There’s a debate going on in the SEO community likely triggered by a widely shared Search Engine Journal article by Jeff Ferguson. In it, Ferguson writes that Google still ranks by individual web page, not by the website as a whole – a fact that was confirmed when he flat-out asked Google’s John Mueller on Twitter. To some web owners, this is nothing new; to others, it may come as a surprise.
This information is interesting because it touches on virtually every aspect of SEO and, in Ferguson’s opinion, lays to rest many, many SEO debates we’ve been privy to over the years.
The fact that Google ranks web pages rather than websites means a couple of things:
- Google treats web pages the same regardless of the domain it’s published on. This means a high-authority website, theoretically, doesn’t affect a page’s ranking, right? Except, maybe it does. More on this later.
- Google treats each web page as its own entity. Pages get crawled and indexed independently of the greater universe they exist in. On the contrary, that greater universe doesn’t even matter.
- Content about different, seemingly unrelated topics doesn’t damage your Google ranking. Google ranks the quality of each web page, meaning it doesn’t expect you only to produce content about one subject to be deemed a high-authority source.
- Subdomain or subfolder? It really doesn’t matter. Regardless of where your web pages live, Google will treat them the same.
- One bad page does not drag down your entire website. A page that loads slowly or isn’t appropriately optimized doesn’t affect your site as a whole.
- Internal links can be incredibly powerful tools. As their own, independent entity, your website’s high-authority pages can pass valuable link juice to other pages on your domain. This also explains why content clusters have proven effective.
The end! Well, not quite. While Ferguson’s article simplifies the situation – and many of us hope the answers to SEO are, indeed, so obvious – the debate rages on. In a Search Engine Roundtable article by Barry Schwartz, Schwartz says that Google does rank individual web pages, but the overall site has a huge influence on the ranking pages. In fact, Schwartz argues that Google ranks both, and is of the opinion many SEOs share that Google’s algorithm scores include individual web page scores and overall site scores.
Over the past few days, prominent SEOs have taken to Twitter to share their opinions, and for the fence-sitters amongst us, it might leave us feeling even more confused than before. Which side of the coin is more correct? For now, only the gatekeepers at Google know.
More SEO News You Can Use
Google Will Stop Ranking Low-Quality Web Stories That Act As “Teasers”: It looks like we’ve been taking advantage of Web Stories, and Google is no longer having it. In a new blog post, Google’s guidelines discourage the use of Web Stories as a means of traffic acquisition and article click-throughs. Google says Web Stories that are used to tease content (for example, a top 10 listicle that stops at point number 3) are a poor user experience that has garnered negative user feedback. That’s not to say a blog post can’t inspire a Web Story – Google simply expects Web Stories to act as standalone pieces of content that tell the full story without forcing users to complete their content journey by clicking through to a site. Anything less will be deemed low-quality content and won’t get ranked.
Google Has Launched an Updated Mobile Design and Interface: Google’s emphasis on mobile-friendliness has officially extended to the aesthetics of Search. The major visual redesign for Google’s mobile Search results provides a cleaner, more modern experience while making the interface easier to read. Though the changes appear subtle, there are several of them: Google has updated fonts, shapes and colors and brought more information into immediate focus. But, as Barry Schwartz pointed out in his blog for Search Engine Land, any design change, no matter how small, could result in changes to search behavior. If you’re seeing rankings fluctuations, it could be down to something as seemingly insignificant as bolder text.
Microsoft Advertising Adds Filter Link Extensions: In an announcement on its Advertising blog, Microsoft revealed it is now offering an extension that allows advertisers to present several different features under categorized headers, letting users navigate between key products with ease. On search engine results pages (SERPs), Filter Link Extensions allow ads to show one header with 3-10 clickable text values. Microsoft Advertising already offers 36 predefined headers that advertisers across several verticals can leverage. Filter Link Extensions don’t only do a great job of distinguishing ads on SERPs and communicating a business’s various products or services – they also give advertisers an in-depth understanding of the offerings users are most interested in.
According to Google, the Same Content in Different Formats Is Not Considered Duplicate: In a recent Google Search Central office-hours stream, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that identical content published in different formats is not flagged as duplicate content – it’s perfectly safe, for example, to repurpose a video as an article. Mueller explained that even if a blog repeats the content of a video word-for-word, Google won’t view these different formats as duplicates. Mueller then went a step further, implying that duplicate content isn’t necessarily the big deal SEOs make it out to be. It’s not that Google goes out of its way to penalize sites with duplicate content; instead, it will look at two versions of the same content and pick one to present in Search results. That certainly gives us plenty to ponder.
Google Does Not Put a Limit on How Much Traffic Sites Receive: For years, there’s been a rumor doing the rounds that Google throttles Search traffic to sites displayed in Google Discover – the Android feature that recommends sites of interest to mobile users. So, why the suspicion? Web publishers say they have noticed traffic coming in bursts and that daily traffic numbers seem to hit a ceiling. Someone asked John Mueller this very question in an office-hours hangout, and Search Engine Journal’s Roger Montti reported on his response. Mueller explained that Google wants to show users a website that is particularly relevant for a search query and would never hide what it deems to be quality content from anyone. In short, traffic throttling is a myth.
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