Last week, Google’s own John Mueller was put in the firing line in front of a vast audience in Auditorium 1 at Brighton SEO last week (12th April 2019).
The session started as quite relaxed, with questions such as ‘What are your responsibilities as a webmaster trends analyst?’ and ‘What does success look like for the team?’ But after a few minutes, Hannah Smith began asking John about vital matters such as user data, the recent de-indexing bug, featured snippets and plenty more. Here are some of the key takeaways:
User Signals as a Ranking Factor
Hannah asked John if Google uses user data, such as clicks and bounce rates, as a ranking factor.
John answered that he doesn’t think they do, but instead they use them to analyse the algorithms in general. They’re just not part of the algorithm itself.
Google uses user signals to evaluate the quality of algorithms, seeing which trends are correct by observing where people click. John said that, for one specific search query, it could go in many different directions. So essentially, user data would be too noisy a signal, too easily spammed.
Clarity on the recent indexing bug
Carrying on from algorithm updates, Hannah also asked what exactly happened with the Google indexing bug, which recently caused the de-indexing of many websites. There has since been speculation that this was the result of an algorithm update gone wrong.
John responded that it was merely a technical issue that was not caused by an update. He also stated that when something goes wrong at Google, they try to make sure that it isn’t visible, but that isn’t always possible.
He confirmed that the issue is now resolved and that if any URLs are still not indexed, then you can submit them in Google Search Console.
Google’s Link Graph
Many major websites are now nofollowing all external links, a recent trend that does impact Google’s link graph, as John confirmed. He said that it’s a shame as it affects their ability to pick up new content.
However, he also stated that he understands that certain sites, such as news sites, see SEOs as a hassle, messaging them to add links. But, this kind of thinking isn’t so great for them, as links still play a role in finding useful content online.
The Role of Featured Snippets
SERP features, such as featured snippets, are valuable for websites, as if they are featured in a snippet, their site is highlighted and the traffic is sent to them. This is because the information in a snippet isn’t always complete, and so users click on that website to read the rest.
There have been some complaints that these snippets take clicks away from websites, as there are instances when the snippet presents the information that the user wants, and so they don’t need to carry on their search.
John stated that Google are not taking clicks away in these types of situations; all they are doing is helping the user find their desired information a lot faster.
The Role of Voice Search
The popularity of voice search is growing, and webmasters are now trying to optimise their sites for this. However, it can be tricky as there is so much that we don’t know.
John recommended purchasing a device with voice assistant, so that people can start to understand how it works. He also believes that if the content on your site is high-quality and easily accessible, there is no need to make any certain changes.
We had a fantastic time at Brighton SEO last week, and we cannot wait to return.