Website Ranking Tips – John Mueller and Cyrus Shepard
Hi everybody welcomes to this edition of MOZ fireside chats we have a real fireplace here I’m sorry shepherd today we’re talking about ranking factors with the one and only John Mueller webmaster trends analyst out from Google I’ve followed him a long time we’re so happy that he’s chosen to chat with us today.
John welcome. Hi, Cyrus good to be here good to be we’ve never actually talked face to face before this is our first time we’ve we’ve talked online before many times.
sometimes we have disagreements but you’ve always been very helpful to me and everybody in the US your community so it’s it is a pleasure to meet you.
Thank you yeah it’s such a shame that we can’t do these things in person but someday in the future yeah I really miss about I’m happy we can do this and share it to the world so you’re in Switzerland right yes yeah so so this conversation today is aimed at not towards all the people that we normally talk to a lot of the professional SEOs it’s more for the millions of business owners who maybe want to do some SCO but they’re not a professional and they may not even know who you and I are to that extent so and to those people at that’s kind of a funny question I want to ask you probably don’t consider yourself a famous person but in the S. C. O. world your huge I’ve always wondered do people like recognize you when you go to the grocery store or out to restaurants. Nope never it never happens no 88 I think the weirdest why so it’s I guess are there too weird things so on the 1 hand hi I have a really large family, my mom, it comes from like I think they had 9 kids in the family and 1 of the other relatives actually also has them so it’s some conference I thank you you walked up to me as like hi John good this year and I would like. This is weird so it’s about was the one weird thing and the other one was actually a neighbor kind of when I went to my wife is like I I saw your husband I’m used. Thank you, Larry, so is this guy from Google right so that was also kind of awkward but otherwise I I don’t know it’s such an interesting niche but it’s gonna specials are. I’m okay with that I. I don’t need to be recognized on when street but when people need help with Google you are the person due to go to. So let’s jump right into the questions and the bad imaginary scenario. And this is a hypothetical question and I’m kind of proud of this question because a lot of fun to write you’re at a typical Friday night cocktail party in Switzerland as I’m sure you usually do everybody is there Neil Tyson Degrasse Neil Degrasse Tyson Meryl Streep and people learn that you work for Google and I was like oh and Tom Hanks walks up to you and says Hey I hear you work for Google I I need to write my website higher in the entire room goes quiet and the pressure is on how do I rank my site hiring Google John. Here are I so. I I think 37 general I don’t get this question so that makes it a little bit more kind of almost artificial usually the question I get is like so what do you do a Google and then I tell them I write a lot of emails and active on Twitter and they’re like. That’s like why but anyway I faxed back to this question I think the things that I usually recommend especially for people who aren’t as you know is it kind of comes down to 3 things on the one hand really find a topic where you really know where you can stand out where it’s not like you’re one of many it’s not something where you have to work years to actually be on par with the other people but rather where you can really bring your experience or knowledge and kind of build-out. I think that’s the first thing in probably the most important one because if you don’t have something unique to build on that everything else kind of doesn’t work. And then the second point is to really figure out who your audience is and to write in there just so you know everything about this topic how do you present it in a way that your audience can understand that and in a way that they’ll be kind of able to search for so if you I don’t want to sell Christmas trees then make sure that you mentioned the word Christmas trees on your pages because that’s what people are looking for they’re not looking for I don’t know evergreen. Lance that you can put in your living room they’re looking for Christmas trees so it kind of be direct don’t be shocked. And the third one is kind of where the SCO side often comes into play in the digital marketing site don’t be shy of the things that you’re great so if you work really hard to make something fantastic don’t keep it to yourself and hope that maybe someone will stumble across it and then I’ll make it big but really take that the things that you follow then traded and bring them to the audience where they are and how to promote your stuff for you as well as the first step in overtime search engines will figure out well actually like lots of people are looking for this actually nowadays and they’re recommending it to other people maybe we should focus on it more so instead of waiting for search engines to discover your content really bring that content out to people from your side. Because search engines are kind of paying attention to what happens on the web and they’re they’re gonna notice when when when there’s a kind of a match there. Yeah yeah and I I think. On the one hand searches we’ll try to figure out why and when there is this kind of match and I’ll try to figure out if you have a great website or not but they’re not going to go it’s like let me try this random IP addresses you what website is there and if I