Google’s Reply Overshadowed by Redditors’ Expertise

  • July 10, 2024
  • SEO
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An SEO professional posed an intriguing question on LinkedIn about why an anonymous user on Reddit could outperform a reputable website with a named author in search rankings. Google’s response provides a fascinating glimpse into the complexities of search rankings and elucidates why Reddit can sometimes rank higher than expert-penned articles.

Why Do Anonymous Redditors Outrank Experts?

The query aimed to understand why content created by an anonymous Reddit user could rank higher than that of a credible author from a well-known site like PCMag.

The SEO professional wrote:

“I was referring to how important the credibility of the writer is now. If we search for ‘best product under X amount,’ we see, let’s say, PCMag and Reddit both on the first page.

PCMag is a reliable source for that product, while Reddit has user-generated content (UGC) and surely doesn’t guarantee authenticity. Where do you see this in terms of credibility?

In my opinion, Google must be focusing more on this, especially after the AI boom, where misinformation can be easily and massively spread.

Do you think this is an important factor in rankings anymore?”

This follow-up question underscores what the SEO perceives as a flaw in Google’s search ranking methodology:

“As we can see, Reddit, popular for anonymous use, ranks much higher than many other websites.

This means that content from anonymous users is acceptable.

Can I conclude that a blog without any ‘about’ page or ‘author profile’ can also perform as well?”

Relevance and Usefulness Versus Credibility

Google’s John Mueller responded to this query by emphasizing that websites are multifaceted and cannot be evaluated solely on perceived credibility. Credibility is just one aspect of a website’s overall quality. Mueller’s response highlights the multidimensional nature of search and SEO.

John Mueller’s response:

“Both are websites, but also, they’re quite different, right? Finding the right tools for your needs, the right platforms for your audience and for your messages – it’s worth looking at more than just a simplification like that. Google aims to provide search results that are relevant & useful for users, and there’s a lot involved in that.

I feel this might fit, perhaps you have seen it before -”

Does Reddit Lack Credibility?

When it comes to specific subjects like recipes, one might argue that Reddit lacks credibility compared to niche websites or professional food bloggers. For instance, the insights of a seasoned food blogger or a professional site like Serious Eats could be perceived as more reliable than a random Redditor’s opinion.

However, the context changes when discussing product reviews. Reddit can be a goldmine of firsthand experiences and detailed user reviews, which is exactly what Google aims to rank highly. A Reddit user’s hands-on experiences with a product over an extended period can be very valuable for other potential buyers.

It’s important to understand that user-generated content (UGC) on platforms like Reddit does not negate the value of professional reviews. Both can coexist and offer valuable insights to users. This reinforces John Mueller’s point about not oversimplifying search ranking criteria to just one dimension.

The person asking the question missed considering the aspect of hands-on experience, which illustrates what Mueller means when he says that it’s essential to look beyond a simple explanation of search ranking factors.

OTOH… Feels Like A Slap In The Face

Many high-quality websites featuring original content, photos, and professional reviews based on real-world experiences are struggling with rankings. This discrepancy has not gone unnoticed by industry observers, and some experts are hopeful that future Google updates might correct these anomalies.

It can indeed feel disheartening for an expert author to see their meticulously crafted content outranked by an anonymous Redditor. However, understanding the multifaceted approach of Google’s ranking algorithm offers a broader perspective on navigating SEO challenges.

Multidimensional Approach to SEO

A frequent mistake among some digital marketers and bloggers is evaluating search engine results pages (SERPs) through a limited scope, focusing on a few dimensions such as:

  • Keywords,
  • Expertise,
  • Credibility,
  • Links,

While analyzing SERPs is essential, restricting this analysis to a handful of factors can be counterproductive. A few years ago, SEOs believed “author signals” were critical for ranking, a belief now largely debunked as a misinterpretation of Google’s statements.

The “authorship” trend in SEO is an example of an overly simplistic approach that failed to account for the multifaceted nature of Google’s ranking processes.

The ranking of web pages is influenced by myriad contexts, such as solving user problems, understanding user needs, cultural and language nuances, national and local trends, and Google’s Core Topicality Systems. Simplifying search ranking problems to a single dimension, such as the anonymity of UGC, leads to frustration. A broader understanding leads to more effective SEO strategies.

Read the discussion on LinkedIn:

Can I conclude that a blog without any ‘about’ page or ‘author profile’ can also perform as well?

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Master1305

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