Last column I talked about some of the new innovations that Google spoke about at a conference it hosted. This column, it's a similar topic, but different conferences.
I just got back from speaking at SES Chicago 2010, and while there I had the opportunity to sit in on many interesting sessions. One that I was particularly looking forward to was the day three keynote by Google Senior Engineer and Technical Lead Maile Ohye (who seems quite lovely, by the way).
As this was more of a "fireside chat" than a formal presentation, and thus no deck to download later, I was furiously scribbling notes throughout the session.
I wanted to share some of the key "noteworthy" discussion points, which may help you better understand how Google operates and its perspective on how webmasters can improve their search marketing efforts.
Google Instant and Impact to Date
Not surprisingly, given the recent launch and accompanying buzz, Maile was asked to address if webmasters are seeing any major changes to their rankings due to Google Instant.
Maile said that based on the data Google is seeing and from conversing with the wider webmaster community, neither organic nor paid were seeing major shake-ups in terms of their typical results.
She maintains that the audience that is experiencing the biggest impact of Google Instant are users. In particular, the speed at which they can perform searches (five to seven times more in the same time it would usually take them to perform one search).
Maile speculated that searchers are likely to become savvier over time as they become more experienced with Google Instant, and for that reason, we as businesses will likely not see any "instant" changes in its behavior and our results, but rather things will gradually evolve over time.
Finally, Maile put to rest any speculation that Google Instant included an algorithmic/ranking change - sites are ranked exactly the same way as they always have been. In fact, the predictive functionality of Google Instant has been around in some form for quite a while, that is, auto-complete .
Google's Index and Your Content
The question of how much of the Web Google truly indexes was raised, and a discussion followed that addressed what this means for webmasters.
Maile said that Google – like any business – has limited resources and thus must prioritize. For that reason, Google crawls only a portion of the Web (albeit the most popular portion), and then from there, a portion of that will actually be categorized and indexed, and then finally a portion of that may actually appear in the SERPs.
Given this reality, Maile recommended that webmasters perform a similar exercise on their own website – prioritize content. She suggested that we need to be employing the "disallow" or "no follow" tags more often in order to help Google understand what content on our sites is most important to index and retrieve.
Some examples provided included shopping carts and potentially infinite calendars, but this would also include things like privacy policies or other operational content that is in no way relevant to the products and services you offer.
Maile stressed that bigger is not always better – in fact, she recommended keeping your "indexable" content very tight and focused.
She suggested that you should think about the content that users would be most interested in, and then develop content to meet those information priorities. Align content with queries. Develop personas of who visits your site and build content for them.
Inbound Links and Competing With Established Authorities
Links are always a topic of interest as they mean so much to the Google algorithm. Maile was asked to recommend how a website might go about beginning to increase their link popularity, and whether a newly created website might actually have a chance to compete with the established, authoritative sources out there.
Maile contended that if you are offering something that has high value-add, something that is differentiated from the competition, and/or that someone can't get anywhere else, you have a chance to compete. (Even with the big guns like Amazon!)
She did admit that there are certain advantages to being established, but that it has less to do with age of a domain and more to do with the fact that they've had more time to build link relationships and have developed more trust.
For those just starting out with link building, Maile recommends to "optimize to your users." Try finding partnerships that make sense for the user – would it be relevant for them to be directed to your site from that property? Would your site be perceived as valuable in context with that website?
There were some questions surrounding Google Caffeine, which got into some heavy technical stuff I won't bore you with here.
There was a brief discussion around the recent Google TV launch.
Maile said that people will surf the Web on their TV differently than they would at their desk, so you need to make sure that your site is optimized for that experience. She mentioned the "leanback," and suggested that people check out her recent post for more information.
Google Webmaster Tools
Maile works on the Webmaster Tools team, which is designed to support webmasters with their site crawling, indexing, and ranking. Via a live demo of Google Webmaster Tools, she provided some suggestions for how site owners can leverage the webmaster tools to gain insight they can use to optimize their search efforts and site content. (Here we're assuming that you all have created a Google Webmaster account and verified it – but if you haven't, get on it!)
Maile suggested first and foremost for users to register for automatic e-mail alerts so that if there are any issues with your website, you will be alerted by e-mail.
Maile also recommended leveraging the data provided by the tools to determine if you might need to make changes to your strategies.
She used the Google Store (which sells Google clothing and other paraphernalia) as an example and cites some of the things she learned by digging into some of the various data sets. Here are some examples:
Search queries - Looking at the various URLs that users come in for a particular query (e.g., Android t-shirt), she could see that users were coming in via four different pages. Three of these pages were essentially "duplicates" of each other, which dilutes overall PageRank. She would therefore redirect two of these pages to the most relevant one to improve the favorability of that page.
Keywords - Many of the keywords were related to "organic," "eco," and "green" t-shirts -> this signals to her that they need to build more content (or products, in the case of the Google store) to meet the needs of this "eco-friendly" audience.
There was some other discussion and questions that took place, but this about sums up the most relevant pieces in my mind. I hope you learned something – I know I did!
Julie is a member of the senior strategy team at Klick Health, focused on online media and digital. Julie initially established and led the media practice at Klick for several years, relinquishing leadership to expand beyond media into additional digital tactics. She brings a wealth of experience in search marketing, digital media, and all facets of digital strategy to bear, helping Klick's clients develop innovative digital solutions. As her role has evolved, so have her contributions to ClickZ, which she has been writing for since 2007.