like the content I will show it to millions of people you really kind of need to help them along that way and J. to kind of get them started like that I mean just how you would do that with a normal business thank you to find an idea where you have something unique to offer work on creating an offering that works well for your clients or your potential clients and then promoted in a way that they will kind of hear about it from you. So let’s talk let’s let’s focus on the content I go because I think this is a big problem not only for new people but people in our world as well because we always tell people to make good content to make content relevant to the user and people say I’m doing that but maybe they are maybe they aren’t I think it’s an incredibly hard problem for anybody to know if their content is actually good so what do we tell how can people tell if their content is actually good. Yeah I I I get that question often too because it’s like like you said we tell people to like just make a great site and every all fall into place and it’s really hard to figure out if you have good content and I think it’s something where it’s tempting for SEOs to try to find a tool or metric that kind of proxy is the quality of the content and then you can tweak it on your things and check that score but that’s rarely how it works with contents are there the thing that I found especially when working on our content like we have a ton of content to is to actually go out and do use our studies so find people who are not associated with your sites who are kind of interested in that topic and give them some tasks to do both on your sites on other people’s sites and then ask them and they hard questions at that you don’t really want to know the answers for because you’re kind of internally already know. They will find something to complain about and that’s really what you should be focusing on because then you get to kind of that honest direct feedback and that helps you to figure out like am I really talking to my audience and is their kind of a mismatch there do people think my content is good but they don’t trust my website that’s like all of these things kind of fall into place there and they’re more visible with user studies than any kind of pure metrics that you would pick up from analytics or any SCO tool I think I think a lot of the SCO tools have. Really cool functionality to kind of help you figure out where you can kind of work with regard to content but you really need to interpret and interpreting that it’s sometimes hard when you’ve created that content and it’s your baby and of course it’s fantastic whereas if you get the kind of that that external feedback it’s a lot easier to be a bit more objective. I really like that idea of user feedback I have a friend who comes to me and he sells motorcycle let’s lookup machines that love motorcycles in the year and he’s always wondered why he doesn’t rank higher he sells a great product but I think if I just ask him to watch somebody use your website and try to shop for your motorcycle with us that would give them a lot of insight as to why because the competition is doing better than that he takes so maybe to put you a little bit I don’t put you on the spot here but if if users are using my site and I think it’s great I think I should look rank higher for motorcyclists how does Google know if my content is good I mean we’re talking about the user but how is Google looking at. In that in that regard now I hate I think that’s really hard so that’s something where are we have a lot of weird algorithms that try to figure out if this content is relevant for the user and these are things that. Especially change overtime where we try to understand the content better we try to understand the context of the content better like how it’s embedded with the rest of the way of our people linking to I mean late links are something that we do look into it’s not the only thing we look into but it it does help us to figure out a little bit more also within the website how people are kind of like referring to your own country is it something that you’re saying is really important for your website or is this something that like you have to really dig for my work and the website. And the dance along with kind of really all of the machine learning to artificial intelligence stuff for understanding the content better that all kind of falls into place there but it’s it’s sometimes really tricky and these things change over time where it’s. Like when you look at the search results it’s not the case that we would say just because something is courage that means that it is something that would be relevant for you. R. and that that’s sometimes I I thank you other painful for site owners to take into account where we say well this is actually well written I mean we don’t have any metrics that we show for the insert consul so you can’t really see that but like where over the years we’ve said well this is really good we should show it to people and then at some point the algorithm changes and we say well actually we changed our minds we think it’s not as relevant more and that doesn’t mean it’s worse contact it’s just well we think we think the relevance has changed and some of that is due to external factors from users where users expect different things over time and then we have to kind of reflect that in our algorithms to yeah and I think it goes back your point earlier about choosing a niece topic my friend is competing for a motorcycle lives across you know the entire world and maybe if you found a more specific topic motorcycle lifts with. For Harley Davidsons or motorcycle lists 4 or something like that all right so you touched on something about Google being able to find your content not having to dig very deep for it hi this is one area where I think SCO tools or certain crawling tools may be able to help what’s your one suggestion for what’s the best way that I can ensure that Google is able to read my content. To read the contents I guess it depends on what level you want Google to kind of read the content if it’s just a matter of can go to access the content then using something like a mobile-friendly task it is really easy you essentially just given a urologist and have to be a site that you own and it’ll tell you this is what essentially global systems. Picked up on there that’s kind of the simplest way to do that and when it comes to the more complex factors are like within your websites where those that show I don’t know if we really have anything are simple to help you figure that out I mean you could look at things like log file analysis to see how often those pages are called but that takes a lot of work and sometimes even getting the log files is really tricky. Yeah. Yes, I I might use laws in that circumstance but I’m not gonna plug X. explicitly. Some of the other side I think I think you all make some great tools and it’s something where I think they’re bunch of these I see tools out there and it’s on on the one hand it’s tempting to say well you need to be able to do everything with Google directly or with Google’s tools directly but on the other hand if you can save time by using other tools that’s right you have a limited amount of time and knowing which tools to use what they do that can make it a lot easier for you to focus on the real priorities of yourself. So our common problem I got a large site I saw a lot of products. In fact, I have millions of pages and Google should just Google should rank these millions of pages but they’re not even showing up at all R. Y. why isn’t Google indexing those pages. So I guess the the difference I I would try to figure out first is are they indexed or not because sometimes their index they just don’t get a lot of traffic and that can be perfectly fine if it’s sad for example content that just doesn’t get a lot of searches but it’s kind of like the only thing or the main thing out there then like it doesn’t need to get traffic on the other hand if it’s not indexed at all then that would be something where you might think about well why isn’t Google indexing this content do I need to make it easier for Google to index content or do I need to reconsider if I even should provide this content at all I’m sorry and I think that kind of goes into the general theme of like should I improve my content should I improve my internal linking or should I say kind of proven that content and that’s a I think it is a debate that will never be settled but yeah well that’s that’s something that we struggle with even a Mazda we have this a queue in a section that contains 60000 question and answers over over the last 12 years and over time Google is you know dropping those questions out of the index and we have that we have that same question so in some in some cases where sites are generating and I’ve worked with the site’s millions of your elves for every conceivable you’re saying sometimes they’re just just approving them just to just to let them go and return what we call for a 4 status code or something like that. Now so. I think so so we we brought this up with their search quality team over time as well and their point of view is generally if someone thought that this would be would be useful pages then they should improve the quality of those pages from from our side looking at it a little bit more practically at you you just have a limited amount of time and sure you could go in and kind of improve the 60000 questions out may your submitted 10 years ago I don’t know you could add some value to those but on the other hand maybe your time is better spent focusing on fewer things are more important things where you know that if you put a little bit of effort in here then that will draw in millions of new users at so that’s something where you kind of need to balance what you want to focus on and I I’ve seen some really large websites look at things like impressions and search what they say everything I could less than 10 impressions a year we’ll just cut out and if you don’t have time to actually review all of that content maybe that’s a feasible strategy right that’s 10 count number hi I just made that up so like don’t don’t quote me on that but that that’s something some some sites through and I think that definitely makes sense if you can’t really go in and review all of. And sometimes do it in a way that they need they will know indexing content which means it technically still exists on the website and if you go to the site you can still find it it’s just for search engines it’s basically well you don’t have to worry about and that’s that’s certainly an option I want to shift the conversation just for a second. To talk about links you talked about the idea of promoting your website. That links are important for Google as a signal to understand that the site maybe has some popularity. I think this is one of the hardest things to explain to new webmasters and website orders that those links are important but there are certain links that can you know maybe hurt you in some ways and we you I often hear you reach or refer to these as manipulative clicks what is your definition of a manipulable link a link that you you shouldn’t