Helpful Content Alone Isn’t Enough to Conquer Google



The r/SEO subreddit never fails to spark intriguing discussions. And the most recent one that particularly caught my attention is a rant about Google favoring “giants over genuine content.”

It’s nothing new, but the user presented a substantial piece that made many SEOs drop their own take on the topic.

To sum up, the user lamented Google’s “inability to recognize the merit of well-written content,” instead relying on external and superficial metrics to prioritize well-established sites over those that are not.

He argued that exceptional content stands little chance of ranking on page one unless it’s published by a universally recognized brand, an accredited organization, or an official government website.

I understand where this user is coming from. The idea of content being ranked solely on its merit is certainly appealing, but that is NOT how the complex Google Search rankings work. His argument seems to oversimply the process or is rooted in a belief that great content alone could be all it takes to earn a decent position on the search engine result pages.

Google’s own documentation stresses the importance of creating helpful, reliable, people-first content. However, while high- quality content is undoubtedly essential for better rankings, it alone doesn’t guarantee a top position on the search results. Apparently, there’s still widespread confusion or a lack of awareness surrounding this fact.

Google’s ranking systems use numerous factors beyond content quality when determining a page’s position for a search query. These include relevance, page experience, and authority.

So, why do those well-established brands get the spotlight? They have something smaller players often lack: authority.

Giants like Forbes, CNN, and The New York Times have earned their positions over time. Their authority wasn’t built overnight; it’s the result of years, even decades, of consistent output and established trust with users. As a result, Google recognizes them as more authoritative through various indicators, including links. They rank on page one because Google knows users tend to be more satisfied with results from sites that hold authority on a topic.

That said, this is not to say that great content from lower-authority sites doesn’t deserve top exposure. Google’s ranking systems simply pose greater challenges for them to achieve that level of visibility, which remains a hotly debated topic among members of the SEO community.

For newer players in highly competitive niches, it could take years for Google to recognize their value and gain enough confidence to rank them higher.

The Reddit user went on to say that Google deliberately fails to recognize exceptional content, calling this a major flaw in the system’s so-called fairness in ranking.

I somehow agree on the part of Google’s intention, and although I also believe Google is far from a perfect search engine, I think it’s doing the right thing with its multi-factor approach in ranking. Focusing solely on content quality as a ranking factor leaves the system vulnerable to abuse and manipulation, especially with the rise of generative AI.

Should you give up on content creation then? Absolutely not! While the path to the top might be longer, SEO is alive and well. You can still achieve decent rankings using a holistic approach, with helpful content and great UX at the core of your strategy. Businesses, especially newcomers, should view SEO as a long-term investment for lasting success. Again, unless you’re in a niche with significant search volume and insanely low competition, helpful content alone won’t help you conquer Google.

(Learn more about the importance of helpful content in SEO).


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