Doing What Matters for SEO & Google in 2016 – Googler Maile Ohye at #SMX

Maile Ohye on stage at SMX West 2016
Maile Ohye on stage at SMX West 2016

A favorite Googler and SMX presenter, Maile Ohye, senior developer programs engineer at Google Inc. (@maileohye), explains that in 2004 and 2005, Matt Cutts used to say that search engines are chasing the user. In other words, the engine wants to serve the user first and then everything else (rankings, results pages) follow. A problem occurs when websites then chase the search engines.

An alternative view is when search engines and websites both chase the user, but this is oversimplified. Today she suggests a cultural shift to serve the customer, not the user.

So, we went from this:

old seo approach chasing users
The old approach of chasing “users”

To this:

cultural SEO shift to serving customer
The cultural shift of 2016 is serving customers

“Humanity fuels the new economy.” — Seth Godin

  1. Create the extraordinary.
  2. Take risks. We need marketers that don’t ask for permission. Progress doesn’t happen by sticking to best practices — it happens when you create new practices and then better practices emerge.
  3. Do what matters. Don’t ask if you’re going to succeed, ask if you’re going to matter, because that’s what’s important.

Avinash Kaushik has created a new definition of conversion.

It used to be: conversion = orders / visits

Today it is: conversion = orders / visitors

It’s not about low-level clicks, sessions and page views. It’s about taking our thinking up to the person.

The offline experience is far ahead of the online world. Slice and dice the data as much as you can but remember that you’re optimizing for a local minimum.

Here’s Avinash’s new model of mapping data to customers:

Avinash Kaushik customer needs data
Avinash Kaushik maps data to customer states. Click to enlarge.

The Ritz Carlton has a motto that we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. They have a three-tier level of service. Expected is clean linens and hot water. Requested is providing firmer pillows when asked. Delighted is above and beyond, like sewing a button when they notice it’s loose or combing a beach for lost sunglasses before they’re asked. Meet the needs people didn’t express, which are vast.

“Life is needs in action.” — Maile’s former acting coach

“Quantified data optimization doesn’t really address underlying needs.” — Maile Ohye

You may visualize your customer but until you talk to a real customer, you don’t know what their reality is.

reality vs. vision
Your vision of your customers vs. their reality

The 2003 Google webmaster guidelines boiled down to 5 SEO instructions:

  • Do something cool (compelling content or service).
  • Include relevant keywords in your copy.
  • Be smart about your tags and site architecture.
  • Attract natural links.
  • Stay fresh and relevant.

These principles hold true but the bar is much higher. Add to that — “for humans, do something cool.”

Smart cars, smart watches, the Echo — all these Internet of Things devices are new and evolving. There isn’t one market or device, there are multiple. 90%  use multiple screens sequentially to accomplish a task over time. See if you can offer mobile website-only available code that works anywhere. Maybe you can come up with creative ways to estimate cross-device interactions.

Scanning is the new normal behavior. You don’t get a few sentences, you get a few words. 40% abandon if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

Here are some things Google did to help customers:

Google finds areas of improvement with customer feedback
Google finds areas of improvement with customer feedback. (click to enlarge)

They found people wanted new news front and center and support. See how now they start a blog post with a TL;DR instead of making it all about them?

Google updates its blog post style to be more user centric
Google updates its blog post style to be more user-centric.

Be smart about your tags and site architecture is still true today, but the tags are different now. Become AMP or structured-data ready. She gives an example of booking an appointment at a hair salon with Mio Mio Salon in San Francisco through Google because the salon has structured data markup.

How customer satisfaction aligns with lifetime customer value
How customer satisfaction aligns with lifetime customer value
Avinash Kaushik's customer states
How customer satisfaction aligns with lifetime customer value and Avinash Kaushik’s customer states (click to enlarge)

Here’s an example of where things are going and how to be great — think in these terms first. In May 2015, Three Birds Nest was one of the top merchants on Etsy. In an interview, the founder said:

“Etsy was a great place for me to start because the market was there.”

“I didn’t have to pay for SEO from the start.”

“We want everything we touch, that our customer sees, to be something they connect with. That goes from our photography to how we interact with customers.”

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Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (2)
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2 Replies to “Doing What Matters for SEO & Google in 2016 – Googler Maile Ohye at #SMX”

Virginia Nussey

Awesome, Eric! That’s what I love to hear. You enjoy the session and then refer to these notes to remember the takeaways afterward! It was good to meet you at lunch on Day 1. Stay tuned here for more from the show this week!

Hi Virginia, this was my favorite session on Day One. This is a great summary. I was going through my own notes trying to remember all the points and missed some of these. I loved Maile’s breakdown of Expected, Requested, and Delighted. But I also loved her discussion of the offline vs online experience, and the point she made that “offline” marketers have been doing things longer than online and therefore it’s the online marketers that can learn some things from them! So glad you mentioned it, I had forgot about that before reading this. – Eric.


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