Top 3 Questions left unanswered at SMX Advanced

1) Are the days of SERP shattering algorithm updates over?

As long as there is information that needs to be organized, and as long as there are new technologies that grant access to that information, there will be algorithm updates from Google. Sure, they’re going to have algorithm updates like Hummingbird in the future to help “pretty up” the SERP in the future. But will we ever seen another Panda or Penguin-like update? You might be thinking I’m crazy and be saying, “Of course there will be another ‘black and white’ animal algorithm update in the future.” But I don’t think the answer is that clear cut.

I think Google understands search to the point that it doesn’t need to fix the search mistakes twice. The reason they needed giant SERP shaking algorithms in the past is because search was still a new thing that Google was learning as it was creating its search experience.  I believe the future of search, no matter the device, will be based on past lessons learned and Google with their “500 algorithms” will make an “honest” website rank higher in the SERP. Matt Cutts at SMX specifically said:

It’s easier to be real, than to fake being real. The era of shortcuts is that would guarantee number one ranking is quickly coming to an end. At this point its easier to just have those authentic conversations, and to do the work, and get to be known the honest way because that’s what stands the test of time.

 Jump to 13:07 to hear Matt Cutts talk about the “end of shortcuts”

If it is easier to be real in SEO these days then true marketers and content creators will overtake the techies who once dominated this industry. This has been the direction Google has taken the SERP for quite sometime, and as a result those black-hat techs are abandoning the profession. So if the SERP is ignoring black-hat, and black-hat SEOs are ignoring the SERP, then the only conclusion you could come to is Google won’t need another SERP shaking, black-hat killing algorithm update in the future.

Answer: I believe the age old term, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” completely applies to Google and the future of search algorithm updates. Google understands search to the point that they could probably weed out future black-hat techniques before they damage the SERP, and therefore won’t require a major Panda/Penguin-like update in the future.

 

 

2) When will mobile dominate SEO?

We know that mobile searches are growing at a tremendous rate and are on pace to overtake desktop search. But we still don’t know when this is going to happen. The SEO community is starting to get behind mobile optimization, but are we doing it with as much urgency that we need? One of the most memorable events at SMX was the Q&A session with Matt Cutts, and one of the most memorable things from that event was how “real” Matt Cutts got about mobile search. Cutts sat up in his chair, leaned forward, raised his hands and with a deadly serious tone told the crowd that mobile was coming, and if you weren’t working on your mobile SEO strategy now you were setting yourself up for failure.

mobile

The thing is we’ve been hearing this exact same talk for years now, and supposedly mobile will overtake desktop searches this year. The year is halfway over, though, and we’re just not seeing the numbers yet. Data back in April suggests that smartphone’s share of organic searches only sits at 23%, but the report does note that there is a 50% year-over-year growth in smartphone searches. My best guess is smartphone organic searches will sit around 35 – 40% at the end of the year, which overall will be about 119% – 150% year-over-year growth.

mobile

Answer: Google thinks mobile could outpace desktop searches this year. Google is quite reliable and if they say it’s going to happen, it will probably happen. The thing is, though, they didn’t say it’s going to happen this year, they simply said they wouldn’t be surprised if it happened this year. So the truth is no one knows exactly when mobile searches will overtake desktop searches.

Other data sources like BrightEdge said it doesn’t look like it will happen this year. Although it does look like it will get very close, and I would be surprised if mobile didn’t overtake desktop by the first quarter of 2015.  So Cutt’s advice about getting your mobile SEO strategy in order is exactly the direction the SEO industry needs to go right now. So don’t just sit there, start studying, get to work and build that mobile strategy!

 

 

3) Will Google+ data be used for SERP Ranking?

One of the first events of SMX Advanced was a great presentation by Marcus Tober called, “The Periodic Table of SEO Ranking Factors: 2014.”  Though Marcus went through the data of a ton of different potential ranking factors, the correlation behind social was still presented as possibly influencing the SERP. The big question still in the minds of many SEOs is if social helps rankings through causation, or if the data simply shows correlation.

Facebook

Well, a few months ago Matt Cutts directly answered if social factors influence SERP rankings.

There was an SEO that said ‘OK, we see a lot of links on Facebook and those are the pages that rank well,’ but that’s correlation, that’s not causation. Instead, it’s probably that there’s something really awesome and because there is something awesome then it gets a lot of likes on Facebook and a lot of people decide to link to it. That’s the sort of thing where the better content you make, the more people are to like it, not only in Google but in Twitter and Facebook as well.

 

Now having just said all of that, you’ll notice that Matt Cutts didn’t mention Google+ at all, and this has left many SEOs wondering if Google+ is a current ranking factor. At SMX he quickly mentioned that Google+ data wasn’t currently being used in rankings, just as Facebook and Twitter data wasn’t being used, but that doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. If you think about it Google+ is data collected by Google, and Google+ isn’t that different from authorship data, and if Google is thinking about the potential of authorship as a ranking factor you can bet they’ve had a conversation or two about using Google+ data.

At SMX Matt Cutts talked about authorship specifically saying”

The long term trend is we will be using that data more . . . I’m a big fan behind the idea of author rank. Now as far as what the timeline looks like, how the logistics work, all that sort of stuff, that’s a difficult problem and we have to figure out how to solve it.

[youtube id=”R0WLYJUGFzE?t=14m22s” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Jump to 14:22 to hear Matt Cutts talk about Authorship as a potential ranking factor.

Answer: Google is probably talking about how they can use Google+ data, but isn’t currently using it. Google doesn’t own Facebook or Twitter and doesn’t have access to their data, and scrapping that data isn’t a reliable technique because Google could be blocked from accessing their site. From Google’s point of view it doesn’t make sense that your number one product (SERP) would go all wack as soon as Facebook or Twitter blocks Googlebot. Kind of makes you wonder if Google+ was bigger if +1 (Google+’s version of likes) would influence SERPS.  As of right now we have data that says it does but is it correlation or causation?