Google’s Martin Splitt, and Barry Schwartz of Rusty Brick, discuss myths surrounding Google’s relationship with the SEO community.
Google is often met with the idea that it’s withholding the truth from SEOs, or there’s some other meaning behind what the company says publicly.
Neither myths are true, Splitt says as he explains Google’s side of things.
Among the topics of discussion in this episode of SEO Mythbusting are:
- What “it depends” means
- Featured snippets stealing traffic
- What “the best possible website” means
- SEOs twisting Google’s words
- And more
Here’s a quick recap of each question and answer, along with its corresponding time stamp in the video.
What does ‘it depends’ depend on? (0:00)
“It depends” is Google’s answer to a lot of questions asked by the SEO community.
When asked what “it depends” depends on, Splitt lists the following factors:
- Is it a new site?
- Is the site undergoing a move?
- Has there been a change in URL structure?
- What does the site’s server setup look like?
- How fast is the site?
- What is the site’s content like?
- Does the site’s content have a lot of competition?
- Is there duplicate content on the site?
“It depends on so many different things,” Splitt says. “Because, as you might figure out, the entire process on our side, the entire infrastructure on our side, is very large and vast and complex.”
Featured snippets, publishers & Google (2:03)
Featured snippets are a source of contention between publishers and Google
Some publishers take issue with the fact that Google will, at times, display so much information in featured snippets that searchers don’t have to click through to the web page.
Splitt suggests that providing such detailed information in the search results can lead to more qualified traffic.
Further, Splitt goes on to say these complaints tend to come from people whose content isn’t that great.
“There’s bits and pieces we can pull out for the user, but the user has no incentive to actually go there.”
Ultimately, Google wants to connect people and publishers together, while limiting the amount of “zombie traffic” sent to websites.
Too little transparency, too much transparency? (5:03)
Splitt says it’s difficult for Google to maintain a balance between too little transparency and too much transparency.
One one hand, if Google isn’t transparent enough, then SEOs complain about not having enough information.
On the other hand, if Google is too transparent, then SEOs can either misconstrue what’s being said or take it out of context.
Despite these challenges, Google intends to double down on transparency and provide as much information as possible to SEOs and site owners.
Submitting feedback (7:00)
Splitt wishes more people would use the ‘submit feedback’ button that appears in search results.
When people use the submit feedback button Google receives a report with qualitative data on what searchers want.
Sharing feedback on Twitter doesn’t go very far, Splitt says, because it’s seen as just one person’s opinion.
Not using Android or Chrome data for ranking (7:56)
SEOs often ask Google why click-through data is not used to rank search results.
“It’s very noisy as a data source,” Splitt says.
Despite Google stating many times rankings are not impacted by user behavior, there are SEOs and site owners who choose not to believe it.
When asked why people don’t believe Google, Splitt responds:
“It’s partly confirmation bias. People like to hear the things that confirm their hypothesis. That’s just like psychology.
On the other hand, it is maybe this feeling or perception that we’re trying to hide the truth…
When I say no, we’re not using it for ranking, I mean exactly that.”
AMP & the Top Stories Carousel (9:15)
Schwartz brings up a point about SEOs not trusting Google after the company repeatedly claims AMP is not a ranking factor.
Technically, AMP is not a ranking factor for organic search results.
Although AMP does get articles placed in the Top Stories carousel, which is higher than the organic blue links.
SEOs feel Google is being disingenuous saying AMP is not a ranking factor when it does get articles to show up at the top of search results.
More on Google’s communication with the SEO community (11:52)
Google’s role in the SEO community is not to be an antagonist. Rather, it’s to send traffic to high quality pages and put out as much information as possible.
Splitt says he enjoys discourse with the SEO community until it gets to the point of people twisting his words. He assures everyone there’s no hidden meaning behind his responses.
Why doesn’t Martin Splitt want to know about ranking? (16:02)
Splitt says he doesn’t know much about how search rankings work, and he wants to keep it that way.
When asked why, Splitt says he believes it helps Googlers better represent the SEO community if they have minimal knowledge of rankings.
‘The best possible website’ & user testing (17:04)
Google often tells people to make “the best possible website” – but what does that mean exactly?
Splitt says priorities vary according to the website and who the audience is.
Companies should do more user testing to better understand what their priorities should be, Splitt suggests.
“I would love to see more companies do user testing. As in trying to understand who are your users, and then actually having a conversation with them.
Because what I think is the best content for my users might not be what users think is the best content for them.
That’s a reality I’ve seen at all the companies I worked at. The ones that did user tests learned a bunch from just having a five minute conversation with some of the users.”
For more on Google’s relationship with the SEO community, see the full video below: