Google analyst Gary Illyes was a speaker at the SMX Advanced keynote held in the United States last month in June. There were many topics covered throughout Illyes’ presentation, highlighting the changes coming to Google and its algorithms, and how it will all affect search users. Our summary below contains useful facts that can help boost the performance of your brand and digital marketing.
RankBrain, identified as Google’s third-most important ranking factor, was discussed and explored on how it actually influences search results and what it means for SEO professionals. RankBrain is a form of artificial intelligence designed by Google which is meant to improve the interpretation of search queries to best identify the needs of the search user. Following this logic, the implementation of RankBrain has led to changes in rankings and give more specific results for all type of search queries. It is also worth noting that RankBrain is now fully operational, as opposed to less than 15% usage when it was introduced in November last year.
Illyes argues that the absence of a scoring/rating system means that webmasters cannot optimise or do SEO purely for the benefit of RankBrain. While our team at Quantum adhere to this school of thought, we recommend business owners and digital marketers alike continue working on increasing the quality of content; by writing more expansively, predicting questions of search users and answering them, and becoming an authority on the product or service of your website.
The Panda algorithm was also discussed with Illyes, and it was confirmed that updates were still a manual process (i.e. not in live-time), and each update can take months to fully roll out. Panda is a quality checking algorithm, and unlike RankBrain, it still relies on a rating system to score webpages and sites. So although Panda is continuous, it is not real-time and therefore can be slow.
Finally in the topic of algorithms, much has been speculated and publicised about the upcoming Penguin update. The process of making this update live and continuous has been pushed back constantly this year alone. Illyes has confirmed that it has still NOT been released, and has refused to give a timeline on when it will go live.
One interesting note for SEO’s is that Google no longer uses authorship mark-ups in all types of forms. Once a recommended practice, Google stopped using authorship back in 2014 with the exception of in-depth articles. However, Illyes has confirmed that Google now ‘reads’ the content, and therefore does not require the authorship mark-up, making it redundant.
If you’re a webmaster trying to check your analytics data through Google Search Console, you know that the maximum amount of time you can go is 90 days back. Illyes has announced that this will soon change, promising more history of data to be made available when working with Search Console. This is positive news that will give brands and businesses more options when it comes to making decisions based on data.
Industry reports indicate a possible Panda or Phantom update took place in June. The results and available data suggest that it may have been a quality-check, penalising sites with negative UX problems such as aggressive advertising and usability barriers.
This was NOT the Penguin update many marketers are waiting for, as there were no ties back to links causing problems for sites.
Here is a list of collective features found in websites affected negatively by this update:
Keep in mind that Google is ever focused on the quality of websites – this means you should make content and site usability a priority for you to improve on! Enhancing UX features and keeping it mobile- friendly should be on the top of your list. Addressing problems with your site will lead on to that boost in rankings and traffic, and allow you to remain competitive in the ever-increasing landscape of digital marketing.