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6 min read

Google Interview: Focus on the webmaster guidelines, build great websites

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

In an interview with Bruce Clay, Google’s Gary Ilyes explained his understanding of Google’s updates and where website owners should be focusing their attention if they are to improve their search rankings. The video is well worth a watch if you have 18 minutes to spare. Here are the key take aways:

1) Everyone should focus on mobile, no matter what industry they’re in

Google’s mobile algorithm update took place earlier this year and emphasised the importance of mobile user experience. Essentially, if your site isn’t responsive (i.e. it doesn’t work well on a mobile device), you’ll struggle to achieve top rankings. With more and more people taking to their smartphones and tablets to browse the web, you really can’t afford to neglect this key channel.

Learn more about the mobile update here, or test your website’s mobile friendliness here.

2) Local SEO is important for specific businesses

When your business serves a local audience, for example when you have a restaurant or a hairdressers, something where people visit your location, local SEO is incredibly important. Consider the user’s intention when they search; if they’ve searched for ‘pet shop Nottingham’, they want a pet shop in Nottingham, so pet shops which talk about customers that have come from Nottingham to their Manchester shop will always struggle to rank, because their content, despite their best attempts, is not relevant.

The key to local SEO success is to have a genuine local connection to the town/city in which you choose to rank. This doesn’t mean necessarily having a physical shop there – for example, a service provider such as a plumber or electrician may move around – but your shop or service must be truly relevant to the local search intent.

3) People will spend time looking for deeper information

Another point Ilyes made in his interview is that web users are willing to spend time looking for information or reading through it, when the information serves a deeper purpose. It can be a common misconception that the internet is moving toward a ‘give it to me now’ approach, when in truth, users will happily spend time visiting different sites and different pages to find what they need.

Of course, what is important in this is that you make their experience on your site as easy and pleasurable as possible. So though they are willing to look around, your website should deliver them to the information they want in as few steps as possible, and your content should be constructed and written in a manner that makes it easy to scan and digest, using subheadings or a listicle style like this article.

4) HTTPS will give you a competitive edge in a competitive niche

HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP, which Google announced earlier this year would be a ranking consideration. As Ilyes stated, “I wish every website would go to HTTPS to protect their users” – but Google understands not everyone will do this, so it’s by no means a deal breaker.

The most common reason for not implementing HTTPS is cost; getting the certificate needed to get the secure version can cost a few hundred pounds a year. That said, the impact of it is highly visual; take a look at Impression’s website as an example – we have HTTPS and this is shown by the green bar at the top which incorporates the padlock logo, and the ‘https’ as the beginning of our URL.

Ecommerce website in particular must use HTTPS for secure payments. Google considers HTTPS best practice, so unless you have a really good reason not to, your website should be moved to HTTPS as soon as possible. We’ve written a guide on how to do this here.

5) All of Google’s algorithm updates are designed to improve their users’ experience

Google is a business. It has customers in the form of searchers and it must deliver the best service to them because if it doesn’t, they will go to its competitors like Bing or Yahoo. As such, all of its algorithm updates are designed to improve the search experience by delivering the best search results for any given query. As Ilyes put it, “they try to value more the content which answers the user’s query best, that’s it”. Essentially, be the best at what you do and create content that proves that. That way, you’ll be safe against penalties in future because your goals will align with Google’s.

SEO fans will remember that Penguin is the name given to Google’s algorithm which focuses on links, and Panda is the algorithm update focused on content quality.

In his interview Ilyes was asked what SEOs can do to better meet the algorithm guidelines and how long those changes would take to take effect. Penguin, it was stated, happens in real time, so if you spend some time removing bad links, providing you got them all, you should be ranking improvements straight away (all other things being equal). Panda takes longer, whereby the update is run less frequently, so you should certainly spend time improving your content, but will likely not see the impact of this for a few weeks after doing so.

7) Focus on webmaster guidelines, build great websites

Ilyes used the phrase ‘to over-SEO’ in his interview. As SEOs, we’re of course outraged by the insinuation that anything SEOs do could be construed negatively in any way! 😛 But, we do recognise that, particularly older school SEOs, can have a tendency to try to do too much for their clients’ sites, and this isn’t beneficial.

By this, Ilyes meant that website owners shouldn’t try to make their website rank for anything other than what it should rank for – stick to your core proposition and represent it in the best way for your users and you can’t go far wrong. This is why we talk about things like brand stories and the importance of understanding your audience and setting your stall accordingly. If it’s going to be valuable to your user, do it. If you’re doing it with the sole purpose of ranking, don’t do it – it’ll come back to bite you in the future if you do.

Ilyes referred to Google’s webmaster guidelines and stated that his one piece of advice for website owners would be to build websites according to those guidelines. From here, you can start to explore the less technical, more marketing related activities such as digital PR, content marketing and advertising to help you grow your audience and build your brand.

It’s always worth staying up to date with Google’s updates, which you can do by following the official Google webmaster blog. Or follow Impression for updates across our social platforms, on Twitter, LinkedIn and of course here on our blog.

If you have any questions about your own digital marketing strategy, would like to find out more about our SEO audits or you’re looking for an SEO agency to help you achieve your online goals, get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.