Google Reveals How It Approaches SEO

Search professionals often struggle with the nuances around search engine optimization. This week Google shared the thinking behind its experts' efforts to optimize content on more than 7,000 managed websites.

SEO is complex, agrees Sean O’Keefe, data scientist at Google. In a blog post published Thursday, he acknowledged that the company’s hundreds of product and marketing team experts make on average more than 200 changes daily to the 7,000 sites. All these changes can influence a site's optimization efforts.

In the post, O'Keefe outlines Google's website SEO strategy, and provides an SEO starter guide on how to optimize sites. It covers everything from how to help Google understand the content on the sites to analyzing search performance.

Basic tips include starting small, embracing change, and consolidating when possible.

Start small and focus initially on incremental changes to a website’s overall SEO strategy. For example, organic traffic typically increases after SEO improvements to Google My Business. In fact it saw near two times the increase in organic traffic, partly because the team implemented a number of web best practices, such as showing search engines which URLs to index by implementing canonicals.

Embrace Change -- all types of change, from consumer behavior to the changes Google makes across its properties.

Mobile phones generated 52.2% of website traffic worldwide in 2018, up from 35.1% in 2015 and 2.9% in 2010, according to Statista. Google Search has been adapting in response, with new developments such as AMP and Progressive Web Apps.  

O’Keefe also wrote that improving Google’s content overall may have led to its content being selected more often for featured snippets, which led to an additional 1,000 impressions daily.

Consolidate when possible. Duplicate content confuses users and search engines. Creating one great site instead of multiple microsites is the best way to encourage organic growth.

Even at Google, a recent audit revealed that over the years the company had developed a large number of near-duplicate sites based on different campaigns or marketing goals. Consolidating content doubled the site's call-to-action click-through rate and increased organic traffic by 64%.

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