Google’s digital advertising and marketing course provides unhealthy Search engine marketing recommendation


That uproar you hear? It’s SEOs calling out Google right now. 

Google’s new Digital Advertising & E-commerce certification course, which was introduced Might 2, contains cringe-worthy Search engine marketing recommendation so shockingly unhealthy that one among Google’s search advocates – Danny Sullivan – is disavowing it.

What occurred. It began with a tweet from worldwide Search engine marketing guide Gianluca Fiorelli. In it, he shared this screenshot of a slide discussing keep away from key phrase stuffing:

That is Google’s official recommendation from the course:

  • Write greater than 300 phrases in your webpage.
    • Your webpage is extra more likely to be ranked increased in search engine consequence pages in case you write the next quantity of high quality content material.
  • Preserve your key phrase density beneath an trade customary of two%.
    • Because of this 2% of the phrases on the webpage or fewer ought to be goal key phrases.
  • Be considerate about key phrase placement.
    • Your key phrases ought to be used solely as soon as within the following locations on every web page inside your web site: web page title, subheading, first paragraph, and physique conclusion. 

“Critically… ‘write greater than 300 phrases’? and ‘key phrase density’?” Fiorelli tweeted. “I imply… key phrase stuffing is unhealthy, certain! however fixing it by spreading Search engine marketing myths that SEOs attempt to get rid of?

“I do know that this course may be very entry-level, however precisely because of this myths like these ones shouldn’t be taught. Did the SEOs in Google evaluate the course?”


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“This may be ignored”. Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison, responded to Fiorelli, primarily disavowing the course. 

“I am not on the workforce that produced that, nor are they a part of the Search workforce,” Sullivan replied. “As somebody from the Search workforce, we do not advocate any limits or ‘density’ or something like that. This may be ignored; I am going to cross it on.”

He then linked to Google’s recommendation from search, Google’s Search engine marketing Starter Information. That doc makes no point out of key phrase density or phrase rely minimums.

Key phrase density. Key phrase density is a proportion that tells you ways typically a key phrase or phrase is used on a web page. You divide the whole variety of occasions a key phrase or phrase is utilized by the whole variety of phrases used. Then multiply by 100 and you’ve got your proportion. (Or simply copy-paste a URL or your textual content right into a free on-line key phrase density calculator.)

Here is the enjoyable factor with key phrase density. I’ve spoken with many SEOs up to now who swear they efficiently discovered the appropriate key phrase density up to now and it helped them rank pages. The precise key phrase density diverse – I heard wherever from 2% to 10% was the candy spot, relying on who you talked to (and what yr) and what trade they had been utilizing it in.

So key phrase density delusion has a kernel of reality to it. As a result of it used to work. 

However let’s be clear: there is no such thing as a key phrase density “trade customary.”

Google has downplayed key phrase density, way back to 2006, when ex-Googler Matt Cutts shared recommendation about writing helpful articles that readers will love. Partially, he wrote:

“… within the on-page area, I’d advocate considering extra about phrases and variants (the ‘long-tail’) and considering much less about key phrase density or repeating phrases.”

In a 2011 video, Cutts was requested: “What’s the superb key phrase density of a web page?”

Key quotes:

  • “So the primary one or two occasions you point out a phrase, then that may assist along with your rating, completely. However simply because you may say it seven or eight occasions, that does not imply that it’ll essentially assist your rankings.”
  • “I’d adore it if folks might cease obsessing about key phrase density. It’s going to range. It’s going to range by space, it’s going to range based mostly on what different websites are rating it. It’s not a tough and quick rule.”

However Google search has superior a lot since 2011. Right now, it isn’t unusual to seek out some pages rating for sure key phrases with out ever utilizing the key phrase it is rating for inside the web page.

Key phrases completely matter. However there is no such thing as a magical ratio of key phrases to content material that may assure site visitors and rankings. 

Eric Enge, president at Pilot Holding, questioned why Google even addressed key phrase density. Enge mentioned:

  • “Significantly better recommendation can be to have true subject material consultants create your content material. For those who do this the content material will likely be fairly keyword-rich in a manner that’s naturally a match to the subject of the content material.”

