Google Reaches Out To UK SEOs
On Tuesday 20th March Google opened up its UK office to a select bunch of SEOs from major search agencies across Europe. When the invite came through I had to admit I was surprised; Google? Discussing SEO?! With SEOs?!?! It’s hardly what you’d call a regular occurrence.
However, it soon became pretty obvious why the session had been organised; Google wants the help of SEOs everywhere to help it make semantic search a reality. How’s it going to do this? Markup. Lots and lots of markup. If you still think rich snippets aren’t a big deal, please, think again. Google practically put it in writing that those of us who utilise rich snippets wherever possible will be rewarded as much as possible through better ranking and better looking listings.
I think it’s important to understand that Google are probably a fair way behind where the SEO industry think they are in terms of understanding your site and its relationship with other domains. We were told to forget things like check-ins and other social signals when it comes to local results. Google is having enough trouble just figuring out where your business is located and what it does. Who’s got the tougher job; Google, who has to understand the entire web on a day-to-day basis, or your average SEO, who spends their day putting together a “brilliant” 1000 word treatise on how they think Google works for YouMoz?!
I don’t think it would benefit anyone to go into the detail of how and where to use markup – all that info exists online already. However, I will say that If you’re working with a client who has sites in multiple markets it would be worth your while to brush up on rel=alternate hreflang.
Following three presentations from Googlers working on web quality, webspam and Webmaster Tools there was an open Q&A, which got pretty lively at times. Some points from this Q&A included:
- Google may extend the length of time search query data is available in Webmaster Tools. They recognise it is valuable for securing further investment in SEO from clients and acknowledge it would make sense to provide more of this data. There will also be an API for this data.
- Further schema markup formats are on the way, get all over them!
- Social signals are not used as a ranking factor “of a significant order of magnitude”.
- If you get a message from GWT saying your site has violated quality guidelines it is because a manual assessment of your site has taken place. These aren’t ever sent automatically.
- The over-optimisation algo change mentioned by Cutts this week will probably not be released for weeks in the US, months elsewhere.
- Don’t ever set custom crawl rates in GWT, there is no need.
- Duplicate content – it is not a duplicate if a crucial detail on the page is different. E.g. if a phone number, address, currency etc is different across two pages, and the rest of the content is identical, don’t use rel=canonical and don’t consider them duplicates. Only class pages as duplicates if they are identical or maybe if there are some spelling differences (you say optimization, I say optimisation, let’s call the whole thing duplicate content).
One final point… Google really don’t like talking about links… their constant refrain is “take your £1000 linkbuilding budget and spend it on producing content”. This became a bit of a bone of contention for some SEOs in the room, and 6 months ago I might have been one of them. The thing is though, your site probably doesn’t have truly good content. It might have unique and relevant content, but that doesn’t make it good.
£1000 is a lot of money when it comes down to it. Even in the most boring sectors you could do something worthwhile. For £1000 I could go visit my insurance client and sit him down for an interview on “how a life insurance premium gets calculated”. Although our firm already owns a video camera I could use my iPhone to film it if I was in a real pinch. Editing is cheap and easy; I’ll bang it through a freelancer on Odesk or somewhere similar. The remaining budget covers my time reaching out to people who might be interested in talking about that content or might be interested in covering a follow-up interview. Thats got to be better than spamming the money through link networks that are slowly and surely being destroyed by deindexation buildmyrank anyone?!
Anyway, rant over. Applause to Google for organising the session and if you’re reading this, please organise another one soon, it was a valuable experience.