Interview with Google’s Gary Illyes (Follow Up)

Gary Illyes Interview

What’s really going on with Google these days? How can you get better rankings in Google? Here is my exclusive follow up interview with Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst.

Our previous interview with Gary was probably our most popular podcast episode so far. In this new interview, I check the status on a couple of things Gary talked about last year, plus I ask a bunch of new questions on topics such as website speed, duplicate content penalties, mobile search, the best way to update your content, and more. Here are some excerpts from my interview.

Web Hosting Cat: Should the primary focus of website owners continue to be providing helpful content for users that answers their questions and solves their problems? Are the search engines continuing to look for these types of sites?

Gary Illyes: Yes. I don’t think that will change anytime soon. Basically, if people focus on quality content and answering the user’s questions, then that’s exactly what will lead to success.

WHC: How important are the old traditional on-page items such as Titles, Meta Descriptions, Alt Tag for images, etc.? Do they still really matter?

GI: These also matter to some extent. They can help on making search engines in general understand better their content. Alt attributes for images [are] ridiculously important.

WHC: We hear a lot about duplicate content being a big no-no with the search engines. Is there really a duplicate content penalty? If so, what exactly is considered duplicate content?

GI: We don’t have anything like a duplicate content penalty. I don’t think we ever had. But, if one site is copying another one, then we will try hard to make sure that we are picking up for search the original version. Duplicate content on the same site will not cause any sort of penalty for you, but you are leaving it to us to decide what to show in search.

WHC: Website speed is thought to be a big factor in a user’s experience. In your opinion, is it a big enough element with the search engines that a website owner should consider things such as switching their web hosting company or adding a content delivery network? Or, should they focus more on webpage structure, minimizing images, etc.?

GI: We never said that it’s a big factor as far as I know. Generally, people should rather focus on on-page optimizations—namely, if you can compress your JavaScript for example, or [for] HTML, remove unnecessary tags, [and] compress your images—those will be the things that help you the most.

WHC: Is there any benefit in buying an aged domain when starting a website? Can a new website domain rank as well as one that’s been around a long time?

GI: I think there is an added benefit of buying an old domain, but it’s not because of what SEOs usually think. The reason it’s a good idea is that there’s already some sort of brand awareness and people might know about the domain name and they might go there.

WHC: How important is a webpage’s publication date? For updating content, is it better to create a new page or should you just go back and edit and update your old document?

GI: Interesting question. Publication date can be quite useful. We might show it in the snippet as well. I see that many new sites update their articles and it works great for them. Generally, if it works for one site, then it would work for other sites as well. I don’t think we have a recommendation set in stone for this. I think personally that updating the article would be the way to go.

WHC: How important would you say that mobile search is these days? Should website owners be focusing more on mobile SEO?

GI: Well, we were telling people for almost seven years that mobile is important. If people still think that it’s not important, then probably they shouldn’t do SEO at all. It is one of the things that are the most important nowadays.

WHC: Along with mobile search, voice search is another technology that is gaining in popularity. Are there any ways that website owners should be optimizing their sites for voice search?

GI: I think voice search would be the perfect example of where you have to write the same way you talk. Basically, if you over-optimize your content and it doesn’t read natural anymore, that would hurt you in voice search.

Be sure to listen to the complete interview with Gary Illyes on the season 2 premier of the Web Hosting Cat Podcast.