the comment section so we need to treat it slightly differently. But ultimately if people are finding your pages based on the comments there then, if you delete those comments, then obviously we wouldn’t be able to find your pages based on that.”

9. The Core Web Vitals Are More Than Just a Tiebreaker

Mueller confirms that the Core Web Vitals ranking factor is more than just a tiebreaker, contrary to popular belief.

“It is a ranking factor, and it’s more than a tie-breaker, but it also doesn’t replace relevance. Depending on the sites you work on, you might notice it more, or you might notice it less…

The other thing to keep in mind with core web vitals is that it’s more than a random ranking factor, it’s also something that affects your site’s usability after it ranks (when people actually visit).”

10. The Core Web Vitals Ranking Factor is computed. Slowly

Every 28 days, Core Web Vitals data is collected and updated. That is, the scores reported in Google Search Console or tools such as PageSpeed Insights are reports of what Google measured in the previous (roughly) 28 days.

As a result, even if core web vitals scores improve, it will take time for the ranking signals to have an impact. Mueller says it’s too early to tell whether this will change or if there will always be a general lag.

“I don’t know if that’s decided completely yet. I mean… part of that is also that there is just a general lag for the data anyway… We kind of have to wait that period of time until we have collected enough data…

So I suspect it’s not something that will be optimized for… speedy updates but more kind of to have a clear understanding of the overall picture… my guess is it’ll be more something of a slow thing rather than a real-time change.”

Read SEO Tips for Small Business: 5 Ways To Rank Better.

11. Traffic Has No Effect on Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals scores are derived from actual traffic, but the traffic has no bearing on the scoring.

“It doesn’t matter if millions of users are seeing that or just… I don’t know… thousands of users are seeing it… the pure number of visitors to your site is not a factor when it comes to core web vitals and generally not a factor for ranking either.”

12. Google My Business Is Required For Local Search Rankings

Optimizing your Google My Business listing is just as important as optimizing your website if you want to rank well in local search results.

“… it sounds like what you’re looking at is a local service or local business, essentially. And for that I would make sure that you really have a really strong Google My Business entry set up. Because that’s something that can be shown a little bit easier in the search results for queries like this.

And in particular, queries that include something like “near me,” it’s not that you need to rank for “near me” because near me is essentially, like… global. It’s not something specific on your website.

But rather what you need to do t here is just make sure that you have your location very clearly defined on your pages, so that we can recognize this location is associated with your website or with this page and the user is in that location.”

13. The price of a product is not a ranking factor

Offering competitive prices may help attract more customers, but it does not affect eCommerce store search rankings.

“Purely from a web search point of view, no, it’s not the case that we would try to recognize the price on a page and use that as a ranking factor.

So it’s not the case that we would say we’ll take the cheaper one and rank that higher. I don’t think that would really make sense.”

14. The number of words in a document is not a ranking factor

The theory that word count affects search rankings is untrue.

If a shorter article conveys the same information as a longer article, Google will recognize it as providing the same value to searchers.

As Mueller points out, ranking content based on which page has more words than the other makes no sense.

“We don’t use word count for ranking. It’s fine to use word counts for *yourself* as a guideline for your content, if it encourages better content from your writers.”

15. Rankings Still Use Original Page Titles

Mueller confirms that original titles are just as important as they were before an update to how Google generates page titles in search results.

Even if Google replaces your carefully crafted page title in the SERPs, it will still be used for search rankings.

“You never know how these things evolve over time, but at least at the moment it is the case that we continue to use what you have in your title tag, in your title element, as something that we can use for ranking.

It’s not like something that replaces everything for the website, but it is a factor that we use in there. Even if when we display the title for your page we swap out maybe that one keyword that you care about, we would still use that for ranking.”

16. E-A-T Is Not A Factor In Ranking

After Google mentioned E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) in its Quality Rater Guidelines, the belief that it is a direct ranking factor began to emerge.

Mueller confirms that it isn’t. There is also no such thing as an “E-A-T score.”

“…  it’s not something where I would say Google has an E-A-T score and it’s based on five links plus this plus that.

It’s more something that, our algorithms over time …we try to improve them, our quality raters try to review our algorithms and they do look at these things.

So there might be some overlap here but it’s not that there’s a technical factor that’s involved which would kind of take specific elements and use them as an SEO factor.”

