SEO: Common Issues and Misconceptions (GDD India ’17)

By | August 26, 2019

for joining me in this session. I’m Syed Malik. I lead search outreach
in India and South Asia. And I must say I’m
super excited to be here and to be talking
about some of the most common issues and misconceptions
related to search engine optimization, or SEO, that
can affect the visibility and appearance of your pages
in Google search results. So what I have for
you in these slides is basically three things. First, we will look at
the general mistakes that publishers make or some of
the things they tend to ignore and some of the
misconceptions that they have. Then, we will want to look
at things that are related to mobile friendly sites. And then, I’ll leave you
with a piece of advice on how to hire an SEO, meaning
if you want to hire somebody to do SEO for your website, what
are the things that you should look for? And what are the things that
you should watch out for? So let’s begin. First, some of the obvious but
not so very obvious things. These are some of
the common mistakes that publishers make when they
do SEO; or some of the very basic things that they tend
to ignore thinking they are trivial, they are not
useful, and things like that; and some of the misconceptions
they base their SEO strategies on, which of course,
if they are misconceptions, they will fail them. Yeah? So what I have done
in this section is basically collected
a bunch of statements from Google’s guidelines and
also some of the statements that we hear from the SEO
community and the publishers time and time again. And some of these statements are
true, and some of them are not. Let us see how many of these
you get them right, OK? OK, the first one– descriptive page titles, meaning
using the– which you implement using the title tag and
your HTML documents, and the good meta
descriptions, meaning, again, the meta description
tag that you use in your HTML documents are important for
better search ranking how many of you think this is true? Many hands. How many of you think
this is not true? A few hands. OK, all of you who said
this is true were correct. Yes, this is absolutely true. Because if you think
about it, all of this may thing– this may look like
a very trivial thing, just a title and a page description
which is actually not visible to your users on a web page. These things are not
visible to users. However, these are
very, very important. And if you think about it, when
a user is in a search results page, these are the only
things or the only window they have into the
content of your website. When they’re on the search list
page, when your site appears in the search result, this
is the only window they have. This will allow them
to judge, basically, whether they want to click
through to your site or not. That’s the decision point. So their decision
is based on this. So if you do not,
basically, give good, creative, and useful
titles and descriptions for your pages, then
even if you manage to rank well in Google search
results, you may lose traffic. Now, this is not to
say that Google always picks the titles and the
descriptions that you give or you provide. Google may also pick that
title and the description from, for example, the
content of your page. It tries to make the description
and the title of your result as relevant to the
query as possible. However, if you do not have
a lot of content on your page itself, then it becomes
even more important for you to provide good
titles and descriptions. So this is extremely important. Now, for the next
statement, but content is still king, meaning
yes, of course, you have your titles and your
descriptions and this and that and everything that you
have done for a SEO. But if you do not have
good quality content, useful content, organic
and original content that can give value
to your users, do you think you are going to
do well in the search results? Do you think content
is king, ultimately? Yes? How many of you? OK, many hands again. How many of you think it is not? I’ll put my hand down,
because I do think it is extremely important. Yes, I see– I still see some hands. Some people think
content is not important, which is no, no, no–
absolutely wrong. Because content is
definitely the king. Because if you think
about it again, why would somebody like
to come to your page? What are they coming there for? Not to see how well
you have optimized your pages for search engines. They are coming
there for, basically, the content of the page. They want to
consume the content. Now, if you don’t have good
content providing value to them, usefulness to
them, then, of course, they will not like
your web pages. When they don’t
like your web pages, Google would not like
to show those web pages to those users, of course,
because they don’t like it. OK, now for the next one. And there is a minimum
and a maximum limit of words for an article
for it to rank better, meaning if your
article is too short or if your article is
too long, it may not do well in search results. How many of you
think this is true? OK, a lot of hands again. How many of you think
these is not true? OK a very, very mixed response– 50/50 I can say. Well, let’s see the results. Of course, this is not true. So if you think
about it again, there are different types of
content on the internet. So one piece of information
can be delivered completely in just one paragraph, for
example, and the other piece of information, meaning it may
need an entire page to explain for it to be complete. So instead of
focusing and counting the number of words
in your articles, what you should be focusing
on is, are you providing complete information to users? Organic, complete, and
authoritative information to users is what
actually matters, not the number of
words in your articles. Now for the next one, there is
an optimal keyword density that can help rank better
for the desired keyword, meaning if there is
a page and you’re targeting that page rank
for a particular keyword, now there has– this word has to
