Google Search Console Drops the Content Keywords List

Those of you who have used Google Search Console a fair bit in the past will have probably come across this feature:

The Content Keywords report is now no longer available in GSC, having been dropped by Google as a useful reporting tool.

Content Keywords list in Google Search Console

In the past, here’s how I would have used this report:

Looking at the first 20 words in the list, it’s possible to determine how Google might see the core subject of your website. If you had a lot of irrelevant words in there, Google may have considered the theme of your site wasn’t what you wanted to portray. It was an easy way to double-check your content’s relevance against your targeted keywords. If your targeted keywords were not in the list anywhere, then there was a clear signal of a problem with your SEO.

Also in the statistical count of the words themselves, if the distribution of words was highly focused on just one or two at the top of the list, then the less likely it would be that Google considered your theme strong enough to rank you well for words 20 or 30 down the list. In other words: I pretty much gathered that the most frequently used words shouldn’t be just limited to one or two stand-out items, but drop back more gradually – and this would also be a sign of having enough content volume.

For new websites, the content keyword list was never fully populated even if you had Google crawl all the pages in the site at day one. This seemed to signal a data processing process by which words (as the smallest units of content) were gradually sorted into a taxonomy by the algorithm over a long period – weeks and even months – possibly due to due to processing demands. I mention this in my analysis of Google Ranking Factors here. A fundamental reason (aside from lacking backlinks) why a brand new and potentially super awesome website doesn’t have rank and that impressions grow over time, even when nothing else in the site changes.

In any respect, this seemed to be a fairly useful tool to gauge with a single glance where crawl and indexing was at, at a highly granular level.

Alas, that’s now gone.

Here’s what Google’s John Mueller had to say:

“In the early days – back when Search Console was still called Webmaster Tools – the content keywords feature was the only way to see what Googlebot found when it crawled a website. It was useful to see that Google was able to crawl your pages at all, or if your site was hacked.

In the meantime, you can easily check any page on your website and see how Googlebot fetches it immediately, Search Analytics shows you which keywords we’ve shown your site in search for, and Google informs you of many kinds of hacks automatically. Additionally, users were often confused about the keywords listed in content keywords. And so, the time has come to retire the Content Keywords feature in Search Console.

The words on your pages, the keywords if you will, are still important for Google’s (and your users’) understanding of your pages. While our systems have gotten better, they can’t read your mind: be clear about what your site is about, and what you’d like to be found for. Tell visitors what makes your site, your products and services, special!” [original]


My takeaway from this is that John is saying there are plenty of excellent features in Google Search Console to monitor indexing of your pages, and I agree. But reading between the lines however, I suspect this is about taking away an indicator that may lead some webmasters astray on how they are implementing keywords and giving a false impression that the metrics reported in the tool were of greater significance than creating engaging content. In my view, both are essential, but that’s because my job is to ‘game it’ for my clients in many cases.

I would have preferred to keep this feature.

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