go for. 88 I think it’s really tricky so we we’ve internally kind of well internally at least what within kind of the the webmaster communication side we’ve kind of stopped talking about link so much because we notice every time we talk about links people are like like links are kind of important therefore I will go out and make millions of links and then it will be really important for me which is kind of exactly what we’re trying to avoid so we’ve kind of held off talking about it links there but on the other hand especially if it’s a new website it is important for us to to find some references to to that website so that’s something where I I would say in the beginning especially if it’s a new website if it’s a newer business then it’s worthwhile to go off and maybe find those business directories where you can submit your sites are built the local business areas where you can kind of I kind of had you mentioned there are entered some point you essentially just let it go more or less and kind of work on it so. And that when it comes to manipulative links the issue that we usually see is one there’s really and large scale pattern of someone going out and like saying I always like a few links are good I will get 1000000 links and then we look at that we say well the millions of people linking to the site but actually it’s all from the webmaster all from the S. E. and then that’s something that’s problematic for us whereas if we say well they’re a handful of people linking to the site or using that to discover the website. That’s perfectly fine. All right really that I I guess I’d larger scale patterns when we run across that that would be problematic I said okay so so most most people are going to have to worry about it but there’s a chance Google might ignore some of those links if they if they think they’re they’re not in good faith yeah I I think that’s that’s one of the changes that I’m I’m kind of happy about with regards to a lot of there with the web spam things that we we do that is that if we can recognize that these are problematic then we should just be able to kind of ignore the instead of counting them against the site because the sooner you count them against the site that some people will say well it’s outside of my control and maybe my competitor is doing this and they’re causing harm to my website whereas if we can just ignore them down in the worst case they they won’t have any effect at all we we do something similar for example for any text where we can tell that a site is using hidden text in a minute goes away then we just try to ignore it like other people can look at that and say well they’re doing something against your webmaster guidelines you should remove them from search and from our side if we can recognize that the manipulation attempts and just ignore that then we’ve kind of neutralize that affect and that’s that’s fine people generally don’t know how to make a perfect website I think even if you look at Google’s websites are particularly Google’s website you see all kinds of things that are broken and wrong and we we can have to deal with that web that is imperfect. I I think that’s good I think that’s a really good point let me ask you a question I keep going back to my friend’s motorcycle of the site he’s a wealth of bad as your question for me I hope he’s not watching this video and he’ll it’ll say something like Cyrus my competitors are ranking higher than me and I have the exact same content is that. Why why are they ranking on top of me and what can I do about it when we have the exact same content we sell the exact same product. Now. Arm I think that’s always tricky because we look at a variety of factors when it comes to rankings so if we think that these are kind of the same products than they might be kind of on a similar ranking scale and we have to show one of them higher than you we can’t put them in like next to each other so that’s always a bit tricky I think the one aspect that sometimes comes up is when competitors are copying your content and that kind of goes more into the copyright question and then that’s something wherefrom our side we can’t really give a lot of advice because we were not legally trained for that but sometimes the DMCA DMCA process is the right way to to kind of deal with that and say well this is my content nobody else is allowed to use it and like they should take it down or Google should not show this content in search because it’s not. And that process is, as far as I know, is is fairly straightforward and fairly well documented. The other thing that always comes up with with this kind of things is when the other site is ranking about mine and doing some things wrong as well where people kind of expect that we take that situation and bring it to the search quality team and tell them all these sites are kind of the same but this one is doing this one thing wrong we should rank the other side first instead and generally speaking the search quality team well not do anything with that kind of complaints are because they’ll say well if these are essentially the same sites and for the user doesn’t matter which one to show high. So unless we can go to them and say well-decided number two or number ten is clearly significantly better and it would be a bug in our systems to show the other side the first one then they’ll say well we don’t really have much to do here and we could spend a couple of hours or days kind of tweaking our algorithms to change that but at the same time that that might be visible by I don’t know if you’re a hundred people a year so there wouldn’t be that impact.