Google just released a new guide to ranking systems – our key takeaways

By Tom Corless
22nd November 2022

Yesterday, Google released a new guide to their ranking systems. The guide covers all of the systems Google actively uses to rank search results, and whilst a lot of them we already know about in the SEO world – it’s useful to have a defined list and understand how Google is working to improve the user experience.

You can read the guide in full here to understand all of ranking components and systems in more detail, but we’ve been through and picked out below what we think are the most interesting key takeaways from just a few of the systems mentioned.

Firstly, it’s useful to know that Google has updated its terminology, defining ‘systems’ as those that continually work in the background, such as PageRank, and ‘updates’ as one-time changes to ranking systems. So, in the below – you’ll read a lot about Google’s ‘systems’.

1. Google is de-duplicating the SERPs

If a webpage is featured as a featured snippet, it will no longer be repeated as a listing on the first page of results.

This is Google’s way of decluttering the results pages, the repeated result will be ‘omitted’.

2. This is how you now view omitted results from de-duplication

When de-duplication happens, you will see a message at the end of the search results to say results were omitted, you can view these by clicking the link which allows you to repeat the search with the omitted results included.

3. It’s not worth buying an exact match domain for ranking purposes

There is an exact match domain system which works to ensure credit isn’t given for content hosted under domains designed to exactly match certain queries. For example, buying a domain name containing the words “best-place-to-stay-york” in the hopes this content would sit further up the rankings for a query containing those words. Google’s system “adjusts for this”.

4. Fresher content will be shown where it’s expected

There are freshness systems which are designed to show newer content for queries where a user would typically expect it. For example, if someone was searching about a movie which has just been released, or if they were searching around “earthquake” terms and an earthquake had happened recently.

5. Google will identify and reward original content

There is an original content system which works to ensure Google shows original content rather than those who just cite it. This includes support of a special canonical markup which content creators can use to help better understand which is the primary page if a page has been duplicated.

Google states there are ranking changes to support this, they will work to highlight articles they identify as significant original reporting.

The rater guidelines have also been changed to reflect this, giving further credence to original reporting as well as considering the publisher’s reputation for original reporting.

This could hit some news sites pretty hard.

6. Your site could be demoted if you have lots of copyright or personal information removal requests

Where Google receives a high volume of valid copyright removal requests, or personal information removals, they’ll use this to demote other content from the site in their results.

This is their way of ensuring other infringing content is less likely to be encountered.

7. Where sites are similar, preference will be given to the best user experience

In situations where there are many possible matches with equal relevance for a search, the page experience system will give preference to the site which offers a great page experience.

In other words, they’ll give preference to the site with quicker loading times, mobile friendliness, less intrusive interstitials and secure pages.

8. Product reviews have increased in importance

Google uses a product review system to “better reward high quality product reviews” as well as content which “provides insightful analysis and original research”, which is written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well.

9. AI is helping Google better understand the context behind searches

Google is using an AI system called neural matching to improve its understanding of the wider context in search queries and pages, enabling it to better connect them and improve the quality of its results for users.

Additionally, MUM – short for Multitask Unified Model – is an AI system which helps Google understand a user’s complex needs, making Google searches more semantic and context based, overcoming language and format barriers.

What should I do with this information now?

Like I said, a lot of this is information we already knew, but it’s great to have it collated in one central guide and it’s useful to understand the direction Google is taking to refining searches and improving the search results for the user – particularly with its AI systems.

If there are areas of the above that you feel your site could be affected by or you’re under-performing in, take a look through the guide in detail to understand what Google’s looking for and create an action plan now for improving things – don’t wait for your performance to be impacted.

What is helpful, is having a deeper understanding of just how many components Google works across to understand if you’re the most useful and relevant answer. It’s clear that the art of SEO is much, much more aligned with wider strategic marketing than ever before.

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