Author Note: I paid for my own pass to SMX Advanced and neither I nor SEJ was paid or provided perks to cover any of its sessions.
For the first time in forever, Matt Cutts was not the main attraction at the highly anticipated “You & A” session at this year’s SMX Advanced Expo in Seattle moderated by Danny Sullivan.
Instead, we got to hear from one of Google’s new Webmaster Trends Analyst torch bearers, Gary Illyes.
Google Update Announcements
While adamantly denying that he is the “new” Matt Cutts, Gary explained that Google will no longer have one person who will represent Google Search to the public. Instead, he is one of many public-facing team members that will update us on the efforts Google Search is taking to improve search quality moving forward.
After addressing the elephant in the room, here are a few things that Gary pointed out:
- Panda Update – There will be a new Panda data refresh rolled out within the next 2-4 weeks. After initially giving this specific time frame, Gary quickly backtracked and said that it would be happening “soon.” He also said that the team is actively working on updating Panda more often to increase overall search quality.
- Penguin Update – The search team is working on making this piece of Google’s search puzzle update continuously in real time so that there will be no more rolling out of updates. Gary made it clear that the team is months away from accomplishing this as they have to change many “working” things, but that once they finish this task, update announcements will no longer be given for Penguin.
- Quality Update – Confirming the suspicions of many SEO’s, Google did in fact make an update last month (May), but they didn’t announce or acknowledge it publicly because it was not a Panda or Penguin update. Gary explained that it was a separate core update related to search quality specifically.
Various SEO Insights From Gary
Panda is Manually Updated: For those wondering how and when Panda is updated, Gary explained that Panda is manually updated based on a data set that covers a multiple month period. What was interesting is that he said that sometimes the data set can get “noisy” and that a larger data set is needed to clear it up which can extend the time of when an update is rolled out. He also said that Panda will always be manually updated based on the way that it works.
Penalty Tracker: Google has a tool that the search team uses to see all website penalties that are bringing a site down in the rankings. Even though Danny made a pretty good case as to why something like this would be helpful to webmasters, Google has no plans to make a client facing tool like this available.
Clicks Play A Role: Based on what you search for, certain results will be served up to you in future searches. For example, if you search for “Apple,” Google will look at your next click to learn if you mean the fruit or the company. Based on what you click next, Google will remember your choice to tailor future searches that you make and serve you results based on past click choices.
“Mobilegeddon”: After blaming Danny for making the “Mobile Friendly Update” sound much more dire with the apocalyptic name of “mobilegeddon,” Gary provided some insight into some of the statistics of this mobile update. He explained that this update affected more URL’s than Penguin and Panda combined. Google initially estimated that 50% of mobile search results would be affected; however, due to the coverage preceding this algorithm update, the results were decreased 17% from their initial expectations.
Apps in Search: When asked why Apps are showing up in mobile searches to be downloaded and installed directly from the search results, Gary explained that Apps have been added to the “universal” results of mobile searches. When asked why they don’t provide buttons for Facebook likes, newsletter signups, etc. in mobile searches, Gary said that Google is not working on that functionality at this time.
Direct Answers: Google actually calls these “feature snippets” internally, not “direct answers.” Feature snippets have apparently grown incredibly fast and in most cases help the host site with increased branding and traffic according to Google. He also made it clear that just because your information may be used in a feature snippet, it is NOT used as a signal to raise your site in the rankings.
Twitter Signals: Google is not currently using, nor is planning to use twitter authority/engagement as a signal for search ranking. As to why Google isn’t planning on using this as a signal, Gary explained that they don’t consider Twitter to be a long-term ranking signal due to Twitter’s ability to turn this data on or off at will.
Crawl Rate: Why does Google crawl some sites more than others? Gary said that there are five main factors that come in to play, but he only talked about two factors in his explanation. The factors of which he spoke were that of Page rank and the website host load which plays a role in how often Google crawls a website.
Embedded Video: While it isn’t necessary to add structured data to embedded videos for regular search, it is important however to include structured data for video search to correctly index the videos on your site and serve them up.
No Duplicate Content Penalty: “There is no duplicate content penalty,” Gary said. He said that there are other things that webmaster should be more concerned about, but that if you have duplicate content across multiple URL’s to use canonical tags to determine which URL should show for the content in the search results.
Slow Tag: Similar to the “mobile friendly” tag that Google uses in their search results to alert users, they are also testing a “slow to load” tag for results in other countries. This apparently is an experiment to determine if it is something they might possibly use for search results in the USA.
Secure Search: There are plans to make “https” secure search a much stronger signal when it comes to rankings.
Overlays – Are you worried that pop up overlays on your website are negatively affecting your rankings? Don’t be. According to Gary, “Overlays don’t negate rankings.”
Authorship – Gary admitted that this is still a work in progress in figuring out how to weigh this signal; however, Google is currently using authorship as a signal to determine rankings.
To end the session, Danny asked Gary what Google considers “quality” content to be. Gary talked about quality equating to value. If the content fills an informational need, gets links, and social shares, this is a good indicator that your content is of high-quality.
Did you attend this session? What announcements or insights did you find particularly interesting? Let me know in the comments.
Featured image taken by Author. Screenshot of SMX Advanced website taken 6/3/2015.