Does Google Hate Table of Contents?

Manuel Campos

Google has been hitting niche sites left and right and we don’t really why some sites get hit and why some sites seems to thrive.

I read a tweet a couple of days in which Google Search Liason shows that they have something against adding a Table of Contents for the sake of ranking on Google.

The tweet reads:

Weird table-of-content things shoved at the top because who knows, along the way, somehow that became a thing I’m guessing people assume ranks you better

Google Search Liason

I don’t know about your take on Table of Content but I find them kinda useful for readers and it definitely increase the number of impressions my site got.

I remember that in one occasion, I got rid of my table of contents plugin because I wanted to improve my site speed and I saw how I started getting less impressions so I decided to add it back.

I definitely thought that adding a table of content was definitely a good thing and removing it was sort of detrimental for rankings, however my Google Search Console data shows that Google won’t give you any tiny benefit for having one



Google Search Console Data & Table of Contents

Table of Content can provide additional link options in organic search but that seems not to be the case anymore.

I took this screenshot on April 12th, 2024, we can see how the number of impressions and clicks to TOC hyperlinks decreased drastically over a period of six months.

I got lots of impressions and at least 200 clicks per day but these decreased drastically after the September Helpful Content Update and have been reduced to zero after March Helpful Content Update

TOC Impressions and Clicks

It seems like no additional links created by my Table of Content plugin are appearing on the search results pages

The March Helpful Content Update isn’t over yet but I am sure if I remove my table of contents from all posts, it is not like my ranking situation isn’t gonna get any worse but you never know.

By the way


Should you Keep your Table of Content?

I think that having a table of content on my posts is a good thing but I haven’t collected any data to understand if my site visitors are using the Table of Content or not.

A user on Twitter asked:

I have a question about what you mean by “table of contents things.” My readers use both the Jump to Recipe button and the Table of Contents. (I look at the heat map.) These allow readers to jump to where they want to go in the post. Can you elaborate further, please?

Sandi G

Google SearchLiason replied:

If you have those things because you think they help your readers, that’s fine. It’s more that sometimes people add content-related things to pages because they’ve heard “this helps Google” and potentially, it’s making a less satisfying experience. Again, whatever you do for your readers, because you think they want that — that’s generally good.

Google Search Liason

Another user asked a follow-up questions to the previous response

And how exactly is a TOC determined to have a positive or negative effect on your rankings, if the algo is just looking for specific criteria such as the mass adopters of TOC plugins. How can it decipher between those trying to game the system and those trying to help readers?

Will Blears

Google SearchLiason also responded to that tweet:

I’m begging. Please, I’m begging you or anyone to stop focusing on specific content things. It’s not whether a TOC or saying someone is an “expert” is somehow a specific signal. It’s that these things might indicate a pattern of doing too much “show Google” things that’s taking away of just being a good site for people — which is what Google wants to reward.

Google SearchLiason

So having a table of content in every post is doing to much?


Conclusion

If you are adding a TOC plugins automatically to all posts without an option to show or hide the table of content. You are probably pushing the ads way below the fold, specially on mobile devices.

Since, I am not getting any ranking benefits for having a TOC in every posts and having one might be considered as “doing to much”, I probably remove mine today.


Further Reading: TOC Plugins

If you really want to add a Table of Content to every post but you don’t want a plugin to do that, read my post about how to insert a table of content to all post automatically.

If you are using something like TOC Plus, you better read how to optimize your Table of Content for speed


Manuel Campos, English Professor

Manuel Campos

I am José Manuel. I am writing about things I know and things that I am learning about WordPress. I hope you find the content of this blog useful.

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