repeat a certain number of times on that page. Otherwise, Google may not pick
that keyword from that page and then may not associate your
page with that keyword and may not ultimately rank that page
for that keyword in the search results. How many of you
think this is true? Wow, a lot of hands. How many of you think
this is not true? OK. For the people who said they
think this is not true, You. Have good news. You’re right. This is not true. So there is nothing called
optimal keyword density. I know there are a lot of
hands that were raised. And these are the
misconceptions that I wanted to bust in this session. So there is nothing called
optimal keyword density. What you should actually
focus on is the user. Well, of course, the
key words are important. You should definitely
step into the user’s shoe and think about them. Think about, what
those key words that they would type
in this Google search when they are trying to
look for content that you are going to write? And consider those
keywords and try to include those
keywords in your content definitely for sure. But overdoing that is
not going to help you. Indeed, it can
basically harm you. Because imagine reading
a newspaper article which is full of keyword stuffing. You see one word keep
repeating many times. Would you like to read such kind
of an article in a newspaper? Absolutely not. So try to make it as
natural as possible. Do not focus on the
density or the reputation of the words, their proximity,
and things like that. Focus on the user. Try to make your article
sound as natural as possible. And ultimately, try to give
them value in your articles. Now, for the next one. It is super important to
fix all the 404 errors warnings that are shown
in the Search Console. How many of you, by the way,
use Search Console here? Whoa, not a lot of you. How many of you– I mean, so the
rest, I’m assuming, you don’t use Search Console. So Search Console is
basically a free tool. And it is the only
tool in the world, by the way, that can give
information about your websites in relation to Google search
as in, what are the problems that Google is encountering
while trying to crawling your pages, indexing your
pages, a number of other issues that it’s encountering that
can hinder your visibility in Google search results? This is the only tool that
can provide you information. It is absolutely free to use. I would highly recommend
you to use this tool. We will have a link to this
tool in the coming slides. Please note that down. I would highly recommend you
to sign up for this tool. So when you sign
up for this tool, this tool also shows
you the 404 errors Googlebot has encountered
while it was trying to access– so it might have
found some links to your pages which may not be
existing or may be existing, but there are some areas
there and found 404s. And it started showing these
errors in the search result. Now, how many of you think
fixing all of these 404 errors is mandatory, you must,
otherwise, your ranking will get affected? Many hands again, OK. The good news is no,
you don’t need to. Because for the pages
that do not exist– they do not exist, it is
right for them to show a 404. And that is what
those pages are doing. But Googlebot is somehow
coming across the links that are pointing to those pages. And it’s trying to
crawl those pages. And it is showing you
those error warnings. But if you think that page
need not exist on your website, you can simply
ignore these 404s. What happens
eventually is Google tries to crawl these
pages a number of times and then eventually
to understand that these pages do not exist. They’re gone
forever, and then, it stops showing you these errors. And for the pages
that you think are– do exist but Googlebot
is still showing a 404, then you should check
those and then fix them. And here’s another one. Google’s algorithms
are way smarter for me to do anything to help
it understand my images better, meaning Google’s image
algorithms are very, very proficient, efficient. They can understand
all kinds of images. And when you put an image, embed
an image in your HTML document, there is nothing else
that you need to do. Just provide the image, and
Google will take care of it. How many of you
think this is true? Finally, only one hand– oh two hands, which
is good news for me. Because yes, most of you
think this is not true. And of course, this is not true. While Google’s
algorithms are like– yes, they are great. They’re brilliant. They can understand
images, of course, a lot. But there are times that
they cannot understand images as well. And they cannot understand
all types of images. For example, you have been to– on a holiday to
an obscure place. And you have taken this
picture of this obscure place. When you put this picture
up on an HTML page, Google may not necessarily
identify that place. Or as simple as, it may not
be able to differentiate between a cup of
coffee and a cup of tea when they are identical–
as simple as that, right? So these kind of things. So what can you do to help
Google Search understand your images? When Google Search is able to
understand your images, then of course, it is also able to
show it in the search results. So it is important
for you to help Google understand these images. So what can you do to help– do to help Google
understand you images? Make use of the alt
tag in your HTML. In the image tag, you
have alt attribute. Try to use alt attribute. Describe your images there
with a couple of key words. And you can also
provide the caption for images wherever
applicable on your web pages. You can also name your files. Instead of naming
of it 001.jpeg, you can maybe give it
a name, proper name, that describes the image itself. These are the places where
Google can take hints from to understand your
images better. OK, that brings us to the next
part of this session, which is Common Issues
and Misconceptions about Mobile-Friendly Sites. Now these are some
of the issues that we come across
mobile-friendly sites when you try to crawl