17. There Is No Single Determinant In Search

There is no single ranking factor that you can point to and say is more important than others.

A ranking factor may be important for one query but have no bearing on another.

“And it’s also not the case that any particular kind of factor within this big network is the one deciding factor or that you can say that this factor plays a 10% role because maybe for some sites, for some queries, it doesn’t play a role at all.

And maybe for other sites, for other queries, it’s the deciding factor. It’s really hard to say kind of how to keep those together.”

18. The Use of Heading Tags Is a Strong Signal

Text within a heading tag sends a strong signal to Google, informing it of the topic of the page and the keywords you want it to rank for.

“And when it comes to text on a page, a heading is a really strong signal telling us this part of the page is about this topic.

…whether you put that into an H1 tag or an H2 tag or H5 or whatever, that doesn’t matter so much.

But rather kind of this general signal that you give us that says… this part of the page is about this topic. And this other part of the page is maybe about a different topic.”

19. Keywords in the domain name have no effect on rankings

If a keyword appears in the domain name, a website is no more likely to rank for that keyword.

Keywords in domain names are not a ranking factor.

You’re much better off with a domain that reflects your company’s name or is related to your brand.

“Just because a website has a keyword in its domain name doesn’t mean that it’s more relevant than others for that keyword.

In short, you don’t need to put keywords in the domain name.”

20. Make the focus keyword as visible as possible

Mueller strongly advises placing a page’s focus keyword in the most visible areas, such as titles, headings, and subheadings.

“I would recommend that if there’s something that you want to tell us that your page is about, to make that as visible as possible.

So don’t just put that as a one-word mention at the bottom of your article. But rather, use it in your titles, use it in your headings, use it in your subheadings, use it in captions from images…

All of these things, to make it as clear as possible for users and for Google when they go to your page that this page is about this topic.”

21. Enhance It Or Remove It

When asked if it is preferable to improve low-quality content rather than remove it, Mueller says that improving it is the better option.

However, if you have no intention of improving the content, you should remove it.

“I think if that’s something that you think is good content that you want to publish with your website, with your name, then I would keep it. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s bad.

But if you look at it and you say, oh, this is embarrassing for me now, I don’t want it to be online, it’s like so bad. Then that’s something where I’d say either improve it or remove it.”

22. Place Special Content Above The Fold

In the above-the-fold area of a website, there should be at least some unique content.

There will always be some content that is duplicated across multiple pages but aims for a minimum amount of unique content at the top of the page.

“The important part for us is really that there is some amount of unique content in the above the fold area. So if you have a banner on top, and you have a generic hero image on top, that’s totally fine. But some of the above the fold content should be unique for that page.”

23. Spelling and grammar are of utmost importance

Google considers poor spelling and grammar to be a quality issue because they can have a direct impact on a user’s experience.

“With regard to spelling errors, grammatical errors, I think that’s something that’s a bit more of almost like a gray zone in that on the one hand we have to be able to recognize what a page is about.

And if we can’t recognize that because there’s so many errors on the page in the text, then that makes it harder.

The other aspect is also that we try to find really high quality content on the web and sometimes it can appear that a page is lower quality content because it has a lot of grammatical and technical mistakes in the text.

I would almost say spelling and grammar is probably for most websites a higher priority than broken HTML.”

24. The majority of content is indexed within a week

When a new page is published, it may take several hours to several weeks for it to be indexed.

Mueller believes that most good content is picked up and indexed within a week.

25. It Is Not Duplicate to Have the Same Content in Different Formats

Duplicate content does not include identical content published in different formats, such as a video and a blog post.

Google is unable to transcribe the dialogue in a video to compare it to the written content in a blog post.

“First of all we don’t do text analysis of the videos and then map them to webpages. If your video has the same content as your blog post it’s still something different. People sometimes go to Google with the intent to read something, and sometimes they go to Google with the intent to watch something or to listen to something, and those are very different things.

We wouldn’t not say the text in this video is exactly the same as a blog post therefore we don’t show either of them or we only show one of them. So if you have a video that matches your blog post I think that’s perfectly fine.”

26. It’s OK to have a lot of affiliate links. If the information is valuable

It’s not a bad idea to have a lot of affiliate links on a page if the main content adds value to the web.

