We proudly introduce you to yet another pre-eminent speaker at YoastCon 2017: Marcus Tandler! Marcus, also known as Mediadonis, is co-founder and managing director at Ryte (previously known as OnPage.org). This award-winning SaaS Tech-StartUp helps webmasters make better websites. Marcus started working in the SEO industry about 20 years ago, so he gained a lot of experience over the years. Read in this interview why you should not focus on Google or SEO when optimizing your site!
You’ve been in the business for a very long time (since 1998). Do you think SEO changed a lot during this time? If so, what are the main lessons we can learn from those changes?
SEO has changed a lot from its early years to where we are now. When I started with SEO, keyword stuffing was the way to go. It was only about putting as many instances of a particular keyword on your page, preferably using a white font on white background to not bother the user ;)
When Google introduced its link-based ranking algorithm, the link spam games began. People were grabbing low hanging fruit via open guestbooks, forums and comments or simply buying links on high Pagerank domains. SEOs were addicted to Pagerank. For a long time acquiring links was pretty much the only thing you’d have to worry about when trying to rank a website for juicy keywords.
Brand and authority have continued to become more important throughout the years, which all started with Google’s Vince update in 2009. On-page SEO and UX have become more important as well, with Google becoming less dependent on ranking signals which can be gamed from the outside, like backlinks.
Google’s goal is to create happy users. Google has become exceptional in anticipating search intent and delivering a satisfying result.
These days, links will get you into the top 10 at best; it’s user behavior that will make it rise to the top or vanish to page two. Last year, Google Principal Engineer Paul Haahr said at SMX West:
„We run a lot of experiments, it is very rare if you do a search on Google and you’re not in at least one experiment.“
Of course, those are not all ranking experiments. Google famously tested 42 different shades of blue to find the optimal blue for their search result links.
So the main lesson is: Only try to rank for keywords, where you can deliver the best possible result – or at least the best among the top 10 ;)
You must have seen lots of websites in your career. What’s the biggest mistake you think website owners make when it comes to SEO?
Often people think of SEO as a tactical approach, which gets applied only after the website is up and running. It makes a lot of sense to include an SEOs opinion right from the start when conceptualizing the website or planning a relaunch.
The biggest mistake I see quite a lot is failing at indexation control and poor crawl budget management. Most webmasters are feeding Google all available pages, not thinking about whether Google should index those pages. For example, online shops with x different color variations of the same product on x different pages. Same goes for feeding a blog’s category- and/or tag-pages to Google, while most of the time these pages cannibalize other pages from the blog and provide a subpar result for the user. So basically compulsive hoarding of pages.
Ever since Google introduced the Panda, webmasters should try to cut the fat, only feeding pages to Google which provide value to a potential searcher.
With every page you should ask yourself three questions:
- Do I need it for my users?
- Does it need to be indexed?
- Does it need to rank?
Although Google has almost limitless crawl capabilities, they still want to manage it most effectively. It’s all about avoiding waste of resources. Don’t become a digital compulsive hoarder.
Absolutely! Of course, you will need a couple of good links to convince Google of your site’s legitimacy and get a shot at the top 10, but only thorough on-page SEO will make your site stay there.
On-page SEO is the foundation. Your ambition should be creating a 100% perfect website. Fast loading, omni-device friendly, no broken links, broken assets or anything else that can go wrong. There are also various best practices for international websites (hreflang), handling internal duplicate content (canonical), pagination issues (rel prev / next) as well as controlling indexation with the help of robots.txt directives or the noindex-tag. The better Google can understand your website structure and content, the better you will end up ranking.
I’d aim much higher, though. Not focusing specifically on SEO but rather website quality and user experience as a whole. Users want fast loading websites that work properly on all desktop and mobile devices. Of course, Google also likes fast loading websites, because it makes their users happy. So Google should not be your focus, always focus on the user, and you’ll be fine.
SEO of the future: what should website owners focus on if they want to rank now AND in the future? Are there any important changes coming up that we should know about?
If you focus on your users, you will be fine and won’t have to worry all too much about potential updates and changes. Google cares a lot about its users, so you should, too. Google is getting better and better at determining which result is the best result for the user, so you should always aim at being the best possible resource for the keywords and topics you’re trying to rank for.
It helps to be honest with yourself up front, so is your website a good resource for these keywords and topics? Do you offer anything unique over the websites which are already ranking in the top 10? Constantly ask yourself: If your website would disappear from the web, would anyone miss it?
Why shouldn’t people miss your talk at YoastCon?
I have a pretty unique form of storytelling racing through hundreds of slides. So besides getting up to speed on what’s happening at Google, you will hopefully have a great time getting slidestormed ;)
Follow Marcus on Twitter: Twitter.com/mediadonis
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Read more: YoastCon 2017: Practical SEO »