them, index them. Google faces a lot of
trouble and may not be able to crawl and
index these sites. One of the most
prominent problems is blocked resources, meaning
while a lot of publishers allow their HTML pages to
be crawled and indexed, sometimes they knowingly
or unknowingly, they tend to block the attached
resources, the resources that are attached to this web page,
like, for example, JavaScript, CSS, and image files. Now, why is it important for
you to make these resources available to Googlebot as well? Why? Because Google tries. How Google tries to
understand your content is it tries to basically
render your page, execute the JavaScript just how
it happens in your browsers. It try to do the same
thing with your pages to get all the content
in the context, to understand them better. So this is how it tries
to understand your pages. And when you want, for example,
your CSS and your website is a responsive design, Google
may not understand or know that your website is a
Responsive Web Designed website. And it may not think
that your website is a mobile-friendly site. Or if you like
providing some content to users using
JavaScript, that content may be blocked with when
you blocked your JavaScript. And Google may not be able to
get to that content and index that content. And of course, it may
not be able to show it. So it becomes absolutely
important for you to make all these resources as
well available to Googlebot. Unplayable content–
this is another issue that we have seen on major
websites as well, by the way, when you use
plugins that are not supported by mobile
browsers, for example. This makes for a very, very bad
experience for even your users. And it creates problems
for Google crawler as well. When Google tries to call, for
example, if you’re using flash on your pages, Google
may not be able to get to the content that is where– that is within the
flash components. It may not be able
to read through it. And your users who are
accessing your web pages from their mobile
device may also may not be able to access it. So it makes for a
bad user experience. So these are the things– some of the things
that can actually affect your SEO as well. Interruptive interstitials–
I’m sure some of us have experienced this. When you open a web page
on your mobile device, you suddenly see a pop-up, which
is covering an entire page that is blocking you from
accessing the main components or the main content of that
page or to do the desired action on that page until
you do something– you close it or you sign
up, you download something, and things like that. This is against Google’s
policy guidelines, because this does not make
for a good user experience. What we suggest instead– if you have to show something,
then use smaller banners without blocking the main
content of your pages. Slow pages– now this is, again,
more from the user experience perspective. I am 100% sure that each
one of us in this room have experienced this,
especially when you are on your mobile
devices, on the go. You’re trying to access
some information, and then that page
simply doesn’t load. In fact, surveys
have shown that 53%– these are the global surveys– 53% of the people
who tend to leave your website if
it takes just more than three seconds to load. You heard it right. 53% of the people tend
to leave your website if it takes more than just
three seconds to load. Unfortunately, surveys
also show that 75% of the websites
that are there today take more than 10 seconds. That’s ironic, right? So you would definitely
want to go back and check how you can improve the speed. And when you’re building
your mobile pages, especially, try to build
them for flaky connections, interruptive connections,
and mobile users. Now, the last one
here, faulty redirects. This is, again, one of the major
problems that create problems for Googlebot as well as users. So what we have
seen is especially– this is applicable
especially when you take the separate
URL approach, meaning you have as
your desktop website, and as
your mobile website. And then when somebody is
accessing your mobile world version or a desktop
version from a mobile phone or a mobile version
from a desktop, you would need to
redirect your users. And these redirects do
not function properly. And if they do not
function properly, they create a lot of
problems for Google crawlers in understanding your
content, crawling and indexing your content, as well as
create a frustrating experience for users. In an ideal
scenario, what should happen is all your
desktop pages should redirect to the corresponding
mobile version of your pages. But what we have
seen is sometimes, when you do not have– for example, if
there is a page that is only available on the
desktop version of your site and this particular
page is not available on your mobile
version, people tend to redirect that
are trying to access the mobile version of this
page to the mobile home page, or they just give a 404. Both of these practices
are not great, because users do not
understand what a 404 is. And they are more
confused when they are redirected to the home page. So they try to go back and
try to access that URL again, so that creates for a very,
very bad user experience. Even when Google is trying
to crawl your pages, if you are redirecting it
here and there and everywhere, then Google also gets confused. And it may have difficulty
in crawling and indexing your pages. So those were the
things with the– with– related to
mobile-friendly sites, the common issues. And here are some basic
tools that Google provides to make sure that
Google understand your websites as
mobile-friendly and will help you make your websites
mobile-friendly as well. On the left, you
have Test My Site. You can access this
through, if you go to this link. It’s a simple tool. You enter a URL. It gives you a binary
answer as to whether Google considers your website
mobile-friendly or not. Sometimes, you may think your
website it mobile-friendly. You open it on a mobile
device, it works fine. But at the back end, maybe