Websites can use as many affiliate links as they want on a single page as long as there is also useful content.

“There is no limit. From our side it’s not that we’re saying that affiliate links are bad or problematic. It’s more a matter of, well, you actually need to have some useful content on your page as well. So that’s kind of the angle that we take there.

The amount of affiliate links that you have on a site is totally irrelevant. The ratio of links to article length is also totally irrelevant.”

27. Embedded Videos Are Worth the Same As Uploaded Videos

Videos embedded from other websites have the same SEO value as videos hosted natively on a website.

“It’s essentially the same. It’s very common that you have a separate CDN (content delivery network) for videos, for example, and technically that’s a separate website. From our point of view if that works for your users, if your content is properly accessible for indexing then that’s perfectly fine.”

28. Having Too Many Internal Links Can Reduce Their Value

The use of a large number of internal links on the same page can dilute their value.

When asked if too many internal links on a page are harmful, Mueller responds:

“Yes and no. I think, in the sense that we do use the internal links to better understand the structure of a page, and you can imagine the situation where if we’re trying to understand the structure of a website, with the different pages that are out there, if all pages are linked to all other pages on the website, where you essentially have like a complete internal linking across every single page, then there’s no real structure there.

So regardless of what PageRank, and authority, and passing things like that, you’re essentially not providing a clear structure of the website. And that makes it harder for search engines to understand the context of the individual pages within your website. So that’s the way that I would look at it there.”

29. Using images rather than HTML for charts

When displaying a chart in the main content, Mueller recommends using images rather than plain text on rare occasions.

There is no advantage to coding a chart in HTML. An image with a clear alt attribute is perfectly acceptable.

“I think it depends a bit on what you want to achieve with the chart. Usually, these kind of things I would just add as an image and make sure that you have an understandable alt attribute for the image as well.

So if there’s any critical information in that chart that you need to get across then put it in the alt attributes. So that we can pick it up as text, so that people who can’t see the image can also get that information. But in general I would just use images.”

30. Anchor Text Should Be Contextual

Internal links can help Google discover more articles on a website, so the anchor text should provide context for the linked page.

“With regards to internal links you’re giving us a signal of context. So basically you’re saying, in this part of my website you’ll find information about this topic. And that’s what you would use as the anchor text for those internal links…

With regards to external links, if you’re linking out to other people’s websites, the same things. Like, supply some context why people should go and click on this link, what kind of extra information it gives.”

31. Long Anchor Text Provides More Context to Google

On a page, there’s nothing wrong with using long anchor text. It may be beneficial.

Google uses anchor text to learn more about the page to which it is linked.

The more context you provide to Google, the longer the anchor text.

This information will be considered when ranking the page.

“I don’t think we do anything special to the length of words in the anchor text. But rather, we use this anchor text as a way to provide extra context for the individual pages.

Sometimes if you have a longer anchor text that gives us a little bit more information. Sometimes it’s kind of like just a collection of different keywords.”

32. Google Doesn’t Get Sarcasm

Writing in a sarcastic tone may endear readers, but it will not earn you any brownie points with Google.

Sarcasm is likely to be misinterpreted by Google’s algorithm, so avoid using it when writing content that communicates critical information.

“I would say there’s definitely a risk that we misunderstand things like that or that we don’t understand when there is sarcasm on a page.

And especially if it’s something where it’s really critical for you to get the right message across to Google and to all users then I would make sure it’s as clear as possible.

So maybe in cases where you’re talking about medical information, maybe try to avoid sarcasm.

If you’re writing about … an entertainment topic or something like that then that’s like probably less of an issue.”

Technical SEO

33. Some Schema Markup Types Cannot Be Combined

Certain types of structured data markup can be combined in Google’s rich results, but not others.

“… in the search results, some of the rich results types we can combine and some of them we can’t combine. So, for example, if you have a recipe and you have ratings then we can often combine that in the search results, in one rich results type.

However, if you have an FAQ and you have a how-to, then at least from what I recall what these look like, these are things that wouldn’t be combined in a single rich result type, which means our systems would have to pick one of them to show.”

34. There Is No Advantage To A Flat URL Structure

An artificially flat URL structure, in which every page appears to be one click away from the home page, is not required.

Google isn’t concerned with the number of slashes in a URL. It considers URLs to be content identifiers rather than a means of understanding site structure.