Enterprise-level Search engine marketing guide Jessica Bowman mentioned she was shocked to see Google outline any key phrase density, which Google and Search engine marketing leaders have disputed for years. She additionally mentioned:

  • “I do information writers on the variety of key phrase repetitions to make use of in content material (however keep away from any dialogue/analysis on density). The explanation for specifying the variety of repetitions for key phrases is that in my expertise writers will not naturally point out key phrases sufficient to ascertain relevance for the key phrase you wish to rank for.”
  • “When guiding writers, I embody seven key phrase varieties to information writers corresponding to: Main key phrase, secondary key phrase, phrases which might be a part of an authoritative dialogue on the subject, phrases to make use of in hyperlinks, and so on. Every has a lot of repetitions to incorporate. I discover this guides the author right into a route of constructing out sturdy content material with an authoritative dialogue that may carry out nicely in search engines like google and yahoo.”

Marie Haynes, proprietor of Marie Haynes Consulting, additionally mentioned she was fairly stunned that Google’s course supplied particular recommendation on key phrase density. She questioned if, maybe, the particular person chargeable for scripting this course content material wasn’t totally skilled in Search engine marketing.

  • “As with all Search engine marketing-related data you discover on the internet, it is a good instance of why we should always all the time have a powerful reference to level to when making Search engine marketing suggestions. Not every thing that’s written on the web is true, even when it comes from Google itself!”

Phrase rely and Search engine marketing. The place did that 300-word recommendation come from? I extremely suspect a Yoast web page. Examine this quote:

“We advise writing greater than 300 phrases for normal posts or pages, whereas product descriptions ought to be over 200 phrases. Why is that? A better phrase rely helps Google higher perceive what your textual content is about. And, usually talking, Google tends to rank longer articles increased.”

To what Google says in its course:

  • Write greater than 300 phrases in your webpage.
    • Your webpage is extra more likely to be ranked increased in search engine consequence pages in case you write the next quantity of high quality content material.

See the similarity? It could possibly be a coincidence. Or not.

Google’s search representatives have mentioned, repeatedly, that phrase rely or content material size is just not a rating issue. Here is what Google’s John Mueller mentioned in:

  • 2018 on Twitter: “Phrase rely is just not indicative of high quality. Some pages have a whole lot of phrases that say nothing. Some pages have only a few phrases which might be crucial & related to queries. You understand your content material greatest (hopefully) and may resolve whether or not it wants the small print.”
  • 2019 on Reddit: “Phrase rely is just not a rating issue.”
  • 2021 in a Google Search Central Search engine marketing Workplace Hours video: “From our standpoint the variety of phrases on a web page is just not a top quality issue, not a rating issue. So simply blindly including increasingly textual content to a web page doesn’t make it higher.”

Benu Aggarwal, president and founding father of Milestone, mentioned Google speaking about phrase rely has no place in any dialogue round creating high-quality content material. Aggarwal mentioned:

  • “Good high quality content material begins from understanding 4 issues: who’s my buyer, what are they inquisitive about, what do they want to accomplish and what questions have they got. Figuring out that is essential earlier than creating related and topical content material. I really feel like Google has not up to date its personal tips to match up with evolutions in search.”

Regardless, the correlation between phrase rely and rating has lengthy been a scorching subject of Search engine marketing research. The issue, as all the time, is correlation research are usually for leisure functions solely. 

I began in Search engine marketing in 2007. Round that point, 250 phrases was thought of greatest apply for weblog posts. Then it principally began to extend each few years. 250 turned 500, then 1,000, then 1,500. Final I noticed, HubSpot was claiming 2,100-2,400 is the best size of weblog posts.

We additionally had some briefly common ideas, like 10x content material and skyscraper content material (till folks discovered “outcomes might range” and never all people needed to learn a novella earlier than studying screw in a lightbulb).

My recommendation on writing content material is straightforward: write what it is price. It ought to be lengthy sufficient to be complete and higher than what your competitors has printed. 

Phrase rely is actually a kind of “it relies upon” conditions – it will depend on the kind of content material, the format, your objective, the viewers, the trade, search intent, and plenty of different variables. Additionally, weblog posts should not product pages or different varieties of pages. As Enge instructed me:

  • “Simply to level out one apparent concern, on many e-commerce pages you’d count on that there can be fewer than 300 phrases on the web page, and sure little to nothing that seems in some type of a paragraph (i.e., principally bullet lists of options).”

Why that is unhealthy. Google mentioned “all course instructors are Google workers who’re subject-matter consultants.” However this recommendation clearly calls into query the validity of this course and the worth of the certification.