some of the resources are blocked, like
JavaScript and CSS. And Google may not understand
it as a mobile-friendly site. So those kinds of
problems can also be highlighted using this tool. The other tool that we have is
the Mobile Usability Report. This basically is accessible
through Search Console. So if you don’t have a
Search Console account, you may not be able
to access this. So you’ll have to first sign up
for the Search Console account. And then this gives you
a more holistic view about your entire website
of the problems that Google encountered while it was
trying to understand– crawl your mobile-friendly site. OK, and there are
more tools of course. And time does not permit us
to go through, in detail, of each of these tools. So I’ll leave you with
the names of these tools so that you can go
back and explore. And I’m sure some of
these tools were also covered in some of
the other sessions that you may have attended. They are like Chrome
Experience Report, Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, Chrome
Dev Tools, and These are some of the
tools you should definitely look for that can help you
increase your page speed, make your sites mobile-friendly,
and things like that. And of course, while talking
about mobile-friendly websites, our discussion, I think, is
incomplete without mentioning mobile first indexing. Now, how many of you heard about
mobile first indexing here? Very, very few hands. OK, what is mobile
first indexing? Mobile first indexing–
so far, Google considered your desktop
version of your websites as the primary version. So it relied upon
your desktop version to get information like the
primary content of your web pages, the metadata,
and the structured data. Now, this is changing. Google is going to consider the
mobile version of your pages as primary. And it is primarily going to
rely on your mobile version to get all this
information, meaning if you do not provide
this information– the full primary
content, the metadata, and the structured data– on
the mobile version of your site, then Google may not get
all the information. And it may not be able to show
your pages as well as it could if you did provide. So it becomes, now,
important for you to ensure that all of these
three things– primary content, metadata, and
structured data are equivalent between your mobile
site and your desktop site. Now, of course, if you’re
using a Resonsive Web Design, for example, there
is not much for you to worry about– or even a
dynamic serving approach, if you have taken to build
your mobile-friendly website. Because what is happening
in Responsive Web Design, for example, is just changing
the format of the same content. The content remains the same. You just change the content– the format of the content
to serve to desktop users and to the mobile users right. Content is not changing. Metadata is not changing. Nothing is changing. Even the structured markup
that you have on these pages remains the same. So there is nothing
to worry about. But if you have taken
this [INAUDIBLE] approach, then, of course, there is
something to worry about. Go back and check that
your mobile version is equivalent in terms
of these three things to your desktop version. Now, for the websites which
provide their services or their content in
multiple languages, like multilingual websites,
when you are implementing the rel=hreflang element, now
you need to make sure that the different language websites
of the desktop version link to each other, and the
different language website of your desktop– mobile version link to
each other, meaning they do not cross link. So a language website do not
cross link using the hreflang tag to the– a desktop website. The desktop page is not
linking to the mobile site. The mobile site is not
linking to the desktop. Rather, they are linking
to the desktop versions of different languages
and mobile versions of different
languages for mobile. And as for the rel=canonical
tag and rel=alternate, which you use when you use
the separate URL approach– and,
where your is the primary version, the
canonical version, and then, the m. version is the
alternate version– so you would have tags like– your desktop version is
pointed as canonical. And this is the alternate. You can keep that tag as it is. There is no need
to change that tag. OK, now quiz time again. Now, there are two
statements here. First one reads, Google
recommends Responsive Web Design. How many of you
think this is true? OK, like 50% of you. And assuming 50% don’t
think this is true, how many of you think Responsive
Web Design is preferred by Google’s ranking
algorithms, meaning if you have a Responsive Web Design– wow, surprisingly
more hands up there. OK, let’s see. Well, while the first
statement is true. The second is not. Google does recommend Responsive
Web Design for various reasons. It does recommend
Responsive Web Design. But that does not
necessarily mean that Google also
prefers Responsive Web Design while ranking. What this means is irrespective
of what technology you are using, what
methodology you are using, what approach you are using– either your website has taken
the Responsive Web Design approach or the Dynamic
Solving approach or this [INAUDIBLE]
URL approach– we treat them all the same when
it comes to ranking, absolutely the same. Google’s algorithms do not look
into the background technology when they’re ranking pages. They just look at the
content of your page and the 200-plus factors that
we have to rank your pages and whether your website
is mobile-friendly or not. As far as your website
is mobile-friendly, you’re doing good, no matter
what technology you using. OK, that brings us to the last
part of this session, which is Hiring an SEO. Now, this begins with quiz. Here is another statement. It is better to hire a Google
Certified SEO or SEO agency and to check their certification
hallmark to verify. How many of you
think this is true? Not many hands. OK, how many think
this is not true? OK, some more hands,
