FEATURE: Google and Bing's Advice to SEOs at SMX Advanced
At SMX Advanced 2013, the liveblogger entrusted with reporting discussion and divulgences of the Matt Cutts You&A keynote to BCI blog readers suffered a technical difficulty that wiped out her record of the event before she could hit publish. My bad.
Luckily, there are other sources from which interested readers followed the keynote in next-to-real-time:
And you can watch the whole event that was livestreamed as a Google+ Hangout, now on YouTube:
Here you'll find Bruce Clay, Inc.'s analysis of what the search engine reps said during keynotes and conference sessions three weeks ago, along with information the search engines have been positing on blogs and social networks in recent months. Our own search marketing priorities for clients have been informed by the recommendations the search engines shared.
Google's SEO Recommendations
During his public appearances at SMX Advanced, Cutts's advice for webmasters looking to appeal to search engines was business as usual: provide compelling content and focus on your user. It was the story at the Ask the SEOs session where Matt Cutts and Bing's Duane Forrester made guest appearances. It was also his message to webmasters in a recent Google Webmaster Help video called "What should we expect in the next few months in terms of SEO for Google?"
At the 20 second mark, Cutts says that the marketing strategy that works for optimizing Google rankings is "constant and uniform":
Here's how the advice plays out in more concrete terms:
1. Make a great site. To this first and second points above, a great site is one that's been optimized for the user experience. It's fast; it's got a good mobile version, it has useful info, it's conversion optimized and easy to use. These were the themes repeated over and over again throughout the conference, and it's the topic covered in detail in this month's Back to Basics article SMX Advanced Non-Negotiables: Social Signals, Mobile Search and User Experience.
2. Don't take shortcuts. Google continues to test and roll out new algorithm signals to detect spam. One example, the "pay day loans" query space in the UK got a jolt the day of Cutts's keynote as the Google web spam team deployed a means of detecting and demoting spam from pay day loan businesses in search results. Penguin (link spam) and Panda (low-quality content) updates continue to roll out, but don't expect announcements of refreshes. It's worth pointing out that Google doesn't feel it necessary to announce every update to its algorithm anymore, or name updates, for that matter. During the keynote, Cutts said he wanted to avoid "update name inflation." When updates and refreshes work toward the goal of elevating relevant, quality results and devaluing manipulative, low-quality results, does it really matter what algorithm tweaks are called?
3. Pay attention to what Google tells you ━ yes you. During the keynote Cutts announced that Google now gives example URLs to webmasters notified of a manual action in Google Webmaster Tools. For several years now, Cutts has said that Google was making open communication a priority. In this case, those website owners that have had a manual action, those who have been hand-flagged for acts against Google guidelines, will be given a few examples of the bad behavior Google sees. In a Webmaster Help video, Updated messages for manual webspam actions, Cutts's example suggests a page that has been hacked, perhaps with something like a link injection. He says:
Bing's SEO Recommendations
Last month Bing's search share hit a high at 17%. This factoid was shared during the keynote with Bing VP Gurdeep Singh Pall. Pall's message centered on the future search experience Bing is developing. Bing is working toward search that isn't constrained to a device. And searches will commonly be done by voice using natural language queries instead of keyword strings.
In the Bing R&D labs, children searching on an XBOX with voice commands had a funny result down the line; one young tester asked a microwave to do a search on Bing. The liveblog coverage contains this anecdote and more food for thought on how we'll interact with technology in the not-distant future. But what about SEO today?
Pall's top piece of advice was to implement structured data on your site. From the session liveblog coverage:
Q: Should people move toward long-form Meta data to match new semantic search?
A: It becomes matching of info available and what user is specifying and there are a lot of tricks search is doing to extract intent. The best thing you can do is use Schema.org and structured markup.
Duane Forrester, senior product manager of Bing, had a few more recommendations to make when asked for his top advice to webmasters during the Ask the SEOs session. His response basically outlined Bing's ranking factors by priority:
Your SEO Priorities
So now you've heard it straight from the search engines. If you took notes, your checklist for getting your site in top-SEO shape this summer looks something like this:
⇫ Publish content your audience finds compelling. Compelling to read and return to and compelling to share.
⇫ Have a good mobile experience. This could just mean a desktop version free of 404s and redirect loops since smartphone browsers show a true web experience that users are accustomed to pinching and navigating on.
⇫ Keep your link profile clean, or clean it up.
⇫ Explore and use the data provided in Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools.
⇫ Employ Schema.org and structured data markup. Check out the Hot Topic in this month's SEO Newsletter for more on that.
If you're an SEO, webmaster or marketing-minded business owner who followed the news out of SMX Advanced, you're the kind of person who's always looking for an advantage. Words of advice from Google and Bing reps are a good place to start.