Google will soon release an updated version of its SEO Starter Guide, cutting the large document in half.
In a Search Off the Record episode that hosted John Mueller, Gary Illyes, and Lizzi Sassman, Sassman stated that Google plans to reduce the amount of repetitive and redundant information from the current guide.
According to Sassman, the new version will be just over 3,000 words, a considerable difference from the current 8,500-word document.
“So we did cut out at least half because there's a lot of duplication where we're explaining what is the title and like the best practices for improving titles and descriptions where we have like full on guide that we've now improved since the SEO Starter Guide was initially written. So it was like a one-stop shop, but now we have more extensive things on all of these topics. So I think part of it is like, why do we need to have it in two places?”
According to Sassman, the SEO Starter Guide is the top-viewed guide after the homepage. It ranks in the top three results for the search term “SEO.” Additionally, the guide has a 91% positive rating. So, if it’s ranking well and deemed helpful by searchers, why touch it?
The answer is consolidation. Sassman states:
“We had like seven or eight different get started like Search for Beginners, Basics of Search, SEO Starter Guide, Get Started for Developers. All of these different intro materials that were living in all of these different homes that we had scattered about. And I don't think that we need that many now that we're in one house. It might make sense if you had separate websites, but now that we're in one place we don't really need that many. “
Consolidating all the guides can help Google maintain them, leading to a better user experience (a better user experience is my speculation; it was not stated on the podcast).
Meanwhile, Illyes and Mueller speculated about the guide’s rankings after revisions.
Mueller stated on LinkedIn:
“It's always tempting to just keep adding to a comprehensive document - more words is better, right? Well, no. Having a massive opus doesn't make it easier for people just dipping their feet into the world of search engine optimization. And so, we've been working on revamping it a bit, making it a lot shorter, and more suitable for modern websites. Feedback from readers has been super-helpful in all of this (we go through everything submitted in the documentation). I'm not sure when it'll be ready, sometimes the last bits take the longest :-). Stay tuned.”
It’s important to remember that Google has stated that word count is not a ranking factor. However, Illyes makes a good point in the podcast:
“It will probably fall in rankings because we are also cutting a lot of text that people might be searching for mostly because we are trying to make the doc tighter and get rid of stuff that is less important nowadays to focus on right from the beginning at least.”
Illyes says that if the words are not on the page, how will the guide rank for them? However, Mueller counteracts the point with this:
“I think if we focus on what is useful for the users, then even if there's some ranking changes, I think that's ok. And I could imagine people might be searching for things while we say, well, this is not something we're going to cover in our SEO Starter Guide anymore. Then they go somewhere else and find information on that, which is, is perfectly fine.”
All in all, the new SEO Starter Guide should be released soon. I will update this post with a link to the new guide when it’s released.