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How Your SEO Strategy Fits into Google's Perfect World (with Geoff Atkinson)

Posted by Kevin Taeyaerts on July 30, 2020

When building a website, companies have always been focused on creating a “user-friendly” interface. Online shoppers should be able to navigate around your website and make a purchase with ease. However, sometimes companies forget the biggest user of their website… Google. By controlling search engine results, they are the one who ultimately decide which websites get traffic. Long story short, if Google is happy, you’ll be happy.

On this episode of the J&See  Views on Marketing, we dive further into the world of SEO with the founder of Huckabuy, Geoff Atkinson. Meg and Geoff break down the basics of SEO and why Google plays a part in everything. Read on for some of the highlights of their conversation. And of course, make sure to subscribe to J&See: Views on Marketing to hear a interview like this once a month.

A: There's a lot of factors, but there's some, you know, what I call sort of directionally correct things that they're looking for. So, page speed is a really important factor. They, of course, look at inbound links and the quality of those links and what the anchor text is. They look at how often is the age refreshing in terms of content?

They look for structured data, which is this language that is like this authoritative language between Web sites and search engines that helps them understand and also use within their search results to create rich enhancements throughout search results.

They now look for dynamically rendered sites. So that means a version just like you have a desktop and a mobile version of any given site. You actually now can have a Google version that can take out all the JavaScript and the things that trip them up and give them a really sort of optimized version.

They've announced that there's a really big update coming in 2021 that's called “The Page Experience” and ... it will be probably their biggest update. I mean, they've never talked about an update over a year in advance before so they think this is going to be a big one. It’s all about the page experience for the user and is it is it giving them what they want in a quick manner. That's sort of the stuff that they're looking for today.

Q: Talk a little bit more about the importance of being predictive rather than reactive when it comes to SEO.

A: I think it's a very reactive industry. What's wild about SEO is that people think of it as kind of a black box and, you know, you can't prepare for what they're doing. I don't think that's the case.

Google is actually quite open and honest about what they want and what they're looking for. This concept of, like, dynamic rendering is a great example. This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest changes they've made in the last 10 years and they only made it a year ago. Yet very few people are talking about it in the SEO community. We see it as an opportunity.

The industry is very reactive. They'll make an algorithm change. Everybody will freak out. They'll try to reverse engineer, you know, what happens, try to recover. I find that to be just sort of analysis paralysis. You know, it's like if you get into that that zone, how can you ever expect to grow when you're always reacting? So, we're looking at the big picture. We feel like if we're aligned with their key directives, then our customers are going to benefit when they do algorithm updates. That's really, you know, as long as we stay on top of that, that's proven to be true, that if we're aligned, our customers will grow whenever they make algorithm updates.

So, I like to think that way, which is a much different way than your typical SEO. Let's look at the macro trends and let's align ourselves for future success. That's really the only way, in my opinion, you can win instead of, you know acting in fear, almost. Where you're just worried all the time that they're going to change something and then trying to figure out what happened. So, that's kind of how we think about things.

Q: What do you mean by “Google’s Perfect World”?

A: Google's Perfect World means: what would a website look like if it was built for them and not for humans? What would that look like?

I always use like the example of Wikipedia. Wikipedia, in a lot of ways, is like their perfect world. Tons of user generated content. A very simple site that loads quickly, doesn't have a bunch of stuff like chat boxes firing.

So, when we technically think about what do they want? Well, they want flat HTML. They do not like JavaScript. JavaScript is like Google's nemesis, because once they hit JavaScript and almost every page on the Internet has JavaScript, then they can't crawl it with their normal crawler. They have to put it in what they call a rendering queue, and it takes 2-4 weeks for them to index the content and it takes 10 times the processing time. So, they want just a flat HTML site that loads instantly as fast as humanly possible and they want structured data.

So, there's really three things. It's pretty straightforward when what they want. They want mobile friendliness, but they want to be able to come with their tried-and-true HTML crawler and be able to download all the content and information from a site as quickly as they can. That's their perfect world. They do not like to get trapped and caught up and lost and trying to figure out JavaScript chat boxes and stuff. All those enhancements that we make for users, typically will get in their way.

So, what do they want? A perfect world for them looks like flat HTML, instant page speed and give them world class structure data.

Q: As marketers, park of our job is creating chat boxes and everything that seems to be what Google hates. What should marketers be doing to meet Google in the middle?

A: This is literally why they introduced dynamic rendering is so that you can do all those things still, but give them a version that they love. That's what's so great about it. If you do have a dynamically rendered version of the site for them, you can do whatever you want on the front end for the users and have all that action.

The reason that they are going this direction is they saw all that stuff is definitely not slowing down. People aren't building simpler websites all of a sudden, they're just getting more and more complex. So, it made their job so hard that they kind of threw up their hands and said, "Well, there has to be an easier way, just give us a version."

But if you aren't going to go the dynamic rendering route, there is a happy medium. What I encourage people to do is to really just honestly think about what the trade-offs are when you do add a chat box. So, this is something I learned from Overstock, whenever you add something to the page, it's probably getting called from a set of servers somewhere not near your servers. Hopefully they are, but probably not. Which is going to add latency with that request and it's going to add JavaScript to the page and it's going to make it difficult.

When you test those things, don't just test them for users. What is the impact on your SEO performance? Because you can have the most beautiful website in the world but if no one's looking at it, it doesn't really matter. So, there's a balance between driving traffic and then being able to convert that traffic. I'm not saying not to do a chat box. We do a chat box, but just know the trade-offs, right? Don't just blindly go in and say, well we're just going to do everything we possibly can for the user. Google is very important in that they deliver the users. So, there is a happy medium… just consider what it's going to do for Google as an important visitor to your site. And that's sort of a nice rule of thumb is just to keep them in mind.

Bonus Tip from Geoff

Optimize your top navigation to align your navigation to what people search for in your keywords. We've seen companies double by just doing that. Look at your keyword list. Look at your navigation. See if they're aligned. If they're not, go into a spreadsheet and sort of map out what you would do in Google's perfect world. There's probably a happy medium between what the user wants and what they want. But make sure that the site's designed for what your customers search for.

Listen to the whole episode to hear everything Geoff has to say about optimizing for Google. Download J&See: Views on Marketing on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Or you can listen to the episode on Google Podcasts and Simplecast. And make sure you subscribe to get a new episode every month.

Topics: Digital Marketing, Podcast, SEO

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