John Mueller of Google Switzerland gave the closing keynote at SMX Israel, explaining the responsibilities of both Google and webmasters alike. In order to improve search quality while discouraging spammers, Google’s changing algorithms have been moving in the direction of favoring good content and good sites. Despite the 2013 Hummingbird update to Google, which he clarified was not a penalty, Mueller said: “We’re still manually fighting spam.”
But what makes a good site? Mueller reminded us all to ensure that our sites are built properly and continue to operate in a technically correct fashion. Monitoring site pages is critical; and webmasters shouldn’t rely on Google to contact them and point out technical problems.
What about Google’s Webmaster Tools? “We can contact you, but if you’re not signed up for Tools, we don’t know where to go,” he explained. Signing up for Webmaster Tools will help you and Google’s support teams to speak the same language; as Mueller reminded the audience, SEO isn’t about tricks! Everyone should mind their Ps and Qs for the best responses.
What is on the horizon for search using Google? Our Swiss visitor shared these areas that Google is focusing on in 2014 and beyond:
- Machine learning
- Social searching
- Rich snippets
Two additional points Mueller made were to encourage new sites to be written securely (using HTTPS) and to get on board with mobile. In several instances, Mueller mentioned that 2013 was the year of mobile and that site owners that are still waiting for a tipping point in mobile usage are probably already running behind.
“Stop thinking about making a mobile website,” he said, implying that it is a critical step that needs to be attended to as soon as possible. Mobile site speed was mentioned several times in the course of the day.
In the Q & A, Mueller didn’t give much away about where Google is headed. A quick poll of participants from SMX Israel organizer Barry Schwartz asked the audience how many webmasters would be willing to convert their sites to HTTPS in exchange for receiving keyword search data that’s been wiped out as [NOT PROVIDED]. Despite some chuckles and overwhelming support for the idea, Mueller said keyword data is probably not coming back to Google Analytics any time soon.