Google’s John Mueller, Gary Illyes, and Martin Splitt released another podcast this morning. In this case, they covered a number of topics, including SEO rendering, but John Mueller also joked about ranking factors. It's fun to listen to, so I recommend it.
The chatter begins after about 14 minutes and 19 seconds in the podcast:
Here is the transcript if you don't want to listen:
John Mueller: [00:14:19] Okay. Speaking of ranking factors.
Martin Splitt: [00:14:29] Oh oh!
John Mueller: [00:14:31] All right. It's a delicate subject when I see people writing about it all the time. I see that we use that too. We use it when we talked about the Page Experience Benchmark, which we said was a ranking factor. And then obviously the next question from everyone is: How strong is a ranking factor?
Do I have to throw my website away and just create a quick blank page instead? And of course that doesn't make any sense either. I think there are two mental models that I have when it comes to ranking factors in general. On the one hand, the search is not a science. I think that's really important when you consider that there is no absolute truth about which page to rank for which query.
Rather, these are things that can change over time. These are things, things that people are working on to make things better. And sometimes you can discuss with smart people which of these pages should come first. Or if we have two very similar sites, should both rank or should only one of them rank?
I know there are interesting discussions, but everything is based on what I don't know, opinions and ambiguous information that you have on the Internet. So that's one thing. And the other thing is that there are so many different ways to get a final search result.
It's not that every site has to do the same. So I'm using a mental model of something like a neural network that we wouldn't do in search, but it helps me somehow if we take our user's query and try to understand and split it up into many small parts and these little signals that we get from what the user is looking for, they go through this big network, in which different nodes on the way let the individual parts pass, or they guide them a little bit. And in the end we created a simple ranking for the different websites for this type of query. And if you have such a network, there are many different paths that can lead through this dental work and lead to the same result.
So it's not that every site has to do the same thing, there are several ways to get there, and you don't have to blindly just follow a ranking factor to get to the bottom line. And it is not the case that a certain type of factor is the decisive factor within this large network or that one can say that this factor plays a 10% role because it may not matter for some websites, for some queries does matter at all. And maybe it's the deciding factor for other websites, for other requests. It's really hard to say how to hold them together. Of course, this type of large network also changes over time as we try to improve our search results and essentially try to optimize the understanding of the query.
We try to optimize how we understand the routing between the query and the search results. These types of changes are constant and the best way for a website to stay in a stable position, which is not guaranteed at all, is really to make sure that you have a variety of different factors that you are working on and these Maintain diversity of your website. Similar to how you might want to improve diversity in a team to get different perspectives. This is the same thing you want to see on a website so that we can understand that that website is relevant in different ways regardless of how things are routed through that network to find the search results.
And all of this tells us that it is actually relevant to a particular query. That's all to say that it is really, really difficult to take a particular item and say that it does affect search results in one way or another. And similarly, it is almost impossible to walk away from the other side and say: when I look at the search results, I can see that this particular search result factor is as important or more important than this other factor because it really is not the case that you can route things backwards and say: well, if you look ahead, it does, and if you look back, it's exactly the same route because there are just so many different ways to get to the end result. So that's kind of my short monologue about ranking factors. I think it's worth considering that there are many different ways to get there if you talk externally about ranking factors.
And it's not something that you can simply derive into a particular item or simplify into an ordered list of items that you need to check off, but you have to make sure that your website is good in different ways. And don't just blindly focus on a particular element and then try to make that element look natural so hopefully the algorithms don't think I want to do something sneaky here, just make sure that everything is somehow natural .
The whole podcast is just fun, but that was a good part of it.
Forum discussion on Twitter.