“You don’t have to have kind of an artificially flat directory structure. So from that point of view, if you have a directory structure that users can recognize and where you can tell that sometimes people are like even typing in the URL, or copy and pasting parts of a URL together, I think that’s perfectly fine. There’s no need to hide that kind of URL structure from users by doing URL rewriting or anything like that.”

35. 404 Errors Are To Be Expected

Because 404 errors are common on websites, Google does not consider them to be a negative ranking factor.

Even if Search Console shows that up to 40% of a site’s pages are 404s, there’s no reason to be concerned.

“I don’t think that would look unusual to us. It’s not like we would see that as a quality signal or anything. The only time where I think 404s would start to look like something problematic for us is when the home page starts returning 404s. Then that might be a situation where we go: “oh, I don’t know if this site is actually still up.”

But if parts of the site are 404, like, whatever. It’s like a technical thing, like, it doesn’t matter.”

36. Geotargeting Does Not Require CCTLD

It is not necessary to use a country-code top-level domain (ccTLD), such as.de for Germany, to geotarget searchers in that country.

“No, it’s not required.

In general, if you want to use geotargeting there, there are two ways to do that.

One is to use the country level top-level domain, which would dot DE for Germany in that case.

The other is to use a generic top-level domain and to use a geotargeting setting in search console.

So that could be, for example, a dot Com website or dot Net or dot Info or dot EU or whatever.

Any of those would also work and then you just set geotargeting for Germany.”

37. There is no technical fix for quality issues

Technical fixes can only take you so far in terms of improving your search rankings.

A website must meet a certain level of quality to be taken seriously by Google, which cannot be achieved solely through technical fixes.

“Website quality is not something you can fix with technical changes. If you want search engines to take your site more seriously, you really, really need to improve the game there.”

38. URL Length Is An Indicator Of Canonicalization

A URL’s length is a light signal used by Google to determine which version of a URL is canonical.

If everything else is equal, Google will most likely choose the shorter version of a URL to display in search results.

“We use URL length very lightly for canonicalization, so if we spot url.htm?utm=greencheeseandham and url.htm, we might shoose url.htm as the canonical assuming all else is the same. That can make it look like shorter URLs are better for SEO, but it’s really just a side-effect.”

39. Keep URLs the Same When Revamping a Site

If you go so far as to change the URLs, you may end up doing more harm than good.

When making changes or improvements to a website, make sure the URLs remain consistent.

If the URLs are changed, Google may crawl them as new pages, which means that the search rankings are reset.

“For revamps there’s sometimes a few things that come together and it’s sometimes tricky to figure out exactly what all is happening.

But the main thing that I would watch out for when you’re doing a revamp is to make sure:

That the URLs stay the same as much as possible so that you don’t change the URL structure.

That the internal linking stays the same as much as possible.

That the content and the layout on the pages stays the same as much as possible.”

40. Structured Data Is A “Very Light” Signal

Structured data helps Google understand what a page is about, but SEOs shouldn’t rely on it to have a significant impact on search rankings.

Why?

Because it’s only a flashing light.

If you want Google to know what you want a page to rank for, communicate it in the main content.

“How do you rank something purely from SD hints? It’s an extremely light signal. If you’re worried, make the content more obvious.”

41. Using multiple H1 tags on the same page is acceptable

Is it recommended by Google to use only one H1 heading? No.

Publishers may use as many H1 headings as they wish.

“You can use H1 tags as often as you want on a page. There’s no limit, neither upper or lower bound.

Your site is going to rank perfectly fine with no H1 tags or with five H1 tags.”

42. Nofollow Links in Guest Posts

If you submit a guest post to another site with a link back to your site, that link must be marked with a nofollow tag.

The same is true for guest posts that are published on your site with a link back to the author’s site.

Because Google considers guest posts to be promotions for the author’s site, any links contained within the content are not considered natural links.

As a result, a nofollow tag must be present to prevent Google from mistaking you for part of a link scheme.

“The part that’s problematic is the links — if you’re providing the content/the links, then those links shouldn’t be passing signals & should have the rel-sponsored / rel-nofollow attached. It’s fine to see it as a way of reaching a broader audience.

Essentially if the link is within the guest post, it should be nofollow, even if it’s a “natural” link you’re adding there.

