Google’s John Mueller reacted to a Reddit SEO conversation in which a search console warning regarding mobile usability appeared for a medical website which Google ranking dropped dramatically afterwards.
Because the reduction in ranks occurred shortly after the search console provided a warning about mobile usability concerns, the two occurrences appeared to be connected.
The individual was discouraged since they repaired the problem and confirmed the modification using Google Search Console, but the ranking alterations had not been reversed.
“Around Aug. 2022, I noticed that Google Search Console was saying ALL of our pages were now failing Mobile Usability standards. I had a developer “fix” the pages…
…I resubmitted the sitemap & asked Google to “Validate” all of my fixes on Oct. 25, 2022. It has been 15 days with no movement.”
Understanding why Google Ranking dropped dramatically
In the Reddit conversation, John Mueller said that the mobile usability concerns were unconnected to the dip in ranks.
“I’ll go out on a limb and say the reason for rankings changing has nothing to do with this.
I’d read the quality raters guidelines and the content Google has on the recent updates for some thoughts, especially for medical content like that.”
This is an excellent illustration of how the most obvious explanation for something happening is not always the correct reason; it is merely the most obvious. Even though it appears to be so, obvious is not the same as accurate or correct.
When diagnosing an issue, it is critical to retain an open mind regarding the reasons and to not stop diagnosing an issue at the first more evident answer.
John rejected the mobile usability issue as substantial enough to effect rankings.
His response stated that major content quality concerns are a more likely cause of a ranking shift, especially if the adjustment occurs around the same time as an algorithm update.
The Google Raters Guidelines provide a guide for judging site quality objectively, devoid of subjective notions of what defines site quality.
So it seems reasonable that Mueller advised the Redditor that they study the raters criteria to check if the descriptions of what characterizes site quality match those of the site in issue.
Coincidentally, Google just provided updated material to assist authors in understanding what Google deems rank-worthy content.
The paper is titled, Creating useful, trustworthy, people-first content. This problem is addressed in a section of the manual: “Get to know E-A-T and the quality rater guidelines”.
According to Google’s help page, their algorithm considers a variety of characteristics to determine if a webpage is expert, authoritative, or trustworthy, particularly for Your Money Your Life (YMYL) pages dealing with medical issues.
This portion of the documentation explains why the quality raters guidelines information is important:
“…our systems give even more weight to content that aligns with strong E-A-T for topics that could significantly impact the health, financial stability, or safety of people, or the welfare or well-being of society.
We call these “Your Money or Your Life” topics, or YMYL for short.”
Search Console Fix Validations Are Generally Informational
Mueller next discussed the search console fix validations and what they really mean.
“For indexing issues, “validate fix” helps to speed up recrawling.
For everything else, it’s more about giving you information on what’s happening, to let you know if your changes had any effect.
There’s no “the website fixed it, let’s release the hand brake” effect from this, it’s really primarily for you: you said it was good now, and here is what Google found.”
Diagnosing a ranking issue requires more than just staring at one’s own website.
It may be beneficial to thoroughly investigate the competitor’s website to determine what strengths contribute to their improved search prominence.
Following an update, it may appear that Google is “rewarding” sites that feature this or that, such as high mobile usability, FAQs, and so on.
However, this is not how search algorithms function.
In a nutshell, search algorithms attempt to comprehend three concepts:
- The meaning of a search queries
- The meaning of web pages
- Site excellence
As a result, any enhancements to the algorithm are likely to improve one or all of the three (probably all three).
And this is when John Mueller’s advice to study the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines (PDF) comes into play.
Because it’s simpler and much easier to understand, Google’s excellent Search Quality Raters Guidelines Overview (PDF) may be useful to avoid in the future to see that the Google Ranking dropped dramatically.
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