This example made me consider a quote from the film “Inception”:

“An thought is sort of a virus. Resilient. Extremely contagious. And even the smallest seed of an thought can develop. It may well develop to outline or destroy you.”

Exchange “thought” with “Search engine marketing delusion” in that sentence, and that is the issue. Anyone from (or on behalf of) Google wrote this course. I think many Googlers watched and gave sign-off on the content material of this course. 

Now, many are predicting that some folks will use this course to say to be “Search engine marketing licensed” by Google. 

Loads of unhealthy Search engine marketing myths have made the rounds over time. However the origin for many of these myths might all the time be traced to conclusions drawn by practitioners and influencers publishing articles or “analysis research,” talking at conferences, or sharing updates on social media. 

Google has supplied loads of high-level steerage round Search engine marketing greatest practices, however nothing as particular and outright flawed as this earlier than – not to mention in digital advertising and marketing coaching that ends with official Google certification. 

Bowman mentioned that is one other reminder that you must watch out what kind of content material you learn – as a result of generally it’s outdated recommendation, even when it was lately printed. Bowman additionally mentioned:

  • “It’s higher to get an understanding of Search engine marketing by studying from Search engine marketing trade thought leaders who’ve been round for some time – the place you may see throughout the board what appears to be working and legit techniques, as a way to establish what’s unhealthy or questionable recommendation. From there select the ‘particular person’ you wish to prepare you and your workforce, as a result of this Google certification exhibits that even identified and revered firms have folks giving out unhealthy recommendation.”

Actually, most of Google’s search representatives have tried to debunk these unhealthy Search engine marketing myths up to now. Repeatedly.

Why we care. Google touted this certification as a method to upskill or reskill workers. The issue: this course has unhealthy Search engine marketing recommendation. Anybody who takes this course is studying unhealthy practices that any individual, sooner or later, should assist them unlearn. 

Sure, the course is “free” proper now. However folks make investments their time (which is one factor they’ll by no means get again) on this certification, all to study some unhealthy Search engine marketing practices that would not have even helped you rank a decade in the past. 

Whereas Sullivan brushed it off, saying it may be ignored, the folks taking the course most likely will not learn his tweet disavowing it. Or the opposite tweets and social media updates calling it out for inaccuracy. Or the articles calling it out, together with this one. That is the issue. And it is one that may’t be ignored. 

Jori Ford, chief advertising and marketing officer at FoodBoss, gave credit score to Sullivan for his response, however hopes to see a extra considerate one which outlines what Google is doing to appropriate/rectify vs. saying, do not observe the recommendation. Ford mentioned:

  • “All of us make errors, however even Google suggests utilizing SEOs, as a result of let’s be sincere, search is endlessly altering, a lot in order that not even inside groups are all the time on top of things. This can be a stable instance of simply that.”

In 2016, Google concluded Search engine marketing certification can be a “unhealthy thought.” Nicely, they had been proper. Right here we’re in 2022 and Search engine marketing is a part of Google’s certification in digital advertising and marketing. And it is definitely proving problematic, simply days after launching it as a chunk of its digital advertising and marketing certification. 

Google is a trusted authority. It’s the largest search engine on this planet. Most individuals taking this course (once more, given by Google workers who’re subject-matter consultants) will belief the knowledge they’re being taught about Search engine marketing. Hopefully, Google will replace this course and have it reviewed by true Search engine marketing subject-matter consultants. 

If Google retains educating Search engine marketing myths, these Search engine marketing myths will solely proceed to unfold like a virus. Besides this time, the parable is coming straight from Google itself. 

Postscript (Might 11): Google has eliminated the key phrase analysis and key phrase stuffing part of this course. Fiorelli tweeted an up to date view of the Week 3 part of the course through the screenshot beneath:


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About The Creator

Danny Goodwin is Managing Editor of Search Engine Land & SMX. Along with writing every day about Search engine marketing, PPC, and extra for Search Engine Land, Goodwin additionally manages Search Engine Land’s roster of subject-matter consultants. He additionally helps program our convention sequence, SMX – Search Advertising Expo.

Previous to becoming a member of Search Engine Land, Goodwin was Government Editor at Search Engine Journal, the place he led editorial initiatives for the model. He additionally was an editor at Search Engine Watch. He has spoken at many main search conferences and digital occasions, and has been sourced for his experience by a variety of publications and podcasts.



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