On August 22nd, Google released their 63rd episode of “Search Off the Record,” titled “Let’s talk ranking updates,” a podcast with Google experts aimed towards helping SEO specialists be “in the now” with the latest Google ranking updates. In this episode, Martin Splitt, the narrator, John Mueller, a Google search expert, and Danny Sullivan, a Google Search liaison, sit down to talk about Google’s algorithm updates and how they impact not only Search but how SEOs are utilizing search. With a mixture of insight and comedy, they provide a solid background for a better understanding of Google’s current climate, what we can do right, and what we might be doing wrong.


You can listen to it for yourself here!


Google’s Search Algorithm Updates happen more often than we think

In this episode of “Search Off the Record,” experts Martin, John, and Danny sit down to discuss a variety of common misconceptions about ranking updates. But one thing is clear: they’re constantly happening, and probably more often than we think.

Search engines are a dynamic universe, constantly updating to provide the most beneficial and helpful experience to the user searching. In previous years, Google caught on to the amount of people within SEO requesting detailed information on updates. And while Google has always aimed to be as transparent as possible, this has resulted in the creation of a few different helpful channels for SEOs, including SEO Office Hours, Search Off the Record, guides, videos, social posts, and more.

Google aims to share large updates, such as the “Helpful Content Update” to community members or big algorithm updates, such as the one that occurred at the end of March in 2023. Since these updates are substantial and outline potentially new suggestions for guidelines, documentation is always available for these types of updates.

However, the more consistent and less significant updates that may or may not affect your website are not always documented. Google evolves as we as searchers evolve, but they make it clear that their suggestions have remained the same: quality content and a good page experience take the cake.


[00:08:20] And the whole goal is to be able to say, “Hello, web community, Google has made a update to one of its ranking systems. This is the ranking system, and this is how you can learn more about it. And as you say, John, if you suddenly noticed a change that’s happening, then you understand it’s probably related to that particular system, and you understand that, “Well, all my traffic went up, so I don’t have to do anything.” Good for you, Google. I love it.

[00:08:49] Or if maybe you’re performing less well, then you want to review some of that guidance. That also leads to, you know, the thing that comes up is, “You’re pushing all these updates, too many updates! Stop it! And they’re all overlapping and it’s too many! And my head’s going to explode, stop it!” And none of that’s true.

[00:09:11] So, you know, a couple of things there. First of all, it’s not that we’re doing more updates to our ranking systems than ever before, but we’re hopefully communicating more about it, which is what everybody had said they wanted. So it’s like, before, it’d be like, “Did something happen?” It’s like, “Maybe.” And now it’s like, “Yes, we are telling you there was this change to our ranking systems. This is what it was, so you know.”

[00:09:39] That also leads back to all the mystery updates that happen. It’s like, we do do updates all the time. But when we talk about them, those are the ones where really, like, you probably should pay attention to. We think they’re notable in some way.

[00:09:51] Sometimes, as we all know, everybody starts talking about a ranking update and we’re like, we don’t even know. Like we’re all running around behind the scenes going, “Did we do anything?” And they’re like, “No, we didn’t do anything. We don’t know what’s going on.”


Suggestions for Ranking Higher on Google Remain the Same

Although Google’s algorithms are constantly updating, the suggested rules for ranking on the SERP have remained the same. Google aims to provide both a good page experience to users all while providing them with suggestions for relevant, helpful content. In other words, writing the same blog that 20 other competitors have written, but in different wording, to rank for a keyword will not get you very far in this current climate, or if it is, probably not for long.

Google wants to see you providing unique, relevant content to your targeted demographic. This includes first-hand experiences, writing in a relevant tone & voice, providing unique value, and speaking directly about the products or services you offer and how they help.

If you notice that your rankings start to fall and you can’t quite figure out why, it might be time to review the quality of your content and how well it aligns with what Google is asking for.

Creating Helpful Content [Google’s Guidelines]


[00:06:44] As a creator, none of this really should cause you to do anything different. Like, when we had the helpful content system introduced, the guidance has always been creating helpful stuff for users, so it really shouldn’t cause you to have to do anything different.
[00:07:01] But, of course, if you’ve seen a change after one of these systems has been launched or an
updated system has been launched, then that’s probably a sign that maybe you’re not as aligned as you
should be with what these things have been looking for, what Google’s generally trying to look for. So rereview that advice, and maybe it’ll help you get aligned with those systems better.
[00:07:23] Martin Splitt: Nice, cool.
[00:07:24] John Mueller: So it’s a lot, I guess, more about, if you see some changes and you see that something on Google’s side has changed, then you can look up to see what kind of change and, based on that, you could review your content and say, “Oh, well, I have reviews and I was being a bit lazy and I pulled in a lot of specs from websites instead of actually reviewing the content.” And now you’re like, “Well, maybe I should spend some time fixing these things up.”


And no, there is no word count minimum

Countless studies have been done on high-ranking content over the last few years, and many companies and “experts” claim that in order to rank, content has to be at LEAST *insert number* words per page. Generally speaking, the suggestion has always been to keep it over 500, but some people have even gone on to say that in order to rank you need 1,500+ words on the page. Is this true? No. 

While Google doesn’t have a word count, it’s important to note that for some topics, it may be more beneficial to provide users with specific, tailored information that answers a question or solves a problem they’re looking for a solution to. In many cases, content below 500 words may lack information- but it’s important to know that the lack of information is the cause of no ranking- not the word count.

Avoid attempting to hit a certain word count for ranking purposes. Instead, ask yourself, “Am I offering advice or an answer to a question that’s relevant to the user? Is there any more information I can add that would be helpful?”


