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Google Podcast Sheds Light On Ranking Systems & Updates

In the most recent episode of Google’s podcast “Search Off the Record,” Search Liaison Danny Sullivan joins the show to discuss a timely topic.

Coinciding with the rollout of Google’s August 2023 core algorithm update, Sullivan addresses common questions and misconceptions about ranking systems.

This article overviews the 34-minute episode, highlighting the most relevant insights.

Google’s Ranking Systems

Sullivan pointed out that Google’s ranking system isn’t one algorithm but many systems working together.

He states:

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, there’s the Google algorithm, and that’s it, it’s this big giant thing.’ And of course, as we all know, there’s multiple systems that all come into play.”

Ranking Updates vs. Ranking Systems

Google discussed the change from referring to Google’s algorithm updates by specific names to viewing them as ongoing ranking systems.

For example, the update formerly known as “Panda” is now seen as a persistent, integral part of a ranking system.

This reflects how these algorithm changes have become fully incorporated into and continuously optimize Google’s search results.

Google’s ranking systems are listed in an official document, which includes current and retired systems, showing how search has evolved.

However, the documentation doesn’t list every ranking system, only some key examples.

On the purpose of Google’s documentation on ranking systems, Sullivan states:

“It seemed like it would be useful to list a lot of these so that people understood them and especially I think for SEOs and creators, for them to understand some of the ones that get involved with ranking on a recurring basis.”

The Biggest Misconception

The podcast touched on SEO professionals’ mistaken beliefs about ranking algorithm updates.

One misconception is that each new update necessitates reworking your SEO strategy. However, Sullivan disagrees with this view.

On how to react to a new ranking update, Sullivan states :

“If you’ve seen a change after one of these systems has been launched or an updated system been launched then that’s probably a sign that, well, maybe you’re not as aligned as you should be with what these things have been looking for with what Google’s generally trying to look for.”

Google’s Increased Transparency

Google aims to communicate more often about its ranking systems, but Sullivan clarified that this doesn’t indicate it’s making more changes than usual.

When asked how SEO professionals might respond to Google being more transparent, Sullivan joked that some might try to ‘game’ or manipulate things to rank higher.

However, he clarified that Google provides this information to help people improve their content for people, not just chase rankings.

“I think that I feel like more of our shift these days is less about these are the specific things and more of these are the mindsets you should be following.”

Sullivan said if SEOs use the guidelines to create better, more helpful content, there’s no problem with that.

The Future of SEO: Authentic Content

The conversation concluded with Sullivan offering the following advice: Create genuine, engaging content tailored to your target audience.

He believes that the most successful websites are the ones that manage to produce content not solely to rank in search engines but also to provide real value to users.

“Now more than ever, having that authentic content that you created because you have an actual audience in mind that you know would come to it directly, that is your way forward as you try to navigate this world of how ranking systems are evolving.”

While staying informed is essential, Sullivan says most updates don’t require dramatic alterations to your overall SEO approach.

Featured Image: Screenshot from, August 2023. 

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