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Content as a Google Ranking Factor: What You Need to Know

Of course, Content is King - but is it actually a ranking factor in Google's search algorithm?Learn how content affects your SEO.

Content is king.

Content is SEO.

Content marketers will rule the world (I just made up that one, but I'm sticking to it).

Without a doubt, content is an integral part of your digital marketing and SEO strategy.You can't do SEO without something to put on the page.

You can't provide value or engage your audience without text, images, audio, or video on your pages.

But is content a ranking factor in Google's search algorithm?

Evidence of content as a ranking factor

Content is fundamental to how search works – it features prominently in Google's own "How Search Works" resource:

Once Google understands the meaning of the query (the searcher's intent), it analyzes the content to determine the relevance of each page.

Which content features are important (and so important) will vary for different types of queries.That's why Google has higher standards for your money, your life (YMYL) content, as it may affect a person's health or livelihood.

Check out this Google Webmaster Tools online course on how to make a great website since it came out in 2014 (the page has been redirected).

Lessons from this module include:

  • 1.1 Determine if you need a website.
  • 1.2 Create a new website.
  • 1.3 Identify the audience.
  • 1.4 Create valuable content.
  • 1.5 Organizing the site structure.
  • 1.6 Quiz.

The "How to Make a Great Website" module is pretty simple - build a website, understand your audience, create valuable content, and have a good website structure.

This definitely shows that content must be a very important ranking factor.

Here's what Google wants you to know about what it thought was valuable at the time:

Really, not much has changed.Google is looking for value, credibility, specificity, a good user experience, etc.

In this section, Google also recommends that you:

  • Write easy-to-read text.
  • Organize your topics clearly.
  • Create fresh, unique content.
  • Act in a way that fosters user trust.
  • Clarify expertise and authority.
  • Provide the right amount of content for your topic.
  • Avoid distracting ads (to prevent them from consuming the site's content).
  • Use links wisely.

We also see these themes in the Quality Rating Guidelines.I evaluated whether these were ranking factors in another chapter (they are not).

However, the scoring guidelines go into great detail about what Google is looking for, the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EAT) of the content, and how to determine that.

Now, you can read all of this and conclude that Google is still not implicitly saying that content is a ranking factor.

But in a 2016 Google Q&A with Ammon Johns, Rand Fishkin, and Eric Enge, Google Search Quality senior strategist Andrey Lipattsev told us straight-forward what the top 3 ranking signals are.

Amon John asked:

"We've heard that this (RankBrain) is the third biggest signal now driving the results.Is it good for us to know what the first two are?Can webmasters build better websites?

Lipatsev replied:

"yes.I can tell you what they are.It is the content and links to your website.

He then clarifies that "there is no order", so it's not a numbered 1 list.ranking factor = content, 2.= link, 3.= RankBrain.

Instead, different aspects of the algorithm involve different levels, depending on the query.

So while it's safe to say that content, links, and RankBrain were the top three factors at the time, that doesn't mean that content was the #1 factor, or that these are the top three today.

Then, get more new news;In an August 2020 Webmaster Central video, John Mueller said while answering a question about H8 tags.:

“The title on the page isn’t our only ranking factor – we also look at the content ourselves.

Evidence against content as a ranking factor

There really is no such evidence.

Search is not possible without content.

Content is fundamental to how search works, Google's search algorithm checks it in many different ways, and content is a ranking factor.

Content as a Ranking Factor: Our Verdict

Google uses content as a search ranking signal.

Google uses many aspects of that content to measure whether it's the best answer to a relevant query, so just having average content isn't enough.

If you want your content to perform in search, focus on the elements that make your content unique.

Extended reading:

Is Click Through Rate (CTR) a Google Ranking Factor?

Is Canonicalization a Google Ranking Factor?

Top 8 Google Ranking Factors - What Really Matters for SEO

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