Lessons Learned From Google's Best Practice & Common SEO Mistakes Hangout
By Jeremy Eisenberg - July 18, 2014
What did Google talk about?
Straight out answers - not a lot. But once you digest it and read between the lines, there was a lot to be learned.
Three Google employees, Mary Chen, Eric Kuan and Michael Wyszomierski talked about mobile sites, multi-lingual & multi-regional sites, and spam & abuse, respectively. They went over common mistakes made as well as best practices.
At first it was all SEO/Web Developer 101 stuff, which is important considering most websites are still built without taking basic SEO principles into account. And this is going beyond the individual/small business making themselves a website on Wix.
Professional web developers are making these basic core mistakes - whether they call themselves a web developer, web designer or web guru, they are hurting their clients SEO and SERP's rankings right out of the box.
How do I know that these problems are widespread to the professional website building community? Google is presenting this its annual developer conference I/O and follows up with a hangout later for people who could not make it to the conference. Google is finding tons of these mistakes still and considers them extremely important as they affect user experience.
Mobile sites and devices
- Unplayable content - Like Flash based videos (there really is no need to use Flash on a website these days)
- Blocked content - CSS, Images, videos are being blocked by robots.txt. Why do you have blocked content on your site? Or why are you blocking Googlebot from certain content, you want Google to bring up your site for a search query yes?
- Misdirected content - 2 Kinds
- Redirected to a mobile webpage, i.e. m.site.com/info, which is a 404. Understandably a big user experience frustration, so unless the user really needs that info/product right there and only from that site, they are going to hit the back button and try the next result.
- All pages redirect to home mobile page. Come on, if I want to buy your product and click on the product to get put on the mobile homepage. Now I have to search your mobile site to get it. Seriously? There are so many sites still making this huge user experience frustration, see the warning Google gives searchers.
- Add summaries or transcripts below the video, helps if they can't view the video or don't have time to watch it. (I know I click away a lot if it is only a video with no summary)
- Treat Googlebot as a regular user, like someone coming from an iPhone or laptop. Google really frowns upon giving users a different experience than GoogleBot gets.
- Use your phone to test out your site in the SERP's. Probably the easiest way to see how it works and looks.
- Also can check faulty redirects in Google Webmaster Tools.
- Responsive design is recommended! Thank you Google for pointing that out, hence why we only use mobile responsive design.
- If you do have a mobile site already, use bidirectional annotations and canonical tag. (not going to get techy here and explain how)
- Have a "take me to desktop optimized version" link on mobile site. (and vice versa) I know I've used that many times to get to where I want.
- If mobile site is setup properly, Google's Skip redirect will take effect, which means if your main site shows up in SERP's on a mobile search query, Google will bring user directly to mobile site, saves .5-1 second, which in the search world is a ton of time.
Multi-Lingual & Multi-Regional Sites
Eric Kuan went through using the href lang tag properly, which is what tells Google there are multiple versions of your pages for different languages/regions. Best practice he said was to have a main page like .com, and on there have a language/region picker to bring you to your appropriate page i.e. English U.S. vs. English U.K.
Two of the problems he pointed out was blanket redirects, like if you are in the U.S. and you are being taken to the U.S. page. Maybe you are on business in the U.S. from the U.K. or wherever, and want to get the U.K. version but can't until you return home.
He also pointed out a code for language/region as "es-la" which means Spanish-Laos, and Kuan said that the last time he checked Wikipedia on Laos (don't forget that Google loves Wikipedia) not a lot of people speak Spanish there. Eric thinks this webmaster meant Spanish - Latin America, whoops.
Luckily Google Webmaster Tools now tells you about errors in your href lang and missing return links from a language/region page back to the main page, pretty sweet.
Is Spam Still An Issue?
Yes spam still hurts, especially when it's thrown at you still in the can. Michael Wyszomierski went over an example of content injection and a manual action being taken. Hopefully you would get an email from Google Webmaster Tools if anything like this was to happen, so you would take appropriate action.
However one that you wouldn't get an email on is on your content keywords, or at least what Google Webmaster Tools thinks your keywords are. If you see some terms that don't make any sense to you, like I don't know, payday loans (I think that is Google's go to spam query), your site might have been compromised.
Michael brought up one solution to monitoring spam that seems a little tedious to do and could probably never be complete. He suggested setting up Google alerts for common spam terms and having the search query restrict itself to your site. Having to come up with all the spam terms that could hit your site AND setting up all those alerts, no thank you.
Lot of people are still taking shortcuts when building sites and just not following the rules. Don't - there are no shortcuts in marketing. At least Google is making it easier to detect certain errors and spam attacking your site.
Did you watch the hangout? Any thoughts?