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Google SearchLiason: 4 Reasons Why A Webpage Couldn’t Rank

Four takeaways from Google SearchLiaison's impromptu audit that explain why a webpage had trouble ranking

Google Webpage Audit

Someone asked on Twitter why their articles aren’t ranking well and Google SearchLiaison surprised everyone with a mini site audit of things needing to be fixed.

A person (@iambrandonsalt) tweeted on X (formerly Twitter) asking if anyone could offer an explanation of why some pages of their site was having problems ranking.

He tweeted:

“Does anyone have an explanation to why some of our articles are not showing up in the SERPs… at all?

I’ll update the article with new info, it pops back in and ranks well, then disappears again.

This is happening to lots of our great content, it’s very frustrating :(“

That person subsequently shared the URL of the site under discussion and that’s when SearchLiaison tweeted a response.

Google SearchLiason Mini Site Audit

SearchLiaison’s mini audit spotted three problems that may be causing the site to underperform in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Overview Of Why A Webpage Is Underperforming In SERPs

Below is an outline of four things that SearchLiaison called attention to. I wouldn’t take what they say as indicative of actual ranking factors.

But I would encourage taking his advice seriously. SearchLiaison/Danny Sullivan, has been involved in search for almost 28 years and now he’s working on the inside at Google.

So he understands what it’s like to be on the outside, which makes him a unique and valuable resource to listen to.

Four Highlighted Content Issues

1. Original Content Is Not Apparent

2. A lack of content that demonstrates experience

3. Unsatisfying Content

4. Stale Content That Doesn’t Deliver

The above are the three main reasons why SearchLiaison felt the webpage was having trouble ranking in the SERPs.

1. Originality Front And Center

Here is his post that offers the specific details:

Here’s the part where he called out the seeming lack of original content:

“Took a look. Will share a few things that maybe might be generally helpful. At first glance, it wasn’t clear to me that there was much original content here.

It looks and feels at first glance like a typical “here’s a bunch of product pages.”

I really had to go into it further to understand there’s original stuff going on.”

It’s great to have original content and it should be readily apparent. I think what SearchLiaison meant when he said that the page looked like “a bunch of product pages” is that the content was a list of features.

One can rewrite what the product features are but that doesn’t make it original. The words may be original and even unique but what they communicate is not original.

Going further from what SearchLiaison said, I would add that what’s lacking is any sign that the person writing the content has actually handled the product, which relates to experience.

2. Does Content Demonstrate Experience?

And yes! SearchLiaison also talked about experience.

He wrote:

“Deck 1, 4 and 9 have long video reviews, it looks like — so cool, you’ve used them, have experiences to share. That’s all great. Maybe make that a bit clearer to the reader? But … it could also be me.”

What SearchLiaison may mean is that reading the content there’s no mention of the physical properties of the product are. Is it light? Does it fit well in the hand? Does it feel cheap? The content is largely a list of product features, a way of writing that doesn’t communicate experience.

3. Unsatisfying Content

An important thing about content is that it should satisfy the reader.

Reader satisfaction is so important the Google Search Quality Raters Guide emphasizes this for the main content (MC):

“Consider the extent to which the MC is satisfying and helps the page achieve its purpose.”

This is what SearchLiaison said:

This is what SearchLiaison said:

“But most of the other devices … don’t exist yet.

You’re promising the reader that these are the best alternatives for 2024. And maybe some of these will be, but if they don’t exist yet, that’s potentially a bummer and unsatisifying to people coming to this page?

Maybe those upcoming devices belong a page about — upcoming devices?”

4. Stale Content That Doesn’t Deliver

An issue SearchLiaison picked up on is content that it is out of date and because of that it doesn’t deliver what it is promising to give.

The problem with some of the content is exactly what SearchLiaison says, that’s it’s out of date.

SearchLiaison observed:

“You also mentioned updating the page and … it feels out-of-date, so what’s being updated on it?

“As of today (April 22nd) the Rog Ally is not out yet, and it was just announced on April 1st” is on the article dated today, Jan 29, and you’d said on Jan 27 this page has also been updated, so what significant change is actually happening to warrant a new byline date?

“At the time of writing, the Lenovo Legion Go isn’t currently out, but all signs are pointing towards an October 2023 release date” — same thing, confusing to be out-of-date on a page claiming to be fresh as of today.

“The IndieGoGo pages goes live on September 5th, so bookmark it and get ready to make a very wise purchase!” — again, out-of-date.”

Advice Is Not Ranking Factors

SearchLiaison ended his critique by stating that none of what he said should be taken to be examples of ranking factors but rather things that tend to align with what Google is looking for.

“Clearly, you put work into some of the video reviews.

Maybe that needs to be more evident with some of the written write-ups. And mixing out-of-date info on a page that claims to be fresh isn’t a great experience.

It’s not that any or all of these things are direct ranking factors, and changing them won’t guarantee to move you up.

But the systems overall are designed to reward reliable helpful content meant for people, so the more this page aligns with that goal, the more you’re potentially going to be successful with it.”

Self-Assessment In Site Auditing

Sometimes it is difficult to critique ones own site. So it’s helpful to seek an outside opinion. One doesn’t necessarily need a full-blown site audit, sometimes critiquing a single page can provide a wealth of helpful information.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Mix and Match Studio

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

Google SearchLiason: 4 Reasons Why A Webpage Couldn’t Rank

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