At SMX West last week, Michelle Robbins conducted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session with Nathan Johns, a search quality analyst at Google. Johns touched on topics ranging from the core search algorithm update a week ago to the mobile-first index, the Google Search Console, Google’s zero results experiment and much more. Below are highlights from the AMA.
Johns noted the core search algorithm update started to roll out on March 7. Most SEOs believed it started to roll out either on March 8 or 9. He reiterated that this core search algorithm update is designed to “reward under-rewarded sites,” and if your site saw a drop, just keep working on making your site better, it does not indicate a penalty.
With the mobile-first index, there is nothing new to add; it is still “chugging along,” Johns said, and overall, this is a big effort and a big change, so Google is taking its time with it. The speed update is coming in July, and thus, speed and mobile-friendliness are most important. Everyone should be working on that for their websites if they have not done so already.
There were a number of presentations during SMX West addressing voice search and how site owners can prepare their content for surfacing in voice. Johns did not have specific information to share with respect to numbers or other data but did note:
Several audience members asked questions related to various ranking signals (or presumed ranking signals), and Johns clarified:
There were a surprising number of questions surrounding use of the “nofollow” link attribute. Nathans advised:
Google is listening to the community feedback on the zero results experiment and will consider the feedback they get going forward. Nathan wants to make sure you all use the official webmaster forums, Google Search Console, developer docs, and, of course, read Google’s webmaster guidelines and watch the company’s videos.
Johns said that SEOs do not have to worry about negative SEO, at least the “vast majority” of it. He recommended using the disavow tool in Google Search Console if you are concerned, however. His advice remains that sites that follow best practices for user experience will be successful in the SERPs. He said that business owners should experience everything their customer experiences by using their websites. You should be intimately familiar with everything about it, he said. You should ask your users for feedback and use that feedback to make improvements.
Those were the main discussion points from the AMA with Google at SMX West last week. Several other questions were asked, but Johns was unable to comment. We’ll be following up with him on those and post a follow-up once we have those comments.
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