[00:27:02] You would get so much of this other stuff. And people know this, right? This is the other complaint you tend to hear. Like, well, you have to have all this stuff and people write it long because Google says you have to have a gazillion words. And actually, we don’t say that at all. Not one place, do we think, anywhere saying, “Your character count need to be…”, this sort of thing. I think it’s becoming a real turnoff to a lot of people.
[00:27:24] And I know it’s a struggle because you also need to, if you’re producing content, understand how the content is going to generate revenue for you. We want you to produce good content and that you’re going to be successful with it.
[00:27:37]  But I think more of just sitting back and thinking, “If I were a person coming into this, would I actually be satisfied?” “Did I really write this for an actual person, that I’m thinking about my audience?”
[00:27:50] And if you’re doing that, you really feel like the way you do it works and you’re getting the feedback from your audience that it’s all great. Do it. Just do it. Keep going that way, right? But maybe there’s some reflection there. And that’s what I would say, to kind of think about it a bit more.


Blog writing in a “Helpful Content” world

In this podcast, search experts touch on blog writing, specifically speaking to recipe blogs and travel blogs, but for one specific purpose: stop writing the same content over and over again. The example given was from Danny, who recently went on a trip to Iceland and reviewed travel blogs prior to departure. He noticed that the first page of blogs ALL had the exact same talking points. However, upon coming back, he wishes that those blogs mentioned certain information that would be helpful to him, such as parking, expectations, etc. Blogs that in short, provide a first-hand experience, or at the very least, information that lends itself to believe the writer has been there before.

As you’re writing blogs, make sure to review the existing information on the first page of search results. Ask yourself if your blog offers something unique and how clearly outlined it is in the article. What can you offer?


[00:26:04] Danny Sullivan: But I read so many travel blogs to the degree that I want to write my own now, just to explain it, because I was getting exhausted, because they’d all start off the same way. And this is, I’m going to have the travel bloggers come after me. So I read so many travel blogs and they’re always like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going on an amazing world trip.”
[00:26:20] And, before I got started on this trip to this one particular place in Iceland, I packed my sunscreen, I packed my jacket, affiliate link, I did this, I packed that. And so I get, you want to, and I had my GPS compass, like, “I’ve just got to park and then walk in to watch the waterfall, I don’t need all that stuff.” I know why it’s all there, because that’s part of the business model of producing this content.
[00:26:42] And then it’s like, “Whenever you go, the sun is shining and…” It’s like, I just wanted to know, like, where do I park? How do I get to the place? How long do I need to be there? And that you’ve actually been there.
[00:27:02] You would get so much of this other stuff. And people know this, right? This is the other complaint you tend to hear. Like, well, you have to have all this stuff and people write it long because Google says you have to have a gazillion words. And actually, we don’t say that at all. Not one place, do we think, anywhere saying, “Your character count need to be…”, this sort of thing. I think it’s becoming a real turnoff to a lot of people.


“I’m tired of reading SEO content”

One of the talking points in this podcast was also feedback they’ve heard on how users are tired of reading SEO content when trying to search on Google. John Mueller makes it clear that it’s not so much the “SEO” aspect of this, rather than the influx of content written for search engines instead of your targeted audience. If someone can read your content and says, “That’s for SEO,” what they’re actually more or less trying to say is, “This content isn’t written for me.”


[00:22:35] I think one of the things that’s a real struggle, getting real, getting heart to heart now, talking to all you SEOs out there working in the trenches. But I think one of the things that has been interesting is, you’ve seen, especially over the past year or two, generally people saying, “I don’t like all this SEO content that I’m encountering.” Right?
[00:22:59] Now, having been an SEO and being familiar with SEO, I always think about that scene in “The Matrix,” where the guy’s looking at the code and he just sees people, right? I just see people, you know? And it’s like, whenever I look at a page, I just see SEO, right? Because you’re like, “Oh, oh, oh.” But you’re really seeing the SEO. Like, you’re really understanding some of the stuff that might have been going on.
[00:23:24] For an ordinary person to say that they see the SEO, I don’t think they are necessarily seeing the SEO as much as they’re using that for a euphemism of, “This content really wasn’t designed for me, it was designed just to rank in a search engine.” And then, and of course, that’s not what we want people to do.
[00:23:42] And I think to be successful as an SEO, you want to make sure that, if you’re producing content, that no one’s going to have that reaction, which aligns with what we say. And that’s a hard thing, because you’re like, “But we have this product, so we thought, ‘Should we have a blog post about it?'” And it’s like, “Yeah, that maybe is helpful to have a blog post explaining the types of products that are out there.”
[00:24:05] But, if it feels too much like you’re pushing your own product, and the main reason you did it that way, I think people become much more savvier and they understand, “Well, the only reason you did this was because you’re trying to pull me in. You’re not really trying to be helpful with it or whatever.”
[00:24:23] Or at least if you were going to do it, I didn’t need you to do the blog post listing the five different products out there and “Oh, surprise, my product is number one,” as much as maybe I needed you to just do a post explaining more in depth about how your own product works, because maybe that’s more authentic.


googles algorithm updates

Bottom Line

In wrapping up, if you’re an SEO specialist or content creator feeling overwhelmed by Google’s frequent algorithm changes or ranking updates, the 63rd episode of “Search Off the Record” is a must-listen. The episode doesn’t just clarify what Google is looking for; it provides actionable advice on how to adapt your strategies for better rankings. From the importance of crafting high-quality, user-focused content to the need for authenticity in your writing, the insights offered are both practical and immediately applicable. This episode serves as a clear guide for anyone looking not just to survive but to thrive in the ever-evolving world of SEO. So, don’t just aim to rank—aim to provide real value, and the rankings will follow.