How well do you understand Google? – The Content Myth

We can’t get a degree in SEO. Anyone can call themselves an SEO and anyone can tell the stories they want which can lead to problems with misinformation. Especially vulnerable are the companies and newbies who are passionate to implement SEO because, due to lack of knowledge they’ll believe everything.

Companies like HubSpot or well-known people like Neil Patel, recommend writing blogs (especially long ones), in order to improve organic traffic on Google. Neil Patel, self-proclaimed SEO, is proud to have written 4,294 articles.

One of his popular articles is called „How to Make Every Blog Article You Write Rank High in Google Search“, and he goes on to suggest that Google loves him because he won traffic through the last Google Core Update (Medic Update).

Importantly, it’s not that Google is rewarding him by the Medic Update, he redirected his domain „” to „” three weeks before the update and this is the only reason for his rankings increase:

How is Neil Patel’s blog really performing on Google?

Only 9.75% of all his keyword-rankings are on the first page of Google’s results:

If we consider that 99% of all organic clicks occur on positions 1-10 (in other words on Google’s first page), it’s very likely that almost the entire content of Neil Patels blog (90.25%) does not generate organic traffic from Google, which is exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve through SEO.

Hubspot’s blog has a much better ranking distribution, however 81,63% of all keywords are ranking exactly where The Godfather, Don Vito Corleone, used to hide his enemies. Where it can’t be seen; In this case, on Google’s 2nd page search results and beyond.

In case you don’t understand what I’m saying, the following chart shows you where the individual URLs are ranking inside Google and how many keywords they are individually generating. Take a look at the number of keywords ranking on Google’s first 10 organic search results (Top-10):

Social Media does not impact on Google rankings. SEO does

On the following chart you’ll find the best 20 URLs of Neil Patel on Social Media, it means, the URLs with the highest number of users interactions (shares, comments and likes):

Neil’s content is really popular on Social Media but this success cannot be translated into SEO success. As an example, “” has 3,351 interactions on Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest wich is amazing. Now, this URL is ranking for 2 keywords only and both far way from Googles first page of results.

Blogs can be a good thing. For example, if you want to communicate with your audience – which is exactly what I’m doing here- and also for news, product launches to be shared on Social Media, as a PR channel, etc. But for SEO purposes you should consider other content formats.

Don’t optimise for Google but for Google’s users – SEO content does not exist

“There’s no minimum length, and there’s no minimum number of articles a day that you have to post, nor even a minimum number of pages on a website. In most cases, quality is better than quantity.“

John Müller, Webmaster Trend-Analyst, Google Schweiz

The Web is not a text corpus, the Web is a place where we find information and services. A picture, a video, an Excel spreadsheet is also content, and they will perform well on Google when they best match the search intention.

A useful product description like TripAdvisor does:

88% of the keywords for this URL are ranking on Google first page. Do you see a 300 words text average with a keyword density of 3%? A standard SEO content does not exist.

As SEO, you know that not everything what you are publishing in your Website is going to rank well on Google, but a good indicator for SEO performance would be when 30% or more of your content is ranking on Googles first page:

A customer obsessed company matching customers needs:

A simple list of the Top Rated Movies is also content which can perform pretty well on Google:

An exceptional example for high performance content is Wikipedia where 59,74% of all keywords are ranking on Google’s first page (60%!):

Following Neil Patels recommendations of blogging to perform on Google like Wikipedia does, you will need to write 34,159,536 long articles which it would takes you only 7,798 years. Have fun!

Donkeys vs Unicorns

Larry Kim explained that he published over 300 post at his last company’s blog and that just 8 of them performed well. He called them the “Unicorn Content“ that ranks high on Google and blows out key performance indicators:

The fact is that Neil’s website has a good visibility index, so what are the Unicorns of this Domain? Here are some good examples of URLs with more than 35% of keywords ranking on Google’s first page results:

As the examples above show, from Wikipedia, Amazon, TripAdvisor and IMDB, the content is focused on the search intention, the content is timeless, the content is regularly being updated, it has a good UX, allows the user go deeper with internal links and it satisfies the user.

Where the quality of the content is concerned, we can’t comment. Taste is a personal thing.

I hope you enjoyed these thoughts.

Related posts
28. August 2018, 17:46

Juan, with your example of Neil’s “convenient-content-marketing-tools” blog post, I’m not sure it matters that it doesn’t rank, because he has another article that ranks for “content marketing tools” and even has the snippet.

Mic Sumner   
29. August 2018, 13:33

So, does this boil down to: don’t let your users click the back button, after they land on your search listing? ??

Kind regards,

29. August 2018, 13:39

Great article. However, I contradict with a few points here.

Taking examples of brands like TripAdvisor and IMDB doesn’t make any sense. If Google doesn’t show IMDB for “top rated movies”, it will hit Google more than IMDB, that’s a stronger reason, despite no SEO update in the recent past, it can still manage to be there.

Vandredi Lawadi   
29. August 2018, 16:15

Mind-blowing explanation. Now I see clearer. Thanks for the information.

29. August 2018, 18:08

Is “percentage of keywords ranking on the first page” a good measure of SEO success?

Long-form content optimized for search (including good semantic SEO and answers to natural language questions) naturally ranks for a high *number* of keywords.

I often find that successful pieces of content (in terms of traffic generated) actually has a lower average keyword ranking—it ranks well for primary keywords and some related phrases, but it also ranks in the 40s/50s for much longer, semantically-related phrases (which I never expect to get traffic from anyway).

I’m not the biggest fan of Neil Patel’s content. But comparing his pieces of long-form content to what are likely much more specific pages (that really only rank for a few phrases) from someone like TripAdvisor seems like comparing apples to oranges.

Malcolm Scott   
30. August 2018, 06:51

At last! Some sensible info regarding Seoul tactics. I have seen so many articles on the subject and every single one is exactly the same. This article is the most useful that I have seen so far. Although some points will go against the grain, it is still very thought provoking. Thanks for a great inspiration.

30. August 2018, 09:50

I like that you highlighted the fact that Neil Patel’s recent organic increase had nothing to do with the algo update. It is not the first time he adjusted the truth to make him look better.

However, I think this part of your case study is not very accurate:

“If we consider that 99% of all organic clicks occur on positions 1-10, it’s very likely that almost the entire content of Neil Patels blog (90,25%) does not generate organic traffic from Google, which is exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve through SEO.”

Here are the reasons why:

– It seems you did not take into consideration the search volume of the keywords he ranks for – an article that ranks in top 10 for the main keyword with search volume of 2,000 most probably ranks for many other long tail keywords with search volumes between 10 – 100 it wasn’t even optimized for (therefore the ratio 10% / 90%)

– Therefore, the 10% of the keywords he ranks in the 1st SERP still may (and post probably do) bring 80% of the organic traffic and a very substantial part of the overall traffic

Juan Gonzalez   
30. August 2018, 14:31

Hi Vlado,

Thank you very much for your comment!

Let’s put the search volume to one side for a minute and focus on the task of SEO.

Let’s say that a customer of mine has 100 products that he wants to rank on Google. If I mange to rank only one product on Google’s first page, it would generate 100% organic traffic, but as an SEO I have not done a good job because 99% of the products are not ranking well.

If I manage to rank 4 products in the top 10, the traffic might be higher but still, 95% of products are not getting traffic. (99% of clicks occur on page 1 as you probably know.)

Organic traffic volume comes as a result of SEO. If you consider the ‘products’ in my example above to ‘topics’ then you can see that there’s lots more SEO work to do here.

30. August 2018, 11:30

hi, thanks for post. I think key for unicorn articles is a challenge for every seo, and it’s not ab google tips, is ab quality

Md Azharuddin   
30. August 2018, 11:37

That’s an interesting perspective you have given regarding SEO. So In short Google will rank our site if our page satisfies the intention of the user query. 🙂

30. August 2018, 11:55

Amazing piece of advice. Write for the human, not for a Machine. Give what exactly a user wants, rather BS.

30. August 2018, 12:01

Good Article

Steve Paine   
30. August 2018, 14:39

Enjoying all the comments here. The message here is not to get distracted by traffic generation. The aim of SEO is to satisfy customer queries and Ranking Distribution is a great indicator for SEO performance in that respect.

30. August 2018, 15:50

Hi Juan,

This is certainly an interesting concept, and I couldn’t agree more that blogging for the sake of blogging is typically a worthless endeavor. I’m happy to pick on Neil Patel (he can take it), but comparing Neil’s site to Amazon or Tripadvisor is apples to oranges. If we compare Neil’s 9.75% first-page ratio with that of Sistrix (599/8,392=7.1%), we have a more accurate comparison. Having a large amount of keywords ranking after page 1 is a side effect of creating content that ranks, not an indicator of a problem. It feels like you selectively showed data to try to prove your point, which is ironic considering you rip on Neil for doing the same thing.

Perhaps the real takeaway here is that content comes in many forms, and it’s important to focus on quality over quantity. If you were to completely duplicate Amazon in every way (products, categories, links, etc.), and add a blog that focuses on “best” keywords like “best garlic press for left-handers” and link back to the products you’re describing, I believe our FakeZon would outrank Amazon due to the additional blog content and internal links, not to mention the external links that blog content would draw.

I love the examples of Amazon and TripAdvisor as I believe they demonstrate that two points clearly: 1.Domain Authority + Large Volume of Relevant Content = Tons of Organic Traffic; 2. Everything on your site is content (products, categories, locations, etc.). I just think the conclusions drawn are a bit off. Just my two cents.

Music Teacher SEO   
31. August 2018, 18:04

Finally, a guru who admits (rather, knows) that sheer “word puking” is not where it’s at with SEO. THANK YOU!

I’ve been at this for 20 years. The level of pure BS in this industry never ceases to amaze.

If PT Barnum were around now, he’d be an SEO consultant.

Alessandro D'Andrea   
1. September 2018, 10:04

Could the huge and perfect Wikipedia’s internal structure and link building be the reasons for its ranking, as well as branding and content?
I think so. It seems to me that often a good internal structure impact on SEO is understimated, at least in some markets.

9. September 2018, 21:04

Very good article and analysis. I like such detailed data. thank you for your work and time.

You have to be logged in to write comments.