which is kind of great. But for the people who
think this is true, unfortunately, this is not. There is nothing like a Google
SEO Certification, absolutely nothing. If somebody tells you that they
are a Google Certified SEO, turn your back and
run away, because they are the absolute frauds. We do not have anything like
Google SEO Certification. While you may have other
certifications, AdWords and things like that, we
never had or never will have, I think, Google
SEO Certification. Now, hiring an SEO
is a big decision. It comes with potential
advantages, of course, if you hire a right SEO. But if we hire a
rogue SEO, then you can potentially have
a lot of damages. You can even lose your
current ranking and money and a lot of things,
so it’s a big decision. So how can you determine
an SEO is right for you or a SEO agency
is right for you or not? There are some useful questions
you can ask, things like these. First of all, ask them, can
you show me some examples of your previous work? Are there really
established SEOs or very new SEOs that
are going to disappear in a couple of months? What happens with these SEOs
is where genuine SEOs can work for longer period of times
because they are not violating any of the search
quality guidelines and they are not deceptive,
so they’re not frauds. So they stay longer
in the business. So if an SEO is staying
longer in the business and if they have good
reputation and good quality work to showcase, then
they are something that you can look forward to and
move your conversation onward. Also, ask them if they
follow the Google’s Search Quality guidelines. If they say no, then
they are not the people you should be hiring. Because if they don’t
follow the Google’s Search Quality guidelines, then
the Google Search Quality Team may even take a manual
action on your website, which means they can remove
your website from Google’s index entirely or
maybe push down your website in the results. So that can also happen. So if they’re not
following Google’s Search Quality guidelines,
they are not the people you would want to work with. The other things you can also
ask is, what kind of experience do you have beyond SEO in
general marketing and stuff like that? Because SEO is something
not standalone. It can’t be done stand alone. It is a part of the entire mix. So if somebody is
doing SEO alone, then you may have– you may
want to be a little bit wary and then go into the details
as to what they are doing and things like that. But if it’s a
marketing agency that specializes in different
types of marketing things, social media marketing here and
there, and all sorts of things, including your SEO,
then, of course, you can proceed with them. And also, one of the important
questions you should also ask is like, what kind of results
can I expect if I hire you? If they say, OK,
we can bring you with the number one position
for this keyword in two months, again, turn your back. Run away. Because they are
the absolute frauds. No one– no one on
the face of this earth can guarantee you a number
one position ever and ever. So anybody promising
that thing to, know for sure that
they are frauds. OK, what kind of experience
do you have in my industry? This is an important
question as well. Because this is to
understand if they understand your business, your business
objectives, your business goals, and your users as well. Do they understand
them well or not? If they do not, then probably,
they are not the people you want to work with. If they understand
all of those things well, if they
have– they already have experience
in your industry, then those are the people
that can potentially help you. What kind of
experience do you have in developing
international sites? This is especially
relevant for people who have multilingual
sites or sites that are targeting multiple regions. Then, if the SEO already
has an experience in there, then probably,
you can hire them. And then, what sort of
techniques do you use? If they say, no, no, the
techniques that we use are top secret, then, again, the same
formula– turn your back– maybe this side– and run. Because when they’re
not transparent, there is something wrong. There is definitely
something wrong. A genuine SEO can be
100% transparent to you. They can share with
you every single thing that you’re doing– that they’re doing
with your websites. And how long have
you been in business? As I said earlier,
good SEOs tend to stay longer in the business,
because they’re not frauds. So they tend to be there. And then finally, can
I communicate with you? Are they really open? Are they really transparent? Are they going to
share everything with you that they’re going
to do with your website– yes or no? If they say, no, no, no,
we can’t share some things. We can share only some things. Then, probably, those
are not the people you may want to work with. OK, so that’s all I had for you. If you have any questions,
I’m available there. A couple of my
colleagues are also available outside this hall. And your questions
are most welcome. Thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]

5 thoughts on “SEO: Common Issues and Misconceptions (GDD India ’17)

  1. GlideMark Post author

    Thank you Syed very much for the useful SEO and valuable insights at Bangalore.

  2. Saroj Kumar Nayak Post author

    Thanks Syed. Happy to hear your voice again, also some new SEO techniques.

  3. apt update Post author

    i really don't understand doorway pages. making separate pages for keyword and locations perfectly suitable. but some situtations. like checking bank balance 1 page, login registration process 1 page. downloading passbook 1 page. checking id activation status 1 page, these are different. does placing 4-5 internal links in just below the fold causes the penality.

    what is the internal link density? (is there any guidelines) .
    i really don't understand the SEO from the beginning . every site ranks better and get penalized but not get back.


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