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Is This Why Some Content Ranks in Google?



Google’s Danny Sullivan tweeted that SEOs should focus on content that is “great, unique, useful, compelling.” Some in the search community pushed back on the idea.

Ranking Factors and Content

The context of Danny Sullivan’s statement is in responding to a tweet by Cyrus Shepard:

Google’s statements on ranking factors are like onions. They have layers. And when you peel too many layers, you start to cry”

Danny asserted that what SEOs should focus on is making great content that is useful, compelling, etc.

Danny Sullivan tweeted this response:

“If you have content that’s not fundamentally great in some way, dressing it up with badges, About pages or whatever very specific thing you somehow decide is the magic factor won’t help.

It needs to be fundamentally great, unique, useful, compelling.

Screenshot of a tweet by Google's Danny Sullivan

Great Content is Not Always Comprehensive

A common mistake made with content is understanding greatness as being comprehensive. Comprehensive means covering a topic from beginning to end.

However, not every topic needs to be comprehensive. The reason why short content sometimes beats comprehensive content is because sometimes a search query is satisfied by a 400 word answer.

This is particularly true in “how to” type search queries that are highly specific. If those kinds of queries can be expressed in short steps (step 1, step 2, etc.), then your users may be happier to see it answered that way.


Why Comprehensive Content Loses Rankings

Comprehensive content can tend to drift off topic. Content that ranks well tends to be on topic. Content that ranks on page two of the search results tends to contain “side topics” that aren’t essential to the main topic.

For example, if the keyword phrase is “how to catch striped bass,” introducing place names (entities) like Cape Cod, Montauk and Rhode Island into your “comprehensive” web page about catching striped bass will alter the topic of the web page.

The page won’t necessarily rank for “how to catch striped bass” but it may begin to rank for the keyword phrase plus those geographic locations (entities).

Off Topic Metaphors, Jargon, and Analogies

In my opinion, another way publishers kill their content is by using wildly off topic metaphors, jargon, and analogies. Doing it once is probably okay.

But peppering the entire web page with multiple instances of off topic elements is, in my opinion from studying why some sites are high ranked and some are low ranked, a sure way to lower the relevance of the page.

This is a common mistake of content that lost rankings in Google broad core updates. Every time Google tightens it’s association between content and search queries, web pages with off topic content starts to lose rankings.

I’m not saying being off topic is the only reason why web pages lose rankings. I’m pointing out that this is one reason out of many that pages tend to lose rankings.

Some pages lose rankings for other reasons entirely. But that’s outside of the focus of this article.


Returning to the example of “how to catch striped bass,” a common jargon in New England for a big striped bass is the word, cow.

But Google does not understand that the word “cow” in the context of fishing. Do a search for the phrase “how to fish for a cow” or “how to catch a cow from shore” and you’ll see that Google strongly associates the word (entity) cow with livestock.

So if your web page uses the word “cow” and livestock related phrases (rounding up cow stripers) in an article, it’s possible that Google may begin to associate your web page about catching striped bass with the animals that moo.

Content that Ranks is Concise and On Topic

There are many reasons why great content loses rankings in Google core algorithm updates. When doing site audits, one reason that I see now and then is the tendency to confuse “comprehensive” with being useful. Another reason I see some sites lose rankings is because the content is off topic.

Content that Ranks is Relevant to Users

Another common mistake is writing content about keywords. I find that it’s useful to write to the user intent.

When you’re talking about user intent, in my opinion you’re really talking about:

Answer the appropriate question for the keyword phrase and you’ll be closer to answering the actual reason why the user is searching.

Let’s “de-jargonize” this: Understand WHY the user is making a search query then provide the solution. Let the search results be your guide to what the user means when they type a certain search query.


Great means being above average, standing above and apart from others. In my opinion, true greatness lies in serving the user and that means focusing on aspirations, needs and goals in a way that is delivered quickly and efficiently.

Danny Sullivan suggested it was a good idea to create content that is useful. Focusing on being useful is the first step toward creating content that ranks well.


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



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.


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.


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.


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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