Our website has some of of low quality or spammy, this so would you suggest getting rid of all of the content on a category by category basis and see if the rankings positively change before deciding to put it back? Or should you really be looking at removing all the general stuff from it and just keeping it short and to the point of what a user would expect to read on a particular page? And does Google actually need content on pages to rank well?
You mentioned in your last Hangout that you sometimes see e-commerce sites with a lot of generalized content on their category pages which can be deemed low quality or spammy and that Google sometimes discounts this content. Unfortunately, our website has some of this so would you suggest getting rid of all of the content on a category by category basis and see if the rankings positively change before deciding to put it back? Or should you really be looking at removing all the general stuff from it and just keeping it short and to the point of what a user would expect to read on a particular page? And does Google actually need content on pages to rank well?
JOHN MEULLER (Webmaster Analyst from Google):
So the last one is definitely the case. We do need content on pages to understand what these pages are about. Sometimes we can guess at what the content is there. So if a page is blocked by robots.txt, then, obviously, we have no idea what is actually on this page, but we will have to infer to it based on things like links to those pages and anchor tags and context of those links, all of that. But obviously, it’s a lot easier for us if there is actually content on these pages that we can pick up on. When it comes to category pages, like you mentioned here, if you have an e-commerce site, then usually we will have a lot of information already on these pages. So the individual product listings will be there. You’ll have navigation. You’ll have additional context within your website where you say, well, this category is a subcategory of this group here. And all of that gives us a lot of information, a lot of context already. So for pages like that, usually, those big blocks of text that some e-commerce sites have on the bottom of their pages aren’t really that necessary. So what I would do here, as with pretty much any bigger change on a website, is test it. Take a couple of categories on your website. Remove that chunk of text on the bottom of those pages and see if Google still has enough context to understand what this page is about. If you have individual product listings on that page, then we should be able to figure out what this page is about and to continue showing it in search appropriately. But this is something that is a bit scary if you just say, well, I’ll just go through my website and delete half of the content on there because John says this additional text chunk here is unnecessary. Because that can be a pretty strong change and sometimes Google does need a little bit more information or maybe you need to refine how you actually provide that information on your pages and that’s something that you can definitely test. You can test that both for the search engines and for users in the sense that you can see how users respond to these changes on your on your pages. Maybe you could test with users to see if it makes sense to have an introductory paragraph or a couple sentences on top of the category page to better explain what this page is about. But these are all things that you can try out on your website. And usually, we will respond to changes that you make with the content fairly quickly in the sense that you’ll be able to test this maybe after a couple of weeks and already see, is this working positively, is this working negatively? Do I need to tweak this a little bit? Which other variations could I try out? Like where else could I maybe place this additional content that I have that would make sense for Google where users would be able to find it when they’re looking for that specifically? So on the one hand, like I said, we do need some content on pages, but for most e-commerce sites or most normal websites I would say, we can pull that out without you providing this big chunk of text on the bottom of the pages.