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Ever wonder how Google measures content relevance?

Episode Overview

The relevancy of your online content and its success in the SERPs depends on sending quantifiable, measurable signals that squarely match the core topic and intent of a given page (aka, the science of SEO). In this episode, Ben and Jordan talk about balancing keywords and page-level assets to send the right balance content relevancy signals to Google.

Topics covered include:

  • How the chemistry of assets and keywords on a given page send relevancy signals to Google
  • Why keyword stuffing no longer works
  • How the art and science of SEO can be boiled down to sending the right ‘signals’ to Google based on core topics rather than just getting the signals right


Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome to algorithm month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this month we’re taking a look inside the black box that is Google’s search algorithm. And this week specifically we’re going to publish an episode every day discussing one of the key factors that Google states impacts how their algorithm interprets your content. Joining us for algorithm week is Jordan Koene, who is a world-renowned SEO strategist and the CEO here at Searchmetrics Inc. And today Jordan and I are going to talk about how Google interprets the relevance of your web pages. But before we hear from Jordan, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions.

To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary consultation, where a member of our Digital Strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content, and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free consultation, go to Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Jordan Koene, lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc.

Jordan, welcome back to Algo week on the Voices of Search podcast.

Jordan:             All right. Yep. Thanks, Ben.

Ben:                 Great to have you back. Yesterday we talked about how Google thinks about the meaning of your queries, and the takeaway there was they break your queries down into three different segments, right? There’s queries that are informational. There’s queries that are transactional. And there’s queries that are navigational. And the takeaway there is if your pages aren’t performing you have to think about what the intent of them is, because that’s what Google’s algorithm is doing to try to understand where they’re relevant. But it’s not just what the page is trying to accomplish, it’s also what’s on the page. How relevant is it? So talk to me about how Google’s algorithm thinks about the relevance of your web pages.

Jordan:             Absolutely. And I think this is one of the areas, I think this and our next segment are the two areas where people spend most of their time and most of their focus, but relevancy of web pages is really the ability for Google to analyze a page and collect the proper information to map what is important on the page.

Ben:                 So Google is scanning what you’re putting onto the page, whether it’s your text, your images, your videos. How do they figure out what is relevant? What do SEOs need to think about to understand how Google interprets the relevance of their pages?

Jordan:             Exactly. You just nailed some of the basic signals, right? I mean, one of the basic signals that Google is looking at for relevancy is assets, right? So like what kind of assets exist on this page? What is on this page? Are there pictures? Are there videos? Is there a buy button? Is there a “sign up now”? These are all really important basic signals that allow Google to understand the relevancy, what is important on this page. In addition to that, going into the next body, Google looked at elements of copy. Oftentimes what we like to call this in our industry is keywords, and they look at these keywords into different segments of your page. So again, the theme here is relevancy of the web page. And so Google’s going to look at what keywords appear on the page, where do they appear on the page, how closely related is the keyword to the assets on the page? So is the picture titled with the same keyword as what’s in the heading or in the URL of this page?

All these little signals start to add up. And obviously over time these signals have been manipulated or changed or adapted, but ultimately Google is looking at basic information, elements that are on the page, and then keywords that appear on the page.

Ben:                 This is TFIDF, right?

Jordan:             Right. That’s one of the Macats, right? So one of the tools that we use in the search business or in the content business is TFIDF. So term frequency is one of the ways that we can analyze a page to understand how often a keyword appears.

Ben:                 Don’t tell anybody, but I know what TFIDF is, but I don’t know what it stands for outside of term frequency. What does the actual acronym mean?

Jordan:             The actual TFIDF?

Ben:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jordan:             Term Frequency Inverse Document Frequency.

Ben:                 Right, of course. Basically how many times the keyword is on the page.

Jordan:             Correct.

Ben:                 Okay.

Jordan:             It’s more of a numerical or like a statistical data point. So it allows you to not just look at how frequently your document has the word, but then also how frequently do other documents have the word. And so it’s more of a statistical measure than it is an isolated metric. Like anybody can collect the number of times a keyword is on a page, you just add them up, but this allows you to then look at it in comparison to other documents.

