Google’s John Mueller answered if it’s still true that Google doesn’t understand sarcasm. Google’s John Mueller offered an explanation of when sarcasm might not be appropriate in the context of Google search.
Sarcasm is a way to express contempt or mockery by the use of irony and is meant to reveal something negative about the object of said sarcasm.
It’s kind of close to satire, which is more of a lighthearted use of words to poke fun of someone or an institution but without the negativity of sarcasm.
Google Discover Excludes Satire
Satire and sarcasm are two different things. However they might have the same effect on Google in that they are not direct statements but have subtext and extra meanings.
I mention satire only because in April 2021 Google updated the Google Discover guidelines to note that satire sites would be excluded from being shown in Google Discover.
The reason Google gave for excluding satire is because it “might confuse readers.”
So the person asking the question has a good reason for asking it.
Does Sarcasm Confuse Google Semantically?
The person asking the question didn’t provide any background information as to why they were asking it.
This is the question:
“Is Google better at understanding sarcasm in 2021 or should you still try to avoid it?
For example, the sentence:
“Some medical name” works for jet lag if your hamster is correct medically because no study has been run on humans.”
But is there a risk that it confuses Google semantically?”
Mueller Affirms that Google Cannot Understand Sarcasm
John Mueller answered the question and then offered a suggestion for where sarcasm might not be appropriate for Google and when it might be okay and it doesn’t really matter.
“I would say there’s definitely a risk that we misunderstand things like that or that we don’t understand when there is sarcasm on a page.
And especially if it’s something where it’s really critical for you to get the right message across to Google and to all users then I would make sure it’s as clear as possible.
So maybe in cases where you’re talking about medical information, maybe try to avoid sarcasm.
If you’re writing about … an entertainment topic or something like that then that’s like probably less of an issue.
But especially if it’s really critical information then really make sure that it’s as easy as possible to understand.”
Straying Off-Topic May Confuse Google
Sarcasm could be said to be a little off topic sometimes. Additionally, one must also think hard about making comparisons between the object of an article and something completely different.
For example, an article about dogs could become confusing to Google if the article veers off for a paragraph discussing a scene from a 1950’s monster movie.
I recently audited a business-related website where the publisher suffered devastating rankings loss.
Reading the articles I noticed that the articles strayed wildly off topic with side discussions about secret societies, celebrity scandals and other oddly off topic paragraphs in what should be business related articles in a sensitive topic.
The person went through each article and removed the off topic bits and improved the focus. Within a few months the rankings returned.
That experience showed the value in staying on topic in every article because it makes it easy for Google to understand.
And making content easy to understand is at the heart of search engine optimization.
So when John Mueller said that sarcasm might not work in a medical context, another way to think about it is that sarcasm might be off topic not just for Google but for the readers as well.
Google Still Not Good with Sarcasm?
Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 36:40 minute mark