In early May, Google announced its new Digital Marketing & E-commerce certification course, a program to help digital marketing professionals brush up on or develop skills and come away with a shiny certificate to prove it. That all sounds harmless enough – but it didn’t take long for SEOs and SEO-focused publications like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, and Search Engine Journal to take issue with some of the course’s fundamentals. Here’s what happened.
On May 9, word spread among the SEO community on Twitter that Google was recommending minimum word counts and specific keyword densities for new webpage content. Specifically, the course recommended writing ‘more than 300 words on your webpage’ and ensuring ‘that 2% of the words on the webpage or fewer should be target keywords.’
The most up-to-date understanding on word count and keyword density is that they should be largely ignored. The most important thing is to deliver relevant, meaningful information to website visitors in clear, user-friendly language. As Search Engine Land pointed out, ‘Google has downplayed keyword density as far back as 2006’ and ‘today, it’s not uncommon to find some pages ranking for certain keywords without ever using the keyword it’s ranking for within the page.’
Further, Google has a year-long history of insisting that word count and content length don’t impact rankings, Search Engine Land reported. In 2018, Google Search Liaison John Mueller said, “word count is not indicative of quality.” In 2019, he said “word count is not a ranking factor.” And in 2021 he said, “from our point of view the number of words on a page is not a quality factor, not a ranking factor.”
What all this shows is that even the most well-connected digital marketing professionals sometimes get it wrong on SEO. At times, the pace of change is too rapid to keep up with; at other times, SEOs simply get stuck in their ways. Google has since updated its course to remove the antiquated advice.