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Google Has Moved Away From 200 Ranking Signals Number via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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In a Google SEO Office Hours Hangout, Google’s John Mueller revealed that Google has “moved away from the 200 ranking signals number.” He said that having a number like that is misleading.

Mueller said it’s not the case that the ranking signals can be sorted and ranked as a list on a spreadsheet.

Google Ranking Signals

In the distant past various HTML elements were used by Google’s algorithms for identifying what a web page is about. HTML elements like the page title, headings and font sizes were given extra importance, as well as the location of keywords on a web page (top of the page more important) and links and the anchor text associated with those links.

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These were collectively known as ranking factors.

A web page literally needed to have all of these ranking factors filled out with keywords in order to rank properly.

Many of those ranking factors were described in Google’s first Stanford University research paper from 1998, The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.

It’s been over twenty years and while many still cling to the idea of ranking factors, Google itself has evolved beyond ranking factors and incorporates things like Natural Language Processing, BERT, Neural Matching and AI spam fighting, and many other algorithms.

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Not only that but by 2005 Google was already incorporating statistical analysis to identify normal sites and sites that were outliers and tended to be spam.

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Statistical analysis is not a ranking factor in the traditional sense but it played a role in ranking.

A case can arguably be made that the paradigm of 200+ ranking factors was breaking down as early as 2005.

While in the past the idea of scoring points against a list of ranking factors made sense, in 2021 the idea of a list of ranking factors to focus on for better rankings has somewhat lost relevance because of how search rankings are calculated in modern search engines today.

Which Ranking Factors are Most Important?

Someone from the search community asked John Mueller which of the ranking factors was most important.

Ordinarily Googlers have in the past mentioned that the content is the most important ranking factor. But not today.

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The person asked which ranking factors are most important:

“Among all of the 200 ranking signals, which are the most important?”

Mueller answered:

“I don’t like to rank ranking signals. So I can’t give you an answer there.

And… the other small thing there is 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.

Like… a lot of these things just take into account so many different things, you can’t just isolate them out.”

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No More Top Ranking Factors?

Mueller said that it’s not the case that ranking signals could be listed and sorted by importance and that the factors cannot be isolated out.

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Mueller didn’t elaborate beyond that. But it’s easy to understand how complicated Google’s search engine is today.

For example, the MUM algorithm can take images as an input (no keywords!) and provide an answer sorted from web pages around the world, regardless of language.

How would a general ranking factor like links or keywords in title even work in a scenario like that?

John Mueller has given the search community a deep insight into ranking factors by stating that the signals cannot be listed and sorted by importance because the search community believes that ranking factors can be sorted and ranked.

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Citation

Google’s Moved Away from 200 Ranking Signals Number

Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 49:47 minute mark:

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NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

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