Ben:                 Not to go into sales pitch mode, but one of the things that I like the most about the content experience tool at Searchmetrics is it gives you an understanding of how many times you need to use a given keyword to help your page rank. In the last episode we used the NFL as an example because the season is launching. If we’re writing an article about the Patriots and we have Tom Brady listed five times, it might say, “Actually you need to have Tom Brady listed seven times on a page.” And that gets into term frequency, right? How often do you need to have the most important terms on your page to be able to give Google the signal that that’s what this page is really about.

Jordan:             You just said something that’s so important for every listener to understand, and that is that there is a huge distinction between data and signals. Because data is TFIDF. It is a data point. It allows you to analyze a document. It allows you to analyze other documents and gain a perspective on data. But the signal is the ability to match that. And you just did something that we all do natively as human beings. You said Tom Brady, New England Patriots. We all, that watch NFL and know sports, can connect those two things together.

Ben:                 If you’re not a sports fan, Tom Brady and Giselle.

Jordan:             There you go, for the non-sports fan. Exactly. For everyone that’s watching TMZ, that’s the example. But the reality is that it requires a tremendous amount of machine learning and systems in place to make those connections and to have those connections store so that when you’re analyzing a document you can see what’s relevant and understand what’s relevant.

Ben:                 So there’s term frequency, there’s the assets on the page. You mentioned if there’s a buy button it’s likely a transactional page. What are some of the ways that SEOs can master the relevance of their page to give the right signal to Google to make sure that their content is ranking?

Jordan:             That’s the art of SEO, right? And I think that’s one of the things that we as operators are constantly trying to refine and improve upon. And I’d like to be very cautious here because I think in the past this has been an area of manipulation. Like let’s just add the word Tom Brady another 50 times and hopefully that works.

Ben:                 I think what we should do is let’s put it in white text on a white background and a bunch at the bottom of the page. [crosstalk 00:08:12] We’re still doing that, right?

Jordan:             Those hacks. Yeah.

Ben:                 Don’t do that everyone. Please.

Jordan:             Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Those are not recommended things to do. But these are the things that have been done in the past to try and improve the relevancy of your web page. But the reality is that this is a much more delicate art today. And to answer your question, what should we be doing today to help improve the relevancy of our pages? One of them is understand how to use data to inform signals and then make decisions. And connecting those sequences is the absolute center of relevancy of your web page. So understanding is my web page actually relevant for the terms that I’m trying to rank for? Does it contain the assets? Does it contain the keywords? Does it contain the experience required to be relevant? And from there determining what signals you want to measure over time to improve your likelihood of ranking and then ultimately adapting and changing over time to do so. And that’s the art of SEO that is not necessarily entirely capsulated relevancy of the web page, but it’s certainly the starting place to become a higher ranked web page.

Ben:                 I think my takeaway here for understanding how Google’s algorithm evaluates the relevancy of your web page is it is very much a math game, not an English game. Right? It is not about what are the words that you have on the page, it is how you’re setting up systems to evaluate the performance of your page so you can use the right language to be able to test to see if that makes an impact. Whether you can use imagery, right? You’re saying this is the art of SEO, I actually think that this is more of the science of SEO, where if you have the right tools in place to evaluate what drives performance, you can use creativity, you can use different imagery, you can use different language to test what makes a difference. So to me, understanding the relevance of your web page is really about understanding what the KPIs are that you’re trying to accomplish and being able to evaluate what moves the needle.

Jordan:             That is absolutely true. You are absolutely right. And I was kind of bridging that gap towards the art, but you are absolutely correct. Relevancy of your web page is squarely focused on quantifiable signals, measurable signals of your page and assets. And that’s really what Google is looking at. That’s how Google’s systems ingest the data and collect the data to then make better decisions.

Ben:                 Can you just say you were right one more time? I want to make sure we got it on the recording.

Jordan:             I know this does not happen often, but yes, you were right.

Ben:                 All right, everybody. We’re not going to get any better than that, so that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, the lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Jordan you can click on the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is @JTKoene, and that’s J-T-K-O-E-N-E. If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about being a guest on the show, you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a tweet @BenJShap. That’s B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to for your complimentary advisory session with our Digital Strategies team.

If you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to discuss how Google’s algorithm thinks about the quality of your content. Okay, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.





Jordan Koene

Jordan Koene

Jordan Koene is the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. a wholly owned subsidiary of Searchmetrics. Previously, Jordan was the Head of SEO and Content Development at eBay. During his time at eBay, Jordan focused on utilizing eBay content to improve user experience and natural search traffic.

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