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Google’s John Mueller: “Ranking Isn’t Always the Goal”

A Google Webmaster Trends analyst shares an uncommon piece of advice with SEOs.

Google’s John Mueller: “Ranking Isn’t Always the Goal”

Site owners should not be so concerned about ranking well in Google that they lose sight of making content that’s useful to people.

That’s the gist of a recent comment left by Google’s John Mueller in a Reddit thread about search rankings.

The thread asks:

“If I didn’t know what technical SEO was, but had consistent high quality CONTENT, could I rank #1?”

In response, Mueller shares a statement that’s seldom heard in the SEO world: “Ranking isn’t always the goal.”

What’s most important is to create content that people are searching for.

In theory, a page could rank well based on content alone, especially if the topic isn’t often searched for.

But how useful would it be to rank #1 for a query if no one is searching for it?

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The goal is traffic, and great content by itself will not always generate traffic.

Here is Mueller’s statement in full:

“Ranking isn’t always the goal, your site can rank well but if nobody searches for it, that’s not really useful. From that, great content alone, even if it’s world class, does not mean you’ll get great traffic. And, understanding computers doesn’t change that part either.”

Technical SEO Issues to Consider

Mueller continues his comment by directly addressing the original question.

If technical SEO was not taken into consideration at all, could a page still rank #1 with good content?

There are limits to what can go wrong when a page is built with no regard for technical SEO.

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The main issue to consider, which can make the difference between being indexed and not indexed, is the presence of a noindex tag.

If a page can’t be indexed then it can’t be ranked, so that’s the one technical issue that can hold back good content from ranking.

Mueller also notes that even a page blocked by robots.txt can still rank first. Here’s his full statement:

“Technically, there are limits in regards to what you can do wrong; if the page is unindexable, there’s nothing that can compensate.

A page blocked by robots.txt can still rank first, a page with a noindex (misunderstood CMS setting, perhaps) or one that’s not immediately reachable with a URL can’t rank at all. Paradoxically (?) blocking a noindex page with robots.txt can make it indexable.

And of course a noindex page can get indirect traffic from search too (a linking page might rank and drive traffic).”

Related: Advanced Technical SEO: A Complete Guide

Mueller’s Recommendations

To reduce any risks caused by not being familiar with technical SEO, Mueller recommends at least having some understanding of the basics.

Using a moderns CMS will automatically take care of the basics. Mueller says he’s most concerned about those with just enough technical expertise to build their own site.

“Usually my recommendation is to reduce risks and get the basics somewhat into a good shape. Using a modern CMS, something beginners or non technical folks would use, will do that for you automatically. The ones I worry about more are those that understand computers enough to make their own site :-).”

Source: Reddit

Related: Google’s John Mueller on BERT and Rankings

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Matt Southern

Lead News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt ... [Read full bio]

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