FWIW none of this is new, and I’m not aware of any plans to ramp up manual reviews of this. We catch most of these algorithmically anyway.”

43. Google Prefers Structured JSON-LD Data

There are two types of structured data that you can use to markup your website.

The first is JSON-LD, and the second is microdata.

Google accepts both formats but prefers JSON-LD.

“We currently prefer JSON-LD markup. I think most of the new structured data that are kind of come out for JSON-LD first. So that’s what we prefer.”

44. Keyword-Rich Meta Titles Are Not Contrary to Google’s Policies

Though Google does not recommend it, stuffing keywords into a page’s meta title is not against the search engine’s rules.

Previously, it was assumed that doing so would be considered keyword stuffing and would result in a demotion.

That, according to Mueller, is not the case.

“It’s not against our webmaster guidelines. It’s not something that we would say is problematic. I think, at most, it’s something where you could improve things if you had a better fitting title because we understand the relevance a little bit better.

And I suspect the biggest improvement with a title in that regard there is if you can create a title that matches what the user is actually looking for then it’s a little bit easier for them to actually click on a search result because they think “oh this really matches what I was looking for.”

General SEO

45. SEO Won’t Go Out of Style

Mueller believes that search engines will never advance to the point where SEO becomes obsolete.

This allays fears that Google’s machine learning will advance to the point where good content will rank without the need for SEO.

“I think one of the things that people always worry about is everything around machine learning and that Google’s algorithms will get so far as to automatically understand every website and SEO will be obsolete, nobody will need to do that. I don’t think that will happen.”

46. It’s a great time to start a side business in SEO

Mueller believes that with the release of the Page Experience update, the time has come to begin optimizing websites.

“A good consultant who helps a site get into the green can be worth a lot of money. If you like this kind of work, if you like working on a low level on websites, and have practice with various setups/CDNs/plugins/frameworks, now’s the perfect time to level up and get paid well for it.”

47. There are times when there is no SEO solution

SEO is not always the best way to improve a site’s ranking. Mueller claims:

“One of the things to keep in mind is that it’s possible that there’s just no SEO solution. 6 years is a long time, and the web + Google News + everything around it has evolved quite a bit.

Sometimes it’s not a technical issue, sometimes it’s not something you can fix by just “buying a bunch of links,” sometimes it’s just that the site strategy is now obsolete.”

48. By default, Google indexes mobile versions of pages

Because of the switch to mobile-first indexing, Google now indexes mobile versions of pages rather than desktop versions by default.

In the case of sites with distinct mobile URLs, this means that the m-dot version is indexed.

“The change with mobile first indexing is that we’ll use the mobile version (m-dot) as the version for indexing, instead of the www (desktop) version. For most sites, this change has already happened. If your site is already indexed with mobile, nothing will change.”

49. Avoid Relying on Google Discover Traffic

Because referral traffic from Google Discover is likely to fluctuate, it’s best not to rely on it as a reliable source.

“… with Discover it’s something which is not tied to a specific query. So it’s really hard to say what you should be expecting because you don’t know how many people are interested in this topic or where we would potentially be able to show that.

So that’s something where, if you do see a lot of visibility from Google Discover, I think that’s fantastic. I just would be careful and kind of realize that this is something that can change fairly quickly.”

50. Use “Digital PR” to Build Links

Mueller emphasizes the importance of link building through digital PR (public relations). He clarifies that it is not spam. In fact, it may be just as important as technical SEO.

“I love some of the things I see from digital PR, it’s a shame it often gets bucketed with the spammy kind of link building. It’s just as critical as tech SEO, probably more so in many cases.”

51. Rankings On Mobile And Desktop Are Contextually Personalized

Individual users’ needs for some searches differ depending on whether they search from mobile or desktop, and this can influence rankings.

“… It’s normal that desktop and mobile rankings are different.

Sometimes that’s with regards to things like speed. Sometimes that’s with regards to things like mobile friendliness.

Sometimes that’s also with regards to the different elements that are shown in the search results page.

For example if you’re searching on your phone then maybe you want more local information because you’re on the go.

Whereas if you’re searching on a desktop maybe you want more images or more videos shown in the search results. So we tend to show …a different mix of different search results types.

And because of that it can happen that the ranking or the visibility of individual pages differs between mobile and desktop.

And that’s essentially normal. That’s a part of how we do ranking. It’s not something where I would say it would be tied to the technical aspect of indexing the content.”

52. Syndication Has the Potential to Influence Rankings

Republishing and/or syndicating content on other websites can lower your website’s chances of ranking for target keywords.

Syndication/republishing, according to Mueller, is a bad idea:

“If you’re republishing, then it *is* duplicate content. If you goal is to reach a broader audience, go for it. If your goal is that only your site ranks for those queries, then syndicating / republishing is a bad idea. Pick your goals & select the work that helps you reach them.”

53. Search Isn’t A Science

Search is not an exact science in the sense that all websites must take the same steps to achieve favorable rankings.

There are numerous approaches to achieving high Google rankings. Every site does not have to adhere to the same design guidelines.

“I think that’s really important to keep in mind in the sense that there is no absolute truth out there with regards to which page should be ranking for which query…

So it’s not that every site has to do the same thing, but rather there are multiple ways to get there and you don’t have to blindly follow just one ranking factor to get to the end result.”

54. How Do Google Discover’s Core Updates Affect You?

When Google makes a major change to search results, it also affects how content is displayed in Google Discover.

If your traffic increases or decreases following a core update, but your search rankings remain stable, it could be due to changes in Discover.

“We do use a number of the same quality algorithms in Discover as we use in web search. When a broad core update happens in web search it’s very common that you would also see changes in discover as well. So that’s certainly not totally unrelated.”

55. Google does not index all pages

Google does not index all of a website’s pages, even if it is aware of them.

According to Mueller, it is completely normal for up to 20% of pages not to be indexed.

“The other thing to keep in mind with regards to indexing, is it’s completely normal that we don’t index everything off of the website.

So if you look at any larger website or any even midsize or smaller website, you’ll see fluctuations in indexing.

It’ll go up and down and it’s never going to be the case that we index 100% of everything that’s on a website.

So if you have a hundred pages and (I don’t know) 80 of them are being indexed, then I wouldn’t see that as being a problem that you need to fix.”

56. There is no such thing as a “sandbox” or a “honeymoon.”

There is no such thing as a “Google sandbox,” in which new pages are purposefully delayed from appearing in search results.

There is no “honeymoon period” in which new pages receive a ranking boost because Google prefers fresh content.

Google makes assumptions about where a new page should rank when it is published.

Sometimes those assumptions are incorrect, which is why a page may rank high at first and then drop dramatically.

“In the SEO world this is sometimes called kind of like a sandbox where Google is like keeping things back to prevent new pages from showing up, which is not the case.

Or some people call it like the honeymoon period where new content comes out and Google really loves it and tries to promote it.

And it’s again not the case that we’re explicitly trying to promote new content or demote new content.

It’s just, we don’t know and we have to make assumptions.

And then sometimes those assumptions are right and nothing really changes over time.

Sometimes things settle down a little bit lower, sometimes a little bit higher.”

57. Low Traffic Does Not Indicate Poor Quality

Be wary of assuming that a page’s low traffic means it’s of poor quality.

Even if a page does not receive as much traffic as other pages on a site, it can still be useful and of high quality.

As a result, it’s critical not to remove pages from your site simply because they’re not receiving as much traffic as you’d like.

“On some websites, pages that get low traffic are often almost like correlated with low quality as well but that doesn’t have to be the case.

On other websites it might must just be that a lot of traffic goes to the head pages and the tail pages are just as useful but they’re useful for a much smaller audience.

So they get barely any traffic.

From our point of view, those websites are still useful and it’s still high quality.

I wouldn’t remove it just because it doesn’t get traffic.”

Conclusion

There are many moving parts in SEO, and Google’s John Mueller is one of those who help the community understand how everything fits together.

It’s difficult to keep up with everything between his weekly live Q&A shows, dozens of daily tweets, occasional Reddit forum posts, and random bits of insight from around the web.

That’s why we’re here.

Follow Search Engine Journal’s coverage for the most up-to-date information from Mueller and the rest of Google’s search relations team.

Need help with our free SEO tools? Try our free Robots.txt GeneratorGet Source Code of WebpageDomain into IP.

Learn more from SEO and read A Data Science Approach to Internal Link